Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
Henry M. Stanley
“My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave”
The Beautiful Amina, Sheikh Amer’s Wife—Arabs in Consultation—The Country of Rua—Beautiful Women of Rua—The Consul’s son—Selim and Isa are permitted to join the Expedition—Ludha Damha offers to lend Money—Selim tells his Mother—Selim’s Manliness aroused—Selim argues with his Mother—The Expedition sets sail for Bagamoyo.
About four miles north of the city of Zanzibar, and about half a mile removed from a beautiful bay, lived, not many years ago, surrounded by his kinsmen and friends, a noble Arab of the tribe of Beni-Hassan,—Sheikh Amer bin Osman. (Amer bin Osman means, Amer, son of Osman.)
Sheikh Amer was a noble by descent and untarnished blood from a long line of illustrious Arab ancestry; he was noble in disposition, noble in his large liberal charity, and noble in his treatment of his numerous black dependents.
Amer’s wife—his favourite wife—was the sweet gazelle-eyed daughter of Othman bin Ghees, of the tribe of the Beni-Abbas. She was her husband’s counterpart in disposition and temper, and was qualified to reign queen of his heart and harem for numerous other virtues.
Though few Arabs spoke of her in presence of her husband, or asked about her health or well-being—as it is contrary to the custom of the Arabs—still the friends of Amer knew well what transpired under his roof. The faithful slaves of Amer never omitted an opportunity to declare the goodness and many virtues of Amina, Amer’s wife.
A young European, chancing to ride on one of Prince Majid’s horses by the estate of Amer, one afternoon, casually obtained a glance at the sweet face of Amina, which made such an impression on his mind that he continually dwelt upon it as on a happy dream. Some of this young European’s phrases deserve to be repeated in justice to the Arab lady whom he so admired. “She was the most beautiful woman my eyes ever rested upon. I felt a shock of admiration as I caught that one short view of her face. I felt a keen regret that I could see no more of the exquisite features of her extraordinary face. If I were a painter, I know I should be for ever endeavouring to preserve a trace of the divine beauty of that Arab woman; my brush would ever hover about the eyes in a vain hope that I could transmit to canvas the marvellously limpid, yet glowing look of her eyes, or near the finely chiselled lips, tinting them with the rubiest of colours, or ever trying to imitate the pure complexion, yet always despairing to approach the perfection, one glance indelibly fixed on my memory.”
Around Amer’s large roomy mansion grew a grove of orange and mangoe trees. The fields of his estate numbered many acres, well-tilled and planted with cinnamon, cloves, oranges, mangoes, pomegranates, guavas, and numerous other fruit-trees; they produced also every variety of vegetable and grain known on the Island of Zanzibar. By dint of labour, and personal exertion, and superintendence of the proprietor the estate was considered to be one of the most flourishing on the island. A sacrifice of a large amount of ready money had so improved and embellished the mansion, that the oldest inhabitant who remembered Osman, Amer’s father, hardly recognised it as the house of Osman. A large marble courtyard, in the centre of which stood a handsome fountain of the same costly stone, was one of the many additions made to the house by Amer after the demise of his father. Marble troughs outside the mansion had also been erected for the use of the Moslemised slaves, that they might wash their feet and hands before attending the prayers in the mesdjid (Chapel or church) of the mansion, which were rigidly observed with all the ceremonies usual in Moslem temples.
Amer, the son of Osman, had but one son, called Selim, by his favourite wife Amina. Not less dear to him was this boy than was his wife. In the boy’s handsome features, large glowing black eyes, and clear complexion he saw what he had received from his lovely mother, and in the boy’s graceful vigorous form he recognised himself, when at his age he looked up to his father Osman as the paragon of all men upon earth.
Selim’s age, when this story begins, was a few months over fifteen; and it is at the usual evening symposium, which takes place near the even sloping beach of the little bay in front of Amer’s mansion, that we are first introduced to one of the heroes of our story.
It is near sunset, and a group composed of Amer bin Osman, Khamis bin Abdullah—a wealthy African trader just returned from the interior of Africa, with an immense number of ivory tusks and slaves—Sheikh Mohammed, a native of Zanzibar, a neighbour and kinsman of Amer; Sheikh Thani, son of Mussoud, an experienced old trader in Africa; Sheikh Mussoud, son of Abdullah, a portly, fine-looking Arab of Muscat; Sheikhs Hamdan and Amran, also natives of Zanzibar, though pure-blooded Arabs—were seated on fine Persian carpets placed on the beach, near enough to the pretty little wavelets which were rolled by the evening zephyrs up the snowy sand to hear distinctly their music, but still far enough from them to avoid any dampness.
Close to this group of elderly and noble-looking Arabs was another consisting of young people who were the sons or near relatives of each of the Arabs above-mentioned. There were Suleiman and Soud, nephews of Amer bin Osman, gaudily-dressed youths; there was Isa, a tall dark-coloured boy, son of Sheikh Thani; there were Abdullah and Mussoud, two boys of fourteen and twelve years respectively, sons of Sheikh Mohammed, whose complexions were as purely white as black-eyed descendants of Ishmael can well be; and lastly, there was the beloved son of Amer, son of Osman—Selim, whose appearance at once challenged attention from his frank, ingenuous, honest face, his clear complexion, his beautiful eyes, and the promise which his well-formed graceful figure gave of a perfect manhood in the future.
Selim was dressed in a short jacket of fine crimson cloth braided with gold, a snowy white muslin disdasheh, or shirt, reaching below the knees, bound around the waist by a rich Muscat sohari or check. On his head he wore a gold-tasselled red fez, folded around by a costly turban, which enhanced the appearance of the handsome face beneath it.
While all eyes are directed west at the dark-blue loom of the African continent away many miles beyond the greyish-green waters of the sea of Zanzibar, Amer, son of Osman, remarks to his friends in a musing tone:
“I have sat here, close to my own mangoes, almost every evening for the last twenty years looking towards that dark line of land, and always wishing to go nearer to it, to see for myself the land where all the ivory and slaves that the Arab traders bring to Zanzibar come from.”
Directing his eyes towards Khamis bin Abdullah, Amer continued:
“And never has the desire to leave my house and travel to Africa been so strong as this evening, when thou, Sheikh informest me that thou hast brought with thee 600 slaves and 800 frasilah (a frasilah is equivalent to 35 pounds in weight) of ivory from Ufipas and Marungu. It is wonderful! Wallahi! Five hundred slaves if they are tolerably healthy are worth at least 10,000 dollars, and 800 frasilah of ivory are worth, at 50 dollars the frasilah, 40,000 dollars, nearly half a lakh of rupees altogether, and all this thou hast collected in five years’ travels. Wallahi! it is wonderful! By the Prophet!—blessed be his name—I must see the land for myself. I shall see it, please God!” and as he finished speaking he began to wipe his brow violently, a sign with him that he was excited and determined.
“What I have spoken is God’s truth,” said Khamis bin Abdullah, “and Allah knows it. But there are many more wonderful countries than Marungu and Ufipa. Rua, several days further toward the setting of the sun, is a great country, and few Arabs have been there yet. Sayd, the son of Habib, has been to Rua, and much further; he has been across to the sea of the setting sun, and has married a wife from among the white people who live at San Paul de Loanda. Sayd is so great a traveller, I should fear to say what land he has not seen. Mashallah! Sayd, I believe, has seen all lands and all peoples. He says that ivory is used in Rua by the Pagans as we use wooden stanchions or posts to support the eaves of our houses, that ivory holds their huts up, and he believes great stores of it are known to the savages, where some of their great hunters have killed a large number of elephants, and have left the ivory to rot, not knowing how valuable it is, or where a great herd of elephants have perished from thirst or disease. However the knowledge came to these people, or whatever the cause which left such a store of ivory in that country, Sayd, the son of Habib, is certain that there is an unlimited quantity of this precious stuff in Rua, and that we can make ourselves richer than Prince Majid, our Sultan, if we go in time, before the report is common among the Arabs. What money I have made this time on my last trip is so small, compared to what I might have realised, that I mean to try my fortune again in Africa shortly, Inshallah!—please God! I intend going to Rua, and if thou, Amer bin Osman, hast a mind to accompany me, I promise thee that thou wilt not repent it.”
“Amer bin Osman,” replied Amer, “goes not back on his word. By my beard, I have said I shall go, and, if it be God’s will, I shall be ready for thee when thou goest. But tell us, son of Abdullah, what of the Pagans of Rua, and those lands near the Great Lakes? Do they make good slaves, and do they sell well in our market? Yet I need hardly ask thee, for I have two men whom I purchased when young, about twenty years ago, who I believe are more faithful than any slave born in my house.”
“Good slaves!” echoed Khamis. “Thou hast said it. Finer people are not to be found, from Masr to Kilwa, than those of Rua and the lands adjoining. And clever slaves, too! Those Pagans make the best spears, and swords, and daggers found in Africa. Indeed, some of their work would shame that of our best Zanzibar artificers. Near a place called Kitanga—where that is I don’t know, but Sayd, the son of Habib, can tell—there is a hill almost entirely of pure copper, and from this hill the people get vast quantities of copper, which they work into beautiful bracelets, armlets, anklets, and such things. Nothing to be seen in Muscat even can equal the work the son of Habib has witnessed.”
“Mashallah!” cried Amer, delighted; “thou makest me more and more anxious to go to the strange land. A hill of copper!—pure copper! The Pagans must really be a fine people, and rich, too. If it were only possible to catch two or three hundred slaves of the kind thou speakest of, I might be able to laugh in the face of that dog of a Banyan Bamji, and old Ludha Damha himself could not hold his head higher than I could then. I owe the dogs a turn, for the heavy usury they exacted of me when I needed much ready money to make my courtyard and fountains. But the women, noble Khamis, thou hast said nothing of them. Tell us what kind of women are seen in those rich lands.”
“Ah, yes, do tell us of the women,” chimed in two or three others, who had not yet spoken.
“I have seen but one of the women of Rua,” answered Khamis, “and she was the wife of the son of Sayd, the son of Habib, a tall, lithesome girl of sixteen years or so. Her lower limbs were as clean and well-made as those of an antelope. She walked like the daughter of a chief. Her eyes were like two deep wells of shining moving water. Her face was like the moon, in colour and form. Oh! the colour was almost as clear and light as thy son Selim’s, Amer. She was beautiful as a Peri-banou—God be praised!”
“Thy tongue runs away with thee, Khamis,” cried Amer, in a slightly offended tone, “or hast thou imbibed too much of the strong drink of the Nazarenes, for the celebration of thy late success? Light-complexioned women, of the colour of my son Selim’s face! Where art thou, Selim, son of Amer, pride of the Beni-Hassan? Thou chief’s son by birth and blood, and apple of thy father’s eye! Come hither.”
“Behold me, my father, I am here,” said Selim, who had bounded lightly to his feet, and now stood before his father, after kissing his right hand for the affectionate terms lavished on him.
“Speak, son of Abdullah; behold, my boy, and regard his colour, which is like unto that of rich cream. Is he not as white as any Nazarene? and wilt thou repeat what thou hast said about the Pagan wife, of Sayd’s son?”
“Khamis, the son of Abdullah, debauches not himself with the strong drink of the foolish Nazarenes. I lie not. I said I have seen a daughter of the Warua whom Sayd’s son has taken for wife, and she is almost as light in colour as thy son, Selim, and far lighter than the face of the boy, Isa, son of Sheikh Thani.”
“Wonderful! Wallahi!” echoed the group. “It is most wonderful. We shall all go to obtain wives from the Warua.”