Jewel Mysteries I have Known/The Watch and the Scimitar

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THE WATCH AND THE SCIMITAR

 

 

THE WATCH AND THE SCIMITAR


THE city of Algiers, the beautiful El Djzaïr, as the guide-book maker calls it, has long ceased to charm the true son of the East, blasé with the nomadic fulness of the ultimate Levant, or charged with those imaginary Oriental splendors which are nowhere writ so large as in the catalogues and advertisements of the later day upholsterer. This is not the fault of the new Icosium, as any student of the Moorish town knows well; nor is it to be laid to the account of the French usurpation, and that strange juncture of Frank and Fatma, which has brought the boulevard to the city of the Corsairs and banished Mohammed to the shadow of the Kasbah. Rather, it is the outcome of coupons and of co-operative enthusiasm, which sends the roamer to many lands, of which he learns the names, and amongst many people with whose customs he claims familiarity.

To know Algiers, something more than a three days' pension in the Hôtel de la Régence is necessary; though that is the temporal limit for many who return to Kensington or Mayfair to protest that "it is so French, you know." I can recollect well the monitions and advice which I received two years gone when I ventured a voyage to Burmah—in the matter of the ruby interest—and determined to see Cairo, Tunis, and the City of Mosques on my return westward. Many told me that I would do better to reach Jaffa and Jerusalem, others advised the seven churches of Asia; many spoke well of Rhodes; all agreed, whether they had been there or whether they had not, that Algiers was eaten up with Chauvinism, and scarce worthy a passing call. Barisbroke at the club, who is always vigorous in persuading other people not to do things, summed it up in one of his characteristically inane jokes. "It's had its Dey," said he, and buried himself in his paper as though the project ended then and there upon his own ipse dixit. This marked and decided consensus of opinion could have had but one result—it sent me to the town of Hercules at the first opportunity.

If the truth is to be told, the visit was in some part one of pleasure, but in the more part a question of sequins. I had done well in the remoter East, and had sent some fine parcels of rubies, sapphires, and pearls to Bond Street; but a side-wind of curiosity casting me up upon the shores of Tunis, I had bought there, in the house of a very remarkable Jew, a bauble whose rival in strange workmanship and splendour of effect I have not yet met with. It was, to describe it simply, the model of a Moorish scimitar perhaps four inches long, the sheath exquisitely formed of superb brilliants, the blade itself of platinum, and in the haft not only a strange medley of stones, but a little watch with a thin sheet of very fine pearl for a face, and a superb diamond as the cup of the hands. Although the jewels in this were worth perhaps five hundred pounds, the workmanship was so fine, and the whole bauble had such an original look, that I paid eight hundred pounds for it cheerfully, and thought myself lucky to get it at that. What is more to the point, however, is the fact that the hazard which gave me the possession of the scimitar sent me also to Algiers to hunt there for like curiosities—and in the end brought me a large knowledge of the Moorish town, and nearly cost me my life.

I had intended to stay in the town for three days, but on the very evening of my coming to the Hôtel d'Orleans in the Boulevard de la République, I met a French lieutenant of artillery, a man by name Eugene Chassaigne; an exceedingly pleasant fellow, and one who had some Arabic, but small appreciation of anything beyond the "to-day" of life. He laughed at my notion of buying anything in the upper city, and urged me not to waste time plodding in dirty bazaars and amongst still dirtier dealers. For himself his one idea was to be dans le mouvement; but he brought me to know, on the second day of my visit, a singularly docile Moor, Sidi ben Ahmed by name; and told me that if I still persisted in my intention, the fellow would serve well for courier, valet, or in any office I chose to place him. And in this he spoke no more than the truth, as I was very soon to prove.

I have always thought when recalling this sheep-like Moor to my recollection, that the Prophet had done him a very poor turn in locating him so far away from the blessings of company-promotion and rickety building societies. His face would have been his fortune at any public meeting; and as for thoroughness, his love of detail was amazing. Before I had been in his hands for twenty-four hours he knew me; being able to tell you precisely how much linen I carried, the number of gold pieces in my purse, my taste in fish and fruits, my object in coming to his country. And this was vexatious; for all the vendors of Benares ware fashioned in Birmingham, all the sellers of gaudy burnouses, the hucksters of the tawdriest carpets and the most flimsy scimitars, held concert on the steps of the hotel every time I showed my face within twenty paces of the door. Sidi alone was immobile, stolid "Nom d'un chien—they are blagueurs all," said he; and I agreed with him.

If these things troubled my man, the jewel I had purchased in Tunis troubled him still more. How he learned that I had it heaven alone could tell; but he did not fail to come to me at déjeuner each morning and to repeat with unfailing regularity the monition, "If Allah wills, the jewel is stolen." I used to tolerate this at first; but in the end he exasperated me; and upon the seventh morning I showed him the model and said emphatically, "Sidi, you will please to observe that Allah does not will the loss of the jewel—let us change the subject." He gave me no answer, but on the next morning I had from him the customary greeting—and the laugh was all upon his side, for the scimitar was gone.

I say that the laugh was with Sidi, but in very truth I do not believe that this worthy fellow ever laughed in his life. He possessed a stolid immobility of countenance that would have remained in repose even at the sound of the last trumpet. The intelligence which I conveyed to him, I doubt not with pathetic anger, and much bad language, moved him no more than the soft south wind moved the statue of the first Governor-General out by the mosque there. He examined my ravished bag with a provoking silence; muttered a few pessimistic sentences in Arabic; and then fell back upon the Koran and the platitudes of his prophet. If he had been an Englishman, I should have suspected him without hesitation; but he bore such a character, he had been so long a servant of the hotel, he was by his very stolidity so much above doubt, that this course was impossible; and being unable to accuse him, I bade him take me to the nearest bureau of police, that I might satisfy my conscience with the necessary farce. This he did without a protest, but I saw that he looked upon me with a pitying gaze, as one looks upon a child that is talking nonsense.

Although I flatter myself that I concealed my annoyance under a placid exterior, this loss affected me more than I cared to tell. For one thing, the jewel was very valuable (I was certain that I could have obtained a thousand pounds for it in Bond Street); I was convinced, moreover, that I should hardly discover its fellow if I searched Europe through. During my stay at the Hôtel d'Orleans I had kept it locked in a well-contrived leather pouch in my travelling trunk; and as this pouch had been opened with my own keys it was evident that the thief had access to my bedroom during the night—a conclusion which led me to think again of this stolid Moor, and to declare that the case against him was singularly convincing. So strong, in fact, were my suspicions that I made it my first care to go to the maître of the hotel and to demand satisfaction from him with all the justifiable indignation which fitted the case. When he heard my tale, his face would have given Rembrandt a study.

"How?" said he. "Monsieur is robbed, and chez-moi?"

I repeated that I was, and told him that if he did not recover the bauble in twenty-four hours, consequences would follow which would be disastrous to his establishment. Then I asked him frankly about the Moor Sidi; but he protested with tears in his eyes that he would as soon accuse his own mother. He did not deny that some one in his house might know something about it; and presently he had marshalled the whole of his servants in the central court, addressing them with the fierce accusation of a juge d'instruction. It is superfluous to add that we made no headway, and that all his "desolation" left me as far from the jewels I had lost as I was at the beginning of it.

From the hotel to the bureau of the police was an easy transition, but a very hopeless one. A number of extremely polite, and elaborately braided, officials heard me with interest and pity; and having covered some folios of paper with notes declared that nothing could be done. For themselves, their theory was that the Moor Sidi had been talking about my treasure, and that some other domestic in the Hôtel de la Régence had opened my door while I slept and got possession of the ornament with little risk. But that any one should recover the property was in their idea a preposterous assumption.

"It is on its way to Paris," said one of them as he closed his note-book with a snap, "and there's an end of it. We shall, without doubt, watch the servants of the hotel closely for some time, but that should not encourage you. It is possible that the man Mohammed, the porter of the place, may know something of the affair. We shall have his house searched to-day, but, my friend, ne vous montez pas la tête, we are not in Paris, and the upper town is worse than a beehive. I am afraid that your hope of seeing the thing again is small."

I was afraid so, too; but being accustomed to strange losses and to strange recoveries, I determined to venture something in the hazard, and to remain in Algiers for a few weeks, at any rate. The most difficult part of my work lay in my ignorance of the city, and in that matter Sidi alone could help me. Every day we went with measured and expectant tread through that labyrinth of fantastic and half-dark streets, where repulsive hags grin at the wickets below, and dark eyes coquette at the gratings above; every day we delved in booths and bazaars, we haggled with the jewel sellers, we bartered with the gold workers, but to no purpose. I had come to think at last that the loss was not worth further trouble; and had made up my mind to return to London, when I recollected with some self-reproach that I had as yet neglected one of the very simplest means to grapple with the occasion—that I had, in fact, offered no reward for the recovery of the jewelled scimitar, and to this omission owed, I did not doubt, the utter absence of clue or conviction.

