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What Befell Mr. Middleton Because Of The Eighth And Last Gift Of The Emir
by [?]

Getting into the hack and settling into the sole remaining vacant space Mesrour had left in loading the vehicle with the emir’s gifts, Mr. Middleton was so preoccupied by a gloomy dejection as he reflected that a most agreeable, not to say inspiring and educating, intimacy was at last ended, that he reached his lodgings and had begun to unload his new possessions, before he thought of the odalisque. There lay the coffee sack lengthwise on the front seat and partially reclining against the side of the carriage. He was greatly surprised at the size of the unknown creature and began to surmise that it was an anthropoid ape, though before his speculations had ranged from parrots through dogs to domesticated leopards. Leaving the coffee sack until the last, he gingerly seized the slack of the top of the bag and proceeded to pull it upon his shoulders, taking care to avoid holding the creature where it could kick or struggle effectually, for despite all the emir had told him of the gentleness of the odalisque, he was resolved to take no chances. Whatever the creature was, she had slid down, forming a limp lump at the end of the bag, when he charily deposited it on the floor and turned to consult his dictionary before untying it. He was going to know what the creature was before he dealt with her further, a creature so large as that.

Odalisque. A slave or concubine in a Mohammedan harem!!

A woman!!!

Mr. Middleton tore at the string by which the bag was tied, full of the keenest self-reproach. The uncomfortable position during the long ride, the worse position in which she now lay. The knots refused to budge and snatching a knife, with a mighty slashing, he ripped the bag all away and disclosed the slender form of a woman crouched, huddled, collapsed, face downward, head upon her knees. Turning her over and supporting her against his breast in a sitting posture, Mr. Middleton looked upon the most loveliness, unhappiness, and helplessness he had ever beheld.

For a moment his heart almost stopped as he looked into the still face, but he saw the bosom faintly flutter, slow tears oozed out from under the long lashes of the closed lids, and the cupid’s bow mouth gave little twitches of misery and hopelessness. With what exquisite emotions was he filled as he looked down upon the head pillowed upon his breast, with what sentiments of anger, with what noble chivalry!

A Moslem woman. A Moslem woman, who even in the best estate of her sex as free and a wife, goes to her grave like a dog, with no hope of a life beyond, unless her husband amid the joys of Paradise should turn his thoughts back to earth and wish for her there among his houris. But this poor sweet flower had not even this faint expectation, for she was no wife nor could be, slave of a Mohammedan harem. No rights in this world nor the next. Not even the attenuated rights which law and custom gave the free woman. No sustaining dream of a divine recompense for the unmerited unhappiness of this existence. A slave, a harem slave, wanted only when she smiled, was gay, and beautiful; who must weep alone and in silence, in silence, with never a sympathetic shoulder to weep upon after they sold her from her mother’s side. Tied in a bag, going she knew not whither, thrown in a carriage like so much carrion, in these indignities she only wept in silence, for her lord, the man, must not be discomposed. Like the timorous, helpless wild things of the woods whose joys and sorrows must ever be voiceless lest the bloody tyrants of their domain come, who even in the crunch of death hold silence in their weak struggles, this poor young thing bore her sufferings mutely, for her lord, the man, must not be discomposed, choking her very breath lest a sob escape. Mr. Middleton, in a certain illuminating instinct which belongs to women but only occasionally comes to some men, saw all this in a flash without any pondering and turning over and reflecting and comparing, and he said to himself under his breath, not eloquently, but well, as there came home to him the heinousness of that abhorrant social system dependent upon the religious system of the Prophet of Mecca, “Damn the emir and Mohammed and the whole damned Mohammedan business, kit and boodle!”