He had been walking close to Gervaise as he spoke, and one of the guards pushed him roughly aside.
Time passed on. One day on his return from work a well dressed Moor met him as the gang broke up in the courtyard.
“I have permission to speak to you,” he said to Gervaise, and drew him aside. “Know, 0 Christian, that I have received a letter from Suleiman Ali, of Syria. He tells me that he has heard from Ben Ibyn, the Berber, that you are a slave, and has asked me to inquire of the sultan the price that he will take for your ransom, expressing his willingness to pay whatever may be demanded, and charging me to defray the sum and to make arrangements by which you may return to Europe. This I am willing to do, knowing Suleiman Ali by report as a wealthy man and an honourable one. I saw the sultan yesterday. He told me that I should have an answer this morning as to the ransom that he would take. When I went to him again today, he said that he had learnt from the governor of the prison and from the head mason that you were almost beyond price, that you had been raised to the position of superintendent of the slaves employed in the building of his palace, and that you were a man of such skill that he would not part with you at any price until the work was finished. After that he would sell you; but he named a price threefold that at which the very best white slave in Tripoli would be valued. However, from the way in which Suleiman Ali wrote, I doubt not that he would pay it, great as it is, for he speaks of you in terms of affection, and I would pay the money could you be released at once. As it is, however, I shall write to him, and there will be ample time for an answer to be received from him before the building is finished.”
“Truly I am deeply thankful to my good friend, Suleiman Ali; but for reasons of my own I am not desirous of being ransomed at present, especially at such a cost, which I should feel bound in honour to repay to him; therefore, I pray you to write to him, saying that while I thank him from my heart for his kindness, I am not able to avail myself of it. In the first place, I am well treated here, and my position is not an unpleasant one; secondly, the sum required for ransom is altogether preposterous; thirdly, I am not without hopes that I may some day find other means of freeing myself without so great a sacrifice; and lastly, that I have a reason which I cannot mention, why, at present, I would not quit Tripoli, even were I free tomorrow. You can tell him that this is the reason which, most of all, weighs with me. Do not, however, I pray you, let the sultan know that I have refused to be ransomed, for he might think I was meditating an escape, and would order extra precautions to be taken to prevent my doing so. Will you also see Ben Ibyn, and thank him from me for having written to Suleiman Ali on my behalf?”