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of foot-steps upon it; and in some places the dust had accumulated undisturbed. I now descended, and was met by Achmet. I put on an expression of intelligence, but declined conversation; and to his question, Any trace yet?' I simply replied: Wait! ALLAH will not let wickedness go unpunished.'
It was now nearly dusk, yet I began to reconnoitre the exterior of the palace. It was of an oblong form, and its greatest length was from east to west. There was but one tree very near it, and that was a gigantic palm, which towered twice the height of the palace, at about a yard's distance from its walls. I next examined the windows of the chamber from below. There was a blank wall to their very sills. I then searched the ground, for indications of the use of a ladder ; and in so doing, found the marks of feet. There was a deep indentation as from a jump, beneath the window which had no casement, and from this first mark, a single track led off to the village. But in these tracks there was one peculiarity, which was particularly observable from the loamy soil: all the heel-prints were deeper than those of the toe. It had now become dark, and I reëntered the palace. To avoid questioning, I immediately retired — not to sleep, but to think.
And now let me trace the conclusions to which I came. I argued that the thief was one of those to whom the treasure had been shown: that he must have been courageous, to have taken that which an armed man most prized, from beneath the pillow on which he slumbered: he must also have been athletic, to place sufficient confidence in himself, in case of discovery. I farther reasoned that he must have been of the higher order, to know that a few shining stones were of immense value, and to have been permitted to view them by Achmet Bey. Next, to the question, How did he enter?' I argued after this manner: He assuredly did not get in at the window, for the foot-prints all pointed away from it then, as the heel-prints were deepest, he must have taken those steps backward, to mislead any observer from his true mode of exit; and he made the counterfeit of a leap, to further that impression: ergo, he must have been a cunning man.
I now returned in fancy to my scrutiny of the room all was examined except the ceiling, and as it was next to impossible that he had entered from the walls, floor, or window, he must have come from the roof. But one other suggestion presented itself, and that I at once dismissed. It was this: Could he have been hidden in the room? There was no place for concealment, except behind the tapestry, and this, as previously stated, was so closely connected with the wall, as to make the hiding of a man impossible,
I now summed up the result in these few words: The box was stolen by a cunning fellow; he entered by the roof, and probably departed the same way; the thief must be of the higher rank. After which conclusions I dismissed all farther thought from my mind, and slept.
The next morning I examined the roof by means of a pole, and soon found a board which yielded to my pressure. I piled one ottoman upon another, and with ease removed the plank entirely. On one side of
the adjoining plank I discovered a small piece of blue cashmere; a mere shred, it is true, but from it I learned two important things: I was right in my conjecture that the thief was of high rank, for the material was costly; and second, that the man, whoever he was, was dressed in a blue robe. So costly was the cashmere, that I at once concluded that he would continue to wear the robe, notwithstanding the rent; so I had now to look for a man who wore a torn or mended blue robe. I drew myself up into the loft, where I found a piece of palmrope made fast to the rafter above, long enough to have materially aided egress; and I availed myself of it to descend again into the apartment.
I now went round the building once more, and satisfied myself that the palm-tree was the means of attaining the roof. But from its size, it must have been a man of extraordinary frame who could grasp it. Beneath it were footprints, but whether of the thief or not, was now immaterial to me. My chain of evidence was thus far complete. My host met me, and inquired what progress had been made? I told him only a portion of my discoveries, and asked him for the key of the box. This he produced, and gave into my possession. He asked if there was any thing else I desired? All I now want,' I replied, 'is a full suit of Turkish clothes, so that I may pass as one of your relatives from Stamboul, and then I can almost insure you success.
He furnished me with what I desired; and I was soon arrayed in the rich garb of a merchant-prince. One remark, however, which he made while I was disguising, excited my suspicions as to his ultimate intentions toward me: he earnestly desired me to give up to his keeping my revolving pistol. This I declined, and only took the greater care to keep it on my person, as well as the two silver-mounted flint-locks (which, by-the-way, oftener far do not go off, than prove availing,) that he gave me to complete my disguise. Thus attired, and armed with pistols, pass, and key, I went to the rude blacksmith of the place, feeling sure that the thief would have to employ his assistance in opening the casket, and asked him if he could make me a key like the one I at the same time presented to him. His brief reply was:
'What will you take for this, which I now hold?
'Why do you wish to purchase it?'
'I have been trying to make one of a similar pattern for the last two days, but cannot succeed; and ABDALLAH EFFENDI has promised me eighty piastres if I succeed in opening a box for him.'
Who is Abdallah Effendi ? I inquired carelessly.
'Hist! here he comes! Let no one know I told you that he had lost the key of his box, for I promised by ALLAH to keep silence.'
Giving the man a nod, as much as to say, 'I'll keep your secret, and will return directly,' I left his shop, taking the key with me. Going into the bazaar opposite, I could observe Abdallah Effendi at my leiwithout being myself perceived. There stood the man I wanted; tall, of Herculean frame, with little black twinkling eyes, dressed in a deep blue cashmere robe, whether torn or not I neither saw nor cared, so firmly was I persuaded of his identity with the thief, as he stood talking to the one-eyed blacksmith, HASSAN EL KEBIR, with all the earn
estness and watchfulness of a man who has to confide a secret to a second party, and who fears discovery therefrom.
He soon left the shop, and I followed him at a little distance to his house, which he entered.
Returning to the palace, I told my host that the culprit resided near the Jews' quarter, in the neighborhood of Abdallah Effendi, or as he was sometimes called, El Shereef, from the fact that he was one who claimed descent from the Prophet. I requested him to send Abdallah on a fool's errand, I cared not where; alleging, as my reason, that I did not want him to see me prying around his neighborhood. The true reason was, I dreaded his wrath on discovering that he was over-reached. The next day, Abdallah having been sent to Manfaloot, HEAVEN only knows on what pretext, I went to his house, and had penetrated to the door of his harem before I met with any opposition. This was guarded by a single eunuch, to whom I read my pass from the Governor; and at the same time, to quicken his comprehension, slipped into his hand a twenty-piastre piece. A good deal of argument, and another gold-piece, carried the day, and, like Don Juan, I entered the harem, that tabooed spot, by strategy. Knowing from its sacredness that it would be the place of deposit, I had calculated on finding the casket there and I was not mistaken!
The room was a large one, painted and adorned with far more taste than a mere cursory Egyptian Howaji would dream of finding there. Three of the wives of Abdallah were in the room, and two of his children. The exclamation, and then the repeated cries and screams they made at my intrusion, caused me to fear that their guard would forget the favors past, and returning to his duty, kill me.
I succeeded, however, in quieting their fears, by informing them that I was a relative of their husband, and had instructions from him to present personally to them an order, (here I showed my pass an old deed would have done as well, for I knew they could neither read nor write,) for the iron box which he had purchased two days before. They whispered together, looked at me and then at the pretended order, and finally decided to give me the box. Accordingly they withdrew it from its concealment beneath the ottoman on which they sat, and gave it to I took it quietly, appeared in no hurry to leave, (and to tell the truth, I was not, for such divine beauty I had never witnessed before, and fear I never shall again,) sipped a glass of sherbet, gave them the 'order' to show their husband, and quietly putting the box under my robe, reached Achmet Bey's in safety, and bestowed my prize, unknown to any one, securely in my apartment. Toward evening I packed up my European clothes, and took them to a thicket outside the town, to the south. I then returned, opened the box, selected my third of the jewels, and then replaced it under an ottoman.
The next morning at day-break, I took the horse Achmet had placed at my disposal, and riding to the thicket, fastened my bundle to the saddle-bow, and left him in charge of a boy, giving directions to await my return, and then walked home. After our morning meal, I told Achmet that I had every reason to believe that we had been successful, and proposed to walk with him. I took care to see that my host had not
his pistols with him, as I feared he would regret the loss of so large a portion of his jewels when again within his grasp. We conversed pleasantly until we reached the thicket, where I mounted my horse, talking rapidly all the time, and threw the boy a piastre.
And now, mine host,' said I, ALLAH be praised, let me tell you that I have found your casket: with the saddle-key, it is beneath the ottoman in the room from which it was stolen guard it better this time.'
'But your reward?' inquired Achmet, evidently growing anxious. 'Have I not this robe, this horse, and these pistols ?'
But were you not to have had one-fourth of the jewels?'
'You told me one-third at first, and fearing that my share might be but an eighth, or perhaps none, if left to your bounty, I have helped myself to a full third: the remainder, with your opal ring, are safe at home; and now ALLAH be with you!'
So saying, I spurred my fleet Arabian, saw Achmet feel nervously for his trusty pistols, and then run toward the palace, as if to make sure of the remnant of the jewels. The only excuse I could ever frame for Abdallah's theft was the extreme beauty of those for whom he evidently designed the treasure.
For myself, I reached Gardet in safety, and amused him with a recital of my adventure. Instead of returning by the Nile, we went across the desert by caravan to the Red Sea; and after a year's farther travel, the costs of which were defrayed by certain jewels, ever to be remembered, I returned home, bringing some of the finest with me, as specimens of the contents of THE CASKET OF ACHMET BEY.
SEVILLE'S towers are worn and old;
Music, laughter, low replies,
Over the hill, over the dell,
Comes the knell of the vesper-bell,
Solemnly and slow.
Hooded Nun, at the convent wall,
Where the purple vines their tendrils throw,
Aught of this giddy scene below?
Turn that pensive glance on high:
Seest thou the floods in yon blessed sky,
The shores of those isles of the good and blest,
Meeting, mingling, down the west?
E'en as thou gazest, lo! they fade:
So doth the world from these walls surveyed;
Fleeting, false, delusive show;
Beauty's form, but hectic's glow.