A. W. Kinglake
CHAPTERI - OVER THE BORDER
AT SemlinI still was encompassed by the scenes and thesounds offamiliar life; the din of a busy world still vexedandcheered me; the unveiled faces of women still shone inthe lightof day. Yetwhenever I chose to look southwardIsaw theOttoman's fortress - austereand darkly impendinghigh overthe vale of the Danube - historic Belgrade. I hadcomeasit wereto the end of this wheel-going Europeandnow myeyes would see the splendour and havoc of the East.
The twofrontier towns are less than a cannon-shot distantand yettheir people hold no communion. The Hungarian on thenorthandthe Turk and Servian on the southern side of theSave areas much asunder as though there were fifty broadprovincesthat lay in the path between them. Of the men thatbustledaround me in the streets of Semlin there was notperhapsone who had ever gone down to look upon the strangerracedwelling under the walls of that opposite castle. It istheplagueand the dread of the plaguethat divide the onepeoplefrom the other. All coming and going stands forbiddenby theterrors of the yellow flag. If you dare to break thelaws ofthe quarantineyou will be tried with militaryhaste; thecourt will scream out your sentence to you from atribunalsome fifty yards off; the priestinstead of gentlywhisperingto you the sweet hopes of religionwill consoleyou atduelling distance; and after that you will findyourselfcarefully shotand carelessly buried in the groundof thelazaretto.
When allwas in order for our departure we walked down to theprecinctsof the quarantine establishmentand here awaitedus a"compromised" officer ofthe Austrian Governmentwholives in astate of perpetual excommunication. The boatswith their"compromised" rowerswere also in readiness.Aftercoming in contact with any creature or thing belongingto theOttoman Empire it would be impossible for us to returnto theAustrian territory without undergoing an imprisonmentoffourteen days in the odious lazaretto. We feltthereforethat before we committed ourselves it wasimportantto take care that none of the arrangementsnecessaryfor the journey had been forgotten; and in ouranxiety toavoid such a misfortunewe managed the work ofdeparturefrom Semlin with nearly as much solemnity as if wehad beendeparting this life. Some obliging personsfromwhom wehad received civilities during our short stay in theplacecame down to say their farewell at the river's side;and nowas we stood with them at the distance of three orfour yardsfrom the "compromised" officerthey asked if wewereperfectly certain that we had wound up all our affairsinChristendomand whether we had no parting requests tomake. We repeated the caution to our servantsand tookanxiousthought lest by any possibility we might be cut offfrom somecherished object of affection:- were they quitesure thatnothing had been forgotten - that there was nofragrantdressing-case with its gold-compelling letters ofcreditfrom which we might be parting for ever? - No; all ourtreasureslay safely stowed in the boatand we were ready tofollowthem to the ends of the earth. Nowthereforeweshookhands with our Semlin friendswho immediatelyretreatedfor three or four pacesso as to leave us in thecentre ofa space between them and the "compromised" officer.The latterthen advancedand asking once more if we had donewith thecivilised worldheld forth his hand. I met it withmineandthere was an end to Christendom for many a day tocome.
We soonneared the southern bank of the riverbut no soundscame downfrom the blank walls aboveand there was no livingthing thatwe could yet seeexcept one great hovering birdof thevulture raceflying lowand intentand wheelinground andround over the pest-accursed city.
Butpresently there issued from the postern a group of humanbeings -beings with immortal soulsand possibly somereasoningfaculties; but to me the grand point was thisthatthey hadrealsubstantialand incontrovertible turbans.They madefor the point towards which we were steeringandwhen atlast I sprang upon the shoreI heardand saw myselfnow firstsurrounded by men of Asiatic blood. I have sinceriddenthrough the land of the Osmanleesfrom the Servianborder tothe Golden Horn - from the Gulf of Satalieh to thetomb ofAchilles; but never have I seen such ultra-Turkishlookingfellows as those who received me on the banks of theSave. They were men in the humblest order of lifehavingcome tomeet our boat in the hope of earning something bycarryingour luggage up to the city; but poor though theywereitwas plain that they were Turks of the proud oldschooland had not yet forgotten the fiercecarelessbearing oftheir once victorious race.
Though theprovince of Servia generally has obtained a kindofindependenceyet Belgradeas being a place of strengthon thefrontieris still garrisoned by Turkish troops underthecommand of a Pasha. Whether the fellows who nowsurroundedus were soldiersor peaceful inhabitantsI didnotunderstand: they wore the old Turkish costume; vests andjackets ofmany and brilliant coloursdivided from the loosepetticoat-trousersby heavy volumes of shawlso thicklyfoldedaround their waists as to give the meagre wearerssomethingof the dignity of true corpulence. This cinctureenclosed awhole bundle of weapons; no man bore less than onebrace ofimmensely long pistolsand a yataghan (or cutlass)with adagger or two of various shapes and sizes; most ofthese armswere inlaid with silverand highly burnishedsothat theycontrasted shiningly with the decayed grandeur ofthegarments to which they were attached (this carefulness ofhis armsis a point of honour with the Osmanleewho neverallows hisbright yataghan to suffer from his own adversity);then thelong drooping mustachiosand the ample folds of theonce whiteturbansthat lowered over the piercing eyesandthehaggard features of the mengave them an air of gloomyprideandthat appearance of trying to be disdainful underdifficultieswhich I have since seen so often in those oftheOttoman people who liveand remember old times; theyseemed asif they were thinking that they would have beenmoreusefullymore honourablyand more piously employed incuttingour throats than in carrying our portmanteaus. ThefaithfulSteel (Methley's Yorkshire servant) stood aghast fora momentat the sight of his master's luggage upon theshouldersof these warlike portersand when at last we beganto move uphe could scarcely avoid turning round to cast oneaffectionatelook towards Christendombut quickly again hemarched onwith steps of a mannot frightened exactlybutsternlyprepared for deathor the Koranor even for pluralwives.
The Moslemquarter of a city is lonely and desolate. You goup anddownand on over shelving and hillocky paths throughthe narrowlanes walled in by blankwindowless dwellings;you comeout upon an open space strewed with the black ruinsthat somelate fire has left; you pass by a mountain ofcastawaythingsthe rubbish of centuriesand on it you seenumbers ofbigwolf-like dogs lying torpid under the sunwith limbsoutstretched to the fullas if they were dead;storksorcranessitting fearless upon the low roofslookgravelydown upon you; the still air that you breathe isloadedwith the scent of citronand pomegranate rindsscorchedby the sunor (as you approach the bazaar) with thedrydeadperfume of strange spices. You long for some signsof lifeand tread the ground more heavilyas though youwould wakethe sleepers with the heel of your boot; but thefoot fallsnoiseless upon the crumbling soil of an Easterncityandsilence follows you still. Again and again youmeetturbansand faces of menbut they have nothing for you- nowelcome - no wonder - no wrath - no scorn - they lookupon youas we do upon a December's fall of snow - as a"seasonable"unaccountableuncomfortable work of Godthatmay havebeen sent for some good purposeto be revealedhereafter.
Somepeople had come down to meet us with an invitation fromthe Pashaand we wound our way up to the castle. At thegatesthere were groups of soldierssome smokingand somelying flatlike corpses upon the cool stones. We wentthroughcourtsascended stepspassed along a corridorandwalkedinto an airywhitewashed roomwith an European clockat one endof itand Moostapha Pasha at the other; the fineoldbearded potentate looked very like Jove - like Jovetoointhe midst of his cloudsfor the silvery fumes of theNARGHILE hung lightly circling round him.
The Pashareceived us with the smoothkindgentle mannerthatbelongs to well-bred Osmanlees; then he lightly clappedhis handsand instantly the sound filled all the lower endof theroom with slaves; a syllable dropped from his lipswhichbowed all headsand conjured away the attendants likeghosts(their coming and their going was thus swift andquietbecause their feet were bareand they passed throughno doorbut only by the yielding folds of a purder). Soonthecoffee-bearers appearedevery man carrying separatelyhis tinycup in a small metal stand; and presently to each ofus therecame a pipe-bearerwho first rested the bowl of theTCHIBOUQUEat a measured distance on the floorand thenonthis axiswheeled round the long cheery stickandgracefullypresented it on half-bended knee; already thewell-kindledfire was glowing secure in the bowland sowhen Ipressed the amber up to minethere was no coyness toconquer;the willing fume came upand answered my slightestsighandfollowed softly every breath inspiredtill ittouched mewith some faint sense and understanding of Asiaticcontentment.
Asiaticcontentment! Yet scarcelyperhapsone hour beforeI had beenwanting my billand ringing for waitersin ashrill andbusy hotel.
In theOttoman dominions there is scarcely any hereditaryinfluenceexcept that which belongs to the family of theSultanand wealthtoois a highly volatile blessingnoteasilytransmitted to the descendant of the owner. Fromthesecauses it results that the people standing in the placeof noblesand gentry are official personagesand though many(indeedthe greater number) of these potentates are humblyborn andbredyou will seldomI thinkfind them wanting inthatpolished smoothness of mannerand those well-undulatingtoneswhich belong to the best Osmanlees. The truth isthatmost ofthe men in authority have risen from their humblestation bythe arts of the courtierand they preserve intheir highestate those gentle powers of fascination to whichthey owetheir success. Yet unless you can contrive to learna littleof the languageyou will be rather bored by yourvisits ofceremony; the intervention of the interpreterordragomanas he is calledis fatal to the spirit ofconversation. I think I should mislead you if I were toattempt togive the substance of any particular conversationwithOrientals. A traveller may write and say that "thePasha ofSo-and-so was particularly interested in the vastprogresswhich has been made in the application of steamandappearedto understand the structure of our machinery - thatheremarked upon the gigantic results of our manufacturingindustry -showed that he possessed considerable knowledge ofour Indianaffairsand of the constitution of the Companyandexpressed a lively admiration of the many sterlingqualitiesfor which the people of England are distinguished."But theheap of commonplaces thus quietly attributed to thePasha willhave been founded perhaps on some such talking asthis:-
PASHA. -The Englishman is welcome; most blessed among hoursis thisthe hour of his coming.
DRAGOMAN(to the traveller). - The Pasha pays you hiscompliments.
TRAVELLER.- Give him my best compliments in returnand sayI'mdelighted to have the honour of seeing him.
DRAGOMAN(to the Pasha). - His lordshipthis EnglishmanLord ofLondonScorner of IrelandSuppressor of Francehasquittedhis governmentsand left his enemies to breathe fora momentand has crossed the broad waters in strictdisguisewith a small but eternally faithful retinue offollowersin order that he might look upon the brightcountenanceof the Pasha among Pashas - the Pasha of theeverlastingPashalik of Karagholookoldour.
TRAVELLER(to his dragoman). - What on earth have you beensayingabout London? The Pasha will be taking me for a merecockney. Have not I told you ALWAYS to say that I am from abranch ofthe family of Mudcombe Parkand that I am to be amagistratefor the county of Bedfordshireonly I've notqualifiedand that I should have been a deputy-lieutenant ifit had notbeen for the extraordinary conduct of LordMountpromiseand that I was a candidate for Goldborough atthe lastelectionand that I should have won easy if mycommitteehad not been bought. I wish to Heaven that if youDO sayanything about meyou'd tell the simple truth.
PASHA. -What says the friendly Lord of London? is thereaught thatI can grant him within the Pashalik ofKaragholookoldour?
DRAGOMAN(growingsulky and literal). - This friendlyEnglishman- this branch of Mudcombe - this head-purveyor ofGoldborough- this possible policeman of Bedfordshireisrecountinghis achievementsand the number of his titles.
PASHA. -The end of his honours is more distant than the endsof theearthand the catalogue of his glorious deeds isbrighterthan the firmament of heaven!
DRAGOMAN(to the traveller). - The Pasha congratulates yourExcellency.
TRAVELLER.- About Goldborough? The deuce he does! - but Iwant toget at his views in relation to the present state oftheOttoman Empire. Tell him the Houses of Parliament havemetandthat there has been a speech from the thronepledgingEngland to preserve the integrity of the Sultan'sdominions.
DRAGOMAN(to the Pasha). - This branch of Mudcombethispossiblepoliceman of Bedfordshireinforms your Highnessthat inEngland the talking houses have metand that theintegrityof the Sultan's dominions has been assured for everand everby a speech from the velvet chair.
PASHA. -Wonderful chair! Wonderful houses! - whirr! whirr!all bywheels! - whiz! whiz! all by steam! - wonderful chair!wonderfulhouses! wonderful people! - whirr! whirr! all bywheels! -whiz! whiz! all by steam!
TRAVELLER(to the dragoman). - What does the Pasha mean bythatwhizzing? he does not mean to saydoes hethat ourGovernmentwill ever abandon their pledges to the Sultan?
DRAGOMAN.- Noyour Excellency; but he says the English talkby wheelsand by steam.
TRAVELLER.- That's an exaggeration; but say that the Englishreallyhave carried machinery to great perfection; tell thePasha(he'll be struck with that) that whenever we have anydisturbancesto put downeven at two or three hundred milesfromLondonwe can send troops by the thousand to the sceneof actionin a few hours.
DRAGOMAN(recovering his temper and freedom of speech). - HisExcellencythis Lord of Mudcombeobserves to your Highnessthatwhenever the Irishor the Frenchor the Indians rebelagainstthe Englishwhole armies of soldiersand brigadesofartilleryare dropped into a mighty chasm called EustonSquareand in the biting of a cartridge they arise up againinManchesteror Dublinor Parisor Delhiand utterlyexterminatethe enemies of England from the face of theearth.
PASHA. - Iknow it - I know all - the particulars have beenfaithfullyrelated to meand my mind comprehendslocomotives. The armies of the English ride upon the vapoursof boilingcaldronsand their horses are flaming coals! -whirr!whirr! all by wheels! - whiz! whiz! all by steam!
TRAVELLER(to his dragoman). - I wish to have the opinion ofanunprejudiced Ottoman gentleman as to the prospects of ourEnglishcommerce and manufactures; just ask the Pasha to giveme hisviews on the subject.
PASHA(after having received the communication of thedragoman).- The ships of the English swarm like flies; theirprintedcalicoes cover the whole earth; and by the side oftheirswords the blades of Damascus are blades of grass. AllIndia isbut an item in the ledger-books of the merchantswhoselumber-rooms are filled with ancient thrones! - whirr!whirr! allby wheels! - whiz! whiz! all by steam.
DRAGOMAN.- The Pasha compliments the cutlery of Englandandalso theEast India Company.
TRAVELLER.- The Pasha's right about the cutlery (I tried myscimitarwith the common officers' swords belonging to ourfellows atMaltaand they cut it like the leaf of a novel).Well (tothe dragoman)tell the Pasha I am exceedinglygratifiedto find that he entertains such a high opinion ofourmanufacturing energybut I should like him to knowthoughthat we have got something in England besides that.Theseforeigners are always fancying that we have nothing butshipsandrailwaysand East India Companies; do just tellthe Pashathat our rural districts deserve his attentionandthat evenwithin the last two hundred years there has been anevidentimprovement in the culture of the turnipand if hedoes nottake any interest about thatat all events you canexplainthat we have our virtues in the country - that we areatruth-telling peopleandlike the Osmanleesare faithfulin theperformance of our promises. Oh! andby-the-byewhilst youare about ityou may as well just say at the endthat theBritish yeoman is stillthank God! the Britishyeoman.
PASHA(after hearing the dragoman). - It is trueit is true:- throughall Feringhistan the English are foremost and best;for theRussians are drilled swineand the Germans aresleepingbabesand the Italians are the servants of songsand theFrench are the sons of newspapersand the Greeksthey areweavers of liesbut the English and the Osmanleesarebrothers together in righteousness; for the Osmanleesbelieve inone only Godand cleave to the Koranand destroyidolssodo the English worship one Godand abominategravenimagesand tell the truthand believe in a bookandthoughthey drink the juice of the grapeyet to say thattheyworship their prophet as Godor to say that they areeaters ofporkthese are lies - lies born of Greeksandnursed byJews!
DRAGOMAN.- The Pasha compliments the English.
TRAVELLER(rising). - WellI've had enough of this. Tellthe PashaI am greatly obliged to him for his hospitalityand stillmore for his kindness in furnishing me with horsesand saythat now I must be off.
PASHA(after hearing the dragomanand standing upon hisdivan). - Proud are the siresand blessed are the dams ofthe horsesthat shall carry his Excellency to the end of hisprosperousjourney. May the saddle beneath him glide down tothe gatesof the happy citylike a boat swimming on thethirdriver of Paradise. May he sleep the sleep of a childwhen hisfriends are around him; and the while that hisenemiesare abroadmay his eyes flame red through thedarkness -more red than the eyes of ten tigers! Farewell!
DRAGOMAN.- The Pasha wishes your Excellency a pleasantjourney.
So endsthe visit.
CHAPTERII - TURKISH TRAVELLING
IN two orthree hours our party was ready; the servantstheTatarthemounted Suridgeesand the baggage-horsesaltogethermade up a strong cavalcade. The accomplishedMysseriof whom you have heard me speak so oftenand whoserved meso faithfully throughout my Oriental journeysacted asour interpreterand wasin factthe brain of ourcorps. The Tataryou knowis a government courier properlyemployedin carrying despatchesbut also sent withtravellersto speed them on their wayand answer with hishead fortheir safety. The man whose head was thus pledgedfor ourprecious lives was a glorious-looking fellowwiththeregular and handsome cast of countenance whichis nowcharacteristicof the Ottoman race. His features displayeda gooddeal of serene prideself-respectfortitudea kindofingenuous sensualityand something of instinctive wisdomwithoutany sharpness of intellect. He had been a Janissary(as Iafterwards found)and kept up the odd strut of his oldcorpswhich used to affright the Christians in former times- thatrolling gait so comically pompousthat a closeimitationof iteven in the broadest farcewould be lookedupon as avery rough over-acting of the character. It isoccasionedin part by dress and accoutrements. The weightybundle ofweapons carried upon the chest throws back the bodyso as togive it a wonderful portlinessand moreovertheimmensemasses of clothes that swathe his limbs force thewearer inwalking to swing himself heavily round from left torightandfrom right to left. In truththis great edificeofwoollenand cottonand silkand silverand brassandsteel isnot at all fitted for moving on foot; it cannot evenwalkwithout frightfully discomposing its fair proportions;and as torunning - our Tatar ran ONCE (it was in order topick up apartridge that Methley had winged with a pistol-shot)andreally the attempt was one of the funniestmisdirectionsof human energy that wondering man ever saw.But puthim in his stirrupsand then is the Tatar himselfagain:there he lives at his pleasurereposing in thetranquillityof that true home (the home of his ancestors)which thesaddle seems to afford himand drawing from hispipe thecalm pleasures of his "own fireside" or elsedashingsudden over the earthas though for a moment he feltthe mouthof a Turcoman steedand saw his own Scythianplainslying boundless and open before him.
It was nottill his subordinates had nearly completed theirpreparationsfor their march that our Tatar"commanding theforces"arrived; he came sleek and fresh from the bath (forso is thecustom of the Ottomans when they start upon ajourney)and was carefully accoutred at every point. Fromhis thighto his throat he was loaded with arms and otherimplementsof a campaigning life. There is no scarcity ofwateralong the whole road from Belgrade to Stamboulbut thehabits ofour Tatar were formed by his ancestors and not byhimselfso he took good care to see that his leathern water-flask wasamply charged and properly strapped to the saddlealong withhis blessed TCHIBOUQUE. And now at last he hascursed theSuridgees in all proper figures of speechand isready fora ride of a thousand miles; but before he comfortshis soulin the marble baths of Stamboul he will be anotherand alesser man; his sense of responsibilityhis too strictabstemiousnessand his restless energydisdainful of sleepwill haveworn him down to a fraction of the sleek Moostaphathat nowleads out our party from the gates of Belgrade.
TheSuridgees are the men employed to lead the baggage-horses. They are most of them gipsies. Their lot is a sadone: theyare the last of the human raceand all the sins oftheirsuperiors (including the horses) can safely be visitedon them. But the wretched look often more picturesque thantheirbetters; and though all the world despise these poorSuridgeestheir tawny skins and their grisly beards willgain themhonourable standing in the foreground of alandscape. We had a couple of these fellows with useachleading abaggage-horseto the tail of which last anotherbaggage-horsewas attached. There was a world of trouble inpersuadingthe stiff angular portmanteaus of Europe to adaptthemselvesto their new condition and sit quietly on pack-saddlesbut all was right at lastand it gladdened my eyesto see ourlittle troop file off through the winding lanes ofthe cityand show down brightly in the plain beneath. Theone of ourparty that seemed to be most out of keeping withthe restof the scene was Methley's Yorkshire servantwhoalwaysrode doggedly on in his pantry jacketlooking out for"gentlemen'sseats."
Methleyand I had English saddlesbut I think we should havedone justas well (I should certainly have seen more of thecountry)if we had adopted saddles like that of our Tatarwhotowered so loftily over the scraggy little beast thatcarriedhim. In taking thought for the Eastwhilst inEnglandIhad made one capital hit which you must not forget- I hadbrought with me a pair of common spurs. These were agreatcomfort to me throughout my horseback travelsbykeeping upthe cheerfulness of the many unhappy nags that Ihad tobestride; the angle of the Oriental stirrup is a verypoorsubstitute for spurs.
TheOttoman horsemanraised by his saddle to a great heightabove thehumble level of the back that he bestridesandusing anawfully sharp bitis able to lift the crest of hisnagandforce him into a strangely fast shuffling walktheorthodoxpace for the journey. My comrade and IusingEnglishsaddlescould not easily keep our beasts up to thispeculiaramble; besideswe thought it a bore to be FOLLOWEDby ourattendants for a thousand milesand we generallythereforedid duty as the rearguard of our "grand army"; weused towalk our horses till the party in front had got intothedistanceand then retrieve the lost ground by a gallop.
We hadridden on for some two or three hours; the stir andbustle ofour commencing journey had ceasedthe livelinessof ourlittle troop had worn off with the declining dayandthe nightclosed in as we entered the great Servian forest.Throughthis our road was to last for more than a hundredmiles. Endlessand endless now on either sidethe talloaksclosed in their ranks and stood gloomily lowering overusasgrim as an army of giants with a thousand years' payinarrear. One strived with listening ear to catch sometidings ofthat forest world within - some stirring ofbeastssome night-bird's screambut all was quite hushedexcept thevoice of the cicalas that peopled every boughandfilled thedepths of the forest through and throughwith onesame humeverlasting - more stifling than very silence.
At firstour way was in darknessbut after a while the moongot upand touched the glittering arms and tawny faces ofour menwith light so pale and mysticthat the watchfulTatar feltbound to look out for demonsand take propermeans forkeeping them off: forthwith he determined that theduty offrightening away our ghostly enemies (like everyothertroublesome work) should fall upon the poor Suridgeeswhoaccordingly lifted up their voicesand burst upon thedreadfulstillness of the forest with shrieks and dismalhowls. These precautions were kept up incessantlyand werefollowedby the most complete successfor not one demon camenear us.
Longbefore midnight we reached the hamlet in which we wereto restfor the night; it was made up of about a dozen clayhutsstanding upon a small tract of ground hardly won fromtheforest. The peasants that lived there spoke a Slavonicdialectand Mysseri's knowledge of the Russian tongueenabledhim to talk with them freely. We took up ourquartersin a square room with white walls and an earthenfloorquite bare of furnitureand utterly void of women.They toldushoweverthat these Servian villagers lived inhappyabundancebut that they were careful to conceal theirrichesaswell as their wives.
Theburthens unstrapped from the pack-saddles very quicklyfurnishedour den: a couple of quilts spread upon the floorwith acarpet-bag at the head of eachbecame capital sofas -portmanteausand hat-boxesand writing-casesand booksand mapsand gleaming arms soon lay strewed around us inpleasantconfusion. Mysseri's canteen too began to yield upitstreasuresbut we relied upon finding some provisions inthevillage. At first the natives declared that their henswere mereold maids and all their cows unmarriedbut ourTatarswore such a grand sonorous oathand fingered the hiltof hisyataghan with such persuasive touchthat the landsoonflowed with milkand mountains of eggs arose.
And soonthere was tea before uswith all its unspeakablefragranceand as we reclined on the floorwe found that aportmanteauwas just the right height for a table; the dutyofcandlesticks was ably performed by a couple of intelligentnatives;the rest of the villagers stood by the open doorwayat thelower end of the roomand watched our banqueting withgrave anddevout attention.
The firstnight of your first campaign (though you be but amerepeaceful campaigner) is a glorious time in your life.It is sosweet to find one's self free from the stalecivilisationof Europe! Oh my dear allywhen first youspreadyour carpet in the midst of these Eastern scenesdothink fora moment of those your fellow-creaturesthat dwellinsquaresand streetsand even (for such is the fate ofmany!) inactual country houses; think of the people that are"presentingtheir compliments" and "requesting the honour"and "muchregretting" - of those that are pinioned atdinner-tables;or stuck up in ball-roomsor cruelly plantedin pews -aythink of theseand so remembering how manypoordevils are living in a state of utter respectabilityyou willglory the more in your own delightful escape.
I am boundto confesshoweverthat with all its charms amud floor(like a mercenary match) does certainly promoteearlyrising. Long before daybreak we were upand hadbreakfasted;after this there was nearly a whole tedious hourto endurewhilst the horses were laden by torch-light; butthis hadan endand at last we went on once more. Cloakedandsombreat first we made our sullen way through thedarknesswith scarcely one barter of wordsbut soon thegenialmorn burst down from heavenand stirred the blood sogladlythrough our veinsthat the very Suridgeeswith alltheirtroublescould now look up for an instantand almostseem tobelieve in the temporary goodness of God.
The actualmovement from one place to anotherinEuropeanisedcountriesis a process so temporary - itoccupiesI meanso small a proportion of the traveller'sentiretime - that his mind remains unsettledso long as thewheels aregoing; he may be alive enough to external objectsofinterestand to the crowding ideas which are ofteninvited bythe excitement of a changing scenebut he isstillconscious of being in a provisional stateand his mindisconstantly recurring to the expected end of his journey;hisordinary ways of thought have been interruptedandbefore anynew mental habits can be formed he is quietlyfixed inhis hotel. It will be otherwise with you when youjourney inthe East. Day after dayperhaps week after weekand monthafter monthyour foot is in the stirrup. To tastethe coldbreath of the earliest mornand to leador followyourbright cavalcade till sunset through forests andmountainpassesthrough valleys and desolate plainsallthisbecomes your MODE OF LIFEand you rideeatdrinkandcurse themosquitoes as systematically as your friends inEnglandeatdrinkand sleep. If you are wiseyou will notlook uponthe long period of time thus occupied in actualmovementas the mere gulf dividing you from the end of yourjourneybut rather as one of those rare and plastic seasonsof yourlife from whichperhapsin after times you may loveto datethe moulding of your character - that isyour veryidentity. Once feel thisand you will soon grow happy andcontentedin your saddle-home. As for me and my comradehoweverin this part of our journey we often forgotStamboulforgot all the Ottoman Empireand only rememberedoldtimes. We went backloitering on the banks of Thames -not grimold Thames of "after life" that washes theParliamentHousesand drowns despairing girls - but Thamesthe "oldEton fellow" that wrestled with us in our boyhoodtill hetaught us to be stronger than he. We bullied Keateandscoffed at Larrey Millerand Okes; we rode along loudlylaughingand talked to the grave Servian forest as though itwere the"Brocas clump."
Our pacewas commonly very slowfor the baggage-horsesserved usfor a dragand kept us to a rate of little morethan fivemiles in the hourbut now and thenand chiefly atnightaspirit of movement would suddenly animate the wholeparty; thebaggage-horses would be teased into a gallopandwhen oncethis was donethere would be such a banging ofportmanteausand such convulsions of carpet-bags upon theirpantingsidesand the Suridgees would follow them up withsuch ahurricane of blowsand screamsand cursesthatstoppingor relaxing was scarcely possible; then the rest ofus wouldput our horses into a gallopand so all shoutingcheerilywould huntand drive the sumpter beasts like aflock ofgoatsup hill and down daleright on to the end oftheirjourney.
Thedistances at which we got relays of horses variedgreatly;some were not more than fifteen or twenty milesbuttwiceIthinkwe performed a whole day's journey of morethan sixtymiles with the same beasts.
When atlast we came out from the forest our road lay throughsceneslike those of an English park. The green swardunfencedand left to the free pasture of cattlewas dottedwithgroups of stately treesand here and there darkenedover withlarger masses of woodthat seemed gatheredtogetherfor bounding the domainand shutting out some"infernal"fellow-creature in the shape of a newly madesquire; inone or two spots the hanging copses looked downupon alawn below with such sheltering mienthat seeing thelike inEngland you would have been tempted almost to ask thename ofthe spend-thriftor the madman who had dared to pulldown "theold hall."
There arefew countries less infested by "lions" than theprovinceson this part of your route. You are not calledupon to"drop a tear" over the tomb of "the oncebrilliant"anybodyor to pay your "tribute of respect" to anything deador alive. There are no Servian or Bulgarian litterateurswith whomit would be positively disgraceful not to form anacquaintance;you have no staringno praising to getthrough;the only public building of any interest that lieson theroad is of modern datebut is said to be a goodspecimenof Oriental architecture; it is of a pyramidicalshapeandis made up of thirty thousand skullscontributedby therebellious Servians in the early part (I believe) ofthiscentury: I am not at all sure of my datebut I fancy itwas in theyear 1806 that the first skull was laid. I amashamed tosay that in the darkness of the early morning weunknowinglywent by the neighbourhood of this triumph of artand sobasely got off from admiring "the simple grandeur ofthearchitect's conception" and "the exquisite beauty of thefretwork."
Therebeing no "lions" we ought at least to have met with afewperilsbut the only robbers we saw anything of had beenlong sincedead and gone. The poor fellows had been impaledupon highpolesand so propped up by the transverse spokesbeneaththemthat their skeletonsclothed with some whitewax-likeremains of fleshstill sat up lolling in thesunshineand listlessly stared without eyes.
One day itseemed to me that our path was a little moreruggedthan usualand I found that I was deserving formyself thetitle of Sabalkanskyor "Transcender of theBalcan." The truth isthatas a military barriertheBalcan isa fabulous mountain. Such seems to be the view ofMajorKeppellwho looked on it towards the east with the eyeof asoldierand certainly in the Sophia Passwhich Ifollowedthere is no narrow defileand no ascentsufficientlydifficult to stopor delay for long timeatrain ofsiege artillery.
Before wereached AdrianopleMethley had been seized with weknew notwhat ailmentand when we had taken up our quartersin thecity he was cast to the very earth by sickness.Adrianopleenjoyed an English consuland I felt sure thatin Easternphrasehis house would cease to be his houseandwouldbecome the house of my sick comrade. I should havejudgedrightly under ordinary circumstancesbut thelevellingplague was abroadand the dread of it had dominionover theconsular mind. So now (whether dying or notonecouldhardly tell)upon a quilt stretched out along thefloorthere lay the best hope of an ancient linewithoutthematerial aids to comfort of even the humblest sortand(sad tosay) without the consolation of a friendor even acomradeworth having. I have a notion that tenderness andpity areaffections occasioned in some measure by livingwithindoors; certainlyat the time I speak ofthe open-airlife whichI have been leadingor the wayfaring hardships ofthejourneyhad so strangely blunted methat I feltintolerantof illnessand looked down upon my companion asif thepoor fellow in falling ill had betrayed a want ofspirit. I entertained too a most absurd idea - an idea thathisillness was partly affected. You see that I have made aconfession:this I hope - that I may always hereafter lookcharitablyupon the hardsavage acts of peasantsand thecrueltiesof a "brutal" soldiery. God knows that I strivedto meltmyself into common charityand to put on agentlenesswhich I could not feelbut this attempt did notcheat thekeenness of the sufferer; he could not have feltthe lessdeserted because that I was with him.
We calledto aid a solemn Armenian (I think he was) halfsoothsayerhalf hakimor doctorwhoall the whilecountinghis beadsfixed his eyes steadily upon the patientand thensuddenly dealt him a violent blow on the chest.Methleybravely dissembled his painfor he fancied that theblow wasmeant to try whether or not the plague were on him.
Here wasreally a sad embarrassment - no bed; nothing tooffer theinvalid in the shape of food save a piece of thintoughflexibledrab-coloured clothmade of flour and mill-stones inequal proportionsand called by the name of"bread";then the patientof coursehad no "confidence inhismedical man" and on the wholethe best chance of savingmy comradeseemed to lie in taking him out of the reach ofhisdoctorand bearing him away to the neighbourhood of somemoregenial consul. But how was this to be done? Methleywas muchtoo ill to be kept in his saddleand wheelcarriagesas means of travellingwere unknown. There ishoweversuch a thing as an "araba" a vehicle drawn by oxenin whichthe wives of a rich man are sometimes dragged fouror fivemiles over the grass by way of recreation. Thecarriageis rudely framedbut you recognise in the simplegrandeurof its design a likeness to things majestic; inshortifyour carpenter's son were to make a "Lord Mayor'scoach"for little Amyhe would build a carriage very much inthe styleof a Turkish araba. No one had ever heard ofhorsesbeing used for drawing a carriage in this part of theworldbutnecessity is the mother of innovation as well asofinvention. I was fully justifiedI thinkin arguingthat therewere numerous instances of horses being used forthatpurpose in our own country - that the laws of nature areuniform intheir operation over all the world (exceptIreland) -that that which was true in Piccadillymust betrue inAdrianople - that the matter could not fairly betreated asan ecclesiastical questionfor that thecircumstanceof Methley's going on to Stamboul in an arabadrawn byhorseswhen calmly and dispassionately consideredwouldappear to be perfectly consistent with the maintenanceof theMahometan religion as by law established. Thus poordearpatient Reason would have fought her slow battleagainstAsiatic prejudiceand I am convinced that she wouldhaveestablished the possibility (and perhaps even thepropriety)of harnessing horses in a hundred and fifty years;but in themeantime Mysseriwell seconded by our Tatarputa veryquick end to the controversy by having the horses putto.
It was asore thing for me to see my poor comrade brought tothisforyoung though he washe was a veteran in travel.Whenscarcely yet of age he had invaded India from thefrontiersof Russiaand that so swiftlythat measuring bythe timeof his flight the broad dominions of the king ofkings wereshrivelled up to a dukedom and nowpoor fellowhe was tobe poked into an araba: like a Georgian girl! Hesufferedgreatlyfor there were no springs for the carriageand noroad for the wheels; and so the concern jolted on overthe opencountry with such twistsand jerksand jumpsasmightalmost dislocate the supple tongue of Satan.
All daythe patient kept himself shut up within the lattice-work ofthe arabaand I could hardly know how he was faringuntil theend of the day's journeywhen I found that he wasnot worseand was buoyed up with the hope of some dayreachingConstantinople.
I wasalways conning over my mapsand fancied that I knewprettywell my linebut after Adrianople I had made moresouthingthan I knew forand it was with unbelieving wonderanddelightthat I came suddenly upon the shore of the sea.A littlewhileand its gentle billows were flowing beneaththe hoofsof my beastbut the hearing of the ripple was notenoughcommunionand the seeing of the blue Propontis wasnot toknow and possess it - I must needs plunge into itsdepth andquench my longing love in the palpable waves; andso whenold Moostapha (defender against demons) looked roundfor hischargehe saw with horror and dismay that he forwhose lifehis own life stood pledged was possessed of somedevil whohad driven him down into the sea - that the riderand thesteed had vanished from earthand that out among thewaves wasthe gasping crest of a post-horseand the ghostlyhead ofthe Englishman moving upon the face of the waters.
We startedvery early indeed on the last day of our journeyand fromthe moment of being off until we gained the shelterof theimperial walls we were struggling face to face with anicy stormthat swept right down from the steppes of Tartarykeenfierceand steady as a northern conqueror. Methley'sservantwho was the greatest suffererkept his saddle untilwe reachedStamboulbut was then found to be quite benumbedin limbsand his brain was so much affectedthat when hewas liftedfrom his horse he fell away in a state ofunconsciousnessthe first stage of a dangerous fever.
Our Tatarworn down by care and toiland carrying sevenheavensfull of water in his manifold jackets and shawlswasa mereweak and vapid dilution of the sleek Moostaphawhoscarcemore than one fortnight before came out like abridegroomfrom his chamber to take the command of our party.
Mysseriseemed somewhat over-weariedbut he had lost none ofhisstrangely quiet energy. He wore a grave lookhoweverfor he nowhad learnt that the plague was prevailing atConstantinopleand he was fearing that our two sick menandthemiserable looks of our whole partymight make usunwelcomeat Pera.
We crossedthe Golden Horn in a caique. As soon as we hadlandedsome woebegone looking fellows were got together andladen withour baggage. Then on we wentdrippingandsloshingand looking very like men that had been turned backby theRoyal Humane Society as being incurably drowned.Supportingour sickwe climbed up shelving steps andthreadedmany windingsand at last came up into the mainstreet ofPerahumbly hoping that we might not be judgedguilty ofplagueand so be cast back with horror from thedoors ofthe shuddering Christians.
Such wasthe condition of our partywhich fifteen daysbefore hadfiled away so gaily from the gates of Belgrade. Acouple offevers and a north-easterly storm had thoroughlyspoiledour looks.
Theinterest of Mysseri with the house of Giuseppini was toopowerfulto be deniedand at oncethough not without fearandtremblingwe were admitted as guests.
CHAPTERIII - CONSTANTINOPLE
EVEN if wedon't take a part in the chant about "mosques andminarets"we can still yield praises to Stamboul. We canchantabout the harbour; we can sayand singthat nowhereelse doesthe sea come so home to a city; there are no pebblyshores -no sand bars - no slimy river-beds - no black canals- no locksnor docks to divide the very heart of the placefrom thedeep waters. If being in the noisiest mart ofStamboulyou would stroll to the quiet side of the way amidstthosecypresses oppositeyou will cross the fathomlessBosphorus;if you would go from your hotel to the bazaarsyou mustgo by the brightblue pathway of the Golden Hornthat cancarry a thousand sail of the line. You areaccustomedto the gondolas that glide among the palaces ofSt. Markbut here at Stamboul it is a 120 gun ship thatmeets youin the street. Venice strains out from thesteadfastlandand in old times would send forth the chiefof theState to woo and wed the reluctant sea; but the stormybride ofthe Doge is the bowing slave of the Sultan. Shecomes tohis feet with the treasures of the world - she bearshim frompalace to palace - by some unfailing witchcraft sheenticesthe breezes to follow her and fan the pale cheek ofher lord -she lifts his armed navies to the very gates ofhis garden- she watches the walls of his SERAI - she stiflestheintrigues of his ministers - she quiets the scandals ofhis courts- she extinguishes his rivalsand hushes hisnaughtywives all one by one. So vast are the wonders of thedeep!
All thewhile that I stayed at Constantinople the plague wasprevailingbut not with any degree of violence. Itspresencehoweverlent a mysterious and excitingthough notverypleasantinterest to my first knowledge of a greatOrientalcity; it gave tone and colour to all I sawand allI felt - atone and a colour sombre enoughbut trueandwellbefitting the dreary monuments of past power andsplendour. With all that is most truly Oriental in itscharacterthe plague is associated; it dwells with thefaithfulin the holiest quarters of their city. The coatsand thehats of Pera are held to be nearly as innocent ofinfectionas they are ugly in shape and fashion; but the richfurs andthe costly shawlsthe broidered slippers and thegold-ladensaddle-clothsthe fragrance of burning aloes andthe richaroma of patchouli - these are the signs that markthefamiliar home of plague. You go out from your queenlyLondon -the centre of the greatest and strongest amongst allearthlydominions - you go out thenceand travel on to thecapital ofan Eastern Princeyou find but a waning powerand afaded splendourthat inclines you to laugh and mock;but letthe infernal Angel of Plague be at handand hemoremightythan armiesmore terrible than Suleyman in his glorycanrestore such pomp and majesty to the weakness of theImperialcitythat ifWHEN HE IS THEREyou must still gopryingamongst the shades of this dead empireat least youwill treadthe path with seemly reverence and awe.
It is thefirm faith of almost all the Europeans living inthe Eastthat Plague is conveyed by the touch of infectedsubstancesand that the deadly atoms especially lurk in allkinds ofclothes and furs. It is held safer to breathe thesame airwith a man sick of the plagueand even to come incontactwith his skinthan to be touched by the smallestparticleof woollen or of thread which may have been withinthe reachof possible infection. If this be a right notionthe spreadof the malady must be materially aided by theobservanceof a custom prevailing amongst the people ofStamboul. It is this; when an Osmanlee diesone of hisdresses iscut upand a small piece of it is sent to each ofhisfriends as a memorial of the departed - a fatal presentaccordingto the opinion of the Franksfor it too oftenforces theliving not merely to remember the dead manbut tofollow andbear him company.
TheEuropeans during the prevalence of the plagueif theyare forcedto venture into the streetswill carefully avoidthe touchof every human being whom they pass. Their conductin thisrespect shows them strongly in contrast with the"truebelievers": the Moslem stalks on serenelyas though hewere underthe eye of his Godand were "equal to eitherfate";the Franks go crouching and slinking from deathandsome(those chiefly of French extraction) will fondly striveto fenceout destiny with shining capes of oilskin!
For sometime you may manage by great care to thread your waythroughthe streets of Stamboul without incurring contactfor theTurksthough scornful of the terrors felt by theFranksare generally very courteous in yielding to thatwhich theyhold to be a useless and impious precautionandwill letyou pass safe if they can. It is impossiblehoweverthat your immunity can last for any length of timeif youmove about much through the narrow streets and lanesof acrowded city.
As for meI soon got "compromised." After one day of resttheprayers of my hostess began to lose their power ofkeeping mefrom the pestilent side of the Golden Horn.Faithfullypromising to shun the touch of all imaginablesubstanceshowever enticingI set off very cautiouslyandheld myway uncompromised till I reached the water's edge;but beforemy caique was quite ready some rueful-lookingfellowscame rapidly shambling down the steps with a plague-strickencorpsewhich they were going to bury amongst thefaithfulon the other side of the water. I contrived to beso much inthe way of this brisk funeralthat I was not onlytouched bythe men bearing the bodybut alsoI believebythe footof the dead manas it hung lolling out of the bier.Thisaccident gave me such a strong interest in denying thesoundnessof the contagion theorythat I did in fact denyandrepudiate it altogether; and from that timeacting uponmy ownconvenient view of the matterI went wherever Ichosewithout taking any serious pains to avoid a touch. Itseems tome now very likely that the Europeans are rightandthat theplague may be really conveyed by contagion; butduring thewhole time of my remaining in the Eastmy viewson thissubject more nearly approached to those of thefatalists;and sowhen afterwards the plague of Egypt camedealinghis blows around meI was able to live amongst thedyingwithout that alarm and anxiety which would inevitablyhavepressed upon my mind if I had allowed myself to believethat everypassing touch was really a probable death-stroke.
Andperhaps as you make your difficult way through a steepand narrowalleyshut in between blank wallsand littlefrequentedby passersyou meet one of those coffin-shapedbundles ofwhite linen that implies an Ottoman lady.Painfullystruggling against the obstacles to progressioninterposedby the many folds of her clumsy draperyby herbigmud-bootsand especially by her two pairs of slippersshe worksher way on full awkwardly enoughbut yet there issomethingof womanly consciousness in the very labour andeffortwith which she tugs and lifts the burthen of hercharms. She is closely followed by her women slaves. Of hervery selfyou see nothing except the darkluminous eyes thatstareagainst your faceand the tips of the painted fingersdependinglike rose-buds from out of the blank bastions ofthefortress. She turnsand turns againand carefullyglancesaround her on all sidesto see that she is safe fromthe eyesof Mussulmansand then suddenly withdrawing theYASHMAK she shines upon your heart and soul with all thepomp andmight of her beauty. And thisit is not the lightchangefulgrace that leaves you to doubt whether you havefallen inlove with a bodyor only a soul; it is the beautythatdwells secure in the perfectness of harddownrightoutlinesand in the glow of generous colour. There is firethoughtoo - high courage and fire enough in the untamedmindorspiritor whatever it iswhich drives the breathof pridethrough those scarcely parted lips.
You smileat pretty women - you turn pale before the beautythat isgreat enough to have dominion over you. She seesand exultsin your giddiness; she sees and smiles; thenpresentlywith a sudden movementshe lays her blushingfingersupon your armand cries out"Yumourdjak!" (Plague!meaning"there is a present of the plague for you!") Thisis hernotion of a witticism. It is a very old piece of funno doubt -quite an Oriental Joe Miller; but the Turks arefondlyattachednot only to the institutionsbut also tothe jokesof their ancestors; so the lady's silvery laughringsjoyously in your earsand the mirth of her women isboisterousand freshas though the bright idea of giving theplague toa Christian had newly lit upon the earth.
Methleybegan to rally very soon after we had reachedConstantinople;but there seemed at first to be no chance ofhisregaining strength enough for travelling during thewinterand I determined to stay with my comrade until he hadquiterecovered; so I bought me a horseand a "pipeoftranquillity" and took a Turkish phrase-master. Itroubledmyself a great deal with the Turkish tongueandgained atlast some knowledge of its structure. It isenrichedperhaps overladenwith Persian and Arabic wordsimportedinto the language chiefly for the purpose ofrepresentingsentiments and religious dogmasand terms ofart andluxuryentirely unknown to the Tartar ancestors ofthepresent Osmanlees; but the body and the spirit of the oldtongue areyet aliveand the smooth words of the shopkeeperatConstantinople can still carry understanding to the earsof theuntamed millions who rove over the plains of NorthernAsia. The structure of the languageespecially in its morelengthysentencesis very like to the Latin: the subjectmattersare slowly and patiently enumeratedwithoutdisclosingthe purpose of the speaker until he reaches theend of hissentenceand then at last there comes theclenchingwordwhich gives a meaning and connection to allthat hasgone before. If you listen at all to speaking ofthis kindyour attentionrather than be suffered to flagmust growmore and more lively as the phrase marches on.
TheOsmanlees speak well. In countries civilised accordingto theEuropean plan the work of trying to persuade tribunalsis almostall performed by a set of menthe great body ofwhom veryseldom do anything else; but in Turkey thisdivisionof labour has never taken placeand every man ishis ownadvocate. The importance of the rhetorical art isimmensefor a bad speech may endanger the property of thespeakeras well as the soles of his feet and the freeenjoymentof his throat. So it results that most of theTurks whomone sees have a lawyer-like habit of speakingconnectedlyand at length. Even the treaties continuallygoing onat the bazaar for the buying and selling of themeresttrifles are carried on by speechifying rather than bymerecolloquiesand the eternal uncertainty as to the marketvalue ofthings in constant sale gives room enough fordiscussion. The seller is for ever demanding a priceimmenselybeyond that for which he sells at lastand sooccasionsunspeakable disgust in many Englishmenwho cannotsee why anhonest dealer should ask more for his goods thanhe willreally take! The truth ishoweverthat an ordinarytradesmanof Constantinople has no other way of finding outthe fairmarket value of his property. The difficulty underwhich helabours is easily shown by comparing the mechanismof thecommercial system in Turkey with that of our owncountry. In Englandor in any other great mercantilecountrythe bulk of the things bought and sold goes throughthe handsof a wholesale dealerand it is he who higgles andbargainswith an entire nation of purchasers by entering intotreatywith retail sellers. The labour of making a few largecontractsis sufficient to give a clue for finding the fairmarketvalue of the goods sold throughout the country; but inTurkeyfrom the primitive habits of the peopleand partlyfrom theabsence of great capital and great credittheimportingmerchantthe warehousemanthe wholesale dealerthe retaildealerand the shopmanare all one person. OldMoostaphaor Abdallahor Hadgi Mohamed waddles up from thewater'sedge with a small packet of merchandisewhich he hasbought outof a Greek brigantineand when at last he hasreachedhis nook in the bazaar he puts his goods BEFORE thecounterand himself UPON it; then laying fire to hisTCHIBOUQUEhe "sits in permanence" and patiently waits toobtain"the best price that can be got in an open market."This ishis fair right as a sellerbut he has no means offindingout what that best price is except by actualexperiment. He cannot know the intensity of the demandortheabundance of the supplyotherwise than by the offerswhich maybe made for his little bundle of goods; so hebegins byasking a perfectly hopeless priceand thendescendsthe ladder until he meets a purchaserfor ever
"Strivingto attainByshadowing out the unattainable."
This isthe struggle which creates the continual occasion fordebate. The vendorperceiving that the unfolded merchandisehas caughtthe eye of a possible purchasercommences hisopeningspeech. He covers his bristling broadcloths and hismeagresilks with the golden broidery of Oriental praisesand as hetalksalong with the slow and graceful waving ofhis armshe lifts his undulating periodsupholds and poisesthem welltill they have gathered their weight and theirstrengthand then hurls them bodily forward with gravemomentousswing. The possible purchaser listens to the wholespeechwith deep and serious attention; but when it is overHIS turnarrives. He elaborately endeavours to show why heought notto buy the things at a price twenty times largerthan theirvalue. Bystanders attracted to the debate take apart in itas independent members; the vendor is heard inreplyandcoming down with his pricefurnishes thematerialsfor a new debate. Sometimeshoweverthe dealerif he is avery pious Mussulmanand sufficiently rich tohold backhis warewill take a more dignified partmaintaininga kind of judicial gravityand receiving theapplicantswho come to his stall as if they were rathersuitorsthan customers. He will quietly hear to the end somelongspeech that concludes with an offerand will answer itall withthe one monosyllable "Yok" which means distinctly"No."
I caughtone glimpse of the old heathen world. My habits forstudyingmilitary subjects had been hardening my heartagainstpoetry; for ever staring at the flames of battleIhadblinded myself to the lesser and finer lights that areshed fromthe imaginations of men. In my reading at thistime Idelighted to follow from out of Arabian sands the feetof thearmed believersand to stand in the broadmanifeststorm-trackof Tartar devastation; and thusthoughsurroundedat Constantinople by scenes of much interest tothe"classical scholar" I had cast aside their associationslike anold Greek grammarand turned my face to the "shiningOrient"forgetful of old Greece and all the pure wealth sheleft tothis matter-of-fact-ridden world. But it happened tome one dayto mount the high grounds overhanging the streetsof Pera. I sated my eyes with the pomps of the city and itscrowdedwatersand then I looked over where Scutari lay halfveiled inher mournful cypresses. I looked yet farther andhigherand saw in the heavens a silvery cloud that stoodfast andstill against the breeze: it was pure and dazzlingwhiteasmight be the veil of Cythereayet touched withsuch fireas though from beneath the loving eyes of animmortalwere shining through and through. I knew thebearingbut had enormously misjudged its distance andunderratedits heightand so it was as a sign and atestimonyalmost as a call from the neglected godsand nowI saw andacknowledged the snowy crown of the Mysian Olympus!
CHAPTERIV - THE TROAD
METHLEYrecovered almost suddenlyand we determined to gothroughthe Troad together.
My comradewas a capital Grecian. It is true that hissingularmind so ordered and disposed his classic lore as toimpress itwith something of an original and barbarouscharacter- with an almost Gothic quaintnessmore properlybelongingto a rich native ballad than to the poetry ofHellas. There was a certain impropriety in his knowing somuch Greek- an unfitness in the idea of marble faunsandsatyrsand even Olympian godslugged in under the oakenroof andthe painted light of an oddold Norman hall. ButMethleyabounding in Homerreally loved him (as I believe)in alltruthwithout whim or fancy; moreoverhe had a gooddeal ofthe practical sagacity
"Of aYorkshireman hippodamoio"
and thisenabled him to apply his knowledge with much moretact thanis usually shown by people so learned as he.
Itooloved Homerbut not with a scholar's love. The mosthumble andpious among women was yet so proud a mother thatshe couldteach her firstborn son no Watts' hymnsnocollectsfor the day; she could teach him in earliestchildhoodno less than thisto find a home in his saddleand tolove old Homerand all that old Homer sung. True itisthatthe Greek was ingeniously rendered into EnglishtheEnglish ofPope evenbut not even a mesh like that canscreen anearnest child from the fire of Homer's battles.
I poredover the ODYSSEY as over a story-bookhoping andfearingfor the hero whom yet I partly scorned. But theIliad -line by line I clasped it to my brain with reverenceas well aswith love. As an old woman deeply trustful sitsreadingher Bible because of the world to comesoas thoughit wouldfit me for the coming strife of this temporal worldI read andread the ILIAD. Even outwardlyit was not likeotherbooks; it was throned in towering folios. There was apreface ordissertation printed in type still more majesticthan therest of the book; this I readbut not till myenthusiasmfor the ILIAD had already run high. The writercompilingthe opinions of many menand chiefly of theancientsset forthI know not how quaintlythat the ILIADwas all inall to the human race - that it was historypoetryrevelation; that the works of men's hands were follyandvanityand would pass away like the dreams of a childbut thatthe kingdom of Homer would endure for ever and ever.
I assentedwith all my soul. I readand still read; I cameto knowHomer. A learned commentator knows something of theGreeksinthe same sense as an oil-and-colour man may besaid toknow something of painting; but take an untamedchildandleave him alone for twelve months with anytranslationof Homerand he will be nearer by twentycenturiesto the spirit of old Greece; HE does not stop inthe ninthyear of the siege to admire this or that group ofwords; HEhas no books in his tentbut he shares in vitalcounselswith the "king of men" and knows the inmost soulsof theimpending gods; how profanely he exults over thepowersdivine when they are taught to dread the prowess ofmortals!and most of allhow he rejoices when the God of Warflieshowling from the spear of Diomedand mounts intoheaven forsafety! Then the beautiful episode of the SixthBook: theway to feel this is not to go casting aboutandlearningfrom pastors and masters how best to admire it. Theimpatientchild is not grubbing for beautiesbut pushing thesiege; thewomen vex him with their delaysand theirtalking;the mention of the nurse is personaland littlesympathyhas he for the child that is young enough to befrightenedat the nodding plume of a helmet; but all thewhile thathe thus chafes at the pausing of the actionthestrongvertical light of Homer's poetry is blazing so fullupon thepeople and things of the ILIADthat soon to theeyes ofthe child they grow familiar as his mother's shawl;yet ofthis great gain he is unconsciousand on he goesvengefullythirsting for the best blood of Troyand neverremittinghis fierceness till almost suddenly it is changedfor sorrow- the new and generous sorrow that he learns tofeel whenthe noblest of all his foes lies sadly dying at theScaeangate.
Heroicdays are thesebut the dark ages of schoolboy lifecomeclosing over them. I suppose it is all right in theendyetby Joveat first sight it does seem a sadintellectualfall from your mother's dressing-room to abuzzingschool. You feel so keenly the delights of earlyknowledge;you form strange mystic friendships with the merenames ofmountainsand seasand continentsand mightyrivers;you learn the ways of the planetsand transcendtheirnarrow limitsand ask for the end of space; you vextheelectric cylinder till it yields youfor your toy toplay withthat subtle fire in which our earth was forged;you knowof the nations that have towered high in the worldand thelives of the men who have saved whole empires fromoblivion. What more will you ever learn? Yet the dismalchange isordainedand thenthin meagre Latin (the same foreverybody)with small shreds and patches of Greekis thrownlike apauper's pall over all your early lore. Instead ofsweetknowledgevilemonkishdoggerel grammars andgradusesdictionaries and lexiconsand horrible odds andends ofdead languagesare given you for your portionanddown youfallfrom Roman story to a three-inch scrap of"ScriptoresRomani" - from Greek poetry downdown to thecoldrations of "Poetae Graeci" cut up by commentatorsandserved outby schoolmasters!
It was notthe recollection of school nor college learningbut therapturous and earnest reading of my childhoodwhichmade mebend forward so longingly to the plains of Troy.
Away fromour people and our horsesMethley and I wentloiteringalong by the willow banks of a stream that crept inquietnessthrough the loweven plain. There was no stir ofweatheroverheadno sound of rural labourno sign of lifein theland; but all the earth was dead and stillas thoughit hadlain for thrice a thousand years under the leadengloom ofone unbroken Sabbath.
Softly andsadly the poordumbpatient stream went windingandwinding along through its shifting pathway; in someplaces itswaters were partedand then againlower downthey wouldmeet once more. I could see that the stream fromyear toyear was finding itself new channelsand flowed nolonger inits ancient trackbut I knew that the springswhich fedit were high on Ida - the springs of Simois andScamander!
It wascoldly and thanklesslyand with vacantunsatisfiedeyes thatI watched the slow coming and the gliding away ofthewaters. I tell myself nowas a profane factthat I didstand bythat river (Methley gathered some seeds from thebushesthat grew there)but since that I am away from hisbanks"divine Scamander" has recovered the proper mysterybelongingto him as an unseen deity; a kind ofindistinctnesslike that which belongs to far antiquityhasspreaditself over my memoryof the winding stream that Isaw withthese very eyes. One's mind regains in absence thatdominionover earthly things which has been shaken by theirrudecontact. You force yourself hardily into the materialpresenceof a mountainor a riverwhose name belongs topoetry andancient religionrather than to the externalworld;your feelings wound up and kept ready for some sort ofhalf-expectedrapture are chilledand borne down for thetime underall this load of real earth and water; but letthese oncepass out of sightand then again the old fancifulnotionsare restoredand the mere realities which you havejust beenlooking at are thrown back so far into distancethat thevery event of your intrusion upon such scenes beginsto lookdim and uncertainas though it belonged tomythology.
It is notover the plain before Troy that the river nowflows; itswaters have edged away far towards the northsince theday that "divine Scamander" (whom the gods callXanthus)went down to do battle for Ilion"with MarsandPhoebusand Latonaand Diana glorying in her arrowsandVenus thelover of smiles."
And nowwhen I was vexed at the migration of Scamanderandthe totalloss or absorption of poor dear Simoishow happilyMethleyreminded me that Homer himself had warned us of somesuchchanges! The Greeks in beginning their wall hadneglectedthe hecatombs due to the godsand so after thefall ofTroy Apollo turned the paths of the rivers that flowfrom Idaand sent them flooding over the walltill all thebeach wassmooth and free from the unhallowed works of theGreeks. It is true I see nowon looking to the passagethatNeptunewhen the work of destruction was doneturnedback therivers to their ancient ways
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but theirold channels passing through that light pervioussoil wouldhave been lost in the nine days' floodandperhapsthe godwhen he willed to bring back the rivers totheirancient bedsmay have done his work but ill: it iseasierthey sayto destroy than it is to restore.
We took toour horses againand went southward towards thevery plainbetween Troy and the tents of the Greeksbut werode by aline at some distance from the shore. Whether itwas thatthe lay of the ground hindered my view towards theseaorthat I was all intent upon Idaor whether my mindwas invacancyor whetheras is most likeI had strayedfrom theDardan plains all back to gentle Englandthere isnow noknowingnor caringbut it was not quite suddenlyindeedbut ratheras it werein the swelling and fallingof asingle wavethat the reality of that very sea-viewwhich hadbounded the sight of the Greeksnow visiblyacceded tomeand rolled full in upon my brain. Conceivehow deeplythat eternal coast-linethat fixed horizonthoseislandrocksmust have graven their images upon the minds oftheGrecian warriors by the time that they had reached theninth yearof the siege! conceive the strengthand thefancifulbeautyof the speeches with which a whole army ofimaginingmen must have told their wearinessand how thesaunteringchiefs must have whelmed that dailydaily scenewith theirdeep Ionian curses!
And now itwas that my eyes were greeted with a delightfulsurprise. Whilst we were at ConstantinopleMethley and Ihad poredover the map together. We agreed that whatever mayhave beenthe exact site of Troythe Grecian camp must havebeennearly opposite to the space betwixt the islands ofImbros andTenedos
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butMethley reminded me of a passage in the ILIAD in whichNeptune isrepresented as looking at the scene of actionbeforeIlion from above the island of Samothrace. NowSamothraceaccording to the mapappeared to be not only outof allseeing distance from the Troadbut to be entirelyshut outfrom it by the intervening Imbroswhich is a largerislandstretching its length right athwart the line of sightfromSamothrace to Troy. Piously allowing that the dreadCommoterof our globe might have seen all mortal doingsevenfrom thedepth of his own cerulean kingdomI still felt thatif astation were to be chosen from which to see the fightold Homerso material in his ways of thoughtso averse fromallhaziness and overreachingwould have MEANT to give thegod forhis station some spot within reach of men's eyes fromthe plainsof Troy. I think that this testing of the poet'swords bymap and compass may have shaken a little of my faithin thecompleteness of his knowledge. Wellnow I had come;there tothe south was Tenedosand here at my side wasImbrosall rightand according to the mapbut aloft overImbrosaloft in a far-away heavenwas Samothracethewatch-towerof Neptune!
So Homerhad appointed itand so it was; the map was correctenoughbut could notlike Homerconvey THE WHOLE TRUTH.Thus vainand false are the mere human surmises and doubtswhichclash with Homeric writ!
Nobodywhose mind had not been reduced to the most deplorablelogicalcondition could look upon this beautiful congruitybetwixtthe ILIAD and the material world and yet bear tosupposethat the poet may have learned the features of thecoast frommere hearsay; now thenI believed; now I knewthat Homerhad PASSED ALONG HEREthat this vision ofSamothraceover-towering the nearer island was common to himand to me.
After ajourney of some few days by the route of Adramiti andPergamo wereached Smyrna. The letters which Methley herereceivedobliged him to return to England.
CHAPTERV - INFIDEL SMYRNA
SMYRNAorGiaour Izmir"Infidel Smyrna" as the Mussulmanscall itis the main point of commercial contact betwixtEurope andAsia. You are there surrounded by the peopleandtheconfused customs of many and various nations; you see thefussyEuropean adopting the Eastand calming hisrestlessnesswith the long Turkish "pipe of tranquillity";you seeJews offering servicesand receiving blows; on oneside youhave a fellow whose dress and beard would give you agood ideaof the true Orientalif it were not for the GOBE-MOUCHEexpression of countenance with which he is swallowingan articlein the NATIONAL; and therejust byis a genuineOsmanleesmoking away with all the majesty of a sultanbutbefore youhave time to admire sufficiently his tranquildignityand his soft Asiatic reposethe poor old fellow isruthlessly"run down" by an English midshipmanwho has setsail on aSmyrna hack. Such are the incongruities of the"infidelcity" at ordinary times; but when I was thereourfriendCarrigaholt had imported himself and his oddities asanaccession to the other and inferior wonders of Smyrna.
I wassitting alone in my room one day at Constantinoplewhen Iheard Methley approaching my door with shouts oflaughterand welcomeand presently I recognised thatpeculiarcry by which our friend Carrigaholt expresses hisemotions;he soon explained to us the final causes by whichthe fateshad worked out their wonderful purpose of bringinghim toConstantinople. He was alwaysyou knowvery fond ofsailingbut he had got into such sad scrapes (includingIthinkalawsuit) on account of his last yachtthat he tookit intohis head to have a cruise in a merchant vesselso hewent toLiverpooland looked through the craft lying readyto sailtill he found a smart schooner that perfectly suitedhistaste. The destination of the vessel was the last thinghe thoughtof; and when he was told that she was bound forConstantinoplehe merely assented to that as a part of thearrangementto which he had no objection. As soon as thevessel hadsailedthe hapless passenger discovered that hisskippercarried on board an enormous wifewith an inquiringmind andan irresistible tendency to impart her opinions.She lookedupon her guest as upon a piece of waste intellectthat oughtto be carefully tilled. She tilled himaccordingly. If the dons at Oxford could have seen poorCarrigaholtthus absolutely "attending lectures" in the Bayof Biscaythey would surely have thought him sufficientlypunishedfor all the wrongs he did them whilst he waspreparinghimself under their care for the other and moreboisterousUniversity. The voyage did not last more than sixor eightweeksand the philosophy inflicted on Carrigaholtwas notentirely fatal to him; certainly he was somewhatemaciatedand for aught I knowhe may have subscribedsomewhattoo largely to the "Feminine-right-of-reasonSociety";but it did not appear that his health had beenseriouslyaffected. There was a scheme on footit wouldseemfortaking the passenger back to England in the sameschooner -a schemein factfor keeping him perpetuallyafloatand perpetually saturated with arguments; but whenCarrigaholtfound himself ashoreand remembered that theskipperina(who had imprudently remained on board) was notthere toenforce her suggestionshe was open to the hints ofhisservant (a very sharp fellow)who arranged a plan forescapingand finally brought off his master to Giuseppini'sHotel.
Our friendafterwards went by sea to Smyrnaand there he nowwas in hisglory. He had a goodor at all events agentleman-likejudgment in matters of tasteand as hisgreatobject was to surround himself with all that his fancycoulddictatehe lived in a state of perpetual negotiation.He was forever on the point of purchasingnot only thematerialproductions of the placebut all sorts of such fineware as"intelligence" "fidelity" and so on. Hewas mostcurioushoweveras the purchaser of the "affections."Sometimeshe would imagine that he had a marital aptitudeand hisfancy would sketch a graceful picturein which heappearedreclining on a divanwith a beautiful Greek womanfondlycouched at his feetand soothing him with thewitcheryof her guitar. Having satisfied himself with theidealpicture thus createdhe would pass into action; theguitar hewould buy instantlyand would give suchintimationsof his wish to be wedded to a Greekas could notfail toproduce great excitement in the families of thebeautifulSmyrniotes. Then again (and just in time perhapsto savehim from the yoke) his dream would pass awayandanotherwould come in its stead; he would suddenly feel theyearningsof a father's loveand willing by force of gold totranscendall natural preliminarieshe would issueinstructionsfor the purchase of some dutiful child thatcould bewarranted to love him as a parent. Then at anothertime hewould be convinced that the attachment of menialsmightsatisfy the longings of his affectionate heartandthereuponhe would give orders to his slave-merchant forsomethingin the way of eternal fidelity. You may wellimaginethat this anxiety of Carrigaholt to purchase not onlythescenerybut the many DRAMATIS PERSONAE belonging to hisdreamswith all their goodness and graces completenecessarilygave an immense stimulus to the trade andintrigueof Smyrnaand created a demand for human virtueswhich themoral resources of the place were totallyinadequateto supply. Every day after breakfast this loverof thegood and the beautiful held a leveewhich was oftenexceedinglyamusing. In his anteroom there would be not onlythesellers of pipes and slippers and shawlsand such likeOrientalmerchandisenot only embroiderers and cunningworkmenpatiently striving to realise his visions of Albaniandressesnot only the servants offering for placesand theslave-dealertendering his sable warebut there would be theGreekmasterwaiting to teach his pupil the grammar of thesoftIonian tonguein which he was to delight the wife ofhisimaginationand the music-masterwho was to teach himsome sweetreplies to the anticipated sounds of the fanciedguitar;and thenabove alland proudly eminent withundisputedpreference of ENTREEand fraught with themysterioustidings on which the realisation of the wholedreammight dependwas the mysterious match-makerenticingand postponing the suitoryet ever keeping alive inhis soulthe love of that pictured virtuewhose beauty(unseen byeyes) was half revealed to the imagination.
You wouldhave thought that this practical dreaming must havesoonbrought Carrigaholt to a bad endbut he was in muchlessdanger than you would suppose; for besides that the newvisions ofhappiness almost always came in time to counteractthe fatalcompletion of the preceding schemehis highbreedingand his delicately sensitive taste almost alwayscame tohis aid at times when he was left without any otherprotection;and the efficacy of these qualities in keeping aman out ofharm's way is really immense. In all baseness andimposturethere is a coarsevulgar spiritwhichhoweverartfullyconcealed for a timemust sooner or later showitself insome little circumstance sufficiently plain tooccasionan instant jar upon the minds of those whose tasteis livelyand true. To such men a shock of this kinddisclosingthe UGLINESS of a cheatis more effectivelyconvincingthan any mere proofs could be.
Thusguarded from isle to isleand through GreeceandthroughAlbaniathis practical Plato with a purse in hishandcarried on his mad chase after the good and thebeautifuland yet returned in safety to his home. But nowpoorfellow! the lowly gravethat is the end of men'sromantichopeshas closed over all his rich fanciesand allhis highaspirations; he is utterly married! No more hopeno morechange for him - no more relays - he must go onVetturini-wiseto the appointed end of his journey!
SmyrnaIthinkmay be called the chief town and capital oftheGrecian raceagainst which you will be cautioned socarefullyas soon as you touch the Levant. You will say thatI oughtnot to confound as one people the Greeks living underaconstitutional government with the unfortunate Rayahs who"groanunder the Turkish yoke" but I can't see thatpoliticalevents have hitherto produced any strongly markeddifferenceof character. If I could venture to rely (which Ifeel thatI cannot at all do) upon my own observationIshouldtell you that there was more heartiness and strengthin theGreeks of the Ottoman Empire than in those of the newkingdom. The truth isthat there is a greater field forcommercialenterpriseand even for Greek ambitionunder theOttomansceptrethan is to be found in the dominions ofOtho. Indeed the peopleby their frequent migrations fromthe limitsof the constitutional kingdom to the territoriesof thePorteseem to show thaton the wholethey prefer"groaningunder the Turkish yoke" to the honour of "being theonly truesource of legitimate power" in their own land.
FormyselfI love the race; in spite of all their vicesandeven inspite of all their meannessesI remember the bloodthat is inthemand still love the Greeks. The Osmanleesareofcourseby natureby religionand by politicsthestrongfoes of the Hellenic peopleand as the Greekspoorfellows!happen to be a little deficient in some of thevirtueswhich facilitate the transaction of commercialbusiness(such as veracityfidelity&c.)it naturallyfollowsthat they are highly unpopular with the Europeanmerchants. Now these are the persons through whomeitherdirectlyor indirectlyis derived the greater part of theinformationwhich you gather in the Levantand therefore youmust makeup your mind to hear an almost universal andunbrokentestimony against the character of the people whoseancestorsinvented virtue. And strange to saythe Greeksthemselvesdo not attempt to disturb this general unanimityof opinionby an dissent on their part. Question a Greek onthesubjectand he will tell you at once that the people areTRADITORIand will thenperhapsendeavour to shake off hisfair shareof the imputation by asserting that his father hadbeendragoman to some foreign embassyand that he (the son)thereforeby the law of nationshad ceased to be Greek.
"Edunque no siete traditore?"
"Possibilesignorma almeno Io no sono Greco."
Not eventhe diplomatic representatives of the Hellenickingdomare free from the habit of depreciating theirbrethren. I recollect that at one of the ports in Syria aGreekvessel was rather unfairly kept in quarantine by orderof theBoard of Healthwhich consisted entirely ofEuropeans. A consular agent from the kingdom of Greece hadlatelyhoisted his flag in the townand the captain of thevesseldrew up a remonstrancewhich he requested his consulto presentto the Board.
"NowIS this reasonable?" said the consul; "is it reasonablethat Ishould place myself in collision with all theprincipalEuropean gentlemen of the place for the sake ofyouaGreek?" The skipper was greatly vexed at the failureof hisapplicationbut he scarcely even questioned thejustice ofthe ground which his consul had taken. Wellithappenedsome time afterwards that I found myself at the sameporthaving gone thither with the view of embarking for theport ofSyra. I was anxiousof courseto elude ascarefullyas possible the quarantine detentions whichthreatenedme on my arrivaland hearing that the Greekconsul hada brother who was a man in authority at SyraIgot myselfpresented to the formerand took the liberty ofasking himto give me such a letter of introduction to hisrelativeat Syra as might possibly have the effect ofshorteningthe term of my quarantine. He acceded to thisrequestwith the utmost kindness and courtesy; but when hereplied tomy thanks by saying that "in serving an Englishmanhe wasdoing no more than his strict duty commanded" noteven mygratitude could prevent me from calling to mind histreatmentof the poor captain who had the misfortune of NOTbeing analien in blood to his consul and appointedprotector.
I thinkthat the change which has taken place in thecharacterof the Greeks has been occasionedin greatmeasureby the doctrines and practice of their religion.The GreekChurch has animated the Muscovite peasantandinspiredhim with hopes and ideas whichhowever humblearestillbetter than none at all; but the faithand the formsand thestrange ecclesiastical literature which act soadvantageouslyupon the mere clay of the Russian serfseemto hanglike lead upon the ethereal spirit of the Greek.Never inany part of the world have I seen religiousperformancesso painful to witness as those of the Greeks.Thehorrorhoweverwith which one shudders at their worshipisattributablein some measureto the mere effect ofcostume. In all the Ottoman dominionsand very frequentlytoo in thekingdom of Othothe Greeks wear turbans or otherhead-dressesand shave their headsleaving only a rat's-tail atthe crown of the head; they of course keep themselvescoveredwithin doors as well as abroadand they never removetheirhead-gear merely on account of being in a church; butwhen theGreek stops to worship at his proper shrinethenand thenonlyhe always uncovers; and as you see him thuswithshaven skull and savage tail depending from his crownkissing athing of wood and glassand cringing with baseprostrationsand apparent terror before a miserable pictureyou seesuperstition in a shape whichoutwardly at leastissadlyabject and repulsive.
The faststooof the Greek Church produce an ill effectupon thecharacter of the peoplefor they are not a merefarcebutare carried to such an extent as to bring about arealmortification of the flesh; the febrile irritation ofthe frameoperating in conjunction with the depression of thespiritsoccasioned by abstinencewill so far answer theobjects ofthe riteas to engender some religiousexcitementbut this is of a morbid and gloomy characterandit seemsto be certainthat along with the increase ofsanctitythere comes a fiercer desire for the perpetrationof darkcrimes. The number of murders committed during LentisgreaterI am toldthan at any other time of the year. Aman underthe influence of a bean dietary (for this is theprincipalfood of the Greeks during their fasts) will be inan apthumour for enriching the shrine of his saintandpassing aknife through his next-door neighbour. The moneysdepositedupon the shrines are appropriated by priests; thepriestsare married menand have families to provide for;they "takethe good with the bad" and continue to recommendfasts.
Thentoothe Greek Church enjoins her followers to keepholy sucha vast number of saints' days as practically toshortenthe lives of the people very materially. I believethatone-third out of the number of days in the year are"keptholy" or ratherKEPT STUPIDin honour of the saints;no greatportion of the time thus set apart is spent inreligiousexercisesand the people don't betake themselvesto anysuch animating pastimes as might serve to strengthenthe frameor invigorate the mindor exalt the taste. Onthecontrarythe saints' days of the Greeks in Smyrna arepassed inthe same manner as the Sabbaths of well-behavedProtestanthousemaids in London - that is to sayin a steadyandserious contemplation of street scenery. The men performthis dutyAT THE DOORS of their housesthe women AT THEWINDOWSwhich the custom of Greek towns has so decidedlyappropriatedto them as the proper station of their sexthata manwould be looked upon as utterly effeminate if heventuredto choose that situation for the keeping of thesaints'days. I was present one day at a treaty for the hireof someapartments at Smyrnawhich was carried on betweenCarrigaholtand the Greek woman to whom the rooms belonged.Carrigaholtobjected that the windows commanded no view ofthestreet. Immediately the brow of the majestic matron wascloudedand with all the scorn of a Spartan mother shecoollyasked Carrigaholtand said"Art thou a tender damselthat thouwouldst sit and gaze from windows?" The man whomsheaddressedhoweverhad not gone to Greece with anyintentionof placing himself under the laws of Lycurgusandwas not tobe diverted from his views by a Spartan rebukesohe tookcare to find himself windows after his own heartandthereIbelievefor many a monthhe kept the saints' daysand allthe days interveningafter the fashion of Grecianwomen.
Oh! let mebe charitable to all who writeand to all wholectureand to all who preachsince even Ia layman notforced towrite at allcan hardly avoid chiming in with sometunefulcant! I have had the heart to talk about theperniciouseffects of the Greek holidaysto which I owe someof my mostbeautiful visions! I will let the words standasa humblingproof that I am subject to that immutable lawwhichcompels a man with a pen in his hand to be utteringevery nowand then some sentiment not his own. It seems asthough thepower of expressing regrets and desires by writtensymbolswere coupled with a condition that the writer shouldfrom timeto time express the regrets and desires of otherpeople; asthoughlike a French peasant under the oldregimeone were bound to perform a certain amount of workUPON THEPUBLIC HIGHWAYS. I rebel as stoutly as I canagainstthis horribleCORVEE. I try not to deceive you - Itry to setdown the thoughts which are fresh within meandnot topretend any wishesor griefswhich I do not reallyfeel; butno sooner do I cease from watchfulness in thisregardthan my right hand isas it wereseized by somefalseangeland even nowyou seeI have been forced to putdown suchwords and sentences as I ought to have written ifreally andtruly I had wished to disturb the saints' days ofthebeautiful Smyrniotes!
WhichHeaven forbid! for as you move through the narrowstreets ofthe city at these times of festivalthe transom-shapedwindows suspended over your head on either side arefilledwith the beautiful descendants of the old Ionian race;all (evenyonder empress that sits throned at the window ofthathumblest mud cottage) are attired with seemingmagnificence;their classic heads are crowned with scarletandloaded with jewels or coins of goldthe whole wealth ofthewearers; their features are touched with a savagepencilwhich hardens the outline of eyes and eyebrowsandlends anunnatural fire to the sterngrave looks with whichtheypierce your brain. Endure their fiery eyes as best youmayandride on slowly and reverentlyfor facing you fromthe sideof the transomthat looks long-wise through thestreetyou see the one glorious shape transcendant in itsbeauty;you see the massive braid of hair as it catches atouch oflight on its jetty surfaceand the broadcalmangrybrow; the large black eyesdeep setand self-relyinglike theeyes of a conquerorwith their rich shadows ofthoughtlying darkly around them; you see the thin fierynostriland the bold line of the chin and throat disclosingall thefiercenessand all the pridepassionand powerthat canlive along with the rare womanly beauty of thosesweetlyturned lips. But then there is a terrible stillnessin thisbreathing image; it seems like the stillness of asavagethat sits intent and broodingday by dayupon someonefearful scheme of vengeancebut yet more like it seemsto thestillness of an Immortalwhose will must be knownand obeyedwithout sign or speech. Bow down! - Bow down andadore theyoung Persephonietranscendent Queen of Shades!
CHAPTERVI - GREEK MARINERS
I SAILEDfrom Smyrna in the AMPHITRITEa Greek brigantinewhich wasconfidently said to be bound for the coast ofSyria; butI knew that this announcement was not to be reliedupon withpositive certaintyfor the Greek mariners arepracticallyfree from the stringency of ship's papersandwhere theywillthere they go. HoweverI had the whole ofthe cabinfor myself and my attendantMysserisubject onlyto thesociety of the captain at the hour of dinner. Beingat ease inthis respectbeing furnished too with plenty ofbooksandfinding an unfailing source of interest in thethoroughGreekness of my captain and my crewI felt lessanxiousthan most people would have been about the probablelength ofthe cruise. I knew enough of Greek navigation tobe surethat our vessel would cling to earth like a child toitsmother's kneeand that I should touch at many an islebefore Iset foot upon the Syrian coast; but I had noinvidiouspreference for EuropeAsiaor Africaand I feltthat Icould defy the winds to blow me upon a coast that wasblank andvoid of interest. My patience was extremely usefulto meforthe cruise altogether endured some forty daysandthat inthe midst of winter.
Accordingto methe most interesting of all the Greeks (maleGreeks)are the marinersbecause their pursuits and theirsocialcondition are so nearly the same as those of theirfamousancestors. You will saythat the occupation ofcommercemust have smoothed down the salience of their minds;and thiswould be so perhaps if their mercantile affairs wereconductedaccording to the fixed businesslike routine ofEuropeans;but the ventures of the Greeks are surrounded bysuch amultitude of imagined dangers (and from the absence ofregularmartsin which the true value of merchandise can beascertained)are so entirely speculativeand besidesareconductedin a manner so wholly determined upon by thewaywardfancies and wishes of the crewthat they belong toenterpriserather than to industryand are very far indeedfromtending to deaden any freshness of character.
Thevessels in which war and piracy were carried on duringthe yearsof the Greek Revolution became merchantmen at theend of thewar; but the tactics of the Greeksas navalwarriorswere so exceedingly cautiousand their habits ascommercialmariners are so wildthat the change has beenmoreslight than you might imagine. The first care of Greeks(GreekRayahs) when they undertake a shipping enterprise isto procurefor their vessel the protection of some Europeanpower. This is easily managed by a little intriguing withthedragoman of one of the embassies at Constantinopleandthe craftsoon glories in the ensign of Russiaor thedazzlingTricoloror the Union Jack. Thusto the greatdelight ofher crewshe enters upon the ocean world with aflaringlie at her peakbut the appearance of the vesseldoes nodiscredit to the borrowed flag; she is frail indeedbut isgracefully builtand smartly rigged; she alwayscarriesgunsand in shortgives good promise of mischiefand speed.
Theprivileges attached to the vessel and her crew by virtueof theborrowed flag are so greatas to imply a libertywider eventhan that which is often enjoyed in our morestrictlycivilised countriesso that there is no pretencefor sayingthat the development of the true characterbelongingto Greek mariners is prevented by the dominion oftheOttoman. These men are freetoofrom the power of thegreatcapitalistwhose sway is more withering than despotismitself tothe enterprises of humble venturers. The capitalemployedis supplied by those whose labour is to render itproductive. The crew receive no wagesbut have all a sharein theventureand in generalI believethey are theowners ofthe whole freight. They choose a captainto whomtheyentrust just power enough to keep the vessel on hercourse infine weatherbut not quite enough for a gale ofwind; theyalso elect a cook and a mate. The cook whom wehad onboard was particularly careful about the ship'sreckoningand when under the influence of the keen sea-breezes wegrew fondly expectant of an instant dinnerthegreatauthor of PILAFS would be standing on deck with anancientquadrant in his handscalmly affecting to take anobservation. But then to make up for this the captain wouldbeexercising a controlling influence over the soupso thatall in theend went well. Our mate was a Hydriota nativeof thatisland rock which grows nothing but mariners andmariners'wives. His character seemed to be exactly thatwhich isgenerally attributed to the Hydriot race; he wasfierceand gloomyand lonely in his ways. One of hisprincipalduties seemed to be that of acting as counter-captainor leader of the oppositiondenouncing the firstsymptomsof tyrannyand protecting even the cabin-boy fromoppression. Besides thiswhen things went smoothly he wouldbegin toprognosticate evilin order that his more light-heartedcomrades might not be puffed up with the seeming goodfortune ofthe moment.
It seemedto me that the personal freedom of these sailorswho own nosuperiors except those of their own choiceis aslike asmay be to that of their seafaring ancestors. Andeven intheir mode of navigation they have admitted no suchan entirechange as you would suppose probable. It is truethat theyhave so far availed themselves of moderndiscoveriesas to look to the compass instead of the starsand thatthey have superseded the immortal gods of theirforefathersby St. Nicholas in his glass case butthey arenot yet soconfident either in their needleor their saintas to lovean open seaand they still hug their shores asfondly asthe Argonauts of old. Indeedthey have a mostunsailor-likelove for the landand I really believe that ina gale ofwind they would rather have a rock-bound coast ontheir leethan no coast at all. According to the notions ofan Englishseamanthis kind of navigation would soon bringthe vesselon which it might be practised to an evil end.The Greekhoweveris unaccountably successful in escapingtheconsequences of being "jammed in" as it is calleduponalee-shore.
Theseseamenlike their forefathersrely upon no windsunlessthey are right astern or on the quarter; they rarelygo on awind if it blows at all freshand if the adversebreezeapproaches to a galethey at once fumigate St.Nicholasand put up the helm. The consequence of course isthat underthe ever-varying winds of the Aegean they areblownabout in the most whimsical manner. I used to thinkthatUlysses with his ten years' voyage had taken his time inmakingIthacabut my experience in Greek navigation soonmade meunderstand that he had hadin point of factaprettygood "average passage."
Such arenow the mariners of the Aegean: freeequal amongstthemselvesnavigating the seas of their forefathers with thesameheroicand yet child-likespirit of venturethe samehalf-trustfulreliance upon heavenly aidthey are theliveliestimages of true old Greeks that time and the newreligionshave spared to us.
With oneexceptionour crew were "a solemn company" andyetsometimeswhen all things went wellthey would relaxtheirausterityand show a disposition to funor rather toquiethumour. When this happenedthey invariably hadrecourseto one of their numberwho went by the name of"AdmiralNicolou." He was an amusing fellowthe poorestIbelieveand the least thoughtful of the crewbut full ofrichhumour. His oft-told story of the events by which hehad gainedthe sobriquet of "Admiral" never failed to delighthishearersand when he was desired to repeat it for mybenefitthe rest of the crew crowded round with as muchinterestas if they were listening to the tale for the firsttime. A number of Greek brigs and brigantines were at anchorin the bayof Beyrout. A festival of some kindparticularlyattractiveto the sailorswas going on in the townandwhetherwith or without leave I know notbut the crews ofall thecraftexcept that of Nicolouhad gone ashore. Onboard hisvesselhoweverwhich carried dollarsthere wasit wouldseema more carefulor more influential captainwho wasable to enforce his determination that one manatleastshould be left on board. Nicolou's good nature waswith himso powerful an impulsethat he could not resist thedelight ofvolunteering to stay with the vessel whilst hiscomradeswent ashore. His proposal was acceptedand thecrew andcaptain soon left him alone on the deck of hisvessel. The sailorsgathering together from their severalshipswere amusing themselves in the townwhen suddenlythere camedown from betwixt the mountains one of thosesuddenhurricanes which sometimes occur in southern climes.Nicolou'svesseltogether with four of the craft which hadbeen leftunmannedbroke from her mooringsand all five ofthevessels were carried out seaward. The town is on asalientpoint at the southern side of the bayso that "thatAdmiral"was close under the eyes of the inhabitants and theshore-gonesailors when he gallantly drifted out at the headof hislittle fleet. If Nicolou could not entirely controlthemanoeuvres of the squadronthere was at least no humanpower todivide his authorityand thus it was that he tookrank as"Admiral." Nicolou cut his cableand thus for thetime savedhis vessel; for the rest of the fleet under hiscommandwere quickly wreckedwhilst "the Admiral" got awayclear tothe open sea. The violence of the squall soonpassedoffbut Nicolou felt that his chance of one dayresigninghis high duties as an admiral for the enjoyments ofprivatelife on the steadfast shore mainly depended upon hissuccess inworking the brig with his own handsso aftercalling onhis namesakethe saint (not for the first timeItake it)he got up some canvasand took the helm: he becameequalhetold usto a score of Nicolousand the vesselashe saidwas "manned with his terrors." For two daysitseemshecruised at largebut at lasteither by hisseamanshipor by the natural instinct of the Greek marinersforfinding landhe brought his craft close to an unknownshorethat promised well for his purpose of running in thevessel;and he was preparing to give her a good berth on thebeachwhen he saw a gang of ferocious-looking fellows comingdown tothe point for which he was making. Poor Nicolou wasaperfectly unlettered and untutored geniusand for thatreasonperhapsa keen listener to tales of terror. Hismind hadbeen impressed with some horrible legend ofcannibalismand he now did not doubt for a moment that themenawaiting him on the beach were the monsters at whom hehadshuddered in the days of his childhood. The coast onwhichNicolou was running his vessel was somewhereI fancyat thefoot of the Anzairie Mountainsand the fellows whowerepreparing to give him a reception were probably veryroughspecimens of humanity. It is likely enough that theymight havegiven themselves the trouble of putting "theAdmiral"to deathfor the purpose of simplifying their claimto thevessel and preventing litigationbut the notion oftheircannibalism was of course utterly unfounded. Nicolou'sterrorhadhoweverso graven the idea on his mindthat hecouldnever afterwards dismiss it. Having once determinedthecharacter of his expectant hoststhe Admiral naturallythoughtthat it would he better to keep their dinner waitingany lengthof time than to attend their feast in thecharacterof a roasted Greekso he put about his vesselandtemptedthe deep once more. After a further cruise thelonelycommander ran his vessel upon some rocks at anotherpart ofthe coastwhere she was lost with all her treasuresandNicolou was but too glad to scramble ashorethoughwithoutone dollar in his girdle. These adventures seem flatenough asI repeat thembut the hero expressed his terrorsby suchodd terms of speechand such strangely humorousgesturesthat the story came from his lips with an unfailingzestsothat the crewwho had heard the tale so oftencouldstill enjoy to their hearts' content the rich fright oftheAdmiraland still shuddered with unabated horror when hecame tothe loss of the dollars.
The powerof listening to long stories (for whichby-the-byeI amgiving you large credit) is commonI fancytomostsailorsand the Greeks have it to a high degreeforthey canbe perfectly patient under a narrative of two orthreehours' duration. These long stories are mostly foundeduponOriental topicsand in one of them I recognised withsomealteration an old friend of the "Arabian Nights." Iinquiredas to the source from which the story had beenderivedand the crew all agreed that it had been handed downunwrittenfrom Greek to Greek. Their account of the matterdoes notperhapsgo very far towards showing the realorigin ofthe tale; but when I afterwards took up the"ArabianNights" I became strongly impressed with a notionthat theymust have sprung from the brain of a Greek. Itseems tome that these storieswhilst they disclose acompleteand habitual KNOWLEDGE of things Asiatichave aboutthem somuch of freshness and lifeso much of the stirringandvolatile European characterthat they cannot have owedtheirconception to a mere Orientalwho for creativepurposesis a thing dead and dry - a mental mummythat mayhave beena live king just after the Floodbut has sincelainbalmed in spice. At the time of the Caliphat the Greekrace wasfamiliar enough to Baghdad: they were the merchantsthepedlarsthe barbersand intriguers-general of south-westernAsiaand therefore the Oriental materials with whichtheArabian tales were wrought must have been completely atthecommand of the inventive people to whom I would attributetheirorigin.
We werenearing the isle of Cyprus when there arose half agale ofwindwith a heavy chopping sea. My Greek seamenconsideredthat the weather amounted not to a halfbut to anintegralgale of wind at the very leastso they put up thehelmandscudded for twenty hours. When we neared themainlandof Anadoli the gale ceasedand a favourable breezesprung upwhich brought us off Cyprus once more. Afterwardsthe windchanged againbut we were still able to lay ourcourse bysailing close-hauled.
We were atlength in such a positionthat by holding on ourcourse forabout half-an-hour we should get under the lee ofthe islandand find ourselves in smooth waterbut the windhad beengradually freshening; it now blew hardand therewas aheavy sea running.
As thegrounds for alarm arosethe crew gathered together inone closegroup; they stood pale and grim under their hoodedcapoteslike monks awaiting a massacreanxiously looking byturnsalong the pathway of the storm and then upon eachotherandthen upon the eye of the captain who stood by thehelmsman. Presently the Hydriot came aftmore moody thaneverthebearer of fierce remonstrance against thecontinuingof the struggle; he received a resolute answerand stillwe held our course. Soon there came a heavy seathatcaught the bow of the brigantine as she lay jammed inbetwixtthe waves; she bowed her head low under the watersandshuddered through all her timbersthen gallantly stoodup againover the striving seawith bowsprit entire. Butwhere werethe crew? It was a crew no longerbut rather agatheringof Greek citizens; the shout of the seamen waschangedfor the murmuring of the people - the spirit of theold Demoswas alive. The men came aft in a bodyand loudlyasked thatthe vessel should be put aboutand that the stormbe nolonger tempted. Nowthenfor speeches. The captainhis eyesflashing firehis frame all quivering with emotion- wieldinghis every limblike another and a louder voicepoursforth the eloquent torrent of his threats and hisreasonshis commands and his prayers; he promiseshe vowshe swearsthat there is safety in holding on - safetyIFGREEKSWILL BE BRAVE! The men hear and are moved; but thegalerouses itself once moreand again the raging sea comestramplingover the timbers that are the life of all. ThefierceHydriot advances one step nearer to the captainandthe angrygrowl of the people goes floating down the windbut theylisten; they waver once moreand once more resolvethen waveragainthus doubtfully hanging between the terrorsof thestorm and the persuasion of glorious speechas thoughit werethe Athenian that talkedand Philip of Macedon thatthunderedon the weather-bow.
Bravethoughts winged on Grecian words gained their naturalmasteryover terror; the brigantine held on her courseandreachedsmooth water at last. I landed at Limasolthewesternmostport of Cyprusleaving the vessel to sail forLarnakawhere she was to remain for some days.
CHAPTERVII - CYPRUS
THERE wasa Greek at Limasol who hoisted his flag as anEnglishvice-consuland he insisted upon my accepting hishospitality. With some difficultyand chiefly by assuringhim that Icould not delay my departure beyond an early hourin theafternoonI induced him to allow my dining with hisfamilyinstead of banqueting all alone with therepresentativeof my sovereign in consular state and dignity.The ladyof the houseit seemedhad never sat at table withanEuropean. She was very shy about the matterand triedhard toget out of the scrapebut the husbandI fancyremindedher that she was theoretically an English-womanbyvirtue ofthe flag that waved over her roofand that she wasbound toshow her nationality by sitting at meat with me.Findingherself inexorably condemned to bear with the dreadedgaze ofEuropean eyesshe tried to save her innocentchildrenfrom the hard fate awaiting herselfbut I obtainedthat allof them (and I think there were four or five) shouldsit at thetable. You will meet with abundance of statelyreceptionsand of generous hospitalitytooin the Eastbutrarelyvery rarely in those regions (or evenso far as Iknowinany part of southern Europe) does one gain anopportunityof seeing the familiar and indoor life of thepeople.
Thisfamily party of the good consul's (or rather of minefor Ioriginated the ideathough he furnished the materials)went offvery well. The mamma was shy at firstbut sheveiled theawkwardness which she felt by affecting to scoldherchildrenwho had all of themI thinkimmortal names -names toowhich they owed to traditionand certainly not toanyclassical enthusiasm of their parents. Every instant Iwasdelighted by some such phrases as these"Themistoclesmy lovedon't fight." - "Alcibiadescan't you sit still?" -"Socratesput down the cup." - "Ohfie! Aspasiadon't.Oh! don'tbe naughty!" It is true that the names werepronouncedSocrahtieAspahsie - that isaccording toaccentand not according to quantity - but I suppose it isscarcelynow to be doubted that they were so sounded inancienttimes.
To me itseemsthat of all the lands I know (you will see ina minutehow I connect this piece of prose' with the isle ofCyprus)there is none in which mere wealthmere unaidedwealthisheld half so cheaply; none in which a poor devilof amillionairewithout birthor abilityoccupies sohumble aplace as in England. My Greek host and I weresittingtogetherI thinkupon the roof of the house (forthat isthe lounging-place in Eastern climes)when theformerassumed a serious airand intimated a wish toconverseupon the subject of the British Constitutionwithwhich heassured me that he was thoroughly acquainted. Hepresentlyhoweverinformed me that there was one anomalouscircumstanceattended upon the practical working of ourpoliticalsystem which he had never been able to hearexplainedin a manner satisfactory to himself. From the factof hishaving found a difficulty in his subjectI began tothink thatmy host might really know rather more of it thanhisannouncement of a thorough knowledge had led me toexpect. I felt interested at being about to hear from thelips of anintelligent Greekquite remote from the influenceofEuropean opinionswhat might seem to him the mostastonishingand incomprehensible of all those results whichhavefollowed from the action of our political institutions.Theanomalythe only anomaly which had been detected by thevice-consularwisdomconsisted in the fact that Rothschild(the latemoney-monger) had never been the Prime Minister ofEngland! I gravely tried to throw some light upon themysteriouscauses that had kept the worthy Israelite out oftheCabinetbut I think I could see that my explanation wasnotsatisfactory. Go and argue with the flies of summer thatthere is apower divineyet greater than the sun in theheavensbut never dare hope to convince the people of thesouth thatthere is any other God than Gold.
Myintended journey was to the site of the Paphian temple. Itake noantiquarian interest in ruinsand care little aboutthemunless they are either striking in themselvesor elseserve tomark some spot on which my fancy loves to dwell. Iknew thatthe ruins of Paphos were scarcelyif at alldiscerniblebut there was a will and a longing moreimperiousthan mere curiosity that drove me thither.
For thisjust then was my pagan soul's desire - that (notforfeitingmy inheritance for the life to come) it had yetbeen givenme to live through this world - to live a favouredmortalunder the old Olympian dispensation - to speak out myresolvesto the listening Joveand hear him answer withapprovingthunder - to be blessed with divine counsels fromthe lipsof Pallas Athenie - to believe - ayonly to believe- tobelieve for one rapturous moment that in the gloomydepths ofthe groveby the mountain's sidethere were someleafypathway that crisped beneath the glowing sandal ofAphrodetie- Aphrodetienot coldly disdainful of even amortal'slove! And this vainheathenish longing of mine wasfather tothe thought of visiting the scene of the ancientworship.
The isleis beautiful. From the edge of the richfloweryfields onwhich I trod to the midway sides of the snowyOlympusthe ground could only here and there show an abruptcragor ahigh straggling ridge that up-shouldered itselffrom outof the wilderness of myrtlesand of the thousandbright-leavedshrubs that twined their arms together inlovesometangles. The air that came to my lips was warm andfragrantas the ambrosial breath of the goddessinfectingmenot(of course) with a faith in the old religion of theislebutwith a sense and apprehension of its mystic power -a powerthat was still to be obeyed - obeyed by MEfor whyotherwisedid I toil on with sorry horses to "whereforHERthehundred altars glowed with Arabian incenseand breathedwiththe fragrance of garlands ever fresh"?
I passed asadly disenchanting night in the cabin of a Greekpriest -not a priest of the goddessbut of the GreekChurch;there was but one humble roomor rather shedformanandpriestand beast. The next morning I reached Baffa(Paphos)a village not far distant from the site of thetemple. There was a Greek husbandman there who (not foremolumentbut for the sake of the protection and dignitywhich itafforded) had got leave from the man at Limasol tohoist hisflag as a sort of deputy-provisionary-sub-vice-pro-acting-consulof the British sovereign: the poor fellowinstantlychanged his Greek headgear for the cap of consulardignityand insisted upon accompanying me to the ruins. Iwould nothave stood this if I could have felt the faintestgleam ofmy yesterday's pagan pietybut I had ceased todreamandhad nothing to dread from any new disenchanters.
The ruins(the fragments of one or two prostrate pillars) lieupon apromontorybare and unmystified by the gloom ofsurroundinggroves. My Greek friend in his consular capstood byrespectfully waiting to see what turn my madnesswouldtakenow that I had come at last into the presence ofthe oldstones. If you have no taste for researchand can'taffect tolook for inscriptionsthere is some awkwardness incoming tothe end of a merely sentimental pilgrimage; whenthefeeling which impelled you has goneyou have nothing todo but tolaugh the thing off as well as you canandby-the-byeit is not a bad plan to turn the conversation (orratherallow the natives to turn it) towards the subject ofhiddentreasures. This is a topic on which they will alwaysspeak witheagernessand if they can fancy that youtootake aninterest in such mattersthey will not only thinkyouperfectly sanebut will begin to give you credit forsome morethan human powers of forcing the obscure earth toshow youits hoards of gold.
When wereturned to Baffathe vice-consul seized a club withthequietly determined air of a brave man resolved to do somedeed ofnote. He went into the yard adjoining his cottagewherethere were some thinthoughtfulcanting cocksandseriouslow-church-looking hensrespectfully listeningandchickensof tender years so well brought upas scarcely tobetray intheir conduct the careless levity of youth. Thevice-consulstood for a moment quite calmcollecting hisstrength;then suddenly he rushed into the midst of thecongregationand began to deal death and destruction on allsides. He spared neither sex nor age; the dead and dyingwereimmediately removed from the field of slaughterand inless thanan hourI thinkthey were brought on the tabledeeplyburied in mounds of snowy rice.
My hostwas in all respects a finegenerous fellow. I couldnot bearthe idea of impoverishing him by my visitand Iconsultedmy faithful Mysseriwho not only assured me that Imightsafely offer money to the vice-consulbut recommendedthat Ishould give no more to him than to "the others"meaningany other peasant. I felthoweverthat there wassomethingabout the manbesides the flag and the capwhichmade meshrink from offering coinand as I mounted my horseondeparting I gave him the only thing fit for a present thatI happenedto have with mea rather handsome clasp-daggerbroughtfrom Vienna. The poor fellow was ineffably gratefuland I hadsome difficulty in tearing myself from out of thereach ofhis thanks. At last I gave him what I supposed tobe thelast farewelland rode onbut I had not gained morethan abouta hundred yards when my host came bounding andshoutingafter mewith a goat's-milk cheese in his handwhich heimplored me to accept. In old times the shepherd ofTheocritusor (to speak less dishonestly) the shepherd ofthe"Poetae Graeci" sung his best song; I in this latter agepresentedmy best daggerand both of us received the samerusticreward.
It hadbeen known that I should return to Limasoland when Iarrivedthere I found that a noble old Greek had beenhospitablyplotting to have me for his guest. I willinglyacceptedhis offer. The day of my arrival happened to be thebirthdayof my hostand in consequence of this there was aconstantinflux of visitorswho came to offer theircongratulations. A few of these were menbut most of themwereyounggraceful girls. Almost all of them went throughtheceremony with the utmost precision and formality; each insuccessionspoke her blessingin the tone of a personrepeatinga set formulathen deferentially accepted theinvitationto sitpartook of the proffered sweetmeats andthe coldglittering waterremained for a few minutes eitherin silenceor engaged in very thin conversationthen arosedelivereda second benedictionfollowed by an elaboratefarewelland departed.
Thebewitching power attributed at this day to the women ofCyprus iscurious in connection with the worship of the sweetgoddesswho called their isle her own. The Cypriote is notI thinknearly so beautiful in face as the Ionian queens ofIzmirbutshe is talland slightly formed; there is a high-souledmeaning and expressiona seeming consciousness ofgentleempirethat speaks in the wavy line of the shoulderand windsitself like Cytherea's own cestus around theslenderwaist; then the richly-abounding hair (not enviouslygatheredtogether under the head-dress) descends the neckand passesthe waist in sumptuous braids. Of all other womenwithGrecian blood in their veins the costume is graciouslybeautifulbut thesethe maidens of Limasol - their robesare moregentlymore sweetly imaginedand fall like Julia'scashmerein softluxurious folds. The common voice of theLevantallows that in face the women of Cyprus are lessbeautifulthan their brilliant sisters of Smyrna; and yetsays theGreekhe may trust himself to one and all thebrightcities of the Aegeanand may yet weigh anchor with aheartentirebut that so surely as he ventures upon theenchantedisle of Cyprusso surely will he know the raptureor thebitterness of love. The charmthey sayowes itspower tothat which the people call the astonishing"politics"[Greek word which cannot be reproduced] of thewomenmeaningI fancytheir tact and their witching ways:the wordhoweverplainly fails to express one-half of thatwhich thespeakers would say. I have smiled to hear theGreekwith all his plenteousness of fancyand all thewealth ofhis generous languageyet vainly struggling todescribethe ineffable spell which the Parisians dispose ofin theirown smart way by a summary "Je ne scai quoi."
I went toLarnacathe chief city of the isleand over thewater atlast to Beyrout.
CHAPTERVIII - LADY HESTER STANHOPE
BEYROUT onits land side is hemmed in by the Druseswhooccupy allthe neighbouring highlands.Oftenenough I saw the ghostly images of the women with theirexaltedhorns stalking through the streetsand I saw too intravellingthe affrighted groups of the mountaineers as theyfledbefore meunder the fear that my party might be acompany ofincome-tax commissionersor a pressgang enforcingtheconscription for Mehemet Ali; but nearly all my knowledgeof thepeopleexcept in regard of their mere costume andoutwardappearanceis drawn from books and despatchestowhich Ihave the honour to refer you.
I receivedhospitable welcome at Beyrout from the Europeansas well asfrom the Syrian Christiansand I soon discoveredthat theirstanding topic of interest was the Lady HesterStanhopewho lived in an old convent on the Lebanon rangeat thedistance of about a day's journey from the town. Thelady'shabit of refusing to see Europeans added the charm ofmystery toa character whicheven without that aidwassufficientlydistinguished to command attention.
Many yearsof Lady Hester's early womanhood had been passedwith LadyChatham at Burton Pynsentand during thatingloriousperiod of the heroine's life her commandingcharacterand (as they would have called it in the languageof thosedays) her "condescending kindness" towards mymother'sfamilyhad increased in them those strong feelingsof respectand attachmentwhich her rank and station alonewould haveeasily won from people of the middle class. Youmaysuppose how deeply the quiet women in Somersetshire musthave beeninterestedwhen they slowly learned by vague anduncertaintidings that the intrepid girl who had been used tobreaktheir vicious horses for them was reigning insovereigntyover the wandering tribes of Western Asia! Iknow thather name was made almost as familiar to me in mychildhoodas the name of Robinson Crusoe - both wereassociatedwith the spirit of adventure; but whilst theimaginedlife of the cast-away mariner never failed to seemglaringlyrealthe true story of the Englishwoman rulingover Arabsalways sounded to me like fable. I never hadheardnorindeedI believehad the rest of the world everheardanything like a certain account of the heroine'sadventures;all I knew wasthat in one of the drawers whichwere thedelight of my childhoodalong with attar of rosesandfragrant wonders from Hindustanthere were letterscarefullytreasuredand trifling presents which I was taughtto thinkvaluable because they had come from the queen of thedesertwho dwelt in tentsand reigned over wandering Arabs.
Thissubjecthoweverdied awayand from the ending of mychildhoodup to the period of my arrival in the LevantI hadseldomeven heard a mentioning of the Lady Hester Stanhopebut nowwherever I wentI was met by the name so familiarin soundand yet so full of mystery from the vaguefairy-tale sortof idea which it brought to my mind; I heard ittooconnected with fresh wondersfor it was said that thewoman wasnow acknowledged as an inspired being by the peopleof themountainsand it was even hinted with horror that sheclaimed tobe MORE THAN A PROPHET.
I felt atonce that my mother would be sadly sorry to hearthat I hadbeen within a day's ride of her early friendwithoutoffering to see herand I therefore despatched aletter tothe reclusementioning the maiden name of mymother(whose marriage was subsequent to Lady Hester'sdeparture)and saying that if there existed on the part ofherladyship any wish to hear of her old SomersetshireacquaintanceI should make a point of visiting her. Myletter wassent by a foot-messengerwho was to take anunlimitedtime for his journeyso that it was notI thinkuntileither the third or the fourth day that the answerarrived. A couple of horsemen covered with mud suddenlydashedinto the little court of the "locanda" in which I wasstayingbearing themselves as ostentatiously as though theywerecarrying a cartel from the Devil to the Angel Michael:one ofthese (the other being his attendant) was an Italianby birth(though now completely orientalised)who lived inmy lady'sestablishment as doctor nominallybut practicallyas anupper servant; he presented me a very kind andappropriateletter of invitation.
Ithappened that I was rather unwell at this timeso that Inamed amore distant day for my visit than I should otherwisehave doneand after allI did not start at the time fixed.Whilststill remaining at Beyrout I received this letterwhichcertainly betrays no symptom of the pretensions todivinepower which were popularly attributed to the writer:-
"SIR- I hope I shall be disappointed in seeing you onWednesdayfor the late rains have rendered the river Damoorif notdangerousat least very unpleasant to pass for aperson whohas been lately indisposedfor if the animalswimsyouwould be immerged in the waters. The weather willprobablychange after the 21st of the moonand after acouple ofdays the roads and the river will be passablethereforeI shall expect you either Saturday or Monday.
"Itwill be a great satisfaction to me to have an opportunityofinquiring after your motherwho was a sweetlovely girlwhen Iknew her."Believemesir"Yourssincerely"HESTERLUCY STANHOPE."
Early onemorning I started from Beyrout. There are noregularlyestablished relays of horses in Syriaat least notin theline which I tookand you therefore hire your cattlefor thewhole journeyor at all eventsfor your journey tosome largetown. Under these circumstances you have nooccasionfor a Tatar (whose principal utility consists in hispower tocompel the supply of horses). In other respectsthe modeof travelling through Syria differs very little fromthat whichI have described as prevailing in Turkey. I hiredmy horsesand mules (for I had some of both) for the whole ofthejourney from Beyrout to Jerusalem. The owner of thebeasts(who had a couple of fellows under him) was the mostdignifiedmember of my party; he wasindeeda magnificentold manand was called Shereefor "holy" - a title ofhonourwhichwith the privilege of wearing the green turbanhe welldeservednot only from the blood of the Prophet thatflowed inhis veinsbut from the well-known sanctity of hislife andthe length of his blessed beard.
Mysseriof coursestill travelled with mebut the Arabicwas notone of the seven languages which he spoke soperfectlyand I was therefore obliged to hire anotherinterpreter. I had no difficulty in finding a proper man forthepurpose - one Demetriusoras he was always calledDthemetria native of Zantewho had been tossed about byfortune inall directions. He spoke the Arabic very wellandcommunicated with me in Italian. The man was a veryzealousmember of the Greek Church. He had been a tailor.He was asugly as the devilhaving a thoroughly Tatarcountenancewhich expressed the agony of his body or mindas thecase might bein the most ludicrous mannerimaginable. He embellished the natural caricature of hisperson bysuspending about his neck and shoulders and waistquantitiesof little bundles and parcelswhich he thoughttoovaluable to he entrusted to the jerking of pack-saddles.The mulethat fell to his lot on this journey every now andthenforgetting that his rider was a saintand rememberingthat hewas a tailortook a quiet roll upon the groundandstretchedhis limbs calmly and lazilylike a good manawaiting asermon. Dthemetri never got seriously hurtbutthesubversion and dislocation of his bundles made him forthe momenta sad spectacle of ruinand when he regained hislegshiswrath with the mule became very amusing. He alwaysaddressedthe beast in language which implied that heas aChristianand sainthad been personally insulted andoppressedby a Mahometan mule. Dthemetrihoweveron thewholeproved to be a most able and capital servant. Isuspectedhim of now and then leading me out of my way inorder thathe might have the opportunity of visiting theshrine ofa saintand on one occasionas you will see by-and-byhewas induced by religious motives to commit a grossbreach ofduty; but putting these pious faults out of thequestion(and they were faults of the right side)he wasalwaysfaithful and true to me.
I leftSaide (the Sidon of ancient times) on my rightandabout anhourI thinkbefore sunset began to ascend one ofthe manylow hills of Lebanon. On the summit before me was abroadgrey mass of irregular buildingwhich from itspositionas well as from the gloomy blankness of its wallsgave theidea of a neglected fortress. It hadin factbeena conventof great sizeand like most of the religioushouses inthis part of the worldhad been made strong enoughforopposing an inert resistance to any mere casual band ofassailantswho might be unprovided with regular means ofattack:this was the dwelling-place of the Chatham's fierygranddaughter.
The aspectof the first court which I entered was such as tokeep onein the idea of having to do with a fortress ratherthan amere peaceable dwelling-place. A number of fierce-lookingand ill-clad Albanian soldiers were hanging about theplaceandstriving to bear the curse of tranquillity as wellas theycould: two or three of themI thinkwere smokingtheirTCHIBOUQUESbut the rest of them were lying torpidlyupon theflat stoneslike the bodies of departed brigands.I rode onto an inner part of the buildingand at lastquittingmy horseswas conducted through a doorway that ledme at oncefrom an open court into an apartment on the groundfloor. As I enteredan Oriental figure in male costumeapproachedme from the farther end of the room with many andprofoundbowsbut the growing shades of evening prevented mefromdistinguishing the features of the personage who wasreceivingme with this solemn welcome. I had alwayshoweverunderstood that Lady Hester Stanhope wore the maleattireand I began to utter in English the common civilitiesthatseemed to be proper on the commencement of a visit by anuninspiredmortal to a renowned prophetess; but the figurewhich Iaddressed only bowed so much the moreprostratingitselfalmost to the groundbut speaking to me never a word.I feeblystrived not to be outdone in gestures of respect;butpresently my bowing opponent saw the error under which Iwasactingand suddenly convinced me thatat all eventsIwas notYET in the presence of a superhuman beingbydeclaringthat he was not "miladi" but wasin factnothingmore orless god-like than the poor doctorwho had broughthismistress's letter to Beyrout.
Herladyshipin the right spirit of hospitalitynow sentandcommanded me to repose for a while after the fatigues ofmyjourneyand to dine.
Thecuisine was of the Oriental kindwhich is highlyartificialand I thought it very good. I rejoiced too inthe wineof the Lebanon.
Soon afterthe ending of the dinner the doctor arrived withmiladi'scomplimentsand an intimation that she would hehappy toreceive me if I were so disposed. It had now growndarkandthe rain was falling heavilyso that I got ratherwet infollowing my guide through the open courts that I hadto pass inorder to reach the presence chamber. At last Iwasushered into a small apartmentwhich was protected fromthedraughts of air passing through the doorway by a foldingscreen;passing thisI came alongside of a common Europeansofawhere sat the lady prophetess. She rose from her seatveryformallyspoke to me a few words of welcomepointed toa chairwhich was placed exactly opposite to her sofa at acouple ofyards' distanceand remained standing up to thefull ofher majestic heightperfectly still and motionlessuntil Ihad taken my appointed place; she then resumed herseatnotpacking herself up according to the mode of theOrientalsbut allowing her feet to rest on the floor or thefootstool;at the moment of seating herself she covered herlap with amass of loose white drapery which she held in herhand. It occurred to me at the time that she did this inorder toavoid the awkwardness of sitting in manifesttrousersunder the eye of an Europeanbut I can hardly fancynow thatwith her wilful nature she would have brooked such acompromiseas this.
The womanbefore me had exactly the person of a prophetess -notindeedof the divine sibyl imagined by Domenichinososweetlydistracted betwixt love and mysterybut of a goodbusiness-likepractical prophetesslong used to theexerciseof her sacred calling. I have been told by thosewho knewLady Hester Stanhope in her youththat any notionof aresemblance betwixt her and the great Chatham must havebeenfanciful; but at the time of my seeing herthe largecommandingfeatures of the gaunt womanthen sixty years oldor morecertainly reminded me of the statesman that laydying in the House of Lordsaccording to Copley's picture.Her facewas of the most astonishing whiteness; she wore avery largeturbanwhich seemed to be of pale cashmereshawlssodisposed as to conceal the hair; her dressfromthe chindown to the point at which it was concealed by thedraperywhich she held over her lapwas a mass of whitelinenloosely folding - an ecclesiastical sort of affairmore likea surplice than any of those blessed creationswhich oursouls love under the names of "dress" and "frock"and"boddice" and "collar" and "habit-shirt"and sweet"chemisette."
Such wasthe outward seeming of the personage that sat beforemeandindeed she was almost bound by the fame of her actualachievementsas well as by her sublime pretensionsto looka littledifferently from the rest of womankind. There hadbeensomething of grandeur in her career. After the death ofLadyChathamwhich happened in 1803she lived under theroof ofher unclethe second Pittand when he resumed theGovernmentin 1804she became the dispenser of muchpatronageand sole secretary of state for the department ofTreasurybanquets. Not having seen the lady until late inher lifewhen she was fired with spiritual ambitionI canhardlyfancy that she could have performed her politicalduties inthe saloons of the Minister with much of femininesweetnessand patience. I am toldhoweverthat she managedmattersvery well indeed: perhaps it was better for thelofty-mindedleader of the House to have his reception-roomsguarded bythis stately creaturethan by a merely clever andmanagingwoman; it was fitting that the wholesome awe withwhich hefilled the minds of the country gentlemen should beaggravatedby the presence of his majestic niece. But theend wasapproaching. The sun of Austerlitz showed the Czarmadlysliding his splendid army like a weaver's shuttle fromhis righthand to his leftunder the very eyes - the deepgreywatchful eyes of Napoleon; before night camethecoalitionwas a vain thing - meet for historyand the heartof itsgreat author was crushed with grief when the terribletidingscame to his ears. In the bitterness of his despairhe criedout to his nieceand bid her"ROLL UP THE MAP OFEUROPE";there was a little more of sufferingand at lastwith hisswollen tongue (so they say) still mutteringsomethingfor Englandhe died by the noblest of all sorrows.
LadyHestermeeting the calamity in her own fierce wayseems tohave scorned the poor island that had not enough ofGod'sgrace to keep the "heaven-sent" Minister alive. I canhardlytell why it should bebut there is a longing for theEast verycommonly felt by proud-hearted people when goadedbysorrow. Lady Hester Stanhope obeyed this impulse. Forsome timeI believeshe was at Constantinoplewhere hermagnificenceand near alliance to the late Minister gainedher greatinfluence. Afterwards she passed into Syria. Thepeople ofthat countryexcited by the achievements of SirSidneySmithhad begun to imagine the possibility of theirland beingoccupied by the Englishand many of them lookedupon LadyHester as a princess who came to prepare the wayfor theexpected conquest. I don't know it from her ownlipsorindeed from any certain authoritybut I have beentold thatshe began her connection with the Bedouins bymaking alarge present of money (500 pounds it was said -immense inpiastres) to the Sheik whose authority wasrecognisedin that part of the desert which lies betweenDamascusand Palmyra. The prestige created by the rumours ofher highand undefined rankas well as of her wealth andcorrespondingmagnificencewas well sustained by herimperiouscharacter and her dauntless bravery. Her influenceincreased. I never heard anything satisfactory as to therealextent or duration of her swaybut it seemed that for atimeat least she certainly exercised something likesovereigntyamongst the wandering tribes. And now that herearthlykingdom had passed away she strove for spiritualpowerandimpiously daredas it was saidto boast somemysticunion with the very God of very God!
A coupleof black slave girls came at a signaland suppliedtheirmistress as well as myself with lighted TCHIBOUQUES andcoffee.
The customof the East sanctionsand almost commandssomemoments ofsilence whilst you are inhaling the first fewbreaths ofthe fragrant pipe. The pause was brokenI thinkby myladywho addressed to me some inquiries respecting mymotherand particularly as to her marriage; but before I hadcommunicatedany great amount of family factsthe spirit oftheprophetess kindled within herand presently (though withall theskill of a woman of the world) she shuffled away thesubject ofpoordear Somersetshireand bounded onward intoloftierspheres of thought.
My oldacquaintance with some of "the twelve" enabled me tobear mypart (of course a very humble one) in a conversationrelativeto occult science. Milnes once spread a reportthat everygang of gipsies was found upon inquiry to havecome lastfrom a place to the westwardand to be about tomake thenext move in an eastern direction; either thereforethey whereto be all gathered together towards the rising ofthe sun bythe mysterious finger of Providenceor else theywere torevolve round the globe for ever and ever: both ofthesesuppositions were highly gratifyingbecause they werebothmarvellous; and though the story on which they werefoundedplainly sprang from the inventive brain of a poetnoone hadever been so odiously statistical as to attempt acontradictionof it. I now mentioned the story as a reportto LadyHester Stanhopeand asked her if it were true. Icould nothave touched upon any imaginable subject moredeeplyinteresting to my hearermore closely akin to herhabitualtrain of thinking. She immediately threw off alltherestraint belonging to an interview with a stranger; andwhen shehad received a few more similar proofs of my aptnessfor themarvellousshe went so far as to say that she wouldadopt meas her ELEVE in occult science.
For hoursand hours this wondrous white woman poured forthherspeechfor the most part concerning sacred and profanemysteries;but every now and then she would stay her loftyflight andswoop down upon the world again. Whenever thishappened Iwas interested in her conversation.
Sheadverted more than once to the period of her lost swayamongstthe Arabsand mentioned some of the circumstancesthat aidedher in obtaining influence with the wanderingtribes. The Bedouinso often engaged in irregular warfarestrainshis eyes to the horizon in search of a coming enemyjust ashabitually as the sailor keeps his "bright lookout"for astrange sail. In the absence of telescopes a far-reachingsight is highly valuedand Lady Hester possessedthisquality to an extraordinary degree. She told me that ononeoccasionwhen there was good reason to expect a hostileattackgreat excitement was felt in the camp by the reportof afar-seeing Arabwho declared that he could justdistinguishsome moving objects upon the very farthest pointwithin thereach of his eyes. Lady Hester was consultedandsheinstantly assured her comrades in arms that there wereindeed anumber of horses within sightbut that they werewithoutriders. The assertion proved to be correctand fromthat timeforth her superiority over all others in respect offar sightremained undisputed.
LadyHester related to me this other anecdote of her Arablife. It was when the heroic qualities of the English-womanwere justbeginning to be felt amongst the people of thedesertthat she was marching one dayalong with the forcesof thetribe to which she had allied herself. She perceivedthatpreparations for an engagement were going onand uponher makinginquiry as to the causethe Sheik at firstaffectedmystery and concealmentbut at last confessed thatwar hadbeen declared against his tribe on account of itsalliancewith the English princessand that they were nowunfortunatelyabout to be attacked by a very superior force.He made itappear that Lady Hester was the sole cause ofhostilitybetwixt his tribe and the impending enemyand thathis sacredduty of protecting the Englishwoman whom he hadadmittedas his guest was the only obstacle which preventedanamicable arrangement of the dispute. The Sheik hintedthat histribe was likely to sustain an almost overwhelmingblowbutat the same time declaredthat no fear of theconsequenceshowever terrible to him and his whole peopleshouldinduce him to dream of abandoning his illustriousguest. The heroine instantly took her part: it was not forher to bea source of danger to her friendsbut rather toherenemiesso she resolved to turn away from the peopleand trustfor help to none save only her haughty self. TheSheiksaffected to dissuade her from so rash a courseandfairlytold her that although they (having been freed fromherpresence) would be able to make good terms forthemselvesyet that there were no means of allaying thehostilityfelt towards herand that the whole face of thedesertwould be swept by the horsemen of her enemies socarefullyas to make her escape into other districts almostimpossible. The brave woman was not to be moved by terrorsof thiskindand bidding farewell to the tribe which hadhonouredand protected hershe turned her horse's head androdestraight away from themwithout friend or follower.Hours hadelapsedand for some time she had been alone inthe centreof the round horizonwhen her quick eye perceivedsomehorsemen in the distance. The party came nearer andnearer;soon it was plain that they were making towards herandpresently some hundreds of Bedouinsfully armedgallopedup to herferociously shoutingand apparentlyintendingto take her life at the instant with their pointedspears. Her face at the time was covered with the YASHMAKaccordingto Eastern usagebut at the moment when theforemostof the horsemen had all but reached her with theirspearsshe stood up in her stirrupswithdrew the YASHMAKthatveiled the terrors of her countenancewaved her armslowly anddisdainfullyand cried out with a loud voice"Avaunt!" The horsemen recoiled from her glancebut not interror. The threatening yells of the assailants weresuddenlychanged for loud shouts of joy and admiration at thebravery ofthe stately Englishwomanand festive gunshotswere firedon all sides around her honoured head. The truthwasthatthe party belonged to the tribe with which she hadalliedherselfand that the threatened attack as well as thepretendedapprehension of an engagement had been contrivedfor themere purpose of testing her courage. The day endedin a greatfeast prepared to do honour to the heroineandfrom thattime her power over the minds of the people grewrapidly. Lady Hester related this story with great spiritand Irecollect that she put up her YASHMAK for a moment inorder togive me a better idea of the effect which sheproducedby suddenly revealing the awfulness of hercountenance.
Withrespect to her then present mode of lifeLady Hesterinformedmethat for her sin she had subjected herselfduringmany years to severe penanceand that her self-denialhad notbeen without its reward. "Vain and false" said she"isall the pretended knowledge of the Europeans - theirdoctorswill tell you that the drinking of milk givesyellownessto the complexion; milk is my only foodand yousee if myface be not white." Her abstinence from foodintellectualwas carried as far as her physical fasting. Shenevershesaidlooked upon a book or a newspaperbuttrustedalone to the stars for her sublime knowledge; sheusuallypassed the nights in communing with these heavenlyteachersand lay at rest during the daytime. She spoke withgreatcontempt of the frivolity and benighted ignorance ofthe modernEuropeansand mentioned in proof of thisthatthey werenot only untaught in astrologybut wereunacquaintedwith the common and every-day phenomena producedby magicart. She spoke as if she would make me understandthat allsorcerous spells were completely at her commandbutthat theexercise of such powers would be derogatory to herhigh rankin the heavenly kingdom. She said that the spellby whichthe face of an absent person is thrown upon a mirrorwas withinthe reach of the humblest and most contemptiblemagiciansbut that the practice of such-like arts was unholyas well asvulgar.
We spokeof the bending twig by whichit is saidpreciousmetals maybe discovered. In relation to thistheprophetesstold me a story rather against herselfandinconsistentwith the notion of her being perfect in herscience;but I think that she mentioned the facts as havinghappenedbefore the time at which she attained to the greatspiritualauthority which she now arrogated. She told methat vasttreasures were known to exist in a situation whichshementionedif I rightly rememberas being near Suez;thatNapoleonprofanely bravethrust his arm into the cavecontainingthe coveted goldand that instantly his fleshbecamepalsiedbut the youthful hero (for she said he wasgreat inhis generation) was not to be thus daunted; he fellbackcharacteristically upon his brazen resourcesandordered uphis artillery; but man could not strive withdemonsand Napoleon was foiled. In after years came IbrahimPashawith heavy gunsand wicked spells to bootbut theinfernalguardians of the treasure were too strong for him.It wasafter this that Lady Hester passed by the spotandshedescribed with animated gesture the force and energy withwhich thedivining twig had suddenly leaped in her hands.Sheordered excavationsand no demons opposed herenterprise;the vast chest in which the treasure had beendepositedwas at length discoveredbut lo and beholdit wasfull ofpebbles! She saidhoweverthat the times wereapproachingin which the hidden treasures of the earth wouldbecomeavailable to those who had true knowledge.
Speakingof Ibrahim PashaLady Hester said that he was aboldbadmanand was possessed of some of those common andwickedmagical arts upon which she looked down with so muchcontempt. She saidfor instancethat Ibrahim's life wascharmedagainst balls and steeland that after a battle heloosenedthe folds of his shawl and shook out the bulletslike dust.
It seemsthat the St. Simonians once made overtures to LadyHester. She told me that the Pere Enfantin (the chief of thesect) hadsent her a service of platebut that she haddeclinedto receive it. She delivered a prediction as to theprobabilityof the St. Simonians finding the "mystic mother"and thisshe did in a way which would amuse you.UnfortunatelyI am not at liberty to mention this part of thewoman'sprophecies; whyI cannot tellbut so it isthatshe boundme to eternal secrecy.
LadyHester told me that since her residence at Djoun she hadbeenattacked by a terrible illnesswhich rendered her for along timeperfectly helpless; all her attendants fledandleft herto perish. Whilst she lay thus aloneand quiteunableto riserobbers came and carried away her property.She toldme that they actually unroofed a great part of thebuildingand employed engines with pulleysfor the purposeofhoisting out such of her valuables as were too bulky topassthrough doors. It would seem that before thiscatastropheLady Hester had been rich in the possession ofEasternluxuries; for she told methat when the chiefs oftheOttoman force took refuge with her after the fall ofAcretheybrought their wives also in great numbers. To allof theseLady Hesteras she saidpresented magnificentdresses;but her generosity occasioned strife only instead ofgratitudefor every woman who fancied her present lesssplendidthan that of another with equal or less pretensionbecameabsolutely furious: all these audacious guests had nowbeen gotrid ofbut the Albanian soldierswho had takenrefugewith Lady Hester at the same timestill remainedunder herprotection.
In truththis half-ruined conventguarded by the proudheart ofan English gentlewomanwas the only spot throughoutall Syriaand Palestine in which the will of Mehemet Ali andhis fiercelieutenant was not the law. More than once hadthe Pashaof Egypt commanded that Ibrahim should have theAlbaniansdelivered up to himbut this white woman of themountain(grown classical not by booksbut by very pride)answeredonly with a disdainful invitation to "come and takethem." Whether it was that Ibrahim was acted upon by anysuperstitiousdread of interfering with the prophetess (anotion notat all incompatible with his character as an ableOrientalcommander)or that he feared the ridicule ofputtinghimself in collision with a gentlewomanhe certainlyneverventured to attack the sanctuaryand so long as theChatham'sgranddaughter breathed a breath of life there wasalwaysthis one hillockand that too in the midst of a mostpopulousdistrictwhich stood outand kept its freedom.MehemetAli used to sayI am toldthat the Englishwoman hadgiven himmore trouble than all the insurgent people of SyriaandPalestine.
Theprophetess announced to me that we were upon the eve of astupendousconvulsionwhich would destroy the thenrecognisedvalue of all property upon earth; and declaringthat thoseonly who should be in the East at the time of thegreatchange could hope for greatness in the new life thatwas nowclose at handshe advised mewhilst there was yettimetodispose of my property in poor frail Englandandgain astation in Asia. She told me thatafter leaving herI shouldgo into Egyptbut that in a little while I shouldreturninto Syria. I secretly smiled at this last prophecyas a "badshot" for I had fully determined after visitingthePyramids to take ship from Alexandria for Greece. Butmenstruggle vainly in the meshes of their destiny. TheunbelievedCassandra was right after all; the plague cameand thenecessity of avoiding the quarantineto which Ishouldhave been subjected if I had sailed from Alexandriaforced meto alter my route. I went down into Egyptandstayedthere for a timeand then crossed the desert oncemoreandcame back to the mountains of the Lebanonexactlyas theprophetess had foretold.
LadyHester talked to me long and earnestly on the subject ofreligionannouncing that the Messiah was yet to come. Shestrived toimpress me with the vanity and the falseness ofallEuropean creedsas well as with a sense of her ownspiritualgreatness: throughout her conversation upon thesehightopics she carefully insinuatedwithout actuallyassertingher heavenly rank.
Amongstother much more marvellous powersthe lady claimedto haveone which most womenI fancypossess namelythatof readingmen's characters in their faces. She examined theline of myfeatures very attentivelyand told me the resultwhichhoweverI mean to keep hidden.
Onefavoured subject of discourse was that of "race"uponwhich shewas very diffuseand yet rather mysterious. Sheset greatvalue upon the ancient French (not Normanbloodfor thatshe vilified)but did not at all appreciate thatwhich wecall in this country "an old family." She had avast ideaof the Cornish miners on account of their raceandsaidifshe choseshe could give me the means of rousingthem tothe most tremendous enthusiasm.
Such arethe topics on which the lady mainly conversedbutvery oftenshe would descend to more worldly chatand thenshe was nolonger the prophetessbut the sort of woman thatyousometimes seeI am toldin London drawing-rooms - cooldecisivein mannerunsparing of enemiesfull of audaciousfunandsaying the downright things that the sheepishsocietyaround her is afraid to utter. I am told that LadyHester wasin her youth a capital mimicand she showed methat notall the queenly dulness to which she had condemnedherselfnot all her fasting and solitudehad destroyed thisterriblepower. The first whom she crucified in my presencewas poorLord Byron. She had seen himit appearedI knownot wheresoon after his arrival in the Eastand was vastlyamused athis little affectations. He had picked up a fewsentencesof the Romanticwith which he affected to giveorders tohis Greek servant. I can't tell whether LadyHester'smimicry of the bard was at all closebut it wasamusing;she attributed to him a curiously coxcombical lisp.
Anotherperson whose style of speaking the lady took off veryamusinglywas one who would scarcely object to suffer by theside ofLord Byron - I mean Lamartinewho had visited her inthe courseof his travels. The peculiarity whichattractedherridicule was an over-refinement of manner: according tomylady's imitation of Lamartine (I have never seen himmyself)he had none of the violent grimace of hiscountrymenand not even their usual way of talkingbutratherbore himself mincinglylike the humbler sort ofEnglishdandy.
LadyHester seems to have heartily despised everythingapproachingto exquisiteness. She told meby-the-bye (andheropinion upon that subject is worth having)that adownrightmanneramounting even to brusquenessis moreeffectivethan any other with the Oriental; and that amongsttheEnglish of all ranks and all classes there is no man soattractiveto the Orientalsno man who can negotiate withthem halfso effectivelyas a goodhonestopen-heartedandpositive naval officer of the old school.
I havetold youI thinkthat Lady Hester could dealfiercelywith those she hated. One man above all others (heis nowuprooted from societyand cast away for ever) sheblastedwith her wrath. You would have thought that in thescornfulnessof her nature she must have sprung upon her foewith moreof fierceness than of skill; but this was not sofor withall the force and vehemence of her invective shedisplayeda soberpatientand minute attention to thedetails ofvituperationwhich contributed to its success athousandtimes more than mere violence.
During thehours that this sort of conversationor ratherdiscoursewas going on our TCHIBOUQUES were from time totimereplenishedand the lady as well as I continued tosmoke withlittle or no intermission till the interviewended. I think that the fragrant fumes of the latakiah musthavehelped to keep me on my good behaviour as a patientdiscipleof the prophetess.
It was nottill after midnight that my visit for the eveningcame to anend. When I quitted my seat the lady rose andstood upin the same formal attitude (almost that of asoldier ina state of "attention") which she had assumed atmyentrance; at the same time she let go the drapery whichshe hadheld over her lap whilst sitting and allowed it tofall tothe ground.
The nextmorning after breakfast I was visited by my lady'ssecretary- the only Europeanexcept the doctorwhom sheretainedin her household. This secretarylike the doctorwasItalianbut he preserved more signs of European dressandEuropean pretensions than his medical fellow-slave. Hespokelittle or no Englishthough he wrote it pretty wellhavingbeen formerly employed in a mercantile house connectedwithEngland. The poor fellow was in an unhappy state ofmind. In order to make you understand the extent of hisspiritualanxietiesI ought to have told you that the doctor (whohad sunk into the complete Asiaticand hadcondescendedaccordingly to the performance of even menialservices)had adopted the common faith of all theneighbouringpeopleand had become a firm and happy believerin thedivine power of his mistress. Not so the secretary.When I hadstrolled with him to a distance from the buildingwhichrendered him safe from being overheard by human earshe told mein a hollow voicetrembling with emotionthatthere weretimes at which he doubted the divinity of"miledi." I said nothing to encourage the poor fellow inthatfrightful state of scepticism whichif indulgedmightend inpositive infidelity. I found that her ladyship hadratherarbitrarily abridged the amusements of her secretaryforbiddinghim from shooting small birds on the mountain-side. This oppression had arouses in him a spirit of inquirythat mightend fatallyperhaps for himselfperhaps for the"religionof the place."
Thesecretary told me that his mistress was greatly dislikedby thesurrounding peoplewhom she oppressed by herexactionsand the truth of this statement was borne out bythe way inwhich my lady spoke to me of her neighbours. Butin Easterncountries hate and veneration are very commonlyfelt forthe same objectand the general belief in thesuperhumanpower of this wonderful white ladyher resoluteandimperious characterand above allperhapsher fierceAlbanians(not backward to obey an order for the sacking of avillage)inspired sincere respect amongst the surroundinginhabitants. Now the being "respected" amongst Orientals isnot anempty or merely honorary distinctionbut carries withit a clearright to take your neighbour's cornhis cattlehis eggsand his honeyand almost anything that is hisexcept hiswives. This law was acted upon by the princess ofDjounandher establishment was supplied by contributionsapportionedamongst the nearest of the villages.
Iunderstood that the Albanians (restrainedI supposebythe dreadof being delivered up to Ibrahim) had not given anyverytroublesome proofs of their unruly natures. Thesecretarytold me that their rationsincluding a smallallowanceof coffee and tobaccowere served out to them withtolerableregularity.
I askedthe secretary how Lady Hester was off for horsesandsaid thatI would take a look at the stable. The man did notraise anyopposition to my proposaland affected no mysteryabout thematterbut said that the only two steeds whichthenbelonged to her ladyship were of a very humble sort.Thisanswerand a storm of rain then beginning to descendpreventedme at the time from undertaking my journey to thestablewhich was at some distance from the part of thebuildingin which I was quarteredand I don't know that Ieverthought of the matter afterwards until my return toEnglandwhen I saw Lamartine's eye-witnessing account of thehorsesaddled by the hands of his Maker!
When Ireturned to my apartment (whichas my hostess toldmewasthe only one in the whole building that kept out therain) herladyship sent to say that she would be glad toreceive meagain. I was rather surprised at thisfor I hadunderstoodthat she reposed during the dayand it was nowlittlelater than noon. "Really" said shewhen I had takenmy seatand my pipe"we were together for hours last nightand stillI have heard nothing at all of my old friends; nowDO tell mesomething of your dear mother and her sister; Inever knewyour father - it was after I left Burton Pynsentthat yourmother married." I began to make slow answerbutmyquestioner soon went off again to topics more sublimesothat thissecond interviewwhich lasted two or three hourswasoccupied by the same sort of varied discourse as thatwhich Ihave been describing.
In thecourse of the afternoon the captain of an English man-of-wararrived at Djounand her ladyship determined toreceivehim for the same reason as that which had induced herto allowmy visitnamelyan early intimacy with his family.I and thenew visitorwho was a pleasantamusing persondinedtogetherand we were afterwards invited to thepresenceof my ladywith whom we sat smoking and talkingtillmidnight. The conversation turned chieflyI thinkuponmagical science. I had determined to be off at an earlyhour thenext morningand so at the end of this interview Ibade mylady farewell. With her parting words she once moreadvised meto abandon Europe and seek my reward in the Eastand sheurged me too to give the like counsels to my fatherand tellhim that "SHE HAD SAID IT."
LadyHester's unholy claim to supremacy in the spiritualkingdomwasno doubtthe suggestion of fierce andinordinatepride most perilously akin to madnessbut I amquite surethat the mind of the woman was too strong to bethoroughlyovercome by even this potent feeling. I plainlysaw thatshe was not an unhesitating follower of her ownsystemand I even fancied that I could distinguish the briefmomentsduring which she contrived to believe in herselffrom thoselong and less happy intervals in which her ownreason wastoo strong for her.
As for thelady's faith in astrology and magic scienceyouare notfor a moment to suppose that this implied anyaberrationof intellect. She believed these things in commonwith thosearound herfor she seldom spoke to anybody exceptcrazy olddervisheswho received her almsand fostered herextravaganciesand even when (as on the occasion of myvisit) shewas brought into contact with a personentertainingdifferent notionsshe still remaineduncontradicted. This ENTOURAGE and the habit of fasting frombooks andnewspapers were quite enough to make her a facilerecipientof any marvellous story.
I thinkthat in England we are scarcely sufficientlyconsciousof the great debt we owe to the wise and watchfulpresswhich presides over the formation of our opinionsandwhichbrings about this splendid resultnamelythat inmatters ofbelief the humblest of us are lifted up to thelevel ofthe most sagaciousso that really a simple cornetin theBlues is no more likely to entertain a foolish beliefaboutghosts or witchcraftor any other supernatural topicthan theLord High Chancellor or the Leader of the House ofCommons. How different is the intellectual regime of Easterncountries! In Syria and Palestine and Egypt you might aswelldispute the efficacy of grass or grain as of magic.There isno controversy about the matter. The effect ofthistheunanimous belief of an ignorant people upon themind of astrangeris extremely curiousand well worthnoticing. A man coming freshly from Europe is at first proofagainstthe nonsense with which he is assailedbut often ithappensthat after a little while the social atmosphere inwhich helives will begin to infect himand if he has beenunaccustomedto the cunning of fence by which Reason preparesthe meansof guarding herself against fallacyhe will yieldhimself atlast to the faith of those around himand this hewill do bysympathyit would seemrather than fromconviction. I have been much interested in observing thatthe mere"practical man" however skilful and shrewd in hisown wayhas not the kind of power that will enable him toresist thegradual impression made upon his mind by thecommonopinion of those whom he sees and hears from day today. Even amongst the English (whose good sense and soundreligiousknowledge would be likely to guard them from error)I haveknown the calculating merchantthe inquisitivetravellerand the post-captainwith his brightwakeful eyeof command- I have known all these surrender themselves tothe REALLYmagic-like influence of other people's minds.Theirlanguage at first is that they are "staggered" leadingyou bythat expression to suppose that they had beenwitnessesto some phenomenonwhich it was very difficult toaccountfor otherwise than by supernatural causes; but when Ihavequestioned furtherI have always found that these"staggering"wonders were not even specious enough to belookedupon as good "tricks." A man in England who gainedhis wholelivelihood as a conjurer would soon be starved todeath ifhe could perform no better miracles than those whicharewrought with so much effect in Syria and Egypt;SOMETIMESno doubta magician will make a good hit (SirJohn oncesaid a "good thing")but all such successes rangeof courseunder the head of mere "tentative miracles" asdistinguishedby the strong-brained Paley.
CHAPTERIX - THE SANCTUARY
I CROSSEDthe plain of Esdraelon and entered amongst thehills ofbeautiful Galilee. It was at sunset that my pathbrought mesharply round into the gorge of a little valleyand closeupon a grey mass of dwellings that lay happilynestled inthe lap of the mountain. There was one onlyshiningpoint still touched with the light of the sunwhohad setfor all besides; a brave sign this to "holy" Shereefand therest of my Moslem menfor the one glittering summitwas thehead of a minaretand the rest of the seemingvillagethat had veiled itself so meekly under the shades ofeveningwas Christian Nazareth!
Within theprecincts of the Latin convent in which I wasquarteredthere stands the great Catholic church whichenclosesthe sanctuarythe dwelling of the blessedVirgin.This is agrotto of about ten feet either wayforming alittlechapel or recessto which you descend by steps. Itisdecorated with splendour. On the left hand a column ofgranitehangs from the top of the grotto to within a few feetof theground; immediately beneath it is another column ofthe samesizewhich rises from the ground as if to meet theone above;but between this and the suspended pillar there isaninterval of more than a foot; these fragments once formeda singlecolumnagainst which the angel leant when he spokeand toldto Mary the mystery of her awful blessedness. Hardbynearthe altarthe holy Virgin was kneeling.
I had beenjourneying (cheerily indeedfor the voices of myfollowerswere ever within my hearingbut yet)as it wereinsolitudefor I had no comrade to whet the edge of myreasonorwake me from my noonday dreams. I was left allalone tobe taught and swayed by the beautiful circumstancesofPalestine travelling - by the climeand the landand thename ofthe landwith all its mighty import; by theglitteringfreshness of the swardand the abounding massesof flowersthat furnished my sumptuous pathway; by thebracingand fragrant air that seemed to poise me in mysaddleand to lift me along as a planet appointed to glidethroughspace.
And theend of my journey was Nazareththe home of theblessedVirgin! In the first dawn of my manhood the oldpaintersof Italy had taught me their dangerous worship ofthe beautythat is more than mortalbut those images allseemedshadowy nowand floated before me so dimlythe oneovercastingthe otherthat they left me no one sweet idol onwhich Icould look and look again and say"Maria mia!" Yetthey leftme more than an idol; they left me (for to them Iam wont totrace it) a faint apprehension of beauty notcompassedwith lines and shadows; they touched me (forgiveproudMarie of Anjou!) - they touched me with a faith inlovelinesstranscending mortal shapes.
I came toNazarethand was led from the convent to thesanctuary. Long fasting will sometimes heat my brain anddraw meaway out of the world - will disturb my judgmentconfuse mynotions of right and wrongand weaken my power ofchoosingthe right: I had fasted perhaps too longfor I wasfeveredwith the zeal of an insane devotion to the heavenlyqueen ofChristendom. But I knew the feebleness of thisgentlemaladyand knew how easily my watchful reasonifever soslightly provokedwould drag me back to life. Letthere butcome one chilling breath of the outer worldandall thisloving piety would cower and fly before the sound ofmy ownbitter laugh. And so as I went I trod tenderlynotlooking tothe right nor to the leftbut bending my eyes totheground.
Theattending friar served me well; he led me down quietlyand allbut silently to the Virgin's home. The mystic airwas soburnt with the consuming flames of the altarand soladen withincensethat my chest laboured stronglyandheavedwith luscious pain. There - there with beating heartthe Virginknelt and listened. I strived to grasp and holdwith myriveted eyes some one of the feigned Madonnasbut ofall theheaven-lit faces imagined by men there was none thatwouldabide with me in this the very sanctuary. Impatient ofvacancyIgrew madly strong against Natureand if by someawfulspellsome impious riteI could - Oh most sweetReligionthat bid me fear Godand be piousand yet notcease fromloving! Religion and gracious custom commanded methat Ifall down loyally and kiss the rock that blessed Marypressed. With a half consciousnesswith the semblance of athrillinghope that I was plunging deepdeep into my firstknowledgeof some most holy mysteryor of some new rapturousand daringsinI kneltand bowed down my face till I metthe smoothrock with my lips. One moment - one moment myheartorsome old pagan demon within mewoke upandfiercelybounded; my bosom was liftedand swungas though Ihadtouched her warm robe. One momentone moreand thenthe feverhad left me. I rose from my knees. I felthopelesslysane. The mere world reappeared. My good oldmonk wastheredangling his key with listless patienceandas heguided me from the churchand talked of the refectoryand thecoming repastI listened to his words with someattentionand pleasure.
CHAPTERX - THE MONKS OF PALESTINE
WHENEVERyou come back to me from Palestine we will find some"goldenwine" of Lebanonthat we may celebrate with aptlibationsthe monks of the Holy Landand though the poorfellows betheoretically "dead to the world" we will drinkto everyman of them a good long lifeand a merry one!Gracelessis the traveller who forgets his obligations tothesesaints upon earth; little love has he for merryChristendomif he has not rejoiced with great joy to find inthe verymidst of water-drinking infidels those lowlymonasteriesin which the blessed juice of the grape isquaffed inpeace. Ay! ay! we will fill our glasses till theylook likecups of amberand drink profoundly to our gracioushosts inPalestine.
Christianitypermitsand sanctionsthe drinking of wineand of allthe holy brethren in Palestine there are none whohold fastto this gladsome rite so strenuously as the monksofDamascus; not that they are more zealous Christians thanthe restof their fellows in the Holy Landbut that theyhavebetter wine. Whilst I was at Damascus I had my quartersat theFranciscan convent thereand very soon after myarrival Iasked one of the monks to let me know something ofthe spotsthat deserved to be seen. I made my inquiry inreferenceto the associations with which the city had beenhallowedby the sojourn and adventures of St. Paul. "Thereis nothingin all Damascus" said the good man"half so wellworthseeing as our cellars"; and forthwith he invited me togoseeand admire the long range of liquid treasure that heand hisbrethren had laid up for themselves on earth. Andthese Isoon found were not as the treasures of the miserthat liein unprofitable disusefor day by dayand hour byhourthegolden juice ascended from the dark recesses of thecellar tothe uppermost brains of the friars. Dear oldfellows!in the midst of that solemn land their Christianlaughterrang loudly and merrilytheir eyes kept flashingwithjoyous bonfiresand their heavy woollen petticoatscould nomore weigh down the springiness of their pacesthanthe filmygauze of a DANSEUSE can clog her bounding step.
You wouldbe likely enough to fancy that these monastics aremen whohave retired to the sacred sites of Palestine from anenthusiasticlonging to devote themselves to the exercise ofreligionin the midst of the very land on which its firstseeds werecast; and this is partiallyat leastthe casewith themonks of the Greek Churchbut it is not withenthusiaststhat the Catholic establishments are filled. Themonks ofthe Latin convents are chiefly persons of thepeasantclass from Italy and Spainwho have been handed overto theseremote asylums by order of their ecclesiasticalsuperiorsand can no more account for their being in theHoly Landthan men of marching regiments can explain whythey arein "stupid quarters." I believe that these monksare forthe most part well conducted menpunctual in theirceremonialdutiesand altogether humble-minded Christians.Theirhumility is not at all misplacedfor you see at aglance(poor fellows!) that they belong to the LAG REMOVE ofthe humanrace. If the taking of the cowl does not imply acompleterenouncement of the worldit is at least (in thesedays) athorough farewell to every kind of useful andentertainingknowledgeand accordingly the low bestial browand theanimal caste of those almost Bourbon features showplainlyenough that all the intellectual vanities of lifehave beenreally and truly abandoned. But it is hard toquenchaltogether the spirit of inquiry that stirs in thehumanbreastand accordingly these monks inquire - they areALWAYSinquiring inquiring for "news"! Poor fellows! theycouldscarcely have yielded themselves to the sway of anypassionmore difficult of gratificationfor they have nomeans ofcommunicating with the busy world except throughEuropeantravellers; and thesein consequence I suppose ofthatrestlessness and irritability that generally haunt theirwanderingsseem to have always avoided the bore of givinganyinformation to their hosts. As for meI am more patientandgood-naturedand when I found that the kind monks whogatheredround me at Nazareth were longing to know the realtruthabout the General Bonaparte who had recoiled from thesiege ofAcreI softened my heart down to the good humour ofHerodotusand calmly began to "sing history" telling myeagerhearers of the French Empire and the greatness of itsgloryandof Waterloo and the fall of Napoleon! Now mystory ofthis marvellous ignorance on the part of the poormonks isone upon which (though depending on my owntestimony)I look "with considerable suspicion." It is quitetrue (howsilly it would be to INVENT anything so witless!)and yet Ithink I could satisfy the mind of a "reasonableman"that it is false. Many of the older monks must havebeen inEurope at the time when the Italy and the Spain fromwhich theycame were in act of taking their French lessonsor hadparted so lately with their teachersthat not to knowof "theEmperor" was impossibleand these men couldscarcelythereforehave failed to bring with them sometidings ofNapoleon's career. Yet I say that that which Ihavewritten is true - the one who believes because I havesaid itwill be right (she always is)whilst poor Mr."reasonableman" who is convinced by the weight of myargumentwill be completely deceived.
In Spanishpoliticshoweverthe monks are betterinstructed. The revenues of the monasterieswhich had beenprincipallysupplied by the bounty of their most Catholicmajestieshave been withheld since Ferdinand's deathandtheinterests of these establishments being thus closelyinvolvedin the destinies of Spainit is not wonderful thatthebrethren should be a little more knowing in Spanishaffairsthan in other branches of history. Besidesa largeproportionof the monks were natives of the Peninsula. TotheseIrememberMysseri's familiarity with the Spanishlanguageand character was a source of immense delight; theywerealways gathering around himand it seemed to me thattheytreasured like gold the few Castilian words which hedeigned tospare them.
The monksdo a world of good in their way; and there can benodoubting that previously to the arrival of BishopAlexanderwith his numerous young family and his prettyEnglishnursemaidsthey were the chief propagandists ofChristianityin Palestine. My old friends of the Franciscanconvent atJerusalem some time since gave proof of theirgoodnessby delivering themselves up to the peril of deathfor thesake of duty. When I was their guest they were fortyI believein numberand I don't recollect that there was oneof themwhom I should have looked upon as a desirable life-holder ofany property to which I might be entitled inexpectancy. Yet these forty were reduced in a few days tonineteen. The plague was the messenger that summoned them toa taste ofreal death; but the circumstances under which theyperishedare rather curious; and though I have no authorityfor thestory except an Italian newspaperI harbour no doubtof itstruthfor the facts were detailed with minutenessandstrictly corresponded with all that I knew of the poorfellows towhom they related.
It wasabout three months after the time of my leavingJerusalemthat the plague set his spotted foot on the HolyCity. The monks felt great alarm; they did not shrink fromtheirdutybut for its performance they chose a plan mostsadly wellfitted for bringing down upon them the very deathwhich theywere striving to ward off. They imaginedthemselvesalmost safe so long as they remained within theirwalls; butthen it was quite needful that the CatholicChristiansof the placewho had always looked to the conventfor thesupply of their spiritual wantsshould receive theaids ofreligion in the hour of death. A single monkthereforewas choseneither by lot or by some other fairappeal todestiny. Being thus singled outhe was to goforth intothe plague-stricken cityand to perform withexactnesshis priestly duties; then he was to returnnot totheinterior of the conventfor fear of infecting hisbrethrenbut to a detached building (which I remember)belongingto the establishmentbut at some little distancefrom theinhabited rooms. He was provided with a bellandat acertain hour in the morning he was ordered to ring itIF HECOULD; but if no sound was heard at the appointed timethen knewhis brethren that he was either delirious or deadandanother martyr was sent forth to take his place. In thiswaytwenty-one of the monks were carried off. One cannotwell failto admire the steadiness with which the dismalscheme wascarried through; but if there be any truth in thenotionthat disease may be invited by a frighteningimaginationit is difficult to conceive a more dangerousplan thanthat which was chosen by these poor fellows. Theanxietywith which they must have expected each day the soundof thebellthe silence that reigned instead of itand thenthedrawing of the lots (the odds against death being onepointlower than yesterday)and the going forth of the newlydoomed man- all this must have widened the gulf that opensto theshades below. When his victim had already suffered somuch ofmental tortureit was but easy work for big bullyingpestilenceto follow a forlorn monk from the beds of thedyingandwrench away his life from him as he lay all alonein anouthouse.
In mostIbelieve in allof the Holy Land convents thereare twopersonages so strangely raised above their brethrenin allthat dignifies humanitythat their bearing the samehabittheir dwelling under the same rooftheir worshippingthe sameGod (consistent as all this is with the spirit oftheirreligion)yet strikes the mind with a sense ofwondrousincongruity; the men I speak of are the "PadreSuperiore"and the "Padre Missionario." The former is thesupremeand absolute governor of the establishment over whichhe isappointed to rulethe latter is entrusted with themoreactive of the spiritual duties attaching to the PilgrimChurch. He is the shepherd of the good Catholic flockwhosepasture isprepared in the midst of Mussulmans andschismatics;he keeps the light of the true faith evervividlybefore their eyesreproves their vicessupportsthem intheir good resolvesconsoles them in theirafflictionsand teaches them to hate the Greek Church. Suchare hislaboursand you may conceive that great tact must beneeded forconducting with success the spiritual interests ofthe churchunder circumstances so odd as those which surroundit inPalestine.
But theposition of the Padre Superiore is still moredelicate;he is almost unceasingly in treaty with the powersthat beand the worldly prosperity of the establishment overwhich hepresides is in great measure dependent upon theextent ofdiplomatic skill which he can employ in its favour.I know notfrom what class of churchmen these personages arechosenfor there is a mystery attending their origin and thecircumstanceof their being stationed in these conventswhich Romedoes not suffer to be penetrated. I have heard itsaid thatthey are men of great noteandperhapsof toohighambition in the Catholic Hierarchywho having fallenunder thegrave censure of the Churchare banished for fixedperiods tothese distant monasteries. I believe that thetermduring which they are condemned to remain in the HolyLand isfrom eight to twelve years. By the natives of thecountryas well as by the rest of the brethrenthey arelookedupon as superior beings; and rightly toofor Natureseems tohave crowned them in her own true way.
The chiefof the Jerusalem convent was a noble creature; hisworldlyand spiritual authority seemed to have surroundedhimas itwerewith a kind of "court" and the manlygracefulnessof his bearing did honour to the throne which hefilled. There were no lords of the bedchamberand no goldsticks andstones in waitingyet everybody who approachedhim lookedas though he were being "presented"; everyinterviewwhich he granted wore the air of an "audience"; thebrethrenas often as they came near bowed low and kissed hishand; andif he went outthe Catholics of the place thathoveredabout the convent would crowd around him with devoutaffectionand almost scramble for the blessing which histouchcould give. He bore his honours all serenelyasthoughcalmly conscious of his power to "bind and to loose."
CHAPTERXI - GALILEE
NEITHERold "sacred" himselfnor anyof his helpersknewthe roadwhich I meant to take from Nazareth to the Sea ofGalileeand from thence to Jerusalemso I was forced to addanother tomy party by hiring a guide. The associations ofNazarethas well as my kind feeling towards the hospitablemonkswhose guest I had beeninclined me to set at naughtthe advicewhich I had received against employing Christians.Iaccordingly engaged a litheactive young Nazarenewho wasrecommendedto me by the monksand who affected to befamiliarwith the line of country through which I intended topass. My disregard of the popular prejudices againstChristianswas not justified in this particular instance bythe resultof my choice. This you will see by-and-by.
I passedby Cana and the house in which the water had beenturnedinto wine; I came to the field in which our Saviourhadrebuked the Scotch Sabbath-keepers of that periodbysufferingHis disciples to pluck corn on the Lord's day; Irode overthe ground on which the fainting multitude had beenfedandthey showed me some massive fragments - the relicsthey saidof that wondrous banquetnow turned into stone.Thepetrifaction was most complete.
I ascendedthe height on which our Lord was standing when Hewroughtthe miracle. The hill was lofty enough to show methefairness of the land on all sidesbut I have an ancientlove forthe mere features of a lakeand so forgetting allelse whenI reached the summitI looked away eagerly to theeastward. There she laythe Sea of Galilee. Less sternthan WastWaterless fair than gentle Windermereshe hadstill thewinning ways of an English lake; she caught fromthesmiling heavens unceasing light and changeful phases ofbeautyand with all this brightness on her faceshe yetclung sofondly to the dull he-looking mountain at her sideas thoughshe would
If onemight judge of men's real thoughts by their writingsit wouldseem that there are people who can visit aninterestinglocality and follow up continuously the exacttrain ofthought that ought to be suggested by the historicalassociationsof the place. A person of this sort can go toAthens andthink of nothing later than the age of Pericles;can livewith the Scipios as long as he stays in Rome; can goup in aballoonand think how resplendently in former timesthe nowvacant and desolate air was peopled with angelshowprettilyit was crossed at intervals by the rounds of Jacob'sladder! I don't possess this power at all; it is only bysnatchesand for few moments togetherthat I can reallyassociatea place with its proper history.
"Thereat Tiberiasand along this western shore towards thenorthandupon the bosom too of the lakeour Saviour andHisdisciples - " away flew those recollectionsand my mindstrainedeastwardbecause that that farthest shore was theend of theworld that belongs to man the dwellerthebeginningof the other and veiled world that is held by thestrangeracewhose life (like the pastime of Satan) is a"goingto and fro upon the face of the earth." From thosegrey hillsright away to the gates of Bagdad stretched forththemysterious "desert" - not a palevoidsandy tractbuta landabounding in rich pasturesa land without cities ortownswithout any "respectable" people or any "respectable"thingsyet yielding its eighty thousand cavalry to the beckof a fewold men. But once more - "Tiberias - the plain ofGennesareth- the very earth on which I stood - that the deeplow tonesof the Saviour's voice should have gone forth intoeternityfrom out of the midst of these hills and thesevalleys!"- Ayaybut yet again the calm face of the lakewasupliftedand smiled upon my eyes with such familiargazethatthe "deep low tones" were hushedthe listeningmultitudesall passed awayand instead there came to me adear oldmemory from over the seas in Englanda memorysweeterthan Gospel to that poor wilful mortalme.
I went toTiberiasand soon got afloat upon the water. Intheevening I took up my quarters in the Catholic churchandthebuilding being large enoughthe whole of my party wereadmittedto the benefit of the same shelter. Withportmanteausand carpet bagsand books and mapsandfragrantteaMysseri soon made me a home on the southernside ofthe church. One of old Shereef's helpers was anenthusiasticCatholicand was greatly delighted at having sosacred alodging. He lit up the altar with a number oftapersand when his preparations were completehe began toperformhis orisons in the strangest manner imaginable. Hislipsmuttered the prayers of the Latin Churchbut he bowedhimselfdown and laid his forehead to the stones beneath himafter themanner of a Mussulman. The universal aptness of areligioussystem for all stages of civilisationand for allsorts andconditions of menwell befits its claim of divineorigin. She is of all nationsand of all timesthatwonderfulChurch of Rome!
Tiberiasis one of the four holy cities accordingto theTalmudand it is from this placeor the immediateneighbourhoodof itthat the Messiah is to arise.
Except atJerusalemnever think of attempting to sleep in a"holycity." Old Jews from all parts of the world go to laytheirbones upon the sacred soiland as these people neverreturn totheir homesit follows that any domestic verminwhich theymay bring with them are likely to becomepermanentlyresidentso that the population is continuallyincreasing. No recent census had been taken when I was atTiberiasbut I know that the congregation of fleas whichattendedat my church alone must have been somethingenormous. It was a carnalself-seeking congregationwhollyinattentiveto the service which was going onand devoted tothe oneobject of having my blood. The fleas of all nationswerethere. The smugsteadyimportunate flea from HolywellStreet;the pertjumping PUCE from hungry Francethe warywatchfulPULCE with his poisoned stiletto; the vengeful PULGAof Castilewith his ugly knife; the German FLOH with hisknife andforkinsatiatenot rising from table; wholeswarmsfrom all the Russiasand Asiatic hordes unnumbered -all thesewere thereand all rejoiced in one greatinternationalfeast. I could no more defend myself againstmy enemiesthan if I had been PAIN A DISCRETION in the handsof aFrench patriotor English gold in the claws of aPennsylvanianQuaker. After passing a night like this youare gladto pick up the wretched remains of your body longlongbefore morning dawns. Your skin is scorchedyourtemplesthrobyour lips feel withered and driedyourburningeyeballs are screwed inwards against the brain. Youhave nohope but only in the saddle and the freshness of themorningair.
CHAPTERXII - MY FIRST BIVOUAC
THE courseof the Jordan is from the north to the southandin thatdirectionwith very little of devious windingitcarriesthe shining waters of Glailee straight down into thesolitudesof the Dead Sea. Speaking roughlythe river inthatmeridian is a boundary between the people living underroofs andthe tented tribes that wander on the farther side.And soasI went down in my way from Tiberias towardsJerusalemalong the western bank of the streammy thinkingallpropended to the ancient world of herdsmen and warriorsthat layso close over my bridle arm.
If a manand an Englishmanbe not born of his mother with anaturalChiffney-bit in his mouththere comes to him a timeforloathing the wearisome ways of society; a time for notlikingtamed people; a time for not dancing quadrillesnotsitting inpews; a time for pretending that Milton andShelleyand all sorts of mere dead peoplewere greater indeath thanthe first living Lord of the Treasury; a timeinshortforscoffing and railingfor speaking lightly of theveryoperaand all our most cherished institutions. It isfromnineteen to two or three and twenty perhaps that thiswar of theman against men is like to be waged most sullenly.You areyet in this smiling Englandbut you find yourselfwendingaway to the dark sides of her mountainsclimbing thedizzycragsexulting in the fellowship of mists and cloudsandwatching the storms how they gatheror proving themettle ofyour mare upon the broad and dreary downsbecausethat youfeel congenially with the yet unparcelled earth. Alittlewhile you are free and unlabelledlike the groundthat youcompass; but civilisation is coming and coming; youand yourmuch-loved waste lands will be surely enclosedandsooner orlater brought down to a state of mere usefulness;the groundwill be curiously sliced into acres and roods andperchesand youfor all you sit so smartly in your saddleyou willbe caughtyou will be taken up from travel as acolt fromgrassto be trained and triedand matched andrun. All this in timebut first came Continental tours andthe moodylonging for Eastern travel. The downs and themoors ofEngland can hold you no longer; with large stridesyou burstaway from these slips and patches of free land; youthreadyour path through the crowds of Europeand at laston thebanks of Jordanyou joyfully know that you are uponthe veryfrontier of all accustomed respectabilities. Thereon theother side of the river (you can swim it with onearm)there reigns the people that will be like to put you todeath forNOT being a vagrantfor NOT being a robberforNOT beingarmed and houseless. There is comfort in that -healthcomfortand strength to one who is dying from verywearinessof that poordearmiddle-ageddeservingaccomplishedpedanticand painstaking governessEurope.
I hadridden for some hours along the right bank of Jordanwhen Icame to the Djesr el Medjame (an old Roman bridgeIbelieve)which crossed the river. My Nazarene guide wasridingahead of the partyand nowto my surprise anddelighthe turned leftwardsand led on over the bridge. Iknew thatthe true road to Jerusalem must be mainly by theright bankof Jordanbut I supposed that my guide wascrossingthe bridge at this spot in order to avoid some bendin theriverand that he knew of a ford lower down by whichwe shouldregain the western bank. I made no question aboutthe roadfor I was but too glad to set my horse's hoofs uponthe landof the wandering tribes. None of my party excepttheNazarene knew the country. On we went through richpasturesupon the eastern side of the water. I looked fortheexpected bend of the riverbut far as I could see itkept astraight southerly course; I still left my guideunquestioned.
The Jordanis not a perfectly accurate boundary betwixt roofsand tentsfor soon after passing the bridge I came upon acluster ofhuts. Some time afterwards the guideupon beingcloselyquestioned by my servantsconfessed that the villagewhich wehad left behind was the last that we should seebuthedeclared that he knew a spot at which we should find anencampmentof friendly Bedouinswho would receive me withallhospitality. I had long determined not to leave the Eastwithoutseeing something of the wandering tribesbut I hadlookedforward to this as a pleasure to be found in thedesertbetween El Arish and Egypt; I had no idea that theBedouinson the east of Jordan were accessible. My delightwas sogreat at the near prospect of bread and salt in thetent of anArab warriorthat I wilfully allowed my guide togo on andmislead me. I saw that he was taking me out of thestraightroute towards Jerusalemand was drawing me into themidst ofthe Bedouins; but the idea of his betraying meseemed (Iknow not why) so utterly absurdthat I could notentertainit for a moment. I fancied it possible that thefellow hadtaken me out of my route in order to attempt somelittlemercantile enterprise with the tribe for which he wasseekingand I was glad of the opportunity which I might thusgain ofcoming in contact with the wanderers.
Not longafter passing the village a horseman met us. Itappearedthat some of the cavalry of Ibrahim Pasha hadcrossedthe river for the sake of the rich pastures on theeasternbankand that this man was one of the troopers. Hestoppedand saluted; he was obviously surprised at meeting anunarmedor half-armedcavalcadeand at last fairly told usthat wewere on the wrong side of the riverand that if weproceededwe must lay our account with falling amongstrobbers. All this whileand throughout the daymy Nazarenekept wellahead of the partyand was constantly up in hisstirrupsstraining forward and searching the distance forsomeobjects which still remained unseen.
For therest of the day we saw no human being; we pushed oneagerly inthe hope of coming up with the Bedouins beforenightfall. Night cameand we still went on in our way tillabout teno'clock. Then the thorough darkness of the nightand theweariness of our beasts (which had already done twogood days'journey in one)forced us to determine uponcoming toa standstill. Upon the heights to the eastward wesawlights; these shone from caves on the mountain-sideinhabitedas the Nazarene told usby rascals of a low sort- not realBedouinsmen whom we might frighten intoharmlessnessbut from whom there was no willing hospitalityto beexpected.
We heardat a little distance the brawling of a rivuletandon thebanks of this it was determined to establish ourbivouac. We soon found the streamand following its coursefor a fewyardscame to a spot which was thought to be fitfor ourpurpose. It was a sharply cold night in Februaryand when Idismounted I found myself standing upon some wetrankherbage that promised ill for the comfort of ourresting-place. I had bad hopes of a firefor the pitchydarknessof the night was a great obstacle to any successfulsearch forfueland besidesthe boughs of trees or busheswould beso full of sap in this early springthat they wouldnot beeasily persuaded to burn. Howeverwe were not likelyto submitto a dark and cold bivouac without an effortandmy fellowsgroped forward through the darknesstill afteradvancinga few paces they were happily stopped by a completebarrier ofdead prickly bushes. Before our swords could bedrawn toreap this welcome harvest it was found to oursurprisethat the fuel was already hewn and strewed along theground ina thick mass. A spot for the fire was found withsomedifficultyfor the earth was moist and the grass highand rank. At last there was a clicking of flint and steelandpresently there stood out from darkness one of the tawnyfaces ofmy muleteersbent down to near the groundandsuddenlylit up by the glowing of the spark which he courtedwithcareful breath. Before long there was a particle of dryfibre orleaf that kindled to a tiny flame; then another waslit fromthatand then another. Then small crisp twigslittlebigger than bodkinswere laid athwart the glowingfire. The swelling cheeks of the muleteerlaid level withthe earthblew tenderly at first and then more boldly uponthe youngflamewhich was daintily nursed and fedand fedmoreplentifully when it gained good strength. At last awholearmful of dry bushes was piled up over the fireandpresentlywith a loud cheery crackling and cracklingaroyal tallblaze shot up from the earth and showed me oncemore theshapes and faces of my menand the dim outlines ofthe horsesand mules that stood grazing hard by.
Myservants busied themselves in unpacking the baggage asthough wehad arrived at an hotel - Shereef and his helpersunsaddledtheir cattle. We had left Tiberias without theslightestidea that we were to make our way to Jerusalemalong thedesolate side of the Jordanand my servants(generallyprovident in those matters) had brought with themonlyIthinksome unleavened bread and a rocky fragment ofgoat'smilk cheese. These treasures were produced. Tea andthecontrivances for making it were always a standing part ofmybaggage. My men gathered in circle round the fire. TheNazarenewas in a false position from having misled us sostrangelyand he would have shrunk backpoor devilintothe coldand outer darknessbut I made him draw near andshare theluxuries of the night. My quilt and my pelissewerespreadand the rest of my party had all their capotesorpelissesor robes of some sortwhich furnished theircouches. The men gathered in circlesome kneelingsomesittingsome lying reclined around our common hearth.Sometimeson onesometimes on anotherthe flickering lightwouldglare more fiercely. Sometimes it was the good Shereefthatseemed the foremostas he sat with venerable beard theimage ofmanly piety - unknowing of all geographyunknowingwhere hewas or whither he might gobut trusting in thegoodnessof God and the clinching power of fate and the goodstar ofthe Englishman. Sometimeslike marblethe classicface ofthe Greek Mysseri would catch the sudden lightandthen againby turns the ever-perturbed Dthemetriwith hisoldChinaman's eye and bristlingterrier-like moustacheshoneforth illustrious.
I alwaysliked the men who attended me on these Easterntravelsfor they were all of them bravecheery-heartedfellows;and although their following my career brought uponthem apretty large share of those toils and hardships whichare somuch more amusing to gentlemen than to servantsyetnot one ofthem ever uttered or hinted a syllable ofcomplaintor even affected to put on an air of resignation.I alwaysliked thembut never perhaps so much as when theywere thusgrouped together under the light of the bivouacfire. I felt towards them as my comrades rather than as myservantsand took delight in breaking bread with themandmerrilypassing the cup.
The loveof tea is a glad source of fellow-feeling betweentheEnglishman and the Asiatic. In Persia it is drunk byallandalthough it is a luxury that is rarely within thereach ofthe Osmanleesthere are few of them who do not knowand lovethe blessed TCHAI. Our camp-kettlefilled from thebrookhummed doubtfully for a whilethen busily bubbledunder thesidelong glare of the flames; cups clinked andrattled;the fragrant steam ascendedand soon this littlecirclet inthe wilderness grew warm and genial as my lady'sdrawing-room.
And afterthis there came the TCHIBOUQUE - great comforter ofthose thatare hungry and wayworn. And it has this virtue -it helpsto destroy the GENE and awkwardness which onesometimesfeels at being in company with one's dependents;for whilstthe amber is at your lipsthere is nothingungraciousin your remaining silentor speaking pithily inshortinter-whiff sentences. And for us that night there waspleasantand plentiful matter of talk; for the where weshould beon the morrowand the wherewithal we should befedwhether by some ford we should regain the western bankof Jordanor find bread and salt under the tents of awanderingtribeor whether we should fall into the hands ofthePhilistinesand so come to see death - the last andgreatestof all "the fine sights" that there be - these werequestioningsnot dull nor wearisome to usfor we were allconcernedin the answers. And it was not an all-imaginedmorrowthat we probed with our sharp guessesfor the lightsof thoselow Philistinesthe men of the cavesstill hungover ourheadsand we knew by their yells that the fire ofourbivouac had shown us.
At lengthwe thought it well to seek for sleep. Our planswere laidfor keeping up a good watch through the night. Myquilt andmy pelisse and my cloak were spread out so that Imight liespokewisewith my feet towards the central fire.I wrappedmy limbs daintily roundand gave myself positiveorders tosleep like a veteran soldier. But I found that myattempt tosleep upon the earth that God gave me was more newandstrange than I had fancied it. I had grown used to thescenewhich was before me whilst I was sitting or recliningby theside of the firebut now that I laid myself down atlength itwas the deep black mystery of the heavens that hungover myeyes - not an earthly thing in the way from my ownveryforehead right up to the end of all space. I grew proudof myboundless bedchamber. I might have "found sermons" inall thisgreatness (if I had I should surely have slept)butsuch wasnot then my way. If this cherished self of mine hadbuilt theuniverseI should have dwelt with delight on "thewonders ofcreation." As it wasI felt rather the vaingloryof mypromotion from out of mere rooms and houses into themidst ofthat granddarkinfinite palace.
And thentoomy headfar from the firewas in coldlatitudesand it seemed to me strange that I should be lyingso stilland passivewhilst the sharp night breeze walkedfree overmy cheekand the cold damp clung to my hairasthough myface grew in the earth and must bear with thefootstepsof the wind and the falling of the dew as meekly asthe grassof the field. BesidesI got puzzled anddistractedby having to endure heat and cold at the sametimeforI was always considering whether my feet were notover-devilledand whether my face was not too well iced. Andso whenfrom time to time the watch quietly and gently keptup thelanguishing firehe seldomI thinkwas unseen to myrestlesseyes. Yet at lastwhen they called me and saidthat themorn would soon be dawningI rose from a state ofhalf-oblivionnot much unlike to sleepthough sharplyqualifiedby a sort of vegetable's consciousness of havingbeengrowing still colder and colder for many and many anhour.
CHAPTERXIII - THE DEAD SEA
THE greylight of the morning showed us for the first timethe groundwhich we had chosen for our resting-place. Wefound thatwe had bivouacked upon a little patch of barleyplainlybelonging to the men of the caves. The dead busheswhich wefound so happily placed in readiness for our firehad beenstrewn as a fence for the protection of the littlecrop. This was the only cultivated spot of ground which wehad seenfor many a leagueand I was rather sorry to findthat ournight fire and our cattle had spread so much ruinupon thispoor solitary slip of corn-land.
Thesaddling and loading of our beasts was a work whichgenerallytook nearly an hourand before this was half overdaylightcame. We could now see the men of the caves. Theycollectedin a bodyamountingI should thinkto nearlyfiftyandrushed down towards our quarters with fierceshouts andyells. But the nearer they got the slower theywent;their shouts grew less resolute in toneand soonceasedaltogether. The fellowshoweveradvanced to athicketwithin thirty yards of usand behind this "took uptheirposition." My men without premeditation did exactlythat whichwas best; they kept steadily to their work ofloadingthe beasts without fuss or hurry; and whether it wasthat theyinstinctively felt the wisdom of keeping quietorthat theymerely obeyed the natural inclination to silencewhich onefeels in the early morningI cannot tellbut Iknow thatexcept when they exchanged a syllable or tworelativeto the work they were aboutnot a word was said. Inowbelieve that this quietness of our party created anundefinedterror in the minds of the cave-holders and scaredthem fromcoming on; it gave them a notion that we wererelying onsome resources which they knew not of. Severaltimes thefellows tried to lash themselves into a state ofexcitementwhich might do instead of pluck. They would raisea greatshout and sway forward in a dense body from behindthethicket; but when they saw that their bravery thusgatheredto a head did not even suspend the strapping of aportmanteauor the tying of a hatboxtheir shout lost itsspiritand the whole mass was irresistibly drawn back like awavereceding from the shore.
Theseattempts at an onset were repeated several timesbutalwayswith the same result. I remained under theapprehensionof an attack for more than half-an-hourand itseemed tome that the work of packing and loading had neverbeen doneso slowly. I felt inclined to tell my fellows tomake theirbest speedbut just as I was going to speak Iobservedthat every one was doing his duty already; Ithereforeheld my peace and said not a wordtill at lastMysseriled up my horse and asked me if I were ready tomount.
We allmarched off without hindrance.
After sometime we came across a party of Ibrahim's cavalrywhich hadbivouacked at no great distance from us. Theknowledgethat such a force was in the neighbourhood may haveconducedto the forbearance of the cave-holders.
We saw ascraggy-looking fellow nearly blackand wearingnothingbut a cloth round the loins; he was tending flocks.AfterwardsI came up with another of these goatherdswhosehelpmatewas with him. They gave us some goat's milkawelcomepresent. I pitied the poor devil of a goatherd forhavingsuch a very plain wife. I spend an enormous quantityof pityupon that particular form of human misery.
Aboutmidday I began to examine my map and to question myguidewhoat last fell on his knees and confessed that heknewnothing of the country in which we were. I was thusthrownupon my own resourcesand calculating that on theprecedingday we had nearly performed a two days' journeyIconcludedthat the Dead Sea must be near. In this I wasrightforat about three or four o'clock in the afternoon Icaught afirst sight of its dismal face.
I went onand came near to those waters of death. Theystretcheddeeply into the southern desertand before meandallaroundas far away as the eye could followblank hillspiled highover hillspaleyellowand nakedwalled up inher tombfor ever the dead and damned Gomorrah. There was nofly thathummed in the forbidden airbut instead a deepstillness;no grass grew from the earthno weed peeredthroughthe void sand; but in mockery of all life there weretreesborne down by Jordan in some ancient floodand thesegrotesquelyplanted upon the forlorn shorespread out theirgrimskeleton armsall scorched and charred to blackness bythe heatsof the long silent years.
I nowstruck off towards the debouchure of the river; but Ifound thatthe countrythough seemingly quite flatwasintersectedby deep ravineswhich did not show themselvesuntilnearly approached. For some time my progress was muchobstructed;but at last I came across a track which ledtowardsthe riverand which mightas I hopedbring me to aford. I foundin factwhen I came to the river's side thatthe trackreappeared upon the opposite bankplainly showingthat thestream had been fordable at this place. Nowhoweverin consequence of the late rains the river was quiteimpracticablefor baggage-horses. A body of waters aboutequal tothe Thames at Etonbut confined to a narrowerchannelpoured down in a current so swift and heavythatthe ideaof passing with laden baggage-horses was utterlyforbidden. I could have swum across myselfand I mightperhapshave succeeded in swimming a horse over; but thiswould havebeen uselessbecause in such case I must haveabandonednot only my baggagebut all my attendantsfornone ofthem were able to swimand without that resource itwould havebeen madness for them to rely upon the swimming oftheirbeasts across such a powerful stream. I still hopedhoweverthat there might be a chance of passing the river atthe pointof its actual junction with the Dead Seaand Ithereforewent on in that direction.
Night cameupon us whilst labouring across gullies and sandymoundsand we were obliged to come to a stand-still quitesuddenlyupon the very edge of a precipitous descent. Everysteptowards the Dead Sea had brought us into a country moreand moredreary; and this sand-hillwhich we were forced tochoose forour resting-placewas dismal enough. A fewslenderblades of grasswhich here and there singly piercedthe sandmocked bitterly the hunger of our jaded beastsandwith oursmall remaining fragment of goat's-milk rock by wayof supperwe were not much better off than our horses. Wewantedtoothe great requisite of a cheery bivouac - fire.Moreoverthe spot on which we had been so suddenly broughtto astandstill was relatively high and unshelteredand thenight windblew swiftly and cold.
The nextmorning I reached the debouchure of the Jordanwhere Ihad hoped to find a bar of sand that might render itspassagepossible. The riverhoweverrolled its eddyingwatersfast down to the "sea" in a strongdeep stream thatshut outall hope of crossing.
It nowseemed necessary either to construct a raft of somekindorelse to retrace my steps and remount the banks oftheJordan. I had once happened to give some attention tothesubject of military bridges - a branch of militarysciencewhich includes the construction of rafts andcontrivancesof the like sort - and I should have been veryproudindeed if I could have carried my party and my baggageacross bydint of any idea gathered from Sir Howard DouglasorRobinson Crusoe. But we were all faint and languid fromwant offoodand besidesthere were no materials. Higherup theriver there were bushes and river plantsbut nothingliketimber; and the cord with which my baggage was tied tothepack-saddles amounted altogether to a very smallquantitynot nearly enough to haul any sort of craft acrossthestream.
And now itwasif I remember rightlythat Dthemetrisubmittedto me a plan for putting to death the Nazarenewhosemisguidance had been the cause of our difficulties.There wassomething fascinating in this suggestionfor theslaying ofthe guide was of course easy enoughand wouldlook likean act of what politicians call "vigour." If itwere onlyto become known to my friends in England that I hadcalmlykilled a fellow-creature for taking me out of my wayI mightremain perfectly quiet and tranquil for all the restof mydaysquite free from the danger of being considered"slow";I might ever after live on upon my reputationlike"single-speechHamilton" in the last centuryor "single sin- "in thiswithout being obliged to take the trouble ofdoing anymore harm in the world. This was a greattemptationto an indolent personbut the motive was notstrengthenedby any sincere feeling of anger with theNazarene. Whilst the question of his life and death wasdebated hewas riding in front of our partyand there wassomethingin the anxious writhing of his supple limbs thatseemed toexpress a sense of his false positionand struckme ashighly comic. I had no crotchet at that time againstthepunishment of deathbut I was unused to bloodand theproposedvictim looked so thoroughly capable of enjoying life(if hecould only get to the other side of the river)that Ithought itwould be hard for him to die merely in order togive me acharacter for energy. Acting on the result oftheseconsiderationsand reserving to myself a free andunfettereddiscretion to have the poor villain shot at anyfuturemomentI magnanimously decided that for the presenthe shouldliveand not die.
I bathedin the Dead Sea. The ground covered by the watersloped sograduallythat I was not only forced to "sneakin"but to walk through the water nearly a quarter of a milebefore Icould get out of my depth. When at last I was ableto attemptto divethe salts held in solution made my eyessmart sosharplythat the pain which I thus sufferedtogetherwith the weakness occasioned by want of foodmademe giddyand faint for some momentsbut I soon grew better.I knewbeforehand the impossibility of sinking in thisbuoyantwaterbut I was surprised to find that I could notswim at myaccustomed pace; my legs and feet were lifted sohigh anddry out of the lakethat my stroke was baffledandI foundmyself kicking against the thin air instead of thedensefluid upon which I was swimming. The water isperfectlybright and clear; its taste detestable. Afterfinishingmy attempts at swimming and divingI took sometime inregaining the shoreand before I began to dress Ifound thatthe sun had already evaporated the water whichclung tomeand that my skin was thickly encrusted withsalts.
CHAPTERXIV - THE BLACK TENTS
MY stepswere reluctantly turned towards the north. I hadriddensome wayand still it seemed that all life was fencedand barredout from the desolate ground over which I wasjourneying. On the west there flowed the impassable Jordanon theeast stood an endless range of barren mountainsandon thesouth lay that desert sea that knew not the plashingof an oar;greatly therefore was I surprised when suddenlytherebroke upon my ear the longludicrouspersevering brayof adonkey. I was riding at this time some few hundredyardsahead of all my party except the Nazarene (who by awiseinstinct kept closer to me than to Dthemetri)and Iinstantlywent forward in the direction of the soundfor Ifanciedthat where there were donkeysthere too most surelywould bemen. The ground on all sides of me seemedthoroughlyvoid and lifelessbut at last I got down into ahollowand presently a sudden turn brought me within thirtyyards ofan Arab encampment. The low black tents which I hadso longlusted to see were right before meand they were allteemingwith live Arabs - menwomenand children.
I wishedto have let my party behind know where I wasbut Irecollectedthat they would be able to trace me by the printsof myhorse's hoofs in the sandand having to do withAsiaticsI felt the danger of the slightest movement whichmight belooked upon as a sign of irresolution. Thereforewithoutlooking behind mewithout looking to the right or tothe leftI rode straight up towards the foremost tent.Beforethis was strewed a semicircular fence of dead boughsthroughwhich there was an opening opposite to the front ofthe tent. As I advancedsome twenty or thirty of the mostuncouth-lookingfellows imaginable came forward to meet me.In theirappearance they showed nothing of the Bedouin blood;they wereof many coloursfrom dingy brown to jet blackandsome ofthese last had much of the negro look about them.They weretallpowerful fellowsbut awfully ugly. Theyworenothing but the Arab shirtsconfined at the waist byleathernbelts.
I advancedto the gap left in the fenceand at once alightedfrom myhorse. The chief greeted me after his fashion byalternatelytouching first my hand and then his own foreheadas if hewere conveying the virtue of the touch like a sparkofelectricity. Presently I found myself seated upon asheepskinwhich was spread for me under the sacred shade ofArabiancanvas. The tent was of a longnarrowoblong formandcontained a quantity of menwomenand children socloselyhuddled togetherthat there was scarcely one of themwho wasnot in actual contact with his neighbour. The momentI hadtaken my seat the chief repeated his salutations in themostenthusiastic mannerand then the people having gathereddenselyabout megot hold of my unresisting hand and passedit roundlike a claret jug for the benefit of every body.The womensoon brought me a wooden bowl full of buttermilkandwelcome indeed came the gift to my hungry and thirstysoul.
After sometime my partyas I had expectedcame upandwhen poorDthemetri saw me on my sheepskin"the life andsoul"of this ragamuffin partyhe was so astoundedthat heevenfailed to check his cry of horror; he plainly thoughtthat nowat lastthe Lord had delivered me (interpreter andall) intothe hands of the lowest Philistines.
Myssericarried a tobacco-pouch slung at his beltand assoon asits contents were known the whole population of thetent beganbegging like spaniels for bits of the belovedweed. I concluded from the abject manner of these peoplethat theycould not possibly be thoroughbred Bedouinsand Isawtoothat they must be in the very last stage of miseryfor poorindeed is the man in these climes who cannot commanda pipefulof tobacco. I began to think that I had fallenamongstthorough savagesand it seemed likely enough thatthey wouldgain their very first knowledge of civilisation byravishingand studying the contents of my dearestportmanteausbut still my impression was that they wouldhardlyventure upon such an attempt. I observedindeedthat theydid not offer me the bread and salt which I hadunderstoodto be the pledges of peace amongst wanderingtribesbut I fancied that they refrained from this act ofhospitalitynot in consequence of any hostile determinationbut inorder that the notion of robbing me might remain forthepresent an "open question." I afterwards found thatthepoorfellows had no bread to offer. They were literally "outatgrass." It is true that they had a scanty supply of milkfromgoatsbut they were living almost entirely upon certaingrassstemswhich were just in season at that time of theyear. Theseif not highly nourishingare pleasant enoughto thetasteand their acid juices come gratefully tothirstylips.
CHAPTERXV - PASSAGE OF THE JORDAN
AND nowDthemetri began to enter into a negotiation with myhosts fora passage over the river. I never interfered withmy worthydragoman upon these occasionsbecause from myentireignorance of the Arabic I should have been quiteunable toexercise any real control over his wordsand itwould havebeen silly to break the stream of his eloquence tonopurpose. I have reason to fearhoweverthat he liedtranscendentlyand especially in representing me as thebosomfriend of Ibrahim Pasha. The mention of that nameproducedimmense agitation and excitementand the Sheikexplainedto Dthemetri the grounds of the infinite respectwhich heand his tribe entertained for the Pasha. A fewweeksbefore Ibrahim had craftily sent a body of troopsacross theJordan. The force went warily round to the footof themountains on the eastso as to cut off the retreat ofthistribeand then surrounded them as they lay encamped inthe vale;their camelsand indeed all their possessionsworthtakingwere carried off by the soldieryand moreoverthe thenSheiktogether with every tenth man of the tribewasbrought out and shot. You would think that this conducton thepart of the Pasha might not procure for his "friend" averygracious reception amongst the people whom he had thusdespoiledand decimated; but the Asiatic seems to be animatedwith afeeling of profound respectalmost bordering uponaffectionfor all who have done him any bold and violentwrongandthere is alwaystooso much of vague andundefinedapprehension mixed up with his really well-foundedalarmsthat I can see no limit to the yielding and bendingof hismind when it is wrought upon by the idea of power.
After somediscussion the Arabs agreedas I thoughttoconduct meto a fordand we moved on towards the riverfollowedby seventeen of the most able-bodied of the tribeunder theguidance of several grey-bearded eldersand SheikAliDjoubran at the head of the whole detachment. Uponleavingthe encampment a sort of ceremony was performedforthepurposeit seemedof ensuringif possiblea happyresult forthe undertaking. There was an uplifting of armsand arepeating of words that sounded like formulaebutthere wereno prostrationsand I did not understand that theceremonywas of a religious character. The tented Arabs arelookedupon as very bad Mahometans.
We arrivedupon the banks of the river - not at a fordbutat a deepand rapid part of the streamand I now understoodthat itwas the plan of these menif they helped me at alltotransport me across the river by some species of raft.But areaction had taken place in the opinions of manyand aviolentdispute arose upon a motion which seemed to have beenmade bysome honourable member with a view to robbery. Thefellowsall gathered together in circleat a little distancefrom mypartyand there disputed with great vehemence andfury fornearly two hours. I can't give a correct report ofthedebatefor it was held in a barbarous dialect of theArabicunknown to my dragoman. I recollect I sincerely feltat thetime that the arguments in favour of robbing me musthave beenalmost unanswerableand I gave great credit to thespeakerson my side for the ingenuity and sophistry whichthey musthave shown in maintaining the fight so well.
During thediscussion I remained lying in front of mybaggagewhich had all been taken from the pack-saddles andplacedupon the ground. I was so languid from want of foodthat I hadscarcely animation enough to feel as deeplyinterestedas you would suppose in the result of thediscussion. I thoughthoweverthat the pleasantest toys toplay withduring this interval were my pistolsand now andthenwhenI listlessly visited my loaded barrels with theswivelramrodsor drew a sweetmusical click from myEnglishfirelocksit seemed to me that I exercised a slightand gentleinfluence on the debate. Thanks to IbrahimPasha'sterrible visitation the men of the tribe were whollyunarmedand my advantage in this respect might havecounterbalancedin some measure the superiority of numbers.
Mysseri(not interpreting in Arabic) had no duty to performand heseemed to be faint and listless as myself. Shereeflookedperfectly resigned to any fate. But Dthemetri(faithfulterrier!) was bristling with zeal and watchfulness.He couldnot understand the debatewhich indeed was carriedon at adistance too great to be easily heardeven if thelanguagehad been familiar; but he was always on the alertand nowand then conferring with men who had straggled out oftheassembly. At last he found an opportunity of making aproposalwhich at once produced immense sensation; heofferedon my behalfthat if the tribe should bearthemselvesloyally towards meand take my party and mybaggage insafety to the other bank of the riverI shouldgive thema TESKERIor written certificate of their goodconductwhich might avail them hereafter in the hour oftheirdirest need. This proposal was received and instantlyacceptedby all the men of the tribe there present with theutmostenthusiasm. I was to give the mentooa BAKSHEISHthat isapresent of moneywhich is usually made upon theconclusionof any sort of treaty; but although the people ofthe tribewere so miserably poorthey seemed to look uponthepecuniary part of the arrangement as a matter quitetrivial incomparison with the TESKERI. Indeed the sum whichDthemetripromised them was extremely smalland not theslightestattempt was made to extort any further reward.
Thecouncil now broke upand most of the men rushed madlytowardsmeand overwhelmed me with vehement gratulations;theycaressed my boots with much affectionand my hands wereseverelykissed.
The Arabsnow went to work in right earnest to effect thepassage ofthe river. They had brought with them a greatnumber ofthe skins which they use for carrying water in thedesert;these they filled with airand fastened several ofthem tosmall boughs which they cut from the banks of theriver. In this way they constructed a raft not more thanabout fouror five feet squarebut rendered buoyant by theinflatedskins which supported it. On this a portion of mybaggagewas placedand was firmly tied to it by the cordsused on mypack-saddles. The little raft with its weightycargo wasthen gently lifted into the waterand I had thesatisfactionto see that it floated well.
Twelve ofthe Arabs now strippedand tied inflated skins totheirloins; six of the men went down into the rivergot infront ofthe little raftand pulled it off a few feet fromthe bank. The other six then dashed into the stream withloudshouts and swam along after the raftpushing it frombehind. Off went the craft in capital style at firstforthe streamwas easy on the eastern side; but I saw that thetug was tocomefor the main torrent swept round in a bendnear thewestern bank of the river.
The oldmenwith their long grey grisly beardsstoodshoutingand cheeringpraying and commanding. At length theraftentered upon the difficult part of its course; thewhirlingstream seized and twisted it aboutand then bore itrapidlydownwards; the swimmersflagged and seemed to bebeaten inthe struggle. But now the old men on the bankwith theirrigid arms uplifted straightsent forth a cry anda shoutthat tore the wide air into tattersand then to maketheirurging yet more strong they shrieked out the dreadfulsyllables"'brahim Pasha!" The swimmersone moment beforeso blownand so wearyfound lungs to answer the cryandshoutingback the name of their great destroyerthey dashedon throughthe torrentand bore the raft in safety to thewesternbank.
Afterwardsthe swimmers returned with the raftand attachedto it therest of my baggage. I took my seat upon the top ofthe cargoand the raft thus laden passed the river in thesame wayand with the same struggle as before. The skinshowevernot being perfectly air-tighthad lost a great partof theirbuoyancyso that Ias well as the luggage thatpassed onthis last voyagegot wet in the waters of Jordan.The raftcould not be trusted for another tripand the restof myparty passed the river in a different and (for them)much saferway. Inflated skins were fastened to their loinsand thussupportedthey were tugged across by Arabs swimmingon eitherside of them. The horses and mules were throwninto thewater and forced to swim over. The poor beasts hada hardstruggle for their lives in that swift stream; and Ithoughtthat one of the horses would have been drownedforhe was tooweak to gain a footing on the western bankandthe streambore him down. At lasthoweverhe swam back tothe sidefrom which he had come. Before dark all had passedthe riverexcept this one horse and old Shereef. Hepoorfellowwas shivering on the eastern bankfor his dread ofthepassage was so greatthat he delayed it as long as hecouldandat last it became so dark that he was obliged towait tillthe morning.
I lay thatnight on the banks of the riverand at a littledistancefrom me the Arabs kindled a fireround which theysat in acircle. They were made most savagely happy by thetobaccowith which I supplied themand they soon determinedthat thewhole night should be one smoking festival. Thepoorfellows had only a cracked bowlwithout any tube atallbutthis morsel of a pipe they handed round from one tothe otherallowing to each a fixed number of whiffs. Inthat waythey passed the whole night.
The nextmorning old Shereef was brought across. It was astrangesight to see this solemn old Mussulmanwith hisshavenhead and his sacred beardsprawling and puffing uponthesurface of the water. When at last he reached the bankthe peopletold him that by his baptism in Jordan he hadsurelybecome a mere Christian. Poor Shereef! - the holyman! thedescendant of the Prophet! - he was sadly hurt bythe tauntand the more so as he seemed to feel that therewas somefoundation for itand that he really might haveabsorbedsome Christian errors.
When allwas ready for departure I wrote the TESKERI inFrench anddelivered it to Sheik Ali Djoubrantogether withthepromised BAKSHEISH; he was exceedingly gratefuland Iparted ina very friendly way from this ragged tribe.
In two orthree hours I gained Rihaha village said tooccupy thesite of ancient Jericho. There was one buildingtherewhich I observed with some emotionfor although it maynot havebeen actually standing in the days of Jerichoitcontainedat this day a most interesting collection of -modernloaves.
Some hoursafter sunset I reached the convent of Santa Sabaand thereremained for the night.
CHAPTERXVI - TERRA SANTA
THEenthusiasm that had glowedor seemed to glowwithin mefor oneblessed moment when I knelt by the shrine of theVirgin atNazarethwas not rekindled at Jerusalem. In thestead ofthe solemn gloom and the deep stillness that ofrightbelonged to the Holy Citythere was the hum and thebustle ofactive life. It was the "height of the season."The Easterceremonies drew near. The pilgrims were flockingin fromall quarters; and although their objects were partlyat leastof a religious characteryet their "arrivals"brought asmuch stir and liveliness to the city as if theyhad comeup to marry their daughters.
Thevotaries who every year crowd to the Holy Sepulchre arechiefly ofthe Greek and Armenian Churches. They are notdrawn intoPalestine by a mere sentimental longing to standupon theground trodden by our Saviourbut rather theyperformthe pilgrimage as a plain duty strongly inculcated bytheirreligion. A very great proportion of those who belongto theGreek Church contrive at some time or other in thecourse oftheir lives to achieve the enterprise. Many intheirinfancy and childhood are brought to the holy sites bytheirparentsbut those who have not had this advantage willoften makeit the main object of their lives to save moneyenough forthis holy undertaking.
