Mustapha Ali, the youth whose portrait is given in the frontispiece, in illustration of his national costume, was brought to England by Colonel Stanhope, on his return from Greece. His life though short, has been eventful, and his character is strongly illustrative, even at the early age of ten years, of that semi-barbarous state of morals and society which characterizes the half Europeanised Asiatics who have for many ages oppressed the south-eastern extremity of the most civilised portion of the globe.
The father of Mustapha was a Turk, who commanded a small district in the neighbourhood of Argos previously to the Greek revolution; at an early period of which, he, together with his wife and the whole of his family, with the exception of this boy, fell victim to the fury of the enfranchised Greeks. Mustapha Ali alone escaped this dreadful scene of retributive vengeance, to encounter a course of life that which death itself is almost more desirable. Like a dog he prowled about naked for subsistence, and was kicked or fondled as caprice dictated, and constantly half-starved and destitute of home. From Argos he followed in the suite of a traveller to Salona, where he again led a similar life to that which he had previously been subjected to. In the summer he laid up and down in the streets, and found refuge for the nights, during the winter, in an oven, which became his favourite dormitory. The menial slave of servants, he performed for them the dirty work which they loathed to undertake; and although still naked and craving with hunger, the little Turk contrived to make himself agreeable to the Greeks by his good humour and his fun.
At this time Captain Humphries, happening to pass by Salona, saw Ali, and took a liking to him. He clothed the little orphan, and took him into his suite, of which he quickly became the life and spirit. Released from the state of destitution in which he had been plunged, the gaiety of the boy became greater than ever. Sometimes he rode on a mule at the top of the trunks, sometimes he walked for seven or eight hours together over the mountains; but whatever mode of travelling he chose to adopt he was always at the head of the cavalcade, singing, dancing, mimicking, and laughing at every thing and at every body.
When Colonel Stanhope was recalled by the British government, he offered to take charge of Ali, to which Captain Humphries consented with much reluctance. During his stay in the quarantine house at Zante, Ali became very partial to the little Turkish girl whom Lord Byron had adopted as a companion to his beloved Ada
*. On her restoration to her father, Ali was very sorrowful and disconsolate, and wept for her absence for many days. The same grief was felt on the departure of his former master for Argos; and days after he was gone, Ali would burst into tears whenever he saw any thing that put him in mind of his protector; on one occasion in particular, when on board ship, he was seen in a retired place weeping bitterly over an embroidered handkerchief which had been given him by Captain Humphries.
On his arrival in England Ali was dreadfully alarmed lest he should be slaughtered as soon as he landed, and was most anxious to have been allowed to remain on board. This request could not be complied with, and when, on his coming to shore, he was ordered to mount the the stage coach, a kind of conveyance which he had never previously seen, with a precaution indispensable in the country he had so recently quitted, he seated himself on top of of one his master's trunks and put his legs upon the other, nor could he be induced to quit his post, lest the property should be stolen. His notions of property are far from precise, and he may well be pardoned for suspecting others of that propensity to plunder which formed so marked a feature in the character of those among which his earlier years had been passed.
Ali now attends the Lancasterian School in Borough Road, where he acquits himself so well as to bring home a daily card of merit. He was at first very desirous to have been admitted into the girls' school but the directors refused, of course, to allow the young Turk to associate with their female pupils. He will not, however, allow that his parents were Turks; it is, indeed, an unpardonable offence to him to be called a Turk, or even to apply to him his prænomen of Mustapha. He hates the Turks; he hates also to have his turban touched; and a gentleman having one day made an effort to take it off, the little barbarian drew his pistol, and raved on account of its not being loaded. His general habits and attachments are military, and he is conversant with the use of arms. On one occasion, when no one could fire a pistol which was out of order, Ali, after repeated trials, rubbed the flint and pan with sulphur and succeeded in discharging it. He is very fond of dancing which he performs in a manner resembling that of the Ancient Greeks, deviating only by firing off his pistols while he twirls. He has also a taste for music and singing, and he is an admirable mimic.
It is, however, of more importance to his future well-doing, and to his present character, to state that he is most faithful and obedient to his master's orders. He may indeed be regarded upon the whole as a clever boy, full of talent and feeling, alloyed by pride, obstinacy, revenge, and sundry other vices of his caste.
« Older 'A site dedicated to songs about London. The only... | Truckin' My Blues Away is an h... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments