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Gilbraille, marvellous instinct, and more humanity than many an asinine biped!"
Somewhat refreshed by their libations the party pursued their way up the ravine, when suddenly Gilbraille shook his ears, and began to bray lustily.
"What I told you," said Gilbrac, "that that ass is worth its weight in men of genius!"
And at this very moment the little red-eyed monkey, that at the time of Yussuf's evasion, was with Jenny on the dromedary, attracted by the braying of his old friend, came leaping down from rock to rock, till it got upon the ass's back.
"Yussuf is not far from here," exclaimed the captain.
Akbar and Evelin were already escalading the rocks. On the opposite side the Berber was detected, trying to get away with Jenny; the dromedary lay apparently dead on the rocks. Evelin rushed down like a madman, but Yussuf turned upon him and fired. The ball missed the young man and struck the captain in the shoulder. Akbar and the captain fired, and Yussuf staggered. He had strength however to fire once more, Akbar receiving the ball in his chest; he then turned upon his feet and rolled down the precipice-a corpse. His horse fled, nor could they effect its capture; but Jenny was delivered!
The poor young girl was pale, exhausted, stunned. She looked at Breton and then at Evelin, as if in a dream; and then she threw herself into the arms of the old soldier and wept, and her tears relieved her burning head and heart. The captain looked at her amid tears and smiles. to one of his fits of the previous day. party, and yet, strange to say, all were plated the Parisians and complained not.
pressed her to his bosom, and then Evelin jumped about as if a prey There was not a dry eye in the glad-all save one, who contemHe would not mar their happiAt length he too was thought of, and most anxious were the inquiries as to whether he was much hurt.
"No, I do not suffer," said the Abyssinian; "you are happy."
"I shall never forget your devotion," said the captain.
I see Azrael in
"Akbar is your guide, and is devoted to you," replied the wounded man. "God does as he wills. I have my reward now. the dark; the angel of the last farewell awaits me."
So saying, his head fell on his chest; his mouth filled with froth and blood, and his eyes closed for ever.
Standing one by the side of the other, with the exception of Gilbrac, whose feet had been horribly hurt in his fall from what he called his poetic flight with his Pegasus on the wings of the simun, and who was no longer capable of walking, they contemplated the disaster in silence. They had now the desert before them, and no guide! There was, however, no time for lamentations, and Breton almost exhausted himself in encouraging the others. The Abyssinian's bag was examined; it contained a small stock of welcome powder and balls, and a little dry fruit and kukusu.
"Well, we can breakfast, at all events," observed the incorrigible Gascon. "We can feed our happiness. How happy one would be with a bumper of Cyprus in hand!"
"Well, you shall have it at Algiers, Don Gil," said the captain.
"Keep up your hearts, and in three days we shall have left the desert, I hope for ever, behind. No more chases after nondescript antelopes for
At this moment Gilbraille, who was as usual busy when others were unoccupied, in cropping all the stubborn tufts and remnants of vegetation that were to be detected in the wilderness, lifted up its head and began to bray.
"Another signal!" shouted Gilbrac. "And, by the Holy Prophet! Caramba! if there is not Yussuf's horse coming down the mountain-side. Never did trumpet of Jericho merit more of posterity than thy chromatic bray, my precious ass!"
It was as Gilbrac said, Yussuf's horse, without master or companion, had grown weary of solitude and the desert, and hearing the bray of his quondam travelling companion, had at once made off to join the party. The possession of a horse was at this conjuncture invaluable. Gilbrac could not walk, so he must perforce ride his faithful steed-the horse would carry Jenny.
Jenny on horseback, then, Gilbrac on Gilbraille, the captain, Gouët, Evelin, and Fabre on foot, they started from where they had covered the body of their guide with stones to keep off the prowling jackals, to advance in the direction of home.
"The mountain we leave behind us," observed the captain, "in charge of the relics of our two guides of yesterday, is, I believe, a part of the well-known Kayar; not far from it, in the direction of Algeria, lies the oasis of the Great Serpent. If we can only reach it we are saved."
This was said to encourage the party; but it was noon, the sun darted its rays like tongues of fire, they could scarcely get their breath in the heated dusty atmosphere, and, to add to the labour of those who were on foot, the sands were mobile and yielding, and progress was at once difficult and irksome. No wonder that they moved on in monotonous melancholy silence.
The sight of a few pebbles came to cheer them.
Ah, Caramba!" observed Gilbrac, "they are going to macadamise this African Rue de Rivoli, in anticipation of a row of mansions. Not a bad idea!"
A heap of pebbles was, in fact, an indication of a route followed by Such is as a sign-post in the desert.
"The Bois de Boulogne !" observed Gilbrac.
The discovery, however, cheered them on, and evening was approaching when Jenny announced that, from her elevated position, she could make out an Arab.
An Arab was in reality coming quietly towards them.
"Salaam Alakum !-Peace be with you!" was all he said; and then made as if passing on. But this was not at all what was wanted (and he knew it, too).
"Alakum Salaam !-Peace be with you!" replied the captain. "Your words are good. Listen to ours. We have lost ourselves. Our guide is Where does this road lead to?"
"To the Hunter's oasis."
"How far is that off ?"
"Fourteen days' journey."
"And we were following that road! And where does that road lead to?" asked the captain, pointing backwards.
"To the oasis of the Golden River," was the reply.
"Ah, Caramba!" interrupted Gilbrac, "we shall catch the nondescript after all. The cursed beast has won over all the demons of Africa to its cause."
"Guide us to the Golden River," said the captain, "and you shall have two duros for every hour of the journey."
"Abu Aibu has made a vow of poverty," replied the Arab; "but he will help those who are tormented by genii."
And, so saying, he sat down by some stones, and drawing a little cage from beneath his cloak, he began singing to it in unintelligible jargon. "Pilgrim," said Gilbrac, "are you a marabut?"
"No!" was the reply. "I am a trapper of genii."
"What is in that cage ?"
Bajasse!" exclaimed Gilbrac. "I have seen all the geniuses of the Academy of Paris, I should like to see those of Africa. But this is an Opera genius," he said, peering into the cage. "As I live, nothing but a fat rat!"
"Sidi!" coolly replied the Arab, "this is not a rat, but an enchanted genius."
"That Abu Aibu," remarked Fabre to Gilbrac, "resembles Shafar, who deprived me of my habiliments whilst taking a siesta, as much as one Arab thief can resemble another in the twilight."
"In France, all cats seem grey at night-time, and in Africa all Arabs are thieves," retorted the Gascon. "If that Abu Aibu had not a beard, I should say it was Ben Sabat himself."
Night had come on; the sense of security inspired by the presence of a guide, and the weariness of long fatigue and anxiety, disposed all to sleep. At midnight they were woke up by Gilbraille braying. "Trapper of genii!" exclaimed Gilbrac. "The rascal is off with our
Not only had the capturer of demons taken the horse with him, but he had actually partly stripped every one of the caravan: Gouët's burnuse, Captain Breton's hat, watches, purses, Gilbrac's cloak and Fabre's boots; all the arms, guns, and swords, powder and balls, had been carefully disposed of as baggage upon the horse before he had walked off with the latter! The wretch, to add insult to injury, had left his cage, with the enchanted genius in it, behind him! This sad reverse and sudden change in circumstances were most trying. Worn-out and exhausted by fatigue and privations, lost in the arid waterless desert, their forces ebbing from them like their life's blood, hopes had been excited by their supposed happy falling in with a guide, only to enhance their disappointment by his running away and depriving them of their last chance and their last resources. It was stupifying!
The gallant old captain was the first to endeavour to rouse the rest to action. "My children," he said, "we must be on a frequented road; let us only advance, however slowly, we are sure to meet with some help. Nov.-VOL. CXXIII. NO. CCCCXCI.
Let us hold up, then. The ant crosses the desert; shall we have less perseverance than an ant ?"
A start was accordingly resolved upon. It was no use sitting down to perish in the wilderness. Gilbrac's boots had to be cut open; his legs had swollen, as he himself expressed it, to the size of the towers of Notre Dame. The captain's hat was replaced by a kerchief and the hood of his burnuse. The monkey had disappeared. Jenny, much against the Gascon's wishes, had to walk. As to arms, all that Abu Abu had left them was a brace of pistols which he had overlooked in the holsters of Gilbraille's saddle.
The appearance of the caravan of the Parisians was anything but enlivening. Jenny was pale and careworn. Fabre bent his melancholy brow downwards. Evelin's mind was wandering more and more, and his state excited the liveliest apprehensions. Gouët was affected with vertigo. The old captain's eyesight had grown dim and confused. As to Gilbrac, he had fainted away once or twice from sheer suffering. Their weakness, and consequently the danger of their position, increased hourly. Fabre led the donkey, Gouët supported Gilbrac, Breton gave his arm to Jenny, Evelin hovered like a wild bird around the caravan. Their laborious steps were directed towards a range of mountains that bordered the horizon.
"Courage, friends!" said the captain; "on the other side of those mountains we shall find life, repose, abundance. Forward! and we are saved!"
They persevered for a short time under the ardent sun, but at length Gilbraille gave way and rolled on the plain, Gilbrac by his side. Fabre and Gouët sat down at the same time, utterly exhausted. Evelin had fainted; and Jenny sat by his side, incapable of comforting him. Only the captain kept his feet. The final moment seemed to have arrived.
"Friends! children!" exclaimed the veteran, only two hundred paces more and we are saved!”
But no one could answer him. Gouet was the first to recover. Fabre and Gilbrac next regained their senses.
"Fabre," said the captain, "you must remain and take charge of the others. I and Gouët will go forward in search of help; beyond that mountain there must be an oasis and living people. Come, then!"
Gouët obeyed almost mechanically. In a few moments they reached the foot of the hills and began the ascent. But Evelin, who had opened his eyes, seeing them thus depart, was seized with a terrible access of delirium. He rushed wildly after them up the mountain-side. "Oh, save him!" exclaimed Jenny to Fabre. "I love him!" Fabre cast a melancholy look of despair at the young girl, and replied: "I will save him, Jenny, if it costs me my life. May you be happy." And he hastened after the unfortunate maniac. Evelin seemed to be endowed with supernatural energy. He leaped rocks, crossed ravines, and climbed precipices as if inspired with spiritual vigour. His course was, however, eccentric, and Fabre succeeded, not without great efforts, in overtaking him. Seizing him by the body, he endeavoured to restrain him in his mad course, but Evelin struggled against him, and both fell. The captain and Gouët had witnessed the catastrophe from the other side
of the mountain, and they hurried back as fast as their strength would permit them to the scene of disaster. Poor Fabre was dead; he had made a shield of his body to save Evelin. The latter was white as a sheet; he was contused, cold, and senseless, but his heart beat. It was, however, impossible to revive him without water, without a resource. "Poor children!" said the captain. "What a fate!" Weep they could not.
The tears seemed dried up within them, and agony of the moment made their throats feel as if on fire. Breton once more roused himself. Only a few hundred paces separated them from the oasis, but they had not the power to cross that short interval. They seemed, as it were, to be nailed to the spot on which they stood by the accumulation of horrors that hung like clouds upon every effort that they made. But at that moment a strange animal, resembling a stag, with ears erect and legs outstretched, as if pursued, made its appearance, staring at them with astonishment. "It must be our nondescript friend!" exclaimed the captain; "we are at the Golden River! Would that we had never sought it."
The arrival of the antelope was followed by the clamour of a huntinghorn, and soon the sound of horses cantering was distinctly heard as the antelope bounded away. A few moments more and a hunting-party made its appearance, headed by Commandant Barbaro, well known in Algeria for his passion for field sports and his collection of wild animals. The surprise of the commandant and of his friends at meeting two Frenchmen in such a plight can be more easily imagined than described. In Algeria, however, people are more accustomed to strange incidents than in more civilised countries. To be down by their side, to uncork a brandy-flask and pour out a tumbler of water, were the work of an instant. The next was employed in succouring the lifeless form that lay by them on the ground. It was long before Evelin was sufficiently recovered to be moved away upon an extemporised litter. Help was in the mean time sent those behind. Jenny had wept till she had sunk senseless on the sand. Gilbraille was dead, and Gilbrac lay on his friend's body, grimly chanting:
"Il meurt et la joie expire,
All the parties recovered except the unfortunate Fabre, whose skull was broken. Evelin and Jenny have since married, and have vowed never to go farther from Paris than Pantin. Abu Aibu, arrested while endeavouring to dispose of his plunder, was recognised to be the same as Shafar and Ben Sabat, and met with his deserts. As to Gilbrac, he only regrets that he did not see the fantastic antelope of the Golden River, which he always declares to be a demon, and he incessantly mourns his beloved Gilbraille. "He was an ass," he says, in melancholy tones, "who was a true friend to humanity. He had a heart. How many are there that have only ears!"