Thepilgrims begin to arrive in Palestine some weeks beforethe Easterfestival of the Greek Church. They come fromEgyptfrom all parts of Syriafrom Armenia and Asia MinorfromStamboulfrom Roumeliafrom the provinces of theDanubeand from all the Russias. Most of these people bringwith themsome articles of merchandisebut I myself believe(notwithstandingthe common taunt against pilgrims) that theydo thisrather as a mode of paying the expenses of theirjourneythan from a spirit of mercenary speculation. Theygenerallytravel in familiesfor the women are of coursemoreardent than their husbands in undertaking these piousenterprisesand they take care to bring with them all theirchildrenhowever young; for the efficacy of the rites doesnot dependupon the age of the votaryso that people whosecarefulmothers have obtained for them the benefit of thepilgrimagein early lifeare saved from the expense andtrouble ofundertaking the journey at a later age. Thesuperiorveneration so often excited by objects that aredistantand unknown shows not perhaps the wrongheadedness ofa manbutrather the transcendent power of his imagination.Howeverthis may beand whether it is by mere obstinacy thatthey poketheir way through intervening distanceor whetherthey comeby the winged strength of fancyquite certainlythepilgrims who flock to Palestine from the most remotehomes arethe people most eager in the enterpriseand innumber toothey bear a very high proportion to the wholemass.
The greatbulk of the pilgrims make their way by sea to theport ofJaffa. A number of families will charter a vesselamongstthemall bringing their own provisionswhich are ofthesimplest and cheapest kind. On board every vessel thusfreightedthere isI believea priestwho helps the peoplein theirreligious exercisesand tries (and fails) tomaintainsomething like order and harmony. The vesselsemployedin this service are usually Greek brigs orbrigantinesand schoonersand the number of passengersstowed inthem is almost always horribly excessive. Thevoyagesare sadly protractednot only by the land-seekingstorm-flyinghabits of the Greek seamenbut also by theirendlessschemes and speculationswhich are for ever temptingthem totouch at the nearest port. The voyage too must bemade inwinterin order that Jerusalem may be reached someweeksbefore the Greek Easterand thus by the time theyattain tothe holy shrines the pilgrims have really and trulyundergonea very respectable quantity of suffering. I oncesaw one ofthese pious cargoes put ashore on the coast ofCypruswhere they had touched for the purpose of visiting(notPaphosbut) some Christian sanctuary. I never saw (nonever evenin the most horridly stuffy ballroom) such adiscomfortablecollection of human beings. Long huddledtogetherin a pitching and rolling prisonfed on beansexposed tosome real danger and to terrors without endtheyhad beentumbled about for many wintry weeks in the choppingseas ofthe Mediterranean. As soon as they landed they stoodupon thebeach and chanted a hymn of thanks; the chant wasmorne anddolefulbut really the poor people were looking somiserablethat one could not fairly expect from them anylivelyoutpouring of gratitude.
When thepilgrims have landed at Jaffa they hire camelshorsesmulesor donkeysand make their way as well as theycan to theHoly City. The space fronting the Church of theHolySepulchre soon becomes a kind of bazaaror ratherperhapsreminds you of an English fair. On this spot thepilgrimsdisplay their merchandiseand there too the tradingresidentsof the place offer their goods for sale. I haveneverIthinkseen elsewhere in Asia so much commercialanimationas upon this square of ground by the church door;the"money-changers" seemed to be almost as brisk and livelyas if theyhad been WITHIN the temple.
When Ientered the church I found a babel of worshippers.GreekRomanand Armenian priests were performing theirdifferentrites in various nooks and cornersand crowds ofdiscipleswere rushing about in all directionssome laughingandtalkingsome beggingbut most of them going round in aregularand methodical way to kiss the sanctified spotsandspeak theappointed syllablesand lay down the accustomedcoin. If this kissing of the shrines had seemed as though itwere doneat the bidding of enthusiasmor of any poorsentimenteven feebly approaching to itthe sight would havebeen lessodd to English eyes; but as it wasI stared to seegrown menthus steadily and carefully embracing the sticksand thestonesnot from love or from zeal (else God forbidthat Ishould have stared!)but from a calm sense of duty;theyseemed to be not "working out" but TRANSACTING thegreatbusiness of salvation.
Dthemetrihoweverwho generally came with me when I wentoutinorder to do duty as interpreterreally had in himsomeenthusiasm. He was a zealous and almost fanaticalmember ofthe Greek Churchand had long since performed thepilgrimageso now great indeed was the pride and delightwith whichhe guided me from one holy spot to another. Everynow andthenwhen he came to an unoccupied shrinehe felldown onhis knees and performed devotion; he was almostdistractedby the temptations that surrounded him; there wereso manystones absolutely requiring to be kissedthat herushedabout happily puzzled and sweetly teasedlike "Jackamong themaidens."
AProtestantfamiliar with the Holy Scripturesbut ignorantoftradition and the geography of modern Jerusalemfindshimself agood deal "mazed" when he first looks for thesacredsites. The Holy Sepulchre is not in a field withoutthe wallsbut in the midstand in the best part of thetownunder the roof of the great church which I have beentalkingabout. It is a handsome tomb of oblong formpartlysubterraneanand partly above groundand closed in on allsidesexcept the one by which it is entered. You descendinto theinterior by a few stepsand there find an altarwithburning tapers. This is the spot which is held ingreatersanctity than any other at Jerusalem. When you haveseenenough of it you feel perhaps weary of the busy crowdandinclined for a gallop; you ask your dragoman whetherthere willbe time before sunset to procure horses and take aride toMount Calvary. Mount Calvarysignor? -eccolo! it isUPSTAIRS -ON THE FIRST FLOOR. In effect you ascendif Irememberrightlyjust thirteen stepsand then you are shownthe nowgolden sockets in which the crosses of our Lord andthe twothieves were fixed. All this is startlingbut thetruth isthat the city having gathered round the Sepulchrewhich isthe main point of interesthas crept northwardandthus ingreat measure are occasioned the many geographicalsurprisesthat puzzle the "Bible Christian."
The Churchof the Holy Sepulchre comprises very compendiouslyalmost allthe spots associated with the closing career ofour Lord. Just thereon your rightHe stood and wept; bythepillaron your leftHe was scourged; on the spotjustbeforeyouHe was crowned with the crown of thorns; up thereHe wascrucifiedand down here He was buried. A locality isassignedto everythe minutestevent connected with therecordedhistory of our Saviour; even the spot where the cockcrew whenPeter denied his Master is ascertainedandsurroundedby the walls of an Armenian convent. ManyProtestantsare wont to treat these traditionscontemptuouslyand those who distinguish themselves fromtheirbrethren by the appellation of "Bible Christians" arealmostfierce in their denunciation of these supposed errors.
It isadmittedI believeby everybody that the formalsanctificationof these spots was the act of the EmpressHelenathe mother of Constantinebut I think it is fair tosupposethat she was guided by a careful regard to the thenprevailingtraditions. Now the nature of the ground uponwhichJerusalem stands is suchthat the localities belongingto theevents there enacted might have been more easilyandpermanentlyascertained by tradition than those of any citythat Iknow of. Jerusalemwhether ancient or modernwasbuilt uponand surrounded by sharpsalient rocks intersectedby deepravines. Up to the time of the siege Mount Calvaryof coursemust have been well enough known to the people ofJerusalem;the destruction of the mere buildings could nothaveobliterated from any man's memory the names of thosesteeprocks and narrow ravines in the midst of which the cityhadstood. It seems to methereforehighly probable thatin fixingthe site of Calvary the Empress was rightly guided.Recollecttoothat the voice of tradition at Jerusalem isquiteunanimousand that RomansGreeksArmeniansandJewsallhating each other sincerelyconcur in assigningthe samelocalities to the events told in the Gospel. Iconcedehoweverthat the attempt of the Empress toascertainthe sites of the minor events cannot be safelyreliedupon. With respectfor instanceto the certainty ofthe spotwhere the cock crewI am far from being convinced.
Supposingthat the Empress acted arbitrarily in fixing theholysitesit would seem that she followed the Gospel of St.Johnandthat the geography sanctioned by her can be moreeasilyreconciled with that history than with the accounts ofthe otherEvangelists.
Theauthority exercised by the Mussulman Government inrelationto the holy sites is in one view somewhat humblingto theChristiansfor it is almost as an arbitrator betweenthecontending sects (this alwaysof coursefor the sake ofpecuniaryadvantage) that the Mussulman lends hiscontemptuousaid; he not only grantsbut enforcestoleration. All personsof whatever religionare allowedto go asthey will into every part of the Church of the HolySepulchrebut in order to prevent indecent contestsandalso frommotives arising out of money paymentsthe TurkishGovernmentassigns the peculiar care of each sacred spot toone of theecclesiastic bodies. Since this guardianshipcarrieswith it the receipt of the coins which the pilgrimsleave uponthe shrinesit is strenuously fought for by allthe rivalChurchesand the artifices of intrigue are busilyexerted atStamboul in order to procure the issue orrevocationof the firmans by which the coveted privilege isgranted. In this strife the Greek Church has of late yearssignallytriumphedand the most famous of the shrines arecommittedto the care of their priesthood. They possess thegoldensocket in which stood the cross of our Lord whilst theLatins areobliged to content themselves with the aperturesin whichwere inserted the crosses of the two thieves. Theyarenaturally discontented with that poor privilegeandsorrowfullylook back to the days of their former glory - thedays whenNapoleon was Emperorand Sebastiani ambassador atthePorte. It seems that the "citizen" sultanold LouisPhilippehas done very little indeed for Holy Church inPalestine.
Althoughthe pilgrims perform their devotions at the severalshrineswith so little apparent enthusiasmthey are drivento theverge of madness by the miracle displayed before themon EasterSaturday. Then it is that the Heaven-sent fireissuesfrom the Holy Sepulchre. The pilgrims all assemble inthe greatchurchand alreadylong before the wonder isworkedthey are wrought by anticipation of God's signaswell as bytheir struggles for room and breathing spaceto amostfrightful state of excitement. At length the chiefpriest ofthe Greeksaccompanied (of all people in theworld) bythe Turkish Governorenters the tomb. After thisthere is along pauseand then suddenly from out of thesmallapertures on either side of the sepulchre there issuelongshining flames. The pilgrims now rush forwardmadlystrugglingto light their tapers at the holy fire. This isthedangerous momentand many lives are often lost.
The yearbefore that of my going to JerusalemIbrahim Pashafrom somewhimor motive of policychose to witness themiracle. The vast church was of course throngedas italways ison that awful day. It seems that the appearance ofthe firewas delayed for a very long timeand that thegrowingfrenzy of the people was heightened by suspense.Manytoohad already sunk under the effect of the heat andthestifling atmospherewhen at last the fire flashed fromthesepulchre. Then a terrible struggle ensued; many sunkand werecrushed. Ibrahim had taken his station in one ofthegalleriesbut nowfeeling perhaps his brave bloodwarmed bythe sight and sound of such strifehe took uponhimself toquiet the people by his personal presenceanddescendedinto the body of the church with only a few guards.He hadforced his way into the midst of the dense crowdwhenunhappilyhe fainted away; his guards shrieked outand theeventinstantly became known. A body of soldiers recklesslyforcedtheir way through the crowdtrampling over everyobstaclethat they might save the life of their general.Nearly twohundred people were killed in the struggle.
Thefollowing yearhoweverthe Government took bettermeasuresfor the prevention of these calamities. I was notpresent atthe ceremonyhaving gone away from Jerusalem sometimebeforebut I afterwards returned into Palestineand Ithenlearned that the day had passed off without anydisturbanceof a fatal kind. It ishoweveralmost too muchto expectthat so many ministers of peace can assemblewithoutfinding some occasion for strifeand in that year atribe ofwild Bedouins became the subject of discord. Thesemenitseemsled an Arab life in some of the desert tractsborderingon the neighbourhood of Jerusalembut were notconnectedwith any of the great ruling tribes. Some whim ornotion ofpolicy had induced them to embrace Christianity;but theywere grossly ignorant of the rudiments of theiradoptedfaithand having no priest with them in theirdesertthey had as little knowledge of religious ceremoniesas ofreligion itself. They were not even capable ofconductingthemselves in a place of worship with ordinarydecorumbut would interrupt the service with scandalouscries andwarlike shouts. Such is the account the Latinsgive ofthembut I have never heard the other side of thequestion. These wild fellowsnotwithstanding their entireignoranceof all religionare yet claimed by the Greeksnotonly asproselytes who have embraced Christianity generallybut asconverts to the particular doctrines and practice oftheirChurch. The people thus alleged to have concurred inthe greatschism of the Eastern Empire are neverI believewithin thewalls of a churchor even of any building at allexceptupon this occasion of Easter; and as they then neverfail tofind a row of some kind going on by the side of thesepulchrethey fancyit seemsthat the ceremonies thereenactedare funeral games of a martial characterheld inhonour ofa deceased chieftainand that a Christian festivalis apeculiar kind of battlefought between wallsandwithoutcavalry. It does not appearhoweverthat these menare guiltyof any ferocious actsor that they attempt tocommitdepredations. The charge against them is merely thatby theirway of applauding the performanceby their horriblecries andfrightful gesturesthey destroy the solemnity ofdivineserviceand upon this ground the Franciscans obtaineda firmanfor the exclusion of such tumultuous worshippers.TheGreekshoweverdid not choose to lose the aid of theirwildconverts merely because they were a little backward intheirreligious educationand they therefore persuaded themto defythe firman by entering the city EN MASSE andoverawingtheir enemies. The Franciscansas well as theGovernmentauthoritieswere obliged to give wayand theArabstriumphantly marched into the church. The festivalhowevermust have seemed to them rather flatfor althoughthere mayhave been some "casualties" in the way of eyesblack andnoses bloodyand women "missing" there was noreturn of"killed."
Formerlythe Latin Catholics concurred in acknowledging (butnotIhopein working) the annual miracle of the heavenlyfirebutthey have for many years withdrawn theircountenancefrom this exhibitionand they now repudiate itas a trickof the Greek Church. Thus of course the violenceof feelingwith which the rival Churches meet at the HolySepulchreon Easter Saturday is greatly increasedand adisturbanceof some kind is certain. In the year I speak ofthough nolives were lostthere wasas it seemsa toughstrugglein the church. I was amused at hearing of a tauntthat wasthrown that day upon an English traveller. He hadtaken hisstation in a convenient part of the churchand wasno doubtdisplaying that peculiar air of serenity andgratificationwith which an English gentleman usually lookson at arowwhen one of the Franciscans came byall reekingfrom thefightand was so disgusted at the coolness andplacidcontentment of the Englishman (who was a guest at theconvent)that he forgot his monkish humility as well as theduties ofhospitalityand plainly said"You sleep under ourroofyoueat our breadyou drink our wineand then whenEasterSaturday comes you don't fight for us!"
Yet theserival Churches go on quietly enough till theirblood isup. The terms on which they live remind one of thepeculiarrelation subsisting at Cambridge between "town andgown."
Thesecontests and disturbances certainly do not originatewith thelay-pilgrimsthe great body of whom areas Ibelievequiet and inoffensive people. It is truehoweverthat theirpious enterprise is believed by them to operate asacounterpoise for a multitude of sinswhether past orfutureand perhaps they exert themselves in after life torestorethe balance of good and evil. The Turks have a maximwhichlike most cynical apophthegmscarries with it thebuzzingtrumpet of falsehood as well as the smallfine"stingof truth." "If your friend has made the pilgrimageoncedistrust him; if he has made the pilgrimage twicecuthimdead!" The caution is said to be as applicable to thevisitantsof Jerusalem as to those of Meccabut I cannothelpbelieving that the frailties of all the hadjiswhetherChristian or Mahometanare greatly exaggerated. Icertainlyregarded the pilgrims to Palestine as a well-disposedorderly body of peoplenot strongly enthusiasticbutdesirous to comply with the ordinances of their religionand toattain the great end of salvation as quietly andeconomicallyas possible.
When thesolemnities of Easter are concluded the pilgrimsmove offin a body to complete their good work by visitingthe sacredscenes in the neighbourhood of Jerusalemincludingthe wilderness of John the BaptistBethlehemandabove allthe Jordanfor to bathe in those sacred waters isone of thechief objects of the expedition. All the pilgrims- menwomenand children - are submerged EN CHEMISEandthesaturated linen is carefully wrapped up and preserved asaburial-dress that shall enure for salvation in the realmsof death.
I saw theburial of a pilgrim. He was a Greekmiserablypoorandvery old; he had just crawled into the Holy Cityand hadreached at once the goal of his pious journey and theend of hissufferings upon earth. There was no coffin norwrapperand as I looked full upon the face of the dead I sawhow deeplyit was rutted with the ruts of age and misery.Theprieststrong and portlyfreshfatand alive with thelife ofthe animal kingdomunpaidor ill paid for his workwouldscarcely deign to mutter out his formsbut hurriedover thewords with shocking haste. Presently he called outimpatiently"Yalla! Goor!" (Come! look sharp!)and thenthe deadGreek was seized. His limbs yielded inertly to therude menthat handled themand down he went into his graveso roughlybundled in that his neck was twisted by the fallsotwistedthat if the sharp malady of life were still uponhim theold man would have shrieked and groanedand thelines ofhis face would have quivered with pain. The linesof hisface were not movedand the old man lay still andheedlessso well cured of that tedious life-achethatnothingcould hurt him now. His clay was ITSELF AGAIN -coolfirmand tough. The pilgrim had found great rest. Ithrew theaccustomed handful of the holy soil upon hispatientfaceand thenand in less than a minutethe earthclosedcoldly round him.
I did notsay "alas!" (nobody ever does that I know ofthough theword is so frequently written). I thought the oldman hadgot rather well out of the scrape of being aliveandpoor.
Thedestruction of the mere buildings in such a place asJerusalemwould not involve the permanent dispersion of theinhabitantsfor the rocky neighbourhood in which the town issituateabounds in caveswhich would give an easy refuge tothe peopleuntil they gained an opportunity of rebuildingtheirdwellings; therefore I could not help looking upon theJews ofJerusalem as being in some sort the representativesif not theactual descendantsof the rascals who crucifiedourSaviour. Supposing this to be the caseI felt thattherewould be some interest in knowing how the events of theGospelhistory were regarded by the Israelites of modernJerusalem.The result of my inquiry upon this subject wassofar as itwententirely favourable to the truth ofChristianity. I understood that THE PERFORMANCE OF THEMIRACLESWAS NOT DOUBTED BY ANY OF THE JEWS IN THE PLACE.All ofthem concurred in attributing the works of our Lord totheinfluence of magicbut they were divided as to thespecies ofenchantment from which the power proceeded. Thegreat massof the Jewish people believeI fancythat themiracleshad been wrought by aid of the powers of darknessbut manyand those the more enlightenedwould call Jesus"thegood Magician." To Europeans repudiating the notion ofall magicgood or badthe opinion of the Jews as to theagency bywhich the miracles were worked is a matter of noimportance;but the circumstance of their admitting thatthosemiracles WERE IN FACT PERFORMEDis certainly curiousandperhaps not quite immaterial.
If youstay in the Holy City long enough to fall intoanythinglike regular habits of amusement and occupationandto becomein shortfor the time "a man about town" atJerusalemyou will necessarily lose the enthusiasm which youmay havefelt when you trod the sacred soil for the firsttimeandit will then seem almost strange to you to findyourselfso entirely surrounded in all your daily pursuits bythedesigns and sounds of religion. Your hotel is amonasteryyour rooms are cellsthe landlord is a statelyabbotandthe waiters are hooded monks. If you walk out ofthe townyou find yourself on the Mount of Olivesor in theValley ofJehoshaphator on the Hill of Evil Counsel. Ifyou mountyour horse and extend your rambles you will beguided tothe wilderness of St. Johnor the birthplace ofourSaviour. Your club is the great Church of the HolySepulchrewhere everybody meets everybody every day. If youloungethrough the townyour Bond Street is the ViaDolorosaand the object of your hopeless affections is somemaid ormatron all forlornand sadly shrouded in herpilgrim'srobe. If you would hear musicit must be thechantingof friars; if you look at picturesyou see virginswithmis-fore-shortened armsor devils out of drawingorangelstumbling up the skies in impious perspective. If youwould makeany purchasesyou must go again to the churchdoorsandwhen you inquire for the manufactures of theplaceyoufind that they consist of double-blessed beads andsanctifiedshells. These last are the favourite tokens whichthepilgrims carry off with them. The shell is gravenorratherscratchedon the white side with a rude drawing oftheBlessed Virgin or of the Crucifixion or some otherscripturalsubject. Having passed this stage it goes intothe handsof a priest. By him it is subjected to someprocessfor rendering it efficacious against the schemes ofourghostly enemy. The manufacture is then completeand isdeemed tobe fit for use.
Thevillage of Bethlehem lies prettily couched on the slopeof ahill. The sanctuary is a subterranean grottoand iscommittedto the joint-guardianship of the RomansGreeksandArmenianswho vie with each other in adorning it.Beneath analtar gorgeously decoratedand lit witheverlastingfiresthere stands the low slab of stone whichmarks theholy site of the Nativity; and near to this is ahollowscooped out of the living rock. Here the infant Jesuswas laid. Near the spot of the Nativity is the rock againstwhich theBlessed Virgin was leaning when she presented herbabe tothe adoring shepherds.
Many ofthose Protestants who are accustomed to despisetraditionconsider that this sanctuary is altogetherunscripturalthat a grotto is not a stableand that mangersare madeof wood. It is perfectly truehoweverthat themanygrottos and caves which are found among the rocks ofJudea wereformerly used for the reception of cattle. Theyare soused at this day. I have myself seen grottosappropriatedto this purpose.
You knowwhat a sad and sombre decorum it is that outwardlyreignsthrough the lands oppressed by Moslem sway. TheMahometansmake beauty their prisonerand enforce such astern andgloomy moralityor at all eventssuch afrightfullyclose semblance of itthat far and long theweariedtraveller may go without catching one glimpse ofoutwardhappiness. By a strange chance in these latter daysithappened thatalone of all the places in the landthisBethlehemthe native village of our Lordescaped the moralyoke ofthe Mussulmansand heard againafter ages of dulloppressionthe cheering clatter of social freedomand thevoices oflaughing girls. It was after an insurrectionwhich hadbeen raised against the authority of Mehemet AlithatBethlehem was freed from the hateful laws of Asiaticdecorum. The Mussulmans of the village had taken an activepart inthe movementand when Ibrahim had quelled ithiswrath wasstill so hotthat he put to death every one of thefewMahometans of Bethlehem who had not already fled. Theeffectproduced upon the Christian inhabitants by the suddenremoval ofthis restraint was immense. The village smiledoncemore. It is true that such sweet freedom could not longendure. Even if the population of the place should continueto beentirely Christianthe sad decorum of the Mussulmansor ratherof the Asiaticswould sooner or later be restoredby theforce of opinion and custom. But for a while thesunshinewould lastand when I was at Bethlehemthough longafter theflight of the Mussulmansthe cloud of Moslemproprietyhad not yet come back to cast its cold shadow uponlife. When you reach that gladsome villagepray Heaventherestill may be heard there the voice of freeinnocentgirls. It will sound so dearly welcome!
To aChristianand thoroughbred Englishmannot even thelicentiousnesswhich generally accompanies it can compensatefor theoppressiveness of that horrible outward decorumwhichturns the cities and the palaces of Asia into desertsandgaols. SoI saywhen you see and hear themthoserompinggirls of Bethlehem will gladden your very soul.Distant atfirstand then nearer and nearer the timid flockwillgather around youwith their large burning eyes gravelyfixedagainst yoursso that they see into your brain; and ifyouimagine evil against themthey will know of your illthoughtbefore it is yet well bornand will fly and be gonein themoment. But presentlyif you will only look virtuousenough toprevent alarmand vicious enough to avoid lookingsillytheblithe maidens will draw nearer and nearer to youand soonthere will be onethe bravest of the sisterswhowillventure right up to your side and touch the hem of yourcoatinplayful defiance of the dangerand then the restwillfollow the daring of their youthful leaderand gathercloseround youand hold a shrill controversy on thewondrousformation that you call a hatand the cunning ofthe handsthat clothed you with cloth so fine; and thengrowingmore profound in their researchesthey will passfrom thestudy of your mere dress to a serious contemplationof yourstately heightand your nut-brown hairand theruddy glowof your English cheeks. And if they catch aglimpse ofyour ungloved fingersthen again will they makethe airring with their sweet screams of wonder andamazementas they compare the fairness of your hand withtheirwarmer tintsand even with the hues of your ownsunburntface. Instantly the ringleader of the gentleriotersimagines a new sin; with tremulous boldness shetouchesthen grasps your handand smoothes it gentlybetwixther ownand pries curiously into its make andcolourasthough it were silk of Damascusor shawl ofCashmere. And when they see you even then still sage andgentlethe joyous girls will suddenly and screaminglyandall atonceexplain to each other that you are surely quiteharmlessand innocenta lion that makes no springa bearthat neverhugsand upon this faithone after the otherthey willtake your passive handand strive to explain itand makeit a theme and a controversy. But the onethefairestand the sweetest of allis yet the most timid; sheshrinksfrom the daring deeds of her play-matesand seeksshelterbehind their sleevesand strives to screen herglowingconsciousness from the eyes that look upon her. Butherlaughing sisters will have none of this cowardice; theyvow thatthe fair one SHALL be their 'compliceSHALL sharetheirdangersSHALL touch the hand of the stranger; theyseize hersmall wristand drag her forward by forceand atlastwhilst yet she strives to turn awayand to cover upher wholesoul under the folds of downcast eyelidstheyvanquishher utmost strengththey vanquish your utmostmodestyand marry her hand to yours. The quick pulsespringsfrom her fingersand throbs like a whisper upon yourlisteningpalm. For an instant her large timid eyes are uponyou; in aninstant they are shrouded againand there comes ablush soburningthat the frightened girls stay their shrilllaughteras though they had played too perilouslyandharmedtheir gentle sister. A momentand all with a suddenintelligenceturn away and fly like deeryet soon again likedeer theywheel round and returnand standand gaze uponthedangeruntil they grow brave once more.
"Iregret to observethat the removal of the moral restraintimposed bythe presence of the Mahometan inhabitants has ledto acertain degree of boisterousthough innocentlevity inthebearing of the Christiansand more especially in thedemeanourof those who belong to the younger portion of thefemalepopulation; but I feel assured that a more thoroughknowledgeof the principles of their own pure religion willspeedilyrestore these young people to habits of proprietyeven morestrict than those which were imposed upon them bytheauthority of their Mahometan brethren." Bah! thus youmightchantif you chose; but loving the truthyou will notso disownsweet Bethlehem; you will not disown or dissembleyour rightgood hearty delight when you findas though in adesertthis gushing spring of fresh and joyous girlhood.
CHAPTERXVII - THE DESERT
GAZA isupon the verge of the Desertto which it stands inthe samerelation as a seaport to the sea. It is there thatyouCHARTER your camels ("the ships of the Desert")and layin yourstores for the voyage.
Thesepreparations kept me in the town for some days.DislikingrestraintI declined making myself the guest oftheGovernor (as it is usual and proper to do)but took upmyquarters at the caravanseraior "khan" as they call itin thatpart of Asia.
Dthemetrihad to make the arrangements for my journeyand inorder toarm himself with sufficient authority for doing allthat wasrequiredhe found it necessary to put himself incommunicationwith the Governor. The result of thisdiplomaticintercourse was that the Governorwith his trainofattendantscame to me one day at my caravanseraiandformallycomplained that Dthemetri had grossly insulted him.I wasshocked at thisfor the man was always attentive andcivil tomeand I was disgusted at the idea of his havingbeenrewarded with insult. Dthemetri was present when thecomplaintwas madeand I angrily asked him whether it wastrue thathe had really insulted the Governorand what thedeuce hemeant by it. This I asked with the full certaintythatDthemetrias a matter of coursewould deny the chargewouldswear that a "wrong construction had been put upon hiswordsandthat nothing was further from his thoughts" &c.&c.after the manner of the parliamentary peoplebut to mysurprisehe very plainly answered that he certainly HADinsultedthe Governorand that rather grosslybuthe saidit wasquite necessary to do this in order to "strike terrorandinspire respect." "Terror and respect! What onearth doyou meanby that nonsense?" - "Yesbut without strikingterror andinspiring respecthe (Dthemetri) would never beable toforce on the arrangements for my journeyandvossignoriawould be kept at Gaza for a month!" This wouldhave beenawkwardand certainly I could not deny that poorDthemetrihad succeeded in his odd plan of inspiring respectfor at thevery time that this explanation was going on inItalianthe Governor seemed more than everand moreanxiouslydisposed to overwhelm me with assurances ofgoodwilland proffers of his best services. All thiskindnessor promise of kindnessI naturally received withcourtesy -a courtesy that greatly perturbed Dthemetriforheevidently feared that my civility would undo all the goodthat hisinsults had achieved.
You willfindI thinkthat one of the greatest draw-backsto thepleasure of travelling in Asia is the being obligedmore orlessto make your way by bullying. It is true thatyour ownlips are not soiled by the utterance of all the meanwords thatare spoken for youand that you don't even knowof thesham threatsand the false promisesand thevaingloriousboastsput forth by your dragoman; but now andthen therehappens some incident of the sort which I havejust beenmentioningwhich forces you to believeorsuspectthat your dragoman is habitually fighting yourbattlesfor you in a way that you can hardly bear to thinkof.
Acaravanserai is not ill adapted to the purposes for whichit ismeant. It forms the four sides of a large quadrangularcourt. The ground floor is used for warehousesthe firstfloor forguestsand the open court for the temporaryreceptionof the camelsas well as for the loading andunloadingof their burthensand the transaction ofmercantilebusiness generally. The apartments used for theguests aresmall cells opening into a corridorwhich runsround thefour sides of the court.
Whilst Ilay near the opening of my cell looking down intothe courtbelowthere arrived from the Desert a caravanthat isalarge assemblage of travellers. It consistedchiefly ofMoldavian pilgrimswho to make their good workeven morethan complete had begun by visiting the shrine ofthe Virginin Egyptand were now going on to Jerusalem.They hadbeen overtaken in the Desert by a gale of windwhich sodrove the sand and raised up such mountains beforethemthattheir journey had been terribly perplexed andobstructedand their provisions (including waterthe mostpreciousof all) had been exhausted long before they reachedthe end oftheir toilsome march. They were sadly wayworn.Thearrival of the caravan drew many and various groups intothecourt. There was the Moldavian pilgrim with his sabledress andcap of fur and heavy masses of bushy hair; theTurkwithhis various and brilliant garments; the Arabsuperblystalking under his striped blanketthat hung likeroyaltyupon his stately form; the jetty Ethiopian in hisslavishfrock; the sleeksmooth-faced scribe with his comelypelisseand his silver ink-box stuck in like a dagger at hisgirdle. And mingled with these were the camelssomestandingsome kneeling and being unladensome twistingroundtheir long necksand gently stealing the straw fromout oftheir own pack-saddles.
In acouple of days I was ready to start. The way ofprovidingfor the passage of the Desert is this: there is anagent inthe town who keeps himself in communication withsome ofthe desert Arabs that are hovering within a day'sjourney ofthe place. A party of these upon being guaranteedagainstseizure or other ill-treatment at the hands of theGovernorcome into the townbringing with them the number ofcamelswhich you requireand then they stipulate for acertainsum to take you to the place of your destination in agiventime. The agreement which they thus enter intoincludes asafe conduct through their country as well as thehire ofthe camels. According to the contract made with me Iwas toreach Cairo within ten days from the commencement ofthejourney. I had four camelsone for my baggageone foreach of myservantsand one for myself. Four Arabstheowners ofthe camelscame with me on foot. My stores were asmallsoldier's tenttwo bags of dried bread brought fromtheconvent at Jerusalemand a couple of bottles of winefrom thesame sourcetwo goat-skins filled with waterteasugaracold tongueand (of all things in the world) a jarof Irishbutter which Mysseri had purchased from somemerchant. There was also a small sack of charcoalfor thegreaterpart of the Desert through which we were to pass isdestituteof fuel.
The camelkneels to receive her loadand for a while shewill allowthe packing to go on with silent resignation; butwhen shebegins to suspect that her master is putting morethan ajust burthen upon her poor hump she turns round hersuppleneck and looks sadly upon the increasing loadandthengently remonstrates against the wrong with the sigh of apatientwife. If sighs will not move youshe can weep. Yousoon learnto pityand soon to loveher for the sake of hergentle andwomanish ways.
Youcannotof courseput an English or any other ridingsaddleupon the back of the camelbut your quilt or carpetorwhatever you carry for the purpose of lying on at nightis foldedand fastened on to the pack-saddle upon the top ofthe humpand on this you rideor rather sit. You sit as aman sitson a chair when he sits astride and faces the backof it. I made an improvement on this plan. I had my Englishstirrupsstrapped on to the cross-bars of the pack-saddleand thusby gaining rest for my dangling legsand gainingtoo thepower of varying my position more easily than I couldotherwisehave doneI added very much to my comfort. Don'tforget todo as I did.
The camellike the elephantis one of the old-fashionedsort ofanimals that still walk along upon the (now nearlyexploded)plan of the ancient beasts that lived before theFlood. She moves forward both her near legs at the sametimeandthen awkwardly swings round her off shoulder andhaunch soas to repeat the manoeuvre on that side. Her pacethereforeis an odddisjointed and disjoiningsort ofmovementthat is rather disagreeable at firstbut you soongrowreconciled to it. The height to which you are raised isof greatadvantage to you in passing the burning sands of theDesertfor the air at such a distance from the ground ismuchcooler and more lively than that which circulatesbeneath.
Forseveral miles beyond Gaza the landwhich had beenplentifullywatered by the rains of the last weekwascoveredwith rich verdureand thickly jewelled with meadowflowers sofresh and fragrantthat I began to grow almostuneasytofancy that the very Desert was receding before meand thatthe long-desired adventure of passing its "burningsands"was to end in a mere ride across a field. But as Iadvancedthe true character of the country began to displayitselfwith sufficient clearness to dispel my apprehensionsand beforethe close of my first day's journey I had thegratificationof finding that I was surrounded on all sidesby a tractof real sandand had nothing at all to complainof exceptthat there peeped forth at intervals a few isolatedblades ofgrassand many of those stunted shrubs which aretheaccustomed food of the camel.
Beforesunset I came up with an encampment of Arabs (theencampmentfrom which my camels had been brought)and mytent waspitched amongst theirs. I was now amongst the trueBedouins. Almost every man of this race closely resembleshisbrethren. Almost every man has large and finely-formedfeatures;but his face is so thoroughly stripped of fleshand thewhite folds from his headgear fall down by hishaggardcheeks so much in the burial fashionthat he looksquite sadand ghastly. His large dark orbs roll slowly andsolemnlyover the white of his deep-set eyes; his countenanceshowspainful thought and long-sufferingthe suffering ofone fallenfrom a high estate. His gait is strangelymajesticand he marches along with his simple blanket asthough hewere wearing the purple. His common talk is aseries ofpiercing screams and cries more painfulto theear thanthe most excruciating fine music that I everendured.
TheBedouin women are not treasured up like the wives anddaughtersof other Orientalsand indeed they seemed almostentirelyfree from the restraints imposed by jealousy. Thefeintwhich they made of concealing their faces from me wasalwaysslight. They neverI thinkwore the YASHMAKproperlyfixed. When they first saw me they used to hold upa part oftheir drapery with one hand across their facesbuttheyseldom persevered very steadily in subjecting me to thisprivation. Unhappy beings! they were sadly plain. The awfulhaggardnessthat gave something of character to the faces ofthe menwas sheer ugliness in the poor women. It is a greatshamebutthe truth is thatexcept when we refer to thebeautifuldevotion of the mother to her childall the finethings wesay and think about woman apply only to those whoaretolerably good-looking or graceful. These Arab womenwere soplain and clumsythat they seemed to me to be fitfornothing but another and a better world. They may havebeen goodwomen enough so far as relates to the exercise ofthe minorvirtuesbut they had so grossly neglected theprime dutyof looking pretty in this transitory lifethat Icould notat all forgive them. They seemed to feel theweight oftheir guiltand to be truly and humbly penitent.I had thecomplete command of their affectionsfor at anymoment Icould make their young hearts bound and their oldheartsjump by offering a handful of tobaccoand yetbelievemeit was not in the first SOIREE that my store ofLatakiawas exhausted.
TheBedouin women have no religion. This is partly the causeof theirclumsiness. Perhaps if from Christian girls theywouldlearn how to praytheir souls might become moregentleand their limbs be clothed with grace. You who aregoing intotheir country have a direct personal interest inknowingsomething about "Arab hospitality"; but the deuce ofit isthat the poor fellows with whom I have happened topitch mytent were scarcely ever in a condition to exercisethatmagnanimous virtue with much ECLAT. IndeedMysseri'scanteengenerally enabled me to outdo my hosts in the matterofentertainment. They were always courteoushoweverandwere neverbackward in offering me the YOUARTa kind ofwheywhich is the principal delicacy to be found amongst thewanderingtribes.
PracticallyI thinkChilde Harold would have found it adreadfulbore to make "the Desert his dwelling-place" for atalleventsif he adopted the life of the Arabs he would havetasted nosolitude. The tents are partitionednot so as todivide theChilde and the "fair spirit" who is his "minister"from therest of the worldbut so as to separate the twentyor thirtybrown men that sit screaming in the one compartmentfrom thefifty or sixty brown women and children that screamand squeakin the other. If you adopt the Arab life for thesake ofseclusion you will be horribly disappointedfor youwill findyourself in perpetual contact with a mass of hotfellow-creatures. It is true that all who are inmates of thesame tentare related to each otherbut I am not quite surethat thatcircumstance adds much to the charm of such a life.At alleventsbefore you finally determine to become an Arabtry agentle experiment. Take one of those smallshabbyhouses inMay Fairand shut yourself up in it with forty orfiftyshrill cousins for a couple of weeks in July.
In passingthe Desert you will find your Arabs wanting tostart andto rest at all sorts of odd times. They likeforinstanceto be off at one in the morningand to rest duringthe wholeof the afternoon. You must not give way to theirwishes inthis respect. I tried their plan onceand foundit veryharassing and unwholesome. An ordinary tent can giveyou verylittle protection against heatfor the fire strikesfiercelythrough single canvasand you soon find that whilstyou liecrouching and striving to hide yourself from theblazingface of the sunhis power is harder to bear than itis whereyou boldly defy him from the airy heights of yourcamel.
It hadbeen arranged with my Arabs that they were to bringwith themall the food which they would want for themselvesduring thepassage of the Desertbut as we rested at the endof thefirst day's journey by the side of an Arab encampmentmy camelmen found all that they required for that night inthe tentsof their own brethren. On the evening of theseconddayhoweverjust before we encamped for the nightmy fourArabs came to Dthemetriand formally announced thatthey hadnot brought with them one atom of foodand thattheylooked entirely to my supplies for their daily bread.This wasawkward intelligence. We were now just two daysdeep inthe Desertand I had brought with me no more breadthan mightbe reasonably required for myself and my Europeanattendants. I believed at the moment (for it seemed likelyenough)that the men had really mistaken the terms of thearrangementand feeling that the bore of being put uponhalf-rationswould be a less evil (and even to myself a lessinconvenience)than the starvation of my ArabsI at oncetoldDthemetri to assure them that my bread should be equallysharedwith all. Dthemetrihoweverdid not approve of thisconcession;he assured me quite positively that the Arabsthoroughlyunderstood the agreementand that if they werenowwithout food they had wilfully brought themselves intothisstrait for the wretched purpose of bettering theirbargain bythe value of a few paras' worth of bread. Thissuggestionmade me look at the affair in a new light. Ishouldhave been glad enough to put up with the slightprivationto which my concession would subject meand couldhave borneto witness the semi-starvation of poor Dthemetriwith afinephilosophical calmbut it seemed to me that theschemeifscheme it werehad something of audacity in itand waswell enough calculated to try the extent of mysoftness. I well knew the danger of allowing such a trial toresult ina conclusion that I was one who might be easilymanaged;and thereforeafter thoroughly satisfying myselffromDthemetri's clear and repeated assertions that the Arabshad reallyunderstood the arrangementI determined that theyshould notnow violate it by taking advantage of my positionin themidst of their big Desertso I desired Dthemetri totell themthat they should touch no bread of mine. Westoppedand the tent was pitched. The Arabs came to meandprayedloudly for bread. I refused them.
"God'swill be done!"
I gave theArabs to understand that I regretted theirperishingby hungerbut that I should bear this calmlylikeany othermisfortune not my ownthatin shortI washappilyresigned to THEIR fate. The men would have talked agreatdealbut they were under the disadvantage ofaddressingme through a hostile interpreter; they looked hardupon myfacebut they found no hope there; so at last theyretired asthey pretendedto lay them down and die.
In aboutten minutes from this time I found that the Arabswerebusily cooking their bread! Their pretence of havingbrought nofood was falseand was only invented for thepurpose ofsaving it. They had a good bag of mealwhichthey hadcontrived to stow away under the baggage upon one ofthe camelsin such a way as to escape notice. In Europe thedetectionof a scheme like this would have occasioned adisagreeablefeeling between the master and the delinquentbut youwould no more recoil from an Oriental on account of amatter ofthis sortthan in England you would reject a horsethat hadtriedand failedto throw you. IndeedI feltquitegood-humouredly towards my Arabsbecause they had sowoefullyfailed in their wretched attemptand becauseas itturnedoutI had done what was right. They toopoorfellowsevidently began to like me immenselyon account ofthehard-heartedness which had enabled me to baffle theirscheme.
The Arabsadhere to those ancestral principles of bread-bakingwhich have been sanctioned by the experience of ages.The veryfirst baker of bread that ever lived must have donehis workexactly as the Arab does at this day. He takes somemeal andholds it out in the hollow of his handswhilst hiscomradepours over it a few drops of water; he then mashes upthemoistened flour into a pastewhich he pulls into smallpiecesand thrusts into the embers. His way of bakingexactlyresembles the craft or mystery of roasting chestnutsaspractised by children; there is the same prudence andcircumspectionin choosing a good berth for the morselthesameenterprise and self-sacrificing valour in pulling it outwith thefingers.
The mannerof my daily march was this. At about an hourbeforedawn I rose and made the most of about a pint ofwaterwhich I allowed myself for washing. Then Ibreakfastedupon tea and bread. As soon as the beasts wereloaded Imounted my camel and pressed forward. My poorArabsbeing on footwould sometimes moan with fatigue andpray forrest; but I was anxious to enable them to performtheircontract for bringing me to Cairo within the stipulatedtimeandI did not therefore allow a halt until the eveningcame. About middayor soon afterMysseri used to bring uphis camelalongside of mineand supply me with a piece ofbreadsoftened in water (for it was dried hard like board)and also(as long as it lasted) with a piece of the tongue;after thisthere came into my hand (how well I remember it)the littletin cup half-filled with wine and water.
As long asyou are journeying in the interior of the Desertyou haveno particular point to make for as your resting-place. The endless sands yield nothing but small stuntedshrubs;even these fail after the first two or three daysand fromthat time you pass over broad plainsyou pass overnewly-rearedhillsyou pass through valleys that the stormof thelast week has dugand the hills and the valleys aresandsandsandstill sandand only sandand sand andsandagain. The earth is so samely that your eyes turntowardsheaven - towards heavenI meanin the sense of sky.You lookto the sunfor he is your task-masterand by himyou knowthe measure of the work that you have doneand themeasure ofthe work that remains for you to do. He comeswhen youstrike your tent in the early morningand thenforthe firsthour of the day as you move forward on your camelhe standsat your near side and makes you know that the wholeday's toilis before you; then for a whileand a long whileyou seehim no morefor you are veiled and shroudedanddare notlook upon the greatness of his glorybut you knowwhere hestrides overhead by the touch of his flaming sword.No wordsare spokenbut your Arabs moanyour camels sighyour skinglowsyour shoulders acheand for sights you seethepattern and the web of the silk that veils your eyes andthe glareof the outer light. Time labours on; your skinglows andyour shoulders acheyour Arabs moanyour camelssighandyou see the same pattern in the silkand the sameglare oflight beyondbut conquering Time marches onandby-and-bythe descending sun has compassed the heavenandnow softlytouches your right armand throws your lankshadowover the sand right along on the way to Persia. Thenagain youlook upon his facefor his power is all veiled inhisbeautyand the redness of flames has become the rednessof roses;the fairwavy cloud that fled in the morning nowcomes tohis sight once morecomes blushingyet still comesoncomesburning with blushesyet hastens and clings to hisside.
Thenarrives your time for resting. The world about you isall yourownand therewhere you willyou pitch yoursolitarytent; there is no living thing to dispute yourchoice. When at last the spot had been fixed upon and wecame to ahaltone of the Arabs would touch the chest of mycamel andutter at the same time a peculiar gurgling sound.The beastinstantly understood and obeyed the signandslowlysunk under me till she brought her body to a levelwith thegroundthen gladly enough I alighted. The rest ofthe camelswere unloaded and turned loose to browse upon theshrubs ofthe desertwhere shrubs there wereor where thesefailedtowait for the small quantity of food that wasallowedthem out of our stores.
Myservantshelped by the Arabsbusied themselves inpitchingthe tent and kindling the fire. Whilst this wasdoing Iused to walk away towards the eastconfiding in theprint ofmy foot as a guide for my return. Apart from thecheeringvoices of my attendants I could better know and feeltheloneliness of the Desert. The influence of such sceneshoweverwas not of a softening kindbut filled me ratherwith asort of childish exultation in the self-sufficiencywhichenabled me to stand thus alone in the wideness of Asia- ashort-lived pridefor wherever man wanders he stillremainstethered by the chain that links him to his kind; andso whenthe night closed around me I began to returntoreturnasit wereto my own gate. Reaching at last somehighground I could seeand see with delightthe fire ofour smallencampmentand when at last I regained the spot itseemed tome a very home that had sprung up for me in themidst ofthese solitudes. My Arabs were busy with theirbread;Mysseri rattling tea-cups; the little kettlewith heroddold-maidish lookssat humming away old songs aboutEngland;and two or three yards from the fire my tent stoodprim andtightwith open portaland with welcoming looklike "theold arm-chair" of our lyrist's "sweet Lady Anne."
At thebeginning of my journey the night breeze blew coldly;when thathappenedthe dry sand was heaped up outside roundthe skirtsof the tentand so the windthat everywhere elsecouldsweep as he listed along those dreary plainswasforced toturn aside in his course and make wayas he oughtfor theEnglishman. Then within my tent there were heaps ofluxuries -dining-roomsdressing-roomslibrariesbedroomsdrawing-roomsoratoriesall crowded into the space of ahearthrug. The first nightI rememberwith my books andmaps aboutmeI wanted light; they brought me a taperandimmediatelyfrom out of the silent Desert there rushed in aflood oflife unseen before. Monsters of mothsof allshapes andhuesthat never before perhaps had looked upontheshining of a flamenow madly thronged into my tentanddashedthrough the fire of the candle till they fairlyextinguishedit with their burning limbs. Those who hadfailed inattaining this martyrdom suddenly became seriousand clungdespondingly to the canvas.
By-and-bythere was brought to me the fragrant tea and bigmasses ofscorched and scorching toastand the butter thathad comeall the way to me in this Desert of Asia from out ofthat poordearstarving Ireland. I feasted like a kinglike fourkingslike a boy in the fourth form.
When thecoldsullen morning dawnedand my people began toload thecamelsI always felt loth to give back to the wastethislittle spot of ground that had glowed for a while withthecheerfulness of a human dwelling. One by one the cloaksthesaddlesthe baggagethe hundred things that strewed theground andmade it look so familiar - all these were takenaway andlaid upon the camels. A speck in the broad tractsof Asiaremained still impressed with the mark of patentportmanteausand the heels of London boots; the embers of thefire layblack and cold upon the sandand these were thesigns weleft.
My tentwas spared to the lastbut when all else was readyfor thestart then came its fall; the pegs were drawnthecanvasshiveredand in less than a minute there was nothingthatremained of my genial home but only a pole and a bundle.Theencroaching Englishman was offand instant upon the fallof thecanvaslike an owner who had waited and watchedthegenius ofthe Desert stalked in.
Toservantsas I suppose of any other Europeans not muchaccustomedto amuse themselves by fancy or memoryit oftenhappensthat after a few days journeying the loneliness ofthe Desertwill become frightfully oppressive. Upon my poorfellowsthe access of melancholy came heavyand all at onceas a blowfrom above; they bent their necksand bore it asbest theycouldbut their joy was great on the fifth daywhen wecame to an oasis called Gatiehfor here we foundencamped acaravan (that isan assemblage of travellers)fromCairo. The Orientals living in cities never pass theDesertexcept in this way; many will wait for weeksand evenformonthsuntil a sufficient number of persons can be foundready toundertake the journey at the same time - until theflock ofsheep is big enough to fancy itself a match forwolves. They could notI thinkreally secure themselvesagainstany serious danger by this contrivancefor thoughthey havearmsthey are so little accustomed to use themand soutterly unorganisedthat they never could make goodtheirresistance to robbers of the slightest respectability.It is notof the Bedouins that such travellers are afraidfor thesafe conduct granted by the chief of the ruling tribeis neverI believeviolatedbut it is said that there aredesertersand scamps of various sorts who hover about theskirts ofthe Desertparticularly on the Cairo sideand areanxious tosucceed to the property of any poor devils whomthey mayfind more weak and defenceless than themselves.
