Marjorie May, A
Woman by Evelyn
How perfectly delightful! Just fancy riding along those lovely
sands, and seeing real live Bedouins on their horses or camels! I
declare I see camels padding along now! I wish it wouldn't get dark so
fast. But the city will look lovely when the moon is up.
Is it quite safe? asked a lady passenger, eager for the proposed
excursion, but a little timid in such strange surroundings. For Mogador
seemed like the ends of the earth to her. She had never been for a sea
Oh, yes; safe enough, or Captain Taylor would never have arranged
it. Of course, it might not be safe to go quite alone; but a party
togetherwhy, it's as safe as Regent Street.
What is this excursion they are all talking about? asked Marjorie
May, who had been standing apart in the bow of the boat, trying to dash
in the effect of the sunset lights upon the solemn, lonely African
mountains, with the white city sleeping on the edge of the sea,
surrounded by its stretch of desert. It was too dark for further
sketching, and the first bell had sounded for dinner. She joined the
group of passengers, eagerly discussing the proposed jaunt for the
morrow. Several voices answered her.
Oh, the captain is going to arrange a sort of picnic for us
to-morrow. We have all day in harbour, you know, and part of the next.
So to-morrow we are to go ashore and take donkeys, and ride out along
the shore there for several miles, to some queer place or other, where
they will arrange lunch for us; and we can wander about and see the
place, and get back on board in time for dinner; and next day we can
see the town. That only takes an hour or so. We leave after lunch, but
it will give plenty of time.
I think the town sounds more interesting than the donkey-rides,
said Marjorie. I had not time to sketch in Tangiers, except just a few
figures dashed off anyhow. I must make some studies of the Arabs and
Nubians and Bedouins here. I shan't get another chance. This is the
last African port we stop at.
Oh, I daresay you'll have plenty of time for sketching, answered
her cabin companion to whom she had spoken; but I wouldn't miss the
ride if I were you. It'll be quite a unique experience.
The dinner-bell rang, and the company on board the Oratava
took their seats in the pleasant upper deck saloon, where there was
fresh air to be had, and glimpses through the windows of the darkening
sky, the rising moon and brightening stars.
Marjorie's next-door neighbours were, on one side, the lady whose
cabin she shared, on the other a Mr. Stuart, with whom she waged a
frequent warfare. He was an experienced traveller, whilst she was quite
inexperienced; and sometimes he had spoken to her with an air of
authority which she resented, had nipped in the bud some pet project of
hers, or had overthrown some cherished theory by the weight of his
knowledge of stern facts.
But he had been to Mogador before, and Marjorie condescended
to-night to be gracious and ask questions. She was keenly interested in
what she heard. There was a Jewish quarter in the city as well as the
Arab one. There was a curious market. The whole town was very curious,
being all built in arcades and squares. It was not the least like
Tangiers, he told her, which was the only African town Marjorie had yet
visited. This cruise of the Oratava had been a little
unfortunate. The surf had been so heavy along the coast, that the
passengers had not been able to land at any port of call since leaving
Tangiers. They had had perforce to remain upon the vessel whilst cargo
was being taken on and shipped off. But the sea had now calmed down.
The restless Atlantic was quieting itself. The vessel at anchor in the
little harbour scarcely moved. The conditions were all favourable for
good weather, and the passengers were confident of their pleasure trip
on the morrow.
As Marjorie heard Mr. Stuart's description of the old townone of
the most ancient in Africashe was more and more resolved not to waste
precious moments in a stupid donkey-ride across the desert. Of course
it would be interesting in its way; but she had had excellent views of
the desert at several ports, whereas the interior of the old city was a
thing altogether new.
I suppose it's quite a safe place? she asked carelessly; and Mr.
Stuart answered at once:
Oh, yes, perfectly safe. There are several English families living
in it. I lived there a year once. Of course, a stranger lady would not
walk about there alone; she might get lost in the perplexing arcades,
and Arab towns are never too sweet or too suitable for a lady to go
about in by herself. But I shall go and look up my friends there. It's
safe enough in that sense.
Marjorie's eyes began to sparkle under their long lashes. A plan was
fermenting in her brain.
