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Title: At Aboukir and Acre - A Story of Napoleon's Invasion of Egypt
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: "WELL, MY LAD, WHO ARE YOU?"

_Page 124_]



At Aboukir and Acre

A Story of Napoleon's Invasion
of Egypt

BY

G. A. HENTY

Author of "The Dash for Khartoum" "By Right of Conquest"
"In Greek Waters" "St. Bartholomew's Eve" &c.

_Illustrated_

BLACKIE & SON LIMITED
LONDON AND GLASGOW


BLACKIE & SON LIMITED
50 Old Bailey, LONDON
17 Stanhope Street, GLASGOW

BLACKIE & SON (INDIA) LIMITED
Warwick House, Fort Street, BOMBAY

BLACKIE & SON (CANADA) LIMITED
1118 Bay Street, TORONTO


_Printed in Great Britain by
Blackie & Son, Limited, Glasgow_



PREFACE


With the general knowledge of geography now possessed we may well wonder
at the wild notion entertained both by Bonaparte and the French
authorities that it would be possible, after conquering Egypt, to march
an army through Syria, Persia, and the wild countries of the northern
borders of India, and to drive the British altogether from that country.
The march, even if unopposed, would have been a stupendous one, and the
warlike chiefs of Northern India, who, as yet, were not even threatened
by a British advance, would have united against an invading army from
the north, and would, had it not been of prodigious strength, have
annihilated it. The French had enormously exaggerated the power of
Tippoo Sahib, with whom they had opened negotiations, and even had their
fantastic designs succeeded, it is certain that the Tiger of Mysore
would, in a very short time, have felt as deep a hatred for them as he
did for the British.

But even had such a march been possible, the extreme danger in which an
army landed in Egypt would be placed of being cut off, by the superior
strength of the British navy, from all communication with France, should
alone have deterred them from so wild a project. The fate of the
campaign was indeed decided when the first gun was fired in the Bay of
Aboukir, and the destruction of the French fleet sealed the fate of
Napoleon's army. The noble defence of Acre by Sir Sidney Smith was the
final blow to Napoleon's projects, and from that moment it was but a
question of time when the French army would be forced to lay down its
arms, and be conveyed, in British transports, back to France. The credit
of the signal failure of the enterprise must be divided between Nelson,
Sir Sidney Smith, and Sir Ralph Abercrombie.



CONTENTS


 CHAP.                                Page

    I.  MAKING A FRIEND                 11

   II.  A BEDOUIN TRIBE                 31

  III.  LEFT BEHIND                     49

   IV.  THE BATTLE OF THE PYRAMIDS      66

    V.  A STREET ATTACK                 86

   VI.  THE RISING IN CAIRO            105

  VII.  SAVED                          122

 VIII.  AN EGYPTIAN TOMB               142

   IX.  SIR SIDNEY SMITH               162

    X.  A SEA-FIGHT                    182

   XI.  ACRE                           199

  XII.  A DESPERATE SIEGE              217

 XIII.  AN INDEPENDENT COMMAND         234

  XIV.  A PIRATE HOLD                  251

   XV.  CRUISING                       270

  XVI.  A VISIT HOME                   287

 XVII.  ABERCROMBIE'S EXPEDITION       304

XVIII.  THE BATTLE OF ALEXANDRIA       322

  XIX.  QUIET AND REST                 340



ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                       Facing Page

"WELL, MY LAD, WHO ARE YOU?"                          Frontispiece

ALI AND AYALA APPEARED                                         144

EDGAR HITS OUT                                                 184

WITH A TREMENDOUS CHEER, FLUNG THEMSELVES UPON THE PIRATES     256

GIVING A YELL OF DERISION AND DEFIANCE                         328

       *       *       *       *       *

Plan of the Battle of the Nile                                  84

Plan of the Siege of St. Jean D'Acre                           209

Plan of the Battle of Alexandria                               329



AT ABOUKIR AND ACRE



CHAPTER I.

MAKING A FRIEND.


Two lads were standing in one of the bastions of a fort looking over the
sea. There were neither guards nor sentinels there. The guns stood on
their carriages, looking clean and ready for action, but this was not
the result of care and attention, but simply because in so dry a climate
iron rusts but little. A close examination would have shown that the
wooden carriages on which they stood were so cracked and warped by heat
that they would have fallen to pieces at the first discharge of the guns
they upheld. Piles of cannon-balls stood between the guns, half-covered
with the drifting sand, which formed slopes half-way up the walls of the
range of barracks behind, and filled up the rooms on the lower floor.
Behind rose the city of Alexandria, with its minarets and mosques, its
palaces and its low mud-built huts. Seaward lay a fleet of noble ships
with their long lines of port-holes, their lofty masts, and network of
rigging.

"What do you think of it, Sidi?"

"It is wonderful!" his companion replied. "How huge they are, what lines
of cannon, what great masts, as tall and as straight as palm-trees!
Truly you Franks know many things of which we in the desert are
ignorant. Think you that they could batter these forts to pieces?"

The other laughed as he looked round. "One of them could do that now,
Sidi, seeing that there is scarce a gun on the rampart that could be
fired in return; but were all in good order, and with British
artillerists, the whole fleet would stand but a poor chance against
them, for while their shot would do but little injury to these solid
walls, these cannon would drill the ships through and through, and if
they did not sheer off, would sink them."

"But why British artillerists, brother, why not our own people?"

"Because you have no properly trained gunners. You know how strong
Algiers was, and yet it was attacked with success, twice by the French,
twice by ourselves, and once by us and the Dutch; but it is a rule that
a strongly defended fort cannot be attacked successfully by ships. If
these forts were in proper condition and well manned, I don't think that
even Nelson would attack them, though he might land somewhere along the
coast, attack and capture the town from the land side, and then carry
the batteries. Successful as he has been at sea, he has had some
experience as to the difficulty of taking forts. He was beaten off at
Teneriffe, and although he did succeed in getting the Danes to surrender
at Copenhagen, it's well known now that his ships really got the worst
of the fight, and that if the Danes had held on, he must have drawn off
with the loss of many of his vessels."

"I know nothing of these things, brother, nor where the towns you name
are, nor who are the Danes; but it seems to me that those great ships
with all their guns would be terrible assailants. As you say, these
forts are not fit for fighting; but this is because no foes have ever
come against us by sea for so many years. What could an enemy do if they
landed?"

"The Mamelukes are grand horsemen, Sidi, but horsemen alone cannot win a
battle; there are the artillery and infantry to be counted with, and it
is with these that battles are won in our days, though I say not that
cavalry do not bear their share, but alone they are nothing. One
infantry square, if it be steady, can repulse a host of them; but you
may ere long see the matter put to proof, for I hear that the officers
who came on shore this morning asked if aught had been heard of the
French fleet, which had, they say, sailed from Toulon to conquer Egypt.
It is for this that the English fleet has come here."

"Their bones will whiten the plains should they attempt it," the other
said scornfully. "But why should they want to interfere with us, and why
should you care to prevent them doing so if they are strong enough?"

"Because, in the first place, we are at war with them, and would prevent
them gaining any advantage. In the second place, because Egypt is a step
on the way to India. There we are fighting with one of the great native
princes, who has, they say, been promised help by the French, who are
most jealous of us, since we have destroyed their influence there, and
deprived them of their chance of becoming masters of a large portion of
the country."

The conversation had been carried on in Arabic. The speakers were of
about the same age, but Edgar Blagrove was half a head taller than his
Arab friend. His father was a merchant settled in Alexandria, where
Edgar had been born sixteen years before, and except that he had spent
some two years and a half at school in England, he had never been out of
Egypt. Brought up in a polyglot household, where the nurses were French
or Italian, the grooms Arab, the gardeners Egyptians drawn from the
fellah class, and the clerks and others engaged in his father's business
for the most part Turks, Edgar had from childhood spoken all these
languages with equal facility. He had never learned them, but they had
come to him naturally as his English had done. His mother, never an
energetic woman, had felt the heat of the climate much, and had never
been, or declared she had never been--which came to the same
thing--capable of taking any exercise, and, save for a drive in her
carriage in the cool of the evening, seldom left the house.

Edgar had, from the first, been left greatly to his own devices. His
father was a busy man, and, as long as the boy was well and strong, was
content that he should spend his time as he chose, insisting only on his
taking lessons for two hours a day from the Italian governess, who
taught his twin sisters, who were some eighteen months younger than
himself; after that he was free to wander about the house or to go into
the streets, provided that one of the grooms, either Hammed or Abdul,
accompanied him. When at thirteen he was sent to England to stay with an
uncle and to go through a couple of years' schooling, he entered a world
so wholly unlike that in which he himself had been brought up, that for
a time he seemed completely out of his element.

His father had an excellent library, and during the heat of the day the
boy had got through a great deal of reading, and was vastly better
acquainted with standard English writers than his cousins or
school-fellows, but of ordinary school work he was absolutely ignorant,
and at first he was much laughed at for his deficiencies in Latin and
Greek. The latter he never attempted, but his knowledge of Italian
helped him so greatly with his Latin that in a very few months he went
through class after class, until he was fully up to the level of other
boys of his age. His uncle lived in the suburbs of London, and he went
with his cousins to St. Paul's. At that time prize-fighting was the
national sport, and his father had, when he sent him over, particularly
requested his uncle to obtain a good teacher for him.

"Whether Edgar will stay out here for good, Tom, I cannot say, but
whether he does or not, I should like him to be able to box well. In
England every gentleman in our day learns to use his fists, while out
here it is of very great advantage that a man should be able to do so.
We have a mixed population here, and a very shady one. Maltese, Greeks,
Italians, and French, and these probably the very scum of the various
seaports of the Mediterranean, therefore to be able to hit quick and
straight from the shoulder may well save a man's life. Of course he is
young yet, but if he goes regularly for an hour two or three times a
week to one of the light-weight men, I have no doubt that when he
returns he will be able to astonish any of these street ruffians who may
interfere with him.

"Even if he is never called upon to use his fists, it will do him a
great deal of good, for boxing gives a quickness and readiness not only
of hands, but of thought, that is of great service; and moreover, the
exercise improves the figure, and is, in that respect, I think, fully
equal to fencing. Please put this matter in hand as soon as he arrives.
As to his studies, I own that I care very little; the boy speaks
half-a-dozen languages, any one of which is vastly more useful to a
resident here than Latin and Greek together. Naturally he will learn
Latin. Of course his Italian will facilitate this, and it is part of a
gentleman's education to be able to understand a quotation or turn a
phrase in it. Still, it is not for this that I send him to England, but
to become an English boy, and that your Bob and Arthur and his
school-fellows will teach him."

Edgar was quite as much surprised at his cousins and school-fellows as
they were with him. The fact that he could talk half-a-dozen languages
was to them amazing, while not less astonishing to him was their
ignorance of the affairs of Europe except, indeed, of the French
Revolution--their vagueness in geography, and the absolute blank of
their minds as to Egypt. It was not until three months after his arrival
that he had his first fight, and the instructions he had received during
that time sufficed to enable him to win so easy a victory, that it was
some months before he had again occasion to use his fists in earnest.
This time it was in the streets. He was returning home with his cousins,
when a pert young clerk thought it a good joke to twitch off his cap and
throw it into a shop, and was astounded when, before the cap had reached
the floor, he himself was prostrate on the pavement.

He was no coward, however, and leapt up, furious, to punish this boy of
fourteen, but in spite of his superior strength and weight, he was no
match for Edgar, whose quickness on his legs enabled him to avoid his
rushes, while he planted his blows so quickly and heavily that in ten
minutes the clerk was unable to see out of his eyes, and had to be led
away amid the jeers of the crowd. This success increased Edgar's ardour
to perfect himself in the art. If he could so easily defeat an English
lad of seventeen, he felt sure that after another year's teaching he
need not fear an attack by the greatest ruffian in Alexandria. His
uncle had taken advice on the subject, and, desirous of carrying out his
brother's instructions to the fullest, changed his master every six
months; so that during the two years and a half that he was in England
Edgar had learned all that the five most skilled light-weight pugilists
in England could teach him.

"Yes, he is going in for it thoroughly," his uncle would say to his
friends. "Of course, I shall have my own boys taught in another three or
four years, for I think that every gentleman should be able to defend
himself if assaulted by a street ruffian; but in his case he has to
learn when quite young or not at all, and I think that it will be very
useful to him, as all these foreign fellows draw their knives on the
least occasion."

When Edgar returned to Alexandria, nine months before the time when he
and Sidi were watching Nelson's fleet, his father was well pleased with
the change that had taken place in him. He had been tall for his age
before he left, now he had not only grown considerably, but had widened
out. He was still far from being what may be called a squarely-built
boy, but he was of a fair width across the shoulders, and was a picture
of health and activity. The muscles of his arms, shoulders, and loins
were as tough as steel, his complexion was fresh and clear, and he had
scarce an ounce of superfluous flesh upon him.

"Save for your complexion, Edgar, you might well pass as a young Bedouin
if you were to wrap yourself up in their garb. I see you have profited
well by your teachers' instructions. Your uncle wrote to me a year ago
that you had administered a sound thrashing to a fellow seventeen years
old who had meddled with you, and as, no doubt, you have improved in
skill and strength since that time, I should think that you need have no
fear of holding your own should you get into trouble with any of these
street ruffians."

"I should hope so, father; at any rate I should not mind trying. I know
that I could hold my own pretty fairly with young Jackson. They call him
the 'Bantam'. He is the champion light-weight now, though he does not
fight above nine stone, so there is not much difference between us in
weight."

"Good! and how about your school work?"

"Oh, I did pretty well, father! I was good in Latin, but I was nowhere
in figures."

"Not grown quarrelsome, I hope, on the strength of your fighting,
Edgar?"

"No, sir, I hope not. I never had a fight at school except the one I had
three months after I got there, and I only had that one row you speak of
with a clerk. I don't think it would be fair, you see, to get into rows
with fellows who have no idea how thoroughly I have been taught."

His father nodded.

"Quite right, Edgar. My ideas are that a man who can box well is much
less likely to get into quarrels than one who cannot. He knows what he
can do, and that, if forced to use his skill, he is able to render a
good account of himself, and therefore he can afford to put up with
more, than one who is doubtful as to whether he is likely to come well
out of a fight if he begins one."

Edgar found on his arrival at Alexandria that his mother and sisters
were about to leave for England. Mrs. Blagrove had become seriously
indisposed, the result, as she maintained, of the climate, but which was
far more due to her indolent habits, for she never took any exercise
whatever. Her general health was greatly impaired, and the two Italian
doctors who attended her--there being no English medical men resident
there--had most strongly advised that she should return home. They had
frankly told Mr. Blagrove that a colder climate was absolutely necessary
to her, not only because it would brace her up and act as a tonic, but
because she would probably there be induced to take a certain amount of
exercise. The two girls were to accompany her, in order that they
should, like Edgar, enjoy the advantage of going to an English school
and mixing with English girls of their own age. They, too, had both felt
the heat during the preceding summer, and Mr. Blagrove felt that a stay
of two or three years in England would be an immense advantage to them.

Mrs. Blagrove was to stay with her father, a clergyman in the west of
England, for a few months, when her husband intended himself to go over
for a time. The war had much reduced business, the activity of the
French privateers rendered communication irregular and precarious, the
rates both for freight and insurance were very high, the number of
vessels entering the port were but a tithe of those that frequented it
before the outbreak of the war, and as no small part of Mr. Blagrove's
business consisted in supplying vessels with such stores as they needed,
his operations were so restricted that he felt he could, without any
great loss, leave the management of his affairs in the hands of his
chief assistant, a German, who had been with him for twenty years, and
in whom he placed the greatest reliance.

Edgar would be there to assist generally, and his father thought that it
would even benefit him to be placed for a time in a responsible
position. It was, of course, a great disappointment to Edgar to find
that his mother and the girls were on the point of returning. Their
departure, indeed, had been decided upon somewhat suddenly owing to a
strongly-armed English privateer, commanded by an old acquaintance of
Mr. Blagrove, coming into port. She had been cruising for some time, and
had sent home a number of prizes, and was now returning herself to
England for another refit and to fill up her crew again. As she was a
very fast vessel, and the captain said that he intended to make straight
home and to avoid all doubtful sail, Mr. Blagrove at once accepted the
offer he made to take his wife and daughters back to England,
immediately he heard that his friend was looking for a passage for them.
Accordingly for the next week there was much packing and confusion. At
the end of that time the three ladies, after a tearful adieu, sailed for
England, and things settled down again.

Edgar felt the absence of his sisters keenly. There were but a handful
of English traders in the city, and none of these had boys who were near
enough to his own age to be companions. However, it had the effect of
enabling him, without interruption, to settle down steadily to work with
his father, and to make himself acquainted with the details of the
business. This he did so industriously that Mr. Blagrove said more than
once: "You are getting on so well, Edgar, that I shall be able to go
home for my holiday with the comfortable conviction that in yours and
Muller's hands matters will go on very well here, especially as business
is so slack."

It was about three months after his return that Edgar had an opportunity
of finding the advantage of his skill in boxing. He had, on the day
after he came back, had a sack of sawdust hung up in his room, and every
morning he used to pummel this for half an hour before taking his bath,
and again before going to bed, so that he kept his muscles in a state of
training. Moreover, this exercise had the advantage that it enabled him
to stand the heat of the climate much better than he would otherwise
have done, and to save him from any of that feeling of lassitude and
depression so usual among Englishmen working in hot climates. He was
returning one day from a ride; dusk had fallen, and when just beyond the
limits of the town he heard shouts and cries, and saw a scuffle going on
in the road. Cantering on, he leapt from his horse, dropped the reins on
its neck, and ran forward.

Two of the lowest class Maltese or Greeks were dragging a young Arab
along, holding his hands to prevent him getting at his knife, and
beating him about the head with their disengaged hands. It was evident
that he was not one of the dwellers in the city, but an Arab of the
desert. His horse stood near, and he had apparently been dragged from
it.

"What is the matter? what are you beating him for?" he asked in Italian.

"This Arab dog pushed against us with his horse, and when we cursed him,
struck at us."

"Well, if he did, you have punished him enough; but perhaps his story is
a different one."

"Go your way, boy," one exclaimed with a Greek oath, "or we will throw
you into that fountain, as we are going to do him."

"You will, eh? Unloose that lad at once or it will be worse for you."

The man uttered a shout of rage. "Hold this young Arab wolf's other
hand, Giaccamo, so that he cannot use his knife. I will settle this
boy;" and his companion seized the lad's other wrist.

He rushed at Edgar, waving his arms in windmill fashion, thinking to
strike him down without the least difficulty, but he was astounded at
being met with a terrific blow on the nose, which nigh threw him off
his balance, and this was followed an instant later by another on the
point of his chin, which hurled him back, half-stunned, to the ground,
with a vague impression in his mind that his head was broken into
fragments. Before he even thought of rising, Edgar sprang at his
companion, who, releasing the Arab boy's hands, grasped his knife, but
before he could draw it, a blow, given with all Edgar's strength and the
impetus of his bound forward, stretched him also on the ground, his
knife flying from his hand.

The Arab boy had drawn his knife also, but Edgar exclaimed to him in his
own language, "No, no, pick up the other knife, and then stand over him,
but don't stab him." Then he turned to his first assailant, who was
rising to his feet, still confused and bewildered. He had instinctively
drawn his knife.

"Drop your knife, drop it!" Edgar cried. But with an oath the man sprang
at him. His eyes, however, were full of tears, his ears sung, and his
head buzzed, partly from the blow on the jaw, partly from the force with
which he had come in contact with the ground. Edward lightly sprung
aside and avoided the cut aimed at him, and then delivered a blow with
all his force just in front of the ear, and the man dropped again as if
shot. In a moment Edgar had wrenched the knife from his hand, then he
turned to the young Arab.

"That is enough," he said; "they have both got more than they wanted;
they are harmless now, we have their two knives."

The Arab, who was panting from his exertions, and who had evidently
restrained himself with difficulty from plunging his knife into his
fallen assailant, turned round towards him.

"Who are you, brother, whose blows fell men like strokes of lightning?"

"My name is Edgar Blagrove. I am the son of a merchant, whose place of
business is in the great square. Who are you, and how did this business
begin?"

"My name is Sidi Ben Ouafy. I am the son of a chief. My father's tribe
live in the oasis ten miles east of the old lake. I was riding from the
town when these two men, for whom there was, as you see, plenty of room
in the road, staggered suddenly against me, whether with evil intent or
merely to enjoy the pleasure of seeing me rolling in the dust, I know
not. They nearly unseated me from the suddenness of the attack, and as I
recovered I certainly struck at them with my whip. One seized me by the
foot and threw me off my horse, and then, as you saw, they fell upon me,
beat me, and were dragging me to the fountain to throw me in when you
came up. Had they not heard your horse coming along they would, I
believe, have killed me. Henceforth you are my brother; my horses and
all that I have are yours, and every sword of our tribe would leap from
its scabbard in your defence were it needed. To-morrow I will ride in
again, and my father himself will assuredly come with me. I cannot speak
of my gratitude now, my head is still dizzy with the blows they gave me;
even yet I cannot understand how it was that these two men have thus
fallen before you, and you with no weapon in your hands. Are they dead?"

"Not they," Edgar said scornfully; "they are wondering what has happened
to them, and fear to move, not knowing that their own knives might not
be driven into their hearts did they venture to rise. Well, good-bye,
Sidi; I will see you off first; and I should advise you, when you ride
into the town again, to bring your pistols with you. Like enough these
scoundrels will try to get revenge for this defeat."

"I will do so. I know not why I did not carry them to-day. I will not
only bring them, but two of my tribesmen shall ride with me. But
methinks that you will be in greater danger than I shall, brother."

"I shall be on the look-out, and will, for a time, carry pistols with
me; but I do not often go out after dark, and have no occasion ever to
enter the streets where rogues of this sort live. As to an open attack,
I have no fear of it; but I have no doubt that either of those
scoundrels would plant a knife between my shoulders if they had a chance
to do so."

Both the lads mounted their horses, and after a few words of farewell
rode off in different directions. Not until the sound of the horses'
hoofs died away did the two figures in the road move, then they sat up.

"What has happened, Zeno?"

"I know not, save that my head is ringing. I feel as if my jaws were
broken, and my nose is so swelled that it seems as big as my head."

"And I can scarcely see from my eyes," the other said. "Cospetto, never
before have I been thus handled!"

"We will kill him!" the other said furiously.

"That of course; I know not who he was, but we shall doubtless find out.
I can hardly believe even now that it was with his hand that he struck
us--it was done so quickly. He was there--then I struck at him,
when--paff!--and it seemed to me that the air was full of stars; then,
paff again! my jaws cracked, I fell backwards, there was a crash, and
the world seemed to have come to an end. And you, Giaccamo, what did he
do to you?"

"It was like that, except that I only had one blow, and there was an
end of it. I was drawing my knife when it came--how, I know not. My
knife flew from my hand--there was a flash of fire from my eyes, and I
was on the ground, and thought it best to lie there, lest that accursed
young Arab should take it into his head to sheathe my knife in my body.
The next time we will give the young fellow no chance to try those
strange tricks upon us."

"You are right, Giaccamo; I would sooner fight against even Thomasso,
who is the best knife-player in Alexandria, than face that fellow again.
Who can he be, I wonder?"

Edgar rode home, and after seeing his horse taken into the stable, went
into the house.

"I have found my boxing of use, father."

"How is that, Edgar?"

The lad told him what had happened.

"You were quite right to strike, my boy," his father went on when he had
heard the story; "'tis likely enough that those ruffians would have
killed the lad. There are fellows here who would do murder for the sake
of a few copper coins; and, doubtless, those men thought that the young
chief would have some trinkets about him that would pay them for their
trouble. I am sorry that you did not let the Arab put his knife into
them; it would have been a good riddance, for the town abounds with
rascals of that kind--the scum of the Mediterranean, men who have made
their native towns too hot to hold them, and have committed crimes
untold. As it is, you will have to be careful; fellows of this kind are
not of a forgiving nature, and will be patient enough to wait for their
revenge, but sooner or later they will attempt to take it."

"It was so dark, father, that they can scarcely have seen my face."

"Perhaps not, but no doubt they were able to make out your figure, and
there are very few better-class young Europeans here. You will have to
be on your guard, lad; you had better always carry pistols with you.
Clever as you may be with your fists, if you were attacked by
half-a-dozen fellows with knives, you would stand but little chance with
them. Don't be out after dusk; in daylight you are fairly safe. At any
rate, you would be, if you avoid the rookeries, where the lower class of
European inhabitants live. I have a brace of short-barrelled pistols
up-stairs I will give you. I carried them at one time when things were
very unsettled here. You have made two bitter enemies, but, on the other
hand, you have made a friend who may be useful. These Arabs, when they
once form a friendship, are as true as steel, and in the event of any
fanatical troubles here, you would find a sure refuge among them. The
lad's father, Aboo Ben Ouafy, I know a little of, as he has made
purchases of me. His tribe is not a large one, but he himself is a fine
fellow. As the lad told you, their head-quarters are in an oasis some
eight or ten miles, I believe, east of the old site of Lake Mareotis.
They, of course, like all those people, are frequently absent on hunting
or plundering expeditions."

The next day Sidi and his father, followed by half a dozen tribesmen,
halted in front of Mr. Blagrove's place of business, and the two former
dismounted and entered. The Bedouin chief saluted the merchant gravely,
while Sidi went up to Edgar, who was sitting at a table, for he now
worked for some hours a day in his father's office, and who rose at the
lad's approach, and held out his hand in English fashion.

"You are none the worse for our scrimmage last night, Sidi?" he said
heartily.

"No harm was done," Sidi replied gravely. "I am glad of what happened,
for it has given me a friend, a brother."

"I am glad too," Edgar replied, "for I too am happy to have gained a
friend."

In the meantime his father was saying to Mr. Blagrove, "I have come,
effendi, to thank you and your son for the assistance he rendered to my
boy yesterday. I have no doubt that he saved his life, and that at the
peril of his own. It is wonderful what my son tells me, that, with his
hands alone he beat to the ground the two men who had attacked him,
though they were armed with knives. I know not how it could be done, but
since it was done 'tis plain that he must possess skill unknown to us.
Sidi has called him brother, and henceforth I shall regard him as a son,
and my tribe will be his should he need their services. I doubt not that
the attack was made in order to gain the horse my son rode, which is one
of famous breed, and would sell at high price at Cairo or any other of
the large towns. I feel sure that they would have killed him in order
that they might carry the horse away without search being made for it,
for before we found that Sidi had been slain the horse would have been a
hundred miles away."

"I know that your tribe is famous for having some of the best Arabian
blood in the country, sheik, and I think it probable that you are right.
The fellows may have seen your son ride into the town and determined to
waylay him on his return."

"Your son did wrong not to kill them," the Arab said, "he will be in
danger from them. I have called not only to thank him, but to ask him to
come and bide with us for a time; he will assuredly be in danger here.
Were I governor of the town I would chop off the heads of all those
people who breed disorders and are a curse to it. 'Tis well that Franks
like yourself should settle among us, and should trade with us, buying
our goods and selling to us those of Europe, but these thieves and
cut-throats, these ruffians who neither trade nor work, but live by
ill-doing, should be rooted out."

"I should be glad for my son to stay with you for a short time, sheik. I
share your opinion that these men will try to avenge themselves, and it
were well that he should be away for a time. Doubtless they will watch
narrowly to see if they can find the young fellow who interfered with
them, but if they meet with no one like him they may well think that he
has left the town."

"It is well!" the Arab said. "I am going now to the governor to lay a
complaint against these men. My son will go with me to tell him what
they are like; the son of a sheik is not to be assaulted by town
ruffians with impunity. We may be kept some time, but when we have done
we will return hither. Will your son be ready to ride with us?"

"Certainly, sheik; it will not take him five minutes to make his
preparations."

"He will not need a horse," the sheik said; "I have brought one with me
for him."

Edgar had listened with delight to this conversation (which was in
Arabic, which his father spoke fluently). The idea of going to stay for
a time in an Arab encampment was exciting indeed, for he had already
begun to find the life monotonous after the two years spent at school
and in the lively companionship of his cousins.

"It were well that you should come out and see your horse," the sheik
said to him, "and make friends with him while we are away, for he is not
accustomed to Europeans, and might give you trouble were you to mount
him at once."

Edgar and his father both went out. One of the Arabs was standing at
the horse's head, rubbing its nose and talking to it as if it had been a
human being.

"That is the horse," the sheik said gravely. "Only to one, whom I regard
as a son, would I part with him. On his back you may scoff at pursuit by
any foes, for outside my encampment there is not a horse in Egypt which
it could not distance. Now it is yours to do with as you like, save to
sell it, for I would not that his blood should run in any veins save
those of the horses of my tribe."

"This is, indeed, a princely gift, sheik," the merchant said warmly.
"'Tis a noble horse, and one that a king might ride. My son is indeed
indebted to you, and will value it beyond all price."

Edgar was warm in his expressions of gratitude and admiration, although,
indeed, he was unable to appreciate at its full value the points of the
animal. It was a gray, and, to English eyes, would have looked light and
wanting in bone, and fit rather for a lady's use than for a man's, with
its slender limbs and small head; but one accustomed to Arab horses, as
Mr. Blagrove was, could see at once that it was of the purest strain and
highest breeding.

"Come with me," the sheik said to Edgar. "At present, you see, he is not
accustomed to your white face, but he will soon come to love you, and
answer to your call."

The horse, indeed, had laid back his ears, distended his dilated
nostrils, and stepped back a foot or two; but as the sheik approached it
gave a little whinny of pleasure, and, advancing, laid its muzzle
against his cheek.

"This is your new master, Beauty," he said, as he stroked its glossy
neck. "He will keep you well, and you will be as one of his children,
and you must be a good friend and servant to him."

Edgar now stroked the animal. A quiver as of fear ran through it as he
touched it, but as he continued, this died away; and as Edgar spoke
quietly to it in Arabic, it was not long before it responded to his
caresses, and after taking a good look at him with its soft liquid eyes,
it put its head on his shoulder.

"You are friends now," the sheik said, with a tone of pleasure. "It is
to few, even of my tribesmen, whom he would give such a greeting. He
recognizes you already as his friend. Give him a handful of sweetmeats,
and the bargain will be sealed."

The merchant at once sent one of the native boys out to buy a bag of
sweetmeats. The sheik waited until he saw the horse taking these out of
Edgar's hands and munching them contentedly, then, leaving one of his
tribesmen in charge of the horse, he mounted, and rode off with his son
and the rest of his followers. Edgar stood for some time talking to the
horse, and then, leaving it to the native, went into the house to make
his preparations for the journey.

"You have, indeed, done well for yourself, Edgar," his father said as he
came in. "'Tis in every way fortunate. The Turks love us little, and
though they put up with us, as they need the goods that we sell, still
there may at any moment be a fanatical rising, and it is well, indeed,
to have made friends with one of the desert tribes, among whom you can
find a safe refuge. You little know the value of the horse he has given
you. The breed is a famous one, and the sheik has been offered a
fabulous sum for one of his steeds, but nothing could tempt him to part
with one. An Arab prizes a valuable horse beyond all his earthly
possessions, and, save under the pressure of the direst want, nothing
could persuade him to part with it. In presenting it to you, therefore,
the chief has shown his friendship in the most striking manner
possible, and that he regards you, as he says, as one of his family."



CHAPTER II.

A BEDOUIN TRIBE.


It was two hours before the sheik returned.

"We have been fortunate," he said, as Mr. Blagrove and Edgar came out
into the court-yard as he entered. "The men have had their punishment.
The governor, after hearing my story, sent to the head of the police,
and charged him to take four men down with him into the quarter where
men of this sort are generally to be found. When my son described the
men to him, and said that he thought that one of them was a Maltese
named Giaccamo, and the other was a Greek called Zeno, he spoke to some
of his men, and they said they knew two fellows who generally went about
together that answered to the description. They were, he said, notorious
ruffians, but except for rioting and wounding among their compatriots,
with which the police did not concern themselves, they had been able to
find nothing against them, though they strongly suspected that they were
concerned in many crimes. We went down with them to that quarter, and
the police soon found out the place where they lived, but on enquiry
were assured that both men were ill, the old woman who came to the door
declaring that they had been in bed for some days. However, the police
insisted upon entering, and speedily brought them down. Sidi recognized
them at once, and indeed they had scarcely lied in saying that they were
ill, for the eyelids of one were so swollen and blackened that he could
not see out of them, while the other's nose was well-nigh as big as the
rest of his face.

"They were at once taken before the cadi. He heard my son's evidence,
and then said that had it been proved they attempted to steal the horse,
he would have had their heads smitten off, but that though this was
doubtless their intention, they had not done so. He sentenced them to a
hundred blows with a stick, and to be expelled from the town and
neighbourhood, warning them that should they be found near the town
again, they would assuredly be punished with death. I waited and saw the
blows administered, and although I felt angry that the cadi had not
ordered them to execution, I admit that the punishment was severe
enough, and the wretches howled like whipped curs. I trust that there
will be no more trouble from them. Still, I hope that this will not
prevent your son coming to visit us."

"Certainly not, sheik. He is prepared and ready to go, and he is looking
forward to his stay with you with so much pleasure that even did I wish
it I could not now deprive him of the enjoyment of it. Still, I am
heartily glad that the two fellows have been expelled the town, for I
should never have felt easy as to Edgar's safety so long as they were
here."

A few minutes later the party set out. Edgar's valise was fastened to
the saddle of one of the sheik's followers. The road ran along the sandy
dunes that divided the low country, formerly covered by Lake Mareotis,
from the sea, and as soon as they were well out from the town the horses
were broke into a gallop. While in point of actual speed even the best
Arab horses cannot hold their own against a moderate English race-horse,
whose greater height and longer stride gives him an advantage, they are
greatly superior in last, and possess extraordinary endurance and
stamina. Brought up as if belonging to the family of their owners, their
intelligence has been cultivated as has that of dogs. They are
exceedingly docile and affectionate. Their pace is a very easy one, and
Edgar was delighted indeed at the manner in which his new acquisition
flew along without any apparent exertion, continuing the pace without a
check until they reached the Arab encampment in an hour and twenty
minutes from leaving Alexandria.

Here they leapt from their horses in front of a group of black tents.
The oasis was of small extent, extending but two hundred yards across.
In the centre was a group of thirty or forty palm-trees. Near these the
herbage was thick, gradually dwindling away until it became lost in the
sand. In the centre, near the tents, was a well, an irregularly-shaped
pit some five-and-twenty feet deep, with a rough path down to it by
which the women went to get water both for their own use and for that of
the horses. A score of these were tethered on the grass.

"You are welcome to our tents," the sheik said; "may your visit be a
fortunate one! Mulick," he called to one of the Arab boys, "take Beauty;
but first," he went on to Edgar, "it were best that you talked to him a
little, and gave him some sweets. He will soon get to love you, and it
is well that he should hear your voice as often as possible."

"I will lead him out myself," Edgar replied, "and then Mulick can tether
him. I shall know another time how to do it myself."

Then he patted the Arab's glossy neck, rubbed its ears, and praised it,
giving it a handful of sweets while he did so. Beauty evidently
appreciated the attentions, and replied to him by a low whinny. Then he
took off its saddle and led it to a spot Mulick pointed out, and then
watched the boy tether it, and took off the bridle and carried it back
to the tents. A woman came out from the largest of these. She was not
veiled, for except when they go into the towns the Bedouin women seldom
conceal their faces.

"Ayala," the sheik said, "this is the young white lord who saved Sidi
from those who attacked him; henceforth he is as one of our tribe."

"May the blessings of Allah fall upon you!" the woman said. "Sidi is our
only child. Had he been taken from us our lives would have been desolate
indeed."

"I am very glad that I happened to come along at the time," Edgar said.
"It has been a most fortunate occurrence for me, as much indeed as for
Sidi. I have no friends of my own age, and it will be great pleasure to
me to have him as a sort of brother. I am sure that we shall get on
capitally together. Besides which, your husband has given me a grand
horse, such as I could never have obtained for money. Sidi will be able
to teach me Arab ways, and I daresay I shall be able to show him
something of our customs and life."

Edgar was now shown a tent that had been newly erected for his use. The
furniture was simple, consisting only of a handsome Eastern carpet,
which covered the ground, and a pile of rugs for sofa and bed. Hanging
from one of the sticks that supported the tent was a porous jar of
water. When he had hung up his rifle and pistols, powder-horn and
bullet-pouch, its furnishing was complete.

"Is this all your tribe?" he asked Sidi, as he came out from his tent.

"Oh, no! our tribe dwells in a large oasis a hundred miles to the south,
and fifty miles west of Cairo. There are other portions of the tribe
dwelling not far from the same spot, and we can ride five hundred strong
when we go to fight the Berbers of Morocco. But my father is only sheik
of his section. There are generally but six tents left here to keep
possession, and we are often away for months. We find that we can buy
such goods as the tribe requires cheaper at Alexandria than at Cairo,
where, indeed, we do not often go, for ill-blood exists between us and
the authorities there, who ventured on some complaint to send out a
party of Mamelukes against us. We beat them back handsomely, but had to
leave our oasis for a time, as we could not withstand the force they
would be sure to send against us. That was thirty years ago. They filled
up our wells and cut down our palm-trees. The wells were soon cleared
out again, and the palm groves have grown up. They have not interfered
with us again, but even now we care not to visit Cairo, though it may be
that the matter is altogether forgotten there."

Edgar remained a fortnight with his new friends, and enjoyed the life
much. He took lessons from Sidi in hurling a lance, and discovered that
it would need a long practice indeed to enable him to do so with the
accuracy shown by the Arabs. He also practised with his rifles and
pistols. When he left he gave a warm invitation to Sidi to come and stay
with him. This, however, the Arab lad declined.

"I should not be comfortable in your European dwelling," he said. "I
should be miserable, sitting on one of those chairs. Your father is
busy, and so are you; I should be altogether out of my element."

"But I might have said the same thing here, Sidi?"

"Oh, no! it is easy to fling off restraint, to throw yourself on the
sand, to ride and shoot and hurl the spear. Those are sports that you
can enjoy as much as I do. I will come over often and see you, but do
not ask me to stay."

Edgar saw that it was better not to press the matter, at any rate for
the present. In time, when Sidi became more accustomed to European ways
he might perhaps come to stay, but if he came now it would be a penance
rather than a pleasure. After that time the young Arab rode over
frequently, leaving his camp at daybreak and arriving in time to spend a
long day with Edgar. Sometimes they rode together, sometimes walked
along the sea-shore, and Sidi soon learned to enjoy as much as his
friend a row or a sail on the water, which to him was at first
altogether a novelty. The merchant possessed several boats, which he
used in his business, and a pretty gig which carried a sail, in which he
himself went off to visit ships which brought goods for him. This was at
other times at Edgar's service. He had learned, even before going to
school, to manage it, and it therefore was unnecessary to take anyone
with them.

Sidi at first did not take kindly to an oar. Trained to hard exercise on
horseback and in the sports of the tribe, he had yet a great aversion to
anything like steady labour, and was unable even to understand Edgar's
willingness to exert himself at an oar when he could have had men to row
him about. In time, however, when he had mastered the initial
difficulties of the art, he took to the exercise, and they often spent
the whole day in the boat, either coasting along Aboukir Bay, or, more
often, shooting on the lakes.

The arrival of the British fleet had created quite an excitement in
Alexandria, and the news they brought, that a large French fleet had
left Toulon, carrying many thousands of troops, destined, it was
believed, to operate in Egypt, had caused an intense feeling of dismay
among the British merchants settled there, and a corresponding
exultation among the French.

"Will the French fleet be stronger than this?" Sidi asked, as he and
Edgar leant on the parapet and looked at the long line of British ships.

"There may be more of them--very likely there are," Edgar said
carelessly; "but that makes no matter, we are sure to thrash them. In
the first place, we always do so somehow; and in the next, as our fleet
is commanded by one of the best admirals we have, there is no fear of
their being beaten. The only fear is that the fleet mayn't fall in with
the French until they have landed their troops."

"The troops could not stand against our Mamelukes," Sidi said
scornfully. "They would soon drive them into the sea."

"I am not so sure of that," Edgar said. "No doubt the Mamelukes are
splendid horsemen. I suppose they are as good as any in the world; but
horsemen cannot win a battle alone. The French infantry are very fine,
and I doubt whether any number of horsemen could break their squares.
Then their artillery is immensely superior to that of the Egyptians;
that will give them a very great advantage."

"But if your fleet meets theirs and beats it, how could they ever get
back again?"

"I expect they mean to stay here and hold the country," Edgar said. "I
don't know what good it would do to them; still I suppose they think it
would, or they would not take the trouble to come over. But if they
should take the country, it would be very bad for men like my father,
for they would be sure to put all the English in prison, and it would be
the ruin of their business."

"Would they put you in prison?"

"I don't know; I expect so. They would hold all the English as
prisoners."

"You would come out to us. You will be quite safe there. If their
soldiers came, they would never catch us; we could move about anywhere,
we know all the places where water is to be found, and they would only
die of thirst if they went after us into the desert."

"Well, I hope that it is not going to be so, Sidi; but if the French
should land here I should like it very much. I suppose you would fight
against the French."

"If they came to take Egypt, of course we should, and then you could see
it all, and fight with us against them."

"It would be very jolly, Sidi, and I should like nothing better; but of
course I shall have to do as my father tells me. I expect he would shut
up his place, and get all his goods on board a ship and go away till it
was all over, if he was able. No doubt he would want me to go with him."

That evening Edgar learned that he had rightly guessed the steps that
his father would take in case a French army landed.

"It is an awkward business, lad," he said. "Of course if Nelson comes up
with the French fleet, we may hope that it will come out right; but if,
before he catches it, they manage to land twenty or thirty thousand
troops, our position here would be a most serious one. I intend to
charter the _Petrel_, which has just discharged the cargo she brought
here. I shall put all my most valuable goods on board at once,
especially all the Egyptian carpets and other oriental work, so that
within a few hours of hearing that their fleet was off the coast, I
should be ready to sail for England. Of course there would be an end to
the business here, so long as the French remained in Egypt; and no doubt
any British subjects they could lay their hands on would be thrown into
prison, just as was the case when they occupied Holland.

"I should not, however, propose to shut up the house altogether, for
although we, as English, would be seized, and thrown into prison, and
the place closed, France is not at war with Germany, and Muller could
carry on the shipping business without interruption, his own name being
substituted for mine. I should instruct him to do no trade with the
interior; everything will be turned topsy-turvy, and all trade of that
sort would be at an end. On the other hand, with the French masters
here, a considerable number of French and Italian ships will be coming
in with stores of all kinds, these will often need supplies, repairs,
and so on; and as we have men capable of doing anything in the way of
refitting, Muller could keep things going, and carry on a business that
should pay all expenses, and would probably leave a margin of profit. At
any rate, the house would not go to wreck and ruin, and the business be
entirely lost.

"I don't think the French occupation would be likely to last very many
months. You may be sure that there would be great efforts made at home.
A tremendous fleet would be sent out here, and the difficulties of
bringing in stores and reinforcements for the army would be enormous.
Possibly we too may land an army. Certainly we could nowhere fight the
French so advantageously as here; it would be the case of India over
again, as long as we are superior at sea, as we could bring troops here
more safely and more expeditiously than they could. However, that seems
to me the best arrangement we can make if the French land. To me it
would make no great difference, for, as you know, I had arranged to sail
in three weeks for England.

"The only alteration would be that you must accompany me instead of
staying here. Even putting aside the fact that you would be made a
prisoner, you would, if you stayed here, be a hindrance rather than a
help to the business. Muller would carry it on as a purely German firm,
while if you were here it would be evident that I had merely left
temporarily, and that you were my representative. That would be fatal to
Muller doing business with the French."

"I see that, father, although I must say that I would rather stop to see
the fun."

Mr. Blagrove smiled.

"I don't suppose you would see much of it in any case, Edgar. However,
that is out of the question. I daresay my correspondents in London will
be able to take you into their office, or get you a situation of the
same kind elsewhere, so that if you stop in England a year you will not
be wasting your time. However, the French have not come yet, and I can
hardly think that they can intend to undertake an expedition, where,
even if our fleet is not strong enough to do so at once, it will ere
long certainly be raised to a point when it will completely cut them off
from France."

"But even if they come, father, they may not succeed in conquering
Egypt. Don't you think that the Mamelukes will be able to make head
against them?"

"We don't know how strong the French are, but even if they come in great
force, if the Mamelukes were well handled, Edgar, they ought to be able
to prevent them from advancing far inland. They ought to hang in clouds
round them, driving in their cavalry whenever they ventured to leave the
shelter of their infantry fire. They ought to harass them night and day,
and prevent them obtaining supplies of any sort. I am afraid that
nothing of that kind will be done. The Mamelukes have been spoilt, and
they are so puffed up that they believe themselves to be invincible, and
that they have only to make a grand charge to sweep the French away.

"However, it will make no great difference to us when we are once
fairly away, for of course I shall not think of returning here until
matters have settled down again. The French traders have had a bad time
of it since the war began, and most of them left long ago, for it was so
seldom that a vessel got through our cruisers that they could not rely
upon any regular supplies of goods. Of course, there are many small
shopkeepers who take their goods of me, and retail them out to the
natives, but all the importers left. I am afraid it is going to be our
turn now; that is, unless Nelson manages to intercept their fleet--no
very easy matter, for they might land anywhere along the coast between
this and Syria. But I imagine that their descent will take place near
this town, for from it they could follow the fresh-water canal to the
point where it flows from the Nile, and so on to Cairo.

"They may, however, land at either the Damietta or Rosetta mouths of the
river; still, I think that they are more likely to come here, seeing
that the ships could more closely approach the shore."

The British fleet remained but a few hours off Alexandria. The short
Peace of Campo-Formio had caused the greater portion of the British
fleet to be recalled from the Mediterranean; and it was not until the
French preparations were almost complete that the news reached England
that a vast number of transports had been collected by the French at
various ports, that provisions of all kinds were being put on board, and
it was rumoured that an army was about to embark for some unknown
destination.

Nelson was at once sent off with a fleet to blockade Toulon, from which
port it was evident that the men-of-war intended to guard this great
fleet of transports would start. It arrived there on the first of June,
only to learn that the French fleet had set out three days previously.
The idea that Egypt was its destination had not entered the minds of the
British ministers, and although Nelson had been furnished with
instructions as to the course to be taken in the case of almost every
contingency, this had never been even discussed.

The French fleet consisted of 13 vessels of the line, 9 frigates, and 11
corvettes and despatch-boats. All of these, with the exception of a few
of the smaller vessels, were furnished by Toulon. Here, too, 20,500 men
had embarked in 106 transports. They were to be joined by 30 transports
from Marseilles, 20 from Corsica, 35 from Genoa, and 41 from Civita
Vecchia, bringing up the total to 232 transports, carrying 32,300 men.

In one arm the army was extremely deficient, as only 680 horses could be
put on board. Of these 300 were for the cavalry,--all of whom, however,
took with them saddles and bridles,--the rest were for the artillery and
train.

Nelson started at once in search of the enemy, but having no clue to the
direction they had taken he was able to obtain no news of their
whereabouts until he heard that they had captured, without resistance,
the island of Malta. Then he returned with all speed, imagining for the
first time that possibly Egypt was the object of attack, and made for
Alexandria. On his arrival there he heard that nothing was known of the
French movements, although in fact their fleet was on that day lying at
anchor off Cape Harzet, twenty leagues to the west.

Supposing, therefore, that they must after all have sailed for the coast
of Syria or Constantinople, he steered for Alexandretta, and learning
that, after having captured Malta, the French fleet had sailed to
Candia, he left for Rhodes, searched everywhere through the islands of
the Archipelago, and it was only when he anchored off Cape Matapan, the
southern extremity of the Morea, that he first learned that the French
army had landed in Egypt a month before.

The object of the French expedition was a vast one, but the means with
which it was undertaken were insufficient for its execution, and the
difficulties in the way were infinitely greater than had been supposed
in Paris. Bonaparte had been chosen for its command principally because
the directory feared that the great popularity of the victorious general
would render him formidable to themselves. They knew already that he was
by no means favourably disposed towards them, and they were therefore
anxious to remove him from the public eye.

Napoleon, on his part, was perfectly aware of the reason for which he
was appointed to the command, but he accepted it under the belief that a
vast amount of glory was to be gained, and that, should the plans of the
directory be entirely carried out, and India wrested from the English,
his name would be placed by the side of Alexander in history. Already
negotiations had been carried on for some time with Tippoo Sahib.
Commissioners had been despatched to him, and an alliance proposed
against the British. His power had been greatly overrated by the French,
and but a feeble idea was entertained of the enormous difficulties of
the scheme they proposed, which was that, after completely subduing and
organizing Egypt, they should march through Syria and Damascus, thence
to the head of the Persian Gulf, and thence down through India.

No account had been taken of the enormous difficulties of the journey.
There was no thought of the powerful and warlike people of Northern
India. The only idea was to revenge the total overthrow of the French
power in India by the British, to re-establish it on a firmer and wider
base than ever, and so not only to humiliate the pride of England, but
to obtain a monopoly of the trade of the East.

The news that possibly a French fleet might at any moment appear before
the port spread the greatest dismay throughout Alexandria; the native
population were furious, and foreigners scarcely dared to show
themselves in the streets. Mr. Blagrove and Edgar were busy from morning
till night on the day after the British fleet had left, in transporting
the goods from the store to the ship that had been chartered.

"It is quite possible that all this is needless," the merchant said to
Edgar when they sat down to a hasty meal late in the evening. "I think
myself that it is almost absurd, although I do not mean to leave
anything to chance; but it is purely a surmise that the French
expedition is intended to operate against Egypt. It seems to me that
either Greece or Syria is much more likely to be its destination. I have
just had a letter put into my hand, brought by the captain of a small
Maltese trader. It is from a correspondent in Malta. He states that the
French fleet has appeared off the island and summoned the knights to
surrender, and that it is thought probable that the demand will be
acceded to. He said that he sent me a line by a little coaster that
intended to sail late that evening, and was taking a cargo of grain for
Alexandria.

"That certainly looks as if the expedition is intended to operate
farther east, for Malta is altogether out of the way for a fleet coming
from Toulon hither. Still it is just as well to continue our work. There
is, naturally enough, a violent ferment among the native population, and
this may not improbably find vent in a fanatical attack upon the
Christians. At any rate, we will get the rest of our goods of any value
on board, and then await events."

By the next evening their preparations were completed. The ferment had
now somewhat cooled down, and people were beginning to think that the
excitement roused by a mere vague report was absurd. The next morning at
breakfast Mr. Blagrove said to his son:

"I think, Edgar, that as things have quieted down, and we are all
beginning to hope that the scare was altogether unfounded, it would be
just as well that you should ride over to your friends in the desert,
stay the night there, and come back to-morrow. They would think it
strange and discourteous if we were to leave suddenly without
communicating with them; and as I hope our absence will be of short
duration, I should be very sorry to give people so well-disposed towards
you any ground for offence. But return by to-morrow evening. In the
extremely remote possibility of a French fleet being made out before
that time, I must embark at once, if only for your mother and sisters'
sake. It would be madness to wait here--simple madness. Even putting
aside the certainty of captivity for a very long period, it is by no
means improbable that there would be a sudden rising on the part of the
population, and a massacre of foreigners.

"I consider the contingency so remote, that it is scarcely worth
speaking of; but if the French fleet should arrive during the thirty-six
hours that you will be away, and I am obliged to embark and sail off,
you must stay with your Arab friends. You see, I have some £8000 worth
of goods on board the _Petrel_, and the loss would be an extremely heavy
one for me; and I have besides £2000 in cash. I shall leave £1000 in
Muller's hands, which will be ample for his needs, as there is a very
heavy stock of ships' stores in the warehouse. I shall, of course,
instruct him to supply you with any money that you may require. You
understand that I regard all this as extremely improbable, but it is
just as well to make arrangements for every contingency. And then,
should the French fleet come in sight, I can embark on board the
_Petrel_, and set sail without any great anxiety on your account. More
to relieve my mind than because I think there is any reasonable ground
for thinking it necessary, here are fifty pounds in gold; you had best
sew them up securely in the band of your trousers to-night; it will be
no great trouble, and they will be safer there than if loose in your
pocket."

As Edgar rode away the next morning, he could not help thinking that it
would be great fun if the French were to arrive before he returned. The
thought of a year or two passed in a stuffy office in London was not an
agreeable one; while, were he to stay with the Bedouins, he might have a
life of excitement and adventure. No doubt they and the other tribes
would all fight against the invaders; impelled in the first place by
their intense love of independence, and in the second, because the
invaders were Christians. The thought of dashing charges, of skirmishing
with the French cavalry, of pursuit, of flight, was very fascinating to
a high-spirited lad of seventeen, and after indulging in these fancies
for some time, he sighed, as he thought how small was the chance of
their becoming reality.

He was heartily welcomed on his arrival at the oasis. The news that Sidi
had brought of the visit of the British fleet, and the fact that they
were in search of a great French fleet carrying an army that might
possibly be intended for the invasion of Egypt, had created great
excitement in the camp.

"Do you think it can be true," the sheik asked him, "that so wild an
idea can have come to these people, as to think that they could conquer
our country?"

"That I cannot say," Edgar replied. "If they did come, they would be
very formidable opponents, for they have conquered many countries in
Europe; their soldiers are well trained and disciplined, and they will
have great numbers of guns; but my father thinks that they can hardly
intend to come here, for if they landed we should soon have enough
ships-of-war here to prevent their return, and they would be cut off
from France altogether. There is no news of their fleet, except that
they have arrived at the island of Malta. Whither they sailed thence we
know not. Our fleet has gone in search of them, and will fight them when
they find them. But if they should escape, and should really come
hither, my father and I will embark on board a ship which he has loaded
with his most valuable goods, and we shall at once sail for England. It
is for this reason that I have ridden over this morning. If we should
go, our departure will be very sudden, for we should get up anchor as
soon as the French fleet was made out in the distance, or, at any rate,
as soon as it became dark enough to hide our departure; and I should
have been sorry indeed to go without saying good-bye to you."

"But for how long will you go, brother?" Sidi asked.

"Until the trouble was over here, which might be only two or three
months, but which might be as many years."

"And will you be glad to go back to your own country?" the sheik asked.

"No, indeed. There I should have to work in an office in London, which
would be very dull, while here my work is light, I have amusements, and
I have my friends here."

"Why not stay behind with us until your father returns? You know that
you would be most welcome, and that it would gladden all our hearts to
have you with us."

"I should like it above all things, sheik," Edgar said warmly, "and I
thank you most heartily for the invitation, but of course I must do as
my father wishes, and he thinks it best that we should go to England if
the French come, for they would keep us both as prisoners, and would
seize all our goods and merchandise. However, it does not seem to him
likely that the French will really come here, and it was only because he
considered that it was just possible they might do so that he himself
suggested that I should come over and stay here until to-morrow
afternoon, lest, if we should have to leave suddenly, you might not
think that we had forgotten you in our haste to be off. For myself, I
wish that I could stay here. I suppose that if the French came you would
fight, and I could fight with your tribe?"

"Assuredly we will fight," the sheik said. "Why should these Franks come
here to molest us? I love not the Turkish rule much, but we are in no
way molested. Assuredly every Arab through the desert will ride against
them and aid the Mamelukes to drive them into the sea. How great an army
would they bring against us?"

"We hear from the officers of our fleet that the news received in
England said that some 30,000 men were preparing to embark for some
unknown destination."

"Thirty thousand!" the sheik said scornfully; "why, there are 10,000
Mameluke cavalry and fully 20,000 infantry, janizaries, and spahis,
besides the levy of the whole population, and the desert tribes can put
5000 horsemen into the field. They will never dare to come against us
unless with a force very much larger than you speak of. No, it is not
against Egypt that the expedition can have sailed."

"That is what my father thinks," Edgar said; "not because of the force
you could bring against them, but because they would know that they
might be cut off at any time from returning by our fleet, and their
position would then become desperate. We have long blockaded them in
their own ports, and if they are not strong enough to get out of these,
still less would they be able to leave Egypt."

"Let us not talk more of them," the sheik said contemptuously. "They are
dogs; if they come hither we shall know how to deal with them."



CHAPTER III.

LEFT BEHIND.


The sheik spoke a few words to two of his followers, who at once mounted
their horses and rode off.

"They will bring us news if anything happens," he said; "they will go
into Alexandria."

It was late in the evening when they returned.

"You have news?" the sheik said, as they came up to the fire by which he
was sitting. The moon was shining brightly, lighting up the wide expanse
of sand round the grove.

"The Franks have come," one said.

Edgar sprung to his feet with an exclamation of surprise and alarm.

"When did they come?" the sheik asked.

"When we reached the city all was quiet," the man said, "except that
soldiers were working at the fortifications. When we asked why this was,
they said that some Bedouins had come in two hours before with the news
that the sea near Cape Harzet was covered with ships, and that they were
sailing this way. Many did not believe the story, but all the people and
the soldiers were ordered to work on the fortifications, to bring up
shot for the great guns, to carry stones to mend the walls where they
were broken, and to prepare for the defence. The sun was nigh half down
when we saw a great many white dots on the edge of the sea. They were
still some leagues away, when everyone pointed and cried out, 'It is the
enemy!' and worked harder than ever. It was not for two hours that we
were sure that they were ships. When we were so, we went, as you bade
us, to the English merchant's. He was busy directing men, who were going
backwards and forwards to a ship in the harbour. We said to him,
'Master, our sheik has sent us to carry him news should the fleet of the
Franks come here. He told us to come to you if it did so, as you might
wish to send for your son.'

"'It is too late,' he said; 'too late for my son to come to me. I am on
the point of starting now, as you see. Many of the ships have already
put to sea, and the captain has sent to say that he cannot risk his
vessel by staying longer. The French will be here within two or three
hours, and although they will not venture to enter the harbour till
daybreak they could capture all vessels going out. Tell my son that I
regret much that I let him go away for the day, but had no thought that
the enemy would come so soon. Bid him not be uneasy about me, for it
will be dark in an hour, and the French will not be up until two hours
later, and they will have their hands full without trying to catch the
craft that are putting out from here. Here is a letter for him; I was
going to leave it here in case he returned.'

"Five minutes afterwards he took his place in a boat and was rowed off
to the ship. We saw the men getting up the anchor, and then the sails
were spread, and she sailed out of the harbour. Then, not wishing to be
shut up in the town, we went out through the gates and rode to the
mound by the sea-shore that is called Marabout. Then we got off our
horses to see what would happen. It was dark when the Franks' vessels
came along; some of them sailed on towards the harbour, but most of them
anchored and let down their sails, and presently one could see vast
numbers of boats rowing towards the shore."

When the man had finished, Edgar opened the note that was handed to him.
It was written in pencil.

     _My dear Edgar,--In face of all probabilities the French fleet is
     in sight. They will be here soon after it is dark. The city is in a
     state of mid excitement. The captain of the 'Petrel' has just come
     in, saying that the French are coming along the coast from the
     west, and that I must be on board before it is dark. For some
     reasons I regret that you are not with me, but I believe that you
     will be quite safe with your Arab friends, and possibly this may be
     more to your liking than a long stay in London. Take care of
     yourself, lad. God bless you!--Your affectionate father._

Edgar's first thought at hearing the news had been regret that he could
not accompany his father, but this was very speedily succeeded by a
feeling of delight that he would be enabled to witness stirring events.

"Are you glad or sorry?" the sheik asked.