Thesepeople from Cairo professed to be amazed at theludicrousdisproportion between their numerical forces andmine. They could not understandand they wanted to knowbywhatstrange privilege it is that an Englishman with a braceof pistolsand a couple of servants rides safely across theDesertwhilst theythe natives of the neighbouring citiesare forcedto travel in troopsor rather in herds. One ofthem got afew minutes of private conversation withDthemetriand ventured to ask him anxiously whether theEnglishdid not travel under the protection of evil demons.I hadpreviously known (from MethleyI thinkwho hadtravelledin Persia) that this notionso conducive to thesafety ofour countrymenis generally prevalent amongstOrientals. It owes its originpartly to the strongwilfulnessof the English gentleman (which not being backedby anyvisible authorityeither civil or militaryseemsperfectlysuperhuman to the soft Asiatic)but partly too tothe magicof the banking systemby force of which thewealthytraveller will make all his journeys without carryinga handfulof coinand yet when he arrives at a city willrain downshowers of gold. The theory isthat the Englishtravellerhas committed some sin against God and hisconscienceand that for this the evil spirit has hold ofhimanddrives him from his home like a victim of the oldGrecianfuriesand forces him to travel over countries farandstrangeand most chiefly over deserts and desolateplacesand to stand upon the sites of cities that once wereand arenow no moreand to grope among the tombs of deadmen. Often enough there is something of truth in thisnotion;often enough the wandering Englishman is guilty (ifguilt itbe) of some pride or ambitionbig or smallimperialor parochialwhich being offended has made the loneplace moretolerable than ballrooms to hima sinner.
I canunderstand the sort of amazement of the Orientals atthescantiness of the retinue with which an Englishman passestheDesertfor I was somewhat struck myself when I saw oneof mycountrymen making his way across the wilderness in thissimplestyle. At first there was a mere moving speck on thehorizon. My party of course became all alive withexcitementand there were many surmises. Soon it appearedthat threeladen camels were approachingand that two ofthemcarried riders. In a little while we saw that one ofthe riderswore the European dressand at last thetravellerswere pronounced to be an English gentleman and hisservant. By their side there were a coupleI thinkofArabs onfootand this was the whole party.
Youyoulove sailing; in returning from a cruise to theEnglishcoast you see often enough a fisherman's humble boatfar awayfrom all shoreswith an ugly black sky above and anangry seabeneath. You watch the grizzly old man at the helmcarryinghis craft with strange skill through the turmoil ofwatersand the boysupple-limbedyet weather-worn alreadyand withsteady eyes that look through the blastyou see himunderstandingcommandments from the jerk of his father'swhiteeyebrownow belaying and now letting gonowscrunchinghimself down into mere ballastor baling outdeath witha pipkin. Stale enough is the sightand yet whenI see it Ialways stare anewand with a kind of Titanicexultationbecause that a poor boat with the brain of a manand thehands of a boy on board can match herself so bravelyagainstblack heaven and ocean. Wellso when you havetravelledfor days and days over an Eastern desert withoutmeetingthe likeness of a human beingand then at last seean Englishshooting-jacket and his servant come listlesslyslouchingalong from out of the forward horizonyou stare atthe wideunproportion between this slender company and theboundlessplains of sand through which they are keeping theirway.
ThisEnglishmanas I afterwards foundwas a military manreturningto his country from Indiaand crossing the Desertat thispart in order to go through Palestine. As for meIhad comepretty straight from Englandand so here we met inthewilderness at about half-way from our respectivestarting-points. As we approached each other it became withme aquestion whether we should speak. I thought it likelythat thestranger would accost meand in the event of hisdoing so Iwas quite ready to be as sociable and chatty as Icould beaccording to my nature; but still I could not thinkofanything particular that I had to say to him. Of courseamongcivilised people the not having anything to say is noexcuse atall for not speakingbut I was shy and indolentand I feltno great wish to stop and talk like a morningvisitor inthe midst of those broad solitudes. The travellerperhapsfelt as I didfor except that we lifted our hands toour capsand waved our arms in courtesywe passed each otheras if wehad passed in Bond Street. Our attendantshoweverwere notto be cheated of the delight that they felt inspeakingto new listeners and hearing fresh voices once more.Themastersthereforehad no sooner passed each other thantheirrespective servants quietly stopped and entered intoconversation. As soon as my camel found that her companionswere notfollowing her she caught the social feeling andrefused togo on. I felt the absurdity of the situationanddeterminedto accost the stranger if only to avoid theawkwardnessof remaining stuck fast in the Desert whilst ourservantswere amusing themselves. When with this intent Iturnedround my camel I found that the gallant officer whohad passedme by about thirty or forty yards was exactly inthe samepredicament as myself. I put my now willing camelin motionand rode up towards the strangerwho seeing thisfollowedmy example and came forward to meet me. He was thefirst tospeak. He was much too courteous to address me asif headmitted the possibility of my wishing to accost himfrom anyfeeling of mere sociability or civilian-like love ofvaintalk. On the contraryhe at once attributed myadvancesto a laudable wish of acquiring statisticalinformationand accordinglywhen we got within speakingdistancehe said"I dare say you wish to know how theplague isgoing on at Cairo?" And then he went on to sayheregrettedthat his information did not enable him to give mein numbersa perfectly accurate statement of the dailydeaths. He afterwards talked pleasantly enough upon otherand lessghastly subjects. I thought him manly andintelligenta worthy one of the few thousand strongEnglishmento whom the empire of India is committed.
The nightafter the meeting with the people of the caravanDthemetrialarmed by their warningstook upon himself tokeep watchall night in the tent. No robbers came except ajackalthat poked his nose into my tent from some motive ofrationalcuriosity. Dthemetri did not shoot him for fear ofwakingme. These brutes swarm in every part of Syriaandthere weremany of them even in the midst of the void sandsthat wouldseem to give such poor promise of food. I canhardlytell what prey they could be hoping forunless itwere thatthey might find now and then the carcass of somecamel thathad died on the journey. They do not marshalthemselvesinto great packs like the wild dogs of Easterncitiesbut follow their prey in familieslike the place-hunters ofEurope. Their voices are frightfully like to theshouts andcries of human beings. If you lie awake in yourtent atnight you are almost continually hearing some hungryfamily asit sweeps along in full cry. You hear the exultingscreamwith which the sagacious dam first winds the carrionand theshrill response of the unanimous cubs as they sniffthetainted air"Wha! wha! wha! wha! wha! wha! Whose giftis it inmamma?"
Onceduring this passage my Arabs lost their way among thehills ofloose sand that surrounded usbut after a while wewere luckyenough to recover our right line of march. Thesame daywe fell in with a Sheikthe head of a familythatactuallydwells at no great distance from this part of theDesertduring nine months of the year. The man carried amatchlockof which he was very proud. We stopped and satdown andrested awhile for the sake of a little talk. Therewas muchthat I should have liked to ask this manbut hecould notunderstand Dthemetri's languageand the process ofgetting athis knowledge by double interpretation through myArabs wasunsatisfactory. I discoveredhowever (and myArabs knewof that fact)that this man and his family livedhabituallyfor nine months of the year without touching orseeingeither bread or water. The stunted shrub growing atintervalsthrough the sand in this part of the Desert enablesthe camelmares to yield a little milkwhich furnishes thesole foodand drink of their owner and his people. Duringthe otherthree months (the hottest of the monthsI suppose)even thisresource failsand then the Sheik and his peopleare forcedto pass into another district. You would ask mewhy theman should not remain always in that district whichsupplieshim with water during three months of the yearbutI don'tknow enough of Arab politics to answer the question.The Sheikwas not a good specimen of the effect produced bythe dietto which he is subjected. He was very smallveryspareandsadly shrivelleda poorover-roasted snipeamerecinder of a man. I made him sit down by my sideandgave him apiece of bread and a cup of water from out of mygoat-skins. This was not very tempting drink to look atforit hadbecome turbidand was deeply reddened by somecolouringmatter contained in the skinsbut it kept itssweetnessand tasted like a strong decoction of russialeather. The Sheik sipped thisdrop by dropwith ineffablerelishand rolled his eyes solemnly round between everydraughtas though the drink were the drink of the Prophetand hadcome from the seventh heaven.
An inquiryabout distances led to the discovery that thisSheik hadnever heard of the division of time into hours; myArabsthemselvesI thinkwere rather surprised at this.
About thispart of my journey I saw the likeness of a fresh-waterlake. I sawas it seemeda broad sheet of calmwaterthat stretched far and fair towards the southstretchingdeep into winding creeksand hemmed in by juttingpromontoriesand shelving smooth off towards the shallowside. On its bosom the reflected fire of the sun layplayingand seeming to float upon waters deep and still.
Though Iknew of the cheatit was not till the spongy footof mycamel had almost trodden in the seeming waters that Icouldundeceive my eyesfor the shore-line was quite trueandnatural. I soon saw the cause of the phantasm. A sheetof waterheavily impregnated with salts had filled this greathollowand when dried up by evaporation had left a whitesalinedepositthat exactly marked the space which thewaters hadcoveredand thus sketched a good shore-line. Theminutecrystals of the salt sparkled in the sunand solookedlike the face of a lake that is calm and smooth.
The paceof the camel is irksomeand makes your shouldersand loinsache from the peculiar way in which you are obligedto suityourself to the movements of the beastbut you soonof coursebecome inured to thisand after the first two daysthis wayof travelling became so familiar to methat (poorsleeper asI am) I now and then slumbered for some momentstogetheron the back of my camel. On the fifth day of myjourneythe air above lay deadand all the whole earth thatI couldreach with my utmost sight and keenest listening wasstill andlifeless as some dispeopled and forgotten worldthat rollsround and round in the heavens through wastedfloods oflight. The sun growing fiercer and fiercer shonedown moremightily now than ever on me he shone beforeandas Idropped my head under his fireand closed my eyesagainstthe glare that surrounded meI slowly fell asleepfor howmany minutes or moments I cannot tellbut after awhile Iwas gently awakened by a peal of church bellsmynativebellsthe innocent bells of Marlenthat never beforesent forththeir music beyond the Blaygon hills! My firstideanaturally wasthat I still remained fast under thepower of adream. I roused myself and drew aside the silkthatcovered my eyesand plunged my bare face into thelight. Then at least I was well enough wakenedbut stillthose oldMarlen bells rung onnot ringing for joybutproperlyprosilysteadilymerrily ringing "for church."After awhile the sound died away slowly. It happened thatneither Inor any of my party had a watch by which to measurethe exacttime of its lastingbut it seemed to me that abouttenminutes had passed before the bells ceased. I attributedthe effectto the great heat of the sunthe perfect drynessof theclear air through which I movedand the deepstillnessof all around me. It seemed to me that thesecausesbyoccasioning a great tensionand consequentsusceptibilityof the hearing organs had rendered themliable totingle under the passing touch of some mere memorythat musthave swept across my brain in a moment of sleep.Since myreturn to England it has been told me that likesoundshave been heard at seaand that the sailor becalmedunder avertical sun in the midst of the wide ocean haslistenedin trembling wonder to the chime of his own villagebells.
At thistime I kept a poor shabby pretence of a journalwhich justenabled me to know the day of the month and theweekaccording to the European calendarand when in my tentat night Igot out my pocket-book I found that the day wasSundayand roughly allowing for the difference of time inthislongitudeI concluded that at the moment of my hearingthatstrange peal the church-going bells of Marlen must havebeenactually calling the prim congregation of the parish tomorningprayer. The coincidence amused me faintlybut Icould notpluck up the least hope that the effect which I hadexperiencedwas anything other than an illusionan illusionliable tobe explained (as every illusion is in these days)by some ofthe philosophers who guess at Nature's riddles.It wouldhave been sweeter to believe that my kneeling motherby somepious enchantment had askedand foundthis spell torouse mefrom my scandalous forgetfulness of God's holy daybut myfancy was too weak to carry a faith like that.Indeedthe vale through which the bells of Marlen send theirsong is ahighly respectable valeand its people (save onetwoorthree) are wholly unaddicted to the practice ofmagicalarts.
After thefifth day of my journey I no longer travelled overshiftinghillsbut came upon a dead levela dead level bedof sandquite hardand studded with small shining pebbles.
The heatgrew fierce; there was no valley nor hollownohillnomoundno shadow of hill nor of moundby which Icould markthe way I was making. Hour by hour I advancedand saw nochange - I was still the very centre of a roundhorizon;hour by hour I advancedand still there was thesameandthe sameand the same - the same circle of flamingsky - thesame circle of sand still glaring with light andfire. Over all the heaven aboveover all the earth beneaththere wasno visible power that could balk the fierce will ofthe sun:"he rejoiced as a strong man to run a race; hisgoingforth was from the end of the heavenand his circuitunto theends of it; and there was nothing hid from the heatthereof." From pole to poleand from the east to the westhebrandished his fiery sceptre as though he had usurped allheaven andearth. As he bid the soft Persian in ancienttimessonowand fiercely toohe bid me bow down andworshiphim; so now in his pride he seemed to command meandsay"Thoushalt have none other gods but me." I was allalonebefore him. There were these two pitted togetherandface toface - the mighty sun for oneand for the other thispoorpalesolitary self of minethat I always carry aboutwith me.
But on theeighth dayand before I had yet turned away fromJehovahfor the glittering god of the Persiansthereappeared adark line upon the edge of the forward horizonand soonthe line deepened into a delicate fringethatsparkledhere and there as though it were sewn with diamonds.Therethenbefore me were the gardens and the minarets ofEgypt andthe mighty works of the Nileand I (the eternalEgo that Iam!) - I had lived to seeand I saw them.
Whenevening came I was still within the confines of theDesertand my tent was pitched as usual; but one of my Arabsstalkedaway rapidly towards the westwithout telling me ofthe errandon which he was bent. After a while he returned;he hadtoiled on a graceful service; he had travelled all theway on tothe border of the living worldand brought me backfor tokenan ear of ricefullfreshand green.
The nextday I entered upon Egyptand floated along (for thedelightwas as the delight of bathing) through green wavyfields ofriceand pastures fresh and plentifuland divedinto thecold verdure of groves and gardensand quenched myhot eyesin shadeas though in deeprushing waters.
CHAPTERXVIII - CAIRO AND THE PLAGUE
CAIRO andplague! During the whole time of my stay theplague wasso master of the cityand showed itself sostaringlyin every street and every alleythat I can't nowaffect todissociate the two ideas.
Whencoming from the Desert I rode through a village whichlies nearto the city on the eastern sidethere approachedme withbusy face and earnest gestures a personage in theTurkishdress. His long flowing beard gave him rather amajesticlookbut his briskness of mannerand his visibleanxiety toaccost meseemed strange in an Oriental. The manin factwas Frenchor of French originand his object wasto warn meof the plagueand prevent me from entering thecity.
"Arretez-vousmonsieurje vous en prie - arretez-vous; ilne fautpas entrer dans la ville; la peste y regne partout."
"Ouije saismais - "
"Maismonsieurje dis la peste - la peste; c'est de LAPESTEqu'il est question."
"Ouije saismais - "
"Maismonsieurje dis encore LA PESTE - LA PESTE. Je vousconjure dene pas entrer dans la ville - vous seriez dans unevilleempestee."
"Ouije saismais - "
"Maismonsieurje dois donc vous avertir tout bonnement quesi vousentrez dans la villevous serez - enfin vous serezCOMPROMIS!"
"Ouije saismais - "
TheFrenchman was at last convinced that it was vain toreasonwith a mere Englishmanwho could not understand whatit was tobe "compromised." I thanked him most sincerely forhis kindlymeant warning; in hot countries it is very unusualindeed fora man to go out in the glare of the sun and givefreeadvice to a stranger.
When Iarrived at Cairo I summoned Osman Effendiwho wasasI knewthe owner of several housesand would be able toprovide mewith apartments. He had no difficulty in doingthisforthere was not one European traveller in Cairobesidesmyself. Poor Osman! he met me with a sorrowfulcountenancefor the fear of the plague sat heavily on hissoul. He seemed as if he felt that he was doing wrong inlending mea resting-placeand he betrayed such alistlessnessabout temporal mattersas one might look for ina man whobelieved that his days were numbered. He caught metoo soonafter my arrival coming out from the public bathsand fromthat time forward he was sadly afraid of mefor heshared theopinions of Europeans with respect to the effectofcontagion.
Osman'shistory is a curious one. He was a Scotchman bornand whenvery youngbeing then a drummer-boyhe landed inEgypt withFraser's force. He was taken prisonerandaccordingto Mahometan customthe alternative of death orthe Koranwas offered to him; he did not choose deathandthereforewent through the ceremonies which were necessaryforturning him into a good Mahometan. But what amused memost inhis history was thisthat very soon after havingembracedIslam he was obliged in practice to become curiousanddiscriminating in his new faithto make war uponMahometandissentersand follow the orthodox standard of theProphet infierce campaigns against the Wahabeeswho are theUnitariansof the Mussulman world. The Wahabees werecrushedand Osman returning home in triumph from his holywarsbegan to flourish in the world. He acquired propertyand becameEFFENDIor gentleman. At the time of my visit toCairo heseemed to be much respected by his brotherMahometansand gave pledge of his sincere alienation fromChristianityby keeping a couple of wives. He affected thesame sortof reserve in mentioning them as is generally shownbyOrientals. He invited meindeedto see his harembuthe madeboth his wives bundle out before I was admitted. Hefeltasit seemed to methat neither of them would bearcriticismand I think that this idearather than any motiveof sincerejealousyinduced him to keep them out of sight.The roomsof the harem reminded me of an English nurseryratherthan of a Mahometan paradise. One is apt to judge ofa womanbefore one sees her by the air of elegance orcoarsenesswith which she surrounds her home; I judgedOsman'swives by this testand condemned them both. But thestrangestfeature in Osman's character was hisinextinguishablenationality. In vain they had brought himover theseas in early boyhood; in vain had he sufferedcaptivityconversioncircumcision; in vain they had passedhimthrough fire in their Arabian campaignsthey could notcut awayor burn out poor Osman's inborn love of all that wasScotch; invain men called him Effendi; in vain he sweptalong ineastern robes; in vain the rival wives adorned hisharem: thejoy of his heart still plainly lay in thisthathe hadthree shelves of booksand that the books werethoroughbredScotch - the Edinburgh thisthe Edinburgh thatand aboveallI recollecthe prided himself upon the"EdinburghCabinet Library."
The fearof the plague is its forerunner. It is likelyenoughthat at the time of my seeing poor Osman the deadlytaint wasbeginning to creep through his veinsbut it wasnot tillafter I had left Cairo that he was visibly stricken.He died.
As soon asI had seen all that I wanted to see in Cairo andin theneighbourhood I wished to make my escape from a citythat layunder the terrible curse of the plaguebut Mysserifell illin consequenceI believeof the hardships whichhe hadbeen suffering in my service. After a while herecoveredsufficiently to undertake a journeybut then therewas somedifficulty in procuring beasts of burthenand itwas nottill the nineteenth day of my sojourn that I quittedthe city.
During allthis time the power of the plague was rapidlyincreasing. When I first arrivedit was said that the dailynumber of"accidents" by plagueout of a population of abouttwohundred thousanddid not exceed four or five hundredbut beforeI went away the deaths were reckoned at twelvehundred aday. I had no means of knowing whether the numbers(givenoutas I believe they wereby officials) were at allcorrectbut I could not help knowing that from day to daythe numberof the dead was increasing. My quarters were in astreetwhich was one of the chief thoroughfares of the city.Thefunerals in Cairo take place between daybreak and noonand as Iwas generally in my rooms during this part of thedayIcould form some opinion as to the briskness of theplague. I don't mean this for a sly insinuation that I gotup everymorning with the sun. It was not so; but thefuneralsof most people in decent circumstances at Cairo areattendedby singers and howlersand the performances ofthesepeople woke me in the early morningand prevented mefromremaining in ignorance of what was going on in thestreetbelow.
Thesefunerals were very simply conducted. The bier was ashallowwooden traycarried upon a light and weak woodenframe. The tray hadin generalno lidbut the body wasmore orless hidden from view by a shawl or scarf. The wholewas borneupon the shoulders of menwho contrived to cutalong withtheir burthen at a great pace. Two or threesingersgenerally preceded the bier; the howlers (who arepaid fortheir vocal labours) followed afterand last of allcame suchof the dead man's friends and relations as couldkeep upwith such a rapid procession; theseespecially thewomenwould get terribly blownand would straggle back intothe rear;many were fairly "beaten off." I never observedanyappearance of mourning in the mourners: the pace was toosevere forany solemn affectation of grief.
When firstI arrived at Cairo the funerals that daily passedunder mywindows were manybut still there were frequent andlongintervals without a single howl. Every dayhowever(exceptonewhen I fancied that I observed a diminution offunerals)these intervals became less frequent and shorterand atlastthe passing of the howlers from morn till noonwas almostincessant. I believe that about one-half of thewholepeople was carried off by this visitation. TheOrientalshoweverhave more quiet fortitude than Europeansunderafflictions of this sortand they never allow theplague tointerfere with their religious usages. I rode oneday roundthe great burial-ground. The tombs are strewedover agreat expanseamong the vast mountains of rubbish(theaccumulations of many centuries) which surround thecity. The groundunlike the Turkish "cities of the dead"which aremade so beautiful by their dark cypresseshasnothing tosweeten melancholynothing to mitigate theodiousnessof death. Carnivorous beasts and birds possessthe placeby nightand now in the fair morning it was allalive withfresh comers - alive with dead. Yet at this verytimewhenthe plague was raging so furiouslyand on thisverygroundwhich resounded so mournfully with the howls ofarrivingfuneralspreparations were going on for thereligiousfestival called the Kourban Bairam. Tents werepitchedand SWINGS HUNG FOR THE AMUSEMENT OF CHILDREN - aghastlyholiday; but the Mahometans take a prideand a justprideinfollowing their ancient customs undisturbed by theshadow ofdeath.
I did nothearwhilst I was at Cairothat any prayer for aremissionof the plague had been offered up in the mosques.I believethat however frightful the ravages of the diseasemay bethe Mahometans refrain from approaching Heaven withtheircomplaints until the plague has endured for a longspaceandthen at last they pray Godnot that the plaguemay ceasebut that it may go to another city!
A goodMussulman seems to take pride in repudiating theEuropeannotion that the will of God can be eluded by eludingthe touchof a sleeve. When I went to see the pyramids ofSakkara Iwas the guest of a noble old fellowan Osmanleewhose softrolling language it was a luxury to hear aftersufferingas I had suffered of latefrom the shriekingtongue ofthe Arabs. This man was aware of the Europeanideasabout contagionand his first care therefore was toassure methat not a single instance of plague had occurredin hisvillage. He then inquired as to the progress of theplague atCairo. I had but a bad account to give. Up tothis timemy host had carefully refrained from touching meout ofrespect to the European theory of contagionbut assoon as itwas made plain that heand not Iwould be thepersonendangered by contacthe gently laid his hand upon myarminorder to make me feel sure that the circumstance ofmy comingfrom an infected city did not occasion him theleastuneasiness. In that touch there was true hospitality.
Verydifferent is the faith and the practice of theEuropeansor ratherI mean of the Europeans settled in theEastandcommonly called Levantines. When I came to the endof myjourney over the Desert I had been so long alonethattheprospect of speaking to somebody at Cairo seemed almost anewexcitement. I felt a sort of consciousness that I had alittle ofthe wild beast about mebut I was quite in thehumour tobe charmingly tameand to be quite engaging in mymannersif I should have an opportunity of holding communionwith anyof the human race whilst at Cairo. I knew no one inthe placeand had no letters of introductionbut I carriedletters ofcreditand it often happens in places remote fromEnglandthat those "advices" operate as a sort ofintroductionand obtain for the bearer (if disposed toreceivethem) such ordinary civilities as it may be in thepower ofthe banker to offer.
Very soonafter my arrival I went to the house of theLevantineto whom my credentials were addressed. At his doorseveralpersons (all Arabs) were hanging about and keepingguard. It was not till after some delayand the passing ofsomecommunications with those in the interior of thecitadelthat I was admitted. At lengthhoweverI wasconductedthrough the courtand up a flight of stairsandfinallyinto the apartment where business was transacted.The roomwas divided by an excellentsubstantial fence ofiron barsand behind this grille the banker had his station.The truthwasthat from fear of the plague he had adoptedthe courseusually taken by European residentsand had shuthimself up"in strict quarantine" - that is to saythat hehadas hehopedcut himself off from all communication withinfectingsubstances. The Europeans long resident in theEastwithout anyor with scarcely anyexception are firmlyconvincedthat the plague is propagated by contactand bycontactonly; that if they can but avoid the touch of aninfectingsubstance they are safeand that if they cannotthey die. This belief induces them to adopt the contrivanceof puttingthemselves in that state of siege which they call"quarantine." It is a part of their faith that metalsandhempenropeand alsoI fancyone or two other substanceswill notcarry the infection; and they likewise believe thatthe germof pestilencewhich lies in an infected substancemay bedestroyed by submersion in wateror by the action ofsmoke. They therefore guard the doors of their houses withthe utmostcare against intrusionand condemn themselveswith allthe members of their familyincluding any Europeanservantsto a strict imprisonment within the walls of theirdwelling. Their native attendants are not allowed to enterat allbut they make the necessary purchases of provisionswhich arehauled up through one of the windows by means of aropeandare then soaked in water.
I knewnothing of these mysteriesand was not thereforepreparedfor the sort of reception which I met with. Iadvancedto the iron fenceand putting my letter between thebarspolitely proffered it to Mr. Banker. Mr. Bankerreceivedme with a sad and dejected lookand not "with openarms"or with any arms at allbut with - a pair of tongs!I placedmy letter between the iron fingerswhich picked itup as ifit were a viperand conveyed it away to be scorchedandpurified by fire and smoke. I was disgusted at thisreceptionand at the idea that anything of mine could carryinfectionto the poor wretch who stood on the other side ofthegrillepale and tremblingand already meet for death.I lookedwith something of the Mahometan's feeling upon theselittlecontrivances for eluding fate; and in this instanceat leastthey were vain. A few more daysand the poormoney-changerwho had striven to guard the days of his life(as thoughthey were coins) with bolts and bars of iron - hewas seizedby the plagueand he died.
To peopleentertaining such opinions as these respecting thefataleffect of contactthe narrow and crowded streets ofCairo wereterrible as the easy slope that leads to Avernus.Theroaring ocean and the beetling crags owe something oftheirsublimity to this - that if they be temptedthey cantake thewarm life of a man. To the contagionistfilled ashe is withthe dread of final causeshaving no faith indestinynor in the fixed will of Godand with none of thedevil-may-careindifference which might stand him instead ofcreeds -to such oneevery rag that shivers in the breeze ofaplague-stricken city has this sort of sublimity. If by anyterribleordinance he be forced to venture forthhe seesdeathdangling from every sleeveand as he creeps forwardhe poiseshis shuddering limbs between the imminent jacketthat isstabbing at his right elbow and the murderous pelissethatthreatens to mow him clean down as it sweeps along onhis left. But most of allhe dreads that which most of allhe shouldlove - the touch of a woman's dress; for mothersand wiveshurrying forth on kindly errands from the bedsidesof thedyinggo slouching along through the streets morewilfullyand less courteously than the men. For a while itmay bethat the caution of the poor Levantine may enable himto avoidcontactbut sooner or later perhaps the dreadedchancearrives; that bundle of linenwith the dark tearfuleyes atthe top of itthat labours along with the voluptuousclumsinessof Grisi - she has touched the poor Levantine withthe hem ofher sleeve! From that dread moment his peace isgone; hismindfor ever hanging upon the fatal touchinvitesthe blow which he fears. He watches for the symptomsof plagueso carefullythat sooner or later they come intruth. The parched mouth is a sign - his mouth is parched;thethrobbing brain - his brain DOES throb; the rapid pulse -he toucheshis own wrist (for he dares not ask counsel of anyman lesthe be deserted)he touches his wristand feels howhisfrighted blood goes galloping out of his heart; there isnothingbut the fatal swelling that is wanting to make hissadconviction complete; immediately he has an odd feel underthe arm -no painbut a little straining of the skin; hewould toGod it were his fancy that were strong enough togive himthat sensation. This is the worst of all; it nowseems tohim that he could be happy and contented with hisparchedmouth and his throbbing brain and his rapid pulseifonly hecould know that there were no swelling under the leftarm; butdare he try? - In a moment of calmness anddeliberationhe dares notbut when for a while he haswrithedunder the torture of suspensea sudden strength ofwilldrives him to seek and know his fate. He touches theglandandfinds the skin sane and soundbut under thecuticlethere lies a small lump like a pistol-bulletthatmoves ashe pushes it. Oh! but is this for all certaintyisthis thesentence of death? Feel the gland of the other arm;there isnot the same lump exactlyyet something a littlelike it:have not some people glands naturally enlarged? -would toHeaven he were one! So he does for himself the workof theplagueand when the Angel of Deaththus courteddoesindeed and in truth comehe has only to finish thatwhich hasbeen so well begun; he passes his fiery hand overthe brainof the victimand lets him rave for a seasonbutallchance-wiseof people and things once dearor of peopleand thingsindifferent. Once more the poor fellow is back athis homein fair Provenceand sees the sun-dial that stoodin hischildhood's garden; sees part of his motherand thelong-since-forgottenface of that little dead sister (he seesherhesayson a Sunday morningfor all the church bellsareringing); he looks up and down through the universeandowns itwell piled with bales upon bales of cottonandcottoneternal - so much so that he feelshe knowsheswears hecould make that winning hazardif the billiardtablewould not slant upwardsand if the cue were a cueworthplaying with; but it is not - it's a cue that won'tmove - hisown arm won't move - in shortthere's the devilto pay inthe brain of the poor Levantineand perhaps thenext nightbut one he becomes the "life and the soul" of somesquallingjackal family who fish him out by the foot from hisshallowand sandy grave.
Betterfate was mine. By some happy perverseness (occasionedperhaps bymy disgust at the notion of being received with apair oftongs) I took it into my pleasant head that all theEuropeannotions about contagion were thoroughly unfounded;that theplague might be providential or "epidemic" (as theyphraseit)but was not contagious; and that I could not bekilled bythe touch of a woman's sleevenor yet by herblessedbreath. I therefore determined that the plagueshould notalter my habits and amusements in any one respect.Though Icame to this resolve from impulseI think that Itook thecourse which was in effect the most prudentfor thecheerfulnessof spirits which I was thus enabled to retaindiscouragedthe yellow-winged angeland prevented him fromtaking ashot at me. Ihoweverso far respected theopinion ofthe Europeansthat I avoided touching when Icould doso without privation or inconvenience. Thisendeavourfurnished me with a sort of amusement as I passedthroughthe streets. The usual mode of moving from place toplace inthe city of Cairo is upon donkeysof which greatnumbersare always in readinesswith donkey-boys attached.I had twowho constantly (until one of them died of theplague)waited at my door upon the chance of being wanted. Ifound thisway of moving about exceedingly pleasantandneverattempted any other. I had only to mount my beastandtell mydonkey-boy the point for which I was boundandinstantlyI began to glide on at a capital pace. The streetsof Cairoare not paved in any waybut strewed with a drysandysoilso deadening to soundthat the footfall of mydonkeycould scarcely be heard. There is no TROTTOIRand asyou ridethrough the streets you mingle with the people onfoot. Those who are in your wayupon being warned by theshouts ofthe donkey-boymove very slightly asideso as toleave youa narrow lanethrough which you pass at a gallop.In thisway you glide on delightfully in the very midst ofcrowdswithout being inconvenienced or stopped for a moment.It seemsto you that it is not the donkey but the donkey-boywho waftsyou on with his shouts through pleasant groupsandair thatfeels thick with the fragrance of burial spice."Eh! SheikEh! Bint- reggalek- "shumalek&c. &c.- Oold manOvirginget out of the way on the right - OvirginOold manget out of the way on the left - thisEnglishmancomeshe comeshe comes!" The narrow alleywhichthese shouts cleared for my passage made it possiblethoughdifficultto go on for a long way without touching asinglepersonand my endeavours to avoid such contact were asort ofgame for me in my lonelinesswhich was not withoutinterest. If I got through a street without being touchedIwon; if Iwas touchedI lost - lost a deuce of stakeaccordingto the theory of the Europeans; but that I deemedto be allnonsense - I only lost that gameand wouldcertainlywin the next.
There isnot much in the way of public buildings to admire atCairobutI saw one handsome mosqueto which an instructivehistory isattached. A Hindustanee merchant having amassedan immensefortune settled in Cairoand soon found that hisriches inthe then state of the political world gave him vastpower inthe city - powerhoweverthe exercise of which wasmuchrestrained by the counteracting influence of otherwealthymen. With a view to extinguish every attempt atrivalrythe Hindustanee merchant built this magnificentmosque athis own expense. When the work was completeheinvitedall the leading men of the city to join him in prayerwithin thewalls of the newly built templeand he thencaused tobe massacred all those who were sufficientlyinfluentialto cause him any jealousy or uneasiness - inshortall"the respectable men" of the place; after this hepossessedundisputed power in the city and was greatlyrevered -he is revered to this day. It seemed to me thatthere wasa touching simplicity in the mode which this man sosuccessfullyadopted for gaining the confidence and goodwillof hisfellow-citizens. There seems to be some improbabilityin thestory (though not nearly so gross as it might appearto anEuropean ignorant of the Eastfor witness MehemetAli'sdestruction of the Mamelukesa closely similaractandattended with the like brilliant success)but even ifthe storybe false as a mere factit is perfectly true as anillustration- it is a true exposition of the means by whichtherespect and affection of Orientals may be conciliated.
I ascendedone day to the citadelwhich commands a superbview ofthe town. The fanciful and elaborate gilt-work ofthe manyminarets gives a light and florid grace to the cityas seenfrom this heightbut before you can look for manyseconds atsuch things your eyes are drawn westward - drawnwestwardand over the Niletill they rest upon the massiveenormitiesof the Ghizeh Pyramids.
I sawwithin the fortress many yoke of men all haggard andwoebegoneand a kennel of very fine lions well fed andflourishing:I say YOKE of menfor the poor fellows wereworkingtogether in bonds; I say a KENNEL of lionsfor thebeastswere not enclosed in cagesbut simply chained up likedogs.
I wentround the bazaars: it seemed to me that pipes and armswerecheaper here than at Constantinopleand I should adviseyoutherefore if you go to both places to prefer the marketof Cairo. I had previously bought several of such things atConstantinopleand did not choose to encumber myselfor tospeak morehonestlyI did not choose to disencumber my purseby makingany more purchases. In the open slave-market I sawaboutfifty girls exposed for salebut all of them blackor"invisible"brown. A slave agent took me to some rooms inthe upperstorey of the buildingand also into severalobscurehouses in the neighbourhoodwith a view to show mesome whitewomen. The owners raised various objections tothedisplay of their wareand well they mightfor I had notthe leastnotion of purchasing; some refused on account oftheillegality of the proceeding andothers declared thatalltransactions of this sort were completely out of thequestionas long as the plague was raging. I only succeededin seeingone white slave who was for sale but on this onethe owneraffected to set an immense valueand raised myexpectationsto a high pitch by saying that the girl wasCircassianand was "fair as the full moon." After a gooddeal ofdelay I was at last led into a roomat the fartherend ofwhich was that mass of white linen which indicates anEasternwoman. She was bid to uncover her faceand Ipresentlysaw thatthough very far from being good lookingaccordingto my notion of beautyshe had not been inaptlydescribedby the man who compared her to the full moonforher largeface was perfectly round and perfectly white.Thoughvery youngshe was nevertheless extremely fat. Shegave methe idea of having been got up for saleof havingbeenfattened and whitened by medicines or by some peculiardiet. I was firmly determined not to see any more of herthan theface. She was perhaps disgusted at this my virtuousresolveas well as with my personal appearance; perhaps shesaw mydistaste and disappointment; perhaps she wished togainfavour with her owner by showing her attachment to hisfaith: atall eventsshe holloaed out very lustily and verydecidedlythat "she would not be bought by the infidel."
Whilst Iremained at Cairo I thought it worth while to seesomethingof the magiciansbecause I considered that thesemen werein some sort the descendants of those who contendedso stoutlyagainst the superior power of Aaron. I thereforesent foran old man who was held to be the chief of themagiciansand desired him to show me the wonders of his art.The oldman looked and dressed his character exceedinglywell; thevast turbanthe flowing beardand the ample robeswere allthat one could wish in the way of appearance. Thefirstexperiment (a very stale one) which he attempted toperformfor me was that of showing the forms and faces of myabsentfriendsnot to mebut to a boy brought in from thestreetsfor the purposeand said to be chosen at random. AMANGALE(pan of burning charcoal) was brought into my roomand themagician bending over itsprinkled upon the firesomesubstances which must have consisted partly of spices orsweetlyburning woodsfor immediately a fragrant smoke arosethatcurled around the bending form of the wizardthe whilethat hepronounced his first incantations. When these wereover theboy was made to sit downand a common green shadewas boundover his brow; then the wizard took inkand stillcontinuinghis incantationswrote certain mysterious figuresupon theboy's palmand directed him to rivet his attentionto thesemarks without looking aside for an instant. Againtheincantations proceededand after a while the boybeingseeminglya little agitatedwas asked whether he sawanythingon the palm of his hand. He declared that he saw akind ofmilitary processionwith flags and bannerswhich hedescribedrather minutely. I was then called upon to namethe absentperson whose form was to be made visible. I namedKeate. You were not at Etonand I must tell youthereforewhatmanner of man it was that I namedthough I think youmust havesome idea of him alreadyfor wherever from utmostCanada toBundelcund - wherever there was the whitewashedwall of anofficer's roomor of any other apartment in whichEnglishgentlemen are forced to kick their heelstherelikelyenough (in the days of his reign) the head of Keatewould beseen scratched or drawn with those various degreesof skillwhich one observes in the representations of saints.Anybodywithout the least notion of drawing could still drawaspeakingnay scoldinglikeness of Keate. If you had nopencilyou could draw him well enough with a pokeror theleg of achairor the smoke of a candle. He was little more(if moreat all) than five feet in heightand was not verygreat ingirthbut in this space was concentrated the pluckof tenbattalions. He had a really noble voicewhich hecouldmodulate with great skillbut he had also the power ofquackinglike an angry duckand he almost always adoptedthis modeof communication in order to inspire respect. Hewas acapital scholarbut his ingenuous learning had NOT"softenedhis manners" and HAD "permitted them to be fierce"-tremendously fierce; he had the most complete command overhis temper- I mean over his GOOD temperwhich he scarcelyeverallowed to appear: you could not put him out of humour -that isout of the ILL-humour which he thought to be fittingfor ahead-master. His red shaggy eyebrows were soprominentthat he habitually used them as arms and hands forthepurpose of pointing out any object towards which hewished todirect attention; the rest of his features wereequallystriking in their wayand were all and all his own;he wore afancy dress partly resembling the costume ofNapoleonand partly that of a widow-woman. I could not byanypossibility have named anybody more decidedly differinginappearance from the rest of the human race.
"Whomdo you name?" - "I name John Keate." - "Nowwhatdoyou see?"said the wizard to the boy. - "I see" answered theboy"Isee a fair girl with golden hairblue eyespallidfacerosylips." THERE was a shot! I shouted out mylaughterto the horror of the wizardwho perceiving thegrossnessof his failuredeclared that the boy must haveknown sin(for none but the innocent can see truth)andaccordinglykicked him downstairs.
One or twoother boys were triedbut none could "see truth";they allmade sadly "bad shots."
Notwithstandingthe failure of these experimentsI wished tosee whatsort of mummery my magician would practise if Icalledupon him to show me some performances of a higherorder thanthose which had been attempted. I thereforeenteredinto a treaty with himin virtue of which he was todescendwith me into the tombs near the Pyramidsand thereevoke thedevil. The negotiation lasted some timeforDthemetrias in duty boundtried to beat down the wizard asmuch as hecouldand the wizardon his partmanfully stuckup for hispricedeclaring that to raise the devil wasreally nojokeand insinuating that to do so was an awesomecrime. I let Dthemetri have his way in the negotiationbutI felt inreality very indifferent about the sum to be paidand forthis reasonnamelythat the payment (except a verysmallpresent which I might make or notas I chose) was tobeCONTINGENT ON SUCCESS. At length the bargain was madeand it wasarranged that after a few daysto be allowed forpreparationthe wizard should raise the devil for two poundstenplayor pay - no devilno piastres.
The wizardfailed to keep his appointment. I sent to knowwhy thedeuce he had not come to raise the devil. The truthwasthatmy Mahomet had gone to the mountain. The plaguehad seizedhimand he died.
Althoughthe plague had now spread terrible havoc around meI did notsee very plainly any corresponding change in thelooks ofthe streets until the seventh day after my arrival.I thenfirst observed that the city was SILENCED. There wereno outwardsigns of despair nor of violent terrorbut manyof thevoices that had swelled the busy hum of men werealreadyhushed in deathand the survivorsso used to screamandscreech in their earnestness whenever they bought orsoldnowshowed an unwonted indifference about the affairsof thisworld: it was less worth while for men to haggle andhaggleand crack the sky with noisy bargainswhen the greatcommanderwas therewho could "pay all their debts with theroll ofhis drum."
At thistime I was informed that of twenty-five thousandpeople atAlexandriatwelve thousand had died already; thedestroyerhad come rather later to Cairobut there wasnothing ofweariness in his strides. The deaths came fasterthan everthey befell in the plague of London; but thecalmnessof Orientals under such visitationsand the habitof usingbiers for intermentinstead of burying coffinsalong withthe bodiesrendered it practicable to dispose ofthe deadin the usual waywithout shocking the people by anyunaccustomedspectacle of horror. There was no tumbling ofbodiesinto cartsas in the plague of Florence and theplague ofLondon. Every manaccording to his stationwasproperlyburiedand that in the usual wayexcept that hewent tohis grave in a more hurried pace than might have beenadoptedunder ordinary circumstances.
Thefunerals which poured through the streets were not theonlypublic evidence of deaths. In Cairo this customprevails:At the instant of a man's death (if his property issufficientto justify the expense) professional howlers areemployed. I believe that these persons are brought near tothe dyingman when his end appears to be approachingand themomentthat life is gone they lift up their voices and sendforth aloud wail from the chamber of death. Thus I knewwhen mynear neighbours died; sometimes the howls were nearsometimesmore distant. Once I was awakened in the night bythe wailof death in the next houseand another time by alike howlfrom the house opposite; and there were two orthreeminutesI recollectduring which the howl seemed tobeactually running along the street.
I happenedto be rather teased at this time by a sore throatand Ithought it would be well to get it cured if I couldbefore Iagain started on my travels. I therefore inquiredfor aFrank doctorand was informed that the only one thenat Cairowas a young Bolognese refugeewho was so poor thathe had notbeen able to take flightas the other medical menhad done. At such a time as this it was out of the questionto sendfor an European physician; a person thus summonedwould besure to suppose that the patient was ill of theplagueand would decline to come. I therefore rode to theyoungdoctor's residence. After experiencing some littledifficultyin finding where to look for himI ascended aflight ortwo of stairs and knocked at his door. No one cameimmediatelybut after some little delay the medico himselfopened thedoorand admitted me. I of course made himunderstandthat I had come to consult himbut beforeenteringupon my throat grievance I accepted a chairandexchangeda sentence or two of commonplace conversation. Nowthenatural commonplace of the city at this season was of agloomysort"Come va la peste?" (how goes the plague?) andthis wasprecisely the question I put. A deep sighand thewords"Sette cento per giornosignor" (seven hundred aday)pronounced in a tone of the deepest sadness anddejectionwere the answer I received. The day was notoppressivelyhotyet I saw that the doctor was perspiringprofuselyand even the outside surface of the thick shawldressing-gownin which he had wrapped himselfappeared tobe moist. He was a handsomepleasant-looking young fellowbut thedeep melancholy of his tone did not tempt me toprolongthe conversationand without further delay Irequestedthat my throat might be looked at. The medico heldmy chin inthe usual wayand examined my throat. He thenwrote me aprescriptionand almost immediately afterwards Ibade himfarewellbut as he conducted me towards the door Iobservedan expression of strange and unhappy watchfulness inhisrolling eyes. It was not the next daybut the next daybut oneif I rightly rememberthat I sent to requestanotherinterview with my doctor. In due time Dthemetriwhowas mymessengerreturnedlooking sadly aghast - he had"METthe medico" for so he phrased it"coming out from hishouse - ina bier!"
It was ofcourse plain that when the poor Bolognese waslooking atmy throatand almost mingling his breath withminehewas stricken of the plague. I suppose that theviolentsweat in which I found him had been produced by somemedicinewhich he must have taken in the hope of curinghimself. The peculiar rolling of the eyes which I hadremarkedisI believeto experienced observersa prettysure testof the plague. A Russian acquaintanceof minespeakingfrom the information of men who had made the Turkishcampaignsof 1828 and 1829told me that by this sign theofficersof Sabalkansky's force were able to make out theplague-strickensoldiers with a good deal of certainty.
It sohappened that most of the people with whom I hadanythingto do during my stay at Cairo were seized withplagueand all these died. Since I had been for a long timeEN ROUTEbefore I reached Egyptand was about to start againforanother long journey over the Desertthere were ofcoursemany little matters touching my wardrobe and mytravellingequipments which required to be attended to whilstI remainedin the city. It happened so many times thatDthemetri'sorders in respect to these matters werefrustratedby the deaths of the tradespeople and others whomheemployedthat at last I became quite accustomed to thepeculiarmanner which he assumed when he prepared to announcea newdeath to me. The poor fellow naturally supposed that Ishouldfeel some uneasiness at hearing of the "accidents"whichhappened to persons employed by meand he thereforecommunicatedtheir deaths as though they were the deaths offriends. He would cast down his eyes and look like a manabashedand then gentlyand with a mournful gestureallowthe words"Mortosignor" to come through his lips. Idon't knowhow many of such instances occurredbut they wereseveraland besides these (as I told you before)my bankermy doctormy landlordand my magician all died of theplague. A lad who acted as a helper in the house which Ioccupiedlost a brother and a sister within a few hours. Outof my twoestablished donkey-boysone died. I did not hearof anyinstance in which a plague-stricken patient hadrecovered.
Going outone morning I met unexpectedly the scorching breathof thekamsin windand fearing that I should faint under thehorriblesensations which it causedI returned to my rooms.Reflectinghoweverthat I might have to encounter this windin theDesertwhere there would be no possibility ofavoidingitI thought it would be better to brave it oncemore inthe cityand to try whether I could really bear itor not. I therefore mounted my ass and rode to old Cairoand alongthe gardens by the banks of the Nile. The wind washot to thetouchas though it came from a furnace. It blewstronglybut yet with such perfect steadinessthat thetreesbending under its force remained fixed in the samecurveswithout perceptibly waving. The whole sky wasobscuredby a veil of yellowish greythat shut out the faceof thesun. The streets were utterly silentbeing indeedalmostentirely deserted; and not without causefor thescorchingblastwhilst it fevers the bloodcloses up thepores ofthe skinand is terribly distressingthereforetoeveryanimal that encounters it. I returned to my roomsdreadfullyill. My head ached with a burning painand mypulsebounded quick and fitfullybut perhaps (as in theinstanceof the poor Levantinewhose death I wasmentioning)the fear and excitement which I felt in tryingmy ownwrist may have made my blood flutter the faster.
It is athoroughly well believed theorythat during thecontinuanceof the plague you can't be ill of any otherfebrilemalady - an unpleasant privilege that! for ill I wasand ill offeverand I anxiously wished that the ailmentmight turnout to be anything rather than plague. I had someright tosurmise that my illness may have been merely theeffect ofthe hot wind; and this notion was encouraged by theelasticityof my spiritsand by a strong forefeeling thatmuch of mydestined life in this world was yet to comeandyet to befulfilled. That was my instinctive beliefbutwhen Icarefully weighed the probabilities on the one sideand on theotherI could not help seeing that the strengthofargument was all against me. There was a strongantecedentlikelihood in FAVOUR of my being struck by thesame blowas the rest of the people who had been dying aroundme. Besidesit occurred to me thatafter alltheuniversalopinion of the Europeans upon a medical questionsuch asthat of contagionmight probably be correctand IFIT WEREIwas so thoroughly "compromised" and especially bythe touchand breath of the dying medicothat I had no rightto expectany other fate than that which now seemed to haveovertakenme. Balancing as well as I could all theconsiderationswhich hope and fear suggestedI slowly andreluctantlycame to the conclusion thataccording to allmerelyreasonable probabilitythe plague had come upon me.
You wouldsuppose that this conviction would have induced meto write afew farewell lines to those who were dearestandthathaving done thatI should have turned my thoughtstowardsthe world to come. Suchhoweverwas not the case.I believethat the prospect of death often brings with itstronganxieties about matters of comparatively trivialimportand certainly with me the whole energy of the mindwasdirected towards the one petty object of concealing myillnessuntil the latest possible moment - until thedeliriousstage. I did not believe that either Mysseri orDthemetriwho had served me so faithfully in all trialswould havedeserted me (as most Europeans are wont to do)when theyknew that I was stricken by plaguebut I shrankfrom theidea of putting them to this testand I dreaded theconsternationwhich the knowledge of my illness would be suretooccasion.
