“The Rose Of Sokna: Another Adventure in the Sahara” by Karl May (1842-1912)
(Published here with the permission of the translator Marlies Bugmann and the editor Reinhard Marheinecke)
I returned to Murzuk from an excursion into the mountains of Soudah. The city gardens with their palm trees, the pomegranate, olive, fig, peach and apricot trees already lay in front of us. My servant Ali stopped his horse, a brave bay, to unfurl the lion skin he had strapped behind the saddle so that the inhabitants of the place could see we had dared to challenge the lion, the ‘lord with the big head’ as the Arab called the animal, to a battle.
I let him have his way because I was lucky to have the courageous, if a little vain Ali as my servant. He was steadfast and strong, wily like a fox, loyal to his master and familiar with all dialects and customs of the desert nations so that I could rely upon him in any situation. Ali had been recommended to me by the proprietor of the famous Hotel d’Orient in Algiers, had accompanied me from there via Tunisia, Tripoli and Sokna to Fezzan, and was determined also to travel with me to Augilah, Siwah and then on to Cahira. He was truly devoted to me and would probably have accompanied me to Siberia, had such a journey been on my mind.
He puffed himself up in no small measure when he noticed the half shy, half admiring glances that the by-standers cast upon our hunting trophy.
“Do you see the kahshef who is approaching there, sihdi?” he asked me. “Look how the eyes are popping out of his head. Yes, I have a sihdi, a master who is a great taleb and effendi and he is unafraid of Assad the terrifying, the lion! But I, Ali el Hakemi Ebn Abbas Ebn er-Rumi ben Hafs Omar en Nasafi, have received the rifle of the wise sultan Solomon, who spoke with the animals, from the father of my brother and am not even afraid of the black panther who is more dangerous than the lion whom we call abu el salssali!”
I couldn’t help but admire the subtlety, with which he artfully accomplished to place his own courage just above mine, and let him carry on until we got to the house of my host, the Jewish trader and businessman Manasse ben Arahab. I tossed the reins of my horse to Ali and entered my quarters to get changed, then went to find the master of the house. I was curious why I had not encountered any of the servants yet and received a shock when I entered the divan. The honourable Manasse didn’t sit, as he usually did, with crossed legs in the rahat oturmak pose, as the Turks called it, but, instead, he lay outstretched on the cushions with his face buried in them and his hair in disarray.
“As-salaamu alaikum, peace be with you!” I greeted him.
“Salaam—peace? How could there be peace in the house of Ben Arahab, when the fountains cry and the walls wail about…ah, it is you? Praised be God the Almighty for leading you back to the place of the tragedy! Be welcome, effendi, and hear the anguish that has come over us!”
“What has happened?” I asked, shaken by the expression of desperation that I read in his features.
“What has happened? The god of my ancestors has turned his face away from me and took the child who was the greatest happiness on Earth in my old age.”
“Your child! Rahel?” I was stunned. “Has she died?”
“Died? Oh, if only she had, that would have been preferable! I would say thanks to Jehova Elohim that he had at least left me with her grave, above which I could cry my tears and comfort the woman who gave me my only precious child! Why didn’t I stay in Sokna where there are no desert robbers and no murderers of our daughters; why did I move to Murzuk and attempt to increase my wealth by trade with the kaffila! You knew Rahel, the daughter of my heart, the child of my soul and the pride of my life. She was young like Sulamith, beautiful like Bathseba and proud like Judith, the heroine from the city of Bethulia. She was the light of my eyes, the star of my days and the sun of my existence. Now the star is extinguished and the sun has gone down; I will die of a broken heart, like Jacob almost did when Joseph was sold!”
Heavy teardrops streamed down into his grey beard during this genuinely oriental, heartrending outburst. He tried to dry them and continued:
“She painted kohl around her beautiful eyes and donned her golden dress to stroll along outside the eastern gate, the ain el shemms. That’s when two huge riders came with long guns and sharp chandjars, long daggers, pulled her onto the horse and raced away with her into the desert.”
I was just about to ask how long ago that had happened when one of the previously invisible servants entered, bowed humbly down to the ground and announced:
“There is a man in the courtyard who wishes to speak to you, master.”
“I won’t speak—won’t talk—won’t see anyone. Tell them I’ve gone away—tell them I’m dead, I’ve died of a broken heart!”
“I have told him,” the man knew his master very well. “But he wants to talk about a large deal that could be worth many pouches.”
“Large deal—many pouches? What good is a deal and what should I do with the pouches full of money, now that Rahel, my only heiress, has gone! Who is the man?”
“An Arab with a golden clasp on his burnus and silver-inlayed pistols.”
“Golden clasp—silver…? Show him in!”
The sound of the precious metal obviously had the same power over him as his pain. After a few moments, a stranger with a proud and dignified bearing entered.
“As-salaamu alaikum!” he greeted without lowering his head. He was a free son of the desert and came to see a giaur; he the orthodox visited a Jew.
“Peace be with you! What is your name and what do you want from me?”
“My name is as feared as the name of el timsach and you shall hear what I want from you, Manasse ben Arahab!”
He spoke with a confident, deep voice and although he had the end of the turban fabric folded down as a lisham, a veil, I still noticed that his dark eyes keenly observed the room.
“You have a daughter?” he continued.
“A daughter! Do you know her—have you seen her—do you know of her, the one I’ve sent all my servants out to search?” Manasse cried and tensed up.
“Neither your servants nor the bei with his soldiers, the one you went to see, will find her, not even the pasha of Tripoli. Send all your sheitans, your devils out, it will be for naught, because—she is with me!”
“With you?” The Jew jumped up entirely and approached the stranger. “How did you get her and who are you?”
“You are familiar with my name; I am the Kofla Aga.”
“The Kofla Aga!”
Manasse recoiled and even I received a shock. It was the name of the infamous and feared leader of a gum, a robber caravan that appeared here and there, ambushed and destroyed other caravans, whereby the people and animals vanished without a trace. Every trade caravan not accompanied by a substantial military escort, fell prey to the gum. Neither the angry orders of the pasha nor the efforts of the bei had been effective in combating the terrible state of affairs. The deplorable and reckless man stood in front of us and explained that Rahel was in his hands. He had undoubtedly robbed her for a ransom, because Ben Arahab was known as a very rich man.
“Yes, habihb, the Kofla Aga!” he repeated proudly.
“Allah kerihm, God is merciful! What is she doing with you?”
“Do you wish to have her back?”
“Yes, yes—as soon as possible—now, immediately! You found her. You will bring her back — hamdulillah; you’re an honest man!”
“Help him, oh God; he’s delih, gone mad!” the robber mocked. “You shall have her, hale and untouched, as soon as you pay me ten pouches in gold.”
“Pay…?” Manasse flinched away from him as if bitten by an adder. “Then you’ve robbed her? You villain, I’ll have you arrested immediately!”
“You will not do that,” the Kofla Aga retorted with a dismissive gesture. “Because I swear by the beard of the prophet that your child will die if I don’t return by a pre-determined hour! I give you three weeks to gather the pouches, and then I will tell you where to deliver them.”
“Ten pouches of gold! I can’t get that together!”
“Then the girl will become my wife and the wife of my men, Allah knows it, and then she shall die! Now keep your mouth shut. Because the Kofla Aga always keeps an oath he swore by the beard of the prophet. As-salaamu alaikum, peace be with you!”
Without having looked at me once, he left. Distraught Manasse ben Arahab collapsed onto the cushions. Never before had he been offered a worse deal than the one by the man with the golden clasp and the silver-studded pistols.
We were three days into our journey from Murzuk to Augilah. Although I had advised against it, Manasse had gone ahead and fitted out the goods transport caravan, to which Ali and I were attached, and hadn’t waited until the kafilat could merge with a larger one. However, the goods had been expected since a long time and Manasse believed the Kofla Aga was occupied with the prospect of the ten pouches and we didn’t have to fear an attack even though the bei had been unable to give him a protection escort. That was because those of the two hundred and fifty men strong Turkish garrison at Murzuk, intended for that purpose, had already been dispatched into all directions of the compass.
