As soon as the meal was over, the French Consul, instead of taking his siesta as usual, began to take measures for chartering a French tartane to go to Bugia immediately. He found there was great interest excited, not only among the Christian merchants, but among Turks, Moors, and Jews, so horrible was the idea of captivity among the Cabeleyzes. The Dey set the example of sending down five purses of sequins towards the young lady’s ransom, and many more contributions came in unasked. It was true that the bearers expected no small consideration in return, but this was willingly given, and the feeling manifested was a perfect astonishment to all the friends at the Consulate.
The French national interpreter, Ibrahim Aga, was charged with the negotiations with the Marabout. Arthur entreated to go with him, and with some hesitation this was agreed to, since the sight of an old friend might be needed to reassure any survivors of the poor captives— for it was hardly thought possible that all could still survive the hardships of the mountains in the depth of winter, even if they were spared by the ferocity of their captors.
Ulysse, the little son and heir, was not to be exposed to the perils of the seas till his sister’s fate was decided, and accordingly he was to remain under the care of Mrs. Thompson; while Captain Beresford meant to cruise about in the neighbourhood, having a great desire to know the result of the enterprise, and hoping also that if Mademoiselle de Bourke still lived he might be permitted to restore her to her relations. Letters, clothes, and comforts were provided, and placed under the charge of the interpreter and of Arthur, together with a considerable gratuity for the Marabout, and authority for any ransom that Cabeleyze rapacity might require,—still, however, with great doubt whether all might not be too late.
CHAPTER XII—ON THE MOUNTAINS
’We cannot miss him. He doth make our
Fetch in our wood, and serve in offices
That profit us.’ Tempest.
Bugia, though midway on the ‘European lake,’ is almost unknown to modern travellers, though it has become a French possession.
It looked extremely beautiful when the French tartane entered it, rising from the sea like a magnificent amphitheatre, at the foot of the mountains that circled round it, and guarded by stern battlemented castles, while the arches of one of the great old Roman aqueducts made a noble cord to the arc described by the lower part of the town.
The harbour, a finer one naturally than that of Algiers, contained numerous tartanes and other vessels, for, as Ibrahim Aga, who could talk French very well, informed Arthur, the inhabitants were good workers in iron, and drove a trade in plough-shares and other implements, besides wax and oil. But it was no resort of Franks, and he insisted that Arthur should only come on shore in a Moorish dress, which had been provided at Algiers. Thanks to young Hope’s naturally dark complexion, and the exposure of the last month, he might very well pass for a Moor: and he had learnt to wear the white caftan, wide trousers, broad sash, and scarlet fez, circled with muslin, so naturally that he was not likely to be noticed as a European.