I was veryill indeed at the moment when my dinner wasservedand my soul sickened at the sight of the food; but Ihadluckily the habit of dispensing with the attendance ofservantsduring my mealand as soon as I was left alone Imade amelancholy calculation of the quantity of food which Ishouldhave eaten if I had been in my usual healthandfilled myplates accordinglyand gave myself saltand soonasthough I were going to dine. I then transferred theviands toa piece of the omnipresent Times newspaperand hidthem awayin a cupboardfor it was not yet nightand Idared notthrow the food into the street until darkness came.I did notat all relish this process of fictitious diningbut atlength the cloth was removedand I gladly reclined onmy divan(I would not lie down) with the "Arabian Nights" inmy hand.
I had afeeling that tea would be a capital thing for mebutI wouldnot order it until the usual hour. When at last thetime cameI drank deep draughts from the fragrant cup. Theeffect wasalmost instantaneous. A plenteous sweat burstthrough myskinand watered my clothes through and through.I keptmyself thickly covered. The hot tormenting weightwhich hadbeen loading my brain was slowly heaved away. Thefever wasextinguished. I felt a new buoyancy of spiritsand anunusual activity of mind. I went into my bed under aload ofthick coveringand when the morning cameand Iaskedmyself how I wasI found that I was thoroughly well.
I was veryanxious to procureif possiblesome medicaladvice forMysseriwhose illness prevented my departure.Every oneof the European practising doctorsof whom therehad beenmanyhad either died or fled. It was saidhoweverthat there was an Englishman in the medical serviceof thePasha who quietly remained at his postbut that heneverengaged in private practice. I determined to try if Icouldobtain assistance in this quarter. I did not ventureat firstand at such a time as thisto ask him to visit aservantwho was prostrate on the bed of sicknessbutthinkingthat I might thus gain an opportunity of persuadinghim toattend MysseriI wrote a note mentioning my ownaffair ofthe sore throatand asking for the benefit of hismedicaladvice. He instantly followed back my messengerandwas atonce shown up into my room. I entreated him to standofftelling him fairly how deeply I was "compromised" andespeciallyby my contact with a person actually ill and sincedead ofplague. The generous fellowwith a good-humouredlaugh atthe terrors of the contagionistsmarched straightup to meand forcibly seized my handand shook it withmanlyviolence. I felt grateful indeedand swelled withfreshpride of race because that my countryman could carryhimself sonobly. He soon cured Mysseri as well as meandall thishe did from no other motives than the pleasure ofdoing akindness and the delight of braving a danger.
At lengththe great difficulty which I had hadin procuringbeasts formy departure was overcomeand nowtooI was tohave thenew excitement of travelling on dromedaries. Withtwo ofthese beasts and three camels I gladly wound my wayfrom outof the pest-stricken city. As I passed through thestreets Iobserved a fanatical-looking elderwho stretchedforth hisarmsand lifted up his voice in a speech whichseemed tohave some reference to me. Requiring aninterpretationI found that the man had said"The Pashaseekscamelsand he finds them not; the Englishman says`Letcamels be brought' and beholdthere they are!"
I nosooner breathed the freewholesome air of the Desertthan Ifelt that a great burden which I had been scarcelyconsciousof bearing was lifted away from my mind. Fornearlythree weeks I had lived under peril of death; theperilceasedand not till then did I know how much alarm andanxiety Ihad really been suffering.
CHAPTERXIX - THE PYRAMIDS
I WENT tosee and to explore the Pyramids.
Familiarto one from the days of early childhood are theforms ofthe Egyptian Pyramidsand nowas I approached themfrom thebanks of the NileI had no printno picture beforemeandyet the old shapes were there; there was no change;they werejust as I had always known them. I straightenedmyself inmy stirrupsand strived to persuade myunderstandingthat this was real Egyptand that those angleswhichstood up between me and the West were of harder stuffand moreancient than the paper pyramids of the greenportfolio. Yet it was not till I came to the base of thegreatPyramid that reality began to weigh upon my mind.Strange tosaythe bigness of the distinct blocks of stoneswas thefirst sign by which I attained to feel the immensityof thewhole pile. When I cameand trodand touched withmy handsand climbedin order that by climbing I might cometo the topof one single stonethenand almost suddenlyacold senseand understanding of the Pyramid's enormity camedownovercasting my brain.
Now try toendure this homelysick-nursish illustration ofthe effectproduced upon one's mind by the mere vastness ofthe greatPyramid. When I was very young (between the agesI believeof three and five years old)being then ofdelicatehealthI was often in time of night the victim of astrangekind of mental oppression. I lay in my bed perfectlyconsciousand with open eyesbut without power to speak orto moveand all the while my brain was oppressed todistractionby the presence of a single and abstract ideathe ideaof solid immensity. It seemed to me in my agoniesthat thehorror of this visitation arose from its coming uponme withoutform or shapethat the close presence of thedirestmonster ever bred in hell would have been a thousandtimes moretolerable than that simple idea of solid size. Myachingmind was fixed and riveted down upon the mere qualityofvastnessvastnessvastnessand was not permitted toinvestwith it any particular object. If I could have donesothetorment would have ceased. When at last I was rousedfrom thisstate of sufferingI could not of course in thosedays(knowing no verbal metaphysicsand no metaphysics atallexcept by the dreadful experience of an abstract idea) -I couldnot of course find words to describe the nature of mysensationsand even now I cannot explain why it is that theforcedcontemplation of a mere qualitydistinct from mattershould beso terrible. Wellnow my eyes saw and knewandmy handsand my feet informed my understanding that there wasnothing atall abstract about the great Pyramid - it was abigtrianglesufficiently concreteeasy to seeand roughto thetouch; it could notof courseaffect me with thepeculiarsensation which I have been talking ofbut yetthere wassomething akin to that old nightmare agony in theterriblecompleteness with which a mere mass of masonry couldfill andload my mind.
And Timetoo; the remoteness of its originno less than theenormityof its proportionsscreens an Egyptian Pyramid fromthe easyand familiar contact of our modern minds; at itsbase thecommon earth endsand all above is a world - onenotcreated of Godnot seeming to be made by men's handsbut ratherthe sheer giant-work of some old dismal ageweighingdown this younger planet.
Finesayings! but the truth seems to be after allthat thePyramidsare quite of this world; that they were piled upinto theair for the realisation of some kingly crotchetsaboutimmortalitysome priestly longing for burial fees; andthat asfor the buildingthey were built like coral rocks byswarms ofinsects - by swarms of poor Egyptianswho were notonly theabject tools and slaves of powerbut who also ateonions forthe reward of their immortal labours! ThePyramidsare quite of this world.
I ofcourse ascended to the summit of the great Pyramidandalsoexplored its chambersbut these I need not describe.The firsttime that I went to the Pyramids of Ghizeh therewere anumber of Arabs hanging about in its neighbourhoodandwanting to receive presents on various pretences; theirSheik waswith them. There was also present an ill-lookingfellow insoldier's uniform. This man on my departureclaimed arewardon the ground that he had maintained orderanddecorum amongst the Arabs. His claim was not consideredvalid bymy dragomanand was rejected accordingly. Mydonkey-boysafterwards said they had overhead this fellowpropose tothe Sheik to put me to death whilst I was in theinteriorof the great Pyramidand to share with him thebooty. Fancy a struggle for life in one of those burialchamberswith acres and acres of solid masonry between one'sself andthe daylight! I felt exceedingly glad that I hadnot madethe rascal a present.
I visitedthe very ancient Pyramids of Aboukir and Sakkara.There aremany of theseand of various shapes and sizesandit struckme thattaken togetherthey might be consideredas showingthe progress and perfection (such as it is) ofpyramidicalarchitecture. One of the Pyramids at Sakkara isalmost arival for the full-grown monster at Ghizeh; othersarescarcely more than vast heaps of brick and stone: theselastsuggested to me the idea that after all the Pyramid isnothingmore nor less than a variety of the sepulchral moundso commonin most countries (includingI believeHindustanfromwhence the Egyptians are supposed to have come). Menaccustomedto raise these structures for their dead kings orconquerorswould carry the usage with them in theirmigrationsbut arriving in Egyptand seeing theimpossibilityof finding earth sufficiently tenacious for amoundthey would approximate as nearly as might be to theirancientcustom by raising up a round heap of stones - inshortconical pyramids. Of these there are several atSakkaraand the materials of some are thrown togetherwithoutany order or regularity. The transition from thissimpleform to that of the square angular pyramid was easyandnaturaland it seemed to me that the gradations throughwhich thestyle passed from infancy up to its mature enormitycouldplainly be traced at Sakkara.
CHAPTERXX - THE SPHINX
AND nearthe Pyramids more wondrous and more awful than allelse inthe land of Egyptthere sits the lonely Sphinx.Comely thecreature isbut the comeliness is not of thisworld. The once worshipped beast is a deformity and amonster tothis generation; and yet you can see that thoselipssothick and heavywere fashioned according to someancientmould of beauty - some mould of beauty now forgotten-forgotten because that Greece drew forth Cytherea from theflashingfoam of the Aegeanand in her image created newforms ofbeautyand made it a law among men that the shortandproudly wreathed lip should stand for the sign and themaincondition of loveliness through all generations to come.Yet stillthere lives on the race of those who were beautifulin thefashion of the elder worldand Christian girls ofCopticblood will look on you with the sadserious gazeandkiss youyour charitable hand with the big pouting lips ofthe verySphinx.
Laugh andmock if you will at the worship of stone idolsbutmark yethisye breakers of imagesthat in one regard thestone idolbears awful semblance of Deity - unchangefulnessin themidst of change; the same seeming willand intent foreverandever inexorable! Upon ancient dynasties ofEthiopianand Egyptian kings; upon Greekand Roman; uponArab andOttoman conquerors; upon Napoleon dreaming of anEasternEmpire; upon battle and pestilence; upon theceaselessmisery of the Egyptian race; upon keen-eyedtravellers- Herodotus yesterdayand Warburton to-day: uponall andmorethis unworldly Sphinx has watchedand watchedlike aProvidence with the same earnest eyesand the samesadtranquil mien. And wewe shall dieand Islam willwitherawayand the Englishmanleaning far over to hold hislovedIndiawill plant a firm foot on the banks of the Nileand sit inthe seats of the Faithfuland still thatsleeplessrock will lie watchingand watching the works ofthe newbusy race with those same sadearnest eyesand thesametranquil mien everlasting. You dare not mock at theSphinx.
CHAPTERXXI - CAIRO TO SUEZ
THE"dromedary" of Egypt and Syria is not the two-humpedanimaldescribed by that name in books of natural historybut isinfactof the same family as the camelto which itstands inabout the same relation as a racer to a cart-horse.Thefleetness and endurance of this creature areextraordinary. It is not usual to force him into a gallopand Ifancy from his make that it would be quite impossiblefor him tomaintain that pace for any length of time; but theanimal ison so large a scalethat the jog-trot at which heisgenerally ridden implies a progress of perhaps ten ortwelvemiles an hourand this paceit is saidhe can keepupincessantlywithout foodor wateror restfor threewhole daysand nights.
Of the twodromedaries which I had obtained for this journeyI mountedone myselfand put Dthemetri on the other. Myplan wasto ride on with Dthemetri to Suez as rapidly as thefleetnessof the beasts would allowand to let Myserri (whowas stillweak from the effects of his late illness) comequietly onwith the camels and baggage.
The trotof the dromedary is a pace terribly disagreeable tothe rideruntil he becomes a little accustomed to it; butafter thefirst half-hour I so far schooled myself to thisnewexercisethat I felt capable of keeping it up (thoughnotwithout aching limbs) for several hours together. NowthereforeI was anxious to dart forwardand annihilate atonce thewhole space that divided me from the Red Sea.Dthemetrihowevercould not get on at all. Every attemptwhich hemade to trot seemed to threaten the utterdislocationof his whole frameand indeed I doubt whetherany one ofDthemetri's age (nearly fortyI think)andunaccustomedto such exercisecould have borne it at alleasily;besidesthe dromedary which fell to his lot wasevidentlya very bad one; he every now and then came to adead stopand coolly knelt downas though suggesting thatthe riderhad better get off at once and abandon the attemptas onethat was utterly hopeless.
When forthe third or fourth time I saw Dthemetri thusplantedIlost my patienceand went on without him. Forabout twohoursI thinkI advanced without once lookingbehindme. I then pausedand cast my eyes back to thewesternhorizon. There was no sign of Dthemetrinor of anyotherliving creature. This I expectedfor I knew that Imust havefar out-distanced all my followers. I had riddenaway frommy party merely by way of gratifying my impatienceand withthe intention of stopping as soon as I felt tireduntil Iwas overtaken. I now observedhowever (this I hadnot beenable to do whilst advancing so rapidly)that thetrackwhich I had been following was seemingly the track ofonly oneor two camels. I did not fear that I had divergedverylargely from the true routebut still I could not feelanyreasonable certainty that my party would follow any lineof marchwithin sight of me.
I had toconsiderthereforewhether I should remain where Iwasuponthe chance of seeing my people come upor whetherI wouldpush on aloneand find my way to Suez. I had nowlearnedthat I could not rely upon the continued guidance ofany trackbut I knew that (if maps were right) the point forwhich Iwas bound bore just due east of Cairoand I thoughtthatalthough I might miss the line leading most directly toSuezIcould not well fail to find my way sooner or later tothe RedSea. The worst of it was that I had no provision offood orwater with meand already I was beginning to feelthirst. I deliberated for a minuteand then determined thatI wouldabandon all hope of seeing my party againin theDesertand would push forward as rapidly as possible towardsSuez.
It wasnotI confesswithout a sensation of awe that Iswept withmy sight the vacant round of the horizonandrememberedthat I was all aloneand unprovisioned in themidst ofthe arid waste; but this very awe gave tone and zestto theexultation with which I felt myself launched.Hithertoin all my wanderingI had been under the care ofotherpeople - sailorsTatarsguidesand dragomen hadwatchedover my welfarebut now at last I was here in thisAfricandesertand I MYSELFAND NO OTHERHAD CHARGE OF MYLIFE. I liked the office well. I had the greasiest part ofthe daybefore mea very fair dromedarya fur pelisseanda brace ofpistolsbut no bread and no water; for that Imust ride- and ride I did.
Forseveral hours I urged forward my beast at a rapid thoughsteadypacebut now the pangs of thirst began to torment me.I did notrelax my pacehoweverand I had not suffered longwhen amoving object appeared in the distance before me. Theinterveningspace was soon traversedand I found myselfapproachinga Bedouin Arab mounted on a camelattended byanotherBedouin on foot. They stopped. I saw thatasusualthere hung from the pack-saddle of the camel a largeskinwater-flaskwhich seemed to be well filled. I steeredmydromedary close up alongside of the mounted Bedouincaused mybeast to kneel downthen alightedand keeping theend of thehalter in my handwent up to the mounted Bedouinwithoutspeakingtook hold of his water-flaskopened itand dranklong and deep from its leathern lips. Both of theBedouinsstood fast in amazement and mute horror; and reallyif theyhad never happened to see an European beforetheapparitionwas enough to startle them. To see for the firsttime acoat and a waistcoatwith the semblance of a whitehuman headat the topand for this ghastly figure to comeswiftlyout of the horizon upon a fleet dromedaryapproachthemsilently and with a demoniacal smileand drink a deepdraughtfrom their water-flask - this was enough to make theBedouinsstare a little; theyin factstared a great deal -not asEuropeans starewith a restless and puzzledexpressionof countenancebut with features all fixed andrigidandwith stillglassy eyes. Before they had time togetdecomposed from their state of petrifaction I hadremountedmy dromedaryand was darting away towards theeast.
Withoutpause or remission of pace I continued to pressforwardbut after a while I found to my confusion that theslighttrack which had hitherto guided me now failedaltogether. I began to fear that I must have been all alongfollowingthe course of some wandering Bedouinsand I feltthat ifthis were the casemy fate was a little uncertain.
I had nocompass with mebut I determined upon the easternpoint ofthe horizon as accurately as I could by reference tothe sunand so laid down for myself a way over the pathlesssands.
But now mypoor dromedaryby whose life and strength I heldmy ownbegan to show signs of distress: a thickclammyandglutinouskind of foam gathered about her lipsand piteoussobs burstfrom her bosom in the tones of human misery. Idoubtedfor a moment whether I would give her a little restarelaxation of pacebut I decided that I would notandcontinuedto push forward as steadily as before.
Thecharacter of the country became changed. I had riddenaway fromthe level tractsand before me nowand on eithersidethere were vast hills of sand and calcined rocksthatinterruptedmy progress and baffled my doubtful roadbut Idid mybest. With rapid steps I swept round the base of thehillsthreaded the winding hollowsand at lastas I rosein myswift course to the crest of a lofty ridgeThalatta!Thalatta!by Jove! I saw the sea!
My tonguecan tell where to find a clue to many an old pagancreedbecause that (distinctly from all mere admiration ofthe beautybelonging to nature's works) I acknowledge a senseofmystical reverence when first I lookto see someillustriousfeature of the globe - some coast-line of oceansomemighty river or dreary mountain rangethe ancientbarrier ofkingdoms. But the Red Sea! It might well claimmy earnestgaze by force of the great Jewish migration whichconnectsit with the history of our own religion. From thisveryridgeit is likely enoughthe panting Israelites firstsaw thatshining inlet of the sea. Ay! ay! but moreoverandbest ofallthat beckoning sea assured my eyesand provedhow well Ihad marked out the east for my pathand gave megoodpromise that sooner or later the time would come for meto restand drink. It was distantthe seabut I felt myownstrengthand I had HEARD of the strength of dromedaries.I pushedforward as eagerly as though I had spoiled theEgyptiansand were flying from Pharaoh's police.
I had notyet been able to discover any symptoms of Suezbutafter awhile I descried in the distance a largeblankisolatedbuilding. I made towards thisand in time got downto it. The building was a fortand had been built there fortheprotection of a well which it contained within itsprecincts. A cluster of small huts adhered to the fortandin a shorttime I was receiving the hospitality of theinhabitantswho were grouped upon the sands near theirhamlet. To quench the fires of my throat with about a gallonof muddywaterand to swallow a little of the food placedbefore mewas the work of few minutesand before theastonishmentof my hosts had even begun to subsideI waspursuingmy onward journey. SuezI foundwas still threehoursdistantand the sun going down in the west warned methat Imust find some other guide to keep me in the rightdirection. This guide I found in the most fickle anduncertainof the elements. For some hours the wind had beenfresheningand it now blew a violent gale; it blew notfitfullyand in squallsbut with such remarkable steadinessthat Ifelt convinced it would blow from the same quarter forseveralhours. When the sun setthereforeI carefullylooked forthe point from which the wind was blowingandfound thatit came from the very westand was blowingexactly inthe direction of my route. I had nothing to dothereforebut to go straight to leeward; and this was notdifficultfor the gale blew with such immense forcethat ifI divergedat all from its line I instantly felt the pressureof theblast on the side towards which I was deviating. Verysoon aftersunset there came on complete darknessbut thestrongwind guided me welland sped metooon my way.
I hadpushed on for aboutI thinka couple of hours afternightfallwhen I saw the glimmer of a light in the distanceand this Iventured to hope must be Suez. Upon approachingithoweverI found that it was only a solitary fortand Ipassed onwithout stopping.
On I wentstill riding down the windwhen an unluckyaccidentoccurredfor whichif you likeyou can have yourlaughagainst me. I have told you already what sort oflodging itis that you have upon the back of a camel. Youride thedromedary in the same fashion; you are perchedratherthan seated on a bunch of carpets or quilts upon thesummit ofthe hump. It happened that my dromedary veeredrathersuddenly from her onward course. Meeting themovementI mechanically turned my left wrist as though Iwereholding a bridle reinfor the complete darknesspreventedmy eyes from reminding me that I had nothing but ahalter inmy hand. The expected resistance failedfor thehalter washanging upon that side of the dromedary's necktowardswhich I was slightly leaning. I toppled overheadforemostand then went falling and falling through airtillmy crowncame whang against the ground. And the ground toowasperfectly hard (compacted sand)but the thickly waddedheadgearwhich I wore for protection against the sun saved mylife. The notion of my being able to get up again afterfallinghead-foremost from such an immense height seemed tome atfirst too paradoxical to be acted uponbut I soonfound thatI was not a bit hurt. My dromedary utterlyvanished. I looked round meand saw the glimmer of a lightin thefort which I had lately passedand I began to work myway backin that direction. The violence of the gale made ithard forme to force my way towards the westbut I succeededat last inregaining the fort. To thisas to the other fortwhich Ihad passedthere was attached a cluster of hutsandI soonfound myself surrounded by a group of villainousgloomy-lookingfellows. It was a horrid bore for me to haveto swaggerand look big at a time when I felt so particularlysmall onaccount of my tumble and my lost dromedary; butthere wasno help for it; I had no Dthemetri now to "striketerror"for me. I knew hardly one word of Arabicbutsomehow orother I contrived to announce it as my absolutewill andpleasure that these fellows should find me the meansof gainingSuez. They accededand having a donkeytheysaddled itfor meand appointed one of their number toattend meon foot.
Iafterwards found that these fellows were not ArabsbutAlgerinerefugeesand that they bore the character of beingsadscoundrels. They justified this imputation to someextent onthe following day. They allowed Mysseri with mybaggageand the camels to pass unmolestedbut an Arab ladbelongingto the party happened to lag a little way in therearandhim (if they were not maligned) these rascalsstrippedand robbed. Low indeed is the state of banditmoralitywhen men will allow the sleek traveller with well-ladencamels to pass in quietreserving their spirit ofenterprisefor the tattered turban of a miserable boy.
I reachedSuez at last. The British agentthough rousedfrom hismidnight sleepreceived me in his home with theutmostkindness and hospitality. Oh! by Jovehow delightfulit was tolie on fair sheetsand to dally with sleepand towakeandto sleepand to wake once morefor the sake ofsleepingagain!
CHAPTERXXII - SUEZ
I WAShospitably entertained by the British consulor agentas he isthere styled. He is the EMPLOYE of the East IndiaCompanyand not of the Home Government. Napoleon during hisstay offive days at Suez had been the guest of the consul'sfatherand I was told that the divan in my apartment hadbeen thebed of the great commander.
There aretwo opinions as to the point at which theIsraelitespassed the Red Sea. One isthat they traversedonly thevery small creek at the northern extremity of theinletandthat they entered the bed of the water at the spoton whichSuez now stands; the otherthat they crossed thesea from apoint eighteen miles down the coast. The Oxfordtheologianswhowith Milman their professor believethatJehovahconducted His chosen people without disturbing theorder ofnatureadopt the first viewand suppose that theIsraelitespassed during an ebb-tideaided by a violentwind. One among many objections to this supposition isthatthe timeof a single ebb would not have been sufficient forthepassage of that vast multitude of men and beastsor evenfor asmall fraction of it. Moreoverthe creek to the northof thispoint can be compassed in an hourand in two hoursyou canmake the circuit of the salt marsh over which the seamay haveextended in former times. IfthereforetheIsraelitescrossed so high up as Suezthe Egyptiansunlessinfatuatedby Divine interferencemight easily haverecoveredtheir stolen goods from the encumbered fugitives bymaking aslight detour. The opinion which fixes the point ofpassage ateighteen miles' distanceand from thence rightacross theocean depths to the eastern side of the seaissupportedby the unanimous tradition of the peoplewhetherChristiansor Mussulmansand is consistent with Holy Writ:"thewaters were a wall unto them on their right handAND ONTHEIRLEFT." The Cambridge mathematicians seem to think thattheIsraelites were enabled to pass over dry land by adoptinga routenot usually subjected to the influx of the sea. Thisnotion isplausible in a merely hydrostatical point of viewand issupposed to have been adopted by most of the FellowsofTrinitybut certainly not by Thorpwho is one of themostamiable of their number. It is difficult to reconcilethistheory with the account given in Exodusunless we cansupposethat the words "sea" and "waters" are there usedin asenseimplying dry land.
Napoleonwhen at Suez made an attempt to follow the supposedsteps ofMoses by passing the creek at this pointbut itseemsaccording to the testimony of the people at Suezthathe and hishorsemen managed the matter in a way moreresemblingthe failure of the Egyptians than the success oftheIsraelites. According to the French accountNapoleongot out ofthe difficulty by that warrior-like presence ofmind whichserved him so well when the fate of nationsdependedon the decision of a moment - he ordered hishorsemento disperse in all directionsin order to multiplythechances of finding shallow waterand was thus enabled todiscover aline by which he and his people were extricated.The storytold by the people of Suez is very different: theydeclarethat Napoleon parted from his horsegot thoroughlysubmergedand was only fished out by the assistance of thepeople onshore.
I bathedtwice at the point assigned to the passage of theIsraelitesand the second time that I did so I chose thetime oflow water and tried to walk acrossbut I soon foundmyself outof my depthor at least in water so deepthat Icould onlyadvance by swimming.
Thedromedarywhich had bolted in the Desertwas broughtinto Suezthe day after my arrivalbut my pelisse and mypistolswhich had been attached to the saddlehaddisappeared. These articles were treasures of greatimportanceto me at that timeand I moved the Governor ofthe townto make all possible exertions for their recovery.He accededto my wishes as well as he couldand veryobliginglyimprisoned the first seven poor fellows he couldlay hishands on.
At firstthe Governor acted in the matter from no othermotivethan that of courtesy to an English travellerbutafterwardsand when he saw the value which I set upon thelostpropertyhe pushed his measures with a degree ofalacrityand heatwhich seemed to show that he felt apersonalinterest in the matter. It was supposed either thatheexpected a large present in the event of succeedingorthat hewas striving by all means to trace the propertyinorder thathe might lay his hands on it after my departure.
I went outsailing for some hoursand when I returned I washorrifiedto find that two men had been bastinadoed by orderof theGovernorwith a view to force them to a confession oftheirtheft. It appearedhoweverthat there really wasgoodground for supposing them guiltysince one of theholsterswas actually found in their possession. It was saidtoo (but Icould hardly believe it)that whilst one of themen wasundergoing the bastinadohis comrade was overheardencouraginghim to bear the torment without peaching. Bothmenifthey had the secretwere resolute in keeping itandwere sentback to their dungeon. I of course took care thatthereshould be no repetition of the tortureat least solong as Iremained at Suez.
TheGovernor was a thorough Orientaland until acomparativelyrecent period had shared in the old Mahometanfeeling ofcontempt for Europeans. It happened howeveroneday thatan English gun-brig had appeared off Suezand senther boatsashore to take in fresh water. Now fresh water atSuez is asomewhat scarce and precious commodity: it is keptin tanksthe chief of which is at some distance from theplace. Under these circumstances the request for fresh waterwasrefusedor at all eventswas not complied with. Thecaptain ofthe brig was a simple-minded man with a strongishwillandhe at once declared that if his casks were notfilled inthree hourshe would destroy the whole place. "Agreatpeople indeed!" said the Governor; "a wonderful peopletheEnglish!" He instantly caused every cask to be filled tothe brimfrom his own tankand ever afterwards entertainedfor theEnglish a degree of affection and respectfor whichI feltinfinitely indebted to the gallant captain.
The dayafter the abortive attempt to extract a confessionfrom theprisonersthe Governorthe consuland I sat incouncilIknow not how longwith a view of prosecuting thesearch forthe stolen goods. The sittingconsidered in thelight of acriminal investigationwas characteristic of theEast. The proceedings began as a matter of course by theprosecutor'ssmoking a pipe and drinking coffee with theGovernorwho was judgejuryand sheriff. I got on verywell withhim (this was not my first interview)and he gaveme thepipe from his lips in testimony of his friendship. Irecollecthoweverthat my prime adviserthinking meIsupposeagreat deal too shy and retiring in my mannerentreatedme to put up my boots and to soil the Governor'sdivaninorder to inspire respect and strike terror. Ithought itwould be as well for me to retain the right ofrespectingmyselfand that it was not quite necessary for awell-receivedguest to strike any terror at all.
Ourdeliberations were assisted by the numerous attendantswho linedthe three sides of the room not occupied by thedivan. Any one of these who took it into his head to offer asuggestionwould stand forward and humble himself before theGovernorand then state his views; every man thus givingcounselwas listened to with some attention.
After agreat deal of fruitless planning the Governordirectedthat the prisoners should be brought in. I wasshockedwhen they enteredfor I was not prepared to see themcomeCARRIED into the room upon the shoulders of others. Ithad notoccurred to me that their battered feet would be toosore tobear the contact of the floor. They persisted inassertingtheir innocence. The Governor wanted to recur tothetorturebut that I preventedand the men were carriedback totheir dungeon.
A schemewas now suggested by one of the attendants whichseemed tome childishly absurdbut it was neverthelesstried. The plan was to send a man to the prisonerswho wasto makethem believe that he had obtained entrance into theirdungeonupon some other pretencebut that he had in realitycome totreat with them for the purchase of the stolen goods.Thisshallow expedient of course failed.
TheGovernor himself had not nominally the power of life anddeath overthe people in his districtbut he could if hechose sendthem to Cairoand have them hanged there. Iproposedthereforethat the prisoners should be threatenedwith thisfate. The answer of the Governor made me feelratherashamed of my effeminate suggestion. He said that ifI wishedit he would willingly threaten them with deathbuthe alsosaid that if he threatenedHE SHOULD EXECUTE THETHREAT.
Thinkingat last that nothing was to be gained by keeping theprisonersany longer in confinementI requested that theymight beset free. To this the Governor accededthoughonlyashe saidout of favour to mefor he had a strongimpressionthat the men were guilty. I went down to see theprisonerslet out with my own eyes. They were very gratefuland felldown to the earthkissing my boots. I gave them apresent toconsole them for their woundsand they seemed tobe highlydelighted.
Althoughthe matter terminated in a manner so satisfactory totheprincipal sufferersthere were symptoms of some angryexcitementin the place: it was said that public opinion wasmuchshocked at the fact that Mahometans had been beaten onaccount ofa loss sustained by a Christian. My journey wastorecommence the next dayand it was hinted that if Ipreserveredin my intention of proceedingthe people wouldhave aneasy and profitable opportunity of wreaking theirvengeanceon me. If ever they formed any scheme of the kindthey atall events refrained from any attempt to carry itintoeffect.
One of theevenings during my stay at Suez was enlivened by atriplewedding. There was a long and slow procession. Somecarriedtorchesand others were thumping drums and firingpistols. The bridegrooms came lastall walking abreast. Myonlyreason for mentioning the ceremony (which was otherwiseuninteresting)isthat I scarcely ever in all my life sawanyphenomena so ridiculous as the meekness and gravity ofthosethree young men whilst being "led to the altar."
CHAPTERXXIII - SUEZ TO GAZA
THE routeover the Desert from Suez to Gaza is not frequentedbymerchantsand is seldom passed by a traveller. This partof thecountry is less uniformly barren than the tracts ofshiftingsand that lie on the El Arish route. The shrubs onwhich thecamel feeds are more frequentand in many spotsthe sandis mingled with so much of productive soilas toadmit thegrowth of corn. The Bedouins are driven out ofthisdistrict during the summer by the total want of waterbut beforethe time for their forced departure arrives theysucceed inraising little crops of barley from thesecomparativelyfertile patches of ground. They bury the fruitof theirlaboursleaving marks by whichupon their returnthey maybe able to recognise the spot. The warmdry sandstandsthem for a safe granary. The country at the time Ipassed it(in the month of April) was pretty thicklysprinkledwith Bedouins expecting their harvest. Severaltimes mytent was pitched alongside of their encampments. Ihave toldyou already what the impressions were which thesepeopleproduced upon my mind.
I sawseveral creatures of the antelope kind in this part oftheDesertand one day my Arabs surprised in her sleep ayounggazelle (for so I called her)and took the darlingprisoner. I carried her before me on my camel for the restof thedayand kept her in my tent all night. I did all Icould tocoax herbut the trembling beauty refused to touchfoodandwould not be comforted. Whenever she had a seemingopportunityof escaping she struggled with a violence sopainfullydisproportioned to her finedelicate limbsthat Icould notcontinue the cruel attempt to make her my own. InthemorningthereforeI set her freeanticipating somepleasurefrom seeing the joyous bound with whichas Ithoughtshe would return to her native freedom. She hadbeen sostupefiedhoweverby the exciting events of theprecedingday and nightand was so puzzled as to the roadshe shouldtakethat she went off very deliberatelyandwith anuncertain step. She went away quite sound in limbbut herintellect may have been upset. Never in alllikelihoodhad she seen the form of a human being until thedreadfulmoment when she woke from her sleep and foundherself inthe grip of an Arab. Then her pitching andtossingjourney on the back of a cameland lastlya SOIREEwith me bycandlelight! I should have been glad to knowifI couldthat her heart was not utterly broken.
My Arabswere somewhat excited one day by discovering thefreshprint of a foot - the footas they saidof a lion. Ihad noconception that the lord of the forest (better knownas acrest) ever stalked away from his jungles to makeingloriouswar in these smooth plains against antelopes andgazelles. I supposed that there must have been some error ofinterpretationand that the Arabs meant to speak of a tiger.Itappearedhoweverthat this was not the case. Either theArabs weremistakenor the noble bruteuncooped andunchainedhad but lately crossed my path.
The camelswith which I traversed this part of the Desertwere verydifferent in their ways and habits from those thatyou get ona frequented route. They were never led. Therewas notthe slightest sign of a track in this part of theDesertbut the camels never failed to choose the right line.By thedirection taken at starting they knewI supposethepoint(some encampment) for which they were to make. Thereis alwaysa leading camel (generallyI believethe eldest)whomarches foremostand determines the path for the wholeparty. If it happens that no one of the camels has beenaccustomedto lead the othersthere is very great difficultyin makinga start. If you force your beast forward for amomenthewill contrive to wheel and draw backat the sametimelooking at one of the other camels with an expressionandgesture exactly equivalent to APRES VOUS. Theresponsibilityof finding the way is evidently assumed veryunwillingly. After some timehoweverit becomes understoodthat oneof the beasts has reluctantly consented to take theleadandhe accordingly advances for that purpose. For aminute ortwo he goes on with much indecisiontaking firstone lineand then anotherbut soon by the aid of somemysterioussense he discovers the true directionand followsitsteadily from morning to night. When once the leadershipisestablishedyou cannot by any persuasionand canscarcelyby any forceinduce a junior camel to walk onesinglestep in advance of the chosen guide.
On thefifth day I came to an oasiscalled the Wady elArisharavineor rather a gullythrough which during apart ofthe year there runs a stream of water. On the sidesof thegully there were a number of those graceful treeswhich theArabs call TARFA. The channel of the stream wasquite dryin the part at which we arrivedbut at about halfa mile offsome water was foundwhichthough very muddywastolerably sweet. This was a happy discoveryfor all thewater thatwe had brought from the neighbourhood of Suez wasrapidlyputrefying.
The wantof foresight is an anomalous part of the Bedouin'scharacterfor it does not result either from recklessness orstupidity. I know of no human being whose body is sothoroughlythe slave of mind as that of the Arab. His mentalanxietiesseem to be for ever torturing every nerve and fibreof hisbodyand yet with all this exquisite sensitiveness tothesuggestions of the mindhe is grossly improvident. Irecollectfor instancethat when setting out upon thispassage ofthe Desert my Arabsin order to lighten theburthen oftheir camelswere most anxious that we shouldtake withus only two days' supply of water. They said thatby thetime that supply was exhausted we should arrive at aspringwhich would furnish us for the rest of the journey.Myservants very wiselyand with much pertinacityresistedtheadoption of this planand took care to have both thelargeskins well filled. We proceeded and found no water atalleither at the expected spring or for many daysafterwardsso that nothing but the precaution of my ownpeoplesaved us from the very severe suffering which weshouldhave endured if we had entered upon the Desert withonly a twodays' supply. The Arabs themselves being on footwould havesuffered much more than I from the consequences oftheirimprovidence.
Thisunaccountable want of foresight prevents the Bedouinfromappreciating at a distance of eight or ten days theamount ofthe misery which he entails upon himself at the endof thatperiod. His dread of a city is one of the mostpainfulmental affections that I have ever observedand yetwhen thewhole breadth of the Desert lies between him and thetown towhich you are goinghe will freely enter into anagreementto LAND you in the city for which you are bound.Whenhoweverafter many a day of toil the distant minaretsat lengthappearthe poor Bedouin relaxes the vigour of hispacehissteps become faltering and undecidedevery momenthisuneasiness increasesand at length he fairly sobs aloudandembracing your kneesimplores with the most piteouscries andgestures that you will dispense with him and hiscamelsand find some other means of entering the city.Thisofcourseone can't agree toand the consequence isthat oneis obliged to witness and resist the most movingexpressionsof grief and fond entreaty. I had to go througha mostpainful scene of this kind when I entered Cairoandnow thehorror which these wilder Arabs felt at the notion ofenteringGaza led to consequences still more distressing.The dreadof cities results partly from a kind of wildinstinctwhich has always characterised the descendants ofIshmaelbut partly too from a well-founded apprehension ofill-treatment. So often it happens that the poor Bedouinwhen oncejammed in between wallsis seized by theGovernmentauthorities for the sake of his camelsthat hisinnatehorror of cities becomes really justified by results.
TheBedouins with whom I performed this journey were wildfellows ofthe Desertquite unaccustomed to let outthemselvesor their beasts for hireand when they found thatby thenatural ascendency of Europeans they were graduallybroughtdown to a state of subserviency to meor rather tomyattendantsthey bitterly repentedI believeof havingplacedthemselves under our control. They were ratherdifficultfellows to manageand gave Dthemetri a good dealoftroublebut I liked them all the better for that.
Selimthechief of the partyand the man to whom all ourcamelsbelongedwas a finesavagestately fellow. TherewereIthinkfive other Arabs of the partybut when weapproachedthe end of the journey they one by one began tomake offtowards the neighbouring encampmentsand by thetime thatthe minarets of Gaza were in sightSelimtheowner ofthe camelswas the only one who remained. Hepoorfellowaswe neared the town began to discover the sameterrorsthat my Arabs had shown when I entered Cairo. Icould notpossibly accede to his entreaties and consent tolet mybaggage be laid down on the bare sandswithout anymeans ofhaving it brought on into the city. So at lengthwhen poorSelim had exhausted all his rhetoric of voice andaction andtearshe fixed his despairing eyes for a minuteupon thecherished beasts that were his only wealthand thensuddenlyand madly dashed away into the farther Desert. Icontinuedmy course and reached the city at lastbut it wasnotwithout immense difficulty that we could constrain thepoorcamels to pass under the hated shadow of its walls.They werethe genuine beasts of the Desertand it was sadandpainful to witness the agony they suffered when thus theywereforced to encounter the fixed habitations of men. Theyshrankfrom the beginning of every high narrow street asthoughfrom the entrance of some horrible cave or bottomlesspit; theysighed and wept like women. When at last we gotthemwithin the courtyard of the khan they seemed to be quitebroken-heartedand looked round piteously for their lovingmaster;but no Selim came. I had imagined that he wouldenter thetown secretly by night in order to carry off thosefive finecamelshis only wealth in this worldandseeminglythe main objects of his affection. But no; hisdread ofcivilisation was too strong. During the whole ofthe threedays that I remained at Gaza he failed to showhimselfand thus sacrificed in all probability not only hiscamelsbut the money which I had stipulated to pay him forthepassage of the Desert. In orderhoweverto do all Icouldtowards saving him from this last misfortune I resortedto acontrivance frequently adopted by the Asiatics: Iassembleda group of grave and worthy Mussulmans in thecourtyardof the khanand in their presence paid over thegold to aSheik who was accustomed to communicate with theArabs ofthe Desert. All present solemnly promised that ifever Selimshould come to claim his rightsthey would beartruewitness in his favour.
I saw agreat deal of my old friend the Governor of Gaza. Hehadreceived orders to send back all persons coming fromEgyptandforce them to perform quarantine at El Arish. Heknew solittle of quarantine regulationshoweverthat hisdress wasactually in contact with mine whilst he insistedupon thestringency of the orders which he had received. Hewasinduced to make an exception in my favourand I rewardedhim with amusical snuffbox which I had bought at Smyrna forthepurpose of presenting it to any man in authority whomighthappen to do me an important service. The Governor wasdelightedwith his toyand took it off to his harem withgreatexultation. He soonhoweverreturned with an alteredcountenance;his wiveshe saidhad got hold of the box andput it outof order. So shortlived is human happiness inthis frailworld!
TheGovernor fancied that he should incur less risk ifremainedat Gaza for two or three days moreand he wanted meto becomehis guest. I persuaded himhoweverthat it wouldbe betterfor him to let me depart at once. He wanted to addto mybaggage a roast lamb and a quantity of other cumbrousviandsbut I escaped with half a horse-load of leaven breadwhich wasvery good of its kindand proved a most usefulpresent. The air with which the Governor's slaves affectedto bealmost breaking down under the weight of the giftswhich theybore on their shouldersreminded me of thefiguresone sees in some of the old pictures.
CHAPTERXXIV - GAZA TO NABLUS
PASSINGnow once again through Palestine and Syria I retainedthe tentwhich I had used in the Desertand found that itadded verymuch to my comfort in travelling. Instead ofturningout a family from some wretched dwellinganddeprivingthem of a repose which I was sure not to find formyselfInowwhen evening camepitched my tent upon somesmilingspot within a few hundred yards of the village towhich Ilooked for my suppliesthat isfor milk and breadif I hadit not with meand sometimes also for eggs. Theworst ofit isthat the needful viands are not to beobtainedby coinbut only by intimidation. I at first triedthe usualagentmoney. Dthemetriwith one or two of myArabswent into the village near which I was encamped andtried tobuy the required provisionsoffering liberalpaymentbut he came back empty-handed. I sent him againbut thistime he held different language. He required to seethe eldersof the placeand threatening dreadful vengeancedirectedthem upon their responsibility to take care that mytentshould be immediately and abundantly supplied. He wasobeyed atonceand the provisions refused to me as apurchasersoon arrivedtrebled or quadrupledwhen demandedby way ofa forced contribution. I quickly found (I think itrequiredtwo experiments to convince me) that this peremptorymethod wasthe only one which could be adopted with success.It neverfailed. Of coursehoweverwhen the provisionshave beenactually obtained you canif you choosegivemoneyexceeding the value of the provisions to SOMEBODY. AnEnglishathoroughbred Englishtraveller will always dothis(though it is contrary to the custom of the country) forthe quiet(false quiet though it be) of his own consciencebut so toorder the matter that the poor fellows who havebeenforced to contribute should be the persons to receivethe valueof their suppliesis not possible. For atravellerto attempt anything so grossly just as that wouldbe toooutrageous. The truth isthat the usage of the Eastin oldtimesrequired the people of the villageat theirown costto supply the wants of travellersand the ancientcustom isnow adhered tonot in favour of travellersgenerallybut in favour of those who are deemed sufficientlypowerfulto enforce its observance. If the villagersthereforefind a man waiving this right to oppress themandofferingcoin for that which he is entitled to take withoutpaymentthey suppose at once that he is actuated by fear(fear ofTHEMpoor fellows!)and it is so delightful tothem toact upon this flattering assumptionthat they willforego theadvantage of a good price for their provisionsratherthan the rare luxury of refusing for once in theirlives topart with their own possessions.
Thepractice of intimidation thus rendered necessary isutterlyhateful to an Englishman. He finds himself forced toconquerhis daily bread by the pompous threats of thedragomanhis very subsistenceas well as his dignity andpersonalsafetybeing made to depend upon his servant'sassuming atone of authority which does not at all belong tohim. Besideshe can scarcely fail to see that as he passesthroughthe country he becomes the innocent cause of muchextrainjusticemany supernumerary wrongs. This he feels tobeespecially the case when he travels with relays. To bethe ownerof a horse or a mule within reach of an Asiaticpotentateis to lead the life of the hare and the rabbithunteddown and ferreted out. Too often it happens that theworks ofthe field are stopped in the daytimethat theinmates ofthe cottage are roused from their midnight sleepby thesudden coming of a Government officerand the poorhusbandmandriven by threats and rewarded by cursesif hewould notlose sight for ever of his captured beastsmustquit alland follow them. This is done that the Englishmanmaytravel. He would make his way more harmless if he couldbut horsesor mules he MUST haveand these are his ways andmeans.
The townof Nablus is beautiful; it lies in a valley hemmedin witholive grovesand its buildings are interspersed withfrequentpalm-trees. It is said to occupy the site of theancientSychem. I know not whether it was there indeed thatthe fatherof the Jews was accustomed to feed his flocksbutthe valleyis green and smilingand is held at this day by arace morebrave and beautiful than Jacob's unhappydescendants.
Nablus isthe very furnace of Mahometan bigotry; and Ibelievethat only a few months before the time of my goingthere itwould have been quite unsafe for a manunlessstronglyguardedto show himself to the people of the townin a Frankcostume; but since their last insurrection theMahometansof the place had been so far subdued by theseverityof Ibrahim Pashathat they dared not now offer theslightestinsult to an European. It was quite plainhoweverthat the effort with which the men of the old schoolrefrainedfrom expressing their opinion of a hat and a coatwashorribly painful to them. As I walked through thestreetsand bazaars a dead silence prevailed; every mansuspendedhis employmentand gazed on me with a fixedglassylookwhich seemed to say"God is goodbut howmarvellousand inscrutable are His ways that thus He permitsthiswhite-faced dog of a Christian to hunt through the pathsof thefaithful."
Theinsurrection of these people had been more formidablethan anyother that Ibrahim Pasha had to contend with. Hewas onlyable to crush them at last by the assistance of afellowrenowned for his resources in the way of stratagem andcunningas well as for his knowledge of the country. Thispersonagewas no other than Aboo Goosh ("the father oflies" )who was taken out of prison for the purpose. The"fatherof lies" enabled Ibrahim to hem in the insurrectionandextinguish it. He was rewarded with the Governorship ofJerusalemwhich he held when I was there. I recollectby-the-byethat he tried one of his stratagems upon me. I didnot go tosee himas I ought in courtesy to have doneduring mystay at Jerusalem; but I happened to be the ownerof arather handsome amber TCHIBOUQUE piecewhich theGovernorheard ofand by some means contrived to see. Hesent tomeand dressed up a statement that he would give mea priceimmensely exceeding the sum which I had given for it.He did notadd my TCHIBOUQUE to the rest of his trophies.
There wasa small number of Greek Christians resident inNablusand over these the Mussulmans held a high handnotevenpermitting them to speak to each other in the openstreets;but if the Moslems thus set themselves above thepoorChristians of the placeIor rather my servantssoontook theascendant over THEM. I recollect that just as wewerestarting from the placeand at a time when a number ofpeople hadgathered together in the main street to see ourpreparationsMysseribeing provoked at some piece ofperversenesson the part of a true believercoolly thrashedhim withhis horsewhip before the assembled crowd offanatics. I was much annoyed at the timefor I thought thatthe peoplewould probably rise against us. They turnedratherpalebut stood still.
The day ofmy arrival at Nablus was a fete - the new-year'sdayof the Mussulmans. Most of the people were amusingthemselvesin the beautiful lawns and shady groves withoutthe city. The men (except myself) were all remotely apartfrom theother sex. The women in groups were divertingthemselvesand their children with swings. They were sohandsomethat they could not keep up their yashmaks. Ibelievethat they had never before looked upon a man in theEuropeandressand when they now saw in me that strangephenomenonand sawtoohow they could please the creatureby showinghim a glimpse of beautythey seemed to think itwas betterfun to do this than to go on playing with swings.It wasalwayshoweverwith a sort of zoological expressionofcountenance that they looked on the horrible monster fromEuropeand whenever one of them gave me to see for one sweetinstantthe blushing of her unveiled faceit was with thesame kindof air as that with which a youngtimid girl willedge herway up to an elephant and tremblingly give him a nutfrom thetips of her rosy fingers.
CHAPTERXXV - MARIAM
THERE isno spirit of propagandism in the Mussulmans of theOttomandominions. True it is that a prisoner of waror aChristiancondemned to deathmay on some occasions save hislife byadopting the religion of Mahometbut instances ofthis kindare now exceedingly rareand are quite at variancewith thegeneral system. Many EuropeansI thinkwould besurprisedto learn that which is nevertheless quite truenamelythat an attempt to disturb the religious repose ofthe empireby the conversion of a Christian to the Mahometanfaith ispositively illegal. The event which now I am goingto mentionshows plainly enough that the unlawfulness of suchinterferenceis distinctly recognised even in the mostbigotedstronghold of Islam.
During mystay at Nablus I took up my quarters at the houseof theGreek "papa" as he is calledthat isthe Greekpriest. The priest himself had gone to Jerusalem upon thebusiness Iam going to tell you ofbut his wife remained atNablusand did the honours of her home.
Soon aftermy arrival a deputation from the Greek Christiansof theplace came to request my interference in a matterwhich hadoccasioned vast excitement.