I had a different opinion. It was a certainty that the robber had Ben Arahab’s house watched and, therefore, was bound to find out about the caravan’s departure. Regardless of the situation, I informed the old, loyal shech el djemali, the oldest of the camel drivers, that I would accompany them. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get myself to be afraid of the Arab highwayman and, besides, I had the urge to be of use to my host.
I had seen Rahel often. She was one of those beauties only the Orient could produce. For that reason, and because she originated from Sokna, she was deservedly called ‘the Rose of Sokna’ by the people of Fezzan’s capital. I lost count of how often I had been sitting near her, quietly fascinated by her appearance, how many times I had received the small coffee cup from her hands, how often I had listened to her songs, of which I had made her repeat the Arabic pilgrimage song lubecka Allah hameeh the most!
As I said, we had been on the move for three days and hadn’t noticed anything suspicious. It was the time of assr, the breaking camp and heading off, for all true Arabs, two hours before sunset. I rode my hedjihn at the head of the caravan next to the shech el djemali who told me about the dangers of travelling in the desert, because he took me to be a rhashim, a newcomer, with some justification.
I listened to his superlative depictions, which he delivered with typical oriental mannerism, although I knew that the greatest dangers weren’t to be found in the Libyan Desert but only later in the actual Sahara.
“See the stones lie about here as if the bad djinns, the bad spirits had scattered them, sihdi? They fell from the sky when the archangel fought with the devil, who held onto the walls of Heaven and tore a piece of it down with him.”
“Ama di bacht, what luck that you didn’t stand under it right at that moment, or else no balsam could have helped your skull!”
“Don’t you believe me? Yes, you’re a Nemsi, a German, and no mullah or dervish can help a Nemsi! Once upon a time came the brave uelad Arfa and conquered the wide land. Two sunrises from here…” he pointed south “…some of the wall pieces fell onto the rras, a single mountain; the uelad Arfa built a kasr, a mountain fortress from them; but sheitan, the evil one drove them out. Now the bad djinns live in the castle and those travellers who get too close when they travel through the region will be trapped in tjehenna. In the name of the all-merciful, believe what I tell you; I was told by a devout marabut who is five thousand years old and was present when it happened!”
I made no attempt to set him right and stopped my hedjihn to let the train pass, the rear of which was brought up by my brave Ali. The pack camels only moved slowly; it tired me more than the fast ride on a slim bisharinhedjihn that was capable of covering between fifteen and twenty-five kilometres at a trot, without interruption. My mount was from that excellent breed; therefore I decided to make camp for a while together with Ali to completely soak up the impressions of the overwhelming desert wasteland for once, and then quickly catch up to the caravan again on our agile animals.
“Have you ever heard of el kasr?” I asked my servant after we had dismounted. When the shech had mentioned the ghost castle to me before, a thought surfaced in my mind that could perhaps be justified.
“El kasr, effendi?” he stretched out all ten fingers in a defensive gesture. “Help us, oh Lord, bless us with your mercy, because that is the cursed building over which not even our birds of paradise, the swallows, can fly without plummeting! I have heard of it in Murzuk. Only el budj, the powerful bearded vulture may circle above it because he has to devour the hapless ones who stray off their path and fall prey to the bad djinns.”
“Then you’re afraid of these ghosts?”
“Allah icharkilik, may God burn you to ashes if you believe that I, the invincible Ali el Hakemi Ebn Abbas Ebn er-Rumi ben Hafs Omar en Nasafi run away from a man or an animal! You are a great taleb and effendi, but Allah hu akbar, God is even greater and if you insult me with cowardice, then I leave you lying here and go back to where I came from! But say, who can fight these ghosts?”
“What if those ghosts were people?”