"I am much more glad than sorry," he replied. "My father, no doubt, is
disappointed that I am not returning home with him. I should on no
account have remained behind had it been possible to join him in time.
As it is, it is neither my fault nor his, but, as I think, a stroke of
good fortune. And now, chief, I can accept your kind offer of
hospitality, and hope that if there is any fighting that I shall ride by
the side of Sidi."

The Arab smiled gravely. "That assuredly you shall do. It is, as you
say, no one's fault, but the will of Allah, that has left you in my
charge, and I doubt not that good fortune will befall us thereby. Now,
what think you that is meant by the Franks landing at Marabout instead
of sailing on to attack the port?"

"It means, no doubt, that they are going to assault the city by land.
They probably do not know how weak are the fortifications, and fear that
the fleet might suffer much injury from their guns, and may therefore
prefer to attack from the land side."

"But can they take the city that way?"

"I have no doubt that they can. Their guns could blow in the gates in a
very short time. Moreover, from the high ground near Pompey's Pillar
they could harass the defenders of the wall, or, if they chose, make a
breach in it. The wall is very old, and in many places in a bad state of
repair."

"Could we go into the city and aid in the defence?" the sheik asked.

"There will be no entering from this side, sheik. The French army will
be between us and Alexandria, and, moreover, the guns from their
war-ships will be able to sweep the sands. We might pass round by the
south and enter the city from the other side; but your forty men would
add but little strength to the defence, and would be far more useful as
horsemen when the French begin their advance."

"How long will it take them, think you, to capture the town? Help can
come down from Cairo in a week."

"I think that the French will lose but little time, sheik. So long as
the town holds out, the fleet might be attacked by Nelson, should he
come back this way, while as soon as they have captured the town all
the light-draught vessels would find shelter in the harbour. You may be
sure that they would lose no time in mounting guns from the ships on the
forts, and render themselves perfectly safe from attack. They say that
Bonaparte is in command of the French. He is their ablest general, and
very active and enterprising. I should not be surprised if he captures
the place before sunset to-morrow."

The sheik made no reply. It seemed to him that Edgar's opinion that the
city which had withstood many sieges could be captured in a few hours
was too absurd to need argument.

"There is nothing to be done now," he said; "let us sleep. To-morrow,
before sunrise, we will make a detour round the south side of the city
and approach the eastern gate, and then decide whether to enter the town
or not."

In a few minutes there was silence in the camp, but long before the sun
rose everyone was astir. The women were to be left with the boys and old
men. The preparations were of the simplest character; each of the
thirty-eight men going hung a bag of dates at his saddle-bow, looked to
his firearms, and mounted. As the oasis was situated to the south-west
of the city, they did not strike the old bed of Lake Mareotis until
half-way along what had been its south shore. At present all was silent
in the distant city, and the sheik said shortly, "We will wait till we
see what is going to be done." Presently two or three Arabs were seen
galloping across the cultivated ground. They belonged to the Henedy
tribe, one of the wildest and most savage of the people of the desert.
When they saw the group of horses they made their way towards them. As
the sheik advanced a few paces, one of them leapt from his saddle and
came up to him.

"What has happened, brother?" Ben Ouafy asked.

"Last evening the Franks began to land, and all night they continued to
come ashore. At midnight Koraim, the commander of the town, went out to
see what they were doing, at the head of twenty Mamelukes, and fell upon
a company of their skirmishers, charged them, killed many, and carried
the head of their captain in triumph into the town. At five this morning
our tribe arrived. We rode up near them, and saw that they had neither
horsemen nor cannon. They were divided into three columns, and were
marching towards the town. We dashed in between the columns and cut down
many of their skirmishers, but we were only five hundred, and dared not
attack the column, which opened such a heavy fire that we were forced to
draw off. Our sheik ordered us to ride south to carry the news to
Ramanieb that the Franks had landed. They may have sent the news from
the town, but he thought it best to make sure."

"'Tis well!" the sheik said, and the Arab threw himself into the saddle
again, and with his companions rode south at a gallop. "You see," the
sheik went on to Edgar, "the Franks cannot mean to attack the town. What
could they do without cannon?"

"It would assuredly be a desperate enterprise, sheik, but I think that
they may attempt it, seeing that it is all-important to them to obtain
possession of the port before our fleet can return."

The party remained sitting, with the patience of their race, until the
sheik should give orders for them to mount. Edgar got up several times,
and walked backwards and forwards. He was less accustomed to waiting,
and was burning for action. Just at eight o'clock there came suddenly to
their ears an outburst of firing, the boom of cannon, and the sound of a
crackling roll of musketry.

"The French have lost no time in beginning," he said.

The young Arab nodded. A flush of excitement glowed through the olive
skin, his hand tightly grasped his spear, and his eyes were fixed on the
distant city. Suddenly the sheik raised the vibrating battle-cry of the
Arabs, in which the whole of his followers joined, and then at a wild
gallop they dashed forward, the horses seeming to share in the
excitement of their riders. After maintaining the pace for a couple of
miles they reined in their horses somewhat, and at a canter swept along
the neck that divided in old time the lakes of Aboukir and Mareotis,
slackened down into a walk as they approached the fresh-water canal,
where they stopped for a few minutes to allow their horses to drink, and
then continued at a leisurely pace until they mounted the high ground at
Ramleh. From here they obtained a view of the eastern side of
Alexandria. They could hear the din of battle on the other side of the
town, and could see the great fleet anchored, a mile from shore, some
two miles to the west of the town. The wind, which had been blowing
strongly the night before, and had seriously hindered the work of
disembarkation of the French troops, had now subsided. Some of the
men-of-war were engaging the forts, but at so great a distance that it
was evident that it was a demonstration to distract the attention of the
besieged rather than a serious attack. Four or five ships, under the
shortest sail, were cruising backwards and forwards parallel with the
shore eastward of the town, and occasionally a white puff of smoke burst
out from one or other of them, and a shot was sent in the direction of
scattered bands of horsemen near the shore.

After gazing at the scene in silence for some minutes, the sheik turned
his horse and rode back to a spot near the canal, where the moisture,
permeating through its banks, had given growth to a luxuriant crop of
grass. Here all dismounted and tethered their horses. Four of the Arabs
were appointed to watch over their safety, and the rest reascended the
mound, and squatted down on the sands. Gradually the other parties of
horse gathered there, and the sheiks gravely consulted together. All had
a conviction that Alexandria would hold out until help came from Cairo.
The question of entering the town was discussed. Presently the sound of
cannon ceased, but the rattle of musketry continued unabated.

"Why have the guns ceased firing, think you?" the sheik asked Edgar.

"It is one of two things, sheik. Either the French have got so close up
to the walls that the cannon can no longer be brought to fire upon them,
or they have stormed the walls and the fighting is now in the streets of
the town."

"But there are two walls," the sheik said; "the one known as the Arab
wall, and the inner defences. It is impossible that they can have
carried both."

"It would seem so," Edgar agreed; "but as the musketry is as hot, or
hotter, than ever, it is evident that fighting is going on at close
quarters, and that either the guns cannot be fired, or they have been
captured. You see the walls were in many places weak, and the attempts
that have been made during the past three or four days to repair the
breaches that existed were very incompletely done. I am very much afraid
that it is as I said, and that the French have gained an entrance."

Half an hour later, a number of horsemen, followed by a crowd of people
on foot, poured out from the eastern gate. One of the leading horsemen
drew rein for a moment as he passed the group of Arabs.

"The town is lost," he said; "the Franks have won their way into the
streets, and Koraim has surrendered."

An exclamation of fury broke from the Arabs.

"It will be our turn next," Ben Ouafy said, shaking his spear towards
the city. "This is but the beginning of the work. They may take a city,
but the sands will devour them."

As they knew that the French had no cavalry the Arabs remained quiet;
the stream of fugitives continued to pour past them, men, women, and
children.

"We will return," Ben Ouafy said at last. "We will move south and join
the rest of the tribe, and then see what the government of Cairo are
going to do."

The capture of the town had not been effected without loss. Menou's
column had attacked on the right, Kleber in the centre, Bon had moved
round south of the town. The Arab wall was obstinately defended, Kleber
and Menou were both wounded as they led the grenadiers to the assault;
Bon, however, had met with less resistance, and had captured the inner
wall before the other columns succeeded in doing so. For some time the
battle had raged in the streets, but the captain of a Turkish vessel had
been sent by Napoleon to the governor, pointing out that further
resistance would bring destruction upon the town, while if he yielded,
the French troops, who came as friends to deliver them from the tyranny
of the Mamelukes, would do no harm to anyone. Koraim thereupon
capitulated. He was at once attached to the general staff, and charged
with maintaining order in the town and disarming its inhabitants.

Proclamations were at once sent out through the country, declaring that
the French had come to destroy the Mameluke domination, and that they
were friends of the Sultan of Turkey. Protection was offered to all the
villages that submitted; those that did not do so would be burnt. Seven
hundred Turkish slaves, who had been delivered at the capture of Malta,
and who had been extremely well treated, were at once sent to their
homes in Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco, Syria, Smyrna, and Constantinople,
being provided with ample sums of money to support them on their way.
These measures had an excellent effect. Koraim sent out messengers to
the Arab tribes of the neighbourhood. His influence among them was
great, and their sheiks for the most part went at once into Alexandria,
and agreed to keep the road open from Alexandria to Damanhour, and to
sell and deliver within forty-eight hours 300 horses, 500 dromedaries,
and 1000 camels. They were presented with dresses of honour and money.
By this time the transports had all entered the old port of Alexandria,
and were busy discharging their cargo and the troops they carried, and
in a short time the whole French army was on shore.

Scarce a word was spoken among Ben Ouafy's party on their homeward ride.
The sheik gave his orders on his arrival.

"We will wait for a day or two," he said to Edgar as they dismounted.
"The French have no cavalry, and would not come out here. Let us see
what the other tribes are going to do; we are but a small body."

When, two days later, a messenger arrived from Koraim, the sheik, after
reading the contents of the proclamation, indignantly tore it in pieces.

"Tell Koraim," he said to the messenger, "that hitherto I have regarded
him as an honourable man, now I spit upon him as a traitor. Whatever
others may do, I will fight against the Franks till the last."

As soon as the messenger had departed, he gave orders for the tents to
be struck.

"We must be going, Sidi," he said; "some of the tribes may be taken in
by these promises, and may give aid to the enemy; in that case they
would doubtless obey orders to attack those who refuse to do so. Three
of them can each put four or five hundred spears into the field. We will
move away at once. With fifty men we cannot fight two thousand."

The process of packing-up occupied but a short time. As soon as the
tents were made into bundles the thirty camels were brought in and
loaded. The women and children took their places on the top of the
baggage, and then the men mounted their horses, and the cavalcade
started across the desert.

"Which way do we travel, Sidi?"

"We are not going direct. There are but few wells, and the distances are
long between. Mounted men alone can do the journey without difficulty,
but it is a painful one with women and children, and we never go that
way unless in case of great necessity. We shall travel towards the
south-east, keeping near the edge of the cultivated country until we
reach the Nile, and then follow along the river bank until within a few
miles of Cairo, thence it is three days' journey to the south-west.
There is a well half-way."


After proceeding some ten miles, they perceived a party of Arabs
galloping in the direction of Alexandria. They changed their course,
however, and soon came up with the Ben Ouafy caravan. Two of the sheiks
of the party rode forward and exchanged salutations with the chief.

"Whither are you journeying, Ben Ouafy?"

"I am going south to join my tribe; and you--are you going to
Alexandria?"

"I am going there at once."

"Hast not the news reached you that the Franks have captured it?"

"Truly we have heard so, and a messenger came to us but this morning,
saying that they had come to deliver us from the Turks, and inviting us
to go in thither and see them. Have you not received a message also?"

"I received such a message, indeed, but its words were idle. For the
Turks and their Mamelukes I have no great love. They prey upon the land,
and enrich themselves at our expense; but the Franks would doubtless do
the same, and I would rather be fleeced by those of the true faith than
by kaffirs."

"But they come as our friends."

Ben Ouafy smiled. "Why should they come as our friends, Chief of Oulad
A'Ly; what have we done for them? Why should they cross the sea in their
ships at great expense and much danger, to save those whom they know
not, from the Turks? You might as well expect the lion to come to rescue
a deer attacked by a jackal. He might, it is true, drive it away, but it
would only be that he might himself slay and devour the stag. We have
heard of these Franks, how they have taken Italy and other countries;
and think you, that if they should overpower the Osmanlis and defeat the
Mamelukes, that they will say, 'We have accomplished our purpose, we
have freed you from your oppressors, now we will sail back to France and
leave you to manage your own affairs'?"

"He promises to respect our religion," the sheik said, "to buy horses
and camels from us at fair prices, to give us rich presents, and to
treat us with honour."

"No doubt, no doubt. 'Tis easy to speak soft words when one needs aid,
but such promises are forgotten when the object is attained. To-day he
is the friend of the Arabs, to-morrow he will be their master, and if
we aid these kaffirs against the followers of the Prophet, we shall well
deserve whatever may befall."

"Then you will not go in to the gathering to which he invites us?"

"Assuredly not. Even were it for no other reason, I would wait and see
what comes of the matter. We know not yet that he will conquer the
Mamelukes, and if he fails to do so, assuredly their vengeance will
afterwards fall upon all who have assisted these people."

The sheik cast his eye over Ben Ouafy's cavalcade, as if estimating its
strength. He saw, however, that it contained as many armed men as he had
with him, and if the idea had entered his mind of commencing the
campaign by plundering it, he concluded it must be at once abandoned.

"I have no intention," he said, "of taking part with the Franks against
the government. I am going to sell horses and camels. Frank money is as
good as Turkish, and, moreover, they threaten to attack and destroy
those who refuse to aid them. Your tribe lives far away, though, indeed,
you may abide here at times, and there is nothing of yours that they can
destroy. I have my people to think of, their villages, their flocks and
herds and horses; therefore, I shall go and see this great man, and hear
what he says, and shall, if I can, keep on terms of peace with him. An
army so strong and so fierce that it has captured Alexandria after four
hours' fighting is too formidable for an Arab chief to resist; but,
assuredly, I have no thought of fighting on his side against my
countrymen."

The sheik bowed courteously.

"Every man has his own way of looking at things, and in a matter like
this each must do as seems best to him. Go in peace, and may good
fortune attend you!"

The formal salutation was returned, and the sheiks rejoined their
parties, and each kept on their course as before they met.

"There, my son," Ben Ouafy said to Sidi, "you see how the desire for
gain influences men to evil deeds. In order to sell a few hundred horses
and as many camels, the Oulad A'Ly are going to assist the Franks
against true believers. It is true that they may not be going to fight
for them, but the animals that they sell to them will enable them to
fight, which comes to the same thing. Of course he professes that he is
thinking of saving his villages from destruction, but he must know well
enough that the Franks have other things to think of than to spread over
the country here, and give ample time to the Mamelukes to prepare for
their coming. Moreover, as it is clear that the French have no cavalry,
they could not make excursions, for if they seized all the horses in
Alexandria, these would not suffice to mount a party strong enough to
assail a tribe like the Oulad A'Ly, who can put nigh a thousand horsemen
into the field."

The party travelled without haste. Before arriving on the Nile, Edgar
suggested to the sheik that it would be as well were he to discard his
European dress for an Arab one.

"When we were at Damanhour," he said, "I marked how the people scowled
at me as I rode through the streets; and as no doubt you will ride into
Cairo ere long, it would save trouble were I to be so attired that I
should escape notice."

"It would be a good plan," the sheik agreed. "I daresay Sidi can supply
you with a suit."

"I can purchase what is needed at the next place we come to," Edgar
said, "I have money for any necessity that may arise. Even putting
aside the trouble of being constantly questioned, I should prefer the
Arab dress, for under this baking sun I think it would be a good deal
more comfortable than these English clothes."

Accordingly, at the next town they passed through, Sidi and Edgar went
together to the bazaar, and the latter purchased, after the usual amount
of bargaining, clothes similar to those worn by his friend. The expense
was but small, for the costume of an Arab chief differed but little from
those of his followers, except that his burnoose was of finer cotton,
and his silken sash of brilliant colours, richer and more showy. With
this exception the whole costume was white, and although some of the
Arab sheiks wore coloured burnooses, Edgar chose a white one, as both
his friend and his father wore that colour. He bought two or three
changes of clothes, for he knew that water was often scarce, and that
washing of garments could not be indulged in frequently. That night when
the camp was pitched he donned his new costume, and placed his pistols
in his sash in Arab fashion. Sidi wound his turban for him, and gave him
instructions how the clothes were to be worn. Those he had taken off
were made into a bundle so that they could be resumed if necessary. He
felt rather awkward as with his friend he sallied out from the tent
which they now shared between them.

"You look well, Edgar," the sheik said approvingly, "but you will need
to stain your arms and legs, and it will be better for you to stain your
face and neck also, for you would attract quite as much attention as a
white Arab as you would in your European dress."

"I was thinking so myself, sheik; it will be much pleasanter for me to
be able to pass anywhere without comment."

"You are taller than I thought," the sheik said; "it had not struck me
that you were much taller than Sidi, but I see now that you are as tall
as I am."

"I suppose the flowing garments make one look taller," Edgar said. "I
have often been surprised, when standing near a native who looked to me
a good deal taller than myself, to find that he was really not above my
own height."

"My wife shall make a stain for you as soon as she can get the material.
There will be no difficulty about that, for we often dye our burnooses
brown, especially when we are starting on a long journey."

The sheik's wife and the other women were voluble in their expressions
of satisfaction at the change in Edgar. They had been but little in the
towns, and the comparatively tight-fitting European garments were, in
their eyes, ugly and unbecoming. Seen in the more graceful dress of the
Arabs they recognized for the first time that their guest was a
good-looking young fellow, tall, active, and not ungraceful in figure,
and that he could even compare not unfavourably with Sidi, who was a
favourite with the whole camp. Even the men, impassive as they usually
were, uttered a few words of satisfaction at Edgar having adopted an
Arab costume, and at his appearance in it. On the following day the
sheik, taking his son, Edgar, and two of his followers, left the caravan
and rode on to Cairo, leaving the others to travel by easy stages to
join the rest of the tribe.

"Doubtless we shall find many other sheiks assembled there," he said as
they rode along; "the government is sure to have sent orders already for
all the Bedouin tribes to hold themselves in readiness to gather there
to oppose the advance of the French. The levies of the city and the
neighbourhood will also be called out, not so much perhaps to fight as
to labour at the fortifications. That they will not ask of the Arabs,
for no Arab would work like a fellah. We will fight, but we will leave
it to the peasants to work. The Mamelukes will, however, in the first
place oppose the Franks. I love them not. They are the oppressors of
Egypt, but the lions of the desert are not more courageous. They are
proud of themselves, and believe themselves to be invincible. They will
not believe that the Franks can stand for a moment against them, and you
know that the night that the Franks landed, twenty Mamelukes rode out
against them, killed many, and brought in their heads in triumph. They
would not ask us to charge with them, but would deem it shame to ask for
aid in such an encounter, but they will be willing enough to accept our
help in cutting off the fugitives and in preventing others who may land
from spreading over the country."

"Then you still feel sure that the Mamelukes will defeat the French?"
Edgar said.

"If it be the will of Allah, my son. The Mamelukes are not like the
people who defended Alexandria; they are warriors. We Arabs are brave,
we do not fear death; but when, from time to time, a tribe refuses to
pay its annual tribute, and a band of Mamelukes is sent against them,
truly the sons of the desert cannot withstand them in combat, even when
much more numerous, and are either destroyed or forced to make their
submission. These men regard themselves not as simple soldiers; it is an
army of emirs. Each has his two or three slaves to wait upon him, to
groom his horse and polish his arms. Their dresses are superb; their
arms and trappings are encrusted with gold and gems. Each carries his
wealth on his person, and there are few who cannot show a hundred pieces
of gold, while many can exceed that by ten times. It is true that they
are the oppressors of the people, and that Egypt has been drained of
its wealth for their support, yet we, who suffer from them, cannot but
feel proud of them. Are they not followers of the Prophet? They are men
like those whom the great Sultan Saladin led against the Christian hosts
who strove to capture Syria. We have tales how brave these were, and how
they rode, clad in steel from head to foot; and yet their bones whitened
the sands, and the true believers remained in possession of their lands.
The Mamelukes are men such as those were, and until I see the contrary I
shall not believe that they can be defeated by these Franks."

"I hope that it may be so, sheik, and I doubt in no way their valour;
but it is the guns and the discipline of the French that will, I fear,
decide the conflict."



CHAPTER IV.

THE BATTLE OF THE PYRAMIDS.


The little party had ridden but a few miles when they saw a party of
five or six hundred Arab horse approaching. The sheik rode to meet them,
and after a short conversation with their leaders, returned.

"We need go no farther for orders," he said. "Mourad Bey, with 3000
Mamelukes and as many Janizaries, is within a few miles. Orders have
been sent to all the Arab tribes to hasten to oppose the march of the
enemy, and from all parts they are riding hither. Doubtless my brother,
who is the great sheik of the tribe of which we are a branch, is already
on his way to join him. We will at once ride and bring back all our
fighting men. The caravan can proceed without guard. Even a hostile
tribe would respect it at the present time, when all are engaged with
the enemy. We shall speedily overtake them. They would not have started
for an hour after we mounted, and cannot have gone many miles before we
come up with them."

Riding at full gallop, they soon overtook the caravan. The Arabs
received with shouts of satisfaction the orders their leader gave them
to retrace their steps. The old men, who were to proceed with the
caravan, were told that in the event of meeting with any parties
hastening towards Ramanieh, to tell them that the orders were to harass
the French as they advanced, and to say that all the sheik's fighting
men were already engaged in the work. Then, after a brief adieu to the
women, the Arabs rode at full gallop towards the river.

It was on the morning of the 29th of June that the French had taken
Alexandria, and on the 6th of July that they commenced their march.
General Dugua, with Kleber's division, had been taken by water to
Rosetta, which they occupied without difficulty, and with a large
flotilla of boats carrying provisions and stores, proceeded up the Nile
as far as Damanhour, at which town the main portion of the army arrived
after two days' painful march.

The French met with no resistance, owing to the fact that almost all
Bedouins near the coast had accepted Napoleon's tempting offers.
Nevertheless the troops were already discouraged. They had expected to
find a rich and fertile country, with palm-trees, lovely towns, and an
abundance of supplies of all kinds; but the Nile was now at its lowest,
and during the previous season it had not, as usual, overflowed its
banks and fertilized the country, consequently their march lay through a
sandy waste. The dust rose in clouds under their feet, the sun beat down
upon them; they suffered agonies of thirst, and many dropped from
exhaustion. And their disappointment was great when they found that,
instead of a rich and prosperous town, Damanhour was but a collection of
huts, affording neither means of subsistence nor booty of any kind.
Beyond the town large bands of Arabs had gathered, and the French army
were obliged to keep their ranks as they marched, to maintain a constant
watchfulness, and to travel at a slow pace in order that they might not
be separated from their baggage. General Muireur was seized with a
serious fever, the result of heat, thirst, and disappointment. He
mounted his horse on the morning after his arrival there, and rode out
beyond the outposts. He had gone but a short distance when a party of
Arabs, hiding among some bushes, sprang to their feet and poured in a
volley. He fell dead, and his body was stripped, and the Arabs, mounting
their horses, rode off before the outposts could arrive on the spot.

From this time the French dared not straggle. Every man who left the
ranks or lagged behind was killed. The Arabs were seldom seen, but they
lay concealed behind every inequality of the ground, every clump of
bushes. Occasionally, when there seemed to be an opening, a horde of
Arabs would sweep down, but these always recoiled from the steady fire
of the French infantry, and on the 10th of July the leading French
division, that commanded by Desaix, reached Ramanieh, on the Nile. Here,
after their terrible march, the French troops were seized with a
delirium of pleasure at seeing the verdure on the banks of the river,
and the water.

Disregarding all orders, they broke their ranks and rushed wildly to the
stream, into which thousands of them plunged in their uniforms. In the
cultivated fields great quantities of melons were found, affording a
delightful food, for since they had left Alexandria there had been
nothing to eat but the biscuits they had brought with them. Many paid
dearly for over-indulgence in the fruit, numbers being prostrated with
colic, while not a few died. Next day the army rested, the horses
needing the halt even more than the men, for they had not recovered from
the long confinement of the voyage when they started from Alexandria,
and the scanty supply of water, the clouds of dust, and the heaviness of
the passage across the deep sand had caused the death of a large number,
and had rendered the rest all but unserviceable.

They had learnt from the natives that Mourad, with a large number of
Mamelukes, was in front of them; and, indeed, on the day of their
arrival there they appeared in such force that the French formed in
order of battle outside the town. The Mamelukes rode backwards and
forwards in front of the line brandishing their weapons and threatening
a charge. A few rounds of artillery, however, speedily taught them the
power of the French guns, and they retired to Chebreisse, and the French
were not disturbed the next day. Here the army had the satisfaction of
being rejoined both by Dugua's division, with its flotilla, and by
another fleet of boats from Alexandria.

The Bedouins under the sheik had taken no part in the irregular
skirmishes. There were already as many Arabs as sufficed for cutting off
stragglers and compelling the French to march in military order, and the
sheik determined to hold his small party together until some opportunity
for a general encounter presented itself. Sometimes from the crest of
the sand-hills he and his followers watched the progress of the dark
masses of infantry.

"They march very slowly," he said to Edgar. "Why do they not go on
quicker?"

"I fancy that they are keeping pace with the baggage-train. Their
animals must be completely exhausted; and last night as we followed them
we came upon many dead horses. They know that their only safety is to
keep together, and I doubt not that the men are well-nigh as exhausted
as the animals. Even on horseback the heat is terrible, and although we
have our water-skins well-filled, I feel it very much, and of course men
on foot carrying their muskets and ammunition and knapsacks must feel it
very much more. I think they will go on faster after they have left
Ramanieh. They will have the Nile by their side, and will have no want
of water. The sand is firmer, too, and moreover they will be able to
obtain what they require from the boats."

On the evening of the 12th the French arrived at a village near
Chebreisse. At sunrise the next morning a battle began between the
flotilla and some Egyptian gun-boats that had come down from Cairo,
together with some batteries that had been established on the banks. The
Mamelukes sallied out from Chebreisse and charged down with such ardour
that it seemed as if they were about to hurl themselves on the French
infantry. When within a short distance, however, they suddenly stopped
their horses, checking them almost instantaneously, then they discharged
their carbines, and retired as rapidly as they had come. This they
repeated several times, but the shells of the French batteries played
havoc among them.

Never before had the Mamelukes encountered a shell-fire, and the
destruction wrought by these novel missiles bursting among them caused
them to retire at full speed, leaving three or four hundred dead behind
them, and abandoning some of the guns they had placed in position before
Chebreisse. A large Arab force had been drawn up in front of the town
when the Mamelukes charged, in readiness to follow the latter as soon
as they had broken the French ranks. This was the first opportunity that
Edgar had had of seeing any considerable body of this famous cavalry,
and he acknowledged that nothing could be more superb than their
appearance. The splendour of their dress, the beauty of their horses,
and magnificence of their arms and trappings excited his admiration to
the highest.

"Now you will see," the sheik said exultingly, "how they will gallop
over the Franks!"

Edgar said nothing, but sat watching the splendid array as they swept
down upon the French line. Each of the French divisions was formed up in
square, with the artillery and dismounted cavalry in the intervals. The
volleys of musketry that received the charging Mamelukes was sufficient
to quell the ardour of the boldest horsemen in the world. In vain,
before drawing off, they circled round and round the French formation,
seeking for some weak spot upon which they could hurl themselves, and
when at length they drew off, the French soldiers ran out from their
ranks to plunder the fallen.

In silence the Arabs followed the Mamelukes, and the chief did not say a
word until they had ridden, at a leisurely pace, some distance beyond
the town.

"You were right," he said at last to Edgar. "I did not think that any
men on foot could have resisted that charge, but the Franks stood as
steadily as if it were a flock of sheep that was approaching them. The
cannon are terrible. Who would have thought that the balls they shoot
would explode and fly into pieces when they reach their mark! How is it
done?"

Edgar explained as well as he was able the nature of shells, and how,
when they were fired, a fuse was lighted of a length just sufficient to
burn down to the powder within the ball at the time it reached the
object at which it was fired.

The fight on the river had been more severe, and had been maintained
with great obstinacy. At one time two gun-boats were taken by the
Egyptians. These, however, were recaptured, and the admiral's ship
burnt. Admiral Perrè, who commanded the first flotilla, was wounded by a
cannon-ball, and the loss on both sides was severe.

For eight days the French continued to march forward. They suffered
terrible hardships, and at times were almost in a state of mutiny. The
interminable extent of sand utterly dispirited them, and they came to
believe that all that they had heard of Egypt was false, and that they
had been deliberately sent there by the directory to die. They doubted
even the existence of Cairo. Some, in their despair, threw themselves
into the river and were drowned. Many died on the march, less from
sunstroke and exhaustion than from despair. At last the Pyramids came in
sight, and their spirits rose again, for here, they were told, the whole
army of Mamelukes, Janizaries, and Arabs were assembled to give battle,
and they hoped therefore to terminate the campaign at a blow.

During the whole march they were harassed by the Arabs, and many were
cut off and killed. Marches were always performed at night, and at ten
o'clock in the morning they halted for the day, preparing themselves for
slumber by a dip in the Nile. On the 21st of July they advanced from
Omdinar, and at ten o'clock made out the enemy drawn up in line of
battle. They had constructed a large entrenched camp, with forty pieces
of ancient cannon incapable of movement. In this camp were 20,000
infantry, Janizaries, Spahis, and militia from Cairo. On the right were
the Mameluke cavalry, some 10,000 strong, with one or two foot-soldiers
to each horseman. To the left of the Mamelukes, and between them and the
Pyramids, were some 3000 Arab horse.

The French army was drawn up in the same order as in their last fight,
in great squares of divisions, the left resting on the Nile, and the
right on a large village. Napoleon, with his staff, reconnoitered the
enemy's entrenched camp, and by means of telescopes discovered that the
cannon were not upon field-carriages, but were simply heavy ship guns
that had been taken from their flotilla, and were served by the sailors.
They, therefore, could not be moved, and it was evident that if the
infantry left the camp they must do so without guns. The entrenchment
itself was not formidable; it had been begun but three days before, and
although it might be impracticable for cavalry, it would offer no
serious obstacle to an attack by infantry.

The discovery that the cannon were immovable, decided Napoleon in his
dispositions for the battle, and he gave orders that his army should
move across to his right, and should thus be concentrated for the attack
upon the Mamelukes and Arabs. Mourad Bey, seeing Napoleon's object, at
once ordered two-thirds of his cavalry to charge the French while they
were in motion, while the others were to remain near the entrenched
camp. So rapidly did they sweep down, that the French squares fell into
some confusion, and Desaix, with his division, which formed the head of
the column, had difficulty in maintaining themselves, their ranks being
somewhat broken by a grove of palm-trees through which they were
passing. They, however, received the Mamelukes with so terrible a fire
of musketry and grape-shot that the charge was not pressed home. The
Mamelukes, however, fought with desperate courage, sweeping round the
French squares, and even endeavouring to back their horses into the
line of bayonets, in hopes of breaking the wall of steel.

At length, however, they could do no more, and Mourad, with 2000 men,
rode off towards Gizeh, while the rest, not noticing the way that he had
taken, owing to the cloud of dust and smoke, rode back to the
entrenchment. The French now pressed forward with all speed, and a
division was thrown across the plain, so as to prevent the horsemen from
retreating by the line that Mourad had taken. The latter, seeing what
had happened, charged again and again with his Mamelukes, to endeavour
to break an opening through the French, by which the rest of his forces
could join him. The divisions of Generals Bon and Menon advanced to the
attack of the entrenchments; but the infantry, panic-stricken at the
defeat of the cavalry, did not await the attack, and after but two or
three rounds of shot had been fired by their cannon, deserted the
position, and fled in wild confusion to the river.

Here some succeeded in making their way across by boats, while many swam
over. The Mamelukes also attempted to swim their horses; a few
succeeded, but more were drowned. The total loss on the Egyptian side
amounted to some 10,000 men, including infantry, cavalry, and the slaves
of the Mamelukes. 1000 prisoners were taken, and some 2000 camels and
horses fell into the victors' hands. Great booty was captured by the
French soldiers, and for days they occupied themselves in recovering the
bodies of the drowned Mamelukes, which amply repaid their trouble, as
four or five hundred pieces of gold were often found upon them, besides
jewels and other valuables. The great bulk of their less portable
property they had, however, placed on board sixty boats, and these, when
the battle was seen to be lost, were set on fire, and their contents
destroyed.

The Arabs had taken little share in the battle. When the Mamelukes
charged, they had been ordered to remain in reserve, and only to charge
when the latter had broken the French squares. Burning with impatience
they watched the mighty torrent of horse sweep across the plain, then
came the roar of artillery and the incessant rattle of musketry. Then
they saw with astonishment the cavalry recoil; they witnessed charge
after charge, and then saw them sweeping round the squares, while the
plain, where they had first attacked, was strewn thickly with the bodies
of men and horses right up to the bayonets of the French line. The Arabs
burst into cries of dismay.

"Nothing can stand such a fire as that," Edgar said to Sidi; "the
musketry and grape from the cannon are mowing them down like grass--it
is terrible!"

For a time the Mamelukes were hidden from sight by the cloud of smoke
and by the dust raised by their horses' hoofs, then they were seen to
emerge.

"There is Mourad's banner!" the sheik exclaimed; "they are making for
Gizeh, but surely all cannot be there--there are not more than 2000 with
him."

Then another body of about equal strength broke out from the dust of the
battle, and went towards the entrenchments.

"Let us join them there," the Arab shouted; and at full gallop they rode
across and joined the Mamelukes. Then, heralded by a tremendous
artillery fire, the French line advanced, pouring heavy volleys of
musketry into the cavalry, and upon the defenders of the entrenchments.
In two or three minutes the infantry were seen to be throwing away their
guns, leaping from the entrenchments, and flying in a disordered crowd
towards the river. Had the French possessed any cavalry, not one of the
fugitives could have escaped. The Mamelukes, seeing that all was lost,
had ascertained that Mourad had ridden towards Gizeh, and now started to
endeavour to rejoin him; while among the Arabs the cry rose, "To the
desert!" and, turning their horses, they galloped away, passed the foot
of the Pyramids, and out into the desert, where they halted, seeing that
once out of reach of the fire of the French guns, there was no fear
whatever of their being pursued.

"It is the will of Allah," the sheik said, as he and his party
dismounted. "Truly you were right, friend Edgar; we know not how to
fight. Who could have dreamt that men on foot could have withstood the
charge of five thousand horsemen? And yet the Mamelukes fought, as
always, bravely."

"They did indeed, sheik," Edgar agreed. "They did all that was possible
for men to do, but against such a fire of infantry and artillery
horsemen are powerless. Had our infantry been as well trained as those
of the French, and instead of remaining in the entrenchments, where they
could render no assistance whatever, marched against the French infantry
and broken their squares, the Mamelukes would then have been able to
dash down upon them, and not a French soldier would ever have reached
their ships again; but without infantry the horsemen could do nothing."

"Then you think that all is lost, Edgar?"

"Assuredly all is lost for the present, sheik. Mourad Bey and the party
with him may get away, but the rest are penned in between the French and
the river, and few of them will escape. As for the infantry, they are a
mere mob, and even if they get away they will never venture to stand
against the French. Napoleon will enter Cairo to-morrow, and there he
will remain. Numbers of horses will fall into the hands of the French.
They will take many more in Cairo, and before long they will have
cavalry as well as infantry, and then no part of the country will be
safe from them."

"Then is Egypt to fall altogether under the rule of the French?"

"Only for a time. Our fleet will soon return, and their troops here will
be cut off from their country. They may remain here for some time, but
at last they will have to go. I think that we shall send an army out to
fight against them. We shall know what their strength is, and that they
cannot be reinforced; and they will find in the long run that although
they may have captured Egypt, they are themselves but prisoners."

"And what would you advise?" the sheik asked. "You understand the ways
and customs of the Franks, while I know no more than a little child.
Thus, you see, in this matter you are the graybeard and I but a boy.
Therefore speak freely what you think will be best."

"Then I should say, sheik, that your best course would be to return at
once to your oasis. The French army will doubtless remain near Cairo.
They will send cavalry and light artillery over the country, to search
out their enemies, and to reduce all to obedience. Around Alexandria all
will be quiet, and so long as French convoys are not attacked, the force
there is not likely to interfere with peaceable people. If you return
there you will live unmolested. You can wait and see how matters go. If
there is any great rising against the French, it will be open to you to
take part in it, but at present hostilities against the French would
only bring down their vengeance. It may be that the Arabs in the great
oasis to the west will continue the war, but in the end they will be
sure to suffer by so doing."

"I think that your advice is good," the sheik said. "Sidi and you shall
return home at once with half my followers. I will ride at daybreak with
the other half. In one long day's ride I shall reach the spot where the
women and baggage have gone, and I will escort them back. The road will
certainly be safe from the Franks, who will, for some time, be occupied
with Cairo, though it is hardly likely that the town will resist.
Ibrahim, after the destruction of the Mamelukes and the defeat of the
army, cannot hope to resist a great attack; for the fortifications, like
those of Alexandria, have been suffered to decay, and the French would
assuredly soon force an entrance. However, after the march that they
have made they will need rest, and for a time the roads will be safe.
But this is not so with regard to the Arabs. The whole country will be
in confusion, and an unarmed caravan might well be plundered by any
party of Arabs who met it, though they would not interfere with it were
it headed by a sheik with armed followers. Therefore I will go to fetch
them. My son will ride fast, and take possession again of our home, lest
some of our neighbours, finding it deserted, should occupy it, and then
trouble would follow."

Accordingly, the next morning at daybreak the troop divided and rode off
in different directions. The greater part of the gathering had scattered
the evening before, and determined to return home and wait events. Four
days' rapid travelling took Sidi and his companions back to the oasis,
which they found exactly as they had left it, the tribes in the
neighbourhood having been all too busy in following the French army, and
picking up baggage left behind by the break-down of the horses, to
attend to other matters.

The next day Sidi and Edgar rode into Alexandria Everything there was
going on as peacefully as usual; French soldiers lounging about the
streets, a number of labourers, under the direction of French officers,
were at work restoring the fortifications on the sea face of the town,
the shops were all open, the markets were as well supplied as usual. To
Edgar's surprise a good many French sailors were to be seen in the
streets.

"Their fleet cannot have sailed," he said to Sidi. "Let us ride out
through the East gate to Ramleh. It may be, of course, that there is a
despatch-boat lying in the port, though I did not see one. I can hardly
fancy that the French admiral would have kept his fleet here, for Nelson
must sooner or later get the news of what has taken place, and it is
certain that when he does he will hurry back at full speed."

From the elevation of Ramleh, however, the French fleet could be made
out, lying in Aboukir Bay in a long line.

"Hurrah!" Edgar exclaimed; "there they are. I mean to see this battle,
Sidi, if I have to stop here a month. It cannot be long before Nelson
arrives. I cannot think why the French admiral should have risked being
caught in a trap like this, when a defeat would cut the French army off
from Europe altogether."

"But what will you do?"

"I shall go into the town, and buy three or four of your Arab blankets,
and put up a little tent here."

"I will share it with you," Sidi replied. "I will send one of our two
men back and tell him to return with two more. There will be four of
them to look after the horses, and to fetch things out from the town as
we may require them. I should like to see the battle too; it must be
something terrible to hear the noise of so many great cannon."

The inaction of the French has never been satisfactorily explained.
Admiral Brueys bore a high reputation as a sailor. He was a personal
friend and possessed the complete confidence of Bonaparte. The latter
had given him the strictest injunctions to sail for Toulon as soon as he
had completed the discharge of the stores that he had on board. Instead
of doing this, however, he anchored in Aboukir Bay, and there waited. It
may have been that he feared that Napoleon might never reach Cairo, or
that he might be defeated in a great battle there, and that it might be
necessary for him to return to the port and to re-embark his army. No
other explanation is possible of his delay in carrying out the
imperative orders that he had received.

After the despatch of the messenger the two friends rode along the shore
until they could not only make out the exact position of the French
fleet, but count the guns in the broadsides of each vessel. It consisted
of thirteen line-of-battle ships, comprising the flag-ship the _Orient_,
of 120 guns, three of 80, and nine of 74, together with four frigates,
four mortar vessels, and a number of gun-boats, while on an island ahead
of the line was a battery of guns and mortars. Many parties of Arabs
were riding about on the shore, and there were several of their
encampments. Some had been attracted to the spot from a considerable
distance in order to view the great vessels of which reports had reached
them, others again were simply there from the spirit of restlessness
that pervaded the population.

The news of the battle of the Pyramids had not yet arrived, and all were
in suspense. The belief that the Mamelukes would defeat the French was
all but universal. Had this taken place the whole of the Arab tribes
would at once have harassed the retreat of the defeated army, and with
the Mamelukes pressing upon them it is probable that not a single
Frenchman would have reached the sea. As Edgar and his friend were
watching the French fleet a vessel was seen over the spit of sand. She
was some three miles out at sea.

"There is another of their ships of war, Sidi. I wonder whether she has
been scouting along the coast to gather news as to where our fleet may
be at present?"

When she came abreast of the extremity of the bay she changed her course
and bore closer in.

"She is coming in to join the others. I wonder what news she brings?"

When, however, she approached within two miles of the French fleet she
again changed her course, and bore along parallel with the coast.

"I suppose she is going into Alexandria. She hasn't got any colours
flying. That is curious, too; all the ships here are flying theirs.
Look! there are men at the mast-heads of several of the ships examining
her with telescopes. That is curious, too, for she is not signalling.
There she is, turning again and making out to sea. Perhaps she is a
British ship sent on ahead by Nelson to discover the position of the
French. If it is so we shall most likely have the fleet here to-morrow.
Then we shall see a big battle; at least we shall if the French don't
run away. See! there is a twelve-oared boat starting from the admiral's
ship and rowing right away. They must be going to Alexandria. They are
rowing hard, too."

They watched it for some time, and then returned to their tent. Two
hours later a number of ships' boats were seen coming out from
Alexandria.

"They are men-of-war boats," Edgar said. "I think I must have been
right, and that that vessel we saw must have been an English frigate.
That boat has been sent to order all the sailors we saw in the streets
of the town to return at once."

For some hours boats continued to pass, all filled with men, but there
were no signs of movement on the part of the ships.

"If it was one of our frigates the French admiral must have made up his
mind to fight them. They have got a great advantage, covered as they are
by those two land batteries. Besides, I know that there is a spit of
sand running out there which will make it very awkward for an enemy, not
knowing its position, to attack them. There is one thing, the French
will find it difficult to sail out if they want to. You see the wind is
on shore, and they are all riding head to it. There can't be much water
inside them. No doubt they could get out all right if they had plenty of
time and no one to interfere with them, but it would be a difficult
business to manage if the British fleet were upon them."

At ten o'clock the next morning a number of large vessels were seen in
the distance. They bore down towards Alexandria, but the wind was light
and they made but slow way, and it was five in the afternoon before,
having changed their course, they formed into line of battle and headed
for the French fleet. The scene from the shore was intensely exciting.
In each fleet there were thirteen battle-ships, but the French ships
were the larger and more heavily armed. They carried forty-six more
guns, and the weight of their broadside was 14,029 pounds to 10,695
pounds, while they carried 2300 more men, and were 5000 tons heavier.
They had, too, in addition, four frigates, besides the mortar vessels,
gun-boats, and the battery on the island of Aboukir. Soon after six
o'clock, the two leading vessels of the British fleet being within
range, the French opened fire, as did the guns of the battery. Edgar
uttered an exclamation of disgust as one of the largest of the English
ships was seen to stop suddenly in her course.

"She has run on the shoal!" he exclaimed. "Look, our ships are steering
for the head of the French line; they mean to go inside them."

As the British vessels reached the head of the French ships they
anchored one after another, each laying itself broadside to broadside
against an opponent, and the battle commenced with terrible energy, the
tremendous roar of the guns astounding the Arabs who were gathered on
the sand-hills. At first the French reply was feeble. They were taken
entirely by surprise by Nelson's manoeuvre. Believing that he could
only attack them from outside, they had prepared only on that hand for
the fight, and in clearing the decks for action all the useless gear and
fittings had been piled over on the other side, and it was some little
time before this could be cleared away and the guns got ready for
action. Then for a time their fire was as heavy as that of the British.
Nevertheless some of them had suffered terribly before they were able to
return a shot, and this contributed in no small degree to the British
victory.

The loss of the _Culloden_, which was the vessel which struck on the
sands, and of the _Leander_, which went to her assistance, was serious,
and had the French rear-admiral, Villeneuve, who commanded the five
vessels at the rear of the French line, cut his cables and come to the
assistance of his comrades, the eight British ships, engaged with as
many French, would have been in a serious position. He did not do so,
however, possibly fearing to run his ships aground. Consequently the
_Alexandria_ and the _Swiftsure_ came in to the assistance of the
British ships, some of which were being terribly damaged by the greatly
superior weight of the French fire. The _Bellerophon_, dismasted and
disabled by the enemy's fire, dropped out of the line, and the
_Alexandria_ took her place, while the _Swiftsure_ attacked the
_Franklin_. The _Leander_, seeing how hard was the fight, relinquished
her attempt to get the _Culloden_ afloat, and, sailing in, engaged in
the battle.

[Illustration: Battle of THE NILE

1st. August 1798.]

For a time the issue was doubtful. The three English seventy-four-gun
ships were matched against one of a hundred and twenty and two of
eighty-four. Darkness did not put a stop to the engagement, which
continued to rage with unabated fury, the battle being practically
between twelve British ships and eight French ships of the line and
their four frigates and gun-boats. By ten o'clock five of the French van
had surrendered, and the great hundred-and-twenty-gun ship, the
_Orient_, was in flames. The excitement of the Arabs as the battle
continued was unbounded. It seemed to them that mortal men could not
sustain so terrible a conflict, and exclamations of wonder and
admiration rose constantly among them.

The light of the burning vessel enabled the whole of the terrible scene
to be clearly witnessed. Half the ships were partly or wholly dismasted,
the rigging was cut to pieces, and the sails were riddled with balls.
The splintered sides, bulwarks shot away, and port-holes blown into one,
showed how terrible was the damage inflicted on both sides. Higher and
higher rose the flames on board the _Orient_. Men could be seen leaping
overboard into the water from the burning ship, and soon after ten she
blew up with a tremendous explosion, the concussion of which was so
great that many of the Arabs were thrown to the ground. For ten minutes
a dead silence succeeded the roar of battle, not a gun was fired on
either side. The British vessels near the spot where the _Orient_ had
lately floated lowered what boats there were uninjured and set to work
to rescue the survivors, who were either clinging to spars or were
swimming. Several of these, too, were hauled in at the lower port-holes
of the ships.

The French ship _Franklin_ was the first to recommence firing, but after
a few more broadsides from the _Swiftsure_ she hauled down her colours.
The firing continued without any abatement until three o'clock in the
morning. It then died away for a time, but recommenced at six o'clock
with fresh fury, and it was not until two in the afternoon that it came
to an end. Villeneuve, seeing that all was lost, now woke up and cut his
cables. Three of his ships ran aground, but with the _Guillaume Tell_
and the _Genereux_ and two frigates he made off, there being only one
British ship that was in condition to make sail in pursuit. The two
line-of-battle ships and one of the frigates were afterwards captured by
a British squadron.

Thus of the thirteen French ships of the line eight had surrendered, one
had blown up, two had escaped, and two were on shore. If the _Culloden_
could have got into action, it is probable that not one of the French
fleet would have left Aboukir Bay. The British loss in killed and
wounded was 895. 3105 of the French, including the wounded, were
captured, and 5225 perished in the fight. The victory was the most
decisive that was ever won at sea.



CHAPTER V.

A STREET ATTACK.


Not until the last gun was fired did Edgar and his Arab friend return to
their tent, utterly worn out by excitement and watching.

"I told you what it would be, Sidi," Edgar said as they went along. "I
was certain that we should thrash them. It is a tremendous victory, and
you see it is as important for you as it is for us, for the French army
is now cut off. It will be a long time indeed before the French can fit
out another fleet strong enough to have even a chance of fighting ours,
and, as far as I can see, the only possible escape for their army is to
march all the way round by Syria to Constantinople, and I should think
that after this the Sultan will at once declare war with them, for by
conquering Egypt they have taken one of his provinces."

This turned out to be the case. The news of the capture of Egypt had
filled the Sultan with indignation and rage, but the fear excited by
the success of the French arms in Europe deterred him from declaring war
against so formidable a foe until the report of the destruction of their
fleet reached Constantinople, when he at once plucked up courage,
declared war against France, and ordered two armies to be gathered for
the reconquest of Egypt. The news of the destruction of the French fleet
caused intense excitement throughout Egypt. It showed that the French
were not, as many had been inclined to consider them, invincible, and
that it was improbable they would be able to receive any reinforcements
from beyond the sea.

A week previously the Arabs had felt completely crushed, now the feeling
of independence and hope sprang up again, and the whole situation was at
once changed. Sidi had, directly the fight came to an end, sent off one
of his followers to meet his father, and to inform him of what had taken
place. Four days later the man returned; he had met the chief and his
party just as they had reached the river. The latter had resolved at
once to rejoin the desert tribesmen, and to escort the caravan back to
their oasis; his wife, the women, and the animals were to remain there.
The party now at the encampment with Sidi were to join him at once.

"The sheik bids me say," the messenger went on to Sidi, "that he would
that you should not wait until the others are ready to start, but, if he
is willing, should at once ride with your white friend to Cairo, if he
is disposed to go with you; there, from his knowledge of the language of
the Franks, he would be able to gain much information as to their
designs.

"He bids you regard him as your leader, and to act as he may advise. Two
of us are to go with you to look after your horses. He begs that one of
you will come to the base of the Great Pyramid on the twelfth day after
I left him, that is in ten days from now, to tell him what news you
have gathered and to consult with him. He is convinced that the news you
sent him will call all the Arabs to arms again."

"That is just what I should wish," Edgar said. "I have been thinking for
the last four days that I should like to be at Cairo. That is the place
of interest now."

He and his friend talked the matter over. "It will be better," Edgar
said, "that we should go as simple Arabs, and that we should take two
horses of less value than those which we now ride. You could send them
up by the party that will rejoin your father. As two young Arabs on
ordinary horses, we should attract no attention. We could encamp with
our two men just outside the town, and go in and out as we pleased; no
one would be likely to notice or question us. Or we might even wear the
dress of the fellaheen, which would be safer still, for if the Arabs
begin to make attacks upon French parties, as they are likely to do, any
of them wandering in the streets of Cairo might be regarded with
suspicion by the soldiers."

"I will do just as you advise, Edgar. I suppose that we had better start
at once."

"Certainly, as soon as we have eaten a meal. Will the man who brought
the news in be fresh enough to start again at once?"

"Certainly he would," Sidi said in a tone of surprise; "an Arab never
feels fatigue on horseback. Of course he must have a fresh horse. I will
pick out another man to accompany us, and two horses for ourselves.
There are two that would suit us well, for they are both sound and fast,
though but poor animals to look at, and no one will cast an eye of envy
upon them."

"That is just what we want, Sidi."

In less than an hour they were galloping across the plain. The journey
of 110 miles was accomplished in two days, and the party, without
entering the town, encamped on some waste ground outside the walls. Here
were many small huts belonging to the poorest class of the population,
together with many small shelter tents of black cloth erected by parties
of wandering Arabs like themselves. They had, on the previous night,
changed their attire, and had nothing to distinguish them from the
poorer classes of Arabs, who, having given up the desert life, earned a
precarious existence in the towns. The two men with them looked with
disdain at their surroundings, and Edgar felt obliged to warn them.

"You must remember," he said, "that the lion couches before he springs,
and crawls and conceals himself until he is within reach of his prey, so
is it needful also for us to bear ourselves humbly. We are come to see
what the French are doing; how they comport themselves, and what is the
feeling among the population. We are as spies who come to examine a
country before it is attacked, and to carry out our object we must bear
ourselves so that suspicion may not fall upon us. If you are questioned,
remember that we are four men ready to act as guards to a caravan or on
any such service that may present itself."

Leaving the two men to look after the horses, Edgar and Sidi entered the
city. The scene was intensely interesting, Cairo being vastly more
oriental in its appearance than Alexandria. The narrow streets were
crowded; strict orders had been issued against plundering, Napoleon
being anxious to win the good-will of the population, and merchandise of
all sorts was displayed in the shops. Each trade had its special bazaar,
the gold and silversmiths, the dealers in silks, in carpets, richly
embroidered garments, tobacco, long pipes with jewelled mouthpieces,
narghiles with their long twisted stems; workers in iron, vendors of the
yellow shoes used by the women in walking, the dainty gold-embroidered
velvet slippers for indoors, or the pointed upturned shoes of the men,
had each its own bazaars scattered throughout the streets.

Women, in their long dark blue garments, and the hideous white linen
yakmash covering the whole face below the eyes, and falling to the
breast, moved through the crowd, others of higher rank, seated on
donkeys and attended by eunuchs, made their way back from the baths, or
from visits to their friends. Stout Turkish merchants or functionaries
rode along perched on high saddles, looking as if they would bear to the
ground the little donkeys, that nevertheless went lightly along with
their burden. French soldiers abounded, gazing into the shops, and
occasionally making small purchases, chattering and laughing, the
fatigues and sufferings of the march being now forgotten.

There were comparatively few of the richer class in the streets, many of
these having left the city at the approach of the French, while on the
night before the latter entered there had been serious tumults in the
city, and the houses of many of the beys had been broken into and
sacked. Through all this crowd Edgar and Sidi wandered unnoticed.

"It does not look as if there were any strong feeling against the
Franks," Sidi remarked, as they issued into a large square which was
comparatively deserted, and seated themselves on a bench in the shade of
the trees near a fountain.

"No; but it is not here that one would expect to find any signs of
disaffection. No doubt the traders are doing a good business, for every
officer and soldier will be sure to spend all his pay in presents for
those at home, or in mementoes of his stay here, and I am sure the
things are pretty enough to tempt anyone. It is in the poorer quarters
that trouble will be brewing."

Presently a group of French officers came along and seated themselves at
a short distance from the two young Arabs. Having not the slightest idea
that these could understand what they said, they talked loudly and
unrestrainedly.

"The thing is serious, gentlemen," one of them, who was clearly of
superior rank to the rest, said. "Since the news of this most
unfortunate affair arrived, there has been a great change in the
situation. For the last two days there has not been a single horse
brought into the horse-market, and the number of bullocks has fallen off
so greatly that the commissariat had difficulty this morning in buying
sufficient for the day's rations for the army, but the worst of it is,
that assassinations are becoming terribly common, and in the last three
days fifty-two men have been killed. There will be a general order out
to-morrow that men are not to go beyond certain limits, unless at least
four are together, and that they are not, under any pretext whatever, to
enter a native house.

"Besides those known to have been killed, there are twenty-three
missing, and there is no doubt they too have been murdered, and their
bodies buried. The Egyptian head of the police has warned us that there
are gatherings in the lower quarters, and that he believes that some of
Mourad's emissaries are stirring the people up to revolt. A good many
parties of Arabs are reported as having been seen near the city.
Altogether I fear that we are going to have serious trouble; not that
there is any fear of revolt, we can put that down without difficulty,
but this system of assassination is alarming, and if it goes on, the men
will never be safe outside their barracks, except in the main
thoroughfares. One does not see how to put it down. An open enemy one
can fight, but there is no discovering who these fellows are in a large
population like this, and it would be of no use inflicting a fine on the
city for every French soldier killed; that would affect only the richer
class and the traders. There is no doubt, too, that the news that our
fleet has been completely destroyed has dispirited the soldiers, who
feel that for the present, an any rate, they are completely cut off from
France."

"That is certainly serious, general," one of the officers said, "and
there seems only the project of the invasion of India or a march to
Constantinople. After our march here, though it was but little over a
hundred miles, and the greater portion of the way along the bank of the
river, with our flotilla with stores abreast of us, neither of these
alternatives look as easy as they seemed to us before we set foot in
this country."

"No, indeed, colonel; our campaign at home gave us no idea of what the
march of our army would be across these deserts, and it certainly seems
to me that the idea of twenty thousand men marching from here to India
is altogether out of the question. If our fleet had beaten the English,
gone back and brought us twenty thousand more men, and had then sailed
round the Cape, and come up to Suez to fetch us and land us in India,
the thing would have been feasible enough, and in alliance with the
Sultan of Mysore we might have cleared the English out altogether, but
the land march seems to be impossible; a small body of men could never
fight their way there, a large body could not find subsistence."

"No; I fancy that Constantinople will be the place at which we shall
emerge. A march to Palestine will, of course, be hard, but it is only
three or four days from the Egyptian frontier. I don't fancy that there
will be any difficulty on the way up through Syria and Asia Minor, and
that almost everywhere we shall find cultivated land, and an abundant
supply of provisions for the army. As for the Turks, I have no doubt
that we shall thrash them, if they venture to interfere with us, as
easily as we did the Egyptians. I have no fear for the safety of the
army, and if the Egyptians venture on a rising here, before we start, we
shall give them such a lesson that a few thousand men left here should
have no difficulty in keeping the country in order."

They chatted for some time longer, and then moved off. Edgar repeated to
his friend the substance of their conversation, and they then returned
to their tent. The next day they wandered through the poorer portion of
the town. Groups of men were assembled in many places, talking
excitedly; when, as it sometimes happened, a party of French soldiers
came along, they broke up, only to assemble at another spot. Sidi and
Edgar mingled with them, and gathered that in a short time there would
be trouble. It was agreed that so long as the whole French army remained
there nothing could be done, but it was regarded as certain that it
would soon break up. It was argued that they could not remain at Cairo.
Mourad was gathering a large force higher up on the Nile. The Arabs were
moving again. Damietta and Rosetta would have to be occupied. There were
numbers of the Mamelukes between Cairo and Suez. The French could not
remain quietly until the whole country was in arms against them. No
doubt columns would be sent off, and as soon as they were gone, the time
for a rising would come.

They were going down a quiet lane when two men came out from a house.
One of them looked fixedly at Sidi and exclaimed:

"This is the Arab boy who got us into trouble at Alexandria; now it is
our turn."

Paying no attention to Edgar, who was so entirely altered by his
disguise as to defy recognition, the two men seized Sidi, and began to
drag him into the house. Edgar sprang forward and struck one of them so
heavy a blow in the face that he released his hold of Sidi and staggered
back against the wall. Then with a shout of fury he drew his knife and
rushed at Edgar. The latter also snatched his knife from his girdle,
shifted it into his left hand, and threw himself into the usual boxing
attitude with his left foot forward. The Maltese paused in his rush.
This line of defence was altogether new to him. He had been engaged in
many a fierce fray, but his opponents had always, like himself, fought
with their knives in their right hands.

The momentary indecision was fatal to him. With the speed of a practised
boxer Edgar changed feet. Springing forward with his right foot in
advance he caught his opponent's wrist with his right hand, and snatched
the man's arm across his body, and plunged his own knife to the hilt
under the other's arm. He was but just in time, for the Greek, who,
having hurled Sidi into the passage, had turned to the assistance of his
comrade, was close upon him, giving vent to a hoarse howl of fury as his
comrade dropped. Edgar faced him in the same attitude as that in which
he had met the Maltese. The man paused out of reach and then crouched,
swaying his body from side to side in readiness for a spring, but he
never gave it. Sidi, although thrown heavily down, had leapt up again
with the activity of a cat, and with a single bound from the door he
reached the Greek and buried his knife between his shoulders. Almost at
the same moment there was a shout from the other end of the street, and
two or three men were seen running towards them.

"Through the house, Sidi!" Edgar exclaimed.

They rushed in, closed and fastened the door, and then ran out into the
yard behind the house, which was fortunately empty. They were over the
wall in a moment into another yard, entered a door that stood open, went
noiselessly along the passage, for both were barefooted, opened a door
and went out into the lane beyond, pausing for a moment before they did
so to see that there were no blood-stains that would attract attention
on their dress. As their arms were bare, there were but a few spots of
blood to be seen. They wiped the blood from the hands that held the
knives on the inside of their dress, and then walked quietly out, pulled
the door to, but did not attempt to close it, walked quietly down the
lane, took the first turning, turned again four or five times, and then
quickened their pace to a fast walk, and in ten minutes emerged from the
labyrinth of lanes they had been traversing. Up to this time not a word
had been spoken from the moment they entered the house.

"We are well out of that, Sidi," Edgar said. "Who would have thought of
our meeting those two scoundrels again? I am sorry that I had to kill
that man, but it was his life or mine."

"You have assuredly again saved my life, Edgar. I am sure that they
would have murdered me."

"No doubt they would," Edgar said. "But as I was with you, and was not
likely to stand and look on while they did it, it was a fight of two
against two, and you did your share."

"It was a poor share, brother. You drew off the attention of the man
that would have killed me, and I had but to strike him down without
danger to myself. Again you have saved my life."

"That may be, but I think that you in turn saved mine, for I doubt
whether I should have got on as well with the second fellow as I did
with the first."

"Oh, I have no doubt you would!" the young Arab said confidently. "How
did you kill him? I saw nothing of it."

"It was simple enough," Edgar replied, and related how the short
conflict had begun and ended.

"You must really teach me these things, Edgar. It is wonderful how quick
you are, and with a knife too; for I have heard you say that in England
people never fight with knives."

"One learns quickness from boxing," Edgar said carelessly. "That is one
of the advantages of it. It teaches one to think quickly and act
quickly; and if one can fight with one's fists, of course one can fight
with a knife. It was a boxing trick I used, and a very useful one, and
more easy than it would be against a good boxer, who would have hit me
with his left before I could strike my blow, but of course this fellow
had no idea of doing that, so that unless I had failed to grasp his
wrist it was a certainty. Did the other hurt you? I heard you go down
with a crash."

"I feel stiff," Sidi replied, "and I expect that I shall be a good deal
worse to-morrow, for I am sure I am bruised all down the back; but that
is no matter. It is a good thing that we have done with those two men; I
felt sure that they would try to be revenged on us if they ever fell in
with us again."

The next day, the anniversary of the establishment of the republic, was
celebrated by a grand review of the troops, and a few days later the
news came that Desaix's division, which had set out in pursuit of Mourad
on the day after the battle of the Pyramids, had overtaken him, and
another fierce fight had ensued. The charge of the Mamelukes had broken
one of the French squares, and for a time great confusion prevailed, but
Desaix shouted to the soldiers to throw themselves down on the ground,
and then the next square opened so terrible a fire on the Mamelukes that
they were forced to retreat. Two days later Kleber marched with his
division for Damietta.

In the native quarter the agitation continued, but so far peace had not
been broken, and the French took little heed of what was passing, and
had no idea that there was any danger of a rising. Had it been their
object to provoke such movement, they could hardly have taken steps
better calculated to bring it about. They had, in the first place, after
their arrival proceeded to largely strengthen and increase the
fortifications, and in doing so had altogether disregarded the feelings
of the people, had pulled down houses and mosques, had desecrated tombs,
and cleared away all buildings on spaces of ground across which the guns
would play. This desecration of their sacred places had given rise to
the deepest feelings of exasperation among the people.

In the next place, many of the fortifications were converted so that the
guns menaced the town instead of the country round, and at the citadel
especially, which dominated the whole city, guns were placed to overawe
it. The next step was deeply resented by the people, for interfering
with their ancient usages. Cairo was divided into fifty quarters, each
of which had a wall and gate. These gates were closed at night, or
indeed at any time, by the orders of the chief of the quarter, and the
interruption caused by these breaks in the line of communication had
given rise to many quarrels between the soldiers and the townspeople.
The inconvenience was a distinct one, and the French, without giving
any notice of their intentions, sent a strong party of engineers,
supported by troops, to demolish all these gateways.

The taxes were onerous in the extreme. By means of a council that had
been appointed, consisting of notabilities who had, either by fear or
bribery, been brought over to the side of the French, a crushing
taxation was imposed, and this rendered the trading and upper classes,
upon whom the burden principally fell, as hostile to the French
domination as were the lower classes. Thus the French themselves had, by
their high-handed conduct and their absolute disregard for the feelings
and religious sentiments of the people, prepared a mine that was on the
point of exploding.

That afternoon a messenger arrived from the sheik, saying that he should
be at the Pyramids on the following morning, at nine o'clock, and that
he wished them to meet him there.

"Would you take the men with us, Edgar?"

"No, I think it would be best to leave them. They are well established
here now, and have come to be looked upon by those around them as having
left the tribe altogether and as intending to work as carriers. I should
tell one or other of them to go into the town every day, and see how
matters are going on. If your father, as I hope, decides to take no part
in any attack on the French here, he can easily send a messenger to
recall them."

Accordingly, the next morning they mounted at daybreak, rode down to
Boulak, and were, with their horses, ferried across the river; then they
mounted again and rode to the Pyramids. An hour later a cloud of dust
was seen rising to the south-west, and in a few minutes the sheik, with
fifty followers, rode up.

"What is the news?" he asked his son as he leapt from his horse. "We
heard that the people of Cairo are about to rise against the Franks, and
numbers of our people have already ridden to join them in the attack."

"The city is in a very disturbed state, father, but as yet the rising
has not begun."

"That is good, my son. We were unable to strike a blow at the Franks in
the battle here; this time we will do our share, with the aid of Allah.

"You do not think that that is well?" he broke off as he glanced at
Edgar.

"It is for you to decide, sheik," Edgar said. "For my part, I do not
believe that the rising will be successful. It is true that a large
number of the French are absent. Desaix has gone with his division to
capture the northern provinces and drive out Mourad Bey and the
Mamelukes. Kleber marched yesterday, they say, to Damietta, but there is
still a strong force here. I doubt not that the rising will be
successful at first. Many French soldiers away from their regiments will
be cut down and killed, detached parties may be attacked and
overpowered, but I believe that in the end their discipline will
triumph. Their cannon will sweep the streets, the guns of the citadel
and the new forts that they have armed will shell the town; and
although, if a really desperate defence is made, the town can hardly be
captured without great loss, Bonaparte is sure to do so sooner or later,
for, if necessary, he can call back Kleber and Desaix. It is a matter of
life and death to them. Were the country to hear that Cairo had been
recovered and the French driven out with heavy loss, there would be a
rush to arms. The army would, I believe, be able to fight its way down
to Alexandria, but when beleaguered there, unable to obtain any stores
from the country round, and their retreat from sea cut off, their
position would be desperate."

"I do not say that you are not right," the sheik said gravely. "You
understand the mode of warfare of these Franks much better than I do,
and have been right in all your predictions of what would happen; but
whatever may be the danger, it is clear to me that it must be faced.
Brave men do not shrink from encountering death, and how can a follower
of the Prophet shrink from death in battle with infidels. Numbers of my
countrymen will assuredly take part in the struggle, and did I ride away
without sharing in the conflict, I should not be able to lift up my head
again. It may be that it is fated that I shall not return; so be it; if
it is the will of Allah that I should die now, who am I to oppose it?

"Let there be no more said on this. I know, my friend, that you are not
afraid of danger, and that your counsel is not prompted by any thought
of personal fear. I acknowledge that all you say may come to pass, but
my mind is made up. Thousands of Arabs will fight there, and I shall not
draw back. Sidi will, of course, fight by my side, but it is not your
quarrel, and there is no reason why you should risk your life in a
struggle that you believe to be hopeless."

"Assuredly, chief, I shall ride with you. You have treated me as one of
your tribe, and I have come to regard myself as such. Sidi is as my
brother, and were there no other reason, I would ride to battle by his
side. Moreover, this is as much my business as yours. My country is at
war with France, and if at present Egypt is invaded by them, it is not
because France desires to capture Egypt, but because by their occupation
of the country they hope to strike a blow at England."

"It is well!" the chief said. "I think not that either you or Sidi will
fall. Allah sent you to his aid when he was in danger, and he would
hardly have done so had it been his will that you should both perish so
shortly afterwards; but we are all in His hands, and shall die when our
time comes, and not before."

Then, as if dismissing the subject, he asked Sidi what had happened in
the town, and whether they had been questioned by any as to their
business.

"The principal thing, father, that has happened to us is, that we again
met the two men who attacked me at Alexandria, and were beaten and
turned out of the city, and as it happened then, I should have lost my
life had it not been for my brother."

"Tell me about it," the sheik said, his face hardening and his fingers
playing with the hilt of the long knife in his sash.

Sidi related the whole adventure.

The sheik stood stroking his beard gravely as Sidi spoke. His eyes
turned from his son to Edgar.

"Bishmillah!" he exclaimed, when the story was finished, "Allah must
have sent you to be Sidi's protector. Without doubt, he would have lost
his life had he been alone. Truly it is a wonderful thing this English
science that you possess, and that enables you, though but a lad, to
knock down strong men, and although unused to a knife, to slay ruffians
accustomed to it from their childhood, with their own weapons. More than
ever am I beholden to you, Edgar. Twice have you saved my son's life.
Had you been alone, these men would not have recognized you, and it was
but because he was attacked that, as on the last occasion, you joined in
the fray. Show me, I beg you, how you slew this man."

"It was simple, sheik. Had I fought him in his own fashion he would, I
have no doubt, have killed me. But my method was as new to him as his
would have been to me. Will you draw your dagger and advance at me as if
going to strike? Now, if I have my knife in my right hand also, you
know what to do; you would try to grasp my wrist with your left hand. I
should try to grasp yours in the same way. We should struggle, but with
your superior strength you would soon wrench your right hand free, and
strike me down. Now, you see, I take my closed knife in my left hand,
pointing it straight towards you, with my left foot forward; that is the
position in which we stand when we use our fists. You, like that
Maltese, are puzzled, and stand, as he did, for a moment indecisive;
that would have been fatal to you. As, you see, I leap forward, changing
my advanced foot as I do so, catch your wrist, and pull your arm with a
sudden jerk towards me, and at the same moment strike you under the arm
with my left hand."

An exclamation of wonder broke from the Arabs standing round listening
to the conversation, as with lightning speed Edgar repeated the
manoeuvre that had been fatal to the Maltese.

"Bishmillah," the chief ejaculated, "but it is wonderful! It is true I
should have been a dead man had your blade been opened, and your
movement was so rapid that I could not have avoided it."

"No, because you were not accustomed to it. Had you been an English
boxer you would have leapt back as quickly as I leapt forward. I should
have failed to grasp your wrist, and should in that case have leapt back
again to my former position, for had I remained thus I should have been
at your mercy. Had I succeeded in doing so before you struck me, we
should have been as we began, and I should have tried some other trick.
Certainly as long as I stood with my left arm extended and my knife
pointed towards you, you could not have closed with me--for I am much
quicker on my feet from the training that I have received--and I could
have got back more quickly than your knife could fall, and even if the
blades fell at the same moment you would but gash my shoulder, whereas I
should pierce you at a vital point.

"It is with this as with other matters. You have been trained from
childhood to sit your horse. You can stoop over while you are galloping
at full speed and pick up a stone from the sand. You can twirl your
lance round your head and throw it into the air, and catch it as it
descends while going at full speed. You can do things that no untrained
Englishman could do. So is it with me. I have learned boxing from the
best masters in England, I have practised daily for two years and a
half, and I have gained a quickness that could not be imitated by one
who has not had such teaching and practice."

"It is true," the sheik said. "But it is not the less wonderful in our
eyes that, though knowing the use of our weapons, we should be but as
children in your hands when thus fighting on foot. I wonder no longer
that you should so easily have conquered this man. What say you, my
brothers?"

An exclamation of assent broke from the Arabs, who, in spite of Edgar's
explanation, henceforth regarded him with an almost superstitious
respect. As soon as the troop had arrived, Edgar had gone to see his
horse, which, as well as that of Sidi, the sheik had brought with him.
It had whinnied with pleasure as he came up to it, and he stood patting
it for some time, and giving it some dates. He now went over to it
again, and on his return asked the chief:

"Were you thinking of riding that splendid horse of yours?"

"Certainly I was," he replied, in a tone of surprise.

"I do not mean to take mine," Edgar said, "and I think that it would be
a great pity if you and Sidi were to ride yours. I can understand that,
in a fight on the plains, it would be a great advantage to be so
mounted, for either in pursuit or flight it would be invaluable, but in
the narrow streets of Cairo it would be a sin to risk so splendid an
animal, and the one I have been riding would be just as useful. We shall
be fighting, not against cavalry, but against infantry and artillery,
and it would be useless to ride a horse that would outstrip those of the
rest of the band; while even if we won the day our satisfaction would be
lessened indeed had one to mourn the loss of one's friend."

"You are right," the sheik said gravely. "Were I to lose Zeila it would
be like the loss of a child; we love each other dearly. I had not
thought of it before. It seemed to me a matter of course that if I rode
in the battle she should carry me as she has done a score of times; but,
as you say, this will not be like fighting in the desert, when man
singles out man, and one's life depends as much upon the intelligence
and quickness of the horse as upon one's skill with spear and scimitar.
Two of my followers shall take our three horses back to our camp in the
desert. You and Sidi are already mounted. One of the men shall give me
his horse, and shall ride on Sidi's; each will then have but one to
lead. If my son and I are killed, the two horses will be valuable
possessions to my wife."

Accordingly the saddle was shifted from the sheik's horse to that of one
of his followers, and the latter, with his comrade, was told to start
for the oasis as soon as the rest of the party set out for Cairo.



CHAPTER VI.

THE RISING IN CAIRO.


As soon as a meal had been eaten the Arabs mounted again, rode to a
ferry two miles above the city, crossed there, and joined a large party
of their countrymen, who were gathered at a short distance from the
city. There was much excitement among them, for one of their number had
just returned, bringing news that there was fighting in the town.
Napoleon had gone in the morning to examine the ruins of Old Cairo. On
hearing that there were armed gatherings in various parts of the town,
General Dupres started from the barracks of Birketelfi with a detachment
of dragoons. On his approaching one of these gatherings fire was opened
upon him. He and some of his dragoons were shot, and the rest galloped
with the news to Junot, who was in command, and who at once sent to
acquaint Bonaparte with what was taking place.

The latter returned at once, found the first two gates at which he
arrived in the hands of the insurgents, and making a detour, entered the
town by that of Boulak, and, joining Junot, he ordered the whole of the
troops to be concentrated in the great open space known as the Square of
El-Esbekieh, where were the headquarters and barracks occupied by a
portion of the troops, and the houses in which the staff-officers,
servants, and others lodged. Cannon were placed at the mouth of all the
streets leading from it, and the troops were ordered to remain under
arms all night. The Arabs had, soon after the sheik's party joined them,
entered the town by one of the gates that had been seized by the
insurgents, and established themselves in one of the large open spaces
near the walls. Parties galloped down into the town, and from time to
time brought back news of what was being done.

They reported that no attacks had been made on the troops, but that the
whole town was in a state of insurrection; that the keepers of the
French restaurants had been, for the most part, killed, and all their
houses pillaged; and that the insurgents had gathered in great force in
the cemetery, near the Square of El-Esbekieh. The sheik, with his
followers and many of the other Arabs, rode down to this spot in
readiness to take part in the attack that would, he supposed, be at once
made on the French. Finding that nothing was done, the sheik rode to the
Mosque of Gama El Ashar, where the leaders of the insurrection were
gathered. He dismounted and went in. He found a tumultuous debate going
on, a few being ready for instant attack, while the others urged the
advisability of waiting until the next morning, when many more Arabs,
and the inhabitants of Old Cairo and other places, would have joined
them.

The sheik at once took part in the debate, and urged strongly that the
attack should be made without an instant's delay.

"You are giving time for the Franks to prepare themselves," he said.
"You have already lost the advantage of surprise. After the first shot
was fired there should not have been a moment of delay; but no shot
should have been fired until you had given us notice. Then together we
should have flung ourselves upon them when they were confused and
dismayed, and had no time to form plans or to gather themselves in one
place. You have already lost that advantage, but do not give them any
longer time. You may be sure that already swift horsemen have been sent
to order the divisions that have just marched to return at once, and by
to-morrow evening they may be here."

"You have spoken truly," one of the leaders said, "that no shot should
have been fired until all was in readiness, and that we should then have
attacked at once with all our force. But the impatience of individuals
has destroyed our plans. The evil has already been done; the Franks are
gathered together. They can receive no reinforcements until to-morrow
night, while in the morning we shall be joined by fully 10,000 men;
therefore nothing would be gained, and much lost, by attacking to-day."

The majority of those present agreed with this opinion, and the sheik
returned to the cemetery.

"You were right," he said to Edgar moodily. "To be successful, such a
rising should have been prompt. They should have wasted no time in
killing tradesmen and plundering their shops. They should have hurled
themselves at once upon the troops and cut them to pieces before they
had time to recover from their surprise. Had they acted thus they might
have succeeded. Now they have allowed the whole of the French to gather,
with their guns, and after what happened in the battle, I fear there can
be little doubt of what will occur when we attack them; but this does
not alter my determination to do my best towards gaining a victory.

"Even if defeated the affair will not be without advantage. The Franks
will begin to see that, easy as was their first victory, the Egyptians
are not a flock of sheep to be maltreated and robbed without even
venturing to murmur, and that they cannot afford to scatter their forces
all over the country. Moreover, the news that Cairo is in insurrection
will spread through the country and excite a feeling of resistance. Many
will die, but their blood will not have been shed in vain. The French
think that they have conquered Egypt--they have, in fact, but marched
to the capital. They only hold the ground they stand on, and it will
not be long before they feel that even that is trembling under their
feet."

Some sheep that had been brought, slung across the horses, were cut up,
fires lighted, and supper eaten, and when two men had been posted as
sentinels, the rest wrapped themselves in their burnooses and lay down
to sleep. Edgar's reflections were not pleasant, and he sat up for some
time talking to Sidi.

"You think that we shall be beaten," the latter said, after they had
talked for some time. "There is no reason, brother, why you should take
part in a fight that you think will end badly. Why should you not leave
us, and go out of one of the gates in the morning?"

"I cannot do that, Sidi. I have, of my own free-will, cast in my lot
with your people. It is thanks to them that I have escaped a prison and
perhaps death, and I cannot withdraw now because there is danger. To
tell you the truth, I am more disgusted at the murder of all the
unfortunate shopkeepers than thinking of any personal danger to-morrow.
There is nothing brave or patriotic in slaying unarmed men, and the
deeds done yesterday are rather those of street ruffians thirsting for
plunder than of men trying to shake off subjection to foreigners. Such
doings as these bring disgrace upon a cause."

This view of the case was new to Sidi. In the wars that the Arabs
carried on with each other, or with the tribes of Morocco, there was no
fine distinction between combatants and non-combatants: women as well as
men were killed or carried off as slaves, and that there was anything
wrong in this had never occurred to him.

"But they are enemies," he ventured to protest.

"They were foreigners, but not enemies," Edgar replied. "Many of them
were settled here long before the French landed, and, like my father,
lived peaceably among you. They are not in any way responsible for the
action of the French government, or of Bonaparte and his army. Among
civilized people, save that after the capture of a town by storm, the
soldiers become maddened and behave sometimes like demons, the lives of
peaceful people are never menaced. Soldiers fight against soldiers, and
not against quiet traders or cultivators of the ground. To me all that
has been done to-day is nothing short of a murderous butchery, and
to-morrow I would much more willingly join in a charge on the rabble who
have done these things than upon the French soldiers, who are for the
most part honest fellows and have injured no one since they came into
the town, though they may have looted houses which they found deserted
by their inhabitants.

"However, as my country is at war with them, and I have an opportunity
of fighting them, I shall do so, but I would rather have done it with an
Arab force alone out on the desert than in conjunction with these
blood-stained ruffians. However, the matter is settled now, and at any
rate it will be a satisfaction to fight by the side of yourself and your
brave father, who sees as well as I do that defeat is almost certain."
So saying he lay down to sleep, but with sore forebodings of what was
likely to take place the next day.

When daylight broke it soon became evident that the insurgents had
neither a leader nor fixed plans. Some were in favour of attacking at
once, while others urged that it would be better for the French to do
so. The argument was, that whereas at present the French were all
assembled, ranged in order, and ready for an attack, they must be broken
up as soon as they issued from the various streets leading into the
square. The sheik, after talking the matter over with Edgar, rode with
some of his followers to the spot where the leaders were discussing the
matter.

"There is much in what you say," he exclaimed, when one of those who
urged delay had spoken; "but if we are to await their attack let us
prepare for it. All who have firearms should go on to the roofs of the
houses of the streets through which they will march, and fire down into
them as they pass along. Those who have other arms should take their
places in the lanes, running out of them and break into the column as it
comes along, while we Arabs will charge them in front."

Some strongly approved of this advice, others said that the question
must be referred to the council at the mosque, and things remained as
they were before.

The French had made a move early. Soon after daybreak Captain Sulkouski,
one of Napoleon's aides-de-camp, started with two hundred cavalry to
make a circuit of the town, and to reconnoitre the position of the
insurgents. He rashly charged into the middle of a large party of Arabs,
but was killed with many of his men. Two hours later scouts rushed into
the cemetery, and announced that the French were in movement along the
streets leading towards it, and almost immediately afterwards several
batteries, which had been placed during the night on spots commanding
the cemetery, opened fire.

There was no hesitation now on the part of the insurgents; they rushed
forward in confused masses to meet the enemy. As they did so the leading
ranks of the columns opened, and cannon, which were being dragged along
by the infantry, poured volleys of grape into the crowded mobs. Many of
the Egyptians ran into the houses, and from there kept up a heavy fire.
But pressing steadily forward, the French fought their way into the
cemetery, and opening out, poured such heavy volleys into the Egyptians
that these speedily ran up the streets leading from it, leaving numbers
of dead behind. The Arabs had fallen back before the French entered the
square, as the crowded tombstones rendered it impossible for them to act
with any effect there, and the sheik's party, with several others, took
up their position at some distance up the principal street leading
towards the mosque.

As soon as a heavy French column entered this street fighting began in
earnest. From roof and window a deadly fire was poured into them, bodies
of men armed with sword and dagger rushed out of the narrow lanes and
threw themselves on the flanks of the column. Many French soldiers were
killed, but the bayonet did its work, and the assailants who had pierced
the column fell to a man.

The blood of the French soldiers was now up. The sudden attack upon
them, the killing of many of their comrades, and of several
distinguished officers who had been caught riding unguardedly through
the city, had exasperated them to a pitch of fury. They had been under
arms all night, and the sight of many shops gutted, and their late
inmates lying dead at their doorway or in the road, filled them with a
thirst for vengeance, and they moved forward eagerly.

"Now it is our turn!" one of the Arab sheiks said sternly, then raising
his war-cry he led the way down the street, followed by a hundred of his
followers. Behind them rode Ben Ouafy, with Sidi and Edgar beside him,
and his own band following closely. There was only room for eight men to
ride abreast. Although their front ranks were swept away by the fire of
the leading ranks of the French column, the Arabs charged with splendid
bravery, but when within twenty paces of the column there was a sudden
movement, the ranks opened, and two cannon loaded to the muzzle with
grape poured a murderous discharge into them.

The effect was terrible. The greater portion of the band that led the
charge was swept away; the others would have turned, but the Beni Ouafy
were racing forward. "Charge," the sheik cried, "before they can load
again!"

"Forward, forward!" the Arabs' war-cry pealed out loud and shrill from a
hundred throats, and the whole then dashed down upon the French column.
The leading ranks were cut down, the cannon were for the moment
captured, and the Arabs pressed forward with shouts of victory; but the
French in front, pressed upon by those behind, could retreat but a short
distance. Those in front defended themselves with bayonet and clubbed
muskets, those behind poured their fire into the Arabs, who, being
raised above their comrades' heads, offered an easy mark.

The road was speedily blocked with fallen men and horses, but the
struggle continued until there was a movement from the French column,
and pressing their way along, a number of soldiers dragged two more guns
to the front. Then the head of the column opened sufficiently for the
muzzles to project between those of the first line, and again the storm
of grape swept the street. This was too much for the Arabs, and those
who survived turned their horses and galloped back. The sheik and his
party had just reached the French line, all in front of them having
fallen, when the cannon poured their contents down the street. Edgar had
caught sight of the guns just before, and uttered a warning shout.

"To the right, sheik, to the right!" while he himself, with a sharp pull
at the bridle, caused his horse to wheel to the left, and thus when the
guns were fired, their contents passed between Edgar and his two
friends. The sheik gave a cry of dismay as he saw that the greater part
of his followers were destroyed, and shouted to Sidi and Edgar to fly
for their lives. Riding at a mad gallop they dashed along, but the
bullets of the French pursued them vengefully, and half-way down the
street Edgar felt a sudden sharp pain in his right arm, and at the same
moment his horse gave a sudden spring and then rolled over. He was at
the time somewhat in rear of the sheik and Sidi, and they were for the
moment unaware of what happened to him. Fortunately the horse did not
fall upon him, and in an instant he was upon his feet again.

Looking round he saw that he had fallen close to the open door of a shop
with an Italian name over it; he ran into it. The shop had been
completely ransacked, and three bodies, those of the proprietor and two
lads, lay on the floor. There was no door leading out behind, and he ran
up the stairs. The rooms were littered with the remains of the furniture
and belongings. The bedding, curtains, and everything that could be of
use to the spoilers were gone, but the European clothes, which could not
be worn by them, were still about. The only windows looked into the
street. There was no apparent means of escape; the only hope was in
disguise. Tearing off his Arab garments and thrusting them into a
cupboard, he threw on without a moment's delay, trousers, a coat that
buttoned up, and a pair of European shoes, thrust a cap on his head, and
then ran downstairs again. Fortunately the column, after defeating its
assailants, had paused for two or three minutes, while the soldiers
broke into the houses from which they had been fired upon and slew all
they found in them, and its head was still a hundred yards away when
Edgar looked cautiously out. He had time to throw off his coat and to
hastily bandage the wound in his arm, from which the blood had been
streaming down; then as he heard the tramp of the advancing column he
ran down to the door, and as the troops came up, waved his hand, danced
as if for joy, and shouted a welcome in Italian, mingled with a few
words of French, pouring at the same time a voluble string of
maledictions on the ruffians who had killed his master and his two
comrades. A mounted officer riding at the head of the column shouted to
him to go in and to remain quiet, saying that there was no fear that he
would be molested now. Edgar drew back a little, but remained at the
door, sometimes shouting encouragement to the soldiers, sometimes
apparently weeping convulsively, and acting as if half out of his mind
with relief at his deliverance.

As soon as the column had passed he returned upstairs, bandaged his
wound much more carefully than before, put on a shirt, and chose the
best garments that he could find. All these had no doubt belonged to the
proprietor, and he now went boldly out and followed the French column.
These met with very slight resistance on their road towards the Mosque
of Gama El Ashar. When they neared this spot they halted until the other
columns should reach the point of attack. Before they had left the
square General Gonmartin had moved round from Boulak with ten guns and
taken post on the height near Fort Dupres, and at mid-day thirty guns
from this fort and the citadel opened fire on the town. As it was known
to the French that great numbers of the fugitives from the cemetery had
fled to the mosque, where already a strong body of armed men were
assembled, it was deemed imprudent to attack it until secure that there
was no danger of a great mass of the insurgents falling upon them while
so engaged.

Shells fell fast on the mosque, and fires broke out in several parts of
the town. Edgar joined a group of several civilians, who, having either
been hidden during the massacre or having escaped to the French lines,
now came up, deeming that they would be safer near the troops than
elsewhere. All had stories of hairbreadth escapes to relate, but,
feigning not to be able to follow their narratives, Edgar, after a few
words in Italian, joined the troops, who were engaged in eating the food
that they had brought with them.

At three o'clock a tremendous roar of fire in the direction of Fort
Dupres burst out, as some seven or eight thousand of the insurgents,
among whom were a number of Arabs, poured out from the nearest gate to
endeavour to carry the battery, while at the same moment a tremendous
musketry fire from the minarets and roof of the Mosque of Hassan, and
from the houses near the wall, was poured at the French artillerymen, to
prevent them from working their guns upon their assailants. Gonmartin,
however, had with him three battalions of infantry and 300 cavalry, and
with these he charged the advancing crowd. The Arabs fought bravely, but
were, for the most part, slain, and the insurgents, unable to stand the
heavy volleys, followed by a bayonet charge of the infantry, fled back
to the gate from which they had sallied out, 400 of them being taken
prisoners and sent to the citadel.

A great number of the fugitives fled to the Mosque of Gama El Ashar,
which was now crowded. Their reports of the disaster shook the courage
of those already there, and when four columns of French infantry emerged
simultaneously from the ends of as many streets, the fire opened upon
them from the roof of the mosque was but feeble. Six guns were instantly
placed commanding its gate, which was shattered after two or three
rounds had been fired, and then, with a shout, the infantry rushed in
and commenced the work of slaughter. This was terrible, no quarter was
given, and some 6000 Moslems perished there, while 2000 had been killed
in the previous fighting.

Satisfied with this terrible act of vengeance, the French troops were
marched back to the square they had left in the morning, Bonaparte being
sure that there would be no more rioting after the terrible lesson that
had been taught the inhabitants. Late in the evening, indeed, the chief
men waited upon him and implored mercy for the town. Several of them had
been members of the council who directed the movement, but they
represented that they had been compelled to act against their will, and
Napoleon, satisfied that there would be no more troubles, pardoned them
on condition of their at once issuing a proclamation condemning the
rioters, and ordering all to return to their ordinary avocations, and to
hand over to the authorities any who should preach mischief.

After the capture of the mosque, Edgar went down to the great square
occupied by the French, and gathered from the talk of the officers there
the result of the sortie. All agreed that the Arabs had fought bravely,
and that few indeed had left the field alive. Edgar made his way out of
the town by the Boulak gate, which was still open, and found the two
Arabs still at the spot where he had left them when he and Sidi rode off
to meet the chief at the Pyramids. They were full of excitement at the
battle that had raged all day.

"I have bad news," he said. "I rode with the sheik and his son against
the French. My horse was killed, and I received a wound in the arm, but,
as you see, I obtained a disguise, and have escaped without further
harm. You heard that there was a great fight outside the walls?"

"Yes, my lord. Many men came running past here, and said that the French
had beaten them."

"I greatly fear," Edgar went on, "that the sheik and his son took part
in that fight. Many Arabs went out with those who attacked the battery,
and I think it almost certain that the sheik and his son were among
them. Most of the tribesmen were killed in the fight in which I was
wounded. The sheik would have joined his countrymen, knowing that there
would be no mercy shown the Arabs taken in the town. I hear that almost
every one of those who rode out were killed, and I want you to come with
me to search among the dead, for doubtless there are many wounded among
them, and one or other may yet be alive. There will be a bright moon,
and we shall have no difficulty in recognizing them. It will be
necessary only to search among those in white."

The two men were greatly moved at the thought of the fate of their
chief, his son, and so many of their followers, and assented at once to
his proposal.

"We must wait until it gets quite dark," Edgar said. "Have you any food,
for I am faint with hunger and loss of blood?"

After he had finished his meal, the horses were handed over by the Arabs
to the care of one of their neighbours, with whom they had made
acquaintance. The rough tent was pulled down in order that they might
wrap the dark blankets over them to conceal their white clothing.

"You had better leave your pistols behind," Edgar said, "but take your
knives; we may come across some ruffians engaged in robbing the dead,
and the knives may come in useful. I hope that, as is most likely, the
French have sent down parties from the forts to watch the gates, so as
to prevent any of the leaders in the trouble from making their escape;
but some plunderers may well have come across from Old Cairo, so it is
as well to be armed. Take your lances also, not for fighting, but to
make a litter with, should we find either the chief or his son."

The sun had set a short time before they started, but the moon would not
rise for another hour, and they were unnoticed, or, at least,
unquestioned as they went round towards Fort Dupres. Indeed, they
encountered no one on the way. The din of battle had been succeeded by a
dead silence, no sound was heard from the city, whose population were
awe-stricken by the events of the day, and terrified by the expectation
of further acts of vengeance by the French. Those in the suburbs had
heard but vague rumours of the fighting in the streets and of the
massacre at the mosque, but they had learned from fugitives of the
defeat of the great sortie, and knew that the insurrection had been
completely crushed. The moon was just rising when Edgar and his
companions reached the spot between Fort Dupres and the city walls,
where the fight had taken place.

The bodies lay thickly piled here at the spots where the struggle had
been fiercest. For a time they found none save those of the men of the
city, but after two hours' search they came upon a number of Arabs,
whose white garments showed up clearly in the moonlight. Lying among
them were many bodies of French cavalrymen, showing that the Bedouins
had sold their lives dearly. Body after body was carefully examined, a
few were found to be still living, and as the Arabs had, at Edgar's
orders, brought water-skins with them, they were able to give some
little aid to these. Presently they came to a spot where the bodies were
more closely heaped than elsewhere and almost as many French as Arabs
lay together.

"Now, search most carefully," he whispered, "this is where the last
stand was evidently made."

The greatest caution was indeed necessary, for the fort lay a couple of
hundred yards away, and the French sentries could be plainly made out
against the sky-line as they marched backwards and forwards. Presently
one of the Arabs uttered a low exclamation. Lying by the side of his
dead horse, and surrounded by the bodies of five or six French
cavalry-men, lay the sheik. His white dress was dabbled with blood, one
side of his face was laid open by a sabre cut, and four or five patches
of blood at various points of his dress pointed to the existence of
other wounds. Edgar knelt beside him and placed his ear to his heart.

"Thank God, he still lives!" he exclaimed; "give me your water-skin;
Hassan, lift his head." Edgar poured a little water between the sheik's
lips, sprinkled some on his face, and then, tearing off a strip of his
garment, brought together the edges of the wound in the face, from which
blood was still slowly oozing, laid a wad of rag along it, and then
bound it tightly with the bandage.

"We must see to the other wounds after we have got him away," he said.
"Now, Hassan, do you two bind one of those spare blankets to the shaft
of the two spears, wind it round them until the sides are not more than
three feet apart."

While the men were doing this he continued to allow a few drops of water
to trickle between the sheik's lips. When the stretcher was ready it was
laid on the ground beside him; he was gently lifted on to it, the cloak
strapped to his horse's saddle was placed under his head, and the other
spare blanket thrown over him. Then the two Arabs lifted the ends of the
spears on to their shoulders, and, led by Edgar, made their way from the
scene of conflict. When they had gone half a mile they laid the sheik
down.

"Do you stay here, Ali; pour a little water between his lips
occasionally. Hassan and I will go back and look for Sidi."

The sheik was lifted from the blanket, and Hassan, shouldering the
litter, they returned at a rapid pace to the spot where they had found
the sheik. They had already made a hasty search here before leaving, but
without success, and now examined with the greatest care the body of
every Arab who had fallen near the spot, for Edgar made sure that,
unless he had been previously stricken down, Sidi would have fallen near
his father. Again their hunt was unsuccessful. Then they widened their
circle until after three hours' search they became convinced that he was
not among those who had fallen on the field, that he had either been
killed in the city, made prisoner, or escaped altogether. When at last
convinced that further search would be useless, they returned to the
spot where they had left the sheik.

"He has opened his eyes," Ali said, "and murmured two or three words,
but I could not hear what he said."

"There are hopes at any rate that he is not mortally wounded," Edgar
said. "Now let us go on again with him; do you two each take one of the
spears at his head, I will take my place at his feet; we shall get on
faster so."

Bearing down towards the river, they reached, after an hour's fast
walking, a grove of palm-trees near a village.

"We will leave him here," Edgar said; "it must be five miles from the
town. The French will have enough to do to-day without searching for
wounded. Do you two stay with him. If he becomes sensible and wants
anything, here is some money, and one of you can get food from the
village, but beyond some fresh fruit to make him a cooling drink with,
he is not likely to need anything. I shall return at once and enter the
town by the Boulak gate as soon as it is open. I heard in the town that
there were three or four hundred prisoners taken, and that they were
confined in the citadel, and would be tried in the morning. The first
thing to do is to find out if Sidi is among them, in which case I shall
do all in my power to save him. Pour a little water over my hands, Ali.
Wait a moment," and he took up a double handful of the sandy soil, "now
pour it on to this. I must get rid of these blood-stains."

After a vigorous rubbing with the wet sand his hands were, as far as he
could see in the moonlight, clean, and with a few last words to the men,
he started back for the city. It was with difficulty that he made his
way to the spot where the horses had been left. It had been a terrible
twenty-four hours, with their excitements and emotions, and he had lost
a good deal of blood from the flesh wound in his arm. The gray light was
just stealing over the sky when he arrived there, and he threw himself
down on a secluded spot a short distance from his old camping-ground,
and slept for a couple of hours. Waking, he went to the hut, by the side
of which the horses were tethered. He and Sidi had spoken several times
to the man who lived there, and he possessed two donkeys which worked
for hire in the city.

"You do not recognize me?" he said.

The man shook his head.

"I am one of the young Arabs who were staying in the little tent close
by. You see I am in disguise. It was not safe to be in the city
yesterday in Arab dress, nor is it to-day."

"Of course I remember you now," the man said. "Where are those to whom
the horses belong?"

"They are not likely to come here to-day. A friend of theirs was
wounded in the fight at Fort Dupres, and they have found him and carried
him off. I have been with them. Tell me, is there any blood on my face?"

The man shook his head.

"Now I want you to go to one of the shops near the gate and get food for
me. It matters not what it is some kabobs, or a pillau, or anything they
may have, and a large bowl of milk. I am faint and weary. Here is
money."

In a quarter of an hour the man returned, and Edgar, after eating a
hearty breakfast and drinking a quart of milk, felt greatly better.

He now entered the town. There were no signs of renewed fighting, and
listening to the talk of the officers near the headquarters, he gathered
that Bonaparte had granted a pardon to the inhabitants, but that the
prisoners taken in the attack on Fort Dupres, among whom were many of
those most deeply concerned in the rising, were to be tried at ten
o'clock by court-martial, and that probably a great part of them would
be shot.



CHAPTER VII.

SAVED.


Hiring a donkey, for he still felt weak, Edgar rode out to the citadel.
He found the town gate open, as Napoleon, to show his contempt for the
population and his perfect confidence that they would not venture to
rise again, had ordered everything to go on as usual. Paying the
donkey-boy when within a short distance of the citadel, he sat down on a
block of stone a little way off the road, and waited for the hour when
the court-martial was to open. From what he had heard in the square he
was afraid that the Arab prisoners would all be among those sentenced to
death, as the general opinion was that a stern lesson was needed in
their case, as they had, with the exception of those dwelling near
Alexandria, proved themselves bitterly hostile to the French.

"I am afraid that I shall have to lie," he said to himself. "I hate
that, and I would not do it for myself, but the lie will hurt no one and
may save Sidi. Anyhow I won't tell more than I can help."

During the two hours that he sat there he made up his mind as to the
story that he should tell. As the hour approached, several French
officers of rank rode into the citadel. He saw a few people go in on
foot, but all were questioned by the sentry at the gate. A few minutes
before ten he went up.

"You cannot pass without an order," the sentry said in French.

"I wish to speak to the officer," Edgar replied in a mixture of French
and Italian. "I am a witness. I have to give evidence at the trial of
one of the scelerats."

The sentry called a non-commissioned officer, who, after speaking a few
words to him; entered the guard-house near the gate, and an officer came
out.

"What do you want to come in for?" he asked.

"I have evidence to give, monsieur, for one who is, I believe, among the
prisoners. He is, like myself, but a lad; but he saved my life from one
of those villains of rioters, and slew him with his own hand, when my
employer, Signor Pancherasi, and two other of his assistants were killed
by them. I would urge this in his favour."

"Well, it is but fair that you should be heard;" and calling a soldier
from the guard-house, he told him to accompany Edgar to the spot where
the court-martial was to be held, and to inform the officer in charge of
the prisoners that the lad desired to give evidence in regard to one of
them.

Thanking the officer, Edgar went up with the soldier into the great
quadrangle. In one corner were a large number of prisoners, guarded by a
line of soldiers with fixed bayonets. Three or four officers were
standing on the steps in front of a large open door. One of them, as
Edgar passed near, called out to his companion:

"Whom have you got there, my man?"

The soldier led Edgar up to the group, saluted, and stood at attention.

"He has come to give evidence for one of the prisoners, general."

"It must needs be pretty strong evidence then," the officer said,
"considering that they were all taken when fighting against us. Well, my
lad, who are you?"

"I do not speak French well, monsieur: Italian is my language. My name
is Giovanni Baptista. I was in the employ of Signor Pancherasi, who sold
goods of our country in the broad street leading up from the square of
El-Esbekieh, where your soldiers beat the Arabs yesterday."

"I recognize the young fellow," one of the officers said. "He rushed
out, half out of his mind with joy, as I rode past at the head of the
column. Well, go on, lad. Tell us what you have got to say."

"Well, monsieur, an Arab boy saved my life when the others were killed.
One had fired at me, and the bullet went through my arm, when the Arab,
who had some of his people with him, sprang forward, and just as the man
was going to rush at me with his scimitar he sprang upon him and stabbed
him between the shoulders. I do not remember much more, for I was
frightened; but there was a quarrel between him and his Arabs and the
others. I think I fainted. When I came to I was alone with the bodies of
my master and comrades, and there I remained in hiding until your troops
came along."

"But why should this Arab have interfered in your behalf?"

"A few days before, sir, I was going with a parcel of my master's goods
through one of the narrow lanes, when I saw two rough men ill-treating
an Arab boy. He seemed to be the son of a sheik, and they were trying to
rob him and he resisted, and seeing that he was a boy like myself, I
shouted at the top of my voice for aid, and ran in with my knife. Then
we fought for a minute, but doubtless it would have gone hard with us,
had not two of your soldiers, who heard me shouting, come running up,
and the men then took to their heels. The young Arab said that his
father would show his gratitude to me for having aided him, but I had
not heard of him again until, hearing our cries, he ran in with some
other Arabs, and, as I have said, saved me from death."

"Let me look at your wound?" the general said. Edgar took off his coat
and showed the blood-stained bandage.

"Well, you can look among the prisoners and see if your friend is here.
If he is, when you see him brought in you must come in and repeat your
story. By the way, how did you understand what this Arab said about his
father?"

"I have been out here some years, monsieur, and can speak a little
Arabic."

"Well, as you have lost your master, and are out of employment, if you
go down to the intendence and say that General Rombaud sent you, and
that you can speak enough French and Arabic to get on with, they will
find you some employment where you can be of use."

"Thank you very much, monsieur," and, bowing, Edgar went off with the
soldier to the group of prisoners.

There were in all about a score of Arabs, and these kept in a body
together. To his great joy, he recognized Sidi among them. His head was
bound up, and he looked weak and exhausted, but, like his companions,
and indeed the great proportion of the prisoners, he maintained an air
of indifference to his position. Thinking it as well that he should not
be recognized, and feeling sure that the guard would permit no
communication to take place with any of the prisoners, Edgar turned away
and went and sat down on some steps between the prisoners and those on
which the officers were standing. In a few minutes they went in by the
door behind them.

Five minutes later a sergeant came out, and calling four men from a
company drawn up near the door, went across to the group of prisoners
and presently returned with six of them. In a few minutes they came out
again. Three of the men, in charge of a single soldier, were marched
away in the direction of the gate; the other three were taken to a door
a short distance away, thrust in, the door was locked after them, and
two soldiers placed there as sentries. The barred windows told their
tale, and Edgar had no doubt that the three men who had entered were
sentenced to death. In the meantime, another party had taken six more
prisoners in. So the matter proceeded for upwards of an hour, five
minutes at the outside sufficing for each batch. At the end of this time
the group of Arabs was reached. Hitherto about half of the men taken had
been suffered to depart, but this time the six Arabs were all taken to
the fatal door.

Edgar did not recognize any of them, and indeed, he knew that the
greater part of the sheik's followers had fallen in the attack on the
French column in the street. Sidi was in the next group, and Edgar rose
to his feet, saying to the soldier who still stood by his side, and who
had heard the conversation with the general, "That is the lad." The man
went with him to the door, told the sentries there that the general's
orders were that the witness was to be allowed to enter, and Edgar
followed the party into a large room. Six French officers were seated at
a table. The president, who was the general who had spoken to him,
looked up:

"Is that the lad?" he asked, pointing to Sidi.

"That is he, monsieur."

"As we have heard your testimony, it is not necessary to take it again."
Sidi had given a sudden start on hearing Edgar's voice. "This young
fellow has testified to us," General Rombaud said to two of the members
of the court-martial, who had not been present on the steps when the
conversation took place, "that this young Arab saved him from murder at
the hands of some of the rabble, by killing the man who was about to
slay him, and that he did this in return for a service this young
Italian had rendered him in succouring him when attacked, some time
before, by two robbers. As he is but a lad, and of course acted under
his father's orders, I think we may make him an exception to the rule.
You can go free, young sir, but let the narrow escape that you have had
be a lesson to you not to venture to mix yourself up in treasonable
risings again. You can take him away with you," he added to Edgar.

Sidi moved away from his companions with an unsteady step. He had made
up his mind that his fate was sealed, and had been prepared to meet it,
and the sudden revulsion of feeling was almost too much for him. He gave
his hand silently to Edgar, and as the latter bowed and murmured his
thanks to the general, they went out together, one of the soldiers
accompanying them. In spite of his Arab stoicism, the tears were running
down Sidi's cheeks as they issued into the open air.

"I am not crying for joy that I am freed, brother," he said, "but with
pleasure at seeing you alive. When we got to the end of that street and
saw, for the first time, that you were not with us, and, looking back,
could see that your horse had fallen, we gave you up for dead, and
bitterly did my father reproach himself for having permitted you to
share in our attack. He is among the dead, brother; I saw him fall. I
had been separated from him by the rush of the French horsemen, but I
saw him fighting desperately, until at last struck down. Then, almost
mad, I struck wildly. I felt a heavy blow on my head, and should have
fallen had not a French soldier seized my arm and dragged me across his
saddle in front of him. I was dimly conscious of being handed over to
the infantry, and placed with some other prisoners. I sank down, and
should have bled to death had not an Arab among them bandaged my head.
The fight was nearly over then, and I was brought up here."

"I can give you good news, Sidi. I went last night with the two men whom
we had left behind, and searched for some hours among the dead for you
and your father, and found him at last. He was insensible, but not dead.
We carried him off, and the other two are with him in a grove six miles
away, and I have every hope that he will recover. He has five or six
wounds, but I do not think that any of them are mortal."

Sidi fairly broke down on hearing the news, and nothing further was said
until they had issued from the gate. The officer was still there who had
spoken to Edgar on entering.

"So you have saved your friend?" he said pleasantly, as Edgar passed.
"He is lucky, for I fancy he will be the only one of the Arabs who will
issue out of here to-day."

"I thank you much, monsieur, for having let me pass," Edgar said
gratefully. "I feared so much that I should not be allowed to enter to
speak for him."

The officer nodded, and the two lads went out. They had gone but a
hundred yards when Sidi said:

"I must sit down for a while, Edgar. I have eaten nothing since
yesterday morning, and I have lost much blood, and all this happiness is
too much for me. Don't think me very childish."

"I don't think you so at all, Sidi. It has been a fearful time, and I
don't wonder that you are upset. Look, there is a quiet spot between
those two huts. Do you sit down there; you can't go on as you are. In
the first place, your dress is covered with blood; and in the next, you
are too weak to walk. I will go into the town. There are plenty of shops
close to the gate, and I will buy a burnoose that will cover you, and a
change of clothes for you to make afterwards. I will get you some food
and a little cordial."

Sidi shook his head.

"Nonsense, man!" Edgar went on. "This is medicine, not wine, and you
must take something of the sort or you won't be fit to travel. I shall
get some fellah's clothes for myself, a basket of food and other things
to take out to your father, and I will hire a couple of donkeys. You are
no more fit to walk six miles than you are to fly, and I feel rather
shaky myself. I sha'n't be away more than half an hour."

After seeing Sidi seated in the place he had indicated, where he would
not be seen by those passing on the road, Edgar at once went in through
the gate. The provisions, and two or three bottles of good wine, were
quickly purchased, but it took him some little time getting the clothes,
for had he not bargained in the usual way, it would have seemed strange.
As it was, the man of whom he purchased them congratulated himself on
having made the best bargain that he had done for many a day. He bought
two Arab suits, and two such as were worn by peasants, and a brown
burnoose for Sidi to put on at once. Then, going out with the
provision-basket and the clothes in a bundle, he went to the gate again,
chose a couple of donkeys from those standing there for hire, and went
along the road for a short distance. Telling the donkey-boy to wait with
the animals until his return, he took the basket and the burnoose, which
had been made up into a separate parcel, and went to the spot where he
had left Sidi, who rose to his feet as he reached him.

"I am better now, and can go on."

"You are not going on until you have made a meal anyhow," Edgar replied;
"and I feel hungry myself, for I have been up a good many hours."

Sidi sat down again. The basket was opened, and Edgar produced some
bread and some cold kabobs (kabobs being small pieces of meat stuck on a
skewer). Sidi eat some bread and fresh fruit, but he shook his head at
the meat.

"I shall do better without it," he said. "Meat is for the strong. My
wound will heal all the faster without it."

He did, however, drink from a tumbler Edgar had brought with him a small
quantity of wine mixed with the water.

"I regard you as my hakim, and take this as medicine because you order
it."

"I feel sure that the Prophet himself would not have forbidden it when
so used. You look better already, and there is a little colour in your
cheek. Now, let us be off. If your father has recovered consciousness,
he must be in great anxiety about you."

"But I want to ask you about yourself?"

"I will tell you when we are mounted. The sooner we are off the better."

He was glad to see that, as they walked towards the donkeys, Sidi
stepped out much more firmly than before. He had put on his burnoose as
soon as Edgar joined him, and this concealed him almost to his feet when
he had mounted.

"We are not pressed for time," Edgar said to the donkey-boy. "Go along
gently and quietly."

The donkey started at the easy trot that distinguishes his species in
Egypt.

"Now, Edgar," Sidi said, as soon as they were in motion, "here have you
been telling me about my father, and I have been telling you about
myself, but not one word as yet have you told as to how you escaped, and
so saved the lives of both of us. Allah has, assuredly, sent you to be
our good genius, to aid us when we are in trouble, and to risk your life
for ours."

"Well, never mind about that now, Sidi. I will tell you all about it;
but it is a good long story."

So saying, he narrated his adventures in detail, from the time when his
horse fell with him to the moment when he entered the room where the
court-martial was being held. He made the story a long one, in order to
prevent his friend from talking, for he saw when he had spoken how great
was his emotion. He made his narrative last until they came within a
quarter of a mile of the village near which the sheik was hidden.

"Now we will get off," he said, "and send the donkeys back."

He paid the amount for which he had bargained for the animals, and
bestowed a tip upon the boy that made him open his eyes with delight.
They turned off from the road at once, made a detour, and came down upon
the clump of trees from the other side. The Arabs had seen them
approaching, and welcomed Sidi with exuberant delight. To his first
question, "How is my father?" they said, "He is better. He is very weak.
He has spoken but once. He looked round, evidently wondering where he
was, and we told him how the young Englishman, his friend, had come to
us, and how we had searched for hours among the dead, and, at last
finding him, had carried him off. Then he said, 'Did you find my son?'
We told him no, and that we had searched so carefully that we felt sure
that he was not among the dead, but that you had gone back to the town
to try and learn something about him. He shook his head a little, and
then closed his eyes. He has not spoken again."

"Doubtless he feels sure, as we could not find you, that you are dead,
Sidi. I have no doubt the sight of you will do him a great deal of good.
I will go forward and let him know that you are here. Do not show
yourself until I call you."

The sheik was lying with his eyes shut. As Edgar approached he opened
them, and the lad saw he was recognized.

"Glad am I to see you conscious again, sheik," he said, bending over
him.

The sheik feebly returned the pressure of his hand.

"May Allah pour his blessings upon you!" he whispered. "I am glad that I
shall lie under the sands of the desert, and not be buried like a dog in
a pit with others."

"I hope that you are not going to die, sheik. You are sorely weak from
loss of blood, and you are wounded in five places, but I think not at
all that any of them are mortal."

"I care not to live," the sheik murmured. "Half my followers are dead. I
mourn not for them; they, like myself, died in doing their duty and in
fighting the Franks--but it is my boy, of whom I was so proud. I ought
not to have taken him with me. Think you that I could wish to live, and
go back to tell his mother that I took him to his death."

"He was not killed, sheik; we assured ourselves of that before we
carried you away, and I found that, with twenty other Arabs and two or
three hundred of the townsmen, he was taken prisoner to the citadel."

A look of pain passed across the sheik's face.

"Your news is not good; it is bad," he said, with more energy than he
had hitherto shown. "It were better had he died in battle than be shot
in cold blood. Think you that they will spare any whom they caught in
arms against them?"

"My news is good, sheik," Edgar said calmly; "had it been otherwise I
would have left you to think that he had died on the field of battle. I
have reason to believe that Sidi has been released, and that you will
soon see him."

For a moment the sheik's eyes expressed incredulity; then the assured
tone and the calm manner of Edgar convinced him that he at least
believed that it was true.

"Are you sure, are you quite sure?" he asked, in tones so low that Edgar
could scarce hear him.

"I am quite sure--I would not buoy you up with false hopes. Sidi is
free. He is not far off now, and will speedily be here, directly he
knows that you are strong enough to see him."

For a minute the sheik's eyes closed, his lips moved, but no sound came
from them, but Edgar knew that he was murmuring thanks to Allah for his
son's preservation. Then he looked up again.

"I am strong enough," he said; "your news has made a man of me again.
Send him here."

Edgar walked away and joined Sidi.

"Be very calm and quiet," he said; "your father is very, very weak. Do
not break down. He knows that you are close by, and is prepared to see
you. Do not, I beg of you, agitate him; do not let him talk, or talk
much yourself; be calm and restful with him."

He turned away and walked to the end of the trees, where he engaged in a
short conversation with the two Arabs. Then he turned again, and went
near enough to catch a sight of the sheik. Sidi was kneeling by his
side, holding his hand to his heart, and a smile of happiness
illuminated the drawn face of the wounded man. Satisfied that all was
going on well, he joined the men.

"In the basket you will find a small cooking-pot," he said. "Pick up
some of the driest sticks that you can find, so as not to make any
smoke. Put some kabobs into the pot with as much water as will just
cover them; then place it over the fire, and let it stew until the meat
is in threads. Strain the broth off. I will give it to him, a sip at a
time."

"We need not be afraid of the smoke," one of the men said. "We went down
to the village to get bread and dates. A man saw that we were Arabs, and
asked us for news of what was going on in Cairo. Some fugitives passed
along yesterday evening, and said that the French were killing all the
Moslems. We told him that it was not as bad as that, but that many had
assuredly been slain. He called down maledictions upon the French, and
seeing that he was a true man we said that we had a wounded comrade
with us, and that he was lying in the grove. He told us that he was the
owner of it, and that we were welcome to use it, but prayed us not to
come to him again; for if the Franks came along in search of fugitives,
and happened to search the grove, and found that he had been supplying a
wounded man with provisions, it might cost him his life. We told him
that he need not fear, for that we would not betray him, but that, at
any rate, we would not come to his shop again."

"Then make the fire immediately, Hassan; the sooner the sheik has a
little nourishment, the better. If he seems strong enough to bear it, I
want to carry him off to the mountains at once. It is quite possible
that the French may be searching the villages round for wounded
fugitives, and I would fain get him up among the hills. Sidi, too, has
an ugly wound in the head, and needs a few days' rest. I think I have
everything that they can want for the next two or three days, and you
have a good supply of fruit. We must find some place among the rocks
sheltered from the sun. When it is dark you must go down to the fountain
and fill up your water-skins there."

An hour later Edgar carried the cup of broth to the sheik.

"Sidi, do you lift your father up a little--a very little. I want him to
take some of this broth. It is all a question of keeping up your
strength now, sheik, and I hope that you will try and drink a little."

"I, too, want to get strong," the sheik said, "I have something to live
for now."

He drank a few mouthfuls, and then motioned to his son to lower his head
down again.

"'Tis strange," he said, "that we three should be together again when it
seemed that none of us would meet on earth."

"It is very pleasant to be together again," Edgar said heartily, "and
it will be more pleasant still when we are able to get about again
together."

There had been but few words exchanged between father and son. To be
restored to each other was sufficient, and the sheik had not even
wondered as to how his son had so unexpectedly arrived. After drinking
the broth he closed his eyes, and in a few minutes it was evident, by
his quiet breathing, that he was asleep.

Edgar moved quietly away, beckoning to Sidi to follow him, and when he
joined him at the edge of the grove, told him of the plan that he
proposed.

"Do you think that he is strong enough?" Sidi asked.

"I do not think that it will do him harm, Sidi; indeed I think that if,
before he goes to sleep, we lay him on that blanket that we brought him
here in, we might carry him without waking him. Of course I should tell
him this evening what we thought of doing. It may be that the French
will make no search for the wounded. I saw proclamations signed by some
of the principal sheiks and ulemas, calling upon the people to be
tranquil, and announcing that Bonaparte had consented to forgive the
past; but you know that did not prevent their trying those prisoners
this morning, and, I doubt not, executing a large number of them.
Therefore, although they may leave the lower class alone, they may seize
any of their leaders they may find, and if they came upon your father,
his wounds would show that he had been engaged in the fighting; and if
they took him to the town many of those who saw him there might denounce
him as the sheik who led his horsemen against one of their columns. Of
course they may not search, but it is as well to be on the safe side,
and it is better to run the slight risk that the journey might do him
than to chance his being captured here."

Sidi heartily agreed.

"Now, Sidi, you may as well get rid of those clothes and put on the
peasant's suit I bought you. I shall do the same; then should we be
caught sight of, at a distance, we should simply be taken for two
fellahs who have gone up into the mountains, either to shoot game or for
some other purpose, while the white clothes would excite suspicion. I am
sorry now that I did not get them for Hassan and Ali, but it is likely
enough that I may be able to buy such things in the village. By the way,
your father said, when we were riding from the Pyramids to the town,
that there were a good many old tombs up in the hills. Of course, for
to-night, it would be enough if we take him a short distance up, then
to-morrow we can search, and if we can find one of those tombs, it will
be a safe place for him to stop in; and being cut in the solid rock, it
would be pleasantly cool. There will be no fear whatever of any French
soldiers coming along and entering there, and we can live quietly until
he is fit to sit a horse. When you have taken off those things that you
have on, you had better tear off a number of long strips for bandages.
We did what we could roughly when we first carried your father off the
field; but we can bandage his wounds carefully now, and yours also must
want looking to badly."

When the sheik woke, after two hours' sleep, he drank some broth. His
voice was louder and clearer, and it was evident that even the small
quantity that he had taken before, and the quiet sleep, had refreshed
him greatly.

"Now, sheik," Edgar said, "Hassan and Ali are going to bandage your
wounds carefully. They say that they are both accustomed to it, and no
doubt they have some experience, for wounds are common enough in your
raids and forays."

Edgar by this time had put on the dark-blue blouse, reaching down below
the knee and girt by a belt at the waist, which forms the main article
of dress of every Egyptian peasant. On his head was a brown cap of rough
wool, of something of the same shape as a fez. These, and a pair of low
Turkish shoes, completed his costume, underneath which he wore the
European one, the trousers being rolled up above the knees, so as not to
show. While the operation of dressing the wounds was going on, he went
down into the village, and finding a shop where they sold such things,
bought similar suits to his own for the two Arabs. When he returned, the
sheik's wounds had been dressed, a blanket rolled up under his head, and
he was looking altogether more comfortable. Edgar now told him his plan
of carrying him off.

"It will be best," he said, "much the best. Though I have said nothing,
I have wondered to-day whether the French would come along, and it has
troubled me; besides, I shall gain strength faster up in the hills. Your
plan is a good one. I think that I shall sleep well in the blanket. Even
if I wake it will not matter; the motion will be easy, and my wounds
have been well bandaged, and I have no fear of their breaking out
again."

In addition to the severe sabre cut on the face, the sheik had another
on the left arm. A third had struck him slantingly on the right side, as
his arm was raised to strike; a musket shot had also made a deep groove
on the hip. When in the village, Edgar had purchased, among other
things, several sticks of kabobs, and when it became dark the two Arabs,
now in their peasant dress, went down and filled the water-skins at the
village well. The sheik drank off the rest of the broth, and was then
carefully lifted and laid down on the blanket, which was still attached
to the spears. The other blanket was then placed under his head, and in
half an hour his son, who was watching him, was glad to see that he was
again asleep. Some more kabobs were put in the pot to stew, and when
ready the broth was poured into a wine-bottle that Edgar had emptied. As
soon as the moon was fairly up they started, as before, the two Arabs
taking the pole at the sheik's head, Edgar those at his feet, where the
weight was comparatively a light one. Sidi would have divided this with
him, but Edgar laughed at the idea.

"I shall be well pleased, Sidi, if you can do the walk without needing
help; the weight is really nothing. If he had been a big fleshy
Englishman it would be a different thing altogether, but you Arabs are
simply bone and muscle, and divided between three the weight is not
worth talking about."

The blankets had been rolled up and placed across the men's shoulders,
the water-skins hung by their straps on either side, and they carried
the baskets, on which were also placed the bundles of clothes, between
them. No stir or movement showed that the sheik was conscious of being
lifted from the ground. After twenty minutes' walking they got beyond
the area of cultivated ground, and were able to head directly for the
hills, and two hours later they were well up among them, and Edgar and
Sidi agreed that there was small chance indeed of any French parties,
especially of cavalry, searching such broken and rugged ground. A spot
was chosen where the ends of the spears could be laid on two flat stones
high enough to keep the bottom of the hammock from touching the ground
between them.

Sidi bent over his father, and, listening to his breathing, saw that he
was sound asleep. His only share of the burden had been a small, shallow
iron pot, in which a little charcoal fire glowed brightly. A small bag
of this, the most common fuel in Egypt, had been bought in the village.
The broth was poured into a tin, which was hung a short distance above
the fire, so that it would warm slowly. Then Edgar and Sidi, who were
both completely worn out, wrapped themselves, one in his burnoose and
the other in a blanket, and lay down; Hassan and Ali, who had by turns
slept during the day, undertaking to keep watch by the side of the
sheik, and to give him the broth as soon as he woke.

Edgar dropped off to sleep instantly; when he awoke the sun had risen.
He saw that Sidi was still asleep. The hammock had been lowered to the
ground, and Ali was holding the cup to the sheik's lips. Edgar saw at
once that he was better, the drawn expression and the ashen shade round
his lips had greatly abated, and his eyes were brighter. Living so
frugal and active a life, the Arab, like the Red Indian, can bear wounds
that would be fatal to a dweller in towns; and as none of the sheik's
wounds were in themselves very serious, and it was loss of blood alone
that had brought him to death's door, the night's rest, the nourishment
that he had taken, and above all, his joy at finding his son living, had
already placed him on the path to recovery.

"I am glad to see you looking much better than you did yesterday," Edgar
said heartily as he came up. "I hope that you have slept well?"

"I have woke but twice, and each time took some of the broth, and
straightway went off to sleep again. I did not feel my move here, and
was indeed surprised on my first waking, when Ali told me that I was
safe up in the hills. See, I can already lift my right hand. I shall not
be your patient long."

"There is no hurry," Edgar replied. "After I have had some breakfast I
shall start out to look for one of those tombs that you told me of.
There we shall have shelter from the heat of the sun and from the
night-dews. There will be no fear of the French lighting upon us; and
indeed I do not think that, now they have Cairo under their feet again,
they will trouble more about the matter. They have other things to think
about; and although Cairo will be quiet for a long time after this, the
French will know that their merciless slaughter of the Mussulmans will
excite the deepest feeling of hatred against them, and that it will be
even less safe than before for small parties to move about.

"Kleber will no doubt start again with his division for Damietta. Desaix
is many days' journey to the south. Probably a force will march to Suez.
I heard it said by some French officers that this would probably be the
next move, and Napoleon will not care to further weaken the garrison of
the city by sending out search parties."

"Is Sidi's wound a bad one?"

"No, it is nothing like so severe as that which you received on the
cheek. It was a downright blow, but his turban saved him. It is a pretty
deep scalp wound extending down to the ear, and he lost a good deal of
blood, but it was anxiety for you and the prospect of death for himself
in the morning that caused it to seem more serious than it was. In three
or four days he will be nearly himself again."

"And you, did you escape unhurt? We deemed you certainly dead."

"No; my horse was shot, and I at the same moment got a bullet through my
arm. Beyond the loss of a little blood it was of no consequence. I ran
into a house close by and sheltered there until the French column came
out, and then went out in some European clothes I found there, and had
no more trouble."



CHAPTER VIII.

AN EGYPTIAN TOMB.


While the Arabs were preparing breakfast, Edgar searched for a spot
where the sheik could lie in shelter during the mid-day heat; for, hot
as it was on the desert sands, the heat was fully as great on the bare
rocks of the hills. After some search he found a spot where two ledges
of rock ran parallel to each other, with a passage of some six feet
between them, on each side of which they rose perpendicularly some
twelve feet in height. The fissures ran nearly north and south, and
therefore, except for an hour at noon, the bottom was entirely in shade.

It was within half a mile of the spot where they encamped for the night;
and returning, the sheik was carried there at once, and was laid on the
blanket. The spears were found to be long enough to reach across at the
top. The blanket that had formed the hammock being unrolled, it formed a
sort of awning that could, when the sun was high, be moved a little one
way or the other, so as to keep him in the shade. Learning from the
sheik in which direction the tombs that he had spoken of were situated,
Edgar started with Hassan, and after half an hour's walking came upon
them. They were, for the most part, square-cut holes in the face of the
perpendicular rock. Some of them were only flanked by pilasters cut in
the stone; others had more ornate designs. All had originally been
closed by great stone slabs. These had long since been moved or broken
up by treasure-seekers. The plan of most of them was similar--a short
passage, terminated by a chamber of from ten to twenty feet square.
Vestiges of the paintings that originally covered the walls could still
be seen. Choosing one of the larger tombs, Edgar aided Hassan to remove
fragments of stones that projected above the dust and sand, which lay
six inches deep over the floor. Well satisfied, he returned to the
sheik.

"We have found a good place," he said. "The air was quite cool in there,
and the sand will make a much more comfortable bed than this bare rock."

The sheik made no reply, but lay looking at him with an expression that
puzzled him, and he was about to turn to Sidi to ask whether his father
was worse, when the latter said, "While you have been away my son has
been telling me all that you have done for him, and that it was you who
saved his life as well as mine. I am weak now, I cannot say what is in
my heart, it is too full for words."

"Don't say any thing about it, sheik," Edgar said earnestly. "Did you
not adopt me into your tribe? Does not Sidi call me brother? Have you
not sheltered me in your tents when I had nowhere else to go? Is it not
natural then that I should do all in my power to repay these benefits,
and to rescue you and my brother Sidi from the hands of your enemies? I
deem myself most fortunate that I have been enabled to do so, and,
indeed, ran but little risk in either case. It was a small thing to
search for you among the dead, and to have you carried off; while,
having found the disguise of a European, there was no risk of my being
recognized as having fought against the French when I went to testify in
favour of Sidi. Save as to my own name I had need to go but little
beyond the truth. I had won Sidi's gratitude by aiding him against two
ruffians. He had slain a man who was about to attack me, though that did
not take place, as they supposed, at the time of the massacre of the
European shopkeepers, but the main facts were true, and there was no
fear that in the telling of them I should get myself into trouble."

The sheik shook his head. "'Tis well to say so, my friend, and I suppose
that it is the way with your people to make but little of their good
actions. It was not the risk you may have run. Many men are brave, and
we who charged that column of Franks, after those in front of us had
been swept away by their cannon, have a right to say that we are not
cowards; but you see the difference: Sidi and I thought you dead, but
beyond resolving to avenge you, we did nothing. The idea that we might
disguise ourselves, and, after the Franks had advanced, gone and
searched the streets and found whether you were still living, never
occurred to us, and I think that no Arab would have thought of it.

"But you had scarcely passed through the first danger of being
discovered than you began to think of us. You learnt that many Arabs had
been killed when we poured out of the city, and that others had been
taken prisoners. Wounded yourself, you lose no moment in finding my two
followers. All night you search among the dead for me, and carry me off
to a place of safety. Then, without rest, without pause, you return to
the city and begin to take measures to rescue Sidi. He was in the
citadel, strongly guarded by French troops. There was but one way of
succeeding. You thought of that way. You planned it all out. You
invented a likely story, which was yet very close to the truth. You went
into the midst of the men that you have been fighting against, and you
so sustained the character that you had chosen, that none of the French
officers suspected for a moment that you were aught but what you seemed,
and so, listening to your pleading on his behalf, let him go free. Well
did I say, the other day, that though we might be beaten, I believed
that you and my son would escape, for that Allah had clearly sent you to
save him from danger, and that he would therefore assuredly preserve you
both."

[Illustration: ALI AND AYALA APPEARED

_Page 150_]

"It is Allah, who is our God as well as yours, who is to be thanked,
sheik, that all our lives have been preserved," Edgar said reverently,
"and that we are again united when so many have perished."

In spite of the shade of the blanket overhead, Edgar found it
tremendously hot in the middle of the day, but as soon as the sun had
passed west, he was able to get some hours' comfortable sleep. A short
time before sunset they started again and carried the sheik to the cave.
The two Arabs did this while Edgar and Sidi loitered behind pulling up
the parched-up bushes that grew here and there among the rocks, and
making them into faggots. As soon, therefore, as the sheik was laid down
the fire was lighted, giving a cheerful air to the dark chamber. Ali and
Hassan went down again and brought up the provisions, water, and
bundles. The air was cool and pleasant in the tomb, and a hearty meal
was made by all but the sheik, who, however, not only drank a cup of
broth, but ate some dates with something like an appetite.

"Now, sheik," Edgar said, after he had put some more sticks upon the
fire, "we can chat about our future plans. I have been talking with
Sidi. It must be a fortnight or three weeks before you are fit to sit a
horse again. It is very fortunate, by the way, that you sent your
favourite horse, as well as Sidi's and mine, back by two of your
followers from the Pyramids when you decided to enter the town; and that
we rode other horses in that charge in Cairo. It would have been a loss,
indeed, if those noble steeds of ours had been all killed."

"That was one of my first thoughts when I was able to think," the sheik
said. "Next to my wife, my son, and you, I love Zeila, and it would have
sorely spoiled my joy that we are reunited, had she fallen in the
battle. It was your advice that saved her life also."

"My idea is," Edgar went on, "that either Hassan or Ali shall go back to
the town, get one of their horses, and ride to the oasis, where all your
spare horses and some of your followers are."

"I have thirty men there," the sheik said. "I thought it as well not to
bring all, for had misfortune happened, the women and children would
have been left without protectors; but there is surely no occasion for
Hassan to go yet. In three days he might be there, and be back in
another three, and though I hope to mend quickly, surely I could not
mount a horse in a week's time."

"That I quite see, sheik, but as your wife and the women are there also,
I thought it well that he should start at once. Two or three of your men
may have escaped from that fight. They would be sure to make for the
oasis, and will doubtless report that all, save themselves, have been
killed. Your wife will be mourning for you and Sidi as dead, and it is
for that reason that I would send one of the men at once with the good
news."

"How thoughtful you are, lad! No gray-beard could think of things more
than you do. I had not once thought that the news might reach her; but,
as you say, it may well be that two or three at least of my men may have
escaped. Ali shall start to-morrow at daybreak, but when he has given
his message to my wife, what next is he to do?"

"I should say, sheik, that he should bid your men be at the Great
Pyramid in twenty-one days from this, and that on the following morning
you will join them there at daybreak."

"I may be well enough before that," the sheik said.

"That we cannot say for certain," Edgar said; "'tis best that we should
name a date when we may hope that you will be fit to ride long and far
again if need be. We know not what are the plans of the French, but 'tis
like enough that though they may have granted pardon to the people of
the city, Bonaparte will endeavour to strike some heavy blows at the
Arabs. He knows how terribly they harassed him on his march here, and
that wheresoever his troops may move, they will again swarm round him.
He has overawed Cairo, and can safely leave a small garrison there if he
marches away. And he may well seek to overawe the Arabs by making
expeditions against their oases, which he can now easily do, as his
cavalry are all mounted on Egyptian horses, capable of supporting thirst
and making long journeys, and he may think that by striking at your
camping-places, cutting down your palm-trees, and filling up your wells,
he may compel you to promise to cease from all attacks upon his troops."

"He might certainly damage us greatly in that way," the sheik agreed;
"but few of his horses are equal to ours. You may be sure that the
tribes near Alexandria, who basely sold him horses, did not part with
their best, while those the Franks took at Cairo are not accustomed to
the desert, save, indeed, those of the Mamelukes, of whom there were
few, for most of their horses were killed with their masters. But were
they even as well mounted as we are, they might indeed reach our oases
and do terrible damage, as for ourselves, we could laugh at them, for
they would have to carry far heavier weights. It is not that the French
soldiers are heavier than we are, but with their riding-boots, their
accoutrements, their valises, and other matters, they would ride from
forty to fifty pounds heavier than we should, and their horses,
unaccustomed to such burdens, would soon tire. Would it not be well to
bid, say, four men, to come straight hither to act as a guard?"

"I think not, sheik; the fewer of us there are about here the better,
and were we discovered, four men or forty would be useless. We might
defend the mouth of the tomb for a short time, but even were we to beat
off every attack, it would be but a matter of hours before we were
forced to surrender for want of water. Hassan can start with Ali
to-morrow morning, and bring the second horse back here; it will be very
useful for bringing up water and provisions. And now that Hassan has his
peasant dress on, he would attract little attention were he noticed
riding among the hills. I will tell him to buy two more skins, larger
than those we have. The four will then bring up sufficient water to last
us and the horse for three days at least, so that he will only have to
make an occasional journey down to the village. Indeed, there are
several villages within a short distance of each other on the river
bank, and by going sometimes to one and sometimes to another for food
and water, he will not attract attention at all."

"So be it," the sheik said. His voice now had weakened, and, after
drinking some more broth, he composed himself for sleep--an example
which was speedily imitated by the others. Sidi gave Ali and Hassan the
necessary instructions, and before they started, Edgar took the former
apart and had a private conversation with him.

"It is possible, Ali, that the sheik's wife will, when you arrive there,
want to start at once to attend him. If she does, do not try to dissuade
her, it will be a great comfort to him to have her with him, and will
aid his recovery. I know that she is skilful in the dressing of wounds,
and will be able to cook things such as he would like, far better than
we could. No one can guide her here but yourself. Of course, when you
are once fairly across the river, you will take off that long blue gown,
and ride in your Arab dress, and she will ride with you in her own
dress, until you get within a short distance of the river; beyond that,
of course, you will again put the peasant's dress on; and before you
start to-day get such a dress also for her, and let her slip it on over
her own.

"It were best that you did not approach the ferry until it is getting
dark. You would do well to bring a comrade to take the two horses back;
Ayala could not use them. One frequently sees women riding on donkeys,
but for a peasant woman to be mounted on a horse would be unusual.
Besides, we should not know what to do with them here, and they would
have to go down every day for water. If you start at noon to-day from
Cairo, you will be there on the afternoon of the third day, and if you
start again next morning will be here on the sixth day. I will light a
fire a short distance from the front of the cave so as to act as a guide
to you when you get into the rough ground. If you are not here that
night I shall know that she is not coming. I shall say nothing about it
to the sheik or Sidi; it is better that they should not be looking
forward to it. If she did not come they might be fearing that some
misadventure had happened on the journey. In any case, you understand
that you are not to propose it to her, but are to remain altogether
silent on the subject unless she herself insists on coming."

Hassan returned with the horse carrying the four water-skins and some
provisions, including a supply of coffee, just as darkness set in; he
reported that Ali had started before noon. The next six days passed
quietly. Hassan went down twice with the horse for water, fresh meat,
fowls, and other provisions, and a supply of grain for the horse, which
was stabled in the next tomb to that they occupied. The sheik gained
strength, slowly indeed but steadily. At each meal he took a basin of
broth prepared either from fresh meat or chicken, and to Edgar's
satisfaction his hands remained cool, and there were no signs of fever.
On the sixth day he was able to sit up, leaning against the wall of the
chamber.

At dusk that evening Edgar strolled out, as he usually did, to enjoy the
cool evening air. He told Hassan to accompany him, and they soon plucked
up some withered and dead bushes among those growing between the rocks.
These were piled some twenty yards on one side of the entrance to the
tomb. Then Hassan went into the chamber, picked up a piece of glowing
charcoal out of the fire with which to light his pipe, placed it on the
bowl, and after taking two or three draws, went out into the air. The
piece of charcoal was placed among some dried leaves and twigs and blown
until a flame shot up. Then some dried sticks, which had been collected
for the purpose, were placed carefully on this, and the fire soon burned
up.

"That will do, Hassan," Edgar said. "I don't want a big blaze that can
be seen a long distance away. You sit here and feed it carefully, so as
to keep up the flame not more than a foot or two in height."

Hassan obeyed the orders. Ali had told him on leaving that he might
possibly return with the sheik's wife, but that he was not to mention it
to Sidi or the sheik himself. Edgar walked up and down near the fire. An
hour later he heard voices below, and gave an exclamation of pleasure,
and two or three minutes later Ali and Ayala appeared within the circle
of light, the former leading the horse on which she was sitting.

"How is he?" she exclaimed, as she slipped from the saddle, and hurried
forward to meet Edgar.

"He is getting on very well; he is gaining strength, and has had no
fever. I will lead you to him. Hassan, you can put out that fire now,
but bring some of the brands into the tomb; they will make a cheerful
blaze. Perhaps you had better do that before we go in. If the sheik asks
why you do it, say it is by my orders, and that I thought it would be
more cheerful than the glow of the charcoal.

"He will not be a minute, Ayala, and were you to go in now you would
scarce see him or he you."

With the patient obedience of Arab women she stopped at once.

"Ali has told me," she said, turning to him, "how much you have done for
us, and how you saved the lives of both my husband and son."

"I was fortunate in being able to do so," he replied, "and that without
the slightest risk to myself." Then changing the subject, he went on, "I
thought that you would wish to come."

"Certainly I should," she said. "My place is by his side. And is Sidi
well also? And you--Ali said that you also were wounded?"

"Mine was a trifling business," he said, "and Sidi's not much worse. We
both suffered from loss of blood, which perhaps is a good thing, as we
have had no fever, and though our wounds are somewhat sore, we have
almost ceased to think of them. There, I can see by the light that the
fire is burning up inside. Now we will go in. Keep a little way behind
me; it would startle him were you to go in suddenly."

He walked into the tomb.

"Sheik," he said, "here is a friend come to see you."

"A friend!" the sheik repeated in surprise. "Who is it?"

"She has ridden all the way from the oasis, sheik. I was sure she would
come. She is your wife!" and Ayala ran forward and threw herself upon
her knees by the side of the sheik. Edgar went out with Hassan, and left
them and Sidi together.

Ayala now took the entire charge of the sheik. Edgar went down
frequently to one or other of the villages on the river bank, partly for
change and exercise, partly to learn what he was doing at Cairo. He
heard that, under the direction of French engineers, the greater portion
of the population of Cairo were employed in building forts on elevated
positions round the town, where the guns would completely dominate the
city, that it was said that the Sultan had declared war with France, and
that an army from Syria had advanced and had established itself at a
fort in the desert half-way between the frontier of Syria and Egypt.

"I made sure," he said, after talking the news over with the shiek and
Sidi, "that the Sultan would be driven to declare war against the
French. It would have been impossible for him to have allowed the French
permanently to establish themselves as masters of his province of Egypt.
Even if he himself had been willing to suffer it, the whole Moslem
population would have risen against him. No doubt the news of the
destruction of the French fleet decided him to take this step. Now that
no more reinforcements can reach them here, he may well consider that
his army is capable of annihilating them. The Turks are good
soldiers--that is to say, they have always shown themselves capable of
fighting desperately when well led.

"Unfortunately, that is not likely to be the case. The pashas have no
experience in war, while the French have the best generals in Europe.
The Turks are badly disciplined, while the French are veteran soldiers
with perfect confidence in themselves and in their leaders. Still, in
any case, this will greatly increase Napoleon's difficulties; he will
have to send the greater portion of his army to meet the Turks, at the
same time will have to keep Egypt in subjection. The British government
will be blind if they do not see that the opportunity is a grand one for
striking a blow at the French, and I should think that they would ere
long send an army out here, though they may not do so unless they see
that the Turks alone can do nothing against them."

Later Edgar heard that columns of French cavalry had gone out into the
desert and had driven away the bodies of Arabs that had assembled again
a few miles off the Nile. They had, however, been unable to gain any
advantages over them, as the Arabs had always fallen back upon their
approach, and the French, finding pursuit useless, had returned to the
city. Once or twice a few Arabs had been killed when the cavalry had
been so closely followed by a battery of artillery that the Arabs were
unaware that the French had guns with them, and had therefore contented
themselves with keeping beyond carbine shot, their first intimation of
their presence having been when the cavalry rode rapidly to the right
and left, leaving the guns exposed.

Even then their loss had been slight, for the slight undulations of the
desert afforded shelter, and riding at full speed along some hollow they
were almost out of range before the artillery could limber up after the
first discharge of their guns and advance to a position whence they
could see their flying foes.

By the end of the three weeks the sheik was strong enough to walk up and
down for some time in front of the tomb, and he declared himself quite
able to make the journey. Edgar had some doubt on the subject, but he
knew that the Arabs were so thoroughly at home on their horses that they
scarcely felt the slightest inconvenience after the longest day's
journey, and Zeila's pace was so easy and smooth that he hoped the chief
might not suffer from it.

At two o'clock on the morning of the day when the band would be awaiting
them at the Pyramids the party started. All, save the sheik, were in
their peasant disguises. He was in his Arab dress, disdaining, however
great the occasion, to put on the dress of a peasant. He wore, however,
a dark burnoose which completely covered his figure. Edgar and Sidi had,
the day before, carefully examined the face of the hill, and had found a
track by which peasants drove up their goats to pasture among the hills
at the time when the shrubs were sufficiently fresh and green for them
to browse. The chief mounted the horse with an exclamation of pleasure
at finding himself again in the saddle. The two lads led the way a pace
or two in front of the horse. Ayala walked by the side of her husband.
Hassan and Ali followed behind with the second horse.

The descent required great care. Although Sidi carried a torch, it took
them upwards of an hour to get to the foot of the hills. When on the
level ground Ayala was assisted to mount Ali's horse, and they went more
briskly along. There was, however, no occasion for haste, for the ferry
was but four miles away, and the boat would not cross until dawn. Ali,
however, had gone down on the previous day and had bargained with the
ferryman to be ready, as soon as it was light, to take over a party who
had a long journey to make. Dawn was just breaking as they reached the
banks of the river. A few moments later the ferryman arrived. He looked
surprised at seeing an Arab with four peasants, but made no remark; he
was to be well paid for getting up two hours earlier than usual, and it
was no business of his whether an Arab crossed or not. The sheik, his
wife, and the two lads first got on board, then Ali and Hassan led the
horses and stood by their side as the boat pushed out from the shore. In
ten minutes they were across. As soon as they landed, the sheik and
Ayala mounted and set off at an amble--a pace between a walk and a trot,
the two legs on each side moving together. This pace is in general use
among horses in Egypt and Turkey, and is as comfortable and easy as a
walk.

The sun had risen half an hour when they neared the Pyramid. As soon as
they were seen a party of thirty horsemen dashed out and rode towards
them at full gallop, brandishing their spears or guns over their heads,
and as they approached uttering shouts of welcome. Sidi and the two
Arabs had, like Ayala, taken off their peasant smocks and caps, and had
wound their turbans round their heads as soon as they had landed. To
them the disguise was very repugnant, for the Arabs looked down with
supreme contempt upon the fellah population of Egypt. Edgar had followed
their example, not from any dislike to the dress, but because he thought
that the sheik would prefer rejoining his followers, with the whole
party dressed in Arab costume.

There was no doubting the genuineness of the welcome that the Beni Ouafy
gave their chief. Until Ali had arrived with news of their escape, they,
like his wife, had deemed that he and his son had fallen, and there was
deep emotion in their faces as they circled round and round the little
party, discharging their guns, tossing their spears in the air, catching
them as they fell, and shouting their welcome. The sheik and those with
him fired off their guns as the party came up, and the sheik, in spite
of his efforts to maintain the impassive expression of his face, was
evidently much moved. As soon as the demonstration ceased he started
again without a word. The others followed his example, and they rode in
a body until they reached the Pyramids, when he dismounted. In an
instant all were off their horses and gathered round him.

"My brothers," he said, "I thank you for my welcome. It gladdens my
heart to be among you again, but I cannot forget that many saddles have
been emptied, that many of our women are widows and their children
fatherless. I rode away with fifty men. I hear that but ten, and they
all wounded, returned to your tents. Two, Ali and Hassan, remained with
the horses; the rest met their death with their face to the foe, dying
as a Moslem should do in defence of his faith and his country. But the
loss to us is a grievous one; half of our fighting strength is gone. You
have heard from Ali that had it not been for this brave young friend,
whom you regard as one of yourselves, since he is my son's adopted
brother, both I and my son would have died. Later I will tell you how he
sought for and carried me senseless from among the dead upon the field
of battle, and how he ventured into the council of the Franks and by
stratagem persuaded them to free my son, who was one of the Arab
prisoners.

"It will be a tale to tell your children how this English lad, himself
wounded, saved the lives of the sheik of your tribe and his son. But
this is no time for telling it to you in full now. See, there is a great
dust rising by the river; it is probably the cavalry of the Franks, with
perhaps some guns. They are far away yet, but it will not be long before
they are here. I have resolved to journey quietly back to our home. I
feel that it will be some time ere I shall be fit to ride fast and far.
My wife will, of course, accompany me. I will take Ali and Hassan and
two others. We shall travel quietly and slowly, and shall keep well out
from the river, so as to run no risk of falling in with any fresh party.
The rest of you will ride back to fetch the women and children, with the
camels and other animals, and to warn my brother that bodies of French
cavalry are moving about, devastating the oases, cutting down
palm-trees, and filling up wells. I should advise him, for the sake of
the tribe, to hasten to make his submission, which, as he did not take
part in the rising in Cairo, he may well be able to do, though they will
perhaps send him into that town, and hold him as a hostage for his
people. Now bring out the horses."

Zeila was first brought up, and her delight was as great as that of the
sheik at the meeting, but there was no time for prolonged endearments.
After a few loving words to the horse the sheik mounted. Ayala, who was
to ride behind him, was lifted to her seat, Ali and Hassan, with two men
the sheik picked out, sprang into their saddles, and the party started
north. Then Sidi and Edgar mounted their own steeds and set out with the
rest towards the south-west. By this time the French were within a mile
of them, and it could be made out that they were a body of some fifteen
hundred cavalry, who were, as far as could be seen, unaccompanied by
guns.

"'Tis probable that they are going a long distance," Edgar said, "and
that the guns would much delay them, for it is hard work indeed dragging
them over the sands."

The French had already experienced that they had no chance of overtaking
the Arabs, and the cavalry accordingly paid no attention to so small a
party, but continued their journey at a trot. After riding for four or
five miles they were left far behind by the tribesmen, but the
dust-cloud showed their position.

"They are coming exactly the way that we are," Sidi said, looking back;
"it may be that they are bound for my uncle's oasis."

"It would be as well to find that out, Sidi. Do you give me two of your
best mounted men and then ride straight on with the others. We will
remain here till they approach, and then ride on for another eight or
ten miles, still keeping them in sight. They will assuredly camp at the
wells of Orab if they are making for the oasis. These are about twenty
miles from the Nile, and they will go no further to-day, for it is as
much again before they come to another well. When we have with certainty
made out that they are making for the wells of Orab, we will follow you
at full speed, but do not wait for us, and, save to give your horses a
drink, do not draw rein till you reach your people and deliver your
father's message. I don't suppose that I shall overtake you before you
get there, but I shall not be long after you, and my report may decide
him what he had best do."

Sidi at once picked out two men who were, he knew, among the best
mounted of the tribe, and told them to remain with Edgar and act under
his orders. Then at a much more rapid pace than before he pursued his
journey. Edgar and his men dismounted, sitting down on the sands until
the French were again within a mile of them, then they cantered on
ahead. The French had followed so exactly the line along which the party
had ridden that Edgar felt quite convinced that they were making for the
wells. However, he kept at the same distance ahead of them until the
Arabs told him that they were now within five miles of the water.

"Then we will go on," he said. "It is certain now that they are going
there, and as you say there are no camping grounds within many miles of
the wells, I think it is certain that they are bound for the oasis of
the Beni Ouafy."

They now rode at full speed to the wells. Here for a quarter of an hour
they halted, refilled their water-skins, gave the horses a drink and a
handful of dried dates, eat a few themselves, and then started on their
long ride. Had not Edgar had perfect confidence in the Arabs' knowledge
of the country he would have felt uneasy, as hour after hour they rode
across wastes of sand without, so far as he could see, any landmark
whatever to guide their course. He remarked this to them. Both smiled.

"You Franks can make your way over the sea when there is nothing
whatever to guide you," one of the men said; "it would be strange if we
could not do the same over the land that we have traversed many times
before."

"At sea they have a compass with a needle that points always to the
north, so that they know in what direction they are going."

"We have the sun," one of the Arabs answered; "but even without that we
could find our way, and do so even on the darkest night. The horses know
the way as well as we do. When they have once journeyed over a track
they never forget it, and even did they swerve a little it would not
matter, for they can smell water miles away, and would always, if
unguided, make for it."

At ten in the evening Edgar rode into the Bedouins' encampment, having
passed over eighty miles since leaving the Pyramid. Sidi's party had
arrived there half an hour earlier, and he found that his friend was now
in the tent of the sheik. Edgar went there at once, and Sidi introduced
him to his uncle, who was some years older than his father.

"I am rejoiced to see you," the sheik said gravely. "I heard how you had
before befriended Sidi, and the messenger who arrived here told us how
you had saved the lives of my brother and nephew, and I wanted to see
your face.

"Truly you are young, indeed, to have done such wonderful deeds, and to
have so much wisdom, as well as courage. Sidi tells me that some fifteen
hundred of the Frankish cavalry are riding hither."

"I think that there can be no doubt of it," Edgar replied. "Certainly
they have gone to the wells of Orab. We left them but a short distance
from it. They will camp there to-night. They may, for aught I know,
change their direction to-morrow, but in any case it will be three days
before they are here. They would not journey more than twenty miles a
day."

"They are too strong for us to fight," the sheik said. "I was at the
battle near Cairo, though, as we arrived late, and did not know at what
point my brother's men were gathered, I did not join them, but when all
was over rode off with Mourad and his Mamelukes. I can put but six
hundred horsemen in the field at short notice; though, had I a week's
time, I could call up another four hundred, who are encamped at some
wells far away to the west. But even were they here I could not venture
to engage in open fight with fifteen hundred Franks.

"I have given orders that at daybreak the tents shall be struck, and all
the women and children, with the baggage and as many bunches of dates as
the camels can carry, shall start at once for the wells of Azim, seventy
miles away. It is a long journey, and there is no water by the way, so
there is no fear of the French following. There are already a hundred of
my tents there, for although this oasis is a large one, being nigh eight
miles long and two wide, it is not large enough for the whole of my
people. The one at Azim is smaller, but it will support us for a time;
and there is an abundance of water for the camels, which number twelve
hundred, and the sheep and goats, of which there are about two thousand.
A hundred of my men will ride with them as a guard, and to drive the
animals.

"With the others I shall, if the Franks do damage here, harass them on
their retreat, and by dashing among them at night will do them such harm
that they may regret the day that they came hither. Sidi will start in
the morning with the women and camels of his father's branch of the
tribe. I shall send in the morning two horsemen with a white flag to
meet the Franks, and to tell them, in my name, that none of my followers
have aught to do with the affair in Cairo, and that I desire to live in
peace with them. Upon their return I shall know what to do."

An Arab woman now brought in refreshments, consisting of a pillau and
sherbet, after which coffee was handed round, and Sidi and Edgar threw
themselves down on heaps of blankets for a few hours' sleep. As soon as
day broke, the encampment was a scene of bustle and confusion. The women
pulled down the tents, rolled up the blankets composing them, and
fastened the poles in bundles. Numbers of men scattered to cut bunches
of dates, and of these huge piles were collected. Three hours later the
camels were brought up, and men and women alike employed in loading
them. This occupied over an hour. As soon as it was completed, the women
and children took their places on the top of the burdens, and the camels
at once filed off, three abreast.

A party with the sheep, goats, and spare horses had started as soon as
it was light. The rest of the escort scattered themselves along on each
side of the long column of camels. Sidi's party left at the same hour.
The sheik up to that time had been engaged in superintending the
arrangements for shifting camp, and asked Sidi and Edgar to stop behind
for an hour or two in order that he might hear a full account of the
events at Cairo. When the story was finished they partook of a meal, and
then, after saying adieu, mounted and rode off, and in an hour's time
overtook the slow-moving cavalcade. Six days' travel took them to their
old camping-ground, where the sheik, with his little party, had arrived
three days previously.



CHAPTER IX.

SIR SIDNEY SMITH.


The first intimation that Napoleon received that the Sultan had declared
war with France, was the news that an army from Syria had advanced and
established itself at a fort in the desert half-way between the frontier
of that country and Egypt. He had, in the interval, endeavoured to make
himself familiar with the country. Forts had been erected all round
Cairo on heights dominating the town, so that a comparatively small
force could overawe the population. He himself paid two visits to Suez.
Desaix had pushed the Mamelukes still farther into Upper Egypt; a
division had established the French authority at Damietta and Rosetta,
and every arrangement was made by which the main body of the army could
move away with a fair hope that Egypt would remain quiet during its
absence.

It was now the beginning of December. During the journey down to the
coast Edgar had thought seriously of his position. It seemed to him
that, although finally the French would have to evacuate Egypt, a long
time might elapse before this took place, and he finally came to the
resolution to attempt to escape. He was doing neither himself nor his
father any good by remaining. He had already witnessed a great battle by
land, and one by sea, and he thought, by returning home and rejoining
his father, he would be better employed in acquiring commercial
knowledge in a business in London than in remaining in Egypt.
Accordingly, on the day after his arrival at the oasis he mounted and
rode into Alexandria, and entered his father's place of business for the
first time since the French had landed. Muller did not recognize him as
he entered, owing to his Arab dress and coloured skin. There were two
native clerks present, and Edgar went up to him, and said in a low
voice:

"I want to talk with you, Mr. Muller." The latter started slightly on
hearing the voice, but only requested him in Arabic to follow him into
the inner office, then he closed the door.

"My dear Edgar," he said, "I am delighted to see you. I have been in
great uneasiness about you. I had no doubt that you were with that
Bedouin chief, but whether he had taken part against the French, or
remained quiet, I knew not, and have been for a long time expecting to
hear from you."

Edgar gave him a brief sketch of what he had been doing since he had
been away, and then said, "I am desirous of making my way to England. Of
course it will be impossible to go direct, but if I could get to Italy,
I might get a ship home from there."

"That would not be difficult. No large Italian vessels come in here, but
small ones do so not infrequently. They generally bring spirits, wines,
and other goods that command a ready sale here, and they make a
considerable profit on their trading. No doubt you could obtain a
passage in one of these."

"And how goes on business, Mr. Muller?" Edgar asked after the question
of the passage had been discussed for some time.

"We have been pretty busy ever since the French arrived. Many of the
transports and store ships received damage on their voyage. We have had
a fair share of the work. Before you go I will draw up a short statement
of what we have done, for your father. I am on very good terms with the
French general and his staff. I represented to them that your father
had, on seeing the approach of their fleet, determined to abandon his
business altogether and leave the country, and that having saved a
considerable sum during my service with him, I was able to purchase from
him the heavy goods that he could not take away with him, and arranged
to conduct the business on my own account. I may tell you what perhaps
you did not know, that, before leaving, your father executed a deed of
partnership with me, by which he gave me a fourth share in the business,
and moreover arranged that I was to receive half the profit of it during
the French occupation. On his return it was arranged that the business
should be conducted under the name of Blagrove, Son, & Muller."

"I am glad to hear it, Mr. Muller. My father indeed mentioned to me,
some months before he left, that he intended to take you into
partnership, and that possibly he should, after a time, leave me here
with you and should fix himself in London and carry on the business of
the firm there, so the French invasion has only hastened it on. Of
course I have my European clothes here, and though I fancy I have grown
a couple of inches in the last five months, I daresay they will do very
well for me. The best plan will be to take the passage for me as a
French lad, the son of a trader in Cairo, who, in view of the late
events there, his father is sending home."

"I will look at my sailing lists," Mr. Muller said, "and will see if any
Italian craft is intending to sail in the next day or two."

He left the room, and returned in two or three minutes.

"There is one bound for Naples. She will sail on Saturday, so there are
four days to make your preparations."

"That will do well," Edgar said; "on Friday evening I will be here."

He had, on the previous evening, acquainted the sheik and his son of his
intention. Both had expressed deep regret, but acknowledged that his
arguments in favour of the plan he proposed were so strong that they
could urge nothing against them. On the Friday afternoon the sheik and
Sidi both rode down to Alexandria with him. The former returned that
evening to his camp, one of his followers taking Edgar's horse, which
they promised to keep for him until his return, as he assured them that
it would be next to impossible to get a passage for it to England, and
that even could he do so it might die during the voyage, and moreover
that it would be useless to him in London. Sidi slept at the house, and
accompanied him on board on the following morning.

The Italian craft was a brig of about a hundred and fifty tons burden,
but as Edgar was the only passenger the accommodation was ample. A few
minutes after he stepped on board the crew began to get up the anchor,
and as soon as this was done, Mr. Muller and Sidi said good-bye and
returned to shore. Edgar had, on coming on board, spoken a few words to
the captain, who was glad to find that his passenger spoke Italian
fluently. The wind was very light, and the brig made but little
progress, and five days after sailing was still a hundred miles south of
the Italian coast. Edgar, however, greatly enjoyed the time. He was in
no particular hurry, and the comparatively cool air and the fresh green
of the sea was delightful to him after the dry heat and sandy waste of
Egypt.

On the sixth day a vessel-of-war was seen in the west. The captain felt
no uneasiness; coming from Alexandria, a French vessel would regard him
as a friend, while a British ship would certainly not interfere with an
Italian trader, for the court of Naples was most friendly, and a portion
at least of the British fleet were off the town. The ship-of-war was
bringing up the breeze with her, and came along fast, and ere long the
captain was able to declare that she was British. As she approached they
found that she was the _Tigre_, an eighty-gun ship captured some time
before from the French. When she came near she fired a gun across the
bows of the brig, which at once lowered her sails. The man-of-war was
thrown up into the wind as she approached, and a voice shouted in
French, "What ship is that, and where from?"

"He wants to know your name and where from," Edgar translated, and the
captain shouted back, "the _Annetta_, bound from Alexandria to Naples."

"Send a boat alongside with your captain," was the order from the
_Tigre_.

"Shall I go with you, captain, to translate," Edgar volunteered.

The captain gladly assented, and the boat was at once lowered, and they
were rowed to the _Tigre_. On ascending the deck they were taken to the
captain. The latter glanced at Edgar and said, "Why, surely you are
English?"

"I am, sir. My father was a merchant at Alexandria. I was away at the
time the French arrived, and was left behind, and have been with a party
of Arabs ever since."

"Can you speak Arabic?"

"Yes, sir."

"Any other languages?"

"French and Italian, sir. It was for that reason that I came on board
with the captain to interpret for him."

"Where are you going now?"

"I was going to Naples first, in order to take a passage home from
there."

"Ah! What have they got on board?"

"Little enough, sir. They came across with spirits and wine and other
cargo. The man is a small trader and part owner of the ship."

"Tell him if he carries stores again to Alexandria his ship will be
seized as a prize by the first ship-of-war that comes across her. By
carrying them to Alexandria he is aiding the French. Now about yourself.
What are you going home for?"

"To join my father in England."

"What are you going to do there?"

"I believe that I shall go into an office, sir, till my father can
return to Egypt again."

"You speak these three languages well."

"Yes, sir; well enough to pass as a native."

"Have you been doing any fighting ashore?"

"Not much fighting, sir,--the Arabs could not stand against the French;
but I have seen a good deal. I saw the battle of the Pyramids, the sea
fight in Aboukir Bay, and the street fighting in Cairo."

"Well, with your knowledge of languages you ought to be able to do
better than go into a London office. You might be very useful to me,
and if you like to go with me to Constantinople, where I am bound, I
will give you a midshipman's rating. You may have an opportunity of
seeing some more service, and when this affair is over you could, of
course, leave the navy if you thought fit and rejoin your father. What
do you say? I will give you five minutes to think it over."

It required less time than this for Edgar to take his resolution. He had
no fancy whatever for work in a London office, and the prospect of
serving on board ship, the chance of seeing Constantinople and other
places, and possibly of active service against the French, was vastly
more pleasant. Before the end of that time he went up to the captain,
touched his hat, and said that he thankfully accepted his offer.

"Very well, then, that is settled," the officer said kindly. "I will
give you ten minutes to row back to the brig and return with your
clothes."

In ten minutes Edgar was on board again, having explained to the
astonished captain that he was going as interpreter on board the British
ship. As soon as he stepped on deck again orders were shouted, the sails
trimmed, and the _Tigre_ proceeded on her way. An officer came up to
Edgar.

"What is your name, sir?"

"Edgar Blagrove, sir."

"I remember the name," the officer said. "I put into Alexandria some ten
months ago to get some repairs done, and I remember that your father
undertook them." He beckoned to a lad of about the same age as Edgar.
"Mr. Wilkinson," he said, "you may take this young gentleman, Mr.
Blagrove, down to the cockpit and introduce him to your messmates. He is
entered on board the ship as a midshipman by Sir Sidney Smith's
orders."

The midshipman took him below without a word. There were two other lads
in the cabin.

"Allow me," Edgar's guide said with a theatrical flourish of the hand,
"to introduce to you Mr. Blagrove, a fellow midshipman and messmate."

"Really, Wilkinson, one never knows whether you are in earnest or
playing the fool," growled one of the others, who was a master's mate
some nineteen years old.

"On the present occasion I am in earnest, Mr. Condor," Wilkinson
replied.

"Where did he spring from?"

"He has just come on board from that little brig that we made lie to
just now."

"I come from Alexandria," Edgar said quietly.

"From Alexandria!" Condor repeated in surprise, for he had not been on
deck when the Italian captain had answered the hail.

"I was accidentally left behind when most of the English inhabitants
left when the French ships came in sight."

"What did they do to you? Have you been in prison ever since?"

"Fortunately they never laid hands on me. A sheik of one of the Arab
tribes was a friend of mine, and I have been staying with him ever
since."

"How did you make them understand what you wanted?"

"I can talk Arabic as well as I can English," Edgar replied.

"Still you must have felt it awfully slow stopping at an Arab camp all
this time."

"It has not been by any means slow. The tribe harassed the French on
their march. We were present at the battle of the Pyramids, though we
did not take any active part in it; for when the Mamelukes were defeated
the Arabs knew that alone they had no chance of success. Then we came
down to the place where they generally encamp, some twelve miles from
Alexandria, and I had the good luck to see Nelson's fleet destroy the
French in Aboukir Bay."

"That was luck!" Wilkinson said warmly. "I would have given anything to
have been in that fight."

"You are taking late to the sea," the midshipman who had not yet spoken
remarked.

"I have no intention of taking to the sea for good," Edgar replied. "My
father has one of the largest businesses in Alexandria, and as soon as
the French leave Egypt I shall go back there. Sir Sidney Smith asked me
to come, as I talk French and Italian as well as Arabic, and he thought
that I should be useful to him as an interpreter, and said he would rate
me as a midshipman. I was very glad to accept, as I should have nothing
particular to do if I had gone home, and I thought that it would be far
more pleasant to have two or three years of active service."

"Have you been in England?" Wilkinson asked.

"Yes, I was there nearly three years, and only returned a few months
before the French landed."

"Well, it seems a rum start," Condor said, "but I suppose Sir Sidney
knows what he is doing."

"I should imagine he did," Edgar said quietly. "Possibly, if you like to
question him he will be good enough to explain the matter to your
satisfaction."

"Look here, youngster!" Condor growled. "You have come in here as a
midshipman, and let me tell you that whether a fellow is an interpreter
or not we don't allow cheek here."

"But you allow rudeness, eh?" Edgar said quietly. "I am new to ship's
manners, but at school, anyhow, a fellow was just as likely to get
thrashed for rudeness as he was for cheek."

"Come, Condor," Wilkinson said, as the master's mate sprang to his feet,
"you won't do yourself any good by quarrelling with a fellow who has
just come on board. He has certainly said nothing offensive to you.
Moreover, it is quite possible that the captain may want to ask him
questions about Egypt, and if he had any marks on the face you may be
pretty sure you would get such a wigging that you would never want
another, and possibly you might never have a chance of getting one."

"Very well," Condor said, sitting down again, "you are safe for a day or
two; but mind, the first time I get an opportunity I will give you the
soundest thrashing that you ever had."

"I am sorry that it must be postponed," Edgar said quietly, "but I
daresay it will keep."

"Come on deck, Blagrove," Wilkinson said, putting his arm into that of
Edgar. "He is an ill-tempered brute," he went on as soon as they had
left the cockpit. "He only passed his examination a week before we
sailed, and we all heartily wish that he had failed. He is a regular
bully, and as none of us are older than I am he has pretty well his own
way, for he is a strong chap, and, as I heard from a fellow who sailed
with him, knows how to use his fists, and none of us would have any
chance with him. It is a great nuisance, for we should all be very
pleasant together if it were not for him. However, I don't expect he
will dare touch you, for the captain may, at any time, want you to put
questions to craft he may overhaul, and Condor would certainly get it
hot if he found out that he had been interfering with you."

Edgar smiled.

"I can assure you that I do not want the captain's assistance in the
matter. Boxing is a branch of my education which has not been
neglected, and I fancy that Mr. Condor will not find that he has it all
his own way."

"Well, if you could lick him we should all regard you as a benefactor,
Blagrove; but I am afraid you will find him a great deal too strong and
heavy for you."

"Well, we shall see, as he says, on the first opportunity. I don't think
that I am at all a quarrelsome chap, but I am certainly not going to put
up with being bullied by a fellow like that."

At this moment the boatswain came up. "Mr. Blagrove," he said, "I have
the first lieutenant's orders to take you to the tailor to be measured
for your uniform--an undress suit, he said. The tailor can manage that,
but you will have to get the rest of your kit later on."

"You will find me on deck, Blagrove," Wilkinson said, as Edgar followed
the boatswain, who led the way to the lower deck, where, by the light of
a couple of lanterns, two or three tailors were at work.

"Hall, the first lieutenant's orders are that you are to measure this
young gentleman for a midshipman's undress uniform, and you are to put
everything else by and push it forward."

"Very well," the man replied. "It makes no odds to me what I does first.
I doubt whether the first lieutenant will be pleased to-morrow; he tore
his trousers yesterday, and sent them down to me to be mended."

"Well, one of your hands can finish that," the boatswain said. "Anyhow,
you have got to do this suit, or you will hear of it."

Edgar was measured for his uniform by the head tailor, who was a cockney
who had been carried off by the press-gang. It was soon found that he
was of no use as a sailor, but as he was by trade a tailor he was given
a rating below, and it was not long before he gave such satisfaction
that he was made chief of the little party employed on that work.

Returning on deck Edgar rejoined Wilkinson, and was introduced by him to
several other midshipmen, who were all predisposed to like him, as
Wilkinson had informed them of his little encounter with Condor, and of
his readiness to fight the bully of the mess. This was considered,
however, a sign of pluck rather than wisdom, and one of them expressed
the general sentiment when he said, "You see he has been brought up
among these Egyptian chaps, who have no idea whatever of fighting. He
may have licked some of them easily, and that may have made him think he
can fight; he will find the difference when he stands up against a
fellow like Condor."

The first lieutenant presently sent for Edgar to come to the
quarter-deck.

"I quite understand, Mr. Blagrove, that although you are given a
midshipman's rating, it is really as an interpreter that Sir Sidney
Smith has engaged you. Would you wish to perform midshipman's duties
also? I have asked him what are his wishes in the matter, and he left it
entirely with you, saying that the very nominal pay of a midshipman was
really no remuneration for the services of a gentleman capable of
interpreting in three or four languages, but that as the rules of the
service made no provision for the engagement of an interpreter, except
under special circumstances, and as you said that you did not think it
likely you should make the sea your profession, you might not care to
undertake midshipman's duties in addition to those of interpreter."

"Thank you, sir; but I should certainly wish to learn my duties as
midshipman, and to take my share in all work. My duties as interpreter
must be generally very light, and I should find the time hang heavily on
my hands if I had nothing else to do. I hope, therefore, sir, that you
will put me to work, and have me taught my duty just as if I had joined
in the regular way."

"Very well, Mr. Blagrove, I think that you are right. I will put you in
the starboard watch. I am sure that Mr. Bonnor, the third lieutenant,
will be glad to keep a special eye on you. Do you understand anything
about handling a boat?"

"Yes, sir. I have been accustomed to sailing, rowing, and steering as
long as I can remember."

"That is something gained at any rate. Do you know the names of the
various ropes and sheets?"

"I do in a vessel of ordinary size, sir. I was so often on board craft
that were in my father's hands for repair that I learned a good deal
about them, and at any rate can trust myself to go aloft."

"Well, Mr. Wilkinson is in your watch, and as I put you in his charge to
start with, I will tell him to act as your instructor in these matters.
Please ask him to step here.

"Mr. Wilkinson," he went on, as the midshipman came up, "I shall be
obliged if you will do what you can to assist Mr. Blagrove in learning
his duties. He has been knocking about among boats and merchant craft
since his childhood, and already knows a good deal about them; but
naturally there is much to learn in a ship like this. You will, of
course, keep your watches as usual at night, but I shall request Mr.
Bonnor to release you from all other duties for the present, in order
that you may assist Mr. Blagrove in learning the names and uses of all
the ropes, and the ordinary routine of his duty. He will, of course,
attend the master's class in navigation. There will be no occasion for
him to go through the whole routine of a freshly-joined lad in other
respects; but he must learn cutlass and musketry drill from the
master-at-arms, and to splice and make ordinary knots from the
boatswain's mate. Thank you, that will do for the present."

Lieutenant Bonnor came up to Wilkinson a few minutes later, and told him
that he was to consider himself relieved from all general duties at
present.

"I hope you won't find this a nuisance, Wilkinson," Edgar said.

"Not at all," the other laughed; "quite the contrary. It gets one off of
all sorts of disagreeable routine work, and as you know something about
it to begin with, I have no doubt that you will soon pick up your work.
A lot of the things that one has to learn when one first joins are not
of much use afterwards, and may not have to be done once a year.
However, I can lend you books, and if you really want to pick up all the
words of command you can study them when you have nothing else to do;
and I can tell you there are plenty of times when one is rather glad to
have something to amuse one; when one is running with a light wind aft,
like this, for instance, we may go on for days without having to touch a
sail. Well, we will begin at once. We won't go aloft till you have got
your togs; a fellow going aloft in landsmen's clothes always looks
rather a duffer. Now, let us see what you know about things."

As the names of the halliards, sheets, and tacks are the same in any
square-rigged vessel, Edgar answered all questions readily, and it was
only the precise position assigned to each on deck that he had to learn,
so that, even on the darkest night, he could at once lay hands on them
without hesitation; and in the course of a couple of days he knew these
as well as his instructor. On the third morning he put on his
midshipman's clothes for the first time.

"You are a great deal stronger fellow than I should have taken you
for," Wilkinson said, as he watched him dressing. "You have a tremendous
lot of muscle on the shoulders and arms, and on the back too."

"I took a lot of exercise when I was at school in England," Edgar
replied, "and I have been accustomed to riding ever since I was a boy,
and for the last five months have almost lived in the saddle. I have
done a good deal of rowing too, for I have had the use of a boat as long
as I can remember. Of course, I have done a lot of bathing and
swimming--you see, the water is so warm that one can stay in it for a
long time, and one can bathe all the year round. I cannot even remember
being taught to swim, I suppose it came naturally to me. I am sure that
my father would never have let me go out in boats as I used to do if he
had not known that I was as much at home in the water as out of it."

"Now we will go aloft," Wilkinson said.

Edgar ran up almost as quickly as his companion. He had not only been
accustomed to ships in the port of Alexandria, but on the voyage to
England and back he had spent much of his time aloft, the captains being
friends of his father, and allowing him to do as he liked, as soon as
they saw that he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself.

"This is not the first time that you have been aloft, sir," one of the
top-men said, as he followed Wilkinson's example, instead of going up
through the lubber's hole.

"It is the first time that I have ever gone up the mast of a
man-of-war," Edgar replied; "but everything is so big and solid here,
that it seems easy after being accustomed to smaller craft. It is a
wonderful spread of sail, Wilkinson, after having been on board nothing
bigger than a brig. I used to help reef the sails on my way back from
England; but these tremendous sails seem altogether too big to handle."

"So they would be without plenty of hands, but you see we have a great
many more men in proportion here than there are on board a merchant
craft. Will you go up higher?"

"Certainly." And they went up until nothing but the bare pole, with the
pennant floating from its summit, rose above them. "You don't feel giddy
at all, Blagrove?"

"Not a bit. If she were rolling heavily perhaps I might be, but she is
going on so steadily that I don't feel it at all."

"Then I will begin by giving you a lesson as to what your duties would
be if the order were given to send down the upper spars and yards. It is
a pleasure teaching a fellow who is so anxious to learn as you are, and
who knows enough to understand what you say."

For two hours he sat there explaining to Edgar exactly where his
position would be during this operation, and the orders that he would
have to give.

"When we get down below," he said, when he had finished, "I will give
you all the orders, and you can jot them down, and learn them by heart.
The great point, you see, is to fire them off exactly at the right
moment. A little too soon or a little too late makes all the difference.
It is generally a race between the top-men of the different masts, and
there is nothing that the men think more of than smartness in getting
down all the upper gear. When you have got all the words of command by
heart perfectly, you shall come with me the first time the order is
given to send down the spars and yards, so as to see exactly where the
orders come in. It is a thing that we very often practise. In fact, as a
rule, it is done every evening when we are cruising, or in harbour, or
at Spithead, or that sort of thing. When it is a race between the
different ships of a squadron, it is pretty bad for the top-men who are
the last to get their spars down. But, you see, as we are on a passage I
don't suppose we shall send down spars till we get to Constantinople."

"What are we going there for?"

"As far as I can understand, the captain is going on a sort of
diplomatic mission. His brother is our ambassador there, and he is
appointed to act with him in some sort of diplomatic way, I suppose, to
arrange what troops the Sultan is going to send against the French, and
what we are to do to help him, and what subvention is to be paid him,
and all that sort of thing. I expect you will be pretty busy while we
are there. Do you understand Turkish?"

"Yes, it is very like Arabic. All the officials and upper classes in
Egypt are Turks, and one hears more Turkish than Arabic, except among
the Bedouin tribes."

While they were talking they were leisurely descending the shrouds side
by side. As soon as they gained the deck, the captain's steward came up
to Edgar, and said that Sir Sidney Smith would be glad to see him and
Mr. Wilkinson to dinner that evening. The captain had abstained from
inviting him until he should have got his uniform, thinking that he
would find it uncomfortable sitting down in civilian dress. The fact
that he was going to dine late in no way interfered with Edgar's
enjoyment of his mid-day meal. During the two days he had been on board,
he had got on friendly terms with all his messmates excepting Condor,
who studiously abstained from noticing him in any way. The younger
midshipmen he bullied unmercifully, and had a general dictatorial way
with the others that made Edgar frequently long for the opportunity of
giving him a lesson.

He had no doubt that Condor had determined to postpone the occasion
until they had left the Pireus, at which point they were to call, as his
service might be required there to interpret. Once away from the island,
he would not be likely to be called upon to translate until they arrived
at Constantinople.

It was a pleasant dinner in Sir Sidney Smith's cabin. There were present
the first and third lieutenants, the captain of the marines, the doctor,
Wilkinson, and Edgar. Sir Sidney Smith was a delightful host; he
possessed a remarkable charm of manner, was most thoughtful and kind to
all his subordinates, and, though strict in all matters of discipline,
treated his officers as gentlemen and on terms of equality in his own
cabin. He had already accomplished many dashing exploits in the Baltic
and elsewhere, and was beloved both by the sailors and officers. It was
a time when life in the navy was very rough, when the lash was
unsparingly used for the smallest offences, and when too many ships were
made floating hells by the tyranny of their commanders.

"I should have asked you to dinner on the day that you came on board,
Mr. Blagrove," Sir Sidney said kindly, as the two midshipmen entered,
"but I thought that you might prefer my not doing so until you got your
uniform. It has been some privation for myself, for I am anxious to hear
from you some details as to what has been doing in Egypt, of which, of
course, we know next to nothing at home."

During dinner no questions were asked, but after the cloth had been
removed and the decanters were placed upon the table, he said:

"Now, Mr. Blagrove, we shall be glad if you will give us details of how
you came to be left behind, of your personal adventures, and what you
yourself witnessed, and your opinion of the situation in Egypt. This is
desirable, not only as a matter of general information, but because it
will be really useful to me to understand the situation fully, for the
purposes of my mission."

Edgar began his story, but was interrupted almost at the outset by Sir
Sidney asking him how he came to be so intimate with these Bedouins. He
was therefore obliged to relate how he had rescued the sheik's son from
an attack by two of the lowest class of Europeans in Alexandria. Edgar
told the story modestly, making as little as possible of his share in
it.

"And were these fellows armed, Mr. Blagrove?"

"They had their knives, but they had not time to use them. These fellows
have no idea of boxing, and a straight hit is a mystery to them. The
thing was all over in less than a minute."

"Then, I suppose, you can box?" Sir Sidney said, with a smile.

"I was taught it in England, sir. My father thought that it would be
useful, for the population of Alexandria is a rough one."

Sir Sidney said no more, and Edgar told his story without further
interruption, and then answered many questions as to the proceedings of
the French, the rising in Cairo--of which Sir Sidney now heard for the
first time, and the prospect of a general insurrection.

"I don't think that there is much chance of that, sir. The defeat of the
Mamelukes led them to believe that the French were invincible. The
destruction of their fleet showed that this was not the case, and led to
the rising at Cairo, but their easy defeat there, and the terrible
slaughter inflicted upon them, will certainly cow them for a long time,
and as long as the whole French army remains there, I don't think there
will be much further trouble, but if a portion were to march away, no
doubt they might muster up courage to attack those that remained. Mourad
Bey, with a considerable force of Mamelukes, still keeps the field, and
the Arab tribes would certainly join him if they saw a chance of
defeating the invaders."

"And the two men you had that trouble with, have you ever come across
them again, Mr. Blagrove?" the first lieutenant asked.

"We came across them in Cairo, sir," Edgar replied reluctantly. "I was
with my friend, the sheik's son. They did not recognize me, being in my
Arab dress, but they knew him at once and pounced upon him, and were
dragging him into a house. Of course, I took his part and there was a
fight."

"And what was the result, Mr. Blagrove?"

"The result was that they were both killed," Edgar said quietly. "They
attacked us with knives, and we had to use ours. My friend killed one of
them and I killed the other. It was unfortunate, but it was their lives
or ours, and if we hadn't done it then, the thing would have happened
again, and next time we might have been stabbed before we had a chance
of defending ourselves."

"I can quite understand that, Mr. Blagrove," Sir Sidney said kindly,
while the others smiled at the matter-of-fact way in which Edgar related
what must have been a very dangerous business.

"I see that, whatever else we may have to teach you, it will not be how
to use your weapons. Indeed, it seems to me that you are getting on very
fast. I saw you go up the shrouds to-day, and I can see that you will
very soon be as much at home there as any of my midshipmen. And now,
gentlemen, we have had rather a long sitting, for it is nearly ten
o'clock; but I am sure that you must have been as interested as I have
been myself, in the information Mr. Blagrove has been good enough to
give us."

"By Jove, Blagrove," Wilkinson said when they had left the cabin, "if
you had told me all this before I should not have felt so doubtful about
your fight with Condor. So you can really use your fists well?"

"I learnt for over two years from some of the best light-weights in
London," Edgar replied, "and unless he has had wonderfully good teachers
I ought to have no trouble about the matter."

Two days later the _Tigre_ left the Pireus. To Sir Sidney Smith's
disappointment, he had not found Lord Nelson there, as he had expected
to do, and he was the more disappointed inasmuch as he had missed Lord
St. Vincent, who was commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, at
Gibraltar.



CHAPTER X.

A SEA-FIGHT.


Finding that the last news from Lord Nelson was that he was sailing to
join the fleet blockading Toulon, Sir Sidney Smith remained but a couple
of days at the Pireus, and then continued his voyage to Constantinople.
They had had no intercourse with any of the natives, and Edgar's
services had consequently not been called into requisition.

In the afternoon Condor came up to Edgar, who was talking with some of
the other midshipmen, and said:

"Now, Mr. Blagrove, if you really meant what you said, I think this is a
good opportunity to settle our affair. Your valuable services are not
likely to be required for a few days, and if you don't wish to back out
you had better come with me below."

"With pleasure," Edgar said quietly. "I have had some difficulty in
waiting, and have several times been on the verge of stopping your
pleasant habit of bullying youngsters."

"Well, you need not say any more," Condor said savagely; "let us see
what you can do."

Wilkinson and two or three others who were off duty went down at once
with Edgar, and as the news spread among the others, every midshipman
who could possibly get away unnoticed, stole off also, and joined them
on the lower deck. Half a dozen lanterns were lighted and hung up from
the beams. A few of the sailors, seeing so many midshipmen going down
there, guessed that there was a fight coming off, and descending the
hatchway forward, stole noiselessly aft to watch it.

Wilkinson had said nothing to the others of what he had heard in the
cabin. The general belief was that although Edgar, no doubt, would make
a plucky fight of it, he had no chance whatever with an opponent nearly
three years his senior, two or three stone heavier, and with a
reputation for being able to use his fists well.

The opponents stripped to the waist and faced each other. Wilkinson
acted as Edgar's second; none of the older ones would act for Condor,
but a lad of fifteen, who dared not refuse his request, did so.

The combat is best described in the language in which one of the tars
who witnessed it related it to his comrades.

"I never seed such a thing in all my born days," he said. "It did not
look a fair thing, for it was like a man against a boy. Condor is about
three inches taller than the young 'un, and much more strongly built.
The young 'un stripped well, and looked a wonderfully wiry young chap;
there was a determined look about his face, and I guessed that he was
game to the backbone; but his chance did not seem worth speaking of.
Well, they stood up. The young one moved about quick on his pins for a
moment, and then, it was so quick that you could scarce see how it was
done, he gave a sort of bound, and hit out with his right, and the next
moment Condor was on his back.

"I never saw such a clean, knock-down blow in all my life. The mids,
they all cheered, and it was plain enough to see which way their
'pinions went. Condor was not down a moment; up he jumped again, looking
as savage as a bull, but somewhat dazed. He meant mischief this time,
and went with a rush at the young 'un; but lor, the latter just jumped
out of his way, and hit him such a smack in the eye that it staggered
him altogether. But he did not lose his legs this time, and made another
rush. It was the same thing over and over again. The young 'un did just
what he liked with him, and after five minutes he knocked him silly, his
eyes were beginning to close, he was just bleeding like a pig at the
nose; but it was a cut on the mouth that finished him, and knocked him
out of time altogether, and the young 'un had never been as much as
touched once.

"You should have heard how the middies cheered. As to the young 'un, he
seemed to take it as a matter of course, and said, 'There is nothing in
it. Condor fought pluckily enough, but he knows next to nothing of
boxing, while, though I say it myself, I am a first-rate boxer. I ought
to be, having been taught by the best masters in London for a couple of
years.'

[Illustration: EDGAR HITS OUT

_Page 184_]

"They had to chuck some water on Condor's face to get him round, for the
force with which he struck the deck stunned him. When he was helped to
his feet, the young 'un went up to him and held out his hand. 'I hope
there will be no more ill-feeling between us, Condor,' he said. 'You
have made a bad mistake, and have had to pay for it. Only I say this,
that as long as I am on board there shall be no more bullying in the
cockpit. We are all gentlemen, I hope. As long as we are on duty, of
course, we obey the orders of our superiors, and, as our senior officer,
we should all obey you; but when off duty we are equals. And if anyone
attempts to bully anyone else, he has got me to reckon with.

"'There is no reason why we should not have a pleasant time when we are
below, and I will do my best to see that we do have it. You are the
senior of the mess, and as such have to keep order; but beyond that you
have no right to interfere. Now let us shake hands and say no more about
it.'

"Condor shook hands without saying a word, and then slipped away. I have
seen many a fight since I first took to the sea, but never such a fight
as this before. It were just a massacre of the innercents, and I don't
think a fellow was ever more thoroughly sucked in than Master Condor
when he undertook the job."

Condor had to go on the sick-list half an hour after the fight was over.
His eyes were almost closed, his face was enormously swollen, and he had
lost three teeth--the effect of the blow that had brought the conflict
to a close.

"Did you know how it was going to be, Wilkinson?" one of the other
seniors said as they went up on the deck again.

"I guessed pretty well, from what Blagrove was telling Sir Sidney when
he dined with him, that Condor would meet his match, but I did not think
that it was going to be a hollow thing like that."

"What do you mean, sir, by skulking below?" the second lieutenant
angrily asked one of the midshipmen of his watch as he returned on deck.

"I just slipped below for a few minutes, sir," the lad said.

"Well, you had better be careful, or you will find yourself at the
mast-head," the lieutenant said sharply.

"I fancy there has been a fight," the first lieutenant said as Mr.
Knight passed him, grumbling to himself. "I noticed just now that there
were only two midshipmen on deck. Do you see, they are coming up the
hatchway, one by one, looking as innocent as a cat that has been at the
cream-jug. They seem to be pretty nearly all here now, but I don't see
any signs in any of their faces that they have been in trouble.

"Well, well, midshipmen are only boys, and boys will quarrel. I expect
we both had our share of it before we got our epaulettes."

The other laughed. "I suppose so," he said; "and after all it does them
no harm, and it is much better, if two boys do quarrel, that they should
fight it out and have done with it, instead of always wrangling."

"I thought it might have been Blagrove," the first lieutenant said. "A
new hand generally has a fight before he has been on board a fortnight.
After that he finds his level. However, it is not him, for there he is,
looking as cool as a cucumber. It must have been some sort of meeting to
discuss some fancied grievance. I daresay we shall hear something about
it sooner or later."

Half an hour afterwards the doctor came on deck. There was a smile on
his face as he went up to the first lieutenant.

"One of your officers is on the sick list, Mr. Canes."

"What is the matter with him?"

"I should say that it would come under the head of contusions."

The lieutenant laughed.

"Bad contusions?"

"Rather more serious than is usual in these cases. Face greatly swelled,
eyes closed, very great enlargement of the nose, lips puffed and badly
cut, three front teeth missing."

"By Jove, that is severe punishment! Who is it?"

"Master's mate Condor."

"Why, who has he been fighting with?"

The doctor laughed. "I could hardly believe it when I heard. I waylaid
young Jocelyn, who was executing a war-dance of delight, and questioned
him. It is your last acquisition, Blagrove."

"Impossible, Doctor! There is the lad himself, without the slightest
sign of having been engaged in a fight. I have been looking at them all
rather closely, for they nearly all disappeared about half an hour ago,
and one knows what that generally means. Mr. Knight was very angry about
it, so when they came back again I glanced at them; and as none of them
were marked in any way, or showed any signs of their having been engaged
in a bout of fisticuffs, I came to the conclusion that there had been no
fight. And you mean to say that Blagrove punished Condor in that fashion
without receiving a mark himself? Condor is a powerful fellow, and must
be nearly three years older than the lad. It seems well-nigh
impossible!"

"I was astonished myself, but, if you remember, he told us the other
evening at the captain's table that he had earned the good-will of
those Arabs by rescuing the sheik's son from an attack by two European
ruffians. He certainly told it in a very modest tone; but that a lad
could thrash two men armed with knives seemed to me to border on
romancing. Young Jocelyn said that the fight did not last more than five
minutes, and that Blagrove did not receive a scratch. His delight was
excessive, and I fancy Condor is rather a bully. You see there is nobody
else in the mess anywhere near his weight and age, and he took advantage
of it accordingly. The boy said that after it was over and they shook
hands, Blagrove told Condor that there should be no bullying in the mess
in future.

"I asked what the affair was about. Jocelyn did not know, but said that
he heard that something had happened when Blagrove first came on board,
and that they all knew that there was going to be a fight, but he thinks
that it was put off until they left the Pireus for some reason or
other."

"That young fellow must be a marvellously good boxer to be able to
punish a fellow so superior in age and weight without showing a mark
himself. The lesson is certainly likely to do Condor good. I have heard
from Mr. Bonnor, who was in the same ship with him on his last
commission, that the fellow had a bad name as a bully, but that, unlike
most fellows of that sort, he had pluck, and could fight, which makes
Blagrove's victory all the more surprising. However, of course we shall
take no notice of it. I have merely your official report that Mr. Condor
is on the sick-list suffering from severe contusions. I suppose it will
be some days before he can show up?"

"I should say that it will be a week before he is fit to come on deck.
As to the loss of his teeth, it will be a serious disfigurement until he
gets home again and can be fitted with some fresh ones. Well, at any
rate this will give Blagrove a good standing among the others. It is
always awkward for a lad who joins a good bit later than usual."

It was not only among the midshipmen that the defeat of Condor
established Edgar as the most popular member of the mess. During the
voyage out, Condor had already rendered himself obnoxious to the men by
the roughness of his tone when speaking to them, and by his domineering
manner whenever the officer of the watch was engaged elsewhere, and the
report of the manner in which he had been punished excited great delight
among them, and rendered Edgar a most popular personage. They had
noticed his behaviour the first time that he had gone aloft, and had
agreed that the new middy was a good sort and no greenhorn.

"He will make a first-rate officer," one old tar said. "You mark my
words if he don't. New hand as he is, you will see that he will show up
well on the first opportunity."

The fight, too, raised rather than lowered Condor in their opinion. The
men who had seen it all agreed that, although he had not a shadow of
chance from the first, he had fought with unflinching pluck, and
struggled on most gamely until knocked out of time. Consequently, when
he returned to duty he was treated with the same respect as before, and
with none of the covert grins that he had expected to notice among them.

The young fellow was not a fool, and while in the sickbay had thought
matters over a good deal. It was of course mortifying to have been
thrashed by an antagonist he despised, but he was conscious that he had
brought the punishment upon himself. Hitherto he had not, since he first
joined the service, met with his match among those of his own age and
standing, and had come to think himself an exceptional sort of fellow;
but the discovery that he was but a child in the hands of a really good
boxer, while it humiliated him, was extremely useful. A lesson of this
kind is sure to have an effect, good or bad. Among some it sours the
temper, produces an active hatred of the person who gave it, and renders
a lad savage and morose. On the other hand, among more generous natures
it has an opposite effect. Thinking matters over, a lad will feel that
he has been going in the wrong direction, that he has been puffed up
with an exaggerated idea of his own powers, and he will determine to get
into a better groove, and to break himself of his faults.

Condor belonged to the latter class. As he lay in bed he saw clearly
that he had made a great mistake, that his successes had been won simply
because those he licked were less skilled or strong than himself, and
that, in point of fact, instead of being, as he believed, a good boxer,
he knew next to nothing about it.

Edgar had, after the first day, gone in regularly to have a chat with
him. He had been somewhat doubtful as to how his advances would be
received, but had determined to do his best to become friends with
Condor, whom he felt, rather remorsefully, he had punished terribly
severely.

"I hope, Condor," he said the first time he entered, "that you will
believe that I have come in because I am really sorry that you have been
hurt so much, and not from any idea of triumphing over you. It was only
natural that I should have got the best of it. I knew beforehand that I
was sure to do so. I learned boxing for over two years from some of the
best light-weight fighters in London. I worked very hard, and at the end
of that time, except that I was of course their inferior in strength, I
could hold my own very fairly with them. That was more than a year ago,
and since then I have gained a lot in height, in length of reach, and
in strength, so you really need not feel mortified that you were so
easily beaten, because I consider that if you had been twice as strong
as you are, and four or five years older, it would have come to the same
thing. A man who can box only in what you may call a rough-and-ready way
has practically no chance whatever with a really scientific pugilist,
which I may say I am. I hope you bear me no malice, and that we shall be
friends in future."

"I hope so too, Blagrove. I feel that I deserve what I have got, and it
will be a lesson that I shall not forget. You have taken me down a great
many pegs in my own estimation, and I shall try and make a fresh start
when I am about again."

"I am very glad to hear it," Edgar said warmly. "I am sure it must be
very much more pleasant to be liked by everyone than to be disliked; and
one is just as easy as the other."

"I don't know that I ever thought of it before," Condor said, "but I
suppose it must be. I will try the experiment when I get up. I shall
feel very small among the others."

"I don't see why you should. You did all that you could, and no one
could have done better who had not been taught as I have, and I am sure
that no one will think the least degree the worse of you because you had
no chance with me. Why, I thrashed a couple of ruffians in Alexandria,
armed with knives, in a quarter of the time that it took me to beat
you."

"At any rate I shall know better in future," Condor said, with a poor
attempt to smile with his swollen lips. "I have learned not to judge
from appearances. Who would have thought that a fellow brought up in
Egypt would have been able to fight like a professional pugilist. You
said that you had been a couple of years at school in England, but that
didn't go for much. We have all been at school in England, and yet not
many of us know much of boxing. How was it that you came to learn?"

"Well, you see that there is a very rough population in
Alexandria--Greek, Maltese, and Italian, in fact the scum of the
Mediterranean--and my father, who is a very sensible man, thought that
the knowledge of how to use my fists well might be of much greater value
to me than anything else I could learn in England, so he asked my uncle,
with whom I lived when I was at school, to get me the best masters in
boxing that he could find. I got to be very fond of it, and worked very
hard. I had three lessons a week all the time I was at school, and the
last year changed my master three times, and so got all their favourite
hits. Of course I used to get knocked about, for some boxers can't help
hitting hard, and to the end I used to get punished pretty heavily,
because though I might hit them as often as they hit me, they were able
to hit much harder than I was, but I fancy now that they would find it
pretty hard work to knock me out of time. My father used to say that
being really a good boxer kept a man or a boy out of trouble. A man who
knows that he can fight well can afford to be good-tempered and put up
with things that another man wouldn't, and if he is driven to use his
fists gets off without being knocked about; and besides, as soon as it
is known that he can fight, others don't care about quarrelling with
him. I know that it was so with me. I had a fight or two at first, but I
very quickly improved, and after that I never had a quarrel for the rest
of the nearly three years I was at school."

"One thing is certain, Blagrove, you are not likely to have another
quarrel as long as you remain on board the _Tigre_. You will come and
see me again, won't you?"

"Certainly I will. I can see that it hurts you to talk now, but you
will soon get over that, and then we can have some good chats."

During the voyage up to the Dardanelles, the _Tigre_ encountered
changeable weather; the sails had often to be shifted. When he was on
watch, Edgar always went aloft with his friend Wilkinson and took his
place beside him, listened to the orders that he gave, and watched him
at work. In a few days he was able to act independently and to do his
duty regularly, and to aid in tying down a reef when a sudden squall
came on.

They caught sight of many islands as they passed through the Aegean.
Edgar was disappointed with the Dardanelles, but delighted with his
first view of Constantinople. It was on the day that they cast anchor
that Condor for the first time put in an appearance at mess. His face
had resumed its normal appearance, save that there were greenish-yellow
patches under the eyes. Wilkinson, who was by a week or two the senior
midshipman, and had occupied the president's chair with reluctance, at
once left it. They had not expected him until the next day, or he would
not have taken it. Edgar had that morning particularly asked the others
as a personal favour to give Condor a hearty welcome on his return.

"I think you will find him a much more pleasant fellow than he was
before," he said. "At any rate he has been punished heavily, and I think
that you ought to welcome him heartily."

Wilkinson and two or three of the older midshipmen had gone in several
times to see Condor, and had been pleased at the friendly way in which
he had spoken of Blagrove. There had, however, been little talk between
them, for Condor had not seemed disposed for conversation. Condor walked
to his accustomed seat at the head of the table.

"I hope things will go on better than they have done," he said gruffly.
"All I can say is, it sha'n't be my fault if they don't;" and without
more words he proceeded to cut up the salt meat placed in front of him.
For a short time the conversation was constrained, and it was evident
that those who spoke were talking for the sake of talking; but this soon
wore off, and by the end of the meal even the youngest mids were talking
and laughing with a feeling that somehow a change had come over the
place. A quarter of an hour after the meal had ended, a boat was
lowered.

"Mr. Wilkinson, you will take charge," the first officer said. "Mr.
Blagrove, you will accompany the captain on shore."

A few minutes later they reached the landing-place. A number of men at
once crowded round to proffer their services, and the captain said:

"Choose one of them for a guide, Mr. Blagrove. Ask him to take us to our
embassy."

Edgar at once chose a quiet-looking Turk, and, to the latter's surprise,
addressed him in his own language. The others fell back disappointed,
and the guide soon conducted them to the embassy.

"I shall not want you here, Blagrove. I shall be engaged for at least a
couple of hours. You can either stroll about and have a look round or go
back to the boat as you please. It is now two o'clock; call again here
for me at four."

Cairo had prepared Edgar for Constantinople, and indeed he thought the
former city more picturesque in the variety of costume than the latter.
The views from the hill of Pera, whether looking up the Golden Horn,
across it at Stamboul, over to Scutari and the shores of the Sea of
Marmora, or up the Bosphorus, were beautiful beyond anything that he
had ever seen, and leaving the exploration of the city for another day,
he sat down under the shade of some cypress trees close to a Turkish
cemetery and entered into a conversation with the guardian of the tombs,
who pointed out the various mosques and places of interest to him. At
the end of two hours he repaired to the embassy. Presently a dragoman
came down and asked him if his name was Blagrove, and on his replying in
the affirmative, said that Sir Sidney Smith had ordered him to say that
he could return in the boat to the ship, for that he would dine ashore,
and the boat was to be at the wharf at ten o'clock.

Sir Sidney Smith remained two months at Constantinople. His duty, in
conjunction with his brother, Mr. Seymour Smith, was to engage the
Sultan in an active alliance with England, and to concert, as a naval
officer, the best plan to be pursued to render that alliance effective.
The former portion of the commission had already been carried almost to
a successful termination by his brother, and the treaty was signed on
the first week of January, 1799. The details of the latter were arrived
at in the course of several meetings between Sir Sidney Smith and the
Turkish pasha and admiral. To these latter meetings Edgar always
accompanied his chief as interpreter, Sir Sidney preferring his services
to those of the dragoman of the embassy, as he was better able to
understand and explain the naval points discussed.

The Porte, indeed, was able to do but little towards aiding in the naval
operations. Two bomb ships and seventeen gun-boats were all the vessels
that they were able to produce, but it was some time before they would
agree to place these entirely under Sir Sidney Smith's command. Ahmed
Pasha, or, as he was generally called, Djezzar Pasha--Djezzar meaning
the butcher, from the cruel and brutal nature of the man--the Governor
of Syria, was in Constantinople at the time, and was present at these
meetings. He was aware that Napoleon was marching against him; and
although usually he paid but little attention to the Porte, or
recognized any orders received from it, he had now hurried there to
represent the situation and ask for assistance.

Bonaparte lost no time after hearing that Djezzar had sent forward a
force to occupy the fort of El-A'rich in the desert, between Syria and
Egypt, and on the 8th of February set out with 12,428 men for the
conquest of Syria. Djezzar, who had returned to his pachalik, having
early news of the movement, despatched a force, consisting principally
of cavalry, to support the garrison of El-A'rich, and they were joined
there by Ibrahim Bey with a force of Mamelukes. The march of the French
was painful, and they suffered greatly from thirst. However, they
defeated the Turk and Mameluke cavalry with heavy loss, and El-A'rich at
once surrendered. The garrison were allowed to depart on undertaking not
to serve again, and four days later the army entered Palestine, and
believed that their fatigues and sufferings were at an end.

Two days later, however, a cold rain set in, and the troops, who had
been suffering greatly from heat, felt the change painfully. On the 3rd
of March they arrived in front of Jaffa. A Turk was sent in to summon
the garrison to surrender. The commandant simply ordered his head to be
struck off and sent no reply. The fire of the field artillery in a few
hours effected breaches at several points. The French, in spite of
opposition, burst into the town, which was given up to sack, and a large
number of the inhabitants, as well as the soldiers, were massacred.
Between 3000 and 4000 prisoners were taken, among these doubtless were
some of those who had been allowed to march away from El-A'rich. The
difficulties in the way of provisioning the army were great. Many were
ill from the effects of the change of climate, and the position was
becoming serious.

To feed 3000 or 4000 prisoners added greatly to the difficulties, and
Napoleon took a step which has been a foul blot on his reputation. They
were marched into a vast square formed of French troops; as soon as all
had entered the fatal square the troops opened fire upon them, and the
whole were massacred. The terrible slaughter occupied a considerable
time; and when their cartridge-boxes were emptied, the French soldiers
had to complete the massacre with their bayonets. Of the whole of these
victims one only, a mere youth, asked for mercy; the rest met their fate
with heroic calmness and resolution. Napoleon's excuse for this hideous
massacre was that the soldiers had broken the engagement they took at El
A'rich, but this applied to only a very small proportion of the
garrison, and the massacre was wholly indefensible, for if unable to
feed his prisoners, they should have been allowed to depart unarmed to
seek subsistence for themselves.

The effects of this horrible massacre recoiled upon those who
perpetrated it. The great number of dead bodies speedily tainted the
air, and the maladies from which the troops suffered became vastly more
serious, and the plague broke out among them and carried off a
considerable number. Kleber's division made a reconnaissance towards
Jerusalem, but the people of Nablous and the mountaineers assailed them
with so terrible a fire, as they endeavoured to make their way up the
narrow valleys, that they were forced to retire and join the main body
of the army. When the French marched from Jaffa there were still many of
their men stricken with the plague in hospital. Napoleon has been
accused of having had these poisoned.

The statement has been repeated over and over again, and has been as
often vehemently denied, among others by Bonaparte himself. It still
remains, and always will remain, doubtful. There can be no doubt that
the transport of plague-stricken men would have been a source of danger
to the whole army; and as very few of those once attacked by the plague
ever recovered, but few would have benefited by the operation, while the
condition of the great majority would have been rendered still more
hopeless and painful by the journey. Upon the other hand, had they been
left behind they would assuredly have been massacred by the inhabitants,
who had suffered so terribly at the hands of the French. Rather than be
so left, the unfortunate men would assuredly have vastly preferred some
painless form of death at the hands of their friends. The probabilities
are that all the sick, whose final recovery was considered by the
surgeons as within the limits of probability, were taken on, and that
those whose cases were absolutely hopeless were not allowed to fall
alive into the hands of their foes.

Napoleon's position was an extremely difficult one. He had shown much
solicitude for the wounded. When the whole army were panic-stricken at
the outbreak, he had himself visited the hospitals, been present at
operations, talked encouragingly to the sick, and had done all in his
power to relieve their condition. But he could keep the army no longer
in the tainted air of Jaffa. He could not take men at the point of death
away with him to communicate the malady to those who had so far escaped,
nor could he leave them to be murdered in their beds by the infuriated
population. It is uncertain really what course was taken; but it must
be assumed that Napoleon, who was always anxious to win the affection
and regard of his troops, would, putting all other matters aside, not
have perpetrated any act that would have been condemned by the soldiers
of his army.



CHAPTER XI.

ACRE.


At last all was satisfactorily arranged. By the terms of the convention,
Sir Sidney Smith was appointed to the command, not only of the Turkish
fleet, but of the Turkish army in Syria, a most important point, as the
Porte had no confidence whatever in Djezzar, who, like many others of
the pashas of the outlying possessions of Turkey, almost openly defied
the authority of the sovereign. Djezzar was already at Acre, and some
Turkish gun-boats, under Hassan Bey, had also been despatched thither
towards the end of February. The welcome order was issued for the
_Tigre_ to sail on the 1st of March. Her destination was Alexandria,
which, as forming part of the Sultan's possessions, came under the terms
of the convention; under the terms of which it had been agreed that two
British men-of-war and three frigates should be stationed in Eastern
waters to give such aid as was possible to Djezzar, both in active
operations, and by capturing store-ships destined for the use of the
French army.

The _Theseus_, of 84 guns, commanded by Captain Miller, was already at
Acre; and her captain and Colonel Phelypeaux were giving great
assistance to the pasha in putting the place into a better state of
defence, while his presence there animated the pasha and his troops to
determine upon a stout defence.

It was with deep satisfaction that the officers and men of the _Tigre_
received the orders to prepare for sailing at once. They had now been
nearly two months in Constantinople; the novelty of the scene had worn
off, and all were impatient for active service. Things had been going on
pleasantly among the midshipmen. Condor had shown by his behaviour that
either he sincerely regretted the conduct that had made him so
unpopular, or that the lesson that he had received had been so severe
that he would not risk any repetition of it. At any rate there was peace
and comfort in the cockpit.

Just at first, two or three of the younger middies were disposed to take
advantage of the altered state of things, but Wilkinson, Edgar, and the
other two seniors supported Condor, and told them that if the latter did
not keep them in order, they would do so themselves, after which threat
matters went on quietly. The change from salt provisions to fresh meat,
with an abundance of fruit and vegetables, had been very pleasant, and
added to the good temper and harmony that prevailed. Edgar had not felt
time hang heavily on his hands, for he was constantly on shore with Sir
Sidney Smith, who found his services as interpreter of great value. Had
it been an ordinary case, the other midshipmen of older standing would
have felt somewhat jealous, but they knew that he went as interpreter
rather than as midshipman, and as some of them had leave to go ashore
every day, they could amuse themselves according to their liking, while
he was kept hard at work translating documents, examining the state of
stores, or attending prolonged meetings between his commander and the
Turkish naval officials. They had therefore no reason for envying him
his post.

He himself was glad of an occasional holiday at the rare intervals when
Sir Sidney had no business on land, and made excursions to his brother
up the Bosphorus, or to towns on the Sea of Marmora, when Edgar was able
to join parties who, hiring horses at the landing-place, took long rides
over the country, starting sometimes from Pera, and sometimes from
Scutari on the other side of the water. He was certainly not less glad
than his comrades when the order came to prepare for sailing. The wind
was favourable, the voyage was a speedy one, and the _Tigre_ arrived off
Alexandria on the 7th of March. Here they remained for some days. News
had already been received by sea from Jaffa of the capture of El-A'rich,
and of the approach of the French army to Jaffa.

This had caused no uneasiness, as the town, having a garrison of 8000
men, was believed to be able to resist any assault. When, however, on
the fifth day after the arrival of the _Tigre_ off Alexandria, a small
Turkish vessel brought the news that Jaffa had been captured, and some
3000 of the garrison killed in cold blood, besides a large number of the
inhabitants, Sir Sidney decided to start instantly, in order to aid in
the defence of the important stronghold of Acre, which would certainly
be the next object of assault by the French. Committing to the captain
of the _Lion_ the charge of continuing the blockade with the gun-boats
under his command, sail was at once hoisted, and the _Tigre_ started for
Acre.

On her way she picked up the _Theseus_, which was out cruising, and the
two men-of-war arrived off Acre on the 15th of March, and, to the
satisfaction of all, found that Napoleon had not yet appeared before the
town; Sir Sidney Smith, owing to the terms of the convention, at once
assumed the command of the operations. The arrival of the men-of-war
excited great enthusiasm among the garrison and inhabitants, who, now,
for the first time, believed in the possibility of beating off the
French, and of being spared the horrors that had befallen Jaffa.

On the following morning the French were seen marching along between the
lower slopes of Mount Carmel and the sea, and the men-of-war boats,
running in close to the shore, opened fire upon them, and compelled them
hastily to change their course and to ascend the hill until beyond the
range of the guns.

As no attempt had been made to return the fire by the artillery, Sir
Sidney Smith was convinced the French must be unprovided with a siege
train. Having learned from people who had escaped by boat from Jaffa,
that only field-pieces had there been employed to batter the wall, he
ordered a constant watch to be kept for any ships seen approaching, as
Bonaparte would hardly have hoped to take so strong a place as Acre
without heavy guns, and had doubtless arranged for a battering-train to
be sent from Alexandria by sea. This would probably be ordered to make
either for Jaffa, or for Caiffa, a small port a few miles south of Acre.
The _Theseus_ was at once sent down to Jaffa, to prevent any landing of
guns or stores being effected there, while the _Tigre's_ boats were
placed at intervals between Caiffa and Acre.

The next day a corvette and nine gun-boats were seen rounding the
promontory of Mount Carmel. The signal was made for the recall of the
boats, and the _Tigre_ at once got under sail and started in pursuit,
picking up her boats as they came alongside. Bonaparte had been ignorant
that there were any British vessels on the coast, or he would hardly
have sent the boats from Alexandria without a stronger escort, and the
corvette and gun-boats no sooner caught sight of the _Tigre_ than they
made out to sea. The chase lasted for some hours, and one by one seven
of the gun-boats were picked up, surrendering in each case as soon as
the _Tigre's_ guns opened upon them. The corvette and the other two
gun-boats succeeded in making their escape, but their commander,
believing it hopeless to attempt to carry out his mission in the face of
a British man-of-war, sailed direct to France.

The capture was a most valuable one, for the possession of the gun-boats
enabled a blockade of the coast to be carried on much more effectually
than could otherwise have been done, and on board were found, as
expected, the guns and battering-train intended for the siege of Acre.
The _Tigre_ returned with her prizes to the port, and the crew were at
once employed in transporting the captured guns and ammunition on shore,
when they were conveyed by the Turkish troops to the batteries, which
were before very deficient in guns, and the capture added, therefore,
much to the strength of the defences.

Edgar's services as an interpreter were again called into requisition.
Mr. Canes was sent on shore with a party of sailors to assist the Turks
in moving the guns to their new positions, and half an hour before
landing he sent for Edgar and told him that he had arranged with Sir
Sidney Smith that he was to accompany him.

"A good deal of the hard work will have to be done by the Turks, and it
will save much trouble if you are with me to translate my orders to
them, or rather to their officers. Sir Sidney is of opinion that there
will be a great deal more for you to do on shore than on board. He will,
of course, be much on shore himself, and I am carrying a note to the
pasha, requesting him to assign a suitable house for him to take up his
abode there and which he will make his headquarters. Lieutenant Beatty
will be posted there with twenty marines, furnishing a guard, and for
other purposes. A room is to be assigned to you. You will then be handy
whenever the captain is on shore, and at other times will assist me or
other officers with working parties. Of course two or three natives will
be engaged as servants. One of them will be a cook, and Lieutenant
Beatty and you will establish a small mess together. You will, of
course, have shore allowances. I think that you may consider yourself
fortunate, for you will have an opportunity for seeing all that goes on,
while the others will of course only come ashore by turns."

"Thank you, sir," Edgar said, much pleased. "I shall like it very much."

The Turkish soldiers worked well, tugging at ropes, while the sailors
used levers to get the guns up steep places. Edgar was kept busy
translating the first lieutenant's orders to the Turkish officers, and
for the first three days had hardly time to snatch a meal until the
sailors returned at nightfall to the ship. He got on very well with the
lieutenant of the marines, who was a pleasant young fellow. On the day
after they landed they heard heavy firing, and going up to the highest
point of the rocky promontory on which Acre stood, could make out that a
number of gun-boats were cannonading Caiffa. The place appeared to make
no reply to the fire, and at last two gun-boats, believing that there
could be but few French troops there, sailed up the harbour.

Lambert, the French officer in command, had, however, a howitzer and a
small gun, and eighty French troops, but he gave orders that these
should not reply to the fire of the gun-boats, and that not a musket
should be discharged until he gave the word. The two small gun-boats
came on confidently, until, when at a distance of only a hundred yards
from the shore, where they intended to land and set fire to the French
storehouses and to do as much damage as possible, a heavy fire was
suddenly poured in. The two guns, loaded to the muzzle with grape, swept
their decks, and the heavy volley of musketry did much damage.
Lieutenant Beatty, who had brought a telescope on shore with him,
exclaimed:

"By Jove! those two little gun-boats have caught it hot. See, there is
one of them putting about, but the other seems to be drifting towards
the shore."

This was indeed the fact; she was slightly in advance of the other, and
was the principal target of the fire. The midshipman who commanded her,
and most of her crew, were killed, and before the few survivors could
recover themselves from the surprise into which they had been thrown by
the unexpected attack, the vessel had grounded. The heavy fire of
musketry continued, the guns again poured in their fire, and as escape
was impossible, the few men who remained alive at once hauled down their
flag and surrendered. The capture was a valuable one to the French. The
gun-boat carried a 32-pounder, and as Napoleon's heaviest guns were but
10-pounders, the cannon was invaluable.

As soon as its capture was known, some artillery horses were sent to the
port and transported it to the batteries, at which the French were
already hard at work. For the first day or two it was almost useless,
for, with the exception of a few shot taken with it, they had none that
would fit it; but as soon as the besieged began to fire they obtained an
ample supply of cannon balls, which were eagerly collected by the
soldiers, a small reward being paid for every shot that was brought in.
In a short time, however, the French were in a better position for
carrying on the siege with vigour, for as it became necessary to retain
the _Tigre_ and _Theseus_ to assist in the defence of the town, French
vessels were able to land artillery at Jaffa and other points, and they
had ere long an ample supply for their batteries.

"There is no doubt," Lieutenant Beatty said, "that that gun-boat has
been captured, and from her not attempting to go round and sail out as
her companion did, I am afraid that the crew must have been almost
annihilated by the enemy's fire. It was a very risky thing to send those
two small craft in alone, even though the place had not replied to their
fire, for even if the French had no guns, they might have had many
hundreds of men in the town, against whom the crew of those two boats
could have done nothing whatever. However, the loss is not serious
except in the matter of the crew. I don't suppose she carried more than
one gun."

"But even that is important," Edgar said, "for I know they have pretty
heavy guns on board those boats, and in the hands of the French it would
give us some trouble."

"We shall have hot work of it presently, Blagrove. The walls are
absolutely rotten, and it would be absurd to call them fortifications;
and if the French open fire at close quarters, they will make a breach
in no time. If Phelypeaux's plans had been carried out, the place would
have been in a position to make a serious defence; but I hear that he
and Captain Miller of the _Theseus_ have been trying in vain to get the
Turks to carry out their plans.

"Djezzar was always saying that what they wanted should be done, but it
went no further than that; and what little has been accomplished has
been done by the men of the _Theseus_; and I believe that the dragging
of the guns we captured to their places was the first job on which the
Turkish soldiers really worked; but, of course, Sir Sidney had a good
deal more influence than Miller had, as he is commander-in-chief of the
Turkish army, and if Djezzar did not give him the help he asked for, he
would have the power to take the matter altogether out of his hands. His
troops have no love for him, for, as his nickname shows, he is as cruel
as he is ambitious.

"There can be no doubt that he intended to throw off the authority of
the Sultan altogether. The position of the guns show that. I hear that
when the _Theseus_ arrived there was not a single gun mounted on the
face of the town on the land side, every one being planted on the walls
to seaward. However, I believe he is personally plucky, but as this
place is nothing like so strong as Jaffa was, he must see that, as a
garrison of 8000 there could not resist the enemy, the 3000 men under
him would not have a shadow of a chance were it not for our help. Even
we could do nothing if it were not that the position of the town enables
us to cover the land approaches."

The position of Acre, the ancient Ptolemais, was indeed very favourable
for its protection by a fleet. It stood on a projecting promontory
almost square in shape; three sides were entirely washed by the sea; the
north-eastern side had no natural protection, but at an angle of the
wall a tower, which was the strongest point of the defences, covered it
to some extent. Near the tower, and with its garden abutting against the
wall, stood the pasha's palace. The masonry of the greater part of the
wall was old and crumbling. From the sea to the north of the town
vessels anchored there could cover the approaches to the northern side
by their fire, while these could similarly be swept by ships anchored in
the Bay of Acre on the south side of the fortress.

The water here, however, was too shallow for the men-of-war to anchor
in. The _Tigre_, therefore, was moored more than a mile from the shore;
next to her was the _Alliance_ sloop. Three of the gun-boats captured
from the French, and two Turkish gun-boats, lay nearer to the shore, and
the fire of all these vessels swept the ground across which it was
already evident that the French main attack would be directed. This was
also covered by the fire of the _Theseus_ and three of the captured
French gun-boats. The French had, on their arrival, promptly seized a
village within half a mile of the wall, and pushed forward their
trenches with vigour, establishing four or five batteries, which at once
opened fire.

Napoleon calculated that he should be master of the town in three days
at the utmost, and this no doubt would have been the case had he only
Turkish resistance to overcome. As soon as the _Tigre_ returned from her
short cruise, Sir Sidney Smith took up his residence on shore. He
brought with him Condor and Wilkinson, to act as his aides-de-camp, and
fifty sailors were established in an adjoining house in readiness for
any emergency. Here the mess was now established, although Lieutenant
Beatty and Edgar continued to sleep in Sir Sidney Smith's house, the one
to be near his men, the other in readiness to attend upon his commander
at any moment night or day.

As far as possible the midshipmen's mess adhered to regular hours for
their meals, but Sir Sidney Smith took his at any time when he could
snatch them. One or other of the midshipmen came ashore each day with a
boat's crew, so that at any moment orders could be sent to the _Tigre_
or the _Theseus_. Except at the evening meal, when the fire generally
slackened, it was seldom that more than two of the midshipmen's mess sat
down together, being constantly employed either in carrying messages or
orders, or in keeping a watch at threatened points, in order that Sir
Sidney should at once be made acquainted with any movements of the
enemy.

[Illustration: Map of Siege of ST. JEAN D'ACRE

by the French Army of Egypt from 19. March to 21. May 1799.]

The French had lost no time, for on the 25th their batteries opened fire
against this tower, and, after four hours' firing, a breach, considered
by the French to be practicable, had been effected.

The Turkish guns had returned the fire, aided by two mortars worked by
British sailors, but the Turks believed that their walls were strong
enough to stand a prolonged siege, and as the French fire was heavy
against the tower, those near it had betaken themselves to safer
positions. Sir Sidney Smith was on board the _Tigre_. Djezzar seldom
stirred from his palace. He had no capable officer under him, and no one
was in the slightest degree aware of the serious damage the French
battery was inflicting upon the tower, and there was no thought that an
attack could be made upon the town for a considerable time. Edgar had
been engaged all the morning with Sir Sidney, and when the latter went
on board ship he went into the next house, where he found the others at
dinner.

After that was over he proposed a stroll down to the corner against
which the French fire was directed. Wilkinson and Beatty agreed to
accompany him, but Condor, who had been all day at work seeing guns
placed in position, said that he did not care about going out again. On
reaching the wall facing the French position they found that there was
little doing. A few of the guns were being worked, throwing their shot
into the garden between the French batteries and the town. Along the
rest of the line the Turks were squatting under the parapet, smoking and
talking.

"What are the French firing at?" Edgar asked a Turkish officer.

"They are firing at the tower. They will do no harm. Some of the shots
came in at the loopholes; so, as the soldiers there could do no good by
staying, they have come out."

"That seems rather a careless way of doing business," Edgar remarked as
he translated what the officer said, to his companions. "Well, at any
rate we may as well go and see what the effect of their fire is. Their
battery is not a heavy one, but as it is not more than four or five
hundred yards from the tower it may really be doing some damage."

As they neared the tower at the angle of the wall they found that the
ramparts there had been entirely deserted by the Turks.

"This is a rum way of defending a town," Wilkinson remarked. "If this is
the way the Turks are going to behave, the sooner we are all on board
ship the better."

The French fire was brisk, the thuds of the balls, as they struck the
tower, occurring five or six times a minute. The three officers entered
the tower. Two or three holes appeared in the wall of the floor by which
they entered it.

"The masonry must be very rotten," Beatty said, "or they would not have
knocked holes in it as soon as this."

They descended the stairs into the story below, and uttered a
simultaneous exclamation of alarm. A yawning hole some eight feet wide
appeared.

"This is serious, Wilkinson. Let us take a look down below."

"Look out!" Wilkinson shouted as a ball passed just over their heads and
struck the wall behind them. "Stand back here a moment."

He ran forward and looked down.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "there is a breach down to the bottom of the
tower level with the lower storey ground, and a heap of rubbish at the
foot outside. I don't think it is high enough yet for anyone to get up
to the opening, but it will soon be practicable if it is not now. Look!
look! I can see a large body of French among the trees there. They are
about to advance to storm the breach. Run, Blagrove, and wake up the
Turks. We will go back and fetch up the marines and blue-jackets. The
enemy may be in the place in five minutes."

Leaving the tower, Edgar ran along the wall.

"Take your men to the tower at once!" he shouted to the first Turkish
officer he saw. "The French are crossing the ditch."

Instead, however, of obeying him the officer and his men ran to one of
the steps leading up to the wall, and commenced shouting, "The French
are in the town!"

Edgar saw that he had told the news too suddenly, and that it was
hopeless for him to try to stop the flood, therefore ran along the wall
until he reached the stairs leading down to the open space in front of
Djezzar's palace. As he had been frequently there before, he made his
way straight to the apartments where Djezzar transacted business.

"The French have breached the tower, pasha," he said, "and their
storming party was about to cross the ditch when I came away. There are
no troops there to defend the breach, and those on the wall are flying.
Unless you yourself go out and rally the men to the defence the town is
lost."

Djezzar was thunderstruck at the news. He had showed himself brave in
battle, but with the fate of Jaffa in his mind he now lost heart
altogether.

"It is too late!" he said, and catching up his sword he ran out of the
palace, and directed his flight towards the landing-place.

Edgar ran towards the breach again, and on the way came upon his two
companions running along, with the marines and blue-jackets after them.
Fortune, however, had done more for the town than its defenders. Led by
an officer with sixteen sappers, and followed by twenty-five grenadiers,
the French party prepared to mount to the assault. Their orders were to
mount the breach and hold it, and the moment this was done the main body
of the storming party were at once to follow. But they met with an
unexpected obstacle. Instead of finding, as they had expected, merely a
shallow ditch, they found themselves at the edge of a counterscarp, the
wall being fifteen feet in depth, with a regular moat filled with water
between them and the foot of the breach.

They had brought with them only two or three short ladders, which were
intended to be used, if necessary, to aid them in clambering up the heap
of rubbish to the breach. The French had no idea of the existence of the
counterscarp. The ladders that they had brought were too short to enable
them to descend it, and the officer in command hesitated as to what
course to adopt. The mysterious silence maintained by the enemy was
disquieting. That the Turks had all fled and the tower was undefended
did not occur to the officer in command, and he feared that they must
have placed mines in the breach, and were for the present abstaining
from showing themselves or firing a shot, in hopes of tempting him to
make an assault. Before he could decide what was best to be done there
was a loud tramp of feet inside the tower, and then the British sailors
and marines showed themselves suddenly at the openings on each floor,
and at once opened a heavy fire.

Many of the French fell at once, and seeing that there was nothing to be
done, the officer gave the order for the rest to retreat, which they did
hastily. Djezzar was furious when he heard what had happened, and
questioned Edgar; and, on hearing that the tower had been altogether
deserted, as well as the adjacent portion of the wall, he ordered the
instant execution of six of the officers and a number of the men for
this gross neglect of their duty. He was exasperated that he himself
should have shared in the panic that had seized them when informed that
the French were assaulting the breach, and that no resistance had been
offered by his men; and Edgar congratulated himself that he was not one
of his officers. When the old pasha, however, recovered from the state
of fury into which he had fallen, he complimented the three British
officers highly on the quickness that they had shown, which had, as he
rightly said, saved the town, for, had the French found themselves still
unobserved, they would assuredly have managed to get down the
counterscarp, and to establish themselves in the tower in force before
any suspicion of what was going on took place.

The French, whose operations were hidden by the gardens, at once
proceeded to drive a gallery in order to blow up the counterscarp, upon
which their guns could not be brought to bear, and on the 29th the mine
was sprung. It did some damage, but it had not been driven quite far
enough. Led by an officer of the staff named Mailly, the French rushed
forward as soon as the mine exploded. They clambered down over the
breach that had been made on the counterscarp, crossed the fosse by
three ladders they had brought with them, and reached the foot of the
breach. There was, however, too great a distance between the pile of
rubbish at the foot of the wall and the great hole above it for them to
enter without fixing their ladders.

As they were in the act of doing this the Turks, who had at their first
appearance again been seized with a panic, but had been brought back by
a number of their officers, who adjured them to stand, saying that it
was better to die fighting the infidel than to be shot by Djezzar,
opened a heavy fire. Mailly was killed, several of the grenadiers and
sappers fell round him, and the rest retired, meeting, as they climbed
the counterscarp, two battalions who had joined them as soon as the
breach was reported practicable; but upon hearing from the grenadiers
that this was not the case they fell back again after losing their
commanding officer and many men from the Turkish fire.

This success greatly encouraged the Turks, who had heard from those who
had escaped from Jaffa that no obstacles were sufficient to daunt the
French, and from this time Sir Sidney Smith began to entertain hope that
the town could be held, of which, owing to the supineness of Djezzar and
his troops, he had hitherto been very doubtful. The French at once
recommenced mining. In eight days they completely blew up the
counterscarp, and on the twelfth carried their gallery under the ditch
with the intention of blowing up the whole tower.

By this time the besieged were aware that the French were at work
mining. Colonel Phelypeaux had, during the interval since the last
attempt, worked indefatigably. The breach had been filled up with
combustible materials, a number of shells had been placed on the
platform of the tower, with fuses attached in readiness to hurl down
into the midst of a storming party, heaps of great stones had been piled
there for the same purpose, and the Turkish soldiers, seeing the
readiness and alacrity with which the British worked, had gained
confidence. The faint sound of mining under the tower brought about a
consultation between Sir Sidney Smith, Captain Wilmot, Colonel
Phelypeaux, and the pasha. The engineer officer pointed out to the pasha
that it was impossible to say what the result of the firing of the mine
might be, as it would depend upon the quantity of powder employed.

"If a large quantity is used," he said, "it may entirely blow down the
tower and a considerable quantity of the walls adjoining it, and leave
so large a breach that the French would be able to pour in in such force
that your troops, who might well be panic-stricken at the explosion,
would not be able to make any effective opposition."

"But what can we do to prevent it?" the pasha asked.

"Nothing can be directly done," Sir Sidney said; "but if we make a sally
in force we might drive the French back, discover the mine, and carry
out the greater part of the powder, and place a small portion under the
ditch, and, exploding it, allow the water to run in; or, if the men
carry with them a number of fascines, we might establish a work fifty
yards from the foot of the wall. This would put a stop to their mining.
An enemy attacking it would, as he advanced, be swept by the guns of the
two men-of-war and the gun-boats, and the garrison would further be
covered by the fire from the tower and walls. I propose that we should
sally out in three columns. The central column, which will be composed
of the marines and sailors of our ships, will make straight for the
mouth of the mine and force its way in; the other two columns will
attack the enemy's trenches on right and left."

"The plan seems to me to be a good one," the pasha said; "it shall be
done as you propose."

On the night of the 15th of April two columns of men were gathered at
midnight in the street leading to the water-gate, a short distance to
the right of the tower, the third column close to a gate some little
distance to its left. Lieutenant Beatty was, with his party of marines,
to join the landing force, but to their disappointment neither Condor
nor the midshipmen were to take part in the sortie, as the little party
of seamen were to be held in reserve. Sir Sidney Smith himself intended
to take his place on the tower, whence he could watch the operations.
Wilkinson and Edgar were to act as his aides-de-camp, the latter to
carry messages to the Turkish officers commanding the two columns,
while Wilkinson was to perform the same office to the central column.

"You and Mr. Condor may probably have opportunities of distinguishing
yourselves later on," he said; "the other midshipmen may have their turn
to-night."



CHAPTER XII.

A DESPERATE SIEGE.


Just as day began to break, the gates were opened, and the columns moved
out one after the other. The order that the strictest silence was to be
observed was obeyed by the sailors and marines; but the Turks, who were
wrought up to a pitch of enthusiasm, made so great a noise that the
moment they issued from the gate shots were fired by the advanced
pickets, and a few seconds later the roll of drums in the French lines
broke out, and it was clear that the whole camp was alarmed. Sir Sidney
Smith uttered an exclamation of anger. As concealment was useless, he
then sent the two midshipmen to order all the batteries to open fire
upon the French trenches, and as the first gun boomed out the ships and
gun-boats on both flanks also opened fire, and the trenches by which the
French must advance from the village were swept by a storm of shot. The
French batteries joined in the din, while the infantry in the advanced
trenches opened a heavy musketry fire.

"By Jove, the Turks mean fighting this time!" Wilkinson said, when he
and Edgar had both returned from carrying their orders. "Look at them,
they are going at the French trenches in gallant style."

The dark masses could be plainly made out in the gray light that was
now stealing over the sky. Undaunted by the heavy fire of the French,
the Turks rushed at the earthworks, scaled them, and engaged in a
desperate hand-to-hand fight with their defenders. But the chief
attention of the little group on the tower, where Captain Wilmot and
Colonel Phelypeaux had also stationed themselves, was riveted upon the
fight going on in front of them. Already the French were thronging down
from their trenches, and the blue-jackets and marines were engaged in a
fierce fight. Knight, second of the _Tigre_, received two balls in his
left arm as he advanced, but upon arriving at the top of the shaft of
the mine he and the pioneers at once leapt down into it.

One ran forward to see if it was charged, and brought back news that it
was not. Lieutenant Knight and the little party of sailors worked
desperately to pull down the props that supported the roof of the
gallery, but they had little time allowed them for doing so. Had it not
been that the noise made by the Turks had given the alarm so long before
they reached the spot the work might have been completed. As it was,
they had performed but a small portion of it when an officer ran in to
say that they must at once come up, as the party could no longer keep
back the swarming throng of the enemy. Colonel Douglas, who was in
command, cheered on his hardly-pressed men, who had found the resistance
of the French so desperate that they had been unable to drive them out
from their advanced trench.

Lieutenant Knight, exhausted by the loss of blood, and his efforts to
aid the pioneers, had to be assisted from the gallery and carried off by
the seamen. Major Oldfield, who commanded the marines of _Theseus_, was
killed, with two of his men. Mr. Janverin, midshipman of the _Tigre_,
and eleven men were wounded. Beatty, and Forbes, a midshipman of the
_Theseus_, were both slightly wounded, as were five marines of that
ship, and a seaman and two marines of the _Alliance_. As soon as the
party began to draw off, a heavy fire was opened on the French by the
Turkish troops on the wall. The batteries opened with renewed vigour,
while the bugles sounded to order the retreat of the two Turkish corps.
All gained the gates unmolested. The Turks were in high spirits.
According to their custom at the time, they had cut off the heads of
their fallen foes and brought in sixty of these trophies.

The French loss had been considerably greater, for from the desperate
nature of the fighting the Turks had been unable to decapitate the
greater part of their fallen foes. In addition to the heads they also
brought in a great number of muskets and some intrenching tools. The
last were an extremely valuable prize, as the garrison had been much
hampered in their work by the small number of available picks and
shovels. Although, so far as the main object of the sortie, it had been
a failure, the result was, upon the whole, a satisfactory one. The Turks
had met the French in fair fight, and had held their own against them,
and they were so pleased that during the rest of the siege they never
once wavered. The attack, too, showed the French that their enemy was
not to be despised, and compelled them to take much greater precautions
than before, and to maintain, at all times, a strong force in their
advanced trenches.

On the 25th a tremendous explosion was heard, and the troops from all
quarters rushed towards the tower to repel the expected assault. Had the
mine been carried a few feet farther, the whole tower would have been
destroyed, but the French miners had come across a vault which
projected a little distance beyond the tower above it, and believing
that its wall was that of the tower itself, they had placed the charge
against it. Although therefore a partial failure, the effect was
tremendous. A portion of the outer wall of the tower was blown down,
some two hundred Turks, who formed its garrison, and some pieces of
cannon, were buried in the ruins. A small party of French rushed forward
before the smoke had cleared away and established themselves in the
lower stories. The Turks, however, rallied very quickly from the shock,
and opened so tremendous a fire from the walls, aided by the cross-fire
from the ships, that no reinforcements could reach the party in the
tower, and the next morning early they evacuated the place, which was
rendered untenable by the fire of the Turks in the story above them.

So soon as they had left the building the enemy concentrated their
batteries upon it. At the sound of the explosion Sir Sidney Smith, with
the sailors and marines of his guard, at once rushed through the streets
to the tower.

"Bravo, the Turks!" Wilkinson exclaimed, as he and Edgar ran along by
the side of the sailors. "Listen to their musketry fire! It is clear
that they are standing their ground anyhow, and that there is no panic
this time."

Sir Sidney was greatly relieved when, on his arrival at the tower, he
found that, although shaken and shattered, it still stood an obstacle to
an entry into the town. He went along the wall, warmly praising the
Turkish officers and men for their courage.

"That is a weight off my mind, colonel," he said to Phelypeaux. "I have
been scarcely able to close an eye for the last week. That mine has been
a perfect nightmare to me. There was no saying when it was going to
explode, and although the Turks have worked hard at that countermine we
set them to dig, I had little hope that you would be in time, as you had
to take it right under the foundations of the tower. I think that we
must congratulate ourselves heartily that it has been no worse."

"I think so, indeed, Sir Sidney. The Turks have certainly behaved
admirably to-day. I thought they would when they once got over their
idea that the French were invincible. They have always proved themselves
splendid soldiers when well led, and I have no doubt the example of your
men, and their carelessness of danger, have animated them with a
determination to show that they too can fight."

From the time of their entering Palestine the French had been amply
supplied with provisions of all sorts by the natives. As soon as he
crossed the frontier from Egypt, Bonaparte had sent proclamations
broadcast among the people. A large proportion of the inhabitants of the
hill country were Christians, and the assurances that he came to free
them from the domination of the Turks, just as he had freed Egypt, was
received with enthusiasm by the simple and ignorant people, who knew
very little of what was passing in the world around them. The
consequence was, that as he marched north from Jaffa, deputations met
him, comprising most of the leading men. These received presents, and
promises that they should never again fall under the dominion of the
Turks; while they, on their part, promised to supply cattle, corn, wine,
and wood to the utmost extent of their resources. These promises they
faithfully kept, and also did good service in aiding the transport of
stores landed at Jaffa.

Sir Sidney now endeavoured to counteract the effect of Napoleon's
proclamations, and by means of native emissaries landed by the ship's
boats at various points along the coast, sent out a large quantity of
addresses of his own, telling them that Napoleon was, it was true, at
war with the Sultan, but that this was no question of religion, and that
he was but endeavouring to pass through Syria, in order to make his way
to Europe, his retreat by sea having been cut off; and that he would be
perfectly ready at any time to make terms with the Sultan, and would
leave them, without a moment's thought, to the vengeance of the Turks,
against whom they were now helping him. He added, that Djezzar Pasha,
being convinced that they had been deceived by Bonaparte, and were
acting in ignorance of the true state of things, promised solemnly that
all who, now that the truth was told to them, withdrew their aid from
the French, should be pardoned for the course that they had hitherto
taken.

These papers soon bore fruit. The English were known to be favourable to
the Syrian Christians, and the assurances of Sir Sidney Smith had great
weight, and there was soon a sensible decrease in the amount of
provisions and supplies brought into the French camp.

The breach widened under the heavy fire kept up continuously upon it by
the French batteries, and as it was evident that other assaults would be
made at that spot, the engineers began to throw out a ravelin, or
advanced work, from the foot of the walls on each side of the breach, so
as to take any assaulting party in flank. On the 1st of May the French,
thinking that the breach must now be practicable, advanced for the
fourth time.

A heavy gale had blown all day, the ships of war and gun-boats were
rolling heavily at their anchorage, and it was doubtless thought that
they would be unable to use their guns. In the afternoon, therefore, a
body of men ran forward with six scaling-ladders; crossing the moat as
before, they planted their ladders and attempted to mount the breach.
They were, however, assailed by so heavy a fire of musketry from the
Turks that the leading party were literally swept away. In spite of the
heavy weather, the ships joined their fire to that of the batteries, and
a storm of shot and shell was rained upon the trenches, and the 2000 men
who had been seen to advance in readiness for the assault, finding it
impossible to issue from their shelter, retired to their camp. The
marines of the two men-of-war had manned the new works, and their fire
contributed much to the repulse of the French.

Sir Sidney Smith, in his despatches home, expressed his regret at the
heavy loss of life encountered by the French in their desperate attempts
to perform the impossible feat of entering by a breach that could only
be reached by scaling-ladders. The point of attack had certainly been
badly chosen, for, while the masonry of the upper chamber tower was very
rotten, that of the lower part was excellent; whereas the walls
themselves were, in most places, badly built, and could have been
demolished in a very short time by the heavy guns the French now had in
their batteries. Thirty of these had been landed at Jaffa, and brought
up to the front.

In addition to the sortie of the 16th April, Sir Sidney Smith kept the
besiegers constantly on the alert by landing parties from the ships'
boats on the flanks of their lines of trenches. The attacks were
sometimes pushed home, the earthworks were overthrown, the fascines
carried off for use in the redoubts, guns spiked, and intrenching tools
captured, and these attacks greatly added to the labour imposed upon the
besiegers, who were compelled not only to keep strong bodies in the
advanced trenches but to defend the whole line of attack against flank
surprises by their enterprising foes.

The Turks vied with the British in activity, making frequent night
attacks on the trenches, and generally succeeding in carrying off a
number of fascines, which were greatly needed, and were of special
utility in the construction of the ravelin. The day after the repulse of
the fourth attack the garrison suffered a heavy loss in the death of
Colonel Phelypeaux, who died of fever brought on by want of rest and
exposure to the sun. On the same day another, and almost as serious a
loss, was sustained, for Captain Wilmot was killed by a musket shot
while in the act of mounting a gun in the breach.

The midshipmen had, two days before, lost one of their comrades named
Morris, who, with three seamen, was killed in one of the sorties, eight
other blue-jackets of the _Tigre_ being wounded at the same time. On the
night of the 2nd of May the enemy made two desperate attempts to capture
the English ravelins, but the marines in charge, aided by the fire from
the walls and ships, held their ground, and repulsed the French with
much loss. Every day the fighting increased in fury. Between the 1st and
9th the French made no less than five attacks upon the breach; these
were all beaten off with very heavy loss; while the defenders, on their
part, made frequent sorties to compel the assailants to stand on the
defensive, and to interfere with their attempts to carry the approaches
up to the foot of the walls.

The fire of the vessels was still maintained, but the besiegers had so
raised and strengthened the earthworks protecting their traverses and
trenches that they were now able to go backwards and forwards to the
front with but little danger from the ships' fire.

Edgar had now lost the companionship both of Condor and Wilkinson. These
had both gone back to their ship, for the death of Morris and the
wounding of Forbes and Lieutenant Knight had left the ship short of
officers. Condor acted as junior lieutenant until the latter was fit for
service again, and both he and Wilkinson took part in the boat attacks
and the sorties from the town. Edgar was therefore now in command of the
blue-jackets on shore, who were held always in readiness to run to the
aid of the garrison at any spot where there might be sudden danger.

It was believed that the French were again mining in several places, and
although Colonel Douglas, who had succeeded Phelypeaux in command of the
engineering operations, set parties at work to drive countermines, the
work progressed slowly, and it was difficult to ascertain the precise
direction in which the enemy were driving their galleries. Edgar still
acted as interpreter to Sir Sidney Smith, and was the bearer of his
orders to the Turkish officers. He was very glad that it was but seldom
that he was called upon to accompany his chief in his visits to the
tower, for the stench here from the unburied bodies of the French and of
the Turks overwhelmed by the explosion was overpowering. Numbers of the
Turks stationed here were attacked by mortal illness, others became
delirious, and it was necessary to change the force holding it at very
frequent intervals.

On the evening of the 7th of May there was immense satisfaction in the
town, as a number of sail were seen on the horizon. It was certain that
this was the force under Hassan Bey, which had been originally intended
for Egypt, but had been diverted from its course by Sir Sidney Smith's
orders. Its arrival had been anxiously looked for during the last month,
but it had been detained by calms and other causes at Rhodes, and it was
only a portion of the force that now, on the fifty-first day of the
siege, made its appearance.

From the enemy's camp on the hills the fleet was made out as soon as
from the town, and the effect was in a very short time apparent by the
fire of the enemy's batteries being redoubled, and it was apparent that
Bonaparte had determined to make a great effort to capture the town
before the arrival of the reinforcements; and in a short time a great
column was seen advancing to the attack.

Two of the _Tigre's_ 68-pounders, mounted on native craft lying in the
little port near the water-gate, opened upon them with shells, while two
guns, manned by British sailors, one on the castle of the lighthouse,
the other on one of the ravelins, poured grape into them. But the column
moved on. The tremendous cannonade from their batteries overpowered that
from the guns on the walls, and they suffered but little from the fire
from the ravelins, as they had, the night before, constructed two
breastworks from the end of their trenches to the breach, the materials
used being sandbags and the bodies of their own slain.

In spite of the efforts of the defenders the French effected a lodgment
in the tower. Its upper story had now been entirely destroyed by the
enemy's fire, and the fragments had so increased the heap at the foot of
the breach that the assailants were able to mount without the use of
ladders. This was the most critical moment in the siege.

Hassan's troops were already in their boats, and were rowing to shore.

"Run down to the landing-place, Mr. Blagrove," Sir Sidney said, "take my
gig, and row out to meet the boats, and order them to come round to the
port here, instead of landing at the other end of the town. There is not
a moment to be lost; the Turks are losing heart."

Edgar had just brought up the little party of sailors, and leaving them
to the leading of the petty officer with them, ran down at the top of
his speed to the landing-place. The gig's crew were standing near the
boat, listening anxiously to the terrible din of the conflict.

"Jump in, men, and row for your lives!" Edgar exclaimed; "every minute
is of consequence. The French will be in the town in five minutes. I
want to meet the boats, coxswain."

The sailors, who had already guessed that his errand was urgent by the
speed at which Edgar dashed down to the boat, stretched themselves to
their oars and rowed as if racing, and met the Turkish boats a quarter
of a mile from the shore.

"I am sent by the commander-in-chief, Sir Sidney Smith, to order you to
row round to the mole and land there. Order the men to row their
hardest. Every moment is of consequence. The French are on the point of
entering the town."

At once the flotilla of boats changed its course, the soldiers cheered,
filled with the excitement of the moment, and the sailors tugged at
their oars; and, headed by the gig, in ten minutes the boats reached the
landing-place by the mole, and as the troops leaped out, Edgar, burning
with impatience and anxiety, led them to the breach. It was still held.
Some of the Turks, as the French entered the tower, had been seized with
a panic and fled, but a few remained at their post. While some hurled
down stones from above on to the column ascending the breach, others met
them hand to hand at the top of the heap. Here Sir Sidney Smith himself
took his place with three or four of his officers and the handful of
blue-jackets.

The combat was a desperate one. The swords of the officers, the
cutlasses of the sailors, the pikes of the Turks, clashed against the
bayonets of the French. Soon an important ally arrived. The news had
speedily reached Djezzar that Sir Sidney and his officers were
themselves defending the breach. The old pasha had hitherto taken no
personal part in the conflict, but had, as was the Turkish custom,
remained seated on his divan every day, receiving reports from his
officers, giving audience to the soldiers who brought in the heads of
enemies, and rewarding them for their valour. Now, however, he leapt to
his feet, seized his sabre, and ran to the breach, shouting to the
soldiers to follow him. On his arrival at the scene of conflict he
rushed forward and pulled Sir Sidney and his officers forcibly back from
the front line.

"You must not throw away your lives," he said; "if my English friends
are killed, all is lost."

Fortunately, the shouts of the pasha, as he ran, caused a number of
soldiers to follow him, and these now threw themselves into the fray,
and maintained the defence until Edgar ran up with the soldiers who had
just landed.

The reinforcements, as they arrived, were greeted with enthusiastic
shouts from the inhabitants, numbers of whom, men and women, had
assembled at the landing-place on hearing of the approach of the boats.
The garrison, reanimated by the succour, ran also to the breach, and the
combat was now so stoutly maintained that Sir Sidney was able to retire
with the pasha, to whom he proposed that one of the newly-arrived
regiments, a thousand strong, armed with bayonets and disciplined in the
European method, should make a sally, take the enemy in flank, or compel
them to draw off.

The pasha at once assented, a gate was opened, and the Turks rushed out.
Their orders were to carry the enemy's nearest trench, and to shift the
gabions and fascines to the outward side, and to maintain themselves
there. The new arrivals, however, were not yet inured to fighting, and
as the French batteries opened upon them, and the soldiers, leaping on
to the parapets, poured volley after volley into their midst, they
faltered, and presently turned and fled back to the gate, their retreat
being protected by heavy discharges of grape from the 68-pounders in the
port. The sortie, however, had its effect. The French had suffered
heavily from the flanking fire as soon as they had shown themselves on
the parapet, and the assaulting column, knowing from the din of battle
that a serious sortie had been made, fell back from the breach, their
retreat being hastened by the discharge of a number of hand-grenades by
a midshipman of the _Theseus_ on the top of the tower.

But the assault was not yet over. Napoleon, with several of his generals
and a group of aides-de-camp, had been watching the fight from an
eminence known as Richard Coeur de Lion's Mount, and had been
compelled to shift their position several times by shells thrown among
them from the ships. Their movements were clearly visible with a
field-glass. Bonaparte was seen to wave his hand violently, and an
aide-de-camp galloped off at the top of his speed. Edgar, who was
standing near Sir Sidney Smith, was watching them through a telescope,
and had informed Sir Sidney of what he had seen.

"Doubtless he is ordering up reinforcements. We shall have more fighting
yet."

He then held a consultation with the pasha, who proposed that this time
they should carry out a favourite Turkish method of defence--allow the
enemy to enter the town, and then fall upon them. The steps were removed
from the walls near the tower, so that the French, when they issued from
the top of the ruined building, would be obliged to follow along the
wall, and to descend by those leading into the pasha's garden. Here two
hundred Albanians, the survivors of a corps a thousand strong who had
greatly distinguished themselves in the sorties, were stationed, while
all the garrison that could be spared from other points, together with
the newly-arrived troops, were close at hand. The Turks were withdrawn
from the breach and tower, and the attack was confidently awaited.

It came just before sunset, when a massive column advanced to the
breach. No resistance was offered. They soon appeared at the top of the
ruin, which was now no higher than the wall itself, and moved along the
rampart. When they came to the steps leading into the pasha's garden, a
portion of them descended, while the main body moved farther on, and
made their way by other steps down into the town. Then suddenly the
silence that had reigned was broken by an outburst of wild shouts and
volleys of musketry, while from the head of every street leading into
the open space into which the French had descended, the Turkish troops
burst out. In the pasha's garden the Albanians threw themselves, sabre
in one hand and dagger in the other, upon the party there, scarce one of
whom succeeded in escaping, General Rombaud, who commanded, being among
the slain, and General Lazeley being carried off wounded.

The din of battle at the main scene of conflict was heightened by the
babel of shouts and screams that rose throughout the town. No word
whatever of the intention to allow the French to enter the place had
been spoken, for it was known that the French had emissaries in the
place, who would in some way contrive to inform them of what was going
on there, and the success of the plan would have been imperilled had the
intentions of the defenders been made known to the French. The latter
fought with their usual determination and valour, but were unable to
withstand the fury with which they were attacked from all sides, and
step by step were driven back to the breach. Thus, after twenty-four
hours of fighting, the position of the parties remained unaltered.

Bonaparte, in person, had taken part in the assault, and when the troops
entered the town had taken up his place at the top of the tower. Kleber,
who commanded the assault, had fought with his accustomed bravery at the
head of his troops, and for a time, animated by his voice and example,
his soldiers had resisted the fiercest efforts of the Turks. But even
his efforts could not for long maintain the unequal conflict. As the
troops fell back along the walls towards the breach, the guns from
elevated positions mowed them down, many of the shot striking the group
round Bonaparte himself. He remained still and immovable, until almost
dragged away, seeming to be petrified by this terrible disaster, when he
deemed that, after all his sacrifices and losses, success was at last
within his grasp.

During the siege he had lost five thousand men. The hospitals were
crowded with sick. The tribesmen had ceased to send in provisions. Even
should he succeed in taking the town after another assault, his force
would be so far reduced as to be incapable of further action. Its
strength had already fallen from sixteen thousand to eight thousand men.
Ten of his generals had been killed. Of his eight aides-de-camp, four
had been killed and two severely wounded.

The next evening the Turkish regiment that had made a sortie on the
night of their landing, but had been unable to face the tremendous fire
poured upon them, begged that they might be allowed to go out again in
order to retrieve themselves.

Permission was given, and their colonel was told to make himself master
of the nearest line of the enemies' trenches, and to hold them as
directed on the occasion of his previous sortie. The work was gallantly
done. Unheeding the enemy's fire the Turks dashed forward with loud
shouts, leapt into the trenches, and bayonetted their defenders; but
instead of setting to work to move the materials of the parapet across
to the other side, carried away by their enthusiasm they rushed forward,
and burst their way into the second parallel. So furiously did they
fight that Kleber's division, which was again advancing to make a final
attempt to carry the breach, had to be diverted from its object to
resist the impetuous Turks. For three hours the conflict raged, and
although the assailants were greatly outnumbered they held their ground
nobly. Large numbers fell upon both sides, but at last the Turks were
forced to fall back again into the town.

The desperate valour with which they had just fought hand to hand
without any advantage of position showed the French troops how hopeless
was the task before them; and Kleber's grenadiers, who had been victors
in unnumbered battles, now positively refused to attempt the ascent of
the fatal breach again.

Receiving news the next day that three French frigates had just arrived
off Caesarea, Sir Sidney determined to go in pursuit of them, but the
pasha was so unwilling that the whole force of British should depart
that he sent off the _Theseus_ with two Turkish frigates that had
accompanied the vessels bringing the troops.

The voyage was an unfortunate one. Captain Miller, as the supply of shot
and shell on board the men-of-war was almost exhausted, had for some
time kept his men, when not otherwise engaged at work, collecting French
shell which had fallen, without bursting, in the town. A number of
these he had fitted with fresh fuses, and a party of sailors were
engaged in preparing the others for service, when from some unknown
cause one of them exploded, and this was instantly followed by the
bursting of seventy others. The men had been at work on the fore part of
the poop, near Captain Miller's cabin, and he and twenty-five men were
at once killed and the vessel set on fire in five places. Mr. England,
the first lieutenant, at once set the crew to work, and by great
exertions succeeded in extinguishing the flames. He then continued the
voyage, and drove the three French frigates to sea.

The loss of Captain Miller, who had been indefatigable in his exertions
during the siege, was a great blow to Sir Sidney Smith. He appointed
Lieutenant Canes, who had been in charge of the _Tigre_ during his
absence on shore, to the command of the _Theseus_, and transferred
Lieutenant England to the place of first lieutenant of the _Tigre_.

It was generally felt that after the tremendous loss he suffered in the
last of the eleven assaults made by the French that Napoleon could no
longer continue the siege. Not only had the numerical loss been enormous
in proportion to the strength of the army, but it had fallen upon his
best troops. The artillery had suffered terribly, the grenadiers had
been almost annihilated, and as the assaults had always been headed by
picked regiments, the backbone of the army was gone. It was soon
ascertained indeed that Napoleon was sending great convoys of sick,
wounded, and stores down the coast, and on the 20th the siege was
raised, and the French marched away.



CHAPTER XIII.

AN INDEPENDENT COMMAND.


The departure of the French had been hastened by the rapidly-increasing
discontent and insubordination among the troops. During the later days
of the siege Sir Sidney Smith had issued great numbers of printed copies
of a letter from the Sultan authorizing him to offer a safe passage to
France to the French army if it would surrender. This offer was a
tempting one indeed to the soldiers. They had suffered hardships of all
kinds since they had disembarked at Alexandria. They had been parched
with thirst, half-choked with blinding dust, and had seen their comrades
fall in numbers smitten by sunstroke. They counted but little the losses
they had suffered in the battles in Egypt--that was in the ordinary way
of the business of a soldier; but the dread of assassination whenever
they ventured out from their lines, whether in camp or on the march, had
weighed heavily upon them. Then had come the plague that had more than
decimated them at Jaffa, and now they were reduced to well-nigh half
their strength by the manner in which they had been sent time after time
against the breach in the wall of an insignificant town, which would
have been of no use to them if taken, as they could have been shelled
out of it by the British men-of-war and gun-boats.

Sir Sidney Smith had passed through the terrible siege without a
scratch, although freely exposing himself, and two attempts at
assassination by the French emissaries in the town had also failed. The
_Tigre_ sailed at once to place herself between Jaffa and Damietta, and
so cut off the retreat of the French army by sea. Not anticipating that
this would be the case, Napoleon, on his arrival at Jaffa, embarked the
twenty-three guns he had brought with him, on board ship, together with
all the sick and wounded who were unequal to the desert march.

So great was the haste, that the vessels were despatched short of hands,
and without provisions or water. As soon as the _Tigre_ was made out the
vessels all steered for her, confiding in the well-known humanity of the
British to their prisoners. They were not mistaken. Sir Sidney had
abundance of supplies and water put on board them, and he convoyed them
to Damietta, where they received from their countrymen the surgical and
medical aid that was beyond his power to afford them. Edgar was not on
board the _Tigre_ when she fell in with the convoy of wounded. Sir
Sidney had, early on the morning after the departure of the French,
informed him that he should, in his despatches, report most favourably
of the assistance that he had rendered him both as interpreter and
aide-de-camp during the siege.

"For the present," he went on, "I shall have no great need for an
interpreter, as I shall probably have little to do for some time beyond
cruising backwards and forwards on the coast of Egypt to prevent ships
from France entering the ports with stores and ammunition, therefore I
shall be able to give you employment which I think that you will like.
One of the gun-boats captured from the French is a fast sailer. Hassan
Bey tells me that when he was at Rhodes he heard great complaints of the
piracy that was being carried on among the islands. The Turkish troops
in most of these were withdrawn by him to swell his force as he sailed
south, and there are now no vessels of war in those waters. The French
flag has been driven from the sea, while our work has been too serious
to admit of our paying any attention to the Aegean, although, as I knew
before I left London, the complaints of merchants and ship-owners of the
capture of merchantmen trading with Constantinople and other eastern
ports were numerous. At the present moment I can well spare one of the
gun-boats; the others will go down to watch the Egyptian coast. I shall
therefore commission the _Foudre_, and re-name her the _Tigress_. I
shall appoint Mr. Wilkinson to the command. Mr. Condor would, of course,
have had it, but he has been transferred as third lieutenant to the
_Theseus_, and as Wilkinson is senior midshipman, he will have her. I
shall appoint you his second in command. She carries eight guns, and has
room for two more, which I shall place on board from those on the walls.
Her own guns are fourteen-pounders, and with two eighteens she will be
heavily armed. Her complement was fifty-two men. I will give you forty
from the _Tigre_, and will draw fifteen from the _Theseus_, and five
from the _Alliance_. You will need a stronger crew with two extra guns;
besides, you may want to send landing-parties on shore, or to cut out
piratical craft, and ought therefore to be strong-handed."

"Thank you very much, sir. I shall be very glad to be employed on such
service."

"Please send Mr. Wilkinson to me, Mr. Blagrove. I have his instructions
written out for him."

"Sir Sidney Smith wants you, Wilkinson," Edgar said as he went into the
next house.

"What is up?"

"There is a report that you have been making love to a Turkish girl; you
will get it hot."

"Bosh!" Wilkinson said, laughing, as he put on his cap. "I have not
spoken to a feminine of any kind since we left England."

In a quarter of an hour he returned.

"Hurrah, Blagrove! this is glorious. I am all the more pleased that you
are going with me. How lucky Condor being promoted to the _Theseus_, or
of course he would have had it. Then Knight, being still unfit for duty
from the effects of the wounds he received in the sortie, and our first
lieutenant being new to the ship, the third lieutenant cannot be spared.
Sir Sidney spoke very kindly. He said that it was a heavy responsibility
for so young an officer, but that he trusted I should prove equal to it,
and that I must remember that prudence was just as necessary as courage
and dash. He gave me a good deal of advice, which I shall think over and
try to act on when I sober down a bit. Now we are both relieved from
other duty, so we will pack up our kit.

"Sir Sidney is going on board the _Tigre_ in five minutes, and he said
that we could go on board with him, and we had better do so, as there
was no time to be lost. Mason, one of the gunner's mates, is to go with
us. We are to have sixty blue-jackets and five marines for sentries, and
so on. He thinks that we can't do better than take the Turk who has been
cooking for him, and our cook here. They are both very good fellows. One
will be our steward and cook, and the other cook for the men. The
boatswain's mate and the purser are to go with us to the brig, and see
what is required in the way of stores. Everything has to be got on board
by to-night, as Sir Sidney sails early to-morrow morning, so there is no
time to be wasted."

While he was talking the two midshipmen were throwing their spare
clothes into the kit-bags, in which they had brought them ashore. One of
the sailors slung them across his shoulder and followed them down to the
landing-place. The bags were stowed under the thwarts forward, and the
lads waited until their commander came down.

"Remember, Mr. Wilkinson," the latter said as he took his seat in the
boat, "you and Mr. Blagrove must be here at seven o'clock this evening,
for I am landing at that hour to pay a final adieu to the pasha, and he
asked me to bring you both with me. I mention it now, as it might slip
my memory. The men you had on shore all gave you satisfaction, didn't
they?"

"Yes, sir, they were all willing and ready for work at any hour, day or
night."

"Then you may as well have them as a body. Some twenty of them have been
killed, wounded, or laid up by fever, but with the men now on board they
will make the crew up to its full strength."

The gig was now on her way, and the shore party of sailors and marines
were gathering round the cutter that had been sent to take them on
board. Before leaving the quarters that they had occupied, the
midshipmen had made hasty arrangements with the two Turks, who had
gladly accepted their offer. They had been told that one or other of the
midshipmen would be sure to be on shore some time during the day.
Therefore they were to hold themselves in readiness to embark at once.
On arriving on board, the lieutenant was requested by Sir Sidney to tell
off five marines to form part of the complement of the gun-boat. Ten
minutes after their arrival the two midshipmen started with two petty
officers to inspect the stores of the gun-boat.

"She is a very pretty craft, Blagrove!" Wilkinson said with delight as
he regarded with pride his new command.

"Yes. I doubt whether we should have ever taken her if she had not been
so deep in the water with the guns and stores she had on board. The
French certainly know how to build ships; there is no question about
that. I doubt whether we have such a good-looking gun-boat in the
service. Anyhow I have not seen one."

The petty officer who commanded the gun-boat saluted as Wilkinson came
up to the side and announced that he had come to take command of the
boat.

"Am I to remain on board, Mr. Wilkinson?"

"Yes, Mr. Philpot. I am to have two petty officers, and Sir Sidney said
that as you knew all about the brig you would be very useful to me. All
the men are to remain here. Now we must overhaul the stores. What have
you got on board?"

"We have a very short supply of powder and ball, not above ten rounds
for each gun, and there is hardly any small-arm ammunition. There are
twelve barrels of salt junk, eight of flour; there is a cask of rum that
was broached last week, half a cask of sugar, and some bags of coffee. I
have not sounded the water-tank, but I don't think that there is much in
there."

A thorough examination was now made. An exact inventory of the
provisions was taken, and the amount of water on board was ascertained,
the boatswain's stores were gone over, and were found to be well
supplied with rope, sail-cloth, and other necessaries. A calculation was
then made as to the amount that would be required for the future
strength of the crew for a three months' cruise. The boat was then rowed
back to the _Tigre_. As soon as they arrived there, and reported to the
first lieutenant what was required, a signal was made to the gun-boat to
send one of her boats ashore at once with water-casks, and to fill up
the tanks. A party was set to work to hoist up the barrels of stores,
according to the list handed in by Wilkinson, while Edgar was sent on
shore with forty men, with an order to the Turkish commander of
artillery, to hand over to him two 18-pounders and as much ammunition
for them and the 14-pounder guns as could be provided.

Mason, the gunner's mate, who was to sail in the _Tigress_, accompanied
him to aid him to get the guns down to the boat. The Turkish officer at
once handed over the guns, but was able to supply but little ammunition,
for which, now that the French had retreated, there was no longer any
use at Acre. However, he told off twenty men to aid the sailors in
getting the guns and ammunition down, and in two hours the whole had
been placed on board the boats, bringing them down very low in the
water. When the last party were on their way down, Edgar hurried to his
old quarters and had a consultation with the two Turks, who were ordered
to purchase a supply of wine, meat, and such other stores as they could
find for the cabin use, and were told to have everything at the
landing-place, and to be in readiness to go on board themselves, by four
o'clock in the afternoon.

Had the order been given two days before, there would have been little
for the Turks to have purchased; but the town was already full of
natives from the hills, many chiefs having come down to assure the pasha
of their fidelity, and to inform him that bands of their horsemen were
hanging on the rear of the retreating French. Great numbers of the
villagers had come in to inspect the scene of the desperate struggle
that had for upwards of two months gone on unceasingly. Many were
anxious to obtain employment in the work of burying the dead and
clearing away the ruins. Almost all brought in something to sell--sheep,
goats, and chickens, eggs and vegetables. Of the latter Edgar had
ordered that a large supply should be brought for the use of the crew;
for although native boats from the north had, while the siege went on,
often arrived with fresh provisions, the supply had been insufficient
for the demand, and many of the sailors were suffering alike from the
want of fresh food and from their hard work, and most of all from the
horrible effluvia from the unburied bodies that bestrewed the ground
over which the fighting had taken place.

As the heavily-laden boats rowed out to the brig they were overtaken by
the water-boats, which were now making their third trip; they reported
to Edgar that what they now carried would completely fill up the tanks.
Wilkinson was on board, having come off with the boats with the stores
from the _Tigre_. It had been a hard morning's work, but both were well
satisfied with it; and as they sat down to a lunch composed of a loaf of
bread and a bottle of wine Edgar had brought off with him, they chatted
over the future prospect in high glee.

"This is not so spacious as the room you have been occupying for the
last two months," Wilkinson said, "but it beats the cockpit hollow."

"Yes, it is a very snug little cabin, and the French skipper evidently
knew how to make himself comfortable. It is lucky that everyone has been
so busy since we took her that no one has thought of stripping it. There
are his telescope, a big roll of charts, and two brace of pistols, all
in their places. I know the French officers were all permitted to take
their clothes away with them; so no doubt the lockers are empty."

This, however, on examination, proved not to be the case, for in them
were found three or four dozen of wine, two dozen of brandy, a good
supply of chocolate, coffee, and other cabin stores.

"I see, Mr. Philpot," Wilkinson said when they went on deck, "you have
husbanded the captain's stores most carefully."

"Yes, sir; no orders were given to me about them, and I knew that I
might be relieved any day. I think I have had three bottles of brandy. I
used to take a tot every night, thinking that there could be no harm in
that."

"No harm at all," Wilkinson said. "I suppose properly, under ordinary
circumstances, the stores should have been handed over at once to the
_Tigre_; but as no orders were given about it, I think you were
perfectly right in taking toll, though I don't know that it would have
been justified by the regulations. However, certainly I shall risk it
myself."

"Of course, sir, as commander of the ship, it is a different thing
altogether. I was only put here to look after the men working the guns."

For some hours the crew were hard at work lowering down the stores into
the hold, packing the ammunition in the magazine, hoisting up the two
eighteen-pounders and their carriages, and getting them into position.
At half-past three a boat was sent ashore, and returned with the two
Turks and a quantity of provisions. The carcases of three sheep were
handed over to the crew, with the greater portion of the vegetables, one
sheep being kept for the use of the cabin and the petty officers,
together with a supply of vegetables sufficient for some days. A good
supply of fruit had been brought, which was also divided. As soon as the
deck was cleared, all hands were set to wash it down.

"They need not scrub until to-morrow morning, Mr. Philpot," Wilkinson
said. "The men have had a hard day's work; they can clean her properly
the first thing to-morrow. Have you taken a look at the rigging?"

"Yes, sir, everything is in first-rate condition."

"No doubt she was thoroughly fitted out before she sailed. She
certainly looks like it," Wilkinson replied as he glanced at the coils
of ropes. "We shall get up anchor at daybreak. I want to be under sail
before the _Tigre_. It would not look smart for a line-of-battle ship to
be under weigh before a brig."

At half-past six, Wilkinson and Edgar, both in full uniform--for the
latter had provided himself with a full kit, having bought the outfit of
one of the midshipmen of the _Theseus_ who had been killed, and who
happened to be about his own height and size--took their places in a
boat and rowed ashore. In a few minutes Sir Sidney Smith arrived.

"Nearly ready for sea, Mr. Wilkinson?"

"Yes, sir, we shall be ready to sail to-morrow morning. Everything may
not be quite ship-shape yet, but a few hours' work on the way will get
everything in order."

"Very good work!" Sir Sidney said approvingly. "I hardly thought that
you would have got your guns on board to-day."

"The commandant gave us a complement of Turks to help to carry them
down, sir, which made short work of it."

"I expect that you will be having a more lively time of it than I shall.
I may pick up a few store-ships, but blockading is always dull work.
However, I hope before very long they will be sending a force out from
England to finish with the French in Egypt. You must remember that you
can't be too careful with those Greek and Moslem pirates; one is as bad
as the other, and from what I hear they generally work two or three
together, and though their craft may be small they carry a number of
men; therefore, boat expeditions against them should always be
strong-handed. You must bear in mind that although a command like this
is a fine opportunity for a young officer to distinguish himself, upon
the other hand, if he meets with a misfortune it tells against him. If I
had not seen you and Mr. Blagrove both frequently under a heavy fire I
should scarcely have ventured to appoint you to such a charge; but I
know that you are both cool and steady, and being so short of officers
as we are, and feeling that it is of urgent importance to do something
to put a stop to the alarming increase of piracy, I consider myself
justified in making these appointments."

By this time they had reached the pasha's palace. The latter evidently
considered the visit to be a ceremonious one, and a guard of honour was
drawn up in the court-yard who saluted as they passed in. For a time the
pasha and Sir Sidney exchanged compliments in the usual oriental style,
Edgar translating their speeches.

"Without you and your brave sailors the town would have fallen on the
first day the French opened fire," the pasha said. "My men were
thoroughly dispirited by the events of Jaffa, and to tell you the truth,
I myself absolutely despaired of resistance, and should have left before
the French arrived had not your ships come into the bay. If Jaffa, which
was very much stronger than this place, and with a garrison of 8000 men
in good heart, fell at the first assault, what could be done here, where
the defences needed but a few shot to fall in ruins, and the garrison
were panic-stricken and believed the enemy to be absolutely invincible?"

"No troops could have fought better than yours towards the end of the
siege, pasha. The way in which they threw themselves sabre in hand upon
the French bayonets was splendid, and my own sailors could have fought
no better than they did when the French entered the town."

"Yes, yes, they did well then, but at the beginning their hearts were
water, and a hundred French grenadiers could have taken the place. I
hope you will return here soon."

"I fancy that there is little chance of that, pasha, unless it be that I
hear that those three French frigates the _Theseus_ chased a few days
ago are on the coast again, in which case I may run across and try to
catch them. Certainly there is no fear of the French coming here again;
the news of what has taken place here will cause such excitement among
the Egyptians that Bonaparte will have as much as he can do to maintain
his hold on the province. I shall take care to do justice to yourself
and your soldiers in sending my report of the siege to the Sultan, my
sovereign's ally, and in whose service I hold rank."

The old pasha smiled. "At any rate, Sir Sidney Smith, I shall take care
that the Sultan shall not send you hither to capture Acre instead of
defending it. I have had a lesson that my troops are not so formidable
as I had deemed, and he shall have no further reason for complaint
against me. And now, young gentlemen," he went on, turning to the
midshipmen, "I hear that you are going to sail in one of the gun-boats
captured by your commander, to endeavour to punish some of the pirates
that are doing so much mischief, not only to the trade among the
islands, but to vessels trading from our ports and others with Stamboul.
You, young sir, have rendered me, as well as Sir Sidney Smith, great
service throughout this siege by interpreting between us and thus
enabling me to understand his wishes, instead of being obliged to learn
them through those who might have reported their substance to the
French. Likewise you have daily carried his orders to my officers, and
often through heavy fire. Had you been an officer of mine I should have
known how to recognize your services. I could have given you much
promotion, and, for such is the custom in our army, have presented you
with so many purses. As you are not, I have no power to give you
promotion, and Sir Sidney Smith tells me that as a British officer you
could not receive gifts in money even from a foreign monarch. He has
said, however, that, as a personal present, and as a token of my regard
for the services that you have rendered me, he considers that you could
accept such a present in the form of a jewel as I might think it right
to offer you."

He took a box of Turkish make that stood on the table beside him.

"This," he said, "is an aigrette which I myself have worn in battle; and
no more appropriate present could be made to one whom I have seen
standing unflinchingly in a fire that might well have appalled
veterans."

Then he turned to Wilkinson. "You, sir, have throughout the siege been
on service on shore here, and during the first part of the siege
commanded the little body of sailors who checked the first attempt of
the enemy to capture the tower. I saw you fighting bravely during that
terrible struggle in the breach when it so nearly fell into the hands of
the French. I therefore present you with a ring of honour similar to
those that I have requested Sir Sidney Smith to have the kindness to
give in my name to the officers who distinguished themselves most
greatly in the defence of my town."

Edgar translated the pasha's speech, and then opened the box presented
to himself. It contained a superb aigrette, mounted upon a brooch-like
ornament by which it was fastened to a turban. This ornament, which was
some four inches in diameter, was composed entirely of precious stones,
with an emerald of great size in the centre. He looked at Sir Sidney
Smith.

"It is too valuable altogether," he said.

"You can take it," his commander said with a smile; "he showed it to me
this morning."

Edgar then expressed his thanks in suitable terms to the pasha, and also
those of Wilkinson, whose ring contained a diamond of great beauty; then
at a sign from Sir Sidney they left the room, leaving him to conclude
his interview with the pasha alone. In a quarter of an hour he joined
them outside the palace.

"I congratulate you on your presents," he said. "Yours, Blagrove, is
undoubtedly very valuable, and had you intended to remain permanently in
the service I do not know that I could have allowed you to accept it. As
it is, I see no harm in it. I may tell you that the pasha asked me if I
thought that you would remain in his service. He says your knowledge of
several languages would be of much value to him, and that he should like
to have one about him on whose courage, as well as fidelity, he could
rely. I told him that I knew that you had other plans, and that you
would probably leave the navy as soon as the French evacuated Egypt, and
were, I knew, anxious to return to your parents in England. I have no
doubt, Mr. Blagrove, that he would have been willing to give you terms
you could hardly have hoped for elsewhere; but the pasha is an old man,
you would have been an object of jealousy to his officers and officials,
and he is at times guilty of cruelties at which I know you would revolt,
and your position therefore would have been a precarious one, and your
enemies might not improbably endeavour to remove so formidable a rival
in their master's favour by assassination, so I thought that for your
own interest it is better that I should take upon myself to decline the
offer."

"Thank you, sir. I should not have liked to enter his service at all.
It would be an idle life as well as an unpleasant one, and, besides, I
know that my father wishes me to take his place in Alexandria."

"Djezzar has behaved very handsomely," Sir Sidney said. "He obtained
from me a list of all the officers of the three ships and of the petty
officers who have specially distinguished themselves. He has given me
jewels to hand to all the officers in his name, and also purses of money
for the petty officers. He is, you know, immensely rich. The old fellow
was really grieved that he could not offer anything to me; he said as
much, but I at once pointed out that, putting everything else aside, it
would be an unheard-of thing for the commander-in-chief of the Sultan's
army to receive a present from one, however high in rank, who was under
his orders. He just now insisted, however, that we should exchange
rings, and as he had absolutely tears in his eyes when he spoke, I could
not refuse, though mine was but a signet-ring with my crest, and his a
diamond worth, I should say, a thousand pounds if it is worth a penny."

They had by this time reached the landing-place.

"Now, lads, we part here for the present; I hope that you will have a
prosperous cruise, and do credit to my choice. You understand, Mr.
Wilkinson, that you will remain on your station among the islands until
you receive other orders from me."

After seeing Sir Sidney off, the two midshipmen took their places in
their boat, and were rowed off to the _Tigress_.

"That was an unexpected piece of luck, Blagrove," Wilkinson said when
they had started. "I thought, perhaps, that he might make you a present,
for you have seen him every day, and besides interpreting, have carried
orders to his officers under a heavy fire, and done all sorts of
things, but except that I landed several times to take part in the
sorties, and was lucky enough to be on shore at that fight at the breach
and when the French got in, I did no active work. I had no hopes of
getting anything beyond perhaps a mention in the chief's despatches."

"I feel quite ashamed at having so much more valuable a present,
Wilkinson."

"Oh! I am sure that no one could begrudge it to you," Wilkinson replied.
"You don't get any special pay for being an interpreter, and it gives
you a tremendous lot of work; besides, going about as you do with Sir
Sidney, you were constantly under fire. Besides, the pasha saw a great
deal more of you than he did of anyone else, except the chief himself. I
congratulate you upon it heartily; if you ever want to turn it into
money it will be quite a small fortune. Luckily my father is in a
position to make me a good allowance, so I have no intention of ever
parting with this ring, it will be a remembrance of the siege, and the
sort of thing to wear on grand occasions."

They found that during their absence the men had worked hard, and that,
except for a final scrub, the brig was now ship-shape and in good order.
At four o'clock in the morning the crew were again on deck It was still
dark, but the men set to with a will to scrub the decks, for, as they
said, if they passed near the _Tigre_ they should not like the decks to
look like those of a trader in ballast. An hour's hard work and they had
finished, just as the look-out reported that the _Tigre's_ men were
going aloft to loosen sails. It was light now, and in a very few minutes
the canvas was spread and the anchor catted. The _Tigre_, with her great
sail spread, was not yet under way, and the brig, as she laid her course
west, passed a hundred yards under her stern. The _Tigress_ ran up her
ensign, for the sun was just showing, and dipped it in salute. The
midshipmen waved their hands to their comrades on board, and saluted
more formally Sir Sidney, who stood at the bulwarks watching the craft
as she passed, and who returned the salute with a cheery shout of "Well
done, _Tigress_!"

Then she went on her course, after the exchange of a cheer between the
crews clustered by the bulwarks of the _Tigress_ and in the tops of the
man-of-war.

"Now we are fairly off," Edgar said, "what do your written instructions
say?"

"I am to go to Rhodes, there to make inquiries of the port authorities
as to any outrages that have been lately reported, and to be guided by
what I hear. In fact, the matter is left entirely in my hands, after we
once get there. I don't know how we had better divide the watches. It
would hardly be the thing for me, as skipper, to take a watch, and yet
that would be the most satisfactory way of arranging it. I could take
the gunner and you the boatswain. In fact, I think it would be
ridiculous to work it in any other way."

"Just as you like, Wilkinson, but I have no doubt that the boatswain
would do just as well or better than I should."

"No, I will take a watch, at any rate until we see how the petty
officers get on. It is ticklish navigation among these islands, and I
certainly should not feel comfortable if neither you nor I were on deck.
There is the _Tigre_ fairly under way, steering south by west. We are
walking along, ain't we? This breeze just suits her, and she is a very
different craft now to what she was when we overhauled her, laden down
pretty nearly to her covering-board. I don't think, in a breeze like
this, that the _Tigre_ would be able to catch us, although, of course,
if the wind strengthened much her weight would tell. However, there is
no doubt at all that this craft is fast. I hope ere long we shall try
our speed against one of these pirates. I expect that off the wind with
those big lateen sails of theirs they are very fast, but on the wind
they would have no chance with us. When we get away from Rhodes we will
disguise her a bit, put a yellow streak to her, and give her the look of
a trader. They are much more likely to find us than we are to find
them."

"Where are we to send our prizes, that is, if we take any?"

"If they are small craft we are to burn them, but if we take any that
would be likely to be of use to the chief in the blockade we are to sell
them. Any prisoners we take we are to hand over to the pasha at Smyrna
if they are Moslems; if they are Greeks, the fewer prisoners we take the
better. It would be infinitely more merciful to shoot them down in fair
fight than to hand them over to the tender mercies of the Turks, but Sir
Sidney said that he would largely leave the matter to my discretion. I
would rather that he had given me positive orders in writing on the
subject, for it is an awkward thing for a midshipman to have a thing
like this left to his discretion, especially as at other times superior
officers don't seem to think that midshipmen possess any discretion
whatever."



CHAPTER XIV.

A PIRATE HOLD.


On arriving at Rhodes, Wilkinson and Edgar rowed ashore as soon as the
anchor was dropped, and called upon the Turkish governor. They were
received with much honour, and the governor was delighted to hear the
news, which they were the first to bring, that the French had abandoned
the siege of Acre and were retreating in all haste to Egypt. He gave
orders for a salute to be fired at once in honour of this great success,
and then asked Wilkinson what he could do for him, assuring him that he
would put all the resources of the island at his disposal. Edgar, as
interpreter, assured the governor that they had no occasion to avail
themselves largely of the offer, but that, in consequence of the amount
of ammunition expended in the siege they were short of both powder,
ball, and musketry ammunition, and would be very much obliged for as
large a supply as he could spare them. He gave orders at once for the
issue to him of as much as they required. Edgar then went on:

"The object of our coming here, sir, is to endeavour to check the piracy
that is now being carried on among the islands. Numerous complaints have
reached Sir Sidney Smith from Turkish, British, and Greek merchants;
ships are constantly missing, and there is no doubt that they have been
captured and scuttled, and their crews massacred."

"Your ship is a small one for such a purpose," the governor said, for
from the divan on which he was sitting he commanded a view of the port.

"I hope that she is large enough," Edgar replied; "she is heavily armed
for her size, and she is a fast sailer. Sir Sidney Smith had no larger
vessel at his disposal, as he needs the two men-of-war and the small
frigate for watching the Egyptian coast, and, indeed, had he been able
to send a larger craft, it would not have been so well suited for the
purpose, for the pirates would hardly have ventured to attack her. We
shall, after we have put out to sea, disguise the brig and rig her as a
merchantman in order to tempt them out. We shall not do it until we are
well away, for the pirates may have friends here who might send them
information. We shall head for the south, and shall give out that we are
to rejoin our commander off Alexandria, as we have only come round here
to give you news of the retreat of the French. We shall be glad if you
will furnish us with two men having a thorough knowledge of the islands,
and of the spots where the piratical craft are most likely to harbour.
They must be trusty men who will not open their lips here as to our
designs."

"I can find you two such men," the governor said. "They both used to be
captains of craft that traded among the islands, but now own several
vessels; some of these have disappeared, and they are continually coming
up here and pestering us with their complaints, though I have told them
again and again that I can do nothing in the matter; I know that they
would very gladly go with you in order to aid in the punishment of the
pirates."

Such indeed turned out to be the case. Edgar had a long talk with them,
and learned from them the spots where it was supposed that the pirates
had their rendezvous, as many vessels whose course had lain near them
had disappeared. He asked them to go into the town and gather what
further information they could from men whose craft had been chased but
had succeeded in getting away, and told them to be at the landing-place
after dark so that their passage to the ship would be unnoticed, for
they agreed with him that undoubtedly many of the pirates had agents at
Rhodes and other important ports, and that intelligence was carried by
small, quick-sailing craft, to the pirates, of vessels likely to be
valuable prizes. An abundant supply of ammunition was taken off to the
brig in the course of the afternoon, and the supply of fresh provisions
replenished.

The two young officers dined with the governor, who had a large party in
their honour, including many of the military authorities. The next
morning they started at six, and held their course south until they were
sure that the brig could no longer be seen even from the highest point
on the island, and at four bells in the afternoon changed their course,
and, sailing between Scarpanto and Carso, headed north and passed before
nightfall between Slazida and Placa. The crew had been busy painting a
broad yellow line round the brig, in slackening the rigging, and giving
the vessel the appearance of a slovenly merchant brig. They had learned
from the Turks that although undoubtedly acts of piracy took place in
the Western Archipelago, these were comparatively isolated acts
committed upon small vessels becalmed near one or other of the islands,
the attacks being made in boats, but that it was among the numerous
islands lying off the coast of Asia Minor between Nicaria and Samos on
the north, and Serrest and Piscopia on the south, that piracy was most
frequent.

As a rule, they said, vessels coming down from the Dardanelles kept well
west of Mitylene and Chios, rounded Naxos and Syra and bore south to
Santorin before shaping their course east, if bound for Syria, so as to
avoid the dangerous neighbourhood. To begin with, they advised that the
course should be laid so as to pass a short distance east of
Astropalaia. This, they said, had long been one of the headquarters of
piracy. It had, before the war began, been several times attacked by
Turkish or European ships of war, the craft found there burnt, and the
coast villages destroyed; but since then it was believed that it had
again become the headquarters of pirates from some of the other
islands, as its position was a favourable one for attack, lying in the
direct lines of traffic between both Constantinople and Greece and the
eastern trades with Rhodes, Cyprus, Syria, or Egypt.

The night was fine, with a gentle breeze. A sharp look-out was kept for
two groups of tiny islands that were scarce more than rocks, that had to
be passed before nearing Astropalaia. The breeze died away at daybreak,
and left the vessel becalmed at a distance of some six miles from the
island.

"We could not be better placed," one of the Turks said. "You see the
group of islands at the mouth of that bay; they are called the Pirate
Rocks, and in the old days every one of those rocks was the stronghold
of a pirate ship. Thirty years ago four Turkish frigates caught eighteen
piratical craft lying at anchor behind their shelter, and destroyed
every one of them, but it was not long before others took their places."

"If there were a good wind blowing, Edgar, I should like nothing better
than to sail right in there," Wilkinson said, "but in this light breeze
those fellows would run away from us with their big sails and their
sweeps."

"If there are any of them in there now," one of the Turks remarked as
Wilkinson closely surveyed the islets through his glass, "most likely
they have made you out before this. I only hope there will not be too
many of them."

"The more the merrier!" Wilkinson laughed as Edgar translated this.
"With ten guns and sixty blue-jackets we ought to be able to beat off
any number of the scoundrels. Ask him how many guns these fellows
generally mount?"

The Turk shook his head.

"They are of all sizes; some are only row-boats, without guns at all,
and carrying perhaps not more than a dozen men. Two will row, and the
rest lie down in the bottom. They will have some fruit, perhaps, piled
up in the stern, and as they row up to a small craft at anchor or
becalmed, there are no suspicions of their real character until they get
close alongside. Then they leap up, and carry the vessel before the crew
have time to arm themselves. If she is very small and useless to them,
they will take out everything of value, fasten the prisoners down below,
and scuttle her; if she is larger, they will tow her into some little
bay and take out the cargo in boats at their leisure, cut the throats of
the prisoners, alter the appearance of the ship so that she cannot be
recognized, engage a dozen more hands, and set up on a larger scale.

"Some of the craft are used as fishing-boats when times are quiet and
there are ships of war about, while the larger ones may go into trade.
Some of the smaller craft will carry a couple of guns, the larger ones
eight or ten, but these are generally much smaller than yours, though
sometimes they are armed with cannon taken from prizes; but, as a rule,
they do not trust at all to their guns. They do not wish to draw
attention by their sound to what is going on, and they either attack at
night and carry their prey by boarding, or, if it be in the day, the
crew are sent below, the guns hidden, and they have so peaceful an
aspect that it is only when they change their course suddenly, when
within a few hundred yards, that any alarm is excited, and they are
alongside before a trader can load his guns, and, as they are crowded
with men, carry her before any serious resistance can be offered."

[Illustration: WITH A TREMENDOUS CHEER, FLUNG THEMSELVES UPON THE
PIRATES

_Page 262_]

At Rhodes they had taken on board a dozen bucket-loads of earth. The
night before, some of these had been emptied into a large tub, which was
then filled up with water and stirred briskly, after which the
sailors had gone aloft and wetted the sails with muddy water, rendering
their appearance dingy in the extreme. Here and there white patches had
been left, which gave the sails the appearance of being old and recently
mended, and with the yards set at different angles and slackened
rigging, the _Tigress_ would not have been recognized as the smart craft
that had, twenty-four hours before, sailed from Rhodes. The sailors were
all in high glee. After the hard work they had had at Acre they looked
upon this as a holiday, and entered with the greatest zest into the work
of disguising the ship.

"Now, lads, you must sit down," Wilkinson said, "and only five or six
heads must be shown above the bulwarks. They doubtless have some good
glasses taken from the ships they have captured, and if they saw that we
had an unusually strong crew they might smell a rat."

It was now a dead calm, the sails hung idly down, and the brig lay
almost motionless on a waveless sea.

"I am pretty sure that I can make out the upper spars of two or three
craft behind that long, low islet, Wilkinson," Edgar said after, for the
twentieth time, gazing long and earnestly through his telescope.

"I fancied so two or three times, Edgar, but I am by no means sure that
it is not fancy. I felt more sure of it at first than I do now, for
there is a slight mist rising from the water. If they don't come out to
us by the afternoon we will go in and have a look at them. We have got
half a dozen sweeps on board, and with those and the boats we could work
her in in a couple of hours."

"I hope we sha'n't have to do that," Edgar replied. "They would guess
what we were at once, and would be scattering in all directions. We
might pick up one or two, the rest would get off and carry news of us to
all the islands round."

"Perhaps you are right," Wilkinson agreed. "It would certainly be
unfortunate to begin by giving them a scare."

"Besides," Edgar went on, "if the calm holds till night, they may come
out and try to take us by surprise."

The day passed very slowly. The heat was great, and the men picked out
spots on the deck where the sails threw a shade, and dosed off to sleep.
They had, long before, made every preparation; the cutlasses had been
ground, the boarding-pikes sharpened, and the pistols loaded and primed.
Piles of shot lay by the side of the guns, and it needed only to fetch
up the powder cartridges from the magazine to be ready for action. The
marines had cleaned and loaded all the muskets, and placed them in the
racks. At two o'clock, after dinner had been eaten, Wilkinson said to
the boatswain:

"The starboard-watch can sling their hammocks and turn in if they like.
If these fellows mean to come out and attack us, they will hardly do it
before it becomes dark; perhaps not until two or three o'clock in the
morning, and as we shall have to be watchful, there is no occasion for
both watches to stay on deck now. The port watch shall go off from two
bells till eight; as they take the first watch they will be all the
brighter for a snooze beforehand."

"I wish the beggars would come out and have done with it," he went on to
Edgar, as the boatswain turned away and blew his whistle. "I think I may
as well go down, as it is your watch on deck. Have me roused when they
change at two bells if I don't wake of my own accord."

Contrary to their usual custom in a calm, the earnest desire of all on
board was that it should continue, for should a breeze spring up they
would be forced to sail away, and the pirates might not pursue them. As
soon as it got dark, Wilkinson told the boatswain that it would be as
well that a song should be started occasionally, but that not more than
five or six men were to join in chorus. If, as they came out, they heard
a dead silence they might think it unnatural, and it was quite possible
that a boat would come on ahead of them to try and make out what they
really were. In the intervals between the songs silence reigned, and all
on deck listened intently.

About nine o'clock Edgar exclaimed: "I can hear oars!"

"So can I," Wilkinson replied, after listening for a minute. "I don't
think that they are sweeps. No, it is a boat rowed by either two or four
men--four, I think."

In a minute or two they were satisfied that it was but a boat. The order
was given for another song, after which three or four men were to talk
and the rest to sit down below the bulwarks and to keep silence. The two
Turks took their places near the officers. From the speed at which the
boat was approaching it was certain that she was not deeply laden, and
there was no fear, therefore, of a surprise being attempted. She passed
within twenty yards of the tafrail, and they could make out that she was
an ordinary fisherman's boat. There was a pile of nets in the stern, and
four men were standing up rowing.

"I wish we could get a little wind!" one of them called out.

"We wish so, too," one of the Turks answered. "We have been lying
becalmed all day."

"Bound for Constantinople, I suppose?" came from the boat.

"No, for Smyrna. We are bringing a cargo from Ancona, and shall load up
at Smyrna with fruit."

With a Turkish good-night the men rowed on, and the singer forward at
once began another song. For a quarter of an hour they could hear the
sound of the oars growing fainter and fainter, then it ceased.

"They have rowed straight on till they think they are out of hearing,"
Wilkinson said. "Now they will make a circuit and go back to their
friends with the news. There is no doubt we are in luck if we get a
brush with them the first night after our arrival on our cruising
ground."

About three o'clock in the morning a confused sound could be heard. In
two or three minutes every man was at his post.

"There are only two, or at most three of them," Edgar said, in a tone of
disappointment, "and I doubt whether they are not big rowing-boats. The
strokes are too quick for either sweeps or for boats towing. What a
beastly nuisance! I suppose when these fellows took back the report,
that though we were a good-sized brig we did not seem to have many
hands, they thought that it was not worth while to tow out a big craft
when row-boats would do. They think that with twelve or fifteen hands in
each boat, and the advantage of surprise, they would be able to
overpower us at once."

"The surprise will be the other way," Wilkinson said angrily. "We shall
send them all three to the bottom at the first broadside."

"I don't think I should do that, Wilkinson; for, if you do, there is an
end of our chance of capturing any of their larger craft."

"Of course I see that; that is the annoying part of the business. What
do you propose, then?"

"I should say that the best plan would be, not to hail them until they
get close on board, then for a man forward to give a sudden shout, as if
he had been asleep on his watch and had only just heard them. Then they
will come tumbling on board, thinking that the ship is already theirs.
We might divide our men, and keep them half forward and half aft. The
moment they all get on board, rush down upon them. Tell off six men,
with orders to jump down into their boats as soon as they can, and to
push them off, so as to cut off their retreat. The boats will be very
useful to us, for we can tow the brig in with them. The people in there
will think that she has been captured, and we shall get right in the
middle of them before they find out that they have caught a tartar."

"By Jove, that is a first-rate idea!"

To their surprise, the men were at once called away from their guns and
divided into two parties. Edgar and the boatswain commanded that
gathered forward, Wilkinson and the gunner that aft. Nine men were told
off for the capture of the boats, for, as Edgar pointed out, when the
pirates found that they were caught in a trap, a good many of them might
leap overboard and try to get into the boats, and it might need fully
three men to keep them off.

"Now, lads, you understand," Wilkinson said, as the parties were about
to take up their places, "you must crouch down and keep yourselves
perfectly quiet until the word is given; it is important to get them all
on board. When they see no one on deck they will think that the one or
two men who might be on the watch have run below. You can use your
pistols freely when the fighting once begins. When the fellows find that
they are trapped, they are likely enough to fight hard, and I don't want
to lose any men. Keep your cutlasses in readiness, but trust principally
to your boarding-pikes."

The boats were but four or five hundred yards away when the crew of the
_Tigress_ took up their position. A minute later one of the men in the
bow shouted suddenly:

"There are boats coming!--quick, on deck!--pirates! pirates!"

Then four or five men down in the forecastle also shouted, ran up on
deck, and then, with cries of alarm, ran below again, and then, but
quietly this time, joined their comrades, who were crouching as closely
together as possible forward of the bitts. There was a roar of voices
from the boats. They could hear the oars plied desperately; then closely
following this came three bumps against the side of the brig, and,
clambering up the chains, the pirates poured tumultuously upon the deck,
breaking into a shout of triumph as they met with no resistance. There
was a pause of astonishment as the guns were seen; then their leader
shouted that these could be but dummies, intended to run out and
frighten people in the daytime.

"Down below, men!" one shouted; "finish with them first; it will be time
to talk afterwards."

One of the Turks, who spoke a little French, crouching by the side of
Wilkinson, translated his words. Some of the pirates rushed towards the
forecastle, others aft to the cabins, where they would find the
officers. Then some figures crawled out from below the tarpaulins that
were loosely thrown over the guns, looked over the rail, and then sprang
down into the boats, which were entirely deserted. As they did so there
was a shout from Wilkinson; it was answered by Edgar, and then
five-and-twenty seamen sprang up from each end of the vessel, and with a
tremendous cheer flung themselves upon the pirates. Taken completely by
surprise, and somewhat outnumbered, many of these were cut down or run
through by the pikes before anything like serious resistance could be
offered; then, headed by their leaders, they fought with the desperation
of cornered animals.

All of them carried pistols as well as yataghans. Some few of them ran
to the side, and with yells of fury leaped overboard to recapture the
boats. Pistols cracked on both sides, cutlass and yataghan clashed
together; but the British shouts rose high over the yells of the
pirates. In three minutes the fighting was virtually over, the greater
portion of the pirates lay dead on the deck; a few had jumped overboard,
and the rest, throwing down their arms, fell on their knees and cried
for mercy.

"That will do, men--that will do!" Wilkinson shouted; "scoundrels as
they are, we cannot kill them in cold blood. Get some lengths of rope,
boatswain, and tie them hand and foot."

The men who had leapt into the water and swam towards the boats did not
attempt to climb in when they saw three sailors in each, standing with
cutlass and pistol ready to oppose them, and they swam back towards the
brig. A rope was thrown to them, and they were permitted to climb up one
by one, being bound and laid by their comrades as they gained the deck.
None of the sailors had been killed, though several had received ugly
gashes.

"Now, boatswain, put the starboard watch into the boats; lower the two
ship's boats also--we will get as many oars to work as possible till
daylight."

Each of the captured boats rowed six oars, and thirty men were soon at
work towing the vessel towards the bay. The port watch then set to work
to clear the deck. The dead were all thrown overboard; the others were
unbound, made to strip off their jackets, then bound again and carried
down to the hold, the hatchway being closed on them. They found that
most of the survivors were Greeks, the Turks having to a man fallen
fighting.

"These mixed crews are worst of all," one of the Turks said. "The
Turkish pirates are bad enough, and so are the Greeks--there is little
to choose between them; but it is only the worst desperadoes who will
consort together. You did wrong to spare a man."

"We could not kill them when they threw down their arms," Wilkinson
said. "We will hand them over to your authorities, either at Smyrna or
at Rhodes. They will make short work of them, I fancy."

As soon as the first gleam of dawn appeared in the sky the boats were
called alongside. Those of the _Tigress_ were hoisted up, and the men in
the others were given the jackets of the prisoners, some having turbans
and some the Greek headgear. These garments had also been stripped from
the dead before the bodies were thrown overboard, and were laid in a
heap in readiness for those on deck to put on when they approached the
bay. When it became daylight they were not more than a mile and a half
from the islands. The men in the boats had been warned not to row too
regularly; and those on board had already put on their disguises. As
they passed between two of the islets exclamations of satisfaction burst
from Wilkinson and Edgar, for six vessels were anchored behind the
largest of these. The brig's head was turned towards them, and as they
approached shouts of welcome and exultation could be heard from their
crews.

The craft were of various sizes, two of them were not above thirty tons
burden, and each carried two light guns, the others were from fifty to a
hundred and fifty tons, and carried from six to twelve guns. The
_Tigress_ was within about four hundred yards of the line when the helm
was put down, as if to take her in between two of the largest craft.
Then Wilkinson, who, with Edgar, were both in the Turkish disguises,
waved his hand for the men in the boats to come alongside. As they did
so there was a shout of surprise from the crew of the nearest vessel,
for there was no mistaking the sailors' white trousers for the baggy
integuments of the Turks. At the same moment the port-holes opened, the
guns were run out, and before the last man had gained the deck, the ten
guns poured in their broadsides.

By Wilkinson's orders three on each side were trained on the craft
nearest to them, the remaining two on each broadside being aimed at the
vessels next to these. The guns had all been double-shotted, and at the
same moment the broadsides were fired the ensign was run up to the peak.
A wild hubbub of shouts of astonishment, fury, and alarm rose from the
pirate ships, and were re-echoed by numbers of men belonging to their
crews, clustered on the shore, to see the prize brought in. Some ran to
their guns and began to load them, others jumped into their boats or
sprang overboard and swam towards the shore. As fast as the guns on
board the _Tigress_ could be loaded the fire was kept up, the forward
ones sweeping the deck of the craft nearest to them with grape, while
the others sent round-shot into those farther away.

It was but for a short time that the pirates thought of fighting; their
light guns were no match for the heavy metal of those on board the brig,
and in a quarter of an hour after the first shot was fired the largest
of their craft had been sunk, and the other five were entirely deserted.
The boats were manned, the brig's head was first pulled round until her
broadside bore on the shore, then the anchor was dropped, and the guns
on the port side opened with grape upon the pirates on shore, and at
five or six houses that were perched high on the rock. Leaving the
boatswain in charge, Wilkinson and Edgar both took their places in the
boats and rowed from ship to ship. All were found empty, and as they
agreed that only two of the largest were worth taking away, the other
three were burned.

When they were fairly on fire the boats returned to the brig. Not a
pirate was to be seen on the island, though they were sure that although
numbers of them had been killed, there must still be fully two hundred
of them there, but they must either have hidden among rocks or made
their way down to the seaward face. As several boatloads might have
rowed away to other islets, it was decided to take a landing party of
five-and-thirty men on shore, for as their operations would be covered
by the guns of the brig, there was little probability of the pirates
attempting to attack them. As soon as they landed, the sailors, led by
the two midshipmen, climbed rapidly up the hill, and without a shot
being fired approached the houses on the top. From these a heavy
musketry fire suddenly broke out. The men would have rushed forward at
once, but Wilkinson called out to them to throw themselves down behind
shelter, and as they did so a shell flew overhead, struck the largest of
the houses and exploded.

Shot followed shot rapidly, the fire of the pirates ceased, then
Wilkinson gave the word, and the sailors leapt up and with a cheer
rushed forward. Save for a few women the houses were entirely deserted,
but some fifty men were seen running down the seaward face. A couple of
volleys were poured into these, and then, placing a dozen of the men on
guard, the midshipmen entered the houses. The shells had worked great
damage. Over a score of men lay dead within them, and as many others
wounded. The women had been in the cellars, and they were glad to find
that none of them had been hurt. These cellars were very extensive, each
house having one. Several of them were crammed with goods of all sorts,
evidently the proceeds of prizes, and of such varied description that
they judged that each house formed a storehouse to one vessel, as
otherwise the more valuable goods would have been collected together,
instead of sails, ship-gear, bales of valuable silks and embroideries
from Constantinople, Broussa, Smyrna, Chios, Alexandria, and Syria being
mixed promiscuously together.

Here too were a quantity of European manufactures, showing that it was
not only native craft that had suffered from their depredations. There
were numbers of barrels of Greek wine, puncheons of rum, cases of
bottled wines of different kinds evidently taken from English ships,
great quantities of Smyrna figs, and of currants, Egyptian dates, and
sacks of flour.

"This will bring us in a nice lot of prize-money, Blagrove," Wilkinson
said, after they had roughly examined the contents of the great
subterranean storehouses. Presently a still larger find was made. There
was, close to the houses, what appeared to be a well. One of the sailors
let down a bucket, and hauling it up found, to his surprise, that it was
salt water. The well was deep, but certainly not deep enough to reach
down to the sea level, and he carried the bucket to Wilkinson and
pointed out where he had got the water from.

"There is something curious about this," the latter said. "Lower me down
in the bucket, lads." As he descended he saw that the well was an
ancient one, and probably at one time had been carried very much lower
than at present. In some places the masonry had fallen in. At one of
these points there was an opening cut into the rock. He called to those
above to hoist him up again, and procuring a lamp at one of the houses,
he and Edgar descended together. Entering the passage they found that it
widened into a great chamber some forty feet square and thirty high,
which was literally crammed with goods.

"I should never have given the fellows credit for having taken the
trouble to cut out such a place as this," Wilkinson said.

"I have no doubt that it is ancient work," Edgar remarked. "I should say
that at some time, perhaps when the Genoese were masters here, a castle
may have stood above, and this was cut either as a storehouse or as a
place of confinement for prisoners, or one where the garrison might hide
themselves, with provisions enough to last for a long time, in case the
place was captured. The pirates may have discovered it in going down to
see if the well could be cleared out, and saw that it would make a
splendid place of concealment."

"But how about the salt water, Edgar?"

"I should say that they cemented the bottom or rammed it with clay to
make it water-tight, and that as fresh water was scarce they brought up
sea water, so that anyone who happened to look down would see that there
was water in it. If, as was probable, it would be the Turks who captured
the place, they would, when they found that it was salt, not trouble
their heads further about the matter. Possibly even these pirates may
know nothing of the existence of this store, which may have lain here
since the last time the Turks broke up this nest of pirates, and who,
you may be sure, left none of them alive to tell the tale. Well, this is
a find."

A thorough search was now made of the island, but it was found that the
whole of the pirates had made their escape in boats. These had rowed
away from the seaward face of the island, so that they were unseen by
those on board the brig. Before taking any step to carry away the goods,
the other islets were all visited and found to be deserted. Five or six
more magazines of spoil were discovered. These were emptied of their
most valuable contents, and the houses all burned to the ground. This
operation took two days, and it required six more to transfer the
contents of the cellars and great store cavern to the brig. Boats had
come off on the first day of their arrival from various villages in the
bay, conveying one or more of the principal inhabitants, who assured
Wilkinson that they had no connection whatever with the pirates, and
that they were extremely glad that their nest had been destroyed.

Wilkinson had little doubt that, although they might not have been
concerned in the deeds committed by these men, they must have been in
constant communication with them, and have supplied them with fruit and
fresh meat and vegetables. However, he told them that he should report
their assurances to the Turkish authorities, who would, when they had a
ship of war available, doubtless send down and inquire into the whole
circumstances, an intimation which caused them considerable alarm, as
they had no doubt that, if no worse befell them, they would be made to
pay heavy fines.

"The only way that you have to show your earnestness in the matter,"
Wilkinson said, "is to organize yourselves. You have no doubt plenty of
boats, and the first time that a pirate comes in here row out from all
your villages, attack and burn it, and don't leave a man alive to tell
the tale. In that way the pirates will very soon learn that they'd
better choose some other spot for their rendezvous, and the authorities
will be well content with your conduct."

The amount of spoil taken was so great that the _Tigress_, when she set
sail again, was nearly a foot deeper in the water than when she entered
the bay. The prisoners had been the subject of much discussion. It was
agreed that they were probably no worse than their comrades who had
escaped, and they did not like the thought of handing them over to be
executed. They were, therefore, on the third day after the arrival of
the brig, brought up on deck. Three dozen lashes were administered to
each, then they were given one of the boats in which they had attacked
the ship, and told to go.



CHAPTER XV.

CRUISING.


Before sailing, the yellow band was painted out, for the pirates who
escaped would probably carry the news of what had happened over the
whole archipelago. Ten men were put on board each of the prizes, and the
_Tigress_ sailed up through the islands and escorted them to Smyrna,
where the pasha, after hearing an account of their capture, at once gave
permission for them to be sold as prizes, and as the news of the retreat
of the French had given a considerable impetus to trade, they fetched
good prices. As soon as this was arranged, the _Tigress_ sailed away
again. For some months they cruised among the islands, putting into
every little bay and inlet, boarding every craft found there, and
searching her thoroughly to see if there was any property belonging to
plundered vessels on board.

Once or twice she came upon two or three large craft together, and had
some hard fighting before she captured or sank them; but, as a rule, the
crews rowed ashore as soon as they saw the real nature of the new-comer.
Some thirty craft were sent as prizes into Smyrna or Rhodes, and there
sold, as many more were sunk or burned. They had, in no case, found
spoil at all equal to that which had been captured at Astropalaia, but
the total was nevertheless considerable. Once or twice they were
attacked by boats when anchored in quiet bays, but as a vigilant watch
was always kept they beat off their assailants with heavy loss. The rig
of the brig was frequently altered. Sometimes she was turned into a
schooner with yards on her foremast, sometimes into a fore-and-aft
craft; and as the time went on and captures became fewer and fewer, it
was evident that she had established a thorough scare throughout the
archipelago, and that for the time the pirates had taken to peaceful
avocations, and were indeed completely crippled by the loss of so large
a number of their craft.

The _Tigress_ had but one awkward incident during the voyage. The day
was bright and clear. The two Turks had been, as was their custom,
squatting together on the deck, smoking their pipes. Wilkinson and Edgar
were pacing together up and down, when the latter said:

"Look at these two native craft; they have both let their lateen sails
run down. I am sure I don't know why; there is not a cloud in the sky,
except that little white one over there."

They were passing the Turks at the moment, and Edgar said to one of
them:

"The two craft over there have just let their sails run down. What can
that mean?"

The Turk leapt to his feet with a quickness very unusual to him.

"It is a white squall!" he shouted. "Down with every stitch of canvas,
sir. Quick, for your lives! the squall will be upon us in five minutes."

It was Wilkinson's first experience of the terribly sudden squall of the
Levant, but he had heard of them and knew their danger, and he shouted
at the top of his voice:

"All hands take in sail! Quick, lads, for your lives!"

The boatswain's whistle rang loudly in the air, and he repeated the
order at the top of his voice. The men on deck, who had been engaged on
various small jobs since they came up from dinner, looked astounded at
the order, but without hesitation ran up the ratlines at the top of
their speed, while the watch below looked equally surprised as they
glanced upwards and around at the deep blue of the sky.

"Quick, quick!" the Turk exclaimed. "Let go all sheets and halliards!"

Wilkinson shouted, "Do the sails up anyhow, men."

Although the sky was unchanged they could see the light cloud Edgar had
noticed advancing towards them at an extraordinary rate of speed, while
a white line on the sea kept pace with it.

"Hard up with the helm--hard up!" Wilkinson shouted. "Hold on a moment
with those head sails; that will do, that will do. Let go the halliards;
down staysails and jib."

The sailors, now conscious of the coming danger, worked desperately. The
light upper sails were secured, the courses had been clewed up, but the
topsails were still but half-lashed when Wilkinson shouted again:

"Down for your lives! Down on the weather side; slip down by the
back-stays. You men to leeward, hold on--all hold on," he shouted a few
seconds later.

There was a dull roaring sound, rising to a shriek as the squall struck
the vessel.

Most of the men had gained the deck in safety, but many of those coming
down by the ratlines were still some distance from the deck. It was well
for them that they were on the weather side; had they been to leeward
they would have been torn from their grasp, whereas they were now
pinned to the rigging. Two sounds like the explosion of cannon were
heard. The main and foretopsails both blew out of their gaskets, bellied
for an instant, and then burst from the bolt-ropes and flew away, and
were speedily lost to sight. So great was the pressure that the brig was
driven bodily down until the water was almost level with the rail at the
bow, and it looked for a moment as if she would go down by the head.

One of the jibs was run up, but only to be blown away before it was
sheeted home. Another was tried, the sheet being kept very slack. This
held, her head lifted, and in a minute the _Tigress_ was flying along
dead before the wind. The storm-jib was brought up, hooked on, and
hoisted. This, being of very heavy canvas, could be trusted, and as soon
as it was set the other was hauled down.

"Thank God, that is over!" Wilkinson said, "and we have not lost a
hand."

By this time all the men had gained the deck.

"How long will this last?" Edgar shouted in one of the Turks' ears.

"Perhaps one hour; perhaps four."

"Let us have a look at the chart," Wilkinson said. "When we last looked
there was a group of rocks ten miles ahead, and at the rate we are going
the _Tigress_ will be smashed into matchwood if she keeps on this course
for long."

Edgar nodded.

"We must get trysails on the main and foremast," Wilkinson went on, "and
manage to lay her course a couple of points to the west. I wish we had
those upper spars down on deck, but it is of no use talking of that
now."

Wilkinson went down to the sail-room with the boatswain and four seamen
to bring up the two heaviest and strongest of the triangular sails.

"We must sheet them home before we hoist them," he said, as they
returned on deck. "We should never be able to haul the sheets in when
the sails once fill."

Twenty men went aft with them and commenced the task. The fore-trysail
was bent to some of the mast-hoops, and the sheet fastened to a cavel on
the port side.

"Port your helm a little, my man," Wilkinson said. "That will do, just
enough to keep the wind on the starboard quarter. Keep her at that, keep
her at that." Edgar had the sail ready to hoist. "Slacken the tack a
little. Now, half a dozen of you tail on here, and get ready to haul it
down as soon as the sail is up to its full height and the halliards
secured. Now, lads, tail on to the halliards. Away with her."

The sailors ran forward with the rope, but as the sail rose the strain
was so great that once or twice they were brought to a standstill. At
last the boatswain shouted:

"That is enough. Come back a little, but keep a firm grip of it. That is
right!" he shouted, as he twisted the slack of the rope over the cleet.
"Now, lads, down with the tack; down with it! Belay!"

The main-trysail was hoisted as successfully. Small as were the sails,
and slight the angle with the wind, the pressure brought the ship down
nearly to her covering-board. Wilkinson and the boatswain took their
places by the wheel.

"Keep her full, lads, but not a bit more. She will do at that. By Jove,
Blagrove," he said, as Edgar came aft and glanced at the compass, "that
was a narrow squeak! If you hadn't noticed those native craft lower
their sails and called our attention to it, we should have turned turtle
as sure as fate. We have got her snug now. If we were right as to our
position at noon we shall clear those rocks nicely."

"I don't think we can have been far wrong, by the position of the
islands. At the same time I will go up to the foretop," Edgar said; "I
shall be able to make them out some distance away, for, if you remember,
two of them are thirty or forty feet above the water."

"Mind how you go," Wilkinson said. "You had better take one of the men
up with you; you can hold each other on then."

Edgar went forward and told one of the best of the hands to go aloft
with him.

"All right, your honour!"

"It will be a tight job, but I daresay we can do it. Get a couple of
lines seven or eight feet long; we will fasten them under our arms, and
if a puff comes harder than usual we can twist the end round a shroud or
ratline."

In a couple of minutes both were roped and ready to mount. It was hard
work, and several times they had to use the rope to prevent their being
torn from their hold. But at last they reached the top, and fastened
themselves securely there. The scene was a singular one. Overhead was a
cloudless sky, somewhat paler in tint than it had been before the squall
burst. Below was a white mass of foam, which, from the height on which
they stood, seemed almost pressed level by the force of the wind. On
deck they had been drenched with the sheets of spray torn off the heads
of the waves as soon as they began to lift themselves, but here they
were above this, and there was nothing to prevent their looking round in
all directions.

"There are the rocks, sir," the top-man said, after they had been some
twenty minutes in their position, "over the lee bow, about two points
off our course."

"I see them now," Edgar said. "I thought we should have made them out by
the white foam round them, but it is white everywhere."

He shouted down to the deck, but it was some time before he could make
his voice heard above the roar of the squall. He pointed aft when at
last one looked up. The sailor ran aft to the helm, and called
Wilkinson's attention to Edgar. The latter pointed in the direction of
the rocks. Wilkinson waved his hand, and Edgar, then leaving the sailor
on watch, made his way down to the deck.

"We shall go within half a mile of them," he said, when he joined his
comrade.

"It is lucky that we looked at the chart as soon as we did," Wilkinson
shouted back, "for even with this rag of sail I should not have liked to
bring her nearer to the wind than we are now."

"I don't think it is blowing quite as hard as it was," Edgar said. "I
certainly got down more easily than I went up."

"I was thinking so myself, Blagrove, though there is not much
difference. I don't care, now that we are clear of those rocks, how long
it keeps on. Directly we pass them we can keep her off the wind again,
and there is nothing in our course then for over forty miles, and then
it is only a small island with deep water all round. I have just been
taking another look at the chart."

By another hour the strength of the wind had considerably abated, the
fore-staysail was reefed and hoisted, and before sunset sail was on her
again, and the hands were aloft preparing to get up fresh topsails.

At the end of six months, on their going into Rhodes they found that a
small gun-boat had arrived with orders from Sir Sidney Smith for them to
rejoin him.

"You have done exceedingly well," the latter said in his letter. "The
pashas both of Smyrna and Rhodes have written to me expressing their
admiration at the work that you have accomplished, and indeed your
report of the number of pirate vessels taken or destroyed speaks for
itself."

They were not sorry at the receipt of the order. During the past month
they had only made two or three captures, and these were craft of small
size, and they were well content to give up their independent life, and
return to regular duty. A week later they made out the _Tigre_ lying off
the Damietta mouth of the Nile. The man-of-war signalled to them to
anchor near her. As soon as they did so Wilkinson went on board.

"I am glad to see you back, Mr. Wilkinson," Sir Sidney said cordially.
"You have fully justified my confidence in your energy and discretion.
The pashas write to me saying that piracy seems to be completely
suppressed, and that it is two months since either of them received a
complaint of a vessel being chased or missing. Therefore, as I wanted
you here, where we have not half enough ships for the work, I thought it
as well to recall you. Your craft seems," he went on, as he surveyed the
_Tigress_ through his glass, "a good deal lower in the water than she
was?"

"Yes, sir, she is down nearly two feet and a half. I reported to you
that we gained a considerable amount of booty at Astropalaia, and of
course we have added gradually to that, but never had anything like so
good a haul. The hold up to the level of the main deck is full."

"Full of what, Mr. Wilkinson?"

"Miscellaneous cargo, sir--dried fruit, Manchester goods, and Eastern
goods of all sorts. I have not taken an exact inventory of them, sir,
for we were generally pressed for time, and I thought that the things
were less likely to be damaged if I did not open the bales. I really do
not know exactly what we have got, but there is certainly a good deal of
silk and a quantity of embroidered things."

"That sounds well, anyhow," Sir Sidney said, smiling, "but I am afraid
that it will not turn out so well for you personally as it ought to do.
You see the craft herself was a prize of the _Tigre_, and her officers
and crew are still borne on our books; therefore, although you were
detached on altogether independent work, you still rank as a tender of
the _Tigre_, and we all share with you, and indeed all your names have
been sent in on the list of those entitled to share in the prizes that
we have made here. As these have been generally laden partly with
ammunition and partly with luxuries for the use of the army, they were
for the most part valuable, and up to this time we calculate that a sum
of fifty or sixty thousand pounds will be shared."

"We quite understood, sir, that we should share with the _Tigre_ in all
that we captured. It would have been too bad if, in addition to our luck
in having an independent cruise on board the _Tigress_, we were to get
an advantage over our comrades in the way of prize-money. We have, as I
told you in my last report, received twelve thousand five hundred
pounds, the result of the sale of the thirty-two craft we sent into
Smyrna and Rhodes. It is in gold, and I thought that it would be better
for you to send off a boat for it than for me to bring it myself now.
What are we to do with the cargo, sir?"

"I must think that over, Mr. Wilkinson. You have not lost many hands, I
hope, while you were away?"

"No, sir, we have not done any very hard fighting. We had two men shot
in the attack of the pirates' hold at Astropalaia, and more than half
the crew have been wounded more or less seriously, but fortunately all
got over it."

"That is very satisfactory, Mr. Wilkinson. In giving me a full report of
your work, give a list of the casualties in each case. Some of the
people at the Admiralty seem to have an idea that the credit of any
affair depends largely on the size of the butcher's bill, whereas, in
point of fact, it should be exactly the other way, for not unfrequently
heavy loss means that measures were badly taken by the officers in
command, whereas a light one shows that the arrangements were all
excellent, and the work carried out without a hitch. I shall be glad if
you and Mr. Blagrove will dine with me. It is not very regular for you
both to leave the ship together, but there are no signs whatever of
change of wind, and one can reckon with some certainty here upon the
weather for at any rate twenty-four hours in advance. If you should see
any change before you come off, or any fall in the glass, Mr. Blagrove
must stay on board."

Wilkinson now joined his comrades, who were gathered a short distance
away waiting until he had finished his talk with Sir Sidney. "Come down
below, Wilkinson, and give us the news. We heard that you had taken some
prizes from the pirates; we want to hear all about it. Is Blagrove all
right?"

They were soon gathered in the cockpit. "I have not much time to stay,"
Wilkinson said, "and, before I tell you my story, I want to hear your
news, for beyond a few rumours current at Smyrna and Rhodes, we really
know hardly anything of what has taken place since we left you at Acre."

"We have had rather a dull time," one of them said; "the only excitement
was a fight between the Turks, aided by our boats, and the French. When
we returned here, we found that instead of being fifteen thousand
strong, as promised, the Turks on board their transports under Mustapha
Pasha were but five thousand strong, which was raised to seven thousand
by the two thousand we brought with us from Acre. On the 15th of July
they landed, attacked the redoubt and castle of Aboukir with great
pluck, and carried it by assault. A week later, we heard that Bonaparte
was at Ramanieh, and had no doubt that the Turks would soon have him on
them. Sir Sidney tried hard to get them to erect a strong line of works
across the spit of ground on which the fort stands.

"Had they done so they could, with the assistance of our boats and their
own gun-boats, have maintained their ground. The chief set to work at
once to endeavour to get things into shape. The Chiflick regiment, that
we had brought with us from Acre, was posted in the village at the end
of the spit. The Turkish gun-boats were ordered to take their places
directly the assault began on each side of the isthmus, so as to sweep
it with their fire, but when that time came the beggars would not move,
and did not arrive until it was all over.

"The Turks in the village were attacked several times, but made a
magnificent defence. We helped them with our guns as much as we could,
but could render them very little assistance. At last we saw that an
attack was to be made in earnest; peremptory orders were sent to the
Turkish gun-boats to go in and take up their stations, and our boats all
went in to the west side of the spit. Nothing could be worse than the
arrangements of the Turks. They had sent very little provisions and next
to no water on shore, and their troops were nearly half-mad with thirst,
and more than half-mutinous. However, they moved forward to the village,
and they there repulsed three attacks made by the French columns.
Probably no more attacks would have been made, if it had not been for
their beastly custom of cutting off the heads of the fallen. Lots of
them ran out of the village to do this, and this so infuriated the
French that they came on again with such a rush that they entered the
village with the flying Turks.

"The confusion was terrible, and the Turks were driven out. The spit of
sand was covered with fugitives, hundreds threw themselves into the
water and swam out to us. The castle, which, as you know, is a little
bit of a place, was crowded almost to suffocation, and thousands could
not get in. The fire of our boat guns kept the French back for a time,
and when at last the Turkish gun-boats got into position, they had to
fall back and make advances against the castle in a regular way.
Unfortunately Mustapha Pasha had been taken in the village, and the
garrison had no one to command them, still they resisted for two days,
and then surrendered, being almost mad with thirst, for, although we
spared as much water as we could, it was impossible for us to find
sufficient for six or seven thousand extra men.

"Our marines saved the castle the first day, Colonel Douglas landing and
taking command and restoring order, for the Turks were fighting fiercely
among themselves when we got in, and during the night he managed to send
off about a thousand of them to their ships. The whole business was
brought about owing to Mustapha Pasha not acting in accordance with the
advice that Sir Sidney had sent him to act against either Damietta or
Rosetta, as our ships would station themselves in the Bay of Aboukir,
and so threaten Alexandria that the French would not care to weaken
their force there by sending any considerable number of men to act
against the Turks. There, that is all that has happened. Now let us hear
your yarn."

Wilkinson gave a brief account of the trip of the _Tigress_.

"You see," he said, "we have not done much fighting; indeed, with the
exception of the first scrimmage at Astropalaia we can scarcely have
said to have had anything worth calling fighting at all. We picked up a
lot of small piratical craft, destroyed the majority of them, and sold
the others at Smyrna or Rhodes. We got altogether twelve thousand five
hundred for them, and as, of course, that will be shared by the _Tigre_,
we have done pretty well our share in the way of earning prize-money for
the ship. More, indeed, for the _Tigre's_ share of the prizes that you
have taken here won't come to more than fifteen or twenty thousand at
the outside. Besides that, we have got some booty on board the
_Tigress_, but what it is worth I have no idea, for we simply bundled
the things down below without opening anything. Still, no doubt it will
be enough to give you a few pounds a head."

As soon as he could get away Wilkinson returned to the brig. That
evening, at the admiral's table, he gave a much more detailed account of
their doings than he had done in his reports. When he had finished, Sir
Sidney Smith said:

"That attack upon the pirates' hold was extremely well managed, Mr.
Wilkinson, and does you and Mr. Blagrove great credit. You were very
brief in your account of it, and only said that a considerable amount of
booty, which had evidently been taken from plundered ships, was found
concealed, and that the more valuable portion was shipped on the
_Tigress_. I will come on board in the morning, and you can have a few
of those bales brought up on to the main deck, and we can see what is in
them."

A dozen bales were opened the next day; two contained European goods,
the rest Eastern manufactures, silks and embroideries, Turkish, Syrian,
and Persian carpets and rugs.

"That is enough!" Sir Sidney said. "Now, can you roughly give me an idea
what proportion of European goods, dried fruits, and what we may call
generally Eastern goods, you have?"

"There are about twenty tons of fruit, sir, thirty tons of European
bales, and fifty or sixty tons of Eastern goods. Of these, I should say
that two-thirds are carpets and rugs, we could pretty well tell these
from the others by the size and feel of the bales; the rest are, judging
from the few we opened, cloth for female garments--muslin, silks,
scarves, sashes, and embroidered goods.

"It is extraordinary how so great a collection could have been made."

"There have been a great many vessels employed in the making of it, sir,
and we may say that we have here the pick from at least a hundred,
perhaps several times that number, of captured craft of several sizes.
No doubt the pirates would, in all cases, put aside goods of this kind,
for although of no use to themselves, and no doubt very difficult to
sell, they would store them away under the idea that some time or other
an opportunity would occur of turning them into money."

"Well, there is no doubt that you have an extremely rich prize. I should
be afraid to give even an approximate calculation of what all this is
worth. Some of our East-Indiamen bring very valuable cargoes home; but I
should doubt whether any one ship ever carried as much costly
merchandise as you have stored here. I will think over how they had best
be got to England. The things will require careful handling, for if they
were consigned to an ordinary prize agent they might be sold anyhow and
for half their value."

On the following day the two midshipmen were signalled to come on board
the _Tigre_.

"I have been thinking your matter over, gentlemen," Sir Sidney said
when they had entered his cabin. "I have power to appoint a prize agent
in England. As a matter of fact I have not done so. Coming out here, as
I did, on a diplomatic mission, I had no thought of taking prizes. Those
we have picked up here I simply sent to the agent at Gibraltar, which,
by the way, is one of the very worst places one can send them to, as the
vessels are sold at ridiculous prices. Ordinarily Malta would be the
port we should have sent them to from here, but as it is still in the
possession of the French, Gibraltar is the only port in the
Mediterranean. Of course they might be sent to England; but there is the
difficulty of detaching men and officers, and the risk of their being
captured by French privateers, so that practically we are driven to
Gibraltar.

"Of course the prize court will have the disposal of the cargo, but I
will write to the head of the court, who is a personal friend of mine,
asking him to intrust the sale of the Eastern goods to your father, Mr.
Blagrove, saying that as he has been for years engaged in trade in the
East, and must therefore be acquainted with the value of these things,
is in the habit of sending Egyptian silks and so on to London for sale,
he must know the channels in which they could be best disposed of. Of
course the dried fruits and the English goods could be sold by the
court, but it would never do to throw such a quantity of Eastern goods
on the market at once. Among the prizes that have been taken is a smart
brig of about the same size as the _Tigress_. She was caught making for
Alexandria with powder and ball for the French army. Fortunately for us
her captain was not a first-class navigator, and so missed his mark by
about ten miles, and found himself, to his consternation and our
satisfaction, close under our guns.

"I was going to send her to Gibraltar to be sold. I do not think that
we can do better than buy her to carry home your cargo. I will call a
court of four officers to put on her the price they consider it probable
that she will fetch, which, I should say, if she were sold at Gibraltar,
would not be over eight or nine hundred pounds. You, Mr. Blagrove, can
buy her in the name of your father, and I will take your bill at three
months upon him. Then there is the question of the crew. As to the
officers, I can send you home, Mr. Wilkinson, with despatches. I have
not had an opportunity of forwarding any for some weeks now; and to you,
Mr. Blagrove, I can give three months' leave on urgent private business.
As to men, we have small craft coming over here constantly from Sicily
with fruit and fresh provisions, and I have no doubt that, with the
offer of good wages, you would be able to pick up ten or twelve men
without much difficulty.

"On board our ships there are, I should say, at least twenty men who
have been invalided by boards of doctors as being unfit for service,
either from the effects of wounds or climate, and this would be a good
opportunity for sending them home. Many of them are still fit for easy
work, and would, at any rate, counterbalance your Italian crew. Of
course I should formally take a passage for them in Mr. Blagrove's ship.
The prize mounts six guns, but I would advise you to keep well out of
the way of French privateers. Of course the final result of the sale of
the merchandise would have to be paid by your father, Mr. Blagrove, into
the prize court for division among those entitled to it.

"With the ship, as your father's property, the case is different; that
is his private venture. He will, of course, charge freight on the
merchandise, and he will get two or three pounds a head for taking the
invalids home. As he will certainly get double the price the brig would
fetch at Gibraltar, that and the freight would a good deal more than
clear all expenses, and he will of course have the usual prize-agent's
commission on the sales he effects. What do you think of that plan?"

Both the midshipmen were highly pleased with the proposal, and thanked
their commander very heartily for his kindness. A board of officers
assembled on the following day and assessed the value of the French brig
at £850, and Edgar formally bought her in his father's name for that
sum, and drew a bill upon him for payment in three months.

He had several times heard from him since he had entered on board the
_Tigre_, and in the first letter Mr. Blagrove gave a hearty approval of
the course that he had adopted, and said that a year or two at sea would
give him a thorough knowledge of ships and be a considerable advantage
to him in their business. The receipt of Edgar's first letter, and of a
heavy budget containing the account of his doings in Egypt from the day
on which he was left behind to that on which he sailed, had been an
immense relief to them all, for hitherto they had been in absolute
ignorance of what had taken place. His father, however, thought that he
had, even according to his own account, run a very needless risk in
taking part in the rising at Cairo, although he saw that, having for the
time become so thoroughly associated with the Arabs, it would have been
difficult for him to avoid acting with them when there was danger in so
doing.



CHAPTER XVI.

A VISIT HOME.


The new purchase, which was named the _Suzanne_, was towed alongside the
_Tigress_, and the crew began at once to get up the cargo and transfer
it to her hold. More method was observed in restowing the cargo than had
before been possible. The dried fruit, as the heaviest of the goods, was
placed in the middle of the brig; the European goods, whose brands and
packing enabled them to be easily distinguished from the rest, were
placed forward; and the Eastern bales packed aft. This was done under
the direction of the petty officers.

During the four days that it took to complete the work, Edgar boarded
several of the Italian craft, and succeeded in inducing ten active young
sailors to join him, by the offer of a rate of pay several times higher
than that they earned in their native craft, and of a free passage back
on the first opportunity. Condor was appointed to the command of the
_Tigress_, as two supernumerary lieutenants and four midshipmen had been
sent out from home to the _Tigre_, and two midshipmen received acting
orders as his lieutenants. There was much satisfaction among the junior
officers of the _Tigre_ when they heard from Wilkinson the nature of the
spoil he had gathered, and all sorts of guesses were hazarded as to its
value.

"I cannot help you there in the least," he said. "I know that Turkish
and Eastern carpets fetch a big price at home; and of course silk, and
gold and silver embroideries, are valuable; but, as I only know the
contents of about a hundred bales, I have no more idea of what the total
is likely to come to than you have."

"You did not get any money, Wilkinson, or jewels?"

"Neither one nor the other. I suppose that the money was divided when
captured, and the jewels either given to the women or sold. They were
things that might be disposed of anywhere. At any rate we found none of
them, and the only cash is, as I told you, the twelve thousand five
hundred pounds that the prizes fetched, out of which our share is not
likely to be more than twenty or thirty pounds each. Still, that is not
to be despised."

"It will come to more than that," one of the party said. "I have
calculated it up, and though I have not the exact rules--"

"Well, if you haven't got the exact rules, Macleod, your calculations
are not worth more than our guesses. It won't be much more than forty
pounds anyhow, and I suppose a bit more than that for our share of the
prizes captured here. Of course they were worth a good deal more, but
then there are all the ships-of-war to share. If our prize turns out as
well as I hope, it will come to a good bit more, as it is only to be
divided among the _Tigre's_ crew."

"You and Blagrove are going home in the prize, are you not?"

"Yes, I carry Sir Sidney's despatches; Blagrove gets three months'
leave."

"Who is going to command the craft that you have bought for your father,
Blagrove?"

"I have persuaded the captain of that store-ship that came in yesterday
to let me have his second officer for two or three months. She is likely
to be here some time; and if we have luck, and his mate gets a return
passage soon after he arrives in England, he may be back again in six
weeks. From another ship of the same sort I got a young fellow for mate.
The ships are chartered by government, and will likely enough be here
for months, as they will furnish stores not only to the ships on the
coast, but to any that may come down here from the fleet blockading
Toulon. In fact they will act as general shore-ships, until they have
cleared out their cargo."

"Then he will be your captain?"

"He will be entered on the ship's books as captain," Edgar replied with
a laugh; "but I fancy that Wilkinson and myself will not care to be idle
on the voyage."

Three days after the cargo was transferred, twenty invalids were placed
on board. Two or three had lost limbs, but the rest were men who had
been pulled down by fever and could not shake it off so long as they
were on the coast. On the following morning the anchor was got up and
the _Suzanne_ sailed for England. The nominal captain was a smart young
sailor, who was glad indeed of the opportunity, for three or four months
of enforced idleness on the Egyptian coast was not at all to his taste.
The extra pay that he would receive was a consideration, but the fact
that he was to be nominally--for Edgar had explained the situation to
him--in command was the great inducement.

He had fortunately passed his examination and obtained his certificate
as captain before sailing on the present voyage. Had it not been for
this he could not have accepted Edgar's offer. The voyage was a rapid
one. They stopped for two days at Gibraltar to take in water. They had
some little trouble with the prize-agent there, for of course the ship's
papers showed that she had been a prize, and she should have been sent
there to be condemned and sold. Sir Sidney Smith, however, had written,
saying that as the ships on the station were already short-handed, he
could not spare a prize crew, and that he had therefore only the choice
of burning the prize or of selling her there, and that a court of
officers from the various ships-of-war had fixed her value at £850, and
a purchaser having been found at that price, he had deemed it expedient
to sell her, and now forwarded his bill for the amount, to be divided in
the usual course by the prize officials at Gibraltar, as if they had
sold her themselves. He stated that as she had been loaded with
munitions of war for the French army, no question could arise as to the
lawfulness of her capture.

The officials shook their heads over the irregularity, but as the
defence of Acre had made a great sensation in England, and a vote of
thanks had been passed by both Houses of Parliament, and by many of the
corporate bodies in England, to Sir Sidney and those serving under him,
they agreed to set the matter right; and thereupon, on the evidence
given by Wilkinson and Edgar as to the circumstances of the capture,
they formally condemned the ship and authorized the sale that had been
effected. That point satisfactorily settled, they sailed at once, shaped
their course, after issuing from the Straits, a hundred miles west of
the usual ship track, and met with no suspicious sail until they entered
the Chops of the Channel. Then one or two craft that looked like French
privateers were observed; but the _Suzanne_ was a fast vessel and kept
her distance from them, holding her course up Channel, and one morning,
soon after daybreak, dropped anchor among a number of other merchantmen
on the Mother bank off Ryde.

Directly the anchor was down the gig was lowered, and Wilkinson, Edgar,
and the captain were rowed into Portsmouth, the brig being left in
charge of the mate. The former went to the dockyard and reported to the
admiral that he had brought home despatches from Sir Sidney Smith for
the Admiralty.

"In what ship have you brought them?"

"As there was no ship of war likely to be sailing, a passage was taken
for me in a trader, a prize that had been sold, and was being brought
home."

"Very well, sir. You will, of course, post with it at once for London.
Have any particular events happened there?"

"No, sir. Beyond the fact that a few prizes have been picked up there is
nothing doing. But I understood from Sir Sidney that there had been no
opportunity of sending home reports for a month, and that therefore he
thought it best to take the opportunity of forwarding his despatches by
a private ship. She is also bringing home some goods captured from
pirates in the Levant by the _Tigre's_ tender, the _Tigress_, which I
had the honour to command. There are also twenty men on board invalided
home."

"Very well, Mr. Wilkinson. I have nothing further to say to you, and you
will doubtless wish to start without delay. I will send off for the sick
men at once."

The captain returned on board to take the brig round to London. The two
friends reached town late that night, and Wilkinson went straight to the
Admiralty with the despatches. He was at once taken to the room where
one of the junior officials was on duty.

"Despatches from Sir Sidney Smith, sir," Wilkinson said.

"Anything important?"

"I believe not. There was an opportunity for sending them, and Sir
Sidney availed himself of it."

"Then it will not be worth while to wake up the admiral at this time of
night?"

"I should say certainly not. But I thought it my duty to bring them here
at once."

The other nodded.

"Where do you put up, Mr. Wilkinson?"

"At the Golden Cross."

"Very well. If you are wanted you can be sent for in the morning. You
had best call here about eleven, so that you can answer any questions
that the admirals may ask."

In the morning the midshipman went across. Half an hour later his name
was called out, and he was at once shown into a room in which two of the
naval lords were sitting.

"You are the bearer of the despatches from Sir Sidney Smith, Mr.
Wilkinson?"

"Yes, sir."

"He has sent us the report you gave him of your cruise in the brig
_Tigress_ among the Greek and Turkish islands. There can be no doubt
that you did your work exceedingly well, as is shown by the long list of
prizes captured or destroyed. He mentions that he has received also
reports from the Pasha of Smyrna and the Governor of Rhodes, speaking in
high terms of the services that you have rendered, and saying that for
the time piracy appears to have entirely ceased and the seas to be open
to peaceful traders. What time have you to serve?"

"I have another six months, sir."

"Well, I think, if you feel prepared, it would be as well for you to
take advantage of your being at home to pass, and we will take care that
you shall get your promotion as soon as you have served your full time.
You would like a couple of months' leave, no doubt, before you return.
Would you rather wait before going in to be examined, or would you
prefer going in at once?"

"I would rather go in at once, sir. I should enjoy my holiday much
better if it was over."

"I do not think it will take very long," the admiral said with a smile.
"After having been in command of a ten-gun brig for six months you
should be able to satisfy the requirements of the examiners without
difficulty. You will be good enough to wait in the ante-room."

The delay was not long. In ten minutes the official messenger requested
him to follow him, and took him to a room where three naval captains
were sitting. The one in the centre looked up from the papers that he
was examining.

"Good-morning, Mr. Wilkinson! I see by these papers that you have for
six months been in command of the ten-gun brig _Tigress_, cruising for
pirates among the Turkish and Greek islands."

"Yes, sir."

"I suppose during that time you met once or twice with bad weather?"

"We had one tremendous squall, sir."

"It came suddenly upon you?"

"Yes, sir. Our first intimation of it was that we saw two native craft
suddenly lower their sails."

"Let us know exactly the measures that you took and the orders you
gave."

Wilkinson described what had passed from the time that the first order
was given until the violence of the squall abated.

"That will do as far as seamanship is concerned," the officer said.

Another now asked him a few questions as to navigation, and these being
answered correctly, the president, after a word with the others, said:

"That will do, Mr. Wilkinson. You have answered creditably, and, indeed,
the mere fact that Sir Sidney Smith should have considered you fit to
command the _Tigress_ in so difficult and dangerous a work as cruising
among those islands is in itself a better guarantee of your fitness for
promotion than the most rigid examination could be."

A few further questions were asked, and then Wilkinson was congratulated
upon having passed successfully. He then went to the prize court, saw
the President, and presented Sir Sidney Smith's note to him. He read it
through, and then glanced at a copy of the bill of lading which had been
taken when the cargo was transferred.

"You do not know the contents of all those bales and casks, Mr.
Wilkinson?"

"No, sir. The greater portion of them have never been opened. Some, of
course, one could recognize from the nature of the packing, and I put
them down as nearly as I could guess--Manchester goods, woollen,
hardware, and so on; but, as we wanted to be off, and it was better that
the things should remain in their original packing, we did not trouble
to open them, and they were received as cargo consigned to you."

"The Eastern goods you know nothing about, I suppose?"

"Nothing whatever."

"Well, when the brig arrives in the river the captain will, of course,
call here, and I will give him instructions where to land them."

"I understand," he went on, looking again at the letter, "that Mr.
Blagrove, to whom Sir Sidney asks me to intrust the sale of these goods,
is an expert in this special line?"

"Yes, sir; he has been for many years established as a merchant in
Alexandria, and Sir Sidney thought that he would not only be able to
estimate accurately the value of the goods, but would know exactly where
to place them, and would, by bringing them gradually forward, get far
larger sums for them than if they were thrown all at once upon the
market."

"I see the vessel is his property, Mr. Wilkinson?"

"It is so, sir, his son purchased it in his name. He is a
fellow-midshipman of mine in the _Tigre_, and was with me in the craft
with which we captured all these goods and the vessels that have been
sold for twelve thousand five hundred. This I have brought up with me in
gold, and will pay into the hands of anybody you may appoint, to be
added to the proceeds of the sales, for division by the court."

"Have you any idea of the value of these Eastern goods?"

"Not in the slightest, sir; only a few of the bales were opened in the
presence of Sir Sidney Smith. He himself said that it would be better
not to open more, as there were no facilities for repacking."

"I think that it was a very good idea of Sir Sidney's to suggest that it
would be for the advantage of all concerned to vary the usual course,
and to place these goods in the hands of an expert instead of selling
them by auction. I should like to see Mr. Blagrove. I suppose you know
his address. Is he in town?"

"He is living in Dulwich, sir."

"Well, will you let him know that if he calls upon me to-morrow morning
I will give him full authority to act in the matter, and then we can
settle whether to stow that portion of the cargo in our warehouses or
whether to make other arrangements. I will myself write to Sir Sidney
Smith to thank him for his suggestion with respect to the sale of these
goods, and to say that I have so arranged it. The question of freight
is, of course, a matter altogether separate, and I shall give Mr.
Blagrove a cheque for the amount arranged between his representative and
Sir Sidney Smith at the rate of three pounds per ton when he brings me
the receipt of the officer in charge of the warehouse of his having
received the stores in good order from the ship."

Edgar had, on reaching London, stopped at the Golden Cross for the
night, and the first thing in the morning taken a hackney-coach and
driven at once to Dulwich, where his father had taken a house close to
that of his brother. It was now the first week in December. Edgar drove
up to the entrance to the garden in which the house stood, paid the
coachman, and then rang the bell. The servant opened it, and looked
somewhat surprised at seeing a young naval officer standing there.

"Are Mr. and Mrs. Blagrove in?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, they are both in."

"All right!" he said; "show me to the room where they are. You need not
announce me; I am their son."

The girl at once led the way into the house, and Edgar walked into the
room, where the party were seated at breakfast. Mr. Blagrove was sitting
with his back to the door, and did not see him come in. His mother and
sisters looked up in surprise as he entered unannounced. It was two
years since they had seen him, and they scarcely recognized in the tall
young officer the lad whom they had last seen at Alexandria on their
departure for England. Mr. Blagrove, on seeing their eyes fixed on the
door, turned round, and leapt to his feet.

"My dear Edgar," he exclaimed as he warmly embraced him, "where have you
sprung from? Your last letter was from Smyrna three months ago. Mother,"
he went on, turning round, "let me introduce your boy to you."

For some minutes there was little coherent conversation.

"Now, sit down, Edgar," Mr. Blagrove said at last, "and let us hear
what unexpected chance has brought you home. I suppose, as you are in
uniform, that you have not left the service."

"Not at all, sir; I am home on three months' leave, having come home in
the _Suzanne_, a brig belonging to yourself."

"Belonging to me!" Mr. Blagrove said in astonishment. "What on earth do
you mean?"

"I bought her in your name, father, and you will have a bill presented
in the course of a couple of months or so for eight hundred and fifty
pounds. At any rate you will not be a loser by her. There will be from
six to seven hundred pounds, I cannot say how much exactly, for the
cargo was not weighed, but it is somewhat over two hundred tons at three
pounds a ton, and there is, besides, a hundred pounds for the
passage-money of twenty invalid sailors, so you see you get the ship for
practically about a hundred pounds, to which there will have to be added
the payment of a captain, mate, and ten Italian sailors. She was valued
by a court of naval officers at eight hundred and fifty pounds, that
being the price they considered that she might fetch if sold there. I
should say that she is worth quite double that. She is about three
hundred tons, and carried six guns, so at any rate you are likely to
make a thousand by the transaction.

"Then I have to inform you that, at Sir Sidney Smith's request, which I
have no doubt will be complied with, you will be appointed, by the
president of the prize court, agent for the sale of what Eastern goods
there are on board her. The cargo is made up of European goods, dried
fruits, and Eastern goods. They are what we captured from the pirates,
and Sir Sidney Smith suggested that it would be as well to intrust to
one who knew the value of the Eastern goods the work of selling them
privately, instead of putting them up to auction, and he requested that
the agency should be given to you. Wilkinson, who has come home with me,
is going to see the president of the prize court this morning, and he is
to come up here afterwards. Of course Sir Sidney did it chiefly to
oblige me, but he thought that the goods would really fetch more if sold
in that way. He said, of course, that you would get a commission on the
sale, and as you said in the last letter that I received that you were
getting very sick of having nothing to do, I thought you might like the
job."

"Certainly I should like it, Edgar, and that purchase of the ship seems
a very satisfactory one, though, of course, the profit will be yours and
not mine, as I had nothing to do with it."

"Oh, yes, it is your business, father; she is bought with your money,
and I am glad that I have been able to do something for the firm. I
shall soon be getting my prize money, which will keep me in cash for a
very long time."

"We won't argue about that now, Edgar. At any rate I shall be glad to
see to the sale of these Eastern goods, though, of course, it will be
but a small thing."

"I don't know, father. I think that it will be rather a large thing. At
any rate there is something between eighty and a hundred tons of them."

"Between eighty and a hundred tons!" his father replied. "You mean with
the dried fruits, of course."

"Not at all, father! The fruits will be sold in the ordinary way in the
prize court."

"Then, what can these things be?"

"I should say the great proportion of them are carpets--Turkish,
Persian, and Syrian."

"A hundred tons of such carpets as those, Edgar, would be worth a very
large sum, indeed; surely you must be mistaken?"

"It's the accumulation of years of piracy, father; perhaps from hundreds
of ships captured by those scoundrels. But, of course, they are not all
carpets. There are silks, muslins, embroidered robes, Egyptian scarves
and manufactures, and other sorts of things. We have not opened above a
dozen bales out of some twelve hundred, and have, therefore, no idea of
the relative value of the others. We were a tender of the _Tigre's_, our
craft being a prize taken by her, and all of us, officers and men, being
borne on her books, the whole ship divides. Still, if the things are
worth as much as we think, it will bring us in a handsome sum. And there
is, besides, twelve thousand five hundred in cash, the proceeds of the
sale of the vessels we captured; and we also share with the other ships
under Sir Sidney Smith's command in the value of the vessels and cargoes
they have captured as they tried to reach an Egyptian port. They say
they were worth something like forty thousand, of which the _Tigre's_
share will be about half."

"Well, Edgar, if there are a hundred tons of such goods as you describe,
your cargo must be a valuable one indeed. Of course I can tell nothing
about it until I see them opened. At any rate it will give me
occupation, and I should say a good paying occupation, for some time."

"I suppose you got that letter, father, that I sent from Constantinople,
from Mr. Muller?"

"Yes, and a very satisfactory one it was. It reconciled me to some
extent to staying here. It was not pleasant to think that one was living
upon one's capital, but I found from his statement that my share of the
business he was doing would fully cover my expenses here. And now, let
us hear something more about your doings. Your letter from
Constantinople told us about your adventures in Egypt; then we had one
written the day after the French had retreated from before Acre, and the
one that we received from Smyrna two months since; but that was a short
one, and beyond saying that you had been very lucky in capturing and
destroying a number of pirates, and that you were enjoying your cruise
very much, you did not give us any detail. You may as well tell us that
part first."

Early in the afternoon Wilkinson arrived. As Edgar had spoken warmly of
his kindness to him when he had first joined the _Tigre_, and of the
friendship that had sprung up between them, he was very cordially
received by Mr. and Mrs. Blagrove. The former was well pleased when he
heard the details of the interview with the president of the prize
court, and said that he would go up and see him in the morning.

"I will hire a warehouse for a month or two," he said. "It will be much
more satisfactory than working in a place where a lot of other business
is being transacted. The bales will all have to be opened and examined,
the goods classed and assorted, and I shall have to bring people down
there to examine them. The expense will be nothing in comparison to the
advantage of having a quiet place to one's self."

On the following morning Mr. Blagrove went up and had a very
satisfactory talk with the president of the prize court. The _Suzanne_
arrived four days later, having made a fast run from Portsmouth. By that
time Mr. Blagrove had engaged a warehouse, where, in a short time, the
whole of the goods of which he was to dispose were safely stored.
Wilkinson went down on the day after his arrival to his people in
Devonshire, and Edgar established himself as assistant to his father. As
bale after bale was opened, the latter was astonished at the beauty and
value of some of the contents. A few only of the bales contained common
country cloths, and it was evident that such goods of this sort as had
fallen into the hands of the pirates had been sold at once, as there was
a ready market for them at the towns and villages of the islands and the
mainland. Many of the carpets were of great size. Some of the very large
ones Mr. Blagrove valued at fully £500, and there were scores worth from
£50 to £100. Some of the silks and embroideries he pronounced to be
almost priceless.

"They must," he said, "have been specially woven and worked for the
ladies of the Sultan's harem."

When, after a month's stay, Edgar prepared to rejoin with his friend
Wilkinson, not more than one-third of the contents of the warehouse had
been sold, but these had fetched over £40,000, and his father had no
doubt that he should obtain a proportionate sum for the remainder. The
Italian sailors who had aided to bring the _Suzanne_ home had been sent
off a week after her arrival by a vessel bound for Naples, and the brig
herself had, as soon as the cargo was all cleared out, fetched £1800 by
auction, being almost a new vessel.

"I have no doubt," Mr. Blagrove said, "that ere long a British army will
be sent out, and the French compelled to leave Egypt. If I thought that
the war was likely to go on for some time as at present, I should say
that you had better leave the service. As it is, you would not be doing
much good if you stayed here, and so may as well hold on."

It was the first day of March, 1800, when the vessel with supplies for
the troops, in which Wilkinson and Edgar had taken their passage, joined
the fleet off Alexandria, and until the beginning of December they took
part in the somewhat tedious work of blockading the Egyptian coast. In
spite of their efforts the fleet were not always successful, for from
time to time one or other of the ships was forced to sail to Cyprus to
obtain fresh supplies, although quite a fleet of small vessels was
employed in bringing water, fresh meat, and vegetables for the use of
the fleet, as the health of the seamen would have suffered much from
living for so long a period upon salt meat.

In November news was received that the army under Sir Ralph Abercrombie,
which had for so long been engaged in watching Cadiz, was to sail upon
an expedition for the reconquest of Egypt. It was stated that the
expedition would, in the first place, sail for Syria, there to join the
army that the Sultan assured the English government was in readiness to
advance. Sir Sidney Smith was ordered to sail at once for that coast, to
ascertain the real state of things, and to decide upon the spot where
the fleet had best assemble, for, from its long absence from England,
there were many repairs needed, and it was desirable that the situation
should be such that the ships could be careened, and a portion at least
of the weeds that had accumulated be scraped off.

His absence was in one respect unfortunate, for some of the other
blockading ships were, after a very heavy gale, obliged to go to Cyprus
to repair damages; and two French men-of-war heavily laden with troops
and ammunition managed to run safely in to Alexandria, thereby
increasing the strength of the French army by four thousand seasoned
soldiers, and by an ample supply of ammunition. It was a great
disappointment to the crews when, on their return to their stations off
the coast, they found that the French had taken advantage of their
absence, and that the result of their eighteen months of incessant vigil
had been wasted.

Wilkinson had by this time served his full time, and Condor having been
appointed to the _Theseus_, Sir Sidney Smith again gave the command of
the _Tigress_ to him, with the rank of acting lieutenant, which would,
he was sure, be confirmed.

"I suppose you would like to have Mr. Blagrove with you?"

"Certainly, sir. There is no one I would rather have."

"It is a pity that he has not served his time yet," Sir Sidney said. "He
is a most active young officer, and his knowledge of so many languages
is of immense advantage. I would gladly give him an independent command,
but as there are so many midshipmen senior to him, I could not do so.
You know the coast of Anatolia probably better than anyone else here.
Which harbour would you recommend as the most suitable for the entry of
a large fleet? It must be well sheltered, and the shore should offer
facilities for heeling the vessels over as far as possible in order to
clean them. I know that at Rhodes there is not enough water for
first-class men-of-war."

"By far the best place I know, sir, is the Bay of Marmorice. It is on
the mainland almost opposite Rhodes, and within a day's easy sail. We
went into it quite by accident, for the entrance might be passed without
notice, but we had been chasing a suspicious craft, and saw her
disappear, and, following her, found ourselves in a great landlocked
harbour, big enough to hold a hundred ships-of-war, and absolutely
sheltered. It is by far the finest harbour that I have ever seen."

"I am sailing for Rhodes in the first place. Lord Keith, who commands
the fleet, has written to request me to meet him there; and if your
report is correct, it will save me the trouble of examining the whole
line of coast between Rhodes and Acre."

Edgar was glad to be again on board the _Tigress_. The account of the
sale of the goods she had captured had now been received; the total
amounted to £133,000, of which £110,000 had been paid in to the prize
court by Mr. Blagrove, the other £23,000 had been the proceeds of the
fruits and other goods. There were in addition the sums received for
vessels sold. The astonishment of the officers of the _Tigre_ was great
indeed when they heard the result, for very little had been said about
the value of the cargo, and the sum realized was at least three times as
great as the most sanguine had hoped.

"It was an excellent plan getting your father to undertake the
business," Sir Sidney Smith said to Edgar, when the latter informed him
that he had received a communication from his father saying how much the
goods he had sold had realized. "I don't suppose they would have fetched
a third of that amount had they been sold in the ordinary way by auction
by the prize court. I am sure that we must all feel greatly obliged to
him."

"And he must feel greatly obliged to you, Sir Sidney; for, as he told
me, his commission had been fixed at three per cent, so he has, after
paying his expenses, done a fine stroke of business for himself."

"He has managed extremely well, Mr. Blagrove, and it has been a
fortunate affair for us all."



CHAPTER XVII.

ABERCROMBIE'S EXPEDITION.


On arriving at Rhodes Sir Sidney Smith left the _Tigre_, and in the
_Tigress_ sailed across to the Bay of Marmorice, preferring to explore
it, in the first place, in a craft drawing but little water. He was
delighted with the harbour, and after a day spent in sounding in various
parts of it, found that there was ample depth of water for the larger
ships, and that there were spots where these could lie alongside, run
the upper-deck guns directly ashore, and careen the ships over to a
point that would enable them to be freed of a considerable proportion of
their weeds and barnacles. Returning to Rhodes, he then started in the
_Tigre_ for Syria. He took Edgar with him as interpreter, replacing him
temporarily by another midshipman, and leaving Wilkinson with a report
from himself to Lord Keith strongly recommending Marmorice as being
suitable in all respects for a rendezvous for the fleet and transports.

On the 28th of December the first division of the fleet arrived, and was
at once ordered to proceed to Marmorice, the _Tigress_ sailing ahead to
show the way. The second division arrived four days later. Tents were at
once erected ashore. The sick were landed and encamped; whole regiments
were also put under canvas, while the ships which carried them were
careened and cleaned. Sir Sidney Smith had already returned with the
news that there was practically nothing that could be called an army in
Syria, and his report was so discouraging that General Abercrombie and
Lord Keith resolved that it would be far better to land the army in
Egypt than to disembark at Jaffa and take the long and fatiguing march
across the desert, merely in order to gain the aid of a few thousand
useless Turkish troops.

Great disappointment was occasioned by the remounts for the cavalry that
had been purchased at Constantinople, for when these arrived they were
such wretched animals that they were for the most part found to be
absolutely useless, and the greater portion were either shot or sold for
a dollar each. On the 8th of February one of the most terrible
hail-storms that ever was experienced, took place, and lasted for
forty-eight hours. The thunder rolled without intermission; the
hailstones were as big as large walnuts, and lay two feet deep in the
camp. The scene of confusion there was terrible; horses broke loose and
rushed wildly about seeking shelter from the hail. The men dared not
venture out, so terrible was the force with which the lumps of ice came
down. Ships drove at their anchors, and many lost their upper spars, and
the _Swiftsure_ was struck by lightning.

The weather continued violent for some time, and it was not until the
23rd of February that the ships weighed anchor, and, numbering a hundred
and seventy-five, set sail, and made their way out of the harbour. The
expedition on which the troops were about to embark was a most
adventurous one. They had by this time learned that the French had
received very considerable reinforcements, and that the force was a much
larger one than had been reported. The Turkish army with which they were
to operate was non-existent, and the only gleam of satisfaction was that
Bonaparte himself had managed to get through the blockading force in a
small craft, and had arrived in France, and that, therefore, the French
army would not have the benefit of his leading, or be animated by his
presence among them.

Edgar found himself brought unexpectedly into notice. The fleet was
entirely unprovided with reliable maps of Egypt, and none of the
officers had any previous knowledge of it beyond the port of Alexandria.
Sir Sidney Smith was able to give every information regarding the coast,
but had never set foot on shore.

"It is most unfortunate," General Abercrombie said, when he, Lord Keith,
and Sir Sidney Smith were discussing the matter. "Here we are about to
land in a country of which we know absolutely nothing. If we had, as
originally intended, landed at Jaffa and marched through El A'rich with
the Turks, we should have had the benefit of their knowledge and that of
the Arabs of the country. As it is, we are totally ignorant of its
features, while the enemy are thoroughly acquainted with them. It is
like a blind man fighting in the dark against one who can see
perfectly."

"By the way," Sir Sidney exclaimed suddenly, "I have a young officer who
knows the country well. He has been a resident at Alexandria for years,
and, riding about, knows every foot of the country within many miles of
it. He has been up to Cairo, was with the Arabs who harassed the French
march, was present at the battle of the Pyramids, and at the fighting in
Cairo, and knows the position of all the French forts round that city.
He was on his way to England when I overhauled the craft he was in, on
my way out, and as he speaks Arabic perfectly, to say nothing of French
and Italian, I offered him a berth as midshipman and to act as my
interpreter. In the latter capacity he was invaluable both in
Constantinople and at the siege of Jaffa. He is, moreover, a most
gallant young officer, and was second in command of the _Tigress_ when
she did such good service in eradicating piracy among the islands,
capturing and destroying over a hundred piratical craft."

"That is good news indeed!" the general said. "Will you send for him
now? His knowledge would be invaluable to me."

A boat was sent off at once to the _Tigre_ with an order for Edgar to
come on board the flagship immediately. Much surprised, but supposing
that he was wanted to act as interpreter between Sir Sidney and some
Turkish official who had come on board, he at once took his place in the
gig and was rowed to the flagship. As soon as he reached the deck an
officer told him that he was wanted in the admiral's cabin. There he was
again surprised at seeing not only the admiral, but General Abercrombie
and Sir Sidney Smith.

"This is Mr. Blagrove, Lord Keith," Sir Sidney said. "I can speak most
highly of him, as a most gallant and able young officer, and as a master
of four or five languages. In the capacity of interpreter he has
rendered signal services."

"Take a seat, sir," the admiral said. "How long has he served, Sir
Sidney?"

"About two years and two months, sir, and therefore I have been unable
to recognize the services that he has rendered me in his double
capacity, beyond mentioning them in my reports."

"I hear, Mr. Blagrove," Lord Keith went on, "that you are intimately
acquainted with the country round Alexandria, have visited Cairo, and
know the city and its defences. How did you go to Cairo?"

"I rode, sir, in company with a party of Arabs with whom I was living
after the sudden and unexpected departure of my father when the French
fleet first appeared in sight. I may say I went up and down twice, for
we went back to fetch the women of the tribe."

"Sir Ralph Abercrombie will be glad to learn from you all the
information that you can give him respecting the country round
Alexandria, and also what you can tell him of the route between that
place and Cairo. As we were in the Mediterranean when we received orders
to undertake the invasion of Egypt, we have no maps of the country, and
practically know nothing whatever about it. However, of course, in the
first place the most important part of the affair is to learn the
positions round Alexandria."

"I shall be very glad to answer any questions, sir."

The general then began to examine him. "Can you draw, sir?"

"I have no knowledge of military drawing," Edgar replied, "but I could
point out the position of the villages."

The general pushed a large sheet of paper towards him.

"The position of the villages will, of course, be useful," he said, "as
these are points that would be naturally defended; but what is of most
importance is the position of the sand-hills and other eminences, the
points at which artillery would command the surrounding country, prepare
the way for a force advancing to attack the French, or to check columns
advancing against us, the line which the enemy would be most likely to
occupy, those by which we might best attack him in front or turn his
position."

Edgar looked at the paper in doubt.

"I am afraid, sir, that is beyond me altogether; but if you will tell me
where the landing would probably be effected, I could go on from that
spot and indicate the various risings and falls of the ground."

"Of course you know the Castle of Aboukir?"

"Certainly, sir. I was on the sand-hills for two days, within half a
mile of it, watching the approach of Lord Nelson's fleet and the battle
of Aboukir."

"Good!" the general said; "we shall probably land near there."

"The sand-hills rise sharply from the water's edge, and a short distance
behind there are several points on which the French would probably place
batteries to oppose the landing."

He sketched the line of coast, drew a few lines indicating the trend of
the sand-hills, and marked the special eminences. Then step by step he
showed the line where the French would probably post themselves, were a
successful landing effected, between the heights of Ramleh and the sea,
described the country, and, as far as he could, the lay of the land.

"How about water?" the general asked after he had questioned Edgar for
more than half an hour.

"There are wells at several points," he said, "but for the most part
they are too near the French position for them to be useful to you until
you have driven them into the town. There is, however, a well here," and
he marked a spot about a mile from the landing-place. "I cannot tell you
its exact position. There is a peasant's hut there. He was speaking to
us while we were watching the battle, and he told us that he so hated
the French that he had filled up his well so that they should not fetch
water from it for the garrison of the castle. I have no doubt that I
could find the hut, and the man will, I am sure, show you where the well
has been, and it will probably take but little trouble to clear it out.
The Arabs, however, told me that wherever you find clumps of trees you
will be sure to find water at no great depth."

"That is very valuable information," the general said. "It is bad enough
to have to depend upon the fleet for provisions; but the difficulties of
transporting water sufficient for some 12,000 men, with the cavalry and
artillery horses, would be enormous.

"Thank you, Mr. Blagrove. I must have some more conversation with you."

Edgar bowed and retired.

"You must let me have that young fellow," the general said to Sir Sidney
Smith. "He is evidently thoroughly acquainted with the country. As he
knows nothing of military drawing, one cannot get the full advantage of
his information here; but if I had him on shore with me his knowledge
would be invaluable, for he could then point out to me the nature of the
country beyond the points we can see."

"I should be very happy to lend him to you, Sir Ralph, and I am sure he
will be glad to go, for really a midshipman's pay is absurd as a
consideration for the services that he has rendered as interpreter.
Fortunately his father was a merchant at Alexandria, and money is of no
great importance to him, and he really entered the navy only for the
pleasure of seeing service, and to pass the time until the departure of
the French would enable his father to return to his business. Of course
if he had served his time and passed I should most strongly recommend
him for promotion to lieutenant at once. As it is, I am powerless."

"There are exceptions to every rule," Lord Keith said, "and as
commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, I think that I might overstep
the line. Could he pass?"

"I have no doubt whatever that he could do so," Sir Sidney said.
"Certainly he could in practical knowledge of seamanship, after being
second in command of a ten-gun brig for six months among the islands,
the commander being a midshipman only a few months older than himself.
Owing to the loss of so many officers at Acre, I was unable to spare one
of higher rank, and the complaints of piracy were so urgent and
frequent, that I felt it absolutely necessary to send a ship up to try
and put a stop to it. I had some misgivings at the time, but my choice
was more than justified, as was shown by the number of craft captured;
and when I say that the plunder taken sold for over one hundred and
thirty thousand pounds, it speaks well for both their skill and
activity, for navigation among those islands is a very ticklish
business."

"I will call a board to-morrow to examine him," the admiral said, "and
will at once, if he passes, appoint him as acting lieutenant, and send
home a report, if you will get one drawn up, Sir Sidney, as to his
exceptional services, and saying that I was partly influenced in taking
so exceptional a step by the consideration that Sir Ralph Abercrombie
had asked that he should be appointed to his staff, both from his
knowledge of the country and of the Arab and Turkish languages."

The next morning the flagship signalled to the _Tigre_. The flag
midshipman, after spelling out the message and reporting to Sir Sidney,
ran forward to Edgar.

"You are to go on board the admiral's ship at once; the signal has been
made for you."

On reaching the ship he was conducted down to the wardroom, where, to
his surprise, three naval captains were seated at a table.

"Please to sit down, Mr. Blagrove," the one in the centre said, "we want
to ask you a few questions."

Supposing that he was about to be asked more about Egypt, or perhaps the
depth of water in the port of Alexandria, Edgar prepared to answer, and
the first questions justified his anticipations, for he was questioned
minutely as to the point for which a ship would head to round the
dangerous reef extending from the outer point of the western port. Then
he was asked as to the depth of water between this and the shore, the
guns that could be brought to bear upon it, and the depths at various
points in the harbour itself. All these he was able to answer at once.
Then he was asked various questions as to harbours in the Turkish and
Greek islands, and as he had constantly consulted the charts during his
cruise in the _Tigress_, he was able to reply readily on all these
points. The next question surprised him.

"Now, Mr. Blagrove, if caught by a sudden and heavy squall, when under
full sail, among these islands, and having but three or four minutes to
strip the ship, what orders would you give?"

As he had in his mind every order that Wilkinson had given on the
approach of the squall, he was able to repeat them with accuracy.

"You are cutting them rather short, Mr. Blagrove."

"Yes, sir; but the time is very short. When cruising there we were
struck by a squall less than three minutes after we had notice of its
coming, and everything had to be done at once and with the greatest
possible speed. As it was, the men were not out of the rigging when the
squall struck us."

"Supposing you had had ten minutes' notice, how would you have
proceeded?"

Edgar gave the orders as laid down in the text-book, for after the
narrow escape they had had, he and Wilkinson had especially learnt these
by heart.

"Very good indeed, Mr. Blagrove."

Two or three questions in navigation were then asked, and these were
also answered well, as they had found it absolutely necessary to be able
to find their exact position when cruising in such dangerous waters.

"Thank you, sir," the officer said when the last question had been
answered; "we shall have much pleasure in certifying that you have
passed your examination in a most creditable manner."

Edgar looked a little bewildered.

"Sir Sidney Smith perhaps did not inform you, Mr. Blagrove, that, by
Lord Keith's orders, you were to be examined to-day, and that we have
sat as a board for that purpose?"

"No, indeed, sir, I had no thought of such a thing. I shall not have
served my time for nearly three years."

"I suppose Lord Keith had some special reason for having you examined
now. It was a good opportunity, you see. You will please remain on deck
for a few minutes while we draw out the certificate."

He was soon called in again and presented with a certificate, saying
that he had passed the examination most satisfactorily.

"You will now go to the admiral's cabin," the president said; "he
desires to speak to you."

Still greatly puzzled why he should be examined so long before his time,
Edgar sent in his name to the admiral, and was at once shown in. Sir
Sidney Smith was with him.

"I am very glad to hear from the examining board that you have passed
your examination with great credit, Mr. Blagrove," the admiral said.
"Sir Sidney Smith has spoken to me in very high terms of the services
you have rendered him, and the general commanding the troops has
requested that you should be told off to his staff, where your knowledge
of the country will be of great service to him. Under these very
exceptional circumstances I have taken the exceptional step of having
you examined at once, and as you have passed with flying colours I now
hand you your appointment as acting lieutenant. The appointment is, of
course, a temporary one, but when I explain to the Admiralty my reasons
for making it, and inclose the report of your services that Sir Sidney
Smith has handed to me, I have no doubt that the step will be confirmed.
I may say that one reason for my doing this at the present moment is
that as you will be on Sir Ralph Abercrombie's staff, I think that, as
the navy is to be represented, it should be represented by an officer
with at least the rank of lieutenant, so as to give him a proper status.
I congratulate you, Lieutenant Blagrove, on the promotion that you have,
in my opinion and in that of your immediate superior, most worthily
won."

Thereupon he shook Edgar warmly by the hand. Sir Sidney Smith did the
same, and with a smile stopped Edgar's disjointed words of thanks and
pointed to the door. Some of the middies of the flagship nudged each
other and smiled at his pale face as he walked to the gangway.

"He has been getting a wigging and no mistake," one said to another. "He
looked all right when he went in, for I noticed him as he came on deck;
but he has evidently got into some awful scrape, and will be
court-martialled and sent home, I should say, or his captain would have
kept the affair in his own hands instead of bringing him up before the
admiral."

"Anything the matter, Mr. Blagrove?" Mr. Knight, who was still second
lieutenant on the _Tigre_, asked him, as he came on board. "'Tis not
often that a midshipman is signalled for by an admiral's flagship, and
you are looking rather shaky."

"No, sir, there is nothing wrong, but I do feel a little queer. When I
got there I was taken down to the wardroom, where three captains were
sitting. They asked me a number of questions about the port of
Alexandria, the depth of water, the batteries, and so on. Of course I
knew about that from going so often on board ship in the harbour and
from sailing in and out. Then, to my surprise, they asked me what I
should do if the ship I was in command of was caught in a sudden squall.
As we had been caught in a white squall in the islands, of course I was
able to answer. They asked me some other questions as to navigation,
and I could not for the life of me make out what they were doing, and
was thunderstruck when they told me that they were a board, and that I
had passed my examination with great credit. When they gave me the
certificate I was taken to the admiral's cabin;" and he then repeated
the substance of what the admiral had said.

"I congratulate you, Blagrove. You are a lucky young dog; but I don't
think that luck is the proper word, for you owe it entirely, first to
your knowledge of languages, then to your own behaviour and pluck. It is
rare indeed, I can tell you, that a midshipman of two years' standing is
passed and promoted. I have no doubt that, as the admiral said, your
going on Abercrombie's staff had a good deal to do with it, because, for
the credit of the navy, one would not like to be represented by a
midshipman on such service. Well, you must borrow an epaulette;" for at
that time a naval officer did not mount two epaulettes until he had
obtained the rank of commander.

At first Edgar's story was altogether disbelieved in the cockpit, where
his arrival was anxiously expected, as all were curious to learn what he
had been signalled for. When at last they understood that he was in
earnest, he was very warmly congratulated. Three of them were senior to
him; but he was so generally liked, and his acquirements in the way of
languages so fully acknowledged, that there was no feeling of jealousy,
especially as they felt sure that, when the campaign was over, Sir
Sidney Smith would get him appointed to another ship. Two of them that
evening got a boat and rowed to several other men-of-war, and at last
succeeded in buying an epaulette from an officer who had bought the kit
of another who had died some time before, and this they formally
presented to Edgar that evening.

While at Marmorice Bay the latter had almost daily interviews with the
general. At these the quarter-master and adjutant-generals and several
other superior officers were often present, and he was asked innumerable
questions as to the country between Alexandria and Cairo, the
probabilities of obtaining animals for the baggage-waggons and
artillery, the amount of provisions that could be obtained from the
country, the length of the marches and the nature of the ground, and
whether the Arabs were likely to render any efficient assistance. All
these questions he answered to the best of his power, saying, however,
that it would be absolutely necessary to depend to a large extent on the
boats for provisions as the French had done, for that comparatively few
horses could be obtained, as the French had purchased all that they
could lay their hands on.

Then to an engineer officer he described the position of the old and
newly-erected works at Cairo, saying that the latter were intended
solely to overawe the town, and that some of them were open works in the
rear, although no doubt they would be much strengthened, and some of the
guns turned outward, as soon as news was received of the landing of the
British army. He pointed out that many of the guns must, however, be
retained in their present position, in case the population should rise
as soon as the army approached, and that the guns were in most cases
small, as the French had brought no battering-train with them.

"There is no doubt," the general said, "that Damietta and Rosetta must
be taken before we advance, and that a strong force of our gun-boats and
armed ships' boats must convoy the native craft laden with provisions
and stores, for from what you describe of the country, and the
difficulty of obtaining animals, it is clear that we shall have to
depend upon the river for food."

On the 24th the great fleet sailed, and on the 1st of March anchored in
Aboukir Bay. The weather was boisterous and a landing was impossible.
The next morning, to their mortification, a French frigate was seen to
enter Alexandria. She had passed near several of the blockading
squadron, but was in some way furnished with a British naval
signal-book, and answered all the signals made to her without attracting
the slightest suspicion. During that night a French brig also ran in.
Not until the 8th did the sea moderate sufficiently for a disembarkation
to be attempted. This delay of seven days was most unfortunate, as it
enabled the French general to make every preparation for opposing the
landing.

On the morning of the 8th the brigade of Guards, and part of the 1st
brigade, amounting in all to 5500 men, under the command of
Major-general Coote, embarked in boats, and at three started for the
spot where they were to gather for the landing. But the ships were
widely scattered, and it was not until nine o'clock that the boats were
all marshalled in order.

In the meantime the remainder of the 1st and the 2nd brigades were taken
to the ships close inshore, so that no time might be lost after the
boats had landed the other division.

Edgar had the night before been rowed to the ship on which were the
general and his staff, and accompanied them to the vessel near the shore
on which he took his post. On either flank of the transport's boats were
posted three gun-vessels and two of the fleet's launches. Two
bomb-vessels were placed close to them, and three sloops-of-war were
moored with their broadsides to the shore.

Sir Sidney Smith had charge of the launches which contained the
field-artillery. As the signal-gun fired, the oars all dipped in the
water together, and the men burst into a tremendous cheer.

For a moment the French remained passive; 2000 men were posted on the
top of the sand-hills, which here formed a crescent. In the centre rose
two hills, to a height of 180 feet, apparently inaccessible. Twelve guns
were posted on the sand-hills, and the Castle of Aboukir was able to
assist with the fire of its guns. So strong was the position that the
French had hardly deemed it possible that the British would decide to
attack them here; but as the boats dashed forward, every man rowing as
if his life depended upon his efforts, they could no longer doubt the
intentions of the British, and a tremendous fire of grape and musketry,
shot and shell, was opened.

Some of the boats were sunk, but most of those on board were saved by
the others, and the greater part of the line, without a check, pressed
on until they reached the beach. The 23rd and 40th, whose boats were the
first to land, rushed up the height without stopping to fire a shot,
and, charging the two French battalions with the bayonet, carried it and
two hills in the rear, taking three pieces of cannon posted there. The
42nd Regiment formed up as if on parade, and mounted the sand-hills
under the fire of two pieces of artillery and a battalion of infantry.
The moment they reached the crest 200 French cavalry advanced to charge,
but fell back under the heavy fire opened upon them.

They rallied behind the hills, and charged down upon the Guards as the
latter were beginning to land. The 58th, however, poured a volley into
them, and gained time for the Guards to form up, when the cavalry again
rode off. The 54th and the Royals, being in heavy transport boats,
arrived a little later, but were in time to check a French column
advancing through a hollow against the left flank of the Guards. The
British were now in full possession of the heights, and the French
everywhere fell back, keeping up, however, a fire from another range of
sand-hills for an hour and a half, when, as the troops got into motion
against them, they retreated, having lost 300 men and eight pieces of
cannon.

The advance of the boats had been anxiously watched by Sir Ralph
Abercrombie's staff from the deck of the _Mondovi_. It seemed to Edgar
well-nigh impossible that any of these could reach the shore, so torn up
was the water by shot, shell, and bullets. A hearty cheer broke from all
on board as the men in the boats that first arrived were seen to jump
out on to the shore. These were repeated again and again as the 23rd,
40th, and 42nd won their way up the hill, and the French could be seen
hastily retiring. But it was not until the Guards and the three other
regiments were seen formed up in order ashore--for the French might, for
aught it was known, be preparing to take the offensive and recover the
ground that they had lost--that it was felt that full success had
attended the operation. The moment they had landed their freight the
boats returned to their ships, and by evening the navy succeeded, with
the greatest exertions, in conveying the whole of the remainder of the
force to the shore.

As soon as the fight was over, the troops were set to dig for water
wherever there were clumps of trees, and succeeded in finding it in
several places. Edgar was requested by the general to ride with a troop
of cavalry to find out the hut where the peasant who had spoken to him
lived. He took them almost straight to the spot. The peasant was there,
but had difficulty in recognizing in the young officer, the apparent
Arab with whom he had spoken on the day of the battle of Aboukir.
However, on being told that the French had been defeated, and that the
British intended to drive them out of the country altogether, he at once
pointed out where the well stood.

Some of the troopers had been provided with shovels. All dismounted and
worked by turns, and late in the evening the officer in command of the
party rode into camp with the welcome news that a large supply of water
could be drawn from the well. The army advanced some little distance the
next day, and established itself on the narrow strip of land between the
sea and the Lake of Aboukir; while the stores were brought ashore and a
hospital established on the beach. On the 12th the force moved four
miles farther, and on the following day marched to attack the French,
who were encamped on a ridge. They had received reinforcements from
Cairo, bringing up their strength to 6000 men. They had some thirty
guns, and the ground, which sloped regularly and smoothly down, afforded
a natural glacis, which would be swept by their fire.

The army marched in two columns against the French right, their advance
being supported by the guns of some of the ships' launches, which had
entered the Lake of Aboukir. The French guns played rapidly, and the
92nd, which was the leading regiment, pushed forward, while the French
cavalry, which charged the 90th, were received with a heavy fire and
driven back. The columns now formed into line, and, pressing steadily
forward, the French were compelled to abandon their position, and to
retreat to the works on the heights before the town itself.
Unfortunately, the British general, from the ease with which he had
turned the enemy from their first position, thought that he might carry
the second by a sudden attack. But, although the troops fought
gallantly, they were unable to win the position, which was strong and
well armed, and after some hours' fighting they were called off. Their
loss during the day had been about 1100 killed and wounded, while that
of the French was not more than half this number.

The ground on which the army now took up its position was a strong one.
The right was on high ground, and extended to the ruins of a Roman
palace within fifty yards of the sea. The left was on the canal that
supplied Alexandria with water; here two batteries were ordered to be
constructed, the lake protected its rear from attack. The distance from
the sea to the lake was about a mile, and the position occupied was high
and commanding. In front of this line was a plain on which cavalry could
act, and beyond this was the French position, a high and steep ridge,
extending from the sea to the canal. The army laboured unceasingly at
the work of constructing batteries, and bringing up guns and provisions.
Water was fortunately found in abundance, and the nights being cold,
tents were landed and set up. The castle of Aboukir had been left
unattacked as the army moved forward, but was now besieged and
surrendered on the eighteenth.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BATTLE OF ALEXANDRIA.


On the afternoon following the capture of Aboukir Castle, an Arab was
seen riding at full speed towards the British left. He was pursued by
some French cavalry, and another party endeavoured to cut him off. The
general happened to be at the time watching the troops at work
completing the batteries on that flank.

"That Arab is well mounted," he said, as he and those around him watched
the chase. "I believe he will get through if he is not shot," for, at
this moment, the cavalry behind him, seeing that he was leaving them
fast, began to use their carbines. Waving his gun over his head, and
from time to time giving a yell of derision and defiance, the Arab swept
round towards his right, and so passed ahead of the troop that had
endeavoured to cut him off, then bore round again, until he reached the
bank of the canal, and galloped along it, slackening his pace as a
musketry fire was opened from the battery, and the French cavalry turned
and rode away. The Arab rode across the bridge over the canal, and then
cantered up to the battery. As he was crossing the bridge, the idea that
had for a minute or two previously been in Edgar's mind rose to a
certainty.

"It is Sidi!" he exclaimed.

The general turned and looked at him interrogatively.

"It is the young chief of the Beni Ouafy, the tribe I was with when I
was here, sir; we call each other brother, and indeed are that in
feeling. We have saved each other's life more than once."

"Go and meet him then, and bring him here," the general said. "You spoke
frequently of him when describing your journeys to and from Cairo."

Sidi had checked his horse as he approached the battery, not seeing any
entrance to it, and was pausing, irresolute which way to turn, when
Edgar leapt from an embrasure and ran towards him. The Arab did not in
the least recognize his friend in the naval officer who advanced to meet
him. He had supposed him to be in England, and, indeed, as it was now
some months over two years since they had parted, and Edgar had grown
and widened out into a fine manly figure, Sidi would hardly have
recognized him had he come across him suddenly in a civilian dress. He
was astounded, when, on coming close to him, Edgar held out both hands
and cried:

"Sidi, my brother!"

The voice was unchanged. Sidi, with the shout of "All praise be to
Allah!" flung himself from his saddle, grasped Edgar's hands, and stood
there speechless with joy and emotion, and with tears standing in his
eyes. Edgar himself was much moved.

"Is all well with you, Sidi?" he asked; "the chief and your mother?"

"It is well with us all," Sidi answered. "We talk of you always, but had
not hoped to see you so soon. Little did I dream that I should not know
you when we met, though, when we heard that your people had landed and
had beaten the French, we thought that the time might not be very far
off when the Franks would go, and you might return. So you are an
officer, one of the ship officers?"

"Yes, Sidi. We met a ship-of-war as I sailed from here, and since I
could speak Arabic and Turkish I was made an officer, and was at the
siege of Acre, where we beat off the French; but we will talk of all
that afterwards. Our general saw you coming, and thinking that you might
have news for us, requested me to bring you to him."

"I have news," Sidi said.

"Do not tell me now, it is best that you should tell him first."

Walking side by side, Sidi leading his horse, they went round to the
entrance to the battery. As they entered, Edgar told one of the
general's orderlies to hold the horse, and then took Sidi up to Sir
Ralph Abercrombie.

"This is the English general, Sidi," he said. Sir Ralph held out his
hand to the young sheik, who raised it to his forehead.

"Our hearts are rejoiced," he said, "that you have come at last to fight
for us against the Franks. I bring you news, my lord. Late yesterday
their general, Menou, with a large force, arrived at Damanhour. I have
been among them. There must be five thousand men. His intentions are to
march to-day and to attack with all his force to-morrow morning."

"This is important news, indeed!" the general said, as Edgar translated
the message. "Ask him if he speaks merely from report or from his own
knowledge."

Sidi then said that some of the tribe had early that morning started
with a number of sheep, intending to bring them round into the British
camp. They were surprised by a body of French cavalry coming from
Damanhour. Several of the tribesmen were killed, but two escaped, being
well mounted, and brought the news to their camp. On the way they met
him, he having started some hours later, knowing that he could easily
overtake them before they reached the British camp. Seeing the
importance of the matter, he told them to tell his father that he should
try and find out how many of the French were at Damanhour, and take the
news to the British. He had then ridden toward that place, and
remembering how he had passed unsuspected before, had left his horse
there, had obtained the loan of a peasant's dress, had bought half a
dozen sheep, and had driven them into the town.

He found it crowded with the French. Having sold his sheep, he had
wandered about among the soldiers, and had entered into conversation
with some of the natives who had been engaged at Cairo as drivers of the
baggage-carts. From them he had learned that the French
general-in-chief, Menou, who had succeeded Kleber on the latter's
assassination at Cairo, was himself there, and that he intended to
attack at once with the troops he had brought, and with those in the
city. As soon as he obtained this news he returned to the village,
changed his dress, mounted, and rode off at full speed.

The party that had been seen chasing him was a cavalry squadron, whom he
had come upon suddenly while they were dismounted and sitting down in
the shade of a grove, and who, judging that he was making for the
British camp, had started in pursuit. Knowing well enough that they
could not catch him, he had amused himself by keeping but a short
distance in advance, and had not put his horse to its full speed until
he saw the mounted party coming out from the French lines to cut him
off.

The general listened attentively to Edgar as he translated the story.

"Please to question him again, Lieutenant Blagrove, as to the report
that Menou intends to attack us as soon as he gets here. It is, as you
see, of the greatest importance. Late as it is this afternoon, and
formidable as are the French lines, I should endeavour to carry them as
soon as the troops can form up, for it would be hopeless to try to do so
to-morrow when Menou arrives. If, on the other hand, he really means to
take the offensive, I should prefer remaining in our present position,
for I think that we could maintain it against the whole of the French
army, and that more easily than we could carry their line of defences
held by only the troops at present in front of us."

Edgar questioned Sidi again. The latter said that he had heard the same
story from three different persons. The French had arrived late the
evening before, and when he left, the bugles were sounding and they
were beginning to fall in for their march, and would probably reach
Alexandria by ten at night. The men had said that it was the talk among
the soldiers that they should take the English by surprise at daybreak
and drive them into the sea.

"That certainly seems to decide it," the general said. "They have made a
mistake indeed, if they think that they will catch us napping."

Orders were at once issued for a number of the troops to set to work to
complete the defences. Another battery was, during the night, erected in
front of the Roman ruins. A redoubt in front of the position of the
Guards was strengthened, and other points seen to.

At three o'clock in the morning the army was, as usual, under arms. Half
an hour later there was a sudden outburst of firing on the extreme left.
The firing continued, but it did not increase in strength, as would have
been the case had a serious attack been made, and General Moore, who was
the general officer of the night, remained on the right, against which
portion of the line he believed the real attack would be delivered. It
was still dark, and all waited anxiously for some sign of the spot
against which the storm was to burst.

Suddenly loud shouts were heard in advance of the right. A roar of
musketry immediately broke out. Covered by the inequalities of the
ground, the French had crept up unobserved by the sentries until close
at hand, and the moment the alarm was given, sprang forward in great
force, and the advanced pickets fell back on the main position at once.
A heavy column of French advanced against a ruined wall, behind which
the 58th were lying. The wall was of considerable length, and in many
places had fallen and left wide openings. Here the 58th were posted.
Their colonel made his men hold their fire until the enemy were close to
them, when volley after volley was poured into them, so well aimed and
deadly that the enemy retired quickly into a hollow in their rear, then
wheeled round to the right, and while one column marched straight at the
newly-formed battery, another endeavoured to force its way round its
left and take it in rear.

The 28th Regiment stationed there opened a heavy fire on the force
attacking them in front, but the flanking column, now joined by a third,
forced its way in behind the battery. While some attacked it in the
rear, the rest penetrated into the ruins held by the 58th. Its colonel
wheeled back the left wing of the regiment, and after two or three
volleys, fell on the French with the bayonet. At this moment the 23rd
came up in support, and the 42nd advanced from the left, and, keeping on
the outside of the ruins, cut off the troops which had entered, and
after suffering heavy loss they were compelled to surrender.

The 28th had remained firmly at the front line of the redoubt, and they
and the 58th had hitherto been supporting simultaneously attacks in
front, flank, and rear. The arrival of the 42nd for a time relieved
them, but as the latter regiment approached the right of the redoubt,
the enemy's cavalry, which had passed round by its left, charged them
furiously and broke them. The Highlanders, however, gathered in groups,
and fought desperately until relieved by the fire of the flank companies
of the 40th, and the cavalry, passing on, were about to charge this
small force, when the foreign brigade came up from the second line and
poured such a heavy fire into the French cavalry that they fled.

[Illustration: GIVING A YELL OF DERISION AND DEFIANCE

_Page 323_]

As soon as the fire broke out, General Abercrombie, with his staff,
mounted and proceeded towards the point where the battle was raging.
On the way he detached his aides-de-camp with orders to different
brigades, and while thus alone with an escort of dragoons, some of the
French cavalry dashed at him and he was thrown from his horse. A French
officer rode up to cut him down, but he sprang at him, seized his sword,
and wrested it from his hand. At that instant the officer was bayoneted
by one of the 42nd.

[Illustration: Battle of ALEXANDRIA

arst. March 1801.]

While this incident was proceeding Sir Ralph received a musket-ball in
the thigh, and also a severe contusion on the breast, probably by a
splinter of stone struck by a cannon-ball. In the heat of the action he
was unconscious of the first wound, but felt much pain from the
contusion. At this moment Sir Sidney Smith rode up; he had accidentally
broken his sword, and the general discerning it, at once presented him
with the one that he had wrested from the French officer. He then took
up his station in the battery, from which he could obtain a view of the
whole scene of the battle, for by this time it was daylight. The contest
still raged. Another body of cavalry charged the foreign brigade, but
were received with so heavy a fire that they did not press the charge
home. The French infantry were now no longer in column, but spread out
everywhere in skirmishing order. The ammunition of the English on the
right was by this time totally exhausted, and but one cartridge remained
for each of the guns in the battery.

The chief point of attack was now the centre. Here a column of
grenadiers, supported by a heavy line of infantry, advanced to the
assault, but the Guards stoutly maintained themselves until General
Coote, with his brigade, came up, and the French were then driven back.
All this time the French guns kept up an incessant cannonade on the
British position. The attack on the British left, which had been but a
feint, was never seriously pursued, but was confined to a scattered fire
of musketry and a distant cannonade. General Hutchinson, who commanded
here, kept his force in hand; for, had he moved to the assistance of the
centre and right, a serious attack might have been made on him, and the
flank being thus turned, the position would have been taken in rear.

On the right the French as well as the British had exhausted their
ammunition, and the singular spectacle was presented of two hostile
forces pelting each other with stones, by which many heavy blows were
given on both sides, and some killed, among them a sergeant of the 28th.
The grenadiers and a company of the 40th presently moved out against the
assailants, and the French then fell back. General Menou, finding that
all his attacks had failed, now called off his troops. Fortunately for
them the artillery ammunition was now exhausted, but they lost a good
many men by the fire of some British cutters, which had during the whole
action maintained their position a short distance in advance of the
British right, and greatly aided the defenders of the redoubt by their
fire.

By ten o'clock the action was over. Until the firing ceased altogether
Sir Ralph Abercrombie remained in the battery paying no attention to his
wounds, and, indeed, the officers who came and went with orders were
ignorant that he had been hit. Now, however, faint with loss of blood,
he could maintain his position no longer, and was placed in a hammock
and carried down to the shore, and rowed off to the flagship. As soon as
the French had withdrawn, attention was paid to the wounded. The total
loss was 6 officers and 230 men killed, 60 officers and 1190 men
wounded. The French loss was heavier. 1700 French, killed and wounded,
were found on the battlefield, and 1040 of these were buried on the
field. Taking the general proportion of wounded and killed, the French
loss, including the prisoners, amounted to 4000 men; one French standard
and two guns were captured.

The total British force was under 10,000 men, of whom but half were
seriously engaged. The French were about 11,000 strong, of whom all,
save the 800 who made the feint on the British left, took part in the
fighting. On the 25th the Capitan Pasha, with 6000 men, arrived in the
bay, and landed and encamped. Three days later the army was saddened by
the news of the death of Sir Ralph Abercrombie. He was succeeded in his
command by General Hutchinson. For some time Edgar had an idle time of
it. The French had failed in their attack, but they had not been
defeated, and their position was too strong to be attacked. The Capitan
Pasha had with him an excellent interpreter, and therefore his services
were not required in that capacity.

The night before the battle he stopped up all night talking with Sidi,
relating all that had happened since he had left him, and hearing from
him what had taken place on land. This was little enough. A great number
of the Arabs had gathered in readiness to sweep down upon the French
when they attacked the Turkish army at Aboukir, but when the latter had,
with terrible slaughter, been driven into the castle, they had scattered
to their homes. The next day the young Arab witnessed with delight the
repulse of the French attack, and at the conclusion of the fight rode
away to tell his father of Edgar's return, and of the events that he had
witnessed. The sheik had come back with him on the following day,
accompanied by some of his followers, and their tents were pitched on a
sand-hill a short distance in the rear of the British lines.

Until April 13th nothing was done. The army was too small to undertake
any operations, and was forced to remain in its position, as it might at
any moment be again attacked.

In the pocket of General Roiz, who had been killed in the battle, was
found a letter from General Menou, expressing fear that the English
would cut the Canal of Alexandria and let the waters of it and Lake
Aboukir into the old bed of Lake Mareotis. It was evident that an
immense advantage would be gained by this. Our own left would be secure
against attack. The French would be nearly cut off from the interior,
and the British army be enabled to undertake fresh operations. General
Hutchinson, however, hesitated for a long time before taking the step. A
tract of rich country would be overwhelmed, and none of the Arabs could
say how far the inundations would reach. However, the step was evidently
so much to the advantage of the army that at last he gave the order,
and on the 13th of April the work began, and that evening the water
rushed out from Lake Aboukir through two cuts. Others were opened the
next day. The rush of water quickly widened these, and soon the
inundation spread over a large tract of country behind Alexandria.

A considerable force was at once detached to support Colonel Spencer,
who was menacing Rosetta, and marched to El Hamed. Sir Sidney Smith
ascended the Nile with an armed flotilla as far as El Aft, and on the
19th aided the Turks in capturing Fort St. Julian, a strong place
between Rosetta and the mouth of the Nile. After the fall of St. Julian,
Rosetta was taken possession of with but little difficulty. Soon after
this, to the deep regret of the navy, Sir Sidney Smith was recalled to
his ship. The Grand Vizier had a serious grudge against him. This arose
from a capitulation that had, shortly after the retreat of the French
from Acre, been agreed upon between the Turkish authorities and the
French, by which the latter were to be permitted to evacuate Egypt.

Sir Sidney Smith had not been consulted, but considering, and justly,
that the advantages were great, had signed it. Lord Keith, as
commander-in-chief, had refused to ratify the treaty, and the English
government, who were in high spirits at the blow struck at the French at
Acre, agreed with his action. Sir Sidney Smith, as soon as he received
Lord Keith's despatch, sent a mounted messenger to Cairo to inform
General Kleber that the terms of the convention were rejected. The
despatch reached the French just as they were preparing to evacuate
Cairo. Unfortunately, the Grand Vizier, who, with his army, was but a
short distance away from the town, did not receive a similar intimation,
and approaching the city with his troops, but without guns, was
attacked by the French, and suffered a disastrous defeat.

The Turks had not forgiven Sir Sidney Smith for this misfortune, but the
latter had not supposed for a moment that the Turks themselves would
have neglected to apprise the Grand Vizier of the news, and only thought
of warning the French. The Grand Vizier now demanded that Sir Sidney
Smith should not take part in any operations in which he and the Turkish
army were concerned, or retain the command of the naval flotilla that he
had created, and with which he had performed such excellent service in
opening the Nile for the ascent of the gun-boats and the native craft
laden with stores for the supply of the troops that were to advance
against Cairo. General Hutchinson, very weakly and unworthily, and to
the indignation and regret both of the army and fleet, at once gave way,
and Admiral Keith, instead of supporting his subordinate, who had gained
such renown and credit, and had shown such brilliant talent, acquiesced,
and appointed Captain Stevenson of the _Europa_ to succeed Sir Sidney in
command of the flotilla that was to ascend the Nile to Cairo.

This surrender of one of our most distinguished officers to the
prejudices of a Turkish commander was, in all respects, a disgraceful
one, but from Sir Sidney Smith's first appointment Admiral Keith had
exhibited a great jealousy of his obtaining a command that rendered him
to some extent independent, and had lost no opportunity of showing his
feeling. Indeed, there can be little doubt that the discourteous manner
in which he repudiated, without any authority from the English
government, the convention that would have saved all the effusion of
blood and cost of the British expedition was the result of his jealousy
of the fame acquired by Sir Sidney Smith. The latter, greatly hurt at
the unjust and humiliating manner in which he had been treated, at once
returned to the _Tigre_, where the delight of the crew at being again
under his command was at least some alleviation to the pain he felt.

Edgar, who had obtained leave of absence for a week, and who had ridden
with the sheik for a stay of a few days at his camp, had not heard of
the slight inflicted upon his kind friend until his return. He at once
went on board the _Tigre_ and sent in his name to his commander.

"I have come, Sir Sidney," he said when he was shown into the latter's
cabin, "to say that I desire to be recalled from service on shore. After
the manner in which you have been deprived of your command, I feel that
I could not remain for a day upon the staff of General Hutchinson."

Sir Sidney smiled.

"You are too impetuous, Blagrove. I have received too many assurances
from the officers of the fleet to doubt what their feelings are at the
course that has been taken, but that can make no difference in their
duty. It is to do their best in the various positions they occupy,
without allowing the question whether they consider that an individual
has been unjustly treated to influence them in any way. The service
comes before everything. It is distinctly for the benefit of the service
that General Hutchinson should have the advantage of your knowledge of
the country and of its languages, and, moreover, you really received
your promotion in no small degree owing to the fact that you were going
to act as a sort of interpreter and guide to the general commanding the
expedition, and although unhappily Sir Ralph Abercrombie's death has
caused a change in that command, that in no way alters the arrangements.

"In the next place I think that you would be foolish to resign, because
there can be no doubt that there will very shortly be an advance
against Cairo. The inundations and the strong defences that the troops
have been throwing up will enable a comparatively small number to hold
the garrison here in check. The Capitan Pasha's men have fought bravely
at Rosetta, and the Grand Vizier's army is making its way down to join
him. From what they say these are a mere rabble, but with five thousand
or six thousand of our troops and Capitan Pasha's force, we ought to be
able to make a good fight, even without the Vizier's people. At any
rate, you would like afterwards to have gone to Cairo with our troops,
and there is no doubt that your knowledge of the country will be very
valuable. It would be a pity not to see the thing through when you have
been in it from the very beginning.

"Lastly, Mr. Blagrove, I should be sorry, indeed, that any naval officer
should evince any feeling whatever with regard to a matter purely
personal to myself. I should therefore take it as a particular favour to
me that you should continue to hold the appointment to which you have
been posted."

"Thank you, Sir Sidney," Edgar said; "of course I will in that case
retain the appointment. Now that I think of it, indeed, I feel that it
was an impertinence to manifest in any way my feeling at General
Hutchinson's conduct; my excuse must be that I only returned from my
trip with the sheik half an hour since, and on hearing the news was so
stirred that I ran down to the landing-place and came off on the impulse
of the moment. You have shown me such extreme kindness, sir, that at the
time it seemed to me a matter almost personal to myself."

"Do not apologize," Sir Sidney Smith said kindly; "the feeling did you
credit as a man, though as an officer personal feelings cannot be
permitted to sway the actions. Now go ashore again and report yourself
as returned from leave."

The advance up the Nile did not take place for some little time, as
great preparations were necessary. Fortunately large numbers of native
craft had been captured from the French, and stores were landed and
placed on board these for the use of the troops. Colonel Stewart was in
command of the British advanced force which accompanied the Capitan
Pasha's division. A large force of gun-boats and rowing-boats were
furnished by the fleet, and following the river banks the expedition
proceeded up the river. The French resistance was very feeble. Detached
parties were taken or driven off, but there was no fighting of a serious
character. For a time Edgar remained with General Hutchinson before
Alexandria, then he accompanied him to Rosetta, and, joining the main
British division, came up with the Turkish army, that had now been
joined by that of the Vizier, and the whole advanced towards Cairo.

They met with no real resistance on the march. There can be little doubt
that the French generals were hampered by the intense longing among the
troops to return to France. Their disasters in Syria had to some extent
been retrieved by the defeat of the Turks at Aboukir, but the appearance
of the great fleet of men-of-war and transports on the coast, followed
by the failure of Menou to drive, as was confidently expected, his
assailants back to their ships, produced a profound effect. The report
that Alexandria had been almost cut off from the rest of Egypt by the
inundation of Lake Mareotis, and that to regain the city an army would
have to force its way along the narrow neck of land between the lakes
Mareotis and Aboukir, seemed to diminish still further their hope of
ever getting away.

The news, therefore, that a great force of British and Turks, supported
by gun-boats, and accompanied by an immense flotilla carrying stores,
was ascending the Nile, reduced them almost to despair, and so unwilling
were they to fight, that when, on the approach of the Vizier's army to
Cairo, it was met by four thousand French, these suffered themselves to
be repulsed by the rabble and fell back to Cairo.

They were well aware that if they surrendered they would be guaranteed a
passage back to France. Better terms than this they could not hope to
obtain after the most vigorous resistance, involving a great and useless
loss of life. Therefore as soon as the whole allied force approached
Cairo, negotiations were begun, and on the 28th of June (1801) these
were concluded, and one of the gates of the town occupied by the Capitan
Pasha's body-guards, and a fort by the 30th Regiment, and on the 10th
the French evacuated the city, and the next day the Turkish troops took
possession of it.

In the meantime fighting had been going on almost incessantly in front
of Alexandria. General Coote, who was in command of the besieging force,
gradually gained ground. The French lines were forced backward, and on
September 2nd, finding the contest altogether hopeless, and most of the
British troops from Cairo having returned, reinforced by a British
native Indian army, the garrison capitulated. The number of troops,
including the sick, who surrendered in Alexandria, were 10,528, while
the force that surrendered at Cairo, which, like the other, was embarked
in British ships and taken to France, was 13,672; included among them
were 1900 sailors who had for the most part been landed after the battle
of Aboukir, while some had been drawn from the French war-ships that had
succeeded in running the blockade.

The Indian force arrived in time to witness the surrender of Alexandria,
but the fact that the work was practically accomplished by the 12,000
men who landed under General Abercrombie, aided after their work was
half done by a Turkish force of no great value, renders the operation
one of the most brilliant in our military history, and redounds equal
credit upon the gallant soldier who died in the hour of victory, on his
successor whose operations were most skilfully conducted, and on the
British officers and soldiers who endured no ordinary amount of
privation and labour under a burning sun.

Upon the advance to Cairo Edgar had been accompanied by the sheik and
his son with a score of their followers. The information that they were
enabled to give the general was of the greatest importance and value.
The sheik was intimately acquainted with every foot of the ground, and
on the force halting in the afternoon he was able to inform the
quartermaster-general of the most likely spot for the next
camping-ground, and of the distance and nature of the country to be
traversed. At daybreak he would start ahead with his party, ascertain
from the inhabitants of the villages whether any bodies of the enemy
were in the neighbourhood, and arrange with them to forward such
supplies of food and vegetables as remained at their disposal for sale,
to the spot selected for the camping-ground that afternoon.

The supplies were but small, for the French had well-nigh made the whole
country below Cairo a desert. Nevertheless, such as could be produced
were gladly purchased by the commissariat for the use of the troops, and
owing to the custom prevalent throughout the East of storing grain in
covered pits, the supply obtained as forage for the horses largely
exceeded expectations, for the peasants regarded the British as
deliverers from their oppressors, and upon being assured by the sheik
that they paid well for everything that they required, the pits that had
escaped the French searchers were thrown open at once. General
Hutchinson, on his return to carry out the siege of Alexandria to a
conclusion, reported to Admiral Keith his very warm appreciation of the
services that Lieutenant Blagrove had rendered him. Long before that
time the admiral had received from England a confirmation of the acting
rank he had given Edgar. As soon as the capitulation was signed,
although it had been stipulated that the British troops were not to go
into the town until the French took their departure, many officers did
so, as General Menou freely gave permission to enter to anyone who
applied for it. Edgar was one of the first of these, and, riding in,
alighted at his father's house.



CHAPTER XIX.

QUIET AND REST.


Mr. Muller came forward to meet his visitor as he entered, thinking it
probable that this naval officer had come in reference to some
arrangements to be made with regard to the transports that would carry
the French army away. It was three years since he had last seen Edgar,
and the latter had grown from a boy into a young man, and the uniform
had altered him beyond recognition, for no news had been received from
England since he had left, and Mr. Muller had supposed that he was all
this time there with his father. Edgar smiled as he saw the absence of
recognition in his face.

"Don't you know me, Mr. Muller?" he asked. "I have no doubt changed a
good deal since you saw me last in the dress of an Arab."

"Mr. Edgar Blagrove!" the latter exclaimed in astonishment. "Your
disguises are endless, sir, and I think that this is the best of them,
though why you should have adopted it I do not know."

"It happens that it is not a disguise at all this time. I am what I seem
to be, a naval lieutenant. I have been serving in the navy ever since I
joined it, ten days after I sailed from here, and was through the siege
of Acre with Sir Sidney Smith. As you see, I have had the good fortune
to be promoted. I have been serving ashore since we first landed here,
and have been up to Cairo with the force that marched there as a sort of
guide and interpreter."

"I am sure I congratulate you heartily. But you don't intend to stop in
the navy, do you?"

"No, I think not. Of course I like the life, and have been so fortunate
in getting early promotion and in being mentioned in despatches that I
ought to rise very rapidly if I stayed in it, and I am sure that Sir
Sidney Smith would interest himself for me. But I do not think that it
would be fair to my father. He has reckoned on taking the management of
the business at home, and that I should be established here with you,
and probably it would be the best thing for me in the long run. The war
with France cannot last many years, and when peace comes there will, of
course, be a great reduction of the navy, and an immense number of
officers put upon half-pay, without much chance of again obtaining
employment. My time during the last three years will not have been
misspent. As a lieutenant in the service who had obtained exceptionally
rapid promotion I should be able to secure orders for stores or repairs
to any men-of-war who might put in, and the knowledge I have gained of
ships, their fittings, rigging, and so on, would render me far more
useful to you in superintending the harbour work than I would have been
had I not had that experience."

"Certainly, Mr. Blagrove. I myself have, as you know, always been in
charge of the office here, and as far as books and accounts go I think I
know my work thoroughly, but in the last three years I have felt that my
want of knowledge of the practical side of the business has been a
serious drawback. I have been able to have the repairs necessary to
French transports and so on carried out, for the two shipwrights are
good workmen, and after it was done I could, of course, calculate what
had been the cost, and charge it with a percentage for profit; but, as a
rule, captains want an estimate before we begin, and I was unable to
give one.

"On a few occasions I did so after consulting the shipwrights, but I
burnt my fingers badly in each case, for it turned out that the defects
were much more serious than met the eye; so after that, I refused to
give an estimate at all, and lost some business in consequence, for a
French firm here snapped up all the work they could get, and were always
ready to give an estimate, though I believe in nine cases out of ten
they either did not carry out their work thoroughly or else when
half-way through were obliged to ask for considerable increase on the
ground that the amount to be done far exceeded what they supposed. This
has been so notorious that for the past year we have had our hands full,
and I believe that they intended to leave even if the French occupation
had continued. Indeed, they came to me three months ago and asked if I
should be inclined to buy their yard and appliances and stock. I refused
at that time, but I am of opinion that the matter is well worth
thinking over. Since trade increased again we have been very cramped for
room. Of course it formed but a small portion of your father's business,
but I think that in future it could be made at least as important a part
as the inland trade, and certainly with you at the head it could be
largely extended."

"That would quite suit me. As you know, I have always been fond of
ships, and now, after being three years at sea, am naturally more fond
of them than before; and although I could make myself very happy in
looking after the work of a ship-yard and superintending the business
afloat, I should feel altogether like a fish out of water if I were to
be kept to book-keeping inside. I know that there is a ship sailing for
England to-night with despatches. I will sit down at once and write to
my father, and say that I am ready to leave the navy at once and fall to
work here. He is certain to come out as soon as he hears the news that
the place has surrendered, and that the French are going.

"I will tell him what you say about the other ship-yard, and ask him to
go to the Admiralty. I have no doubt that the president of the prize
court, who had some business with my father, and has since been on very
friendly terms with him, will give him a good introduction, and may
possibly go with him to urge that as I am going to undertake the
superintendence of a ship-yard here, and that we hope to be of service
to ships of war putting in for repairs, they will consent to my going on
half-pay instead of retiring altogether. It would certainly strengthen
my position here so far as our ships of war are concerned. I daresay
that you will be sending off too."

"Yes; I have kept everything written up and copies made so that I could
send them off should an opportunity offer; and a couple of hours' work
will enable me to bring matters pretty well up to date."

"I suppose, except for the ship work, everything has been of late very
dull?"

"Very dull indeed. We have had literally no goods whatever from the
interior. Of course production has fallen off very greatly, and the sale
of Egyptian products at Cairo, to the troops, has been considerable.
Then, too, the disturbed state of the country has prevented the
manufacturers from sending valuable goods down here, so that practically
that part of the business has been at a standstill, and I have not
attempted to accumulate a stock. However I have lately purchased many
large lots from native traders here who feared that their shops might be
pillaged in the event of a riot, and especially lately when they were
afraid that if your people took the town by storm there might be a
general sack. So as I was certain that the French must go before long,
and I got all these goods at a bargain, I have bought freely. Then I
have not done badly with goods run in by French ships that managed to
slip through the blockade, and which were laden with speculative cargoes
of luxuries for the army. As we are almost the only European house open,
and I was able to pay cash, I bought things up largely, and realized
very good profits by supplying the native shops here and the officers of
the garrison, and also sent a great deal of wine and goods of that sort
up to Cairo, getting leave from the commandant here for them to go up
under the guard of any body of troops that happened to be proceeding
there, so that altogether the firm had not done badly, all things
considered."

"Are you short of cash now, Mr. Muller? for if so I can give you a draft
on my father, who has some money of mine in his hands, for a thousand
pounds, the result partly of prize-money, partly of a speculation I
made in the purchase of a prize which I went home in. I bought it in his
name, but he insists that as it was purely my speculation he should put
the profit to my account."

"Thank you; I do not require it. I have had no opportunity of sending
the money home for the last three years, and have therefore an abundance
of funds for all purposes."

"I suppose that you must be very short of timber, cordage, and ship
stores?"

"Not so much so as you would think. I am indeed very short of timber,
and would gladly take the whole cargo of a ship laden with it should it
arrive, but in other respects I am well off, for I boarded every
transport and merchantman before they left the port, and bought up all
their spare stores, which they were glad enough to part with on
reasonable terms, for there was no advantage in carrying them back to
France, and of course I could well afford to pay a considerable advance
on the prices they would obtain there. I hope that you will stay here
for the night, Mr. Blagrove, for I am anxious to hear all that you have
been doing. I can offer you nothing but horse-flesh for dinner, for the
town is in a state of starvation."

"I cannot do that. I have only leave till five o'clock, and indeed I
only obtained permission to enter the town for two hours, and the French
might object were I to stop here to-night."

Edgar wrote a long letter to his father. An hour after he had done so he
left, taking it and the trader's packet away with him. These he placed
in the headquarter-staff mail-bag. The letters were to be taken the next
morning by the _Carmine_, which carried Sir Sidney Smith and Colonel
Abercrombie, who were in charge of the naval and military official
despatches, giving an account of the successful termination of the
campaign, to England. Lord Keith was most anxious that the men-of-war
should get away from the coast before bad weather set in, and
accordingly 5000 of the troops, under the command of General Craddock,
embarked on board the ships of war, and sailed on the 12th of September,
and two days later the first division of French marched to Aboukir, and
embarked on board transports.

Keith was in command of the fleet, and on the way fell in with a ship
bringing despatches which had been sent out in anticipation of an early
fall of Alexandria. The fleet was ordered to rendezvous at Malta.
General Coote, with 6000 of the troops, were to be taken to Gibraltar.
General Moore was ordered to England. General Hutchinson had leave to
return home, and Lord Cavan was to remain in command in Egypt. Edgar
had, two days after his visit to the city, been appointed as third
lieutenant to one of the frigates that sailed with the first division of
the army, and convoyed it to Gibraltar. It arrived there at the end of
September, but as no orders had been received as to the destination of
the force, the sick were landed, to be cared for in the hospitals, and
the rest of the troops remained on board ship until the middle of
November, when a vessel brought the news that a general peace had been
virtually concluded.

England gave up all her conquests with the exception of Ceylon and
Trinadad, while France was permitted to retain all hers. The treaty of
Amiens, which was finally signed in the following March, was one of the
most humiliating ever made by England. With it came an order for the
ships at Gibraltar to carry the greater portion of the troops retained
on board, to England. The wind was favourable, and on the last day of
the month the fleet cast anchor in Spithead. It was soon known that
almost the whole fleet were to be paid off and the ships laid up at
once. The men were pleased at the news, for most of the vessels had been
engaged in arduous service in the Mediterranean for years, and the men
were glad at the prospect of an opportunity of a turn ashore, until they
had got rid of the prize-money that had accrued to them.

The officers, on the other hand, were depressed at the news. To them it
meant that they might be years before they again obtained employment,
that all chances of gaining distinction or promotion were at an end, and
that they would be reduced to live on their scanty half-pay for an
indefinite time. Mr. Addington indeed, who was now in power, thought
only of retrenchment, and although it was evident to every thinking
person that such a peace could only be of short duration, he crippled
the country by paying off the greater portion of her ships-of-war; and
when in May in the following year war again broke out, and Pitt returned
to power, the whole work of getting the navy into fighting order had to
be done over again. Two days after the fleet anchored at Spithead, Edgar
was delighted to see his father on board a shore-boat that came
alongside.

"Everything has turned out well," he said as soon as the first greeting
was over. "On the very day that I got your letter, I had an intimation
that the war was likely to come to an end shortly. I thought it better,
therefore, to wait before moving in your matter until things were
definitely settled, as it was infinitely better that you should be put
on half-pay because the war had come to an end than to apply to give up
active service while the war lasted."

"Certainly, father. There can be no doubt of that."

"Of course I got the letter that you wrote when you were at Gibraltar,
saying what ship you were on, and learned from my friend Captain
Harrington of the prize court, that unless some hitch occurred in the
negotiations, the fleet there, with the troops on board, would at once
be ordered home, and on arrival would be paid off. There was, therefore,
no occasion for me to make any application in the matter. The troops
are, I see, landing to-day, and I suppose that in a week at latest the
ships will be taken to the harbour and you will all be paid off."

"Nothing could be better, father."

"At any rate, there would be no chance whatever of your obtaining
employment until the war breaks out again. When it does, my friend
Harrington says that he has no doubt that he will be able to obtain for
you an official post at Alexandria, with special instructions to aid in
the provisioning and general repairs of any ships-of-war that may put in
there, and that indeed he has no doubt that he will be able to get you
the post of vice-consul there at once, for this, as you know, is as a
rule given to merchants of standing, and as Sir Sidney Smith is in
London, he would no doubt be able to support you in the matter. Of
course there will be a consul-general in Egypt, and a vice-consul at
each of the ports. So far, no appointments of the kind have been made,
and, as he says, from your knowledge of the country, with our firm being
long established as merchants there, with your knowing so many languages
and your naval record, there can be little doubt that, if you apply, and
are backed by Sir Sidney Smith, you will get the appointment at once."

"That would be capital, father. I hope that Muller's account of the work
of the last three years has been satisfactory?"

"Perfectly so. We have done much better than I could have expected
under the circumstances; and indeed the profits of the last three years
have been nearly as large as those of the years before the French
landed."

Four days later the order arrived for the ship to pay off, and Edgar at
once posted up to town, for the number of officers wanting to go up was
so large that it was impossible to secure a place by a coach to London
for a week to come. The next day he called upon Sir Sidney Smith and
stated to him the plans he had formed.

"They could not get a better man for the place," the admiral said
warmly, for he had now been promoted to that rank. "If you will bring me
your formal application for the post of vice-consul at Alexandria, I
will myself take it to the proper quarter. Put your qualification as a
resident merchant and as a linguist as strongly as you like. I will urge
your naval record, and myself testify to your abilities as a linguist
and to the services which you have rendered."

A week later Edgar received his formal appointment as His Majesty's
vice-consul at the port of Alexandria, and was given a fortnight's leave
before starting to take up his work. Wilkinson, who had also been
ordered home and placed upon half-pay, stayed with Mr. Blagrove during
the time Edgar was at home, and was much more communicative as to the
work his comrade had done than the latter had himself been.

"I can tell you," he said, "that for a midshipman to be promoted after
only two years and a half service is an almost unknown thing in the
navy, and shows what was thought by Lord Keith and Sir Sidney of his
work."

Mr. Blagrove returned to Alexandria with his son, having before he
started freighted a ship with timber, principally oak, of the kinds and
sizes that would most frequently be in demand for the execution of
repairs, together with an apparatus for steaming and bending them. He
had already, directly after receiving Edgar's letter from Gibraltar,
sent out directions to Mr. Muller to take over the yard and premises of
the French firm. The old name had not been replaced at the entrance of
the offices, but now read Blagrove, Son, & Muller, while over the door
of the premises recently acquired was now placed the words, "British
Vice-consulate," and an office here was set apart for consular business,
an Italian clerk, who spoke English well, being established there. As
there were still some thousands of British soldiers in Alexandria, among
whom were many officers who had been personally acquainted with Edgar
while he had served on the staff of the general, his position was a very
pleasant one. The Egyptian governor of the city, a Turkish general, who
had been with the army of the Capitan Pasha, and to whom Edgar had
frequently carried communications, also received him warmly.

"I am glad, indeed, to have a British vice-consul here," he said, "who
speaks our language so perfectly, and who is a British officer. So often
these posts are given to small traders, who, instead of endeavouring to
smooth over difficulties, seem to delight in causing them. Whenever you
have any complaint to make, sir, I hope that you will come direct to me,
and I will see that right is done."

After spending a month at Alexandria, Mr. Blagrove returned to England,
perfectly satisfied that matters would go on well, with his steady-going
partner controlling the commercial part of the business, and Edgar
taking the management of the shipping side. The business indeed
flourished greatly, and when, some time afterwards, the Turks were
forced to join in the European coalition against England, the firm was
enabled to continue their business without molestation, as the Capitan
Pasha himself took him under his special protection. Four years after
his appointment Edgar returned to England on a short visit, and was
present at the marriage of one of his sisters with Wilkinson, who had
returned home wounded after the battle of Trafalgar; though only a month
at home, he persuaded a friend of his sisters to return as his wife to
Alexandria.

Ten years later Mr. Muller died. Mr. Blagrove, who was now getting on in
years, wished to have Edgar at home with him; and as moreover the
climate was telling upon the latter's wife, the business was wound up
and the premises and good-will disposed of for a considerable sum of
money to another firm doing business there. Scarce a week had passed
during Edgar's stay in Alexandria without either the sheik or Sidi
riding into Alexandria to see him. He on his part purchased a large tent
from a Turkish general who had been recalled to Constantinople. This was
large and commodious, divided by hangings into two or three
compartments. It was set up in the Beni Ouafy's oasis, and there he and
his wife sometimes went out with their two children and spent a few
days. It was with the deepest regret that he and his Arab friends bade
farewell to each other when he finally left for England.

Before sailing he made an advantageous arrangement with the firm that
had purchased the business, that his father should act as their agent in
London, and by the influence of Sir Sidney Smith he himself obtained an
appointment in the Admiralty. As his father's savings during many years,
and his own share of the property during the time that he had been
partner amounted to a considerable sum, he cared less for the increase
of his income by going on full pay again than for the employment that it
afforded him. His father and mother died within a few months of each
other in 1825. His second sister had been married some fifteen years
before to a London merchant.

At the general reduction of the navy after the great war, Wilkinson was
retired with the rank of commander, and he and his wife settled down in
a pretty house within a few hundred yards of that of Edgar at Hampstead,
and the two friends often talked over their experience at Acre, and of
the cruise in search of pirates among the islands of the Archipelago.



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