And now Imust tell you how it came to happenas it didcontinuallythat people thought it worth while to claim theassistanceof a mere travellerwho was totally devoid of alljustpretensions to authority or influence of even thehumblestdescriptionand especially I must explain to youhow it wasthat the power thus attributed did really belongto meorrather to my dragoman. Successive politicalconvulsionshad at length fairly loosed the people of Syriafrom theirformer rules of conductand from all their oldhabits ofreliance. The violence and success with whichMehemetAli crushed the insurrection of the Mahometanpopulationhad utterly beaten down the head of Islamandextinguishedfor the time at leastthose virtues and viceswhich hadsprung from the Mahometan faith. Success socompleteas Mehemet Ali'sif it had been attained by anordinaryAsiatic potentatewould have induced a notion ofstability. The readily bowing mind of the Oriental wouldhave bowedlow and long under the feet of a conqueror whomGod hadthus strengthened. But Syria was no field forcontestsstrictly Asiatic. Europe was involvedand thoughthe heavymasses of Egyptian troopsclinging with stronggrip tothe landmight seem to hold it fastyet everypeasantpractically feltand knewthat in Vienna orPetersburgor London there were four or five pale-looking menwho couldpull down the star of the Pasha with shreds ofpaper andink. The people of the country knewtoothatMehemetAli was strong with the strength of the Europeans -strong byhis French generalhis French tacticsand hisEnglishengines. Moreoverthey saw that the personthepropertyand even the dignity of the humblest European wasguardedwith the most careful solicitude. The consequence ofall thiswasthat the people of Syria looked vaguelybutconfidentlyto Europe for fresh changes. Many would fixupon somenationFrance or Englandand steadfastly regardit as thearriving sovereign of Syria. Those whose mindsremainedin doubt equally contributed to this new state ofpublicopinionwhich no longer depended upon religion andancienthabitsbut upon bare hopes and fears. Every manwanted toknownot who was his neighbourbut who was to behis ruler;whose feet he was to kissand by whom HIS feetwere to beultimately beaten. Treat your friendsays theproverbas though he were one day to become your enemyandyour enemyas though he were one day to become your friend.TheSyrians went furtherand seemed inclined to treat everystrangeras though he might one day become their Pasha. Suchwas thestate of circumstances and of feeling which now forthe firsttime had thoroughly opened the mind of Western Asiafor thereception of Europeans and European ideas. Thecredit ofthe English especially was so greatthat a goodMussulmanflying from the conscriptionor any otherpersecutionwould come to seek from the formerly despisedhat thatprotection which the turban could no longer afford;and a manhigh in authority (asfor instancethe Governorin commandof Gaza) would think that he had won a prizeorat alleventsa valuable lottery ticketif he obtained awrittenapproval of his conduct from a simple traveller.
Stillinorder that any immediate result should follow fromall thisunwonted readiness in the Asiatic to succumb to theEuropeanit was necessary that some one should be at handwho couldsee and would push the advantage. I myself hadneitherthe inclination nor the power to do sobut ithappenedthat Dthemetriwho as my dragoman represented me onalloccasionswas the very person of all others best fittedto availhimself with success of this yielding tendency intheOriental mind. If the chance of birth and fortune hadmade poorDthemetri a tailor during some part of his lifeyetreligion and the literature of the Church which he servedhad madehim a manand a brave man too. The lives of saintswith whichhe was familiar were full of heroic actionsprovokingimitationand since faith in a creed involves afaith inits ultimate triumphDthemetri was bold from asense oftrue strength. His education toothough not verygeneral inits characterhad been carried quite far enoughto justifyhim in pluming himself upon a very decidedadvantageover the great bulk of the Mahometan populationincludingthe men in authority. With all this consciousnessofreligious and intellectual superiority Dthemetri had livedfor themost part in countries lying under Mussulmangovernmentsand had witnessed (perhaps too had sufferedfrom)their revolting cruelties: the result was that heabhorredand despised the Mahometan faith and all who clungto it. And this hate was not of the drydulland inactivesort. Dthemetri was in his sphere a true Crusaderandwheneverthere appeared a fair opening in the defences ofIslamhewas ready and eager to make the assault. Thesesentimentsbacked by a consciousness of understanding thepeoplewith whom he had to domade Dthemetri not only firmandresolute in his constant interviews with men inauthoritybut sometimes also (as you may know already) veryviolentand even insulting. This tonewhich I alwaysdislikedthough I was fain to profit by itinvariablysucceeded. It swept away all resistance; there was nothingin thethen depressed and succumbing mind of the Mussulmanthat couldoppose a zeal so warm and fierce.
As for meI of course stood aloof from Dthemetri's crusadesand didnot even render him any active assistance when he wasstriving(as he almost always waspoor fellow) on my behalf;I was onlythe death's head and white sheet with which hescared theenemy. I thinkhoweverthat I played thisspectralpart exceedingly wellfor I seldom appeared at allin anydiscussionand whenever I didI was sure to be whiteand calm.
The eventwhich induced the Christians of Nablus to seek formyassistance was this. A beautiful young Christianbetweenfifteenand sixteen years oldhad lately been married to aman of herown creed. About the same time (probably on theoccasionof her wedding) she was accidentally seen by aMussulmanSheik of great wealth and local influencewhoinstantlybecame madly enamoured of her. The strict moralitywhich sogenerally prevails where the Mussulmans havecompleteascendency prevented the Sheik from entertaining anysuchsinful hopes as an European might have ventured tocherishunder the like circumstancesand he saw no chance ofgratifyinghis love except by inducing the girl to embracehis owncreed. If he could induce her to take this stephermarriagewith the Christian would be dissolvedand thentherewould be nothing to prevent him from making her thelast andbrightest of his wives. The Sheik was a practicalmanandquickly began his attack upon the theologicalopinionsof the bride. He did not assail her with theeloquenceof any imaums or Mussulman saints; he did not pressupon herthe eternal truths of the "Cow" or the beautifulmoralityof "the Table"; he sent her no tractsnot even acopy ofthe holy Koran. An old woman acted as missionary.Shebrought with her a whole basketful of arguments - jewelsand shawlsand scarfs and all kinds of persuasive finery.PoorMariam! she put on the jewels and took a calm view oftheMahometan religion in a little hand-mirror; she could notbe deaf tosuch eloquent earringsand the great truths ofIslam camehome to her young bosom in the delicate folds ofthecashmere; she was ready to abandon her faith.
The Sheikknew very well that his attempt to convert aninfidelwas illegaland that his proceedings would not bearinvestigationso he took care to pay a large sum to theGovernorof Nablus in order to obtain his connivance.
At lengthMariam quitted her home and placed herself undertheprotection of the Mahometan authoritieswhohoweverrefrainedfrom delivering her into the arms of her loveranddetainedher in a mosque until the fact of her realconversion(which had been indignantly denied by herrelatives)should be established. For two or three days themother ofthe young convert was prevented from communicatingwith herchild by various evasive contrivancesbut notitwouldseemby a flat refusal. At length it was announcedthat theyoung lady's profession of faith might be heard fromher ownlips. At an hour appointed the friends of the Sheikand therelatives of the damsel met in the mosque. The youngconvertaddressed her mother in a loud voiceand said"Godis Godand Mahomet is the Prophet of Godand thouoh mymotherart an infidelfeminine dog!"
You wouldsuppose that this declarationso clearly enouncedand thattooin a place where Mahometanism is perhaps moresupremethan in any other part of the empirewould havesufficedto have confirmed the pretensions of the lover.Thishoweverwas not the case. The Greek priest of theplace wasdespatched on a mission to the Governor ofJerusalem(Aboo Goosh)in order to complain against theproceedingsof the Sheik and obtain a restitution of thebride. Meanwhile the Mahometan authorities at Nablus were soconsciousof having acted unlawfully in conspiring to disturbthe faithof the beautiful infidelthat they hesitated totake anyfurther stepsand the girl was still detained inthemosque.
Thusmatters stood when the Christians of the place came andsought toobtain my assistance.
I felt(with regret) that I had no personal interest in thematterand I also thought that there was no pretence for myinterferingwith the conflicting claims of the Christianhusbandand the Mahometan loverand I therefore declined totake anystep.
Myspeaking of the husbandby-the-byereminds me that hewasextremely backward about the great work of recovering hisyouthfulbride. The relations of the girlwho feltthemselvesdisgraced by her conductwere vehement andexcited toa high pitchbut the Menelaus of Nablus wasexceedinglycalm and composed.
The factthat it was not technically my duty to interfere ina matterof this kind was a very sufficientand yet a veryunsatisfactoryreason for my refusal of all assistance.Until youare placed in situations of this kind you canhardlytell how painful it is to refrain from intermeddlingin otherpeople's affairs - to refrain from intermeddlingwhen youfeel that you can do so with happy effectand canremove aload of distress by the use of a few small phrases.Upon thisoccasionhoweveran expression fell from one ofthe girl'skinsmen which not only determined me against theidea ofinterferingbut made me hope that all attempts torecoverthe proselyte would fail. This personspeaking withthe mostsavage bitternessand with the cordial approval ofall theother relativessaid that the girl ought to bebeaten todeath. I could not fail to see that if the poorchild wereever restored to her family she would be treatedwith themost frightful barbarity. I heartily wishedthereforethat the Mussulmans might be firmand preservetheiryoung prize from any fate so dreadful as that of areturn toher own relations.
The nextday the Greek priest returned from his mission toAbooGooshbut the "father of lies" it would seemhad beenwell pliedwith the gold of the enamoured Sheikandcontrivedto put off the prayers of the Christians by cunningfeints. Nowthereforea second and more numerousdeputationthan the first waited upon meand implored myinterventionwith the Governor. I informed the assembledChristiansthat since their last application I had carefullyconsideredthe matter. The religious question I thoughtmight beput aside at oncefor the excessive levity whichthe girlhad displayed proved clearly that in adoptingMahometanismshe was not quitting any other faith. Her mindmust havebeen thoroughly blank upon religious questionsandshe wasnotthereforeto be treated as a Christian that hadstrayedfrom the flockbut rather as a child without anyreligionat allwho was willing to conform to the usages ofthose whowould deck her with jewelsand clothe her withcashmereshawls.
So muchfor the religious part of the question. Wellthenin amerely temporal senseit appeared to me that (lookingmerely tothe interests of the damselfor I rather unjustlyput poorMenelaus quite out of the question) the advantageswere allon the side of the Mahometan match. The Sheik wasin a muchhigher station of life than the superseded husbandand hadgiven the best possible proof of his ardent affectionby thesacrifices he had madeand the risks he had incurredfor thesake of the beloved object. Ithereforestatedfairlytothe horror and amazement of all my hearersthatthe Sheikin my viewwas likely to make a most capitalhusbandand that I entirely "approved of the match."
I leftNablus under the impression that Mariam would soon bedeliveredto her Mussulman lover. I afterwards foundhoweverthat the result was very different. Dthemetri'sreligiouszeal and hate had been so much excited by theaccount ofthese eventsand by the grief and mortificationof hisco-religioniststhat when he found me firmlydeterminedto decline all interference in the matterhesecretlyappealed to the Governor in my nameand (usingIsupposemany violent threatsand telling no doubt many liesabout mystation and influence) extorted a promise that theproselyteshould be restored to her relatives. I did notunderstandthat the girl had been actually given up whilst Iremainedat Nablusbut Dthemetri certainly did not desistfrom hisinstances until he had satisfied himself by somemeans orother (for mere words amounted to nothing) that thepromisewould be actually performed. It was not till I hadquittedSyriaand when Dthemetri was no longer in myservicethat this villainousthough well-motived trickofhis cameto my knowledge. Mysseriwho had informed me ofthe stepwhich had been takendid not know it himself untilsome timeafter we had quitted Nabluswhen Dthemetriexultinglyconfessed his successful enterprise. I know notwhetherthe engagement which my zealous dragoman extortedfrom theGovernor was ever complied with. I shudder to thinkof thefate which must have befallen poor Mariam if she fellinto thehands of the Christians.
CHAPTERXXVI - THE PROPHET DAMOOR
FOR somehours I passed along the shores of the fair lake ofGalilee;then turning a little to the west-wardI struckinto amountainous tractand as I advanced thenceforwardthe lie ofthe country kept growing more and more bold. Atlength Idrew near to the city of Safed. It sits as proud asa fortressupon the summit of a craggy height; yet because ofitsminarets and stately treesthe place looks happy andbeautiful. It is one of the holy cities of the Talmudandaccordingto this authoritythe Messiah will reign there forfortyyears before He takes possession of Sion. The sanctityandhistorical importance thus attributed to the city byanticipationrender it a favourite place of retirement forIsraelitesof whom it containsthey sayabout fourthousanda number nearly balancing that of the Mahometaninhabitants. I knew by my experience of Tabarieh that a"holycity" was sure to have a population of vermin somewhatproportionateto the number of its Israelitesand Ithereforecaused my tent to be pitched upon a green spot ofground ata respectful distance from the walls of the town.
When ithad become quite dark (for there was no moon thatnight) Iwas informed that several Jews had secretly comefrom thecity in the hope of obtaining some assistance fromme incircumstances of imminent danger; I was also informedthat theyclaimed my aid upon the ground that some of theirnumberwere British subjects. It was arranged that the twoprincipalmen of the party should speak for the restandthese wereaccordingly admitted into my tent. One of the twocalledhimself the British vice-consuland he had with himhisconsular capbut he frankly said that he could not havedared toassume this emblem of his dignity in the daytimeand thatnothing but the extreme darkness of the nightrenderedit safe for him to put it on upon this occasion.The otherof the spokesmen was a Jew of Gibraltaratolerablywell-bred personwho spoke English very fluently.
These meninformed me that the Jews of the placewho wereexceedinglywealthyhad lived peaceably in their retirementuntil theinsurrection which took place in 1834but aboutthebeginning of that year a highly religious MussulmancalledMohammed Damoor went forth into the market-placecryingwith a loud voiceand prophesying that on thefifteenthof the following June the true Believers would riseup in justwrath against the Jewsand despoil them of theirgold andtheir silver and their jewels. The earnestness oftheprophet produced some impression at the timebut allwent on asusualuntil at last the fifteenth of Junearrived. When that day dawned the whole Mussulman populationof theplace assembled in the streets that they might see theresult ofthe prophecy. Suddenly Mohammed Damoor rushedfuriousinto the crowdand the fierce shout of the prophetsoonensured the fulfilment of his prophecy. Some of theJews fledand some remainedbut they who fled and they whoremainedalikeand unresistinglyleft their property tothe handsof the spoilers. The most odious of all outragesthat ofsearching the women for the base purpose ofdiscoveringsuch things as gold and silver concealed abouttheirpersonswas perpetrated without shame. The poor Jewswere sostricken with terrorthat they submitted to theirfate evenwhere resistance would have been easy. Inseveralinstancesa young Mussulman boynot more than ten or twelveyearsof agewalked straight into the house of a Jew andstrippedhim of his property before his faceand in thepresenceof his whole family. When the insurrection wasput downsome of the Mussulmans (most probably those who hadgot nospoil wherewith they might buy immunity) werepunishedbut the greater part of them escaped. None of thebooty wasrestoredand the pecuniary redress which the Pashahadundertaken to enforce for them had been hitherto socarefullydelayedthat the hope of ever obtaining it hadgrown veryfaint. A new Governor had been appointed to thecommand ofthe placewith stringent orders to ascertain therealextent of the lossesand to discover the spoilerswitha view ofcompelling them to make restitution. It was foundthatnotwithstanding the urgency of the instructions whichtheGovernor had receivedhe did not push on the affair withthe vigourthat had been expected. The Jews complainedandeither bythe protection of the British consul at Damascusor by someother meanshad influence enough to induce theappointmentof a special commissioner - they called him "theModeer"- whose duty it was to watch for and prevent anythinglikeconnivance on the part of the Governorand to push ontheinvestigation with vigour and impartiality.
Such werethe instructions with which some few weeks sincethe Modeercame charged. The result was that theinvestigationhad made no practical advanceand that theModeer aswell as the Governor was living upon terms ofaffectionatefriendship with Mohammed Damoor and the rest oftheprincipal spoilers.
Thus stoodthe chance of redress for the pastbut the causeof theagonising excitement under which the Jews of the placenowlaboured was recent and justly alarming. Mohammed Damoorhad againgone forth into the market-placeand lifted up hisvoice andprophesied a second spoliation of the Israelites.This wasgrave matter; the words of such a practical man asMohammedDamoor were not to be despised. I fear I must havesmiledvisiblyfor I was greatly amused and evenI thinkgratifiedat the account of this second prophecy.Neverthelessmy heart warmed towards the poor oppressedIsraelitesand I was flatteredtooin the point of mynationalvanity at the notion of the far-reaching link bywhich aJew in Syriawho had been born on the rock ofGibraltarwas able to claim me as his fellow-countryman. IfIhesitated at all between the "impropriety" of interferingin amatter which was no business of mine and the "infernalshame"of refusing my aid at such a conjectureI soon cameto a veryungentlemanly decisionnamelythat I would beguilty ofthe "impropriety" and not of the "infernal shame."It seemedto me that the immediate arrest of Mohammed Damoorwas theone thing needful to the safety of the Jewsand Ifeltconfident (for reasons which I have already mentioned inspeakingof the Nablus affair) that I should be able toobtainthis result by making a formal application to theGovernor. I told my applicants that I would take this stepon thefollowing morning. They were very gratefuland werefor amomentmuch pleased at the prospect of safety whichmight thusbe opened to thembut the deliberation of aminuteentirely altered their viewsand filled them with newterror. They declared that any attemptor pretendedattempton the part of the Governor to arrest MohammedDamoorwould certainly produce an immediate movement of thewholeMussulman populationand a consequent massacre androbbery ofthe Israelites. My visitors went outandremained Iknow not how long consulting with their brethrenbut all atlast agreed that their present perilous andpainfulposition was better than a certain and immediateattackand that if Mohammed Damoor was seizedtheir secondestatewould be worse than their first. I myself did notthink thatthis would be the casebut I could not of courseforce myaid upon the people against their will; andmoreoverthe day fixed for the fulfilment of this secondprophecywas not very close at hand. A little delaythereforein providing against the impending danger wouldnotnecessarily be fatal. The men now confessed thatalthoughthey had come with so much mystery andas theythoughtat so great a risk to ask my assistancethey wereunable tosuggest any mode in which I could aid themexceptindeed bymentioning their grievances to the consul-generalatDamascus. This I promised to doand this I did.
Myvisitors were very thankful to me for the readiness whichI hadshown to intermeddle in their affairsand the gratefulwives ofthe principal Jews sent to me many complimentswithchoicewines and elaborate sweetmeats.
The courseof my travels soon drew me so far from SafedthatI neverheard how the dreadful day passed off which had beenfixed forthe accomplishment of the second prophecy. If thepredictedspoliation was preventedpoor Mohammed Damoor musthave beenforcedI supposeto say that he had prophesied inametaphorical sense. This would be a sad falling off fromthebrilliant and substantial success of the firstexperiment.
CHAPTERXXVII - DAMASCUS
FOR a partof two days I wound under the base of the snow-crownedDjibel el Sheikand then entered upon a vast anddesolateplainrarely pierced at intervals by some sort ofwitheredstem. The earth in its length and its breadth andall thedeep universe of sky was steeped in light and heat.On I rodethrough the firebut long before evening camethere werestraining eyes that sawand joyful voices thatannouncedthe sight of Shaum Shereef - the "holy" the"blessed"Damascus.
But thatwhich at last I reached with my longing eyes was nota speck inthe horizongradually expanding to a group ofroofs andwallsbut a longlow line of blackest greenthatran rightacross in the distance from east to west. Andthisas Iapproachedgrew deepergrew wavy in its outline.Soonforest trees shot up before my eyesand robed theirbroadshoulders so freshlythat all the throngs of olives asthey roseinto view looked sad in their proper dimness.There wereeven now no houses to seebut only the minaretspeered outfrom the midst of shade into the glowing skyandbravelytouched the sun. There seemed to be here no merecitybutrather a province wide and richthat bounded thetorridwaste.
Untilabout a yearor two yearsbefore the time of my goingthereDamascus had kept up so much of the old bigot zealagainstChristiansor ratheragainst Europeansthat no onedressed asa Frank could have dared to show himself in thestreets;but the firmness and temper of Mr. Farrenwhohoistedhis flag in the city as consul-general for thedistricthad soon put an end to all intolerance ofEnglishmen. Damascus was safer than Oxford. When Ienteredthe city in my usual dress there was but one poorfellowthat wagged his tongueand himin the open streetsDthemetrihorsewhipped. During my stay I went wherever Ichoseandattended the public baths without molestation.Indeedmyrelations with the pleasanter portion of theMahometanpopulation were upon a much better footing herethan atmost other places.
In theprincipal streets of Damascus there is a path forfoot-passengerswhich is raisedI thinka foot or twoabove thebridle-road. Until the arrival of the Britishconsul-generalnone but a Mussulman had been permitted towalk uponthe upper way. Mr. Farren would notof coursesufferthat the humiliation of any such exclusion should besubmittedto by an Englishmanand I always walked upon theraisedpath as free and unmolested as if I had been in PallMall. The old usage washowevermaintained with as muchstrictnessas ever against the Christian Rayahs and Jews: notone ofthem could have set his foot upon the privileged pathwithoutendangering his life.
I waslounging one dayI rememberalong "the paths of thefaithful"when a Christian Rayah from the bridle-road belowsaluted mewith such earnestnessand craved so anxiously tospeak andbe spoken tothat he soon brought me to a halt.He hadnothing to tellexcept only the glory and exultationwith whichhe saw a fellow-Christian stand level with theimperiousMussulmans. Perhaps he had been absent from theplace forsome timefor otherwise I hardly know how it couldhavehappened that my exaltation was the first instance hehad seen. His joy was great. So strong and strenuous wasEngland(Lord Palmerston reigned in those days)that it wasa prideand delight for a Syrian Christian to look up and saythat theEnglishman's faith was his too. If I was vexed atall that Icould not give the man a lift and shake hands withhim onlevel groundthere was no alloy to his pleasure. Hefollowedme onnot looking to his own pathbut keeping hiseyes onme. He sawas he thoughtand said (for he camewith me onto my quarters)the period of the Mahometan'sabsoluteascendencythe beginning of the Christian's. Hehad soclosely associated the insulting privilege of the pathwithactual dominionthat seeing it now in one instanceabandonedhe looked for the quick coming of European troops.His lipsonly whisperedand that tremulouslybut his fieryeyes spokeout their triumph in long and loud hurrahs: "Itooam aChristian. My foes are the foes of the English.We are allone peopleand Christ is our King."
If Ipoorly deservedyet I liked this claim of brotherhood.Not allthe warnings which I heard against their rascalitycouldhinder me from feeling kindly towards my fellow-Christiansin the East. English travellersfrom a habitperhaps ofdepreciating sectarians in their own countryareapt tolook down upon the Oriental Christians as being"dissenters"from the established religion of a Mahometanempire. I never did thus. By a natural perversity ofdispositionwhich my nursemaids called contrarinessI feltthe morestrongly for my creed when I saw it despised amongmen. I quite tolerated the Christianity of Mahometancountriesnotwithstanding its humble aspect and the damagedcharacterof its followers. I went further and extended somesympathytowards those whowith all the claims of superiorintellectlearningand industrywere kept down under theheel ofthe Mussulmans by reason of their having OUR faith.I heardas I fanciedthe faint echo of an old crusader'sconsciencethat whispered and said"Common cause!" Theimpulsewasas you may supposemuch too feeble to bring meintotrouble; it merely influenced my actions in a waythoroughlycharacteristic of this poor sluggish centurythatisbymaking me speak almost as civilly to the followers ofChrist asI did to their Mahometan foes.
This"holy" Damascusthis "earthly paradise" of theProphetso fair tothe eyes that he dared not trust himself to tarryin herblissful shadesshe is a city of hidden palacesofcopses andgardensand fountains and bubbling streams. Thejuice ofher life is the gushing and ice-cold torrent thattumblesfrom the snowy sides of Anti-Lebanon. Close along ontheriver's edgethrough seven sweet miles of rustlingboughs anddeepest shadethe city spreads out her wholelength. As a man falls flatface forward on the brookthathe maydrink and drink againso Damascusthirsting foreverliesdown with her lips to the stream and clings to itsrushingwaters.
The chiefplaces of public amusementor ratherof publicrelaxationare the baths and the great cafe; this lastwhich isfrequented at night by most of the wealthy menandby many ofthe humbler sortconsists of a number of shedsverysimply framed and built in a labyrinth of runningstreamswhich foam and roar on every side. The place is litup in thesimplest manner by numbers of small pale lampsstrungupon loose cordsand so suspended from branch tobranchthat the lightthough it looks so quiet amongst thedarkeningfoliageyet leaps and brightly flashes as it fallsupon thetroubled waters. All aroundand chiefly upon thevery edgeof the torrentsgroups of people are tranquillyseated. They all drink coffeeand inhale the cold fumes oftheNARGHILE; they talk rather gently the one to the otheror elseare silent. A father will sometimes have two orthree ofhis boys around him; but the joyousness of anOrientalchild is all of the sober sortand never disturbsthereigning calm of the land.
It hasbeen generally understoodI believethat the housesofDamascus are more sumptuous than those of any other cityin theEast. Some of thesesaid to be the most magnificentin theplaceI had an opportunity of seeing.
Every richman's house stands detached from its neighbours atthe sideof a gardenand it is from this cause no doubt thatthe city(severely menaced by prophecy) has hitherto escapeddestruction. You know some parts of Spainbut you haveneverIthinkbeen in Andalusia: if you hadI could easilyshow youthe interior of a Damascene house by referring youto theAlhambra or Alcanzar of Seville. The lofty rooms areadornedwith a rich inlaying of many colours and illuminatedwriting onthe walls. The floors are of marble. One side ofany roomintended for noonday retirement is generally laidopen to aquadranglein the centre of which there dances thejet of afountain. There is no furniture that can interferewith thecoolpalace-like emptiness of the apartments. Adivan(which is a low and doubly broad sofa) runs round thethreewalled sides of the room. A few Persian carpets (whichought tobe called Persian rugsfor that is the word whichindicatestheir shape and dimensions) are sometimes thrownabout nearthe divan; they are placed without orderthe onepartlylapping over the otherand thus disposedthey giveto theroom an appearance of uncaring luxury; except these(of whichI saw fewfor the time was summerand fiercelyhot)there is nothing to obstruct the welcome airand thewhole ofthe marble floor from one divan to the otherandfrom thehead of the chamber across to the murmuringfountainis thoroughly open and free.
So simpleas this is Asiatic luxury! The Oriental is not acontrivinganimal; there is nothing intricate in hismagnificence. The impossibility of handing down propertyfromfather to son for any long period consecutively seems topreventthe existence of those traditions by whichwith ustherefined modes of applying wealth are made known to itsinheritors. We know that in England a newly-made rich mancannotbytaking thought and spending moneyobtain even thesame-lookingfurniture as a gentleman. The complicatedcharacterof an English establishment allows room for subtledistinctionsbetween that which is COMME IL FAUTand thatwhich isnot. All such refinements are unknown in the East;the Pashaand the peasant have the same tastes. The broadcoldmarble floorthe simple couchthe air freshly wavingthrough ashady chambera verse of the Koran emblazoned onthe wallthe sight and the sound of falling waterthe coldfragrantsmoke of the NARGHILEand a small collection ofwives andchildren in the inner apartments - thesetheutmostenjoyments of the grandeeare yet such as to beappreciableby the humblest Mussulman in the empire.
But itsgardens are the delightthe delight and the pride ofDamascus. They are not the formal parterres which you mightexpectfrom the Oriental taste; they rather bring back toyour mindthe memory of some dark old shrubbery in ournorthernislethat has been charmingly UN - "kept up" formany andmany a day. When you see a rich wilderness of woodin decentEnglandit is like enough that you see it withsome softregrets. The puzzled old woman at the lodge cangive smallaccount of "the family." She thinks it is "Italy"that hasmade the whole circle of her world so gloomy andsad. You avoid the house in lively dread of a lonehousekeeperbut you make your way on by the stables; yourememberthat gable with all its neatly nailed trophies offitchetsand hawks and owlsnow slowly falling to pieces;youremember that stableand that - but the doors are allfastenedthat used to be standing ajarthe paint of thingspainted isblistered and crackedgrass grows in the yard;justtherein October morningsthe keeper would wait withthe dogsand the guns - no keeper now; you hurry awayandgain thesmall wicket that used to open to the touch of alightsomehand - it is fastened with a padlock (the only newlookingthing)and is stained with thickgreen damp; youclimb itand bury yourself in the deep shadeand strive butlazilywith the tangling briarsand stop for long minutes tojudge anddetermine whether you will creep beneath the longboughs andmake them your archwayor whether perhaps youwill liftyour heel and tread them down under foot. Longdoubtandscarcely to be ended till you wake from the memoryof thosedays when the path was clearand chase that phantomof amuslin sleeve that once weighed warm upon your arm.
Wild asthatthe nighest woodland of a deserted home inEnglandbut without its sweet sadnessis the sumptuousgarden ofDamascus. Forest treestall and stately enough ifyou couldsee their lofty crestsyet lead a tussling life ofit belowwith their branches struggling against strongnumbers ofbushes and wilful shrubs. The shade upon theearth isblack as night. Highhigh above your headand onevery sideall down to the groundthe thicket is hemmed inand chokedup by the interlacing boughs that droop with theweight ofrosesand load the slow air with their damaskbreath. There are no other flowers. Here and theretherearepatches of ground made clear from the coverand theseare eithercarelessly planted with some common and usefulvegetableor else are left free to the wayward ways ofNatureand bear rank weedsmoist-looking and cool to theeyesandfreshening the sense with their earthy and bitterfragrance. There is a lane opened through the thicketsobroad insome places that you can pass along side by side; insome sonarrow (the shrubs are for ever encroaching) that yououghtifyou canto go on the first and hold back the boughof therose-tree. And through this wilderness there tumblesa loudrushing streamwhich is halted at last in the lowestcorner ofthe gardenand there tossed up in a fountain bythe sideof the simple alcove. This is all.
Never foran instant will the people of Damascus attempt toseparatethe idea of bliss from these wild gardens andrushingwaters. Even where your best affections areconcernedand youprudent preachers"hold hard" and turnaside whenthey come near the mysteries of the happy stateand we(prudent preachers too)we will hush our voicesandneverreveal to finite beings the joys of the "earthlyparadise."
CHAPTERXXVIII - PASS OF THE LEBANON
"THEruins of Baalbec!" Shall I scatter the vaguesolemnthoughtsand all the airy phantasies which gather togetherwhen oncethose words are spokenthat I may give you insteadtallcolumns and measurements trueand phrases built withink? Nono; the glorious sounds shall still float on as ofyoreandstill hold fast upon your brain with their own dimandinfinite meaning.
Come! Baalbec is over; I got "rather well" out of that.
The pathby which I crossed the Lebanon is likeI thinkinitsfeatures to one which you must knownamelythat of theFoorca inthe Bernese Oberland. For a great part of the wayI toiledrather painfully through the dazzling snowbut thelabour ofascending added to the excitement with which Ilooked forthe summit of the pass. The time came. There wasa minutein the which I saw nothing but the steepwhiteshoulderof the mountainand there was another minuteandthat thenextwhich showed me a nether heaven of fleecycloudsthat floated along far down in the air beneath meandshowed mebeyond the breadth of all Syria west of theLebanon. But chiefly I clung with my eyes to the dimsteadfastline of the sea which closed my utmost view. I hadgrown wellused of late to the people and the scenes offorlornAsia - well used to tombs and ruinsto silent citiesanddeserted plainsto tranquil men and women sadly veiled;and nowthat I saw the even plain of the seaI leapt with aneasy leapto its yonder shoresand saw all the kingdoms ofthe Westin that fair path that could lead me from out ofthissilent land straight on into shrill Marseillesor roundby thepillars of Hercules to the crash and roar of London.My placeupon this dividing barrier was as a man's puzzlingstation ineternitybetween the birthless past and thefuturethat has no end. Behind me I left an olddecrepitworld;religions dead and dying; calm tyrannies expiring insilence;women hushed and swathedand turned into waxendolls;love flownand in its stead mere royal and "paradise"pleasures. Before me there waited glad bustle and strife;loveitselfan emulous game; religiona cause and acontroversywell smitten and well defended; men governed byreasonsand suasion of speech; wheels goingsteam buzzing -a mortalraceand a slashing paceand the devil taking thehindmost -taking MEby Jove (for that was my inner care)if Ilingered too long upon the difficult pass that leadsfromthought to action.
Idescended and went towards the west.
The groupof cedars remaining on this part of the Lebanon isheldsacred by the Greek Church on account of a prevailingnotionthat the trees were standing at a time when the templeofJerusalem was built. They occupy three or four acres onthemountain's sideand many of them are gnarled in a waythatimplies great agebut except these signs I saw nothingin theirappearance or conduct that tended to prove themcontemporariesof the cedars employed in Solomon's Temple.The finalcause to which these aged survivors owed theirpreservationwas explained to me in the evening by a gloriousold fellow(a Christian chief)who made me welcome in thevalley ofEden. In ancient times the whole range of theLebanonhad been covered with cedarsand as the fertileplainsbeneath became more and more infested by governmentofficersand tyrants of high and low degreethe people bydegreesabandoned them and flocked to the rugged mountainswhich wereless accessible to their indolent oppressors. Thecedarforests gradually shrank under the axe of theencroachingmultitudesand seemed at last to be on the pointofdisappearing entirelywhen an aged chief who ruled inthisdistrictand who had witnessed the great changeeffectedeven in his own life-timechose to say that somesign ormemorial should be left of the vast woods with whichthemountains had formerly been cladand commandedaccordinglythat this group of trees (which was probablysituatedat the highest point to which the forest hadreached)should remain untouched. The chiefit seemswasnot movedby the notion I have mentioned as prevailing in theGreekChurchbut rather by some sentiment of veneration fora greatnatural feature - sentiment akinperhapsto thatold andearthborn religionwhich made men bow down tocreationbefore they had yet learnt how to know and worshiptheCreator.
The chiefof the valley in which I passed the night was a manof largepossessionsand he entertained me very sumptuously.He washighly intelligentand had had the sagacity toforeseethat Europe would intervene authoritatively in theaffairs ofSyria. Bearing this idea in mindand with a viewto givehis son an advantageous start in the ambitious careerfor whichhe was destinedhe had hired for him a teacher oftheItalian languagethe only accessible European tongue.The tutorhoweverwho was a native of Syriaeither did notknow ordid not choose to teach the European forms ofaddressbut contented himself with instructing his pupil inthe merelanguage of Italy. This circumstance gave me anopportunity(the only one I ever hador was likely tohave)of hearingthe phrases of Oriental courtesy in an Europeantongue. The boy was about twelve or thirteen years oldandhaving theadvantage of being able to speak to me without theaid of aninterpreterhe took a prominent part in doing thehonours ofhis father's house. He went through his dutieswithuntiring assiduityand with a kind of gracefulnesswhich bymere description can scarcely be made intelligibleto thosewho are unacquainted with the manners of theAsiatics. The boy's address resembled a little that of ahighlypolished and insinuating Roman Catholic priestbuthad moreof girlish gentleness. It was strange to hear himgravelyand slowly enunciating the common and extravagantcomplimentsof the East in good Italianand in softpersuasivetones. I recollect that I was particularly amusedat thegracious obstinacy with which he maintained that thehouse inwhich I was so hospitably entertained belonged notto hisfatherbut to me. To say this once was only to usethe commonform of speechsignifying no more than our sweetword"welcome" but the amusing part of the matter was thatwheneverin the course of conversation I happened to speak ofhisfather's house or the surrounding domainthe boyinvariablyinterfered to correct my pretended mistakeand toassure meonce again with a gentle decisiveness of mannerthat thewhole property was really and exclusively mineandthat hisfather had not the most distant pretensions to itsownership.
I receivedfrom my host muchand (as I now know) most trueinformationrespecting the people of the mountainsand theirpower ofresisting Mehemet Ali. The chief gave me veryplainly tounderstand that the mountaineersbeing dependentuponothers for bread and gunpowder (the two greatnecessariesof martial life)could not long hold out againsta powerwhich occupied the plains and commanded the sea; buthe alsoassured meand that very significantlythat if thissource ofweakness were provided againstTHE MOUNTAINEERSWERE TO BEDEPENDED UPON; he told me that in ten or fifteendays thechiefs could bring together some fifty thousandfightingmen.
CHAPTERXXIX - SURPRISE OF SATALIEH
WHILST Iwas remaining upon the coast of Syria I had the goodfortune tobecome acquainted with the Russian Sataliefskya generalofficerwho in his youth had fought and bled atBorodinobut was now better known among diplomats by theimportanttrust committed to him at a period highly criticalfor theaffairs of Eastern Europe. I must not tell you hisfamilyname; my mention of his title can do him no harmforit is Iand I onlywho have conferred itin considerationof themilitary and diplomatic services performed under myown eyes.
TheGeneral as well as I was bound for Smyrnaand we agreedto sailtogether in an Ionian brigantine. We did not charterthevesselbut we made our arrangement with the captain uponsuch termsthat we could be put ashore upon any part of thecoast thatwe might choose. We sailedand day after day thevessel laydawdling on the sea with calms and feeble breezesfor herportion. I myself was well repaid for the painfulrestlessnesswhich such weather occasionsbecause I gainedfrom mycompanion a little of that vast fund of interestingknowledgewith which he was storedknowledge a thousandtimes themore highly to be prized since it was not of thesort thatis to be gathered from booksbut only from thelips ofthose who have acted a part in the world.
When afternine days of sailingor trying to sailwe foundourselvesstill hanging by the mainland to the north of theisle ofCypruswe determined to disembark at Sataliehandto go onthence by land. A light breeze favoured ourpurposeand it was with great delight that we neared thefragrantlandand saw our anchor go down in the bay ofSataliehwithin two or three hundred yards of the shore.
The townof Satalieh is the chief place of thePashalic inwhich itis situateand its citadel is the residence of thePasha. We had scarcely dropped our anchor when a boat fromthe shorecame alongside with officers on boardwhoannouncedthat the strictest orders had been received formaintaininga quarantine of three weeks against all vesselscomingfrom Syriaand directed accordingly that no one fromthe vesselshould disembark. In reply we sent a message tothe Pashasetting forth the rank and titles of the Generalandrequiring permission to go ashore. After a while theboat cameagain alongsideand the officers declaring thatthe ordersreceived from Constantinople were imperative andunexceptionalformally enjoined us in the name of the Pashato abstainfrom any attempt to land.
I had beenhitherto much less impatient of our slow voyagethan mygallant friendbut this opposition made the smoothsea seemto me like a prisonfrom which I must and wouldbreakout. I had an unbounded faith in the feebleness ofAsiaticpotentatesand I proposed that we should set thePasha atdefiance. The General had been worked up to a stateof mostpainful agitation by the idea of being driven fromthe shorewhich smiled so pleasantly before his eyesand headopted mysuggestion with rapture.
Wedetermined to land.
Toapproach the sweet shore after a tedious voyageand thento besuddenly and unexpectedly prohibited from landing -this is somaddening to the temperthat no one who had everexperiencedthe trial would say that even the most violentimpatienceof such restraint is wholly inexcusable. I am notgoing topretendhoweverthat the course which we chose toadopt onthe occasion can be perfectly justified. Theimproprietyof a traveller's setting at naught theregulationsof a foreign State is clear enoughand the badtaste ofcompassing such a purpose by mere gasconading isstill moreglaringly plain. I knew perfectly well that ifthe Pashaunderstood his dutyand had energy enough toperformithe would order out a file of soldiers the momentwe landedand cause us both to be shot upon the beachwithoutallowing more contact than might be absolutelynecessaryfor the purpose of making us stand fire; but I alsofirmlybelieved that the Pasha would not see the befittingline ofconduct nearly so well as I didand that even if hedid knowhis dutyhe would hardly succeed in findingresolutionenough to perform it.
We orderedthe boat to be got in readinessand the officerson shoreseeing these preparationsgathered together anumber ofguardswho assembled upon the sands. We saw thatgreatexcitement prevailedand that messengers werecontinuallygoing to and fro between the shore and thecitadel. Our captainout of compliment to his Excellencyhadprovided the vessel with a Russian war-flagwhich he hadhoistedalternately with the Union Jackand we agreed thatwe wouldattempt our disembarkation under thisthe Russianstandard! I was glad when we came to that resolutionfor Ishouldhave been sorry to engage the honoured flag of Englandin such anaffair as that which we were undertaking. TheRussianensign was therefore committed to one of the sailorswho tookhis station at the stern of the boat. We gaveparticularinstructions to the captain of the brigantineandwhen allwas readythe General and Iwith our respectiveservantsgot into the boatand were slowly rowed towardstheshore. The guards gathered together at the point forwhich wewere makingbut when they saw that our boat went onwithoutaltering her courseTHEY CEASED TO STAND VERY STILL;none ofthem ran awayor even shrank backbut they lookedas if THEPACK WERE BEING SHUFFLEDevery man seemingdesirousto change places with his neighbour. They werestill attheir posthoweverwhen our oars went inand thebow of ourboat ran up - well up upon the beach.
TheGeneral was lame by an honourable wound received atBorodinoand could not without some assistance get out ofthe boat;Ithereforelanded the first. My instructions tothecaptain were attended to with the most perfect accuracyforscarcely had my foot indented the sand when the four six-poundersof the brigantine quite gravely rolled out theirbrutethunder. Precisely as I had expectedthe guards andall thepeople who had gathered about them gave way under theshockproduced by the mere sound of gunsand we were allallowed todisembark with the least molestation.
Weimmediately formed a little columnor ratheras I shouldhavecalled ita processionfor we had no fighting aptitudein usandwere only tryingas it werehow far we could goinfrightening full-grown children. First marched the sailorwith theRussian flag of war bravely flying in the breezethen camethe general and Ithen our servantsand lastlyif Irightly recollecttwo more of the brigantine's crew.Ourflag-bearer so exulted in his honourable officeand borethecolours aloft with so much of pomp and dignitythat Ifound itexceedingly hard to keep a grave countenance. Weadvancedtowards the castlebut the people had now had timeto recoverfrom the effect of the six-pounders (only ofcourseloaded with powder)and they could not help seeingnot onlythe numerical weakness of our partybut the veryslightamount of wealth and resource which it seemed toimply. They began to hang round us more closelyand just asthisreaction was beginning the Generalwho was perfectlyunacquaintedwith the Asiatic characterthoughtlessly turnedround inorder to speak to one of the servants. The effectof thisslight move was magical. The people thought we weregoing togive wayand instantly closed round us. In twowordsandwith one touchI showed my comrade the danger hewasrunningand in the next instant we were both advancingmorepompously than ever. Some minutes afterwards there wasa secondappearance of reactionfollowed again by waveringandindecision on the part of the Pasha's peoplebut atlength itseemed to be understood that we should gounmolestedinto the audience hall.
Constantcommunication had been going on between the recedingcrowd andthe Pashaand so when we reached the gates of thecitadel wesaw that preparations were made for giving us anawe-strikingreception. Parting at once from the sailors andourservantsthe General and I were conducted into theaudiencehall; and there at least I suppose the Pasha hopedthat hewould confound us by his greatness. The hall wasnothingmore than a large whitewashed room. Orientalpotentateshave a pride in that sort of simplicitywhen theycancontrast it with the exhibition of powerand this thePasha wasable to dofor the lower end of the hall wasfilledwith his officers. These menof whom I thought therewere aboutfifty or sixtywere all handsomelythoughplainlydressed in the military frockcoats of Europe; theystood inmass and so as to present a hollow semicircularfronttowards the upper end of the hall at which the Pashasat; theyopened a narrow lane for us when we enteredand assoon as wehad passed they again closed up their ranks. Anattemptwas made to induce us to remain at a respectfuldistancefrom his mightiness. To have yielded in this pointwould havehave been fatal to our successperhaps to ourlives; butthe General and I had already determined upon theplacewhich we should takeand we rudely pushed on towardsthe upperend of the hall.
Upon thedivanand close up against the right hand corner ofthe roomthere sat the Pashahis limbs gathered inthewholecreature coiled up like an adder. His cheeks weredeadlypaleand his lips perhaps had turned whiteforwithoutmoving a muscle the man impressed me with an immenseidea ofthe wrath within him. He kept his eyes inexorablyfixed asif upon vacancyand with the look of a manaccustomedto refuse the prayers of those who sue for life.We soondiscomposed himhoweverfrom this studied fixity offeaturefor we marched straight up to the divan and satdowntheRussian close to the Pashaand I by the side oftheRussian. This act astonished the attendantsand plainlydisconcertedthe Pasha. He could no longer maintain theglassystillness of the eyes which he had affectedandevidentlybecame much agitated. At the feet of the satraptherestood a trembling Italian.
This manwas a sort of medico in the potentate's serviceand now inthe absence of our attendants he was to act asinterpreter. The Pasha caused him to tell us that we hadopenlydefied his authorityand had forced our way on shorein theteeth of his own officers.
Up to thistime I had been the planner of the enterprisebut nowthat the moment had come when all would depend uponable andearnest speechifyingI felt at once the immensesuperiorityof my gallant friendand gladly left to him thewholeconduct of this discussion. Indeed he had vastadvantagesover menot only by his superior command oflanguageand his far more spirited style of addressbut alsoin hisconsciousness of a good cause; for whilst I feltmyselfcompletely in the wronghis Excellency had reallyworkedhimself up to believe that the Pasha's refusal topermit ourlanding was a gross outrage and insult.Thereforewithout deigning to defend our conduct he at oncecommenceda spirited attack upon the Pasha. The poor Italiandoctortranslated one or two sentences to the Pashabut heevidentlymitigated their import. The Russiangrowing warminsistedupon his attack with redoubled energy and spirit;but themedicoinstead of translatingbegan to shakeviolentlywith terrorand at last he came out with his NONARDISCOand fairly confessed that he dared not interpretfiercewords to his master.
Now thenat a time when everything seemed to depend uponthe effectof speechwe were left without an interpreter.
But thisvery circumstancewhich at first appeared sounfavourableturned out to be advantageous. The Generalfindingthat he could not have his words translatedceasedto speakin Italianand recurred to his accustomed French;he becameeloquent. No one present except myself understoodonesyllable of what he was sayingbut he had drawn forthhispassportand the energy and violence with whichas hespokehepointed to the graven Eagle of all the Russiasbegan tomake an impression. The Pasha saw at his side a mannot onlyfree from every the least pang of fearbut ragingas itseemedwith just indignationand thenceforward heplainlybegan to think thatin some way or other (he couldnot tellhow) he must certainly have been in the wrong. In alittletime he was so much shaken that the Italian venturedto resumehis interpretationand my comrade had again theopportunityof pressing his attack upon the Pasha. Hisargumentif I rightly recollect its importwas to thiseffect:"If the vilest Jews were to come into the harbouryou wouldbut forbid them to landand force them to performquarantine;yet this is the very courseO Pashawhich yourrashofficers dared to think of adopting with US! - those madandreckless men would have actually dealt towards a Russiangeneralofficer and an English gentleman as if they had beenwretchedIsraelites! Never - never will we submit to such anindignity. His Imperial Majesty knows how to protect hisnoblesfrom insultand would never endure that a General ofhis armyshould be treated in matter of quarantine as thoughhe were amere Eastern Jew!" This argument told with greateffect. The Pasha fairly admitted that he felt its weightand he nowonly struggled to obtain such a compromise asmightpartly save his dignity. He wanted us to perform aquarantineof one day for form's sakeand in order to showhis peoplethat he was not utterly defied; but finding thatwe wereinexorablehe not only abandoned his attemptbutpromisedto supply us with horses.
When thediscussion had arrived at this happy conclusionTCHIBOUQUESand coffee were broughtand we passedI thinknearly anhour in friendly conversation. The Pashait nowappearedhad once been a prisoner of war in Russiaand aconvictionof the Emperor's vast powernecessarily acquiredduringthis captivitymade him perhaps more alive than anuntravelledTurk would have been to the force of my comrade'seloquence.
The Pashanow gave us a generous feast. Our promised horseswerebrought without much delay. I gained my loved saddleonce moreand when the moon got up and touched the heightsof Tauruswe were joyfully winding our way through the firstof hisrugged defiles.
APPENDIX -THE HOME OF LADY HESTER STANHOPE
IT waslate when we came in sight of two high conical hillson one ofwhich stands the village of Djounion the other acircularwallover which dark trees were waving; and thiswas theplace in which Lady Hester Stanhope had finished herstrangeand eventful career. It had formerly been a conventbut thePasha of Sidon had given it to the "prophet-lady"whoconverted its naked walls into a palaceand itswildernessinto gardens.
The sunwas setting as we entered the enclosureand we weresoonscattered about the outer courtpicketing our horsesrubbingdown their foaming flanksand washing out theirwounds. The buildings that constituted the palace were of averyscattered and complicated descriptioncovering a widespacebutonly one storey in height: courts and gardensstablesand sleeping-roomshalls of audience and ladies'bowerswere strangely intermingled. Heavy weeds weregrowingeverywhere among the open portalsand we forced ourway withdifficulty through a tangle of roses and jasmine tothe innercourt; here choice flowers once bloomedandfountainsplayed in marble basinsbut now was presented ascene ofthe most melancholy desolation. As the watchfireblazed upits gleam fell upon masses of honