Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/433

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SEAMEN LONG IN EXILE

no touch of the whimsical humor displayed when two superannuated Moorish soldiers toppled over with exhaustion. The emperor cursed them most heartily, at which the two old men in tremulous accents entreated him to pity their infirmities and grant them charity during the few years of life left to them, reminding the emperor of their eighteen years of service in the army. To this plea their ruler amiably replied that he could perceive their inability to labor any longer and it was therefore his duty to protect them against the evils of old age and poverty. He therefore graciously ordered that they both be shot through the head without more ado.

After a year of captivity, the sailors were taken to Fez to toil on another pretentious fortress. Their keepers abused them without mercy, and a midshipman of the privateer, Mr. Nelson, took his life in his hands and complained to the emperor. Such boldness won the tyrant's favor, and he asked what the grievances were. The midshipman showed a heavy stick of wood with which one of the keepers had beaten the men of the Inspector because they sang some songs during the night to keep their spirits up.

"Fetch me four sticks of that same size, and let them be good ones," commanded his Majesty Zin