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Romance of War (or The Highlanders in Spain)
Chapter 19 - The Major's Story


'We are a fine regiment as any in the line; but I almost think we were a finer corps when we landed in Egypt in 1801. We had been embodied among the clan of Gordon just six years before, and there was scarcely a man in the ranks above five-and-twenty years of age—all fiery young Highlanders, raised among the men of Blair-Athole, Braemar, Strathdu, Garioch, Strathbogie, and the duke's own people, the "gay and the gallant," as they were styled in the olden time.

'There is a story current that the corps was raised in consequence of some wager between the Duchess of Gordon and the Prince of Wales, about who would muster a regiment in least time; and, certainly, her grace got the start of his royal highness.

'The duchess (here's to her health—a splendid woman she is!) superintended the recruiting department in famous style—one worthy Camilla herself! With a drum and fife—oftener with a score of pipers strutting before her—cockades flaunting and claymores gleaming, I have seen her parading through the Highland fairs and cattle-trysts, recruiting for the "Gordon Highlanders;" and a hearty kiss on the cheek she gave to every man who took from her own white hand the shilling in King George's name. 'Hundreds of picked mountaineers—regular dirk and claymore men— she brought us; and presented the battalion with their colours at Aberdeen, where we were fully mustered and equipped. Trotting her horse, she came along the line, wearing a red regimental jacket with yellow facings, and a Highland bonnet with an eagle's wing in it: a hearty cheer we gave her as she came prancing along with the staff. I attracted her attention first, for I was senior sub of the grenadiers, and the grenadiers were always her favourites. I would tell you what she said to me, too, about the length of my legs, but it ill becomes a man to repeat compliments.

'Right proud I was of old Scotland and the corps, while I looked along the serried line when we drew up our battle-front on the sandy beach of the Bay of Aboukir. Splendid they appeared—the glaring sun shining on their plaids and plumes, and lines of burnished arms. Gallant is the garb of old Gaul, thought I, and who would not be a soldier? Yes, I felt the true esprit de corps burning within me at the sight of our Scottish blades, and equally proud, as a Briton, at the appearance of other corps, English or Irish, as they mustered on the beach, beneath St. George's cross or the harp of old Erin. The tricolours and bayonets of France were in our front, and the moment was a proud one indeed, as we advanced towards them, animated by the hearty British cheers from our men-of-war in the bay. All know the battle of Alexandria. We drove the soldiers of Buonaparte before us "like chaff before the wind;" but the victory cost us dear: many a bold heart dyed the hot sand with its gallant blood, and among them our countryman, noble old Abercromby.

'Poor Sir Ralph! When struck by the death-shot, I saw him reel in his saddle, his silver hair and faded uniform dabbled with his blood. His last words are yet ringing in my ears, as, waving his three-cocked hat, he fell from his horse:' "Give them the bayonet, my boys! Forward, Highlanders!' Remember the hearts and the hills we have left behind us!"

'Here's his memory in Malaga, though I would rather drink it in Islay or Glenlivet. We did give them the bayonet, and the pike too, in a style that would have done your hearts good to have seen. It was a glorious victory—Vimiera, the other day, was nothing to it—and well worth losing blood for. That night we hoisted the union on the old Arab towers of Aboukir, and Lord Hutchinson took command of the army. On the 18th September, 1801, we placed Alexandria in the power of the Turks. Our wounded we stowed away in the mosques and empty houses; our troops were quartered on the inhabitants, or placed under canvas without the city walls, and we found ourselves while there tolerably comfortable, excepting the annoyance we suffered from insects and the enervating heat, which was like that of a furnace; but the kamsin, or "hot wind of the desert," one must experience to know what it really is.

'When it begins to blow, the air feels perpetually like a blast rushing from a hot fire, and the atmosphere undergoes a change sufficient to strike even the heart of a lion with terror. The lowering sky becomes dark with clouds of a bloody hue, and the sun, shorn of its rays and its glory, seems to float among them like a round ball of glowing purple, while the whole air becomes dense and dusty, rendering respiration out of doors almost an impossibility. Although during the reign of the terrible kamsin the sun was scarcely visible, the water in the public fountains grew hot; our musket-barrels and steel weapons, the wood, marble, iron, and everything, felt warm and burning. When the awful blast is discovered afar off, coming sweeping from the arid deserts of Libya and Arabia, the inhabitants of cities fly to their dwellings for refuge, and shut themselves up closely; the wandering Arab in the silent wilderness hollows a pit in the sand wherein to hide himself; and the unfortunate traveller, when surprised on the wayside, throws himself on the earth, with his face towards Mecca, while he covers his mouth and nostrils with the lawn of his turban, or the skirt of his robe : the very camel buries its head in the sand till the fearful blast is over. Hand me the sherry, Kennedy : the very remembrance of the kamsin makes me thirsty.

'Cameron—I mean Fassifern—and I lived together in the same tent, which was pitched without the city, in a spot where enormous ruins in-crusted with saltpetre were piled on every side. I well remember drawing back the triangular door of the tent, and looking cautiously forth when the wind had passed. Here and there I saw the prostrate corpses of some Turks and Egyptians, who had been suffocated by inhaling the hot sandy air. They presented a terrible spectacle, certainly. They were swelled enormously, turned to a pale blue colour ; and there they lay, rapidly festering and decomposing in the heat of the sun, although they had been alive and well that morning".

'By it I nearly lost Jock Pentland, my servant. I discovered the poor chield lying, half dead, at the base of Cleopatra's Needle, and had him looked to in time to save his life. Many of our men were dangerously affected by it; but when it passed away, all was right again,—and I remember how pleased Fassifern and I were, when, for the first time after the kamsin, we sallied forth on our daily visit to our friend Mohammed Djedda, a Turkish captain, with whom we had become acquainted in the course of garrison duty, and who had a very handsome house of his own within the walls of Alexandria.

'Cameron and I had become close comrades, then being only a couple of jovial subs. He was senior, and has got in advance of me; but since he has obtained command of the corps, he keeps us all at the staff's end, and acts the Highland chief on too extended a scale. Yet Jock (we called him Jock then, for shortness ; but it would be mutiny to do so now) is a fine fellow, and a brave officer, and I pledge him heartily in Senor Raphael's sherry.

To a stranger, the appearance of Alexandria is certainly striking. The gigantic ruins of a people whose power has passed away overtop the terraced roofs of the moderns. The embattled towers, the shining domes, the tall and slender minarets, rise on every side among groves of the graceful palm and spreading fig-tree, intermingled with the sad remains of the years that are gone, the crumbling temple, the prostrate pillar, and the mouldering archway ! Friezes and pedestals, rich with carving and hieroglyphics, lie piled in shapeless masses, covered with moss and corroded with saltpetre, meeting the view on every side, and striking the stranger with veneration and awe, while his heart is filled with sadness and sublimity. The ruins of these vast palaces, which the great genius of Dinocrates designed, and which the immense wealth of Alexander erected, are now the dwelling-place of the owl and the jackal, the serpent, the asp, and the scorpion. The inhabitants of the modern city are indeed strange-looking beings, with brown faces, bushy black beards, and wearing large turbans of linen on their bald pates. Their dress appears like a shapeless gown of divers colours, enveloping them from chin to heel; a scimitar and poniard in the sash, slippers on the feet, and a pipe six feet long in the hand, complete their costume. The women are muffled up to the eyes, which are the only parts of them visible; and then the shaggy camels and hideous asses with which every thoroughfare is crowded------'

'Well, major, but the mummies; you have not told us of them yet,' said Ronald, becoming impatient.

'I am coming to the point,' replied the major, not in the least displeased at the interruption, abrupt though it was; 'but you must permit me to tell a story in my own rambling way. To continue:

'The redoubtable captain, Mohammed Djedda, had become a very great friend of ours: we used to visit him daily, in the cool part of the evening, pretending that we came to enjoy a pipe of opium with him, under the huge nopal, or cochineal-tree, which flourished before his door. He knew no English, I very little Turkish, and Cameron none at all; consequently our conversation was never very spirited or interesting, and we have sat, for four consecutive hours, pulling assiduously, or pretending to do so, at our long pipes, without uttering a syllable, staring hard at each other the while with a gravity truly Oriental, until we scarcely knew whether our heads or heels were uppermost. We took great credit to ourselves for never laughing outright at the strange figure of the Captain Djedda, as he sat opposite to us, squatted on a rich carpet, and garbed in his silken vest, gown, wide cotton pantaloons, and heavy turban, looking like Blue Beard in the story-book. You may wonder what pleasure we found in this sort of work, but the secret was this : Mohammed was one of the most fashionable old bucks in the Turkish service, and of course could not do without four wives,—no Turk of any pretensions to rank being without that number. These he kept in most excellent order and constant attendance upon his own lazy person, although he had a score of wretched slaves,—poor barefooted devils, who wore naught to hide their brown skins but a blue shirt girt about their waists with a leather belt, and a red kerchief twisted round their crowns.

'But Mohammed's veiled and draperied spouses were the gentlest creatures I ever beheld, and not in the least jealous, because he entertained for them all the same degree of cool contempt; and often he told us, " that women were mere animals, without souls, and only good for breeding children and mischief." One brought his pipe and lit it, a second spread his carpet under the nopal, a third arranged his turban, and a fourth put on his slippers; but he would scorn to thank any with a glance, and kept his round eyes obstinately fixed on the ground, as became a Turk and superior being. This strange old gentleman had two daughters; perfect angels they were—seraphs or houri. We could not see their faces, all of which, with the exception of the eyes, were concealed by an abominable cloth veil, which it was almost incurring death to remove before such an infidel as me. But their eyes ! By heavens, such were never beheld, not even in the land of the sunny eyes,—so large and black, so liquid and sparkling ! No other parts were visible except their hands and ankles, which were bare and white, small and beautiful enough to turn the heads of a whole regiment. The expression of their lustrous eyes, the goddess-like outline of their thinly-clad forms, made Cameron and me imagine their faces to be possessed of that sublime degree of dazzling beauty which it is seldom the lot of mortals to------'

'Excellent, major!' exclaimed Alister; 'of all your Egyptian stories this is the best. Then it was the daughters you went to see?

'To be sure it was! and for the pleasure of beholding them, endured every evening the staring and smoking with their ferocious old dog of a papa, who, could he have divined what the two giaours were after, would soon have employed some of his followers to deprive us of our heads. I am sure, by the pleased and melting expression of their eyes, that the girls knew what we came about, and we would certainly have opened a correspondence with them by some means, could we have done so; but as they were kept almost continually under lock and key, we never found an opportunity to see them alone, and letters—if we could have written them—would have been useless, as they could neither read nor write a word of any known language, their education being entirely confined to dancing, singing, and playing on the 'o-od, a kind of guitar used in Egypt: it is a plano-convex affair, which you may often see introduced in Eastern views and paintings.

'Well, as I related before, on the evening after the blowing of the kamsin, Fassifern and I departed on our daily visit, eagerly hoping that we might have an opportunity of seeing Zela and Azri, the two daughters, alone, as we marched the next day en route for that great city of the genii and the faries, Grand Cairo, and might never again be at Alexandria. We were confoundedly smitten, I assure you, though we have often laughed at it since. We were as much in love as two very romantic young subalterns could be, and very earnest—hoping, fearing, trembling, and all that—we were in the matter.', 'Well, major, and which was your flame?'

'Zela was mine. They named her "the White Rose of Sidrah;" which means, I believe, "the wonderful tree of Mahomet's paradise." But to continue:

'On approaching the house, we found it all deserted and silent. The carpet and pipe lay under the shadow of the umbrageous nopal, but the grave and portly Mohammed Djedda was not there. The house and garden likewise were tenantless, and after wandering for some time among its maze of flower-beds and little groves, where the apricot, the pomegranate, date-palm, custard-apple, and fig-tree flourished luxuriantly, we were met by one of Mohammed's half-naked slaves, who informed us —me at least, as I alone knew a little of his guttural language—that the Capitan Djedda, his four wives, his slaves, and all his household, were gone to the great mosque, to return thanks for the passing away of the kamsin.

'As we were very much overcome by the heat of the atmosphere, we were about to enter the cool marble vestibule of the mansion, when the airy figures of the young ladies, in their floating drapery, appeared at an upper window.

"Now or never, Colin!" said Fassifern. "The young ladies are upstairs and the house is empty; we will pay them a visit now in safety."

'And what if old Blue Beard returns in the meantime with all his Mamelukes?"

'"Then there is nothing for it but cutting our way out and escaping. We march to-morrow, and the affair would be forgotten in the hurry of our departure. But is not death the penalty of being found in the chambers of Turkish women?"

'"So I have heard," said I, shrugging my shoulders; "but old Mohammed will scarcely try experiments in the art of decapitation while our own troops are so near. Yonder are the sentinels of the 42nd among the ruins of the Roman tower, almost within hail."

'"Which is the way, Colin?' asked he, as we wandered about the vestibule, among columns and pedestals surmounted by splendid vases filled with gorgeous flowers.

'"Up this staircase, I think."

'"But what the devil am I to say when we meet them? I know not a word of the language."

'"Tush! never mind that, Jock; do as I do," said I, as we ascended the white marble steps leading to the upper story, and passed through several apartments, the very appearance of which made me long to become Mohammed's son-in-law; but I can assure you, that never until that moment had I thought seriously of making the "White Rose of Sidrah" Mrs. Colin Campbell, of Craigfianteoch. The chambers through which we passed were singular, and gorgeously rich beyond conception; realizing all those ideas of Oriental magnificence which are so well described in the "Thousand and One Nights." The walls, floors, and columns were of polished marble, pure and spotless as snow; and then there were arches hung, and pillars wreathed, with festoons and garlands of dewy and freshly-gathered flowers. Globes of crystal, vases of the purest alabaster, Persian carpets, hangings of damask and silk, girt with cords and tassels of gold, appeared on every side, and in many of the apartments bubbled up fountains of bright and sparkling water, diffusing a cool and delightful feeling through the close atmosphere of the mansion.

'The tinkling sound of the 'o-od, or Egyptian lute, attracted us towards the kiosk which contained the fair objects who had led us on the adventure. We raised the heavy folds of a glossy damask curtain, and found ourselves, for the first time, in their presence unobserved by others.

'The two graceful creatures, who were as usual closely veiled, sprang from the ottomans on which they were seated, and came hastily towards us, exclaiming in surprise mingled with fear and pleasure, "Ma sha Allah! Ya mobarek, ya Allah!" and a score of such phrases as the tumult of their minds caused them to utter.

'"Salam alai kom," said Fassifern, meaning "good morrow," which was all the progress he had made in the Oriental languages, and we doffed our bonnets, making a salaam in the most graceful manner.

'"Colin, tell them to take off their confounded veils," whispered Cameron.

'I asked them to do so in the most high-flown style imaginable, but they screamed out another volley of exclamations, and fled away to the further corner of the apartment, yet came again towards us timidly, while I felt my heart beating audibly as I surveyed the soft expression of pleasure that beamed in their orient eyes. They were evidently delighted at the novelty of our visit, though their pleasure was tinged with a dash of dread when they thought of their father's return, and the boundless fury of a Turkish vengeance. Zela placed her little white hand on my epaulettes, and looking steadfastly at me through the round holes in her veil, burst into a merry shout of laughter.

"Beautiful Zela," said I, as I threw my arm around her, "White Rose of Sidrah, at what do you laugh?"

'"You have no beard!" said she, laughing louder. "Where is the bushy hair which hangs from the chin of a man?"

'"I haven't got any yet," I answered in English, considerably put out by the question; but I was only a sub, you know, and had never even thought of a razor; my chin was almost as smooth as her own, and so she said as she passed her soft little hand over it. Again I attempted to remove the veil which hid her face, but so great was her terror, so excessive her agitation, that I desisted for a time. But between caressing and entreating, in a few minutes we conquered their scruples and Oriental ideas of punctilio, when we were permitted to remove their, lawn hoods, and view their pure and sublime features, with the heavy masses of long black and glossy hair falling over naked necks and shoulders, which were whiter than Parian marble. They were indeed miraculously beautiful, and fully realized our most romantic and excited ideas of their long-hidden loveliness.

'I had just obtained some half-dozen kisses from the dewy little mouth of Zela, when I saw Cameron start up and draw his sword.

'"What is the matter, Fassifern?" I exclaimed; but the appalling and portly figure of Mohammed Djedda, as he stood in the doorway, swelling with rage and Eastern ferocity, was a sufficient answer. In his right hand he held his drawn sabre of keen Damascus steel, and in the other a long brass Turkish pistol. Crowding the marble staircase beyond, we saw his ferocious Mameluke soldiers, clad in their crimson benishes or long robes of cotton, and tall kouacks or cylindrical yellow turbans, while their spears, poniards, and scimitars, short, crooked, and of Damascus steel, flashed and glittered in a manner very unpleasant to behold. The poor girls, horrified beyond description at being discovered in the society of men, of Christians, and unveiled too, were so much overcome by their terrors, that they were unable to fly; and calling on the bride of Mahomet in Paradise to protect them, embraced each other frantically and fondly, expecting instant death.

"Here is a devil of a mess, Cameron," cried I, drawing out Andrea. "Let us leap the window, and fly for the camp!"

'"But their carbines throw a dozen balls at once," was his hurried reply.

'"Shoulder to shoulder, Jock ! now for the onset," said I, preparing to rush recklessly upon them. "We must take our chance of------"

'The rest was cut short by a slash the old savage made at me with his scimitar, which took three inches off the oak stick I cut at home in the green woods of Inverary, before I left them to follow the drum. My blood began to boil.

'"Mohammed Djedda!" said I, in Turkish, "we have done no wrong; we are strangers among you, and know not the laws of the land. Allow us to depart in peace; otherwise you may have good reason to repent," I added, pointing to the tents of the "auld forty-twa."

'"Depart in peace, said you? Despicable giaour !" thundered he, his Turkish tone becoming more guttural by his ferocity. "Never—never! By the sacred stone of Mecca!—by every hair in the beard of the holy Prophet !—by the infernal bridge which spans the sea of fire ! slave of an accursed race, ye never shall ! Never ! I have sworn it."

'I saw Cameron's eyes flash and glare as he prepared to sell his life as dearly as possible.

'"Then our steel for it, old man; and remember, should we fall, our friends in the white tents will avenge us."

'"Thou, too, shalt die!" growled the old barbarian, discharging his pistol at poor little Zela, who fell dead without a groan, with the purple blood streaming from her white bosom, which I saw heave its last convulsive throb around the death-shot. The thick muslin turban of Mohammed saved him from one tremendous blow which I dealt at his scowling visage, but he sunk to the earth beneath the weight of the claymore.

'"Allah, il Allah! death to the soldiers of Isauri!" yelled his infuriated followers, rushing madly on me, and in an instant I was vanquished: I received a terrible blow on the back of my head from the iron mace of a Mameluke. I remember no more than just seeing Cameron cut down two to the teeth, run a third through the brisket, leap the window, and escape.

'"Good-bye, Cameron; gallantly done!" cried I, as I sunk stunned and senseless by the lifeless corse of Zela.

'How long I lay insensible I know not; but when my faculties returned, I found myself stretched upon the ground, which felt cold and damp, and in a place involved in the deepest and most impenetrable gloom. I found that the epaulettes and lace had been torn from my coat, and an intense pain on the back of my head reminded me of the blow of the steel mace; and on raising my hand to the wound, I found my hair clotted and hardened with coagulated blood. Rats or some monstrous vermin running over me caused me to leap from the ground, and endeavour to discover where I was. This the darkness rendered impossible; but by the chill atmosphere of the place, the difficulty of respiration I experienced, and the hollow echoes of my feet, dying dismally away in distant cavities, I conjectured rightly that I was imprisoned in some subterranean vault. What the agony of my mind was when this idea became confirmed, you may better conceive than I describe. I recollected that the troops marched next day, and that unless Fassifern made some most strenuous attempt to discover and free me, I should be left at the mercy of the lawless Mohammed, either to be his perpetual captive in a dungeon to be left to a slow lingering death by starvation, or a more expeditious one by some mode of torture, such as the most refined spirit of Eastern cruelty and barbarism could invent.

'In groping about, I soon came in contact with a stone wall, which I felt carefully all round, but no door or outlet could I discover. A succession of wooden boxes placed upright, sounding and hollow when I touched them, informed me at once of the truth,—that I was cast into one of those ancient catacombs which are so numerous under the city of Alexandria,—horrible caverns hollowed in the bowels of the earth, where the mummy-remains of the subjects of the Pharaohs, the Ptolemies, and others, outstanding the course of more than twenty centuries, lay swathed in their bandages and embalming ! The blood rushed back upon my trembling heart, and every hair on my aching head seemed to bristle upon my scalp, as I staggered dizzily against the mouldy wall, knocking down half a dozen mummy-coffers, which fell heavily and hollowly upon the pavement.

'You may imagine what were my feelings when I reviewed my situation. I, a superstitious Highland boy, that used to shake in my brogues, like a dog in a wet sack, if I passed the kirkyard of Inverary after nightfall, and never went into the dark but with my eyes closed tight, for fear of seeing something "uncanny," when I found myself in this gloomy repository of the dead, I was so confounded and terrified, that it was long before I recovered my self-possession so far as to cast a firm glance of scrutiny around me, and endeavour to discover some means of escape. I perceived with joy a faint ray of daylight streaming through a small aperture which appeared nearly twenty feet above me.

'"Dawn has broken!" I exclaimed in sudden anguish; "the troops must have marched! Cameron cannot have escaped Mohammed, or, oh, my God ! surely he would not, without making an effort to save me, abandon me to perish here !"

'Perish here!" repeated half a dozen dreary echoes. I looked around me in consternation. The sounds almost seemed to proceed from the red blubber-like lips of the frightful faces which I now perceived carved and painted on the outside of the upright mummy-coffers. They were the figures of the dead, and tinted with those imperishable colours with which the ancient Egyptians decorated the exterior of their temples. The large round eyes of these appalling effigies seemed to be staring hard at me from every dark corner, winking, goggling, and rolling; while their very mouths, capacious and red, expanded into a broad grin, methought at my misery. Against the black wall they were ranked at equal distances, but here and there were some which had fallen to pieces, and lay upon the earth, exposing the decayed and mouldered corse standing stark, gaunt, and erect, swathed tightly in its cerements. Others had fallen down, and lay prostrate among little urns, containing, I suppose, the embalmed remains of the sacred ibis, the monkey, or other animals revered by the ancient idolaters. Enormous bats were sailing about, black scorpions, and many a huge bloated reptile, of which I knew not even the name, appearing as if formed alone for such a place, crawled about the coffins, or fell now and then with a heavy squabby sound from, the wet slimy wall on the moist and watery pavement.

'By the gray light, struggling through what seemed a joint in the keystone of an arch above, I was enabled to note these things, and I did so with wary and fearful glances, while my heart swelled almost to breaking when I thought of my blighted hopes, and that home which was far awa —the green mountains of Mull and of Morven, and the deep salt lochs of Argyle ; and dearer than all, the well-known hearth where I had sat at the knee of my mother, and heard her rehearse those wild traditions of hill and valley, which endeared them more to me.

'"Have the followers of the false Isauri departed?" asked the guttural voice of old Mohammed or some one above me ; while the cranny overhead became darkened, and the trampling of feet, together with the clatter of weapons, became audible. "Have the eaters of pork and drinkers of wine,—have the unclean dogs departed from the walls of Iskandrieh?" I listened in breathless suspense.

'"They have," answered the yet more guttural voice of a Mameluke; 'they go towards the desert. May they perish in the sand, that the jackal and wolf may fatten and howl over their bones!"

'"Amen,—Allah kebur! Great is God, and Mahomet is His holy Prophet!" replied the Capitan Djedda, while my heart died within me to hear that our people had departed from Alexandria. These were some of the ungrateful infidels for whom brave Sir Ralph, and so many gallant Britons, had reddened the arid sand with their blood!

'"Then bring ye up this follower of Isauri," said Mohammed, "and he will see whether his prophet, or all the dervishes and mollahs of his faith, can preserve him from the death I have sworn he shall die. Ere night, his carcass shall be food for jackals ; and while the unbeliever looks his last on the bright setting sun. Hadji Kioudh get ready the . . ." What word he finished with I know not, but it was sufficient to strike terror to the inmost recesses of my heart. I well knew some terrible instrument of torture was named.

'What my emotions were I cannot describe, when I found death so near, and knew that I was powerless, defenceless, and unarmed, having no other weapon but my oaken staff, which, strange to say, I had never relinquished. I beheld the claw of an iron crowbar inserted in the cranny which admitted light, for the purpose of raising the stone trap-door of the catacomb; and as the space opened, I saw, or imagined I saw, the weapons of Mohammed's followers flashing in the sunlight. My life never appeared so dear, or of such inestimable value, as at that moment, when I found myself about to lose it,—to be sacrificed like a poor mouse in a trap. I cast around a furious glance of eagerness and despair. A small round archway, which I had not before observed, met my eye; yawning and black it appeared in the gloom, and supported by clumsy short Egyptian pillars. I flew towards it, as novels say, animated by the most tumultuous hopes and fears, praying to Heaven that it might afford me some chance of escape from the scimitars of the savage Mahometans, who had already raised the trap-stone, and lowered a long ladder into the vault.

'The passage was long but straight, and guided by a distant light, glimmering at the other end, I sped along it with the fleetness of a roebuck, receiving, as I went, many a hard knock from the bold carvings and knobby projections of the short dumpy pillars that formed a colonnade on each side. I heard the sabres and iron maces of the Mameluke warriors clatter, as successively five or six of them leaped into the vault, and set up the wild shout of "Ya Allah!" when they found that I was not there. By their not immediately searching the passage, I concluded that they were unacquainted with the geography of the place, and, in consequence of their having come from the strong glare of the sun, were unable to perceive the arch in the gloom of the cavern. They became terrified on finding that I was gone, and withdrew, scampering up the ladder with the utmost precipitation, attributing, I suppose, my escape to supernatural means.

'I kept myself close between the twisted columns, scarcely daring to breathe until they had withdrawn and all was quiet, when I again pursued my way towards the glimmering light, which was still in view, but at what distance before me I could form no idea. Sometimes it appeared close at hand, sometimes a mile off, dancing before me like a will-o'-the-wisp. My progress was often embarrassed by prostrate columns, and oftener by heaps of fallen masonry. More than once I was nearly suffocated by the foul air of the damp vaults, or the dust and mortar among which I sometimes fell. But I struggled onward manfully, yet feeling a sort of sullen and reckless despair, putting up the while many a pious prayer and ejaculation, strangely mingled with many an earnest curse in Gaelic on Mohammed Djedda, and the architect who planned the labyrinth, though, perhaps, it might have been the great Gnidian Sostrates himself. After toiling thus for some time, until wearied and worn out, I found myself in the lower vault of one of those large round towers which are so numerous among the ancient and ruinous fortifications of Alexandria. A round and shattered aperture, about ten feet from the floor, admitted the pure breeze, which I inhaled greedily, while my eyes gloated on the clear blue sky ; and I felt more exquisite delight in doing so than even when gazing on the pure snowy bosom of the beautiful Zela, whom, to tell you the truth, I had almost forgotten during the quandary in which I found myself. The cry of "Jedger Allah!" shouted close beside the ruinous tower, informed me I was near the post of a Mussulman sentinel, and compelled me to act with greater caution. I heard the cry (which answers to our " All's well!") taken up by other sentinels at intervals, and die away among the windings of the walls.

'By the assistance of a large stone, I was enabled to reach the aperture, through which I looked cautiously, to reconnoitre the ground. It was a glorious evening, and the dazzling blaze of the red sun, as it verged towards the west, was shed on the still, glassy sea, where the white sails of armed xebecs, galleys, and British ships of war, were reflected downwards in the bosom of the ample harbour. Appearing in bold light or shadow, as the sun poured its strong lustre upon them, I saw the long lines of mouldering battlements,—the round domes, the taper spires and obelisks which rose above the embrasures, where the sabres and lances of the Turks gave back the light of the setting sun, whose farewell rays were beaming on the pillar of Diocletian and the gray old towers of Aboukir, from the summits of which were now waving the red colours of Mahomet. But the beauty of the scenery had no charms for the drowsy Moslem (whose cry I had heard, and whom I now perceived to be a cavalry vidette), stationed under the cool shadow of a palm-grove close by. He was seated on a carpet, with his legs folded under him. His sabre and dagger lay near him, drawn, and he sat without moving a muscle, smoking with grave assiduity, and wearing his tall yellow kouack very much over his right eye, which led me to suppose that he was a smart fellow among the Mamelukes—perceiving, to my great chagrin, that he was one of Mohammed's savage troop. His noble Arab horse, with its arching neck and glittering eyes, stood motionless beside him, its bridle trailing on the ground, while it gazed with a sagacious look on the columns of smoke which at times curled upwards from the moustached mouth of its master, who was staring fixedly in an opposite direction to the city. I followed the point to which he turned his round glassy eye, and beheld, to my inexpressible joy, an English infantry regiment— Hutchinson's rear-guard—halted under a grove of fig-trees, but, alas ! at a distance far beyond the reach of my call.

'I formed at once the resolution of confronting the sentinel, and endeavouring to escape. The moment was a precious one: the corps was evidently about to move off, and was forming in open column of companies, with their band in the centre. While I was collecting all my scattered energies for one desperate and headlong effort, a loud uproar in the distant catacomb arrested me for a moment, and I heard the terrible voice of Mohammed Djedda, exclaiming:

'"Barek Allah! we shall find him yet: the passage, slaves! the passage! By God and the holy Prophet, if the giaour escape, false dogs, ye shall die! Forward!"

'A confused trampling of feet, a rush and clatter followed, and I sprang lightly through the aperture into the open air. Stealing softly towards the unconscious Mameluke, I wreathed my hand in the flowing mane of his Arab horse, and seizing the dangling bridle, vaulted into his wooden-box saddle; while he, raising the cry of "Allah, il Allah!" sprung up like a harlequin, and made a sweeping stroke at me with his sharp sabre. He was about to handle his long brass-barrelled carbine, when, unhooking the steel mace which hung at his saddle-bow, and discharging it full on his swarthy forehead, I stretched him motionless on the earth, At that instant Mohammed, sabre and lance in hand, rushed from the ruined tower, at the head of his followers.

'"Hoich! God save the king—hurrah!" cried I, giving them a shout of reckless laughter and derision, as I forced the fleet Arab steed onward, like an arrow shot from a bow—madly compelling it to leap high masses of ruinous wall, blocks of marble and granite, all of which it cleared like a greyhound, and carried me in a minute among our own people, with whom I was safe, and under whose escort I soon rejoined the regiment, whom I found all assured of my death—especially the senior ensign, Cameron, who had got off scot-free, having related the doleful story of my brains being knocked out by the Mameluke soldier of Mohammed Djedda, a complaint against whom was about to be lodged with the Shaik-el-beled by Lord Hutchinson, commanding the troops.

'Well, this was my adventure among the mummies, and it was one that left a strong impression, you may be sure. How dry my throat is with talking!—Pass the decanters—the sherry-jugs, I mean—whoever has them beside him; 'tis now so dark, that I cannot see where they are.


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