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Dixie Pasha

by Thomas P. Byron.

THE faith of an Arab is endless, so they believed him; for he had a pale luster in his eye that might have been the fire of the desert moonlight on the nights that he had watched and prayed alone in the mountains, and his voice had a deep, tremulous sob that made the flesh of men quiver and their hearts to burn. These were his words:

"I bear the name of the Prophet and I am a Hadgi of the brotherhood of the Derkaoua. For seven years have I lived alone in abstinence and prayer on the mountain called the Ksar of the Spirits where many among you have seen me. There I have spoken with Allah, who is the one God, and with Mohammed, who is His Prophet.

"I bring to the children of Islam the message that they shall repent from their sins and smite the Roumi and drive him from the land even as far as Ain-Sefra where they must tarry until Allah the one God and Mohammed His Prophet make known their further will through me—Mohammed Jebbour.

"Such is the command of the Most High, and in His name I proclaim the Holy War. There is no God but God, and Mohammed is His Prophet."

It was in the month of Ramadan of the thirteen-hundred and twenty-sixth year of the Hegira that Mohammed Jebbour preached the jehad in the oasis of Bou-Denib by the River Guir in the heart of Morocco.

The Moors believed; for it was written that a prophet should come out of the wilderness to lead Islam to its own again, and his words fanned to a blaze the fanaticism and lust for spoil that smoldered in their breasts. So the word went through the desert on the wings of the sirocco, and the oases sent their men to Bou-Denib—even from the farthest ksars of Tafilet. And all who heard believed, for Mohammed Jebbour was an orator, and they gave him gold and fast camels with silken palanquins and stallions whose manes and tails swept the ground, and they raked the desert over for beauty for his harem—and "Bel-hakk" the Holy One was well paid for the seven years of fast that he had spent in the Djebel-Roh praying to Allah for the sins and sons of Islam.

The news came to the outlying oasis of Oudaghir, and the Ouled Abdul Kerin, stalwart desert-robbers who preyed on the caravans of all—even the Roumi and the phantom Touareg, sent a hundred men on swift meharis to fight for the true faith and for spoil.

And these, pushing haughtily through the faithful to the very feet of the Hadgi, heard and believed also.

Among them was a very tall, very black negro whose face was scarred by four deep scratches that ran the length of it, just missing both eyes, and as this one heard the passionate sob of Mohammed Jebbour's voice and saw the moonlight in his eye, his imagination blazed within him and set strange little pulses to beating in his throat and the roof of his mouth—just as would have happened had he listened to the words of a Haytian voodoo-doctor or a West Coast gree-gree man or an exhorter at a Georgia camp-meeting.

Then he went forth from the mosque and lay under the palms by the Oued Guir and dreamed, and presently he gathered the men of Oudaghir about him and spoke to them long and eloquently. And when the dawn broke they were gone, and their caravan was like a string of black ants on the flaming eastern horizon. Surely what was written was written, and Allah and Mohammed had settled the thing once and for all, and the scar-faced negro was as fanatical a believer as any. But one can not forget ten years in the Twenty-Fifth U. S. Infantry—even in the great Sahara.

This was in the days when one French column was at Casablanca, and another marched on Fey from Northern Oran, and still another advanced on Bou-Denib from Colomb-Bechar where ends the railway that some day will reach to Tomboctou.

II

AN ADVANCE-GUARD had seized the wells at daybreak and given the Ait-Usilt warning, and at ten both wells and the pools in the oued were sucked dry. All the moisture of the poor little oasis had been but a drop in the bucket for such a host—six thousand men, the horses of the cavalry, and the countless camels of the caravan that bore their provender and munitions of war. By noon the Ait-Usilt had swept the village clean of their belongings, and their tiny caravan had commenced to creep away to where the oasis of their brothers, the Beni-Garfa, lay in a tremulous green blur against the sand-dunes that were flung across the horizon like a polished string of flashing topaz. There they could find water and refuge until the plague had passed by and the wells had filled again.

A company of Zouaves guarded the water and were encamped beside the dried riverbed a half-m...

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