When I was yet angry with myself at this absurd oversight I had a second thought which was even more useful, and one to which I owed much before I had done with the matter. I remembered that the French police had set down my loss to the loud talk of Sidi amongst the others at the hotel. Why, then, I asked, should not this man also scatter the tidings that I would give so many hundreds of francs for the recovery of the scimitar? No sooner had I got the idea than I acted upon it.

"Sidi," said I, when he came to me on the next morning, "I have heard much of your cleverness, but you have not yet found my property; now I will give a thousand francs to the man who brings it here within a week."

To my utter surprise he bowed his head with his old gravity, and answered, "If Allah wills, the jewel is found."

This was amazing, no doubt, and in its way a triumph of impudence. If he could find it with that ease, then he must have known by whom it was stolen. I turned upon him at once with the accusation, but he stood with the gravity of granite and responded to all my threats with the simple greeting, as of a father to a son,—

"And upon you be peace."

To have argued with such a rogue would have been as useful as a demonstration in theology before a mollah; to have accused him boldly of the theft would have been absurd, even had I not possessed such a wealth of testimony in his favor. I sent him about his business, therefore, and went in search of my friend Chassaigne, who had been away since I lost the trinket, but was then at the arsenal again. The lieutenant took the news with edifying calmness, but assured me that I had at last taken the only course which was at all likely to result in success.

"Our friend the Moor," said he, "is the most honourable of his kind in Algiers, where all are rogues. I do not believe for a moment that he stole the jewels, although his father, his uncle, or his own brother may have done so. Your reward may tempt him to return them if the police set up a hue and cry; but if he suggests that you go up in the old town to receive them, tell him you will do nothing of the sort. There are far too many dark eyes and sharp knives there for an Englishman's taste, and a Moor still has claims in Paradise for every Frank he sticks. If you took the other course, and sought your money from this hotel-keeper, he would bring a hundred to swear that you did not lose the stones in the hotel, and you would be where you are. It's annoying to adopt a laissez aller policy, but I fear you can do nothing else."

I thought that he was right, but my habitual obstinacy was all upon me, and I found myself as much determined to recover the jewels I had lost as if they had been worth ten thousand pounds. I was quite sure that the police would do nothing, and save that they informed me in a cumbrous document that they had searched the house of Mohammed the porter, and of five others, my surmise proved a true one. It was left to Sidi, and for Sidi I waited on the morning of the ninth day with an expectancy which was unwarrantably large. He came to me at his usual hour, eight o'clock, and when he had salaamed, he said,—

"If Allah is willing, the jewel is found—but the money is not enough."

"Not enough!" said I, choking almost with anger, "the money is not enough! Why, you brazen-faced blackguard, what do you mean?"

He replied with an appeal to the beard of the Prophet, and an evident word of contempt for my commercial understanding. The irony of the whole situation was so great, and his immobility so stupendous, that I quickly forbore my anger and said,—

"Very well, Sidi, we will make it fifteen hundred francs." And with that he went off again, and I saw him no more until the next day, when he repeated the incha Alläh and the intimation that the price was too low. On this occasion my anger overcame me. I seized him by the throat, and shaking him roughly, said,—

"You consummate rascal, I believe you have the jewels all the time; if you don't bring them in an hour, I will take you to the police myself."

My anger availed me no more than my forbearance. It did but awaken that inherent dignity before which I cowed; and when I had done with him, he left me and came no more for three days. On the third morning when he returned he looked at me with reproach marked in his deep black eyes; and raising his hands to heaven he protested once more in the old words, and to the old conclusion. I was then so wearied of the very sound of his voice that I took him by the shoulders and held him down upon an ottoman until he would consent to bargain with me, shekel by shekel for the return of my gems; and in the end he consented to make me the longest speech that I had yet had from his lips.

"By the beard of my father," said he, "I protest to milord that neither I nor my people have the precious thing he wots of; but the dog of a thief, upon whose head be desolation, is known to me. For money he took the jewel, for money he shall lay it again at milord's feet; yet not here, but in the house of his people, where none shall see and none shall know."

A long argument, and some fine bargaining, enabled me to get to the bottom of the whole story; but only under a solemn oath that the keeping of the secret should be shared by no one. With much fine recital and many appeals to the holy marabouts to bear witness, Sidi demonstrated that the thief was no other than Mohammed the porter, who had the stone hidden with extraordinary cunning, and from whom it was to be got only at my own personal risk.

"Under the shadow of the Kasbah it lies," said he; "under the shadow of the Kasbah must you seek it with those I shall send to you, and no others. Obey them in all things; be silent when they are silent, speak when they speak, fly and lose not haste when they bid you fly."

This was all very vague, but a deeper acquaintance with his purpose made it the more clear. In answer to my question why he could not bring the jewel to the hotel, he said that it would never be surrendered except to a certain force; and with that force he would supply me. He himself seemed to be under an oath to bear no hand to the emprise; and he was emphatic in laying down the condition that I must go absolutely alone; or, said he, "the hand of Fatma shall not be passed nor that which you seek come to you."

Now, the proper spirit in which to have received this suggestion would have been that of an uncompromising negative. Chassaigne had cautioned me particularly against going into the old town, and here was I hearkening to a proposition to visit it not only by night, but in the company of those who possibly were honest, but more possibly were cut-throats. I knew well enough what he would say to the venture; and truly I was much disposed to refuse it at the beginning, and to go to London as I had at first intended. This I told Sidi, and he gave me for answer a shrug of the shoulders, which implied that if I did, my property, for which I hoped to get a thousand pounds, would certainly remain behind me. Nor did threats and entreaties move him one iota from his position, neither on that day nor on the next two; so that I saw in the end that I had better decide quickly, or take ship and fly a city of indolent Frenchmen and rascally Moors.

It would prove tedious to recount to you the various processes of reasoning by which, finally, I found myself of a mind to court this hazard and agreed to Sidi's terms. He on his part had vouched for my safety; and after all, the man who ever wraps his life in cotton-wool, as it were, must see little beyond the stuffy box on his own habitation. Here was a chance to see the Moors chez-eux, possibly to risk a broken head with them; in any case, a chance which an adventurous man might be thankful for, and which I took.

Having once agreed to Sidi's terms, he set upon the realization of the project with unusual ardour. The very next evening was chosen for the undertaking, the hour being close upon ten, and the Moor himself accompanying me some part of the way. He had advised me to equip myself en Arabe for the business; and this I did with some little discomfort, especially in the manipulation of the long burnouse, and in the carriage of appalling headgear which he would not allow me to dispense with. I had put these things on at the hotel; but as it is not unusual for a Frank to ape the Moor when wishing to explore the upper town at night, I escaped unpleasant curiosity, and arrived at the steep ascent of the Rue de la Lyre, feeling that I was like, at any rate, to get more excitement out of the old city than nine-tenths of the Englishmen who visit her.

Almost at the top of the street the Moor's friends met me. I could see little of their faces, for they covered them as much as possible with their sombre-hued cloaks, but they salaamed profoundly on greeting me; and Sidi took his leave when he had exchanged a few words in Arabic with them. From that time onward they did not speak, but went straight forward into the old quarter, and soon we had entered a narrow way where flights of stairs, frequently recurring, led one up towards the Kasbah. Here the gables seemed to be exchanging whispered confidences as they craned forwards across the stone-paved ascent; you could see the zenith of the silver sky shot with starlight through the jutting angles of rickety roofs and bulging eaves; the hand of Fatma protected the hidden doors of the pole-shored but singularly picturesque houses; the sound of tom-toms and derboukas came from the courts of the Kahouaji. The peace of the scene, deriving something from the distant and seductive harmonies, got colour from the slanting flood of moonlight which streamed upon the pavement, from the swell of song floating upward from the hidden courts. Here and there one imagined that black eyes looked down upon one from the gratings of the shadowed windows above; a Biskri, strong of limb and bronzed, lurked now and then in the dark angles of the quaint labyrinth; a few Moors passing down to the lower city inclined their heads gravely as we passed them. But for the most part the children of the Prophet had gone to their recreations or their sleep; the narrow path of stairs was untenanted, the silence and softness of an African night held sway with all its potent beauty.

We must have mounted for ten minutes or more before my guides stopped at a large house in a particularly uninviting looking cul-de-sac; and having spoken a few words with an old crone at the wicket, we gained admittance to a large court, and found it packed with a very curious company. It was a picturesque place, gloriously tiled, and surrounded by a gallery supported on slender columns of exquisite shape, terminating in Moorish arches and fretwork balustrades. There the women, numbering some score, sat; but I, knowing the danger of betraying the faintest interest in a Moor's household, averted my eyes at once, and examined more minutely the strange scene below. Here was a dense throng surrounding a dervish who danced until he foamed; a throng of bronzed and bearded Arabs sipping coffee and smoking hubble-bubble pipes with profound gravity; a throng which seemed incapable of expressing any sort of emotion, either of pleasure or of pain. At the further end of the court, where many luxuriant palms and jars of gorgeous flowers gave ornament to a raised daïs, musicians squatted upon their haunches, playing upon divers strange instruments, guitars, flutes, and the gourd-like derbouka, and sent up a hideous and unbroken wave of discordant harmony which made the teeth chatter and seemed to agitate one's very marrow. It was a strange scene, full of life and colour, and above all of activity; and to what it owed its origin I have not learnt to this day. I know only that our coming with such a lack of ceremony did not disconcert either the host or his guests. They paused a moment to give us an "Es-salaam âlikoum," to which we returned the expected "Oua âlikoum es-salaam;" and with that we sat amongst the company, but in a very conspicuous place, and took coffee with the gravity of the others.

I must confess that the surprise of finding myself in such a place was very great. I had gone with the Moors to recover a thousand pounds' worth of property, but how the visit brought me nearer to that, or to any purpose whatever, I could not see. I knew that I was the only European in the company, and all tradition as well as common-sense told me of my danger. Yet I had gone of my own will, and the Moor Sidi had encouraged me to the risk, which after all, I thought, was worth bartering for the sight of so strange an entertainment. Indeed, it is not in accord with my fatalistic creed to conjure up terrors of the mind in moments of comparative tranquillity; and when I realized that the question of wisdom, or want of wisdom, was no longer under discussion, I fell in with the spirit of this singular festivity—and waited for enlightenment.

The feast of performance was now going briskly. A conjurer trod upon the heels of the dervish, and performed a few palpable feats which deceived no one but himself; and after that we had the expected dancing girls, and the Ouled-Naïls. Nor were the latter the central piece, as it were, of our host's program; for presently the Moors about me ceased their babbling; there was a restless chatter in the gallery above, the old host whispered something to his attendant, and new musicians, who had relieved the others, struck up a hideous banging of tom-toms, flageolets, and guitars. At that very moment, when I had come to the conclusion that Sidi ben Ahmed had made a fool of me, and that my errand was to end idly, one of my guides spoke for the first time, putting his mouth close to my ear, and using very passable English. "Now," said he, "be ready;" but whether he meant me to prepare for some saltatory display, or for action, he did not condescend to say; and before I could ask him a great applause greeted the advent of a dancing girl, who bounded into the arena with a conventional run, and at once began her amazing gyrations.

She was a beautiful girl, not more than eighteen years of age, I should think, and probably a Circassian. She had clear-cut features, a complexion bright with the freshness of youth, a figure of fine balance and maturity; but the most striking thing about her was her hair. More abundant or glossier tresses I have never seen. In colour, a deep golden-red, this magnificent silky gift was bunched upon her head in a great coil at the back, and fell thence almost to her feet. It covered her when she chose as the burnouses covered the Moors who watched her; and she used it in her dancing with a chic and skill unimaginable. In one moment coiling it about her body so that she seemed wrapped in a sheen of gold; in the next cast like an outspread fan behind her, she presented a picture ravishing beyond description, and one which drew shouts of "Zorah, Zorah!" even from the women in the galleries above. I sat under the spell, enraptured like the rest; and as the girl floated with a dreamy lightness, or pirouetted with amazing agility, or swept past me with a motion that was the very essence of grace, I was ready to declare that the dance was unrivaled by anything I had seen in any of the capitals.

Now, the girl must have been dancing for a couple of minutes, and the audience was thoroughly held by her prodigious cleverness, when I, engrossed as the others, was suddenly interrupted in my contemplation of her by the action of the Moors, my guides. To my utter surprise they all of a sudden stood up on either side of me, and one of them crying to me in English as before to be ready, the other seemed to wait for the girl Zorah, who, with streaming hair and body thrown well back, was dancing down towards us.

A few of the company near to us turned their heads, and cried out at the interruption; but the girl came on with quick steps, and when she was just upon us, the Moor who waited seized her by her hair, and putting his hands in the great coil upon her head, he unrolled it with a strong grasp, and the missing scimitar, to my unutterable surprise, rolled out upon the pavement.

I am willing to confess that for one moment the whole action dazed me so completely that I stood like a fool gaping at the jewel, and at the girl, who had begun to cling to the Moor and to scream. The thing was so unlooked for, so strange, so incredible, that I could do nothing but ask myself if it were really my bauble that lay upon the floor, or was I the victim of an incomprehensible trick? Yet there was the jewel, and there at my elbow were the two Moors, now all ready for the action aftermath. Scarce, in fact, had one of them picked up my property and crammed it into my hand before the uproar began, the whole roomful of erstwhile sedate-looking men springing to their feet and turning upon us. For an instant, the Moor who had snatched the jewel for me kept them back with an harangue in Arabic of which I did not understand one word; but his best and only card failed him at the first playing, and it remained to face the danger and to fight it.

Of the extraordinary scene that followed I remember but little. It seemed to me that I was surrounded in an instant by hungry, gleaming hawk-like eyes which glowed with mischief; that women screamed, that lamps were overturned; that I saw knives flashing on every side of me. Had Sidi's men then failed him or displayed any craven cunning, I take it that my body might have been hurled from the Kasbah within a minute of the recovery of the jewel; but they showed quite an uncommon fidelity and courage. Standing on either side of me so that my body was almost wedged between theirs, they suddenly flashed long knives in the air, and cut and parried with wondrous dexterity. For myself, I had only my fists, and these I used with a generous freedom, thinking even in the danger that a Moor's face is a substantial one to hit; and that a little boxing goes a long way with him. Yet I could not help but realize that the minute was a supreme one, and as the crowd of demoniacal and shouting figures pressed nearer and nearer, threatening to bear us down in the mêlée, I heard my heart thumping, and began to grow giddy.

As the press became more furious, the two men who had done so well were gradually carried away from me. I found myself at last in the lower corner of the room, surrounded by four burly fellows (the main body of the company swarming round the Moors, my guides); and of these but one had a knife in his hand. With this, taking the aggressive, he made a prodigious cut at me, which slit my left arm from the shoulder almost to the elbow; but I had no pain from the wound in the excitement of the moment; and I sent him howling like a dervish with a heavy blow low down upon the chest. Of the others, one I hit on the chin, whereupon he cried like a woman; but the remaining two sprang upon me with altogether an unlooked-for activity; and bore me down with a heavy crash upon the pavement. I thought then that the end had come; for not only was I half stunned with the blow, but the man who knelt upon my chest gripped my throat with grim ferocity and threatened to squeeze the life out of me as I lay. In that supreme moment I recollect that the lights of the room danced before my eyes in surprising shapes; that I saw a vision of dark-eyed but screaming women in the gallery above; that the jewel in my vest cut my skin under the pressure of the Moor's knee; and that I fell to wondering if I would live one minute or five. Then, as a new and violent shouting reached me, even above the singing in my ears, the Moor suddenly let go his hold, the light of the scene gave way to utter impenetrable darkness, and I fainted.

******

Next day I took déjeuner at the Café Apollon with my arm in a sling, and Chassaigne's talk to whet my appetite. He had occupied himself during the morning in cross-examining Sidi, from whom he had wormed the whole secret of the robbery.

"It is as clear as the sun," said he, "the porter Mohammed was advised to steal the jewel by the man I unfortunately recommended to you. Mohammed, knowing that the police would search his house and watch him, hid the jewel in his wife's hair."

"His wife!" said I. "Was this dancing girl married to a scamp like that?"

"Certainly; these Circassians don't make great matches, if they make a good many of them. Their husbands are generally loafers about the cafés; and this girl was no more fortunate in that way than most of her sisters. You see, the fun of the business is that Sidi got two thousand francs from this man for telling him how to steal your jewels, and another two thousand from you for stealing them back again. That's why he did not go with you himself last night. Luckily, I went into your hotel at ten o'clock, and learning from the man where you had gone, I followed you with a dozen of my fellows."

"You came at a happy time, my dear fellow," said I, "in another five minutes I should have needed only an executor."

"That's true; you were nearly dead when I had the pleasure of kicking the man who sat on your head. But it was your own fault, you must admit."

"Any way," said I, "I got the stones, and that's something."

He agreed to this, and when I had thanked him for the great service he had done me, we parted. That night I left Algiers, carrying with me the pacific benediction of the admirable Moor, Sidi, who, despite the fact that I had kicked him down the steps of the hotel in the morning, came with me to the steamer, and patronised me to the end of it. I can hear to this day his last and final salutation:—

"Blessed be Allah, the jewel is found!"