I think I shall spend my day there sketching, she said.
All right; only you mustn't be alone, answered Mr. Stuart in his
rather imperious way. You'd better take Colquhoun and his sister along
with you. They're artists, and he knows something of the language and
the ways of the Arabs.
A mutinous look came over Marjorie's face. She was not going to join
company with Mr. and Miss Colquhoun any more. She had struck up a
rather impulsive friendship with them at the outset of the voyage, but
now she could not bear them. It was not an exceptional experience with
her. She was eager to be friends with all the world; but again and
again she discovered that too promiscuous friendship was not always
wise. It had been so in this case, and Mr. Colquhoun had gone too far
in some of his expressions of admiration. Marjorie had discovered that
his views were much too lax to please her. She had resolved to have
very little more to do with them for the future. To ask to join them on
the morrow, even if they were going sketching, was a thing she could
not and would not condescend to.
No, her mind was quickly made up. It was all nonsense about its not
being safe. Why, there were English families and agents living in the
place, and she would never be silly and lose herself or her head. She
would land with the rest. There were about five-and-twenty passengers,
and all of them would go ashore, and most would probably go for the
donkey-ride into the desert. But she would quietly slip away, and
nobody would be anxious. Some would think she had gone with the
Colquhouns, who always sketched, or perhaps with Mr. Stuart, who had
taken care of her in Tangiers. She was an independent member of
societynobody's especial charge. In the crowded streets of an Arab
town nothing would be easier than to slip away from the party soon
after landing; and then she would have a glorious day of liberty,
wandering about, and making her own studies and sketches, and joining
the rest at the appointed time, when they would be going back to the
So Marjorie put her paints and sketching pad up, provided herself
with everything needful, and slept happily in her narrow berth, eagerly
waiting for the morrow, when so many new wonders would be revealed.
The morning dawned clear and fair, and Marjorie was early on deck,
watching with delight the beautiful effects of light as the sun rose
over the solemn mountains and lighted up the wide, lonely desert
wastes. She could see the caravans of camels coming citywards, could
watch the sunbeams falling upon the white walls, domes, and flat roofs
of the ancient town. She watched the cargo boats coming out with their
loads, and the familiar rattle of the steam crane and the shouts of the
men were in her ears. The deck was alive with curious forms of Arabs
come to display their wares. A turbaned man in one of the boats below
was eagerly offering a splendid-looking, sable-black Nubian for sale,
and Mr. Colquhoun was amusing himself by chaffering as though he meant
to buy, which he could have done for the sum of eight pounds; for there
is a slave market yet in Mogador, where men and women are driven in
like cattle to be bought and sold.
A duck had escaped from the steward's stores and was triumphantly
disporting himself in the green water. The steward had offered a reward
of half a dozen empty soda-water bottles to the person who would
recapture the bird, and two boats were in hot pursuit, whilst little
brown Arab boys kept diving in to try to swim down the agile duck, who,
however, succeeded in dodging them all with a neatness and sense of
humour that evoked much applause from the on-lookers. Marjorie heard
afterwards that it took three hours to effect the capture, and that at
least a dozen men or boys had taken part in it, but the reward offered
had amply contented them for their time and trouble.
Breakfast was quickly despatched that morning. Marjorie was almost
too excited to eat. She was full of delightful anticipations of a
romantic, independent day. Mr. Stuart's voice interrupted the pleasant
current of her thoughts.
Would you like to come with me, Miss May? My friends would be very
pleased, I am sure. We could show you the town, and you would be sure
of a good lunch. He added the last words a little mischievously,
because Marjorie was often annoyed at the persistent way in which
people made everything subservient to meals. A bit of bread and a few
dates or an orange seemed to her quite sufficient sustenance between a
ship's breakfast and dinner.
But such a commonplace way of spending a day was not in the least in
accord with Marjorie's views. She thought she knew exactly what it
would be like to go with Mr. Stuarta hurried walk through the town,
an introduction to a family of strangers, who would wish her anywhere
else, the obligation to sit still in a drawing-room or on a verandah
whilst Mr. Stuart told all the news from England, and then the
inevitable lunch, with only time for a perfunctory examination of the
city. She would not have minded seeing one of the houses where the
English families lived, but she could not sacrifice her day just for
Oh, thank you, but I have made my plans, she answered quickly; I
must do some sketching. I've not done half as much as I intended when I
started. I am a professional woman, you know, Mr. Stuart; I can't amuse
myself all day like you.
This was Marjorie's little bit of revenge for some of Mr. Stuart's
remarks to her at different times, when she had chosen to think that he
was making game of her professional work.
Marjorie was not exactly dependent upon her pencil and brush. She
had a small income of her own; but she would not have been able to live
as she did, or to enjoy the occasional jaunts abroad in which her soul
delighted, had it not been that she had won for herself a place as
illustrator upon one or two magazines. This trip was taken partly with
a view to getting new subjects for the illustration of a story, a good
deal of which was laid abroad and in the East. An Eastern tour was
beyond Marjorie's reach; but she had heard of these itinerary trips by
which for the modest sum of twenty guineas, she could travel as a
first-class passenger and see Gibraltar, Tangiers, several African
ports, including Mogador, the Canary Islands, and Madeira, and be back
again in London within the month. She was a good sailor, and even the
Bay had no terrors for her; so she had enjoyed herself to the full the
whole time. But she had not done as much work upon Arab subjects as she
had hoped, and she was resolved not to let this day be wasted.
Mr. Stuart would have offered advice; but Marjorie was in one of her
contrary moods, and was afraid of his ending by joining her, and
sacrificing his own day for her sake. She had a vaguely uneasy feeling
that what she intended to do would not be thought quite proper, and
that Mr. Stuart would disapprove rather vehemently. She was quite
resolved not to allow Mr. Stuart's prejudices to influence her. What
was he to her that she should care for his approval or good opinion?
After the conclusion of the voyage she would never see him again. She
never wanted to, she said sometimes to herself, rather angrily; he was
an interfering kind of autocratic man, for whom she felt a considerable
dislikeand yet, somehow, Marjorie was occasionally conscious that she
thought more about Mr. Stuart than about all the rest of the passengers
It was very interesting getting off in the boats, and being rowed to
the city by the shouting, gesticulating Arabs. Marjorie liked the
masterful way of the captain and ship's officers with these dusky
denizens of the desert. They seemed to be so completely the lords of
creation, yet were immensely popular with the swarms of natives, who
hung about the ship the whole time she was in harbour. The quay was
alive with picturesque figures as they approached; but they did not
land there. They passed under an archway into a smaller basin, and were
rowed across this to another landing-place, where the same swarms of
curious spectators awaited them.
Marjorie's fingers were itching after brush and pencil. Everything
about her seemed a living picture, but for the moment she was forced to
remain with her fellow-passengers; and Mr. Stuart walked beside her,
vainly offering to carry her impedimenta.
No, thank you, answered Marjorie briskly; I like to have my own
things myself. I am not used to being waited on. Besides, you are going
to your friends. Oh, what a curious place! what big squares! And it's
so beautifully clean too! Call Arab towns dirty? Why, there's no dirt
anywhere; and oh, look at those people over yonder! What are they
Washing their clothes by treading on them. They always chant that
sort of sing-song whilst they are trampling them in the water. That is
the custom-house yonder, where they are taking the cargo we have just
sent off. Now we must go through the gate, and so into the town; but
you will find it all like thisone square or arcade leading into
another by gateways at the end. That's the distinguishing feature of
Mogador, and you will find some of them pretty dirty, though it's more
dust than mud this time of year.
Marjorie was enchanted by everything she saw. She only wished Mr.
Stuart would take himself off, for she saw no chance of slipping away
unobserved if he were at her side. Luckily for her, a young man came
hurriedly to meet them from somewhere in the opposite direction, and,
greeting Mr. Stuart with great effusion, carried him off forthwith,
whilst Marjorie hurried along after the rest of the party.
But they had no intention of exploring the wonderful old town that
day. They turned into a little side street, where there was nothing
particular to see, but where, outside the agent's office, a number of
donkeys were waiting. Marjorie caught hold of Miss Craven, her cabin
companion, and said hastily:
I'm not going this ride; I don't care for being jolted on a donkey,
with only a pack of straw for a saddle and a rope for a bridle. I must
get some sketches done. The Colquhouns are going to sketch. I can find
them if I want. Don't let anybody bother about me. I'll join you in
time to go back to the boat at five.
Well, take care of yourself, said Miss Craven, and don't wander
about alone, for it's a most heathenish-looking place. But you will be
all right with the Colquhouns.
Oh, yes, answered Marjorie, turning away with a burning face. She
felt rather guilty, as though she had gone near to speaking an untruth,
although no actual falsehood had passed her lips. Nobody heeded her as
she slipped through the crowd of donkey boys and onlookers. Some
offered her their beasts, but she smiled and shook her head, and
hurried back to the main route through the larger arcades. Once there,
she went leisurely, eagerly looking into shop doors, watching the
brass-beating, the hand-loom weaving, and dashing off little pencil
sketches of the children squatting at their tasks, or walking to or fro
as they performed some winding operations for an older person seated
upon the floor.
Nobody molested her in any way or seemed to notice her much.
Sometimes a shopkeeper would offer her his wares in dumb show; but
Marjorie had very little money with her, and, knowing nothing of the
value of these things, was not to be tempted.
The sun poured down hot and strong, but there was shade to be had in
these arcaded streets; and though some of them were anything but clean
or sweet, Marjorie forgave everything for the sake of the beauty and
picturesqueness of the scene. She wandered here, there, and all over;
she found herself in the long, straggling market, and made hasty
sketches of the men and women chaffering at their stalls; of camels,
with their strange, sleepy, or vicious faces, padding softly along,
turning their heads this way and that. She watched the lading of the
beasts, and heard their curious grunts of anger or remonstrance when
the load exceeded their approval. Everything was full of attraction for
her, and she only waited till she had explored the place to set herself
down and make some coloured sketches.
She soon had a following of small boys and loiterers, all interested
in the doings of the strange lady with her sketchbook, but Marjorie did
not mind that. She made some of the children stand to her, and got
several rather effective groups.
Then she set herself to work in greater earnest. She obtained a seat
in one or two places, and dashed in rapid coloured studies which she
could work upon afterwards. Her forte was for bold effects
rather than for detail, and the strange old city gave her endless
subjects. She did not heed the flight of time. She passed from spot to
spot, with her following growing larger and larger, more and more
curious: and so engrossed was she in her task, that the lengthening of
the shadows and the dipping of the sun behind the walls did not attract
her attention. It was only when she suddenly found herself enveloped in
the quick-coming, semi-tropical shades of darkness that she realised
the necessity to beat a retreat.
She rose quickly and put up her things. There was a ring many deep
about her of curious natives, Arabs, Moors, Jews, Turksshe knew not
how many nationalities were gathered together in that circle. In the
broad light of day she had felt no qualm of uneasiness at the strange
dusky faces. Nobody had molested her, and Marjorie, partly through
temperament, partly through ignorance, had been perfectly fearless in
this strange old city. But with the dimness of evening gathering, she
began to wish herself safe on board the Oratava again; and
though she retained her air of serene composure, she felt a little
inward tremor as she moved away.
The crowd did not attempt to hold her back, but walked with her in a
sort of compact bodyguard; and amongst themselves there was a great
deal of talking and gesticulating, which sounded very heathenish and a
little threatening to Marjorie.
She had realised before that Mogador was a larger place than she had
thought, and now she began to discover that she had no notion of the
right way to the quay. The arcades hemmed her in. She could see nothing
but walls about her and the ever-increasing crowd dogging her steps.
Her heart was beating thick and fast. She was tired and faint from want
of food, and this sudden and unfamiliar sense of fear robbed her of her
customary self-command and courage. She felt more like bursting into
tears than she ever remembered to have done before.
It was no good going on like this, wandering helplessly about in the
darkening town; she must do something and that quickly. Surely some of
these people knew a few words of English.
She stopped and faced them, and asked if nobody could take her to
the ship. Instantly they crowded round her, pointing and gesticulating;
but whether they understood, and what they meant, Marjorie could not
imagine. She remembered the name of the ship's agents, and spoke that
aloud several times, and there were more cries and more crowding and
gesticulation. Each man seemed struggling to get possession of her, and
Marjorie grew so frightened at the strange sounds, and the fierce
facesas they seemed to herand the gathering darkness, that she
completely lost her head. She looked wildly round her, gave a little
shrill cry of terror, and seeing the ring thinner in one place than
another, she made a dart through it, and began to run as if for her
very life. It was the maddest thing to do. Hitherto there had been no
real danger. Nobody had any thought of molesting the English lady,
though her behaviour had excited much curiosity. Anybody would have
taken her down to the quay, as they all knew where she came from. But
this head-long flight first startled them, and then roused that latent
demon of savagery which lies dormant in every son of the desert.
Instantly, with yells which sounded terrific in Marjorie's ears, they
gave chase. Fear lent her wings, but she heard the pursuit coming
nearer and nearer. She knew not where she was flying, whether towards
safety or into the heart of danger. Her breath came in sobbing gasps,
her feet slipped and seemed as though they would carry her no farther.
The cries behind and on all sides grew louder and fiercer. She was
making blindly for the entrance to the arcade. Each moment she expected
to feel a hand grasping her from the rear. There was no getting away
from her pursuers in these terrible arcades. Oh, why had she ever
trusted herself alone in this awful old city!
She darted through the archway, and then, uttering a faint cry, gave
herself up for lost, for she felt herself grasped tightly in a pair of
powerful arms, and all the terrible stories she had heard from
fellow-passengers about Europeans taken captive in Morocco, and put up
for ransom recurred to her excited fancy. She had nobody to ransom her.
She would be left to languish and die in some awful Moorish prison.
Perhaps nobody would ever know of her fate. That was what came of
always doing as one chose, and making one's friends believe a
Like a lightning flash all this passed through Marjorie's mind. The
next instant she felt herself thrust against the wall. Some tall, dark
figure was standing in front of her, and a masterful English voice
speaking fluent Arabic was haranguing her pursuers in stern and
A sob of wonder and relief escaped Marjorie's white lips. She had
not fallen into the hands of the Moors. Mr. Stuart had caught her, was
protecting her, and when the mists cleared away from her eyes she saw
that the crowd was quickly melting away, and she knew that she was
Take my arm, Miss May, said Mr. Stuart; they have sent back a
boat for you from the ship. Captain Taylor is making inquiries for you
too. Had you not been warned that a lady was not safe alone in
Mogadorat least, not after nightfall?
Marjorie hung her head; tears were dropping silently. She felt more
humiliated than she had ever done in her life before. Suppose Mr.
Stuart had not come? It was a thought she could not bear to pursue.
They reached the boat. The captain listened to the story, and he
spoke with some grave severity to Marjorie, as he had a right to do;
for he had done everything to provide for the safety of his passengers,
and it was not right to him, or the company, for a wilful girl to run
into needless peril out of the waywardness of her heart.
Marjorie accepted the reproof with unwonted humility, and Mr. Stuart
suddenly spoke up for her:
She will not do it again, captain; I will answer for her.
All right, Mr. Stuart; I don't want to say any more. All's well
that's ends well; but
He checked further words, but Marjorie's cheeks whitened. She seemed
to see again those strange, fierce faces, and hear the cries of her
pursuers. In the gathering darkness Mr. Stuart put out his hand and
took firm hold of hers. She started for a moment, and then let it lie
in his clasp. Indeed, she felt her own fingers clinging to that strong
hand, and a thrill went through her as she felt his clasp tighten upon
They reached the side of the vessel; officers and passengers were
craning over to get news of the missing passenger.
Here she is, all safe! cried the captain rather gruffly, and a
little cry of relief went up, followed by a cheer.
Mr. Stuart leant forward in the darkness and whispered:
You see what a commotion you have made, Marjorie, I think you will
have to let me answer for you, and take care of you in the future.
I think I shall, she answered, with a little tremulous laugh that
was half a sob, and in the confusion of getting the boat brought up
alongside Marjorie felt a lover's kiss upon her cheek.