Dear Ali dropped his chin almost to the ground; he couldn’t comprehend in what way a ghost could be human, until I gave him the necessary explanation.
“Be issm Lillahi, sihdi, you are wise like sultan Solomon when he wanted to cut the child in half! But what sort of men would possibly live on el kasr?”
“Perhaps the Kofla Aga with his robbers!”
“The Kofla Aga…the Kofla Aga…the caravan robber?” he repeated a few times to make his ingenuous mind more receptive for the daring thought; then he stretched out on his bast mat and closed is eyes. I knew that he wouldn’t broach the subject again until he had completely digested it.
He only once interrupted his contemplations for a short time when the sun dipped into the ocean of sand. He rose to his knees and exclaimed:
“Now is the time when the call of the mueddihn re-sounds from all the mosques of the faithful: ‘hai aal el sallah!’ Turn away, sihdi, because I wish to wash and look towards Mecca!”
He prayed the prescribed paragraph from the Quran and instead of water, of which there was a dearth of in the desert, scooped up some dry sand and let it run through his fingers. After he finished he returned to his previous position.
I stretched out as well and rolled into my blanket to shield myself as best as possible against the heat that radiated from the sun-drenched ground. While I had earlier decided to follow the caravan after a short rest, I, subsequently, changed my mind and decided to stay where I was because the others would make camp as well in any case and not continue on until daybreak. I would be able to follow their tracks much easier in the morning rather than during the night. Despite the brighter light of the southern stars, I still wasn’t going to be able to see into the distance.
I ordered my hedjihn to lie down; Ali did likewise. A few durrha cakes from pearl millet and water from our kirba, the small goat skin water bags for the personal daily rations, made up our frugal evening meal, after which we sought to go to sleep. The spacious distances of the oceans and the wide plains of the American prairies or savannahs, pampas and llanos have much in common with the extensive plateaus of the desert, however, the oceans and prairies didn’t create an impression of desolation, loneliness and hopelessness such as the Sahara did, of which Freiligrath so aptly said: “It lies before God with its emptiness like the empty fist of a beggar.” The farther away from human contact someone was the more overwhelming that impression became; it gave the feeling of being tossed into a deadly forlornness and oblivion, like a tiny grain of sand into the unfathomable ocean of rock and rubble where the grin of the ugly mask of death continuously surrounded the daring traveller.
I shut my eyes. The last dying glows of daylight kept burning behind the closed lids, and I only slowly fell into an uneasy slumber that conjured up jumbled images of Ali, Rahel, the Kofla Aga, the old shech el djemali and el kasr the ghost fortress with el budj, the mighty bearded vulture, as well as the little thiuhr el djinne that fell dead from the sky. I even witnessed the wall of Heaven plunge and shatter together with the devil who was clinging to it, and tossed back and forth until deeper sleep mercifully engulfed me shortly before sunrise.
It didn’t last long because Ali’s voice woke me. He knelt, faced east and prayed al-Fatiha, the dawn prayer no good Muslim would miss.
After we ate a few mouthfuls of durrha cake and drank a little water, we broke camp. Anyone who had tracked buffalo, bear or Indians in the Wild West of North America, didn’t find it hard to read the tracks of the caravan on the gravel-covered ground. Yet I recognized that it was going to be obliterated within a short time.
We would have gone almost two kilometres when we reached the place where they had obviously camped. The ground formed an almost circular, small, plate-shaped enclosure that consisted of fine sand and was framed by lar-ger boulders. To my surprise, it contained an unusually large number of footprints, which caught my attention.
I dismounted to inspect the conspicuous tracks. Great confusion, perhaps even a fight, albeit a bloodless one, had caused them.
I looked for clues and found one that gave me complete clarity: a kofla of almost twenty animals had sneaked up from the south, ambushed our caravan while the people were asleep, and had then taken them away in the same direction. No sign had been left behind, not even a camel halter, a tent peg, strap, not even the tie of a rauie, a pack frame, or of an old serdj; no trace of the crime was going to be left behind after the alternating gebli and behari, the south and north winds had wiped out the footprints.
“Ali, are you really as loyal to me as you always say you are?”
“Why do you ask, oh sihdi? I am as loyal to you as the drop to the water and the warmth to the fire!”
“And you go with me where I lead you?”
“Hamdulillah, I have found you, the good effendi from Nemsistan that you call Germany. You are the best master of all blad el rumi, Europe and I am the best servant in mehr, mogreb el ausath and mogreb el aksa, which to you means Egypt and North Africa. Why should I not follow you? I’ll go to the end of the world with you and a thousand days’ travel farther!”
“Even to the Kofla Aga, Ali?”
“Even to him, if you wish. What’s so special about that? He lives here in the bahr billa ma, in the ocean without water, the desert!”
“He lives on el kasr.”
“Do you know that precisely, effendi?”
“Yes. He was here with his kofla and took our caravan with him to his ghost castle. There, he will murder the men and keep the animals and goods.”
“God damn the dog! Shall I go there and tear him apart, sihdi?”
“Did you know Manasse ben Arahab?”
“Why shouldn’t I? Didn’t I eat the best cuscus in his place?”
“And have you ever seen Rahel, his daughter?”
“I have seen her. She has eyes like leikum saaide and her fingers are full of grace and kindness. But she has disappeared. I believe a bad djinn became mesmerized by her and has carried her away through the air.”
“Yes, it was a bad djinn, not one of those you’re talking about, but one of flesh and blood. His name is Kofla Aga.”
“The Kofla Aga? Who told you, effendi?”
“I know it. He has imprisoned her on el kasr.”
“Imprisoned? Sihdi, I know someone who will go there and free her!”
“Who is that?”
“His name is Ali el Hakemi Ebe Abbas Ebe er-Rumi ben Hafs Omar en Nasafi.”
“Are you serious, Ali?”
“Do you believe I wish to joke around with the Kofla Aga?”
“Very well then, I’ll go, too. Many men’s lives are at stake as well as the freedom of Ben Arahab’s daughter. If you do as I tell you, the reward the bei of Fezzan has put on the Kofla Aga’s head is yours. Let’s follow the trail!”
“Be issm Lillahi, sihdi, but permit me first that I pray al-Fatiha. Allah helps those who turn to him when they are in danger!”
He knelt in the saddle on top of his calm animal, faced the sunrise and prayed the first verse of the Quran as prescribed to all faithful before an important undertaking. Following that, I urged my bisharinhedjihn to stride out in order for us to reach the ghost castle as soon as possible.
We had travelled south for almost two days. Our small rations and water reserves, which had only been calculated to last a day, dwindled away despite our frugality and it was getting time for us to reach the destination of our ride.
If anybody imagined the desert to consist only of a large, sand-filled plain, he was mistaken. The sharply defined, fantastic contours of a mountain chain rose in front of us and the trail we followed led between the foothills. It had gradually become more defined, hour upon hour, and we were just about to turn a rocky corner when Ali stopped his animal and with the customary ‘e—o—a!’ gave the command for it to lie down. I followed his example immediately; he had to have good reasons for wanting to remain hidden.
“Allah kerihm, God is merciful! Can you see the gum there, sihdi?”
I looked along the direction his outstretched arm indicated. Before us lay a broad valley surrounded by steeply rising mountainsides; precisely opposite our position, about three quarters of an hour’s ride away rose a peculiar stone structure on top of a mountain. A long file of riders headed directly towards it. I looked through my telescope and recognized our caravan, flanked and led by the robbers, and watched it gradually disappeared inside the old, collapsed gate. We hastily devised a plan. We had to stay out of sight and, therefore, needed to ride around the open valley.
“Back, Ali; that’s el kasr; we must reach it by a detour!”
We were forced to follow a terrible route, but had to hurry if we wanted to reach our destination before nightfall. Our race went through narrow side valleys and one wild, naked gorge after another, and then across jagged ridges as if we were chased towards the ghost castle by a thousand djinns. It really was a rash undertaking; but, as I said earlier, I couldn’t get myself to be afraid of the Kofla Aga, and truth be told, I looked forward to the adventure ahead of us and relied completely upon our excellent weapons and my good luck, which had thus far not abandoned me even in the most critical of circumstances. I could also count absolutely upon Ali’s courage. When he found out that people, not ghosts, inhabited the castle, it had lost its hold of terror over him completely.
We rode into a narrow wadi, the bottom of which was covered with dry, razor-sharp halfa grass. There had to be water nearby, and there was; when we followed the bend of the valley, the much sought-after element glistened its greeting at us. It was a birket, a rare, small desert lake. They held water only for a short time, and then remained empty and dry for the rest of the year.
But I also noticed something else: we had arrived at el kasr. The wadi had a side arm, only a few metres wide but its cliffs rose almost vertically up to the castle walls. We couldn’t be spotted from above especially because of the steep angle and rode into the gorge. We hadn’t gone far when Ali pointed into the air and whispered:
“Can you see el budj the great bearded vulture with his wife and children, effendi?”
An entire flock of vulture had taken to the sky above us and a few steps farther along we found the ground of the gorge covered in gnawed and bleached bones. They were human bones—I shuddered at the thought—and, undoubtedly, the remains of the hapless camel drivers who had been captured in the desert, led to el kasr, and then sent plum-meting to their deaths into the chasm. That’s why folklore told of el budj, the mighty bearded vulture, which circled above the ghost fortress!
The birds could reveal our presence; we had to wait until they settled back down again. I led my animal to a cleft I had noticed in the cliff wall, dismounted and was just about to inspect the opening when a man walked out who held two kirba in his hands. He was obviously on his way to fetch some water from the birket. I grabbed him by the throat immediately and squeezed it so that he couldn’t call out and a minute later he lay tightly bound on the ground. Then I held the tip of my dagger onto his chest.
“Listen, ja radjal, to what I tell you: if you try to resist, or utter even one single word of a lie, this steel will send you down into tjehenna! The Kofla Aga lives on el kasr?”
“Yes, sihdi,” he moaned full of fear.
“He has Rahel, Manasse ben Arahab’s daughter with him?”
“This cleft leads to the castle?”
“How many men are up there?”
He hesitated with his answer, but a tickle with the blade helped him along.
“Where is the aga at present?”
“In his divan, his best room.”
“And the others.”
“With the loot.”
“All of them?”
“Not far from here.”
“Swear by the head of the prophet that you told me the truth!”
“Get up and show me the way. If you obey, nothing will happen to you; but if you make the slightest attempt at betraying us, you’re lost! Where are the prisoners?”
“Good. Climb ahead of us!”
I grabbed the rope, the other end of which held his hands tied behind his back. After Ali had tethered the camels, we stepped into the cleft. The Arab was unarmed. Ali and I carried a dagger, a double-barreled gun and two double pistols each. In addition, I carried two six-shooter revolvers, all loaded. The cleft led straight into the rock initially, and then gradually upwards. The inhabitants of the castle had helped it along and turned it into a passable corridor.
By my reckoning, we had arrived at the top of the cliff. I heard voices. We reached a door, cautiously stepped closer and took a peek into the room behind it. I immediately recognized it as the storage area of the robbed goods. It was filled almost to the ceiling with bales of merchandise and articles of the most diverse nature, such as a caravan would haul. In the dim flickering light of camel dung torches, I counted over twenty men, some of whom were busy and some were idle. I threw the heavy ancient door shut and placed the surely unbreakable, wall-anchored bolts across it. Luck was on my side: the gang of the Kofla Aga was captured.
“Show me the men who arrived a short time ago!” I ordered the Arab.
He climbed a few more steps and then stopped in front of another door. I handed the rope to Ali, and then oriented myself in the dark. There were also heavy bolts in place. I opened them.
“As-salaamu alaikum, you people! Step outside, you’re free!”
“Hamdulillah! Is it really you, sihdi?” the old shech el djemali exclaimed with joy.
“It sure is. I wanted to see for myself whether or not the five-thousand-year-old marabut had told you the truth, and then I caught the bad djinns.”
I led him and half of his people to the door of the store-room and handed the responsibility of guarding it to him: I continued to follow our Arab leader together with the other half.
We finally stepped out into daylight.
“Lubecka Allah hameeh!” I heard a familiar song and voice straight above us. It was Rahel.
“Where is the aga’s divan?” I asked the Arab.
“Walk up these steps and through two rooms; you will find him in the third!”
“Follow me and wait in front of the door!” I directed Ali.
The short dusk of the south had already fallen when I stepped into the divan, but I was still able to recognize the splendour with which the room in the old ruin had been fitted out. The Kofla Aga sat on a precious Beni-Snassen carpet, woven by the women of Berbers in East Morocco, which must have weighed at least two hundred kilograms, was engrossed in smoking his narghile, and hadn’t noticed my approach.
“As-salaamu alaikum!” I greeted. “Has the caravan robber gone deaf that he didn’t hear my footsteps?”
He jumped up at the sound of the unexpected voice and rushed up to me. He obviously recognized me and reached for the yatagan, a Turkish curved sword.
“Allah akbar. Who has led you from Murzuk to el kasr, stranger, and how did you get here unnoticed?”
“I’ve come to fetch Rahel, Manasse ben Arahab’s daughter.”
“She isn’t here. Have you got the ten pouches?”
“She is here, you father of murder and robbery, the pouches are in Murzuk.”
“Then go and get them!”
“Bah! You will not let me leave here because the den of the Kofla Aga would then be revealed, but, instead, you will have me thrown off the cliff just like all the others!”
“By the beard of the prophet, giaur, you’re correct! Give me your weapons!”
“You shall have a look at them!” I pulled the revolver. He had, in all likelihood, not seen one of those small instruments before.
“Are you trying to make fun of me? I swear to you by Muhammad and all holy caliphs that you will die if you don’t put down your weapons immediately!”
“And I swear to you by Isa ben Marryam, the one we call Jesus, the son of Mary, that I will smash your hand if you don’t immediately throw your blade on the ground!”
“Then die, kelb, you dog!”
He lunged at me; I pulled the trigger—he dropped his hand and the sword rattled to the ground. Immediately, he picked it up with his left and kept coming at me with a furious yell. I pulled the trigger a second time; his left hand was hit as well and he collapsed.
“Amahl, amahl, Ali, come her!” I shouted. The loyal ser-vant rushed into the room and threw himself onto the injured man who writhed under his clinch like a wounded panther. It didn’t help him. The freed camel drivers rushed up as well. The Kofla Aga was overpowered and bound.
Once again we rode into Murzuk. We had only taken the Kofla Aga along, the leader of the robber gang, while his men had remained on el kasr, guarded by the camel drivers who had stayed at the castle for that purpose. The soldiers of the bei were going to pick up the rest of the gum.
The ‘robber of caravans’ was firmly tied onto his camel and rode between Ali and the old, brave shech el djemali; I followed behind them together with Rahel, who excitedly greeted the fragrant gardens of the city from within the tachterwan. The booty we brought the second time around was more precious than the skin of abu el salssali, which had graced Ali’s horse on our previous arrival. My servant was proud of our catch in no small measure and came to my side when we reached the first houses.
“Sihdi, do you see the fundukih, the guesthouse owner standing in his doorway and how he is curious about our prisoner? You are a great effendi and taleb; but your servant Ali Hakemi Ebn Abbas Ebn er-Rumi ben Hafs Omar en Nasafi held the Kofla Aga down, and then bound him like el thibb, the cowardly jackal, or el tabaa, the stinking hyena. He is a brave hero and will get the bei to pay him the reward — tefattelan, if you don’t mind!”
published by Karl May in 1879.