Mohammed Ali and His House

Author: Luise Mühlbach

Chapter VII Restitution.

"Our Mamelukes have been treacherously slaughtered, murdered! They have been lured out upon the water near Aboukir in their boats, and then fired upon by murderous huntsmen as though they were a flock of pigeons. If you are an honest and brave man, general, proved by mercifully espousing the cause of those who were lured to destruction in your name—yes, in your name, General Hutchinson— yes, it devolves upon you, and your honor requires that you compel them, to yield up the wounded and the dead."

Thus lamented Sitta Nefysseh as she knelt before General Hutchinson, her arms extended in wild entreaty. She had come over to Alexandria from Aboukir, and she it was who first brought the intelligence of the fearful event that had occurred, who first announced to the English general that the beys had fallen victims to infamous treachery.

The general, incensed at this shameful abuse of confidence, immediately dispatched two of his adjutants to the capitan pacha, to demand an explanation and call him to account for the outrage.

The pacha was, however, not to be found. "They did not know where he had gone;" was the reply; "but Lord Hutchinson’s message should be conveyed to him as soon as possible, and he would certainly send some one to the general who would give satisfactory explanations of the affair."

Soon afterward a boat came to shore, and the boulouk bashi, Mohammed Ali, demanded, in the name of the capitan pacha, to be conducted to the presence of the English general. With an air of profound deference and humility, he delivered the message of the capitan pacha, and expressed his own regret of the fearful event that had occurred.

"It was a misunderstanding. I myself was to blame for it, and bow in humility before your just anger! The capitan pacha had commanded me to arrest the rebellious Mameluke beys, and bring them on board the admiral’s ship, in order that they might be conveyed to Stamboul. His orders were, that no resistance should be tolerated, and that severe measures should be adopted at the first manifestation of violence on their part. Sir, such manifestations were not wanting, and I had no sooner come near the boats which contained the rebellious Mameluke beys, when they grasped their arms, and threatened us with wild gestures. We fought for life, general, not knowing that our lives were, in your estimation, as nothing to those mighty, renowned Mameluke beys. We fought for our lives, as they did theirs; and, if the Mamelukes were vanquished in this conflict, it was, it seems to me, Allah’s will. Yet, I beg pardon for what has happened, and repeat, in the name of the capitan pacha, it was a misunderstanding—oh, sir, a deplorable misunderstanding!"

The general shrugged his shoulders, and glanced angrily at the quiet, defiant countenance of the young officer.

"A very welcome misunderstanding it seems to have been to all of you. A misunderstanding you call it; and did you not know that I, Lord Hutchinson, had pledged my word to the Mameluke beys that their lives should not be endangered? Did you not know that they had come tome to inquire whether they could safely trust the Turks, and that I, in my blindness, had said to them: ’You can safely trust them; they are men of honor, and they have solemnly pledged their word for your security?’ You have broken the holy law of your prophet, of hospitality, and have betrayed those to whom you had extended the hand of friendship."

"Not so, general, by Allah! Of such a crime I could not be guilty," replied Mohammed, quietly. "I broke no bread, and exchanged no vows of friendship, with the Mamelukes. I have only just arrived from a distant land, and know nothing of your enmities or friendships. My orders were, to arrest the Mamelukes, and bring them fettered to the admiral’s ship. If I misunderstood the order, I was wrong, but no such crime burdens my soul, and I cannot be justly accused of broken faith or treachery. I have nothing more to say. I submit humbly to your displeasure, and can only repeat that I deplore the misunderstanding."

"Your quiet, defiant bearing is, it seems to me, inconsistent with your words. I deplore this treachery, and deplore it doubly, because my assurances lulled the beys into a sense of security. But I tell you I will have justice, satisfaction for this outrage; I will call you all to account. Go to your master and say to him, in my name, that his treatment of the Mameluke beys has been treacherous."

"Pardon me," replied the boulouk bashi, composedly, "but perhaps your excellency does not know what commands respecting these Mameluke beys were given the capitan pacha by his master, by the Sublime Porte."

"I read in your countenance what the sultan’s intentions and commands were, and see it in what has occurred. It is his purpose to destroy the Mamelukes, whom he has entrapped with flattering words and loving promises. But it shall not be done while I am here. I demand justice and satisfaction for myself. Let the world pronounce you Turks liars and traitors, but the same shall not be said of me and my people! I have pledged my word and the honor of England for the safety of the Mamelukes; and, though I cannot recall the dead to life, I will at least care for the living. Go to your master and tell him this: `Lord Hutchinson demands that all the captured Mameluke beys be immediately brought to the shore and placed under his protection. Lord Hutchinson insists that they be at once set at liberty, and that they shall not be regarded as prisoners of the grand-sultan."’

"Excellency, it will be very difficult to comply with your demands," replied Mohammed. "An alternative has just been offered the prisoners. I was present, and can vouch for it—they were to choose between death by the sword and submission. Not one of the beys, however, chose to die rather than submit. They swore on the holy Koran than they would remain the prisoners of the Turks, and make no effort to have themselves demanded back by the English, and, as they have nevertheless done so, and sent to you, they have broken their holy oath."

"They have not done so," replied Lord Hutchinson. "I heard of this infamous treachery by other means; others informed me of what has occurred. I am, therefore, entirely justified in making my demand; moreover, the oath obtained from them by the threat of death is valueless. I insist that the Mamelukes who are still alive be delivered over to me, and the dead also, in order that I may count them and assure myself that none have been kept back as prisoners. Go, and tell your master this, and say to him that a refusal on his part will be equivalent to a declaration of war by England. My ships lie at anchor in the harbor of Alexandria awaiting his decision, and they are ready for war. Tell this to the capitan pacha."

With a respectful inclination of the head Mohammed withdrew, and, returning to his boat, was rapidly conveyed on board the admiral’s ship, where the capitan pacha awaited him.

The latter listened attentively to the report of the boulouk bashi, and inclined his head graciously when told that he had taken the sole responsibility upon himself, and had attributed the much-to-beregretted-occurrence to a misunderstanding.

"You did well," said the capitan pacha. "Why should we not appear to regret this deed of bloodshed, now that it is accomplished? Why not deplore that which is irrevocable? Death holds fast to its victims. The living, we must, however, deliver over to the stormy Englishman, as I have no desire to take upon myself the responsibility of a war with England. Moreover, I shall be well pleased to leave this place. My work is done. Let the newly appointed viceroy see what he can do with these Mamelukes. Egypt is dripping with blood, and the atmosphere of this land is freighted with the scent of corpses. I can no longer endure it, and am about to return to beautiful, sunny Stamboul. Let my last deed be to comply with the demand of this haughty Englishman. Have the wounded put into the boats, Bim Bashi Mohammed Ali; you understand me—I call you bim bashi. You may inform your friend, Bim Bashi Osman, that his request is granted; you will take his place, and it rests with you to make it the stepping-stone to future greatness. I believe such will be the case, for I can read your soul in your eyes; and this one thing, it seems to me, you still have to learn: to keep your eyes from betraying your thoughts, Remember that this is essential to success. And now, you may have the prisoners conveyed to the shore. Lord Hutchinson shall count the living, and the dead, too; not one of his favorites shall be withheld! When this is done, bim bashi, return to the ship on which you came. Are the soldiers disembarked?"

"Yes, excellency, and already, I believe, on the march to Cairo."

"It is well," said the pacha; "let them figure at the grand entrance of the viceroy into Cairo. I will intrust you with a message to his highness, and will recommend you to him as a useful man. Cousrouf Pacha has need of such men."

Mohammed started at the mention of this name, but quickly recovered his composure, and bowed his head in gratitude.

"You make me happy, indeed! You will send me to Cousrouf Pacha. I thank you, for it has long been my most ardent wish to be in his service."

"It has long been your wish!" said the capitan pacha, in surprise. "I thought you had only been here a short time?"

"True, excellency, yet I have heard much of the great Cousrouf Pacha in my distant home, and to serve him was my most ardent wish. I swear, capitan pacha, that I will serve him as my heart prompts."

"But then it depends on what your heart prompts," said the pacha, casting a long, searching glance at the pale countenance of the young bim bashi. "The tone in which you say this has a strange ring, and sounds almost like a threat! Yet, deal with his highness, Cousrouf Pacha, as you think proper, and serve him as your heart prompts. I will recommend you to him. We are good friends, the viceroy and I, very good friends, and I have no doubt it will sadden him to see me escape out of this confusion, which will require bold and fearless management at his hands. I go to Stamboul, you go to Cousrouf Pacha to serve him—to serve him as your heart prompts, you say?"

"Yes, excellency, as my heart prompts, in humility and devotion."

"Now you may go; I will furnish you with a written testimonial, and warmly recommend you to the viceroy, as I have promised."

He dismissed the young bim bashi with a gracious inclination of the head, and the latter returned to his ship to see that the prisoners were conveyed to the shore. He walked beside Osman Bey Bardissi as he was being carried down on a stretcher to a boat, by four soldiers, speaking kind, consoling words to the wounded man, and expressing the hope that Allah, in his mercy, would soon restore him to health, as his injuries were light.

Bardissi gazed at him fixedly with his dark, glittering eyes. "And is it then really true, Mohammed Ali—are we to be conveyed to the shore, and set at liberty? Are we not to die?"

"It is true. Lord Hutchinson demands that you be set at liberty. The capitan has consented, and you are now to be conveyed to the shore."

"Is it not a new trap set for us? Will the bottom of our boats not open, and let us sink down into the sea?"

"You are to be delivered up to the Englishman," replied Mohammed Ali, quietly.

"I do not trust the word of the capitan pacha," said Bardissi, shaking his head. "Give me your word, Mohammed Ali, that we shall be safely conveyed to the shore—I will believe you. Tell me, truly, shall we not be cast into the sea, or assassinated before we reach the land?"

"No, Osman Bey Bardissi, no! You will land safely, and if it be Allah’s will, a day will come when Mohammed Ali will extend his hand to you and call you his friend. Who knows? Allah’s sun shines everywhere. Men call themselves friends to-day, who but yesterday were enemies; and the friends of to-day may to-morrow be enemies. Allah’s will alone decides our destiny!"

"To-day you call yourself my enemy," said Bardissi, "but I already call you my friend! You have preserved my life, and, by Allah, Bardissi swears that you are henceforth his friend! If you should ever need a friend, call Bardissi, the Mameluke bey, and he will hear your call wherever he may be, if not above with Allah. And now, farewell!"

"Farewell, and may Allah restore you to health!" said Mohammed, in a low voice. "I am thinking of the hour when we two foolish boys first met, and tried to outdo each other in vain and frivolous words. Men speak little, but think much, and prepare for the future. Allah’s blessing attend you!"

Mohammed returned to the deck of the ship, and looked down at the boats that were now steering with their bleeding, groaning burden toward the shore. Lord Hutchinson, who had ordered everything to be held in readiness for immediate conflict should his demand not be complied with, stood on the shore with his staff, awaiting the arrival of the boats. His eyes filled with tears as he saw them approach. "Forgive me, poor, bleeding victims of treachery, for having allowed myself to be deceived by flatteries and promises!"

The wounded bowed their heads, and looked at him almost compassionately.

"It is well that there are men who can still be deceived, who still have faith in the word and honor of men. We will trust them no more, and will have vengeance for this deed of treachery, bloody vengeance on him who is about to enter our holy city as king. Our curse accompany him to the holy mosque, and, wherever he may go, may it rest beside him on his couch in the citadel! Cairo, the holy, the beloved, is ours. We will fight him who calls himself viceroy, and contend with him for every inch of land. And you, brave Englishmen, will help us in our struggle, will you not?"

Lord Hutchinson shook his head.

"No, Osman Bey Bardissi! God be praised, we are about to leave here! my king and my duty call me away, and I am pleased that it is so. Continue your conflict with the Turks, and I confess I wish you success in your struggle. I am glad that I shall no longer be compelled to breathe this air, polluted with treachery! Your rescue is my last act here. Now, let us go and see whether any of you are missing. They shall bring you all here; I swear it by my king; I will have you all, and not one shall be withheld!"

Three of the number who had gone out in the boats in the morning were missing.

"These three must be brought here!"

This was the import of Lord Hutchinson’s message to the capitan pacha; and the latter, all complacency and obedience, now that the bloody work was done, sent out divers to look for the dead in the sea. They were recovered, and humbly deposited at the feet of the Englishman.

While Lord Hutchinson and Sitta Nefysseh returned with the wounded to Alexandria, where the wives of the disabled and dead Mamelukes were weeping and lamenting, Mohammed Ali returned to the ship. The soldiers were nearly all disembarked; silence reigned in the ship, and its blood-stained deck alone bore evidence of the murderous deed that had been done.

Mohammed caused these stains to be hastily removed; he well knew that these traces of bloody treachery would be viewed by the delicate and sensitive Osman with horror.

He then went down into the cabin to his friend. Osman received him with outstretched arms, gazing at him sadly but tenderly.

"I have done as you requested, Mohammed, and have not left my cabin, though alarmed by the cries and tumult above me. I knew my Mohammed had bloody work to do. I was sorry for you, and yet I knew that you could not prevent it."

"No, I could not prevent it," said Mohammed, gloomily; "and yet, Osman, my soul shudders when I think of it. I have received to-day the baptism of my new existence, and it is no longer the Mohammed you loved who stands before you. I have to-day been compelled to lend a helping hand to treachery, but it was Allah’s will, and the soldier must obey his superior’s commands. I obeyed, Osman, nothing more. The curse of this evil deed does not fall on me. Though my hand is blood-stained, it is yet innocent."

"You have undergone a fearful baptism," murmured Osman, shuddering. "I read it in your pale countenance, my Mohammed—a fearful baptism. You must, however, march on boldly in your career. Do you now understand why Osman was so anxious to accept the position of captain of the troops? Do you now understand why I took this step, and do you now comprehend my love and friendship, Mohammed?"

"I understand it all, and I bless you, my Osman, creator of my new existence! I thank you, Osman; and when after long years the fame of your Mohammed’s deeds shall reach your ear, when my mother’s dream is fulfilled, and I am crowned and seated on a throne that stands on the summit of a palace, then remember, my Osman, that you are the creator of my fortune, and that Mohammed Ali blesses his friend with every breath. I swear eternal love and friendship for you, my Osman, and I swear, too, that the thought of you shall make me mild and humane toward my enemies."

"Even when you stand before your enemy, Cousrouf Pacha, Mohammed?" asked Osman.

"Why do you name him at such a time? " murmured Mohammed, with a slight shudder. "Do you know that I am to be sent to him? The capitan pacha perhaps observed, by my manner and voice, that I also do not love Cousrouf Pacha, whom he hates; he warmly recommends me to him, and I am to go to him to serve him."

"And will you enter his service?" asked Osman.

"I will do so," replied Mohammed; "and I have sworn that I will serve the Viceroy of Egypt as my heart prompts."

Both were still for a while, and seemed disinclined to break the silence.

"You will serve him as your heart prompts," said Osman, in a low voice. "In this case, do you think Cousrouf Pacha will long remain great and mighty in Cairo?"

Mohammed smiled faintly.

"Osman, I am almost disposed to be afraid of you. Your question tells me that you read my most secret thoughts. Let your question remain unanswered for the present. I will communicate with you from time to time, Osman, and send you loving messages, you may rest assured. I have one request to make still: when you return home to Cavalla, greet the wife that you gave me, and also greet and kiss my children. And then, Osman, if you are able, go down to the cliffs, take up a stone from the shore and throw it into the sea, and when the circles form around the place where it went down, and the waves curl upon the shore, say this: ’Mohammed greets you, Masa, and he begins the work of holy vengeance! Rest quietly in your grave, Masa; Mohammed Ali is keeping watch for you and for himself; the work of vengeance is begun!’"


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Chicago: Luise Mühlbach, "Chapter VII Restitution.," Mohammed Ali and His House, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891 in Mohammed Ali and His House (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed August 9, 2022,

MLA: Mühlbach, Luise. "Chapter VII Restitution." Mohammed Ali and His House, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891, in Mohammed Ali and His House, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 9 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: Mühlbach, L, 'Chapter VII Restitution.' in Mohammed Ali and His House, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Mohammed Ali and His House, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 9 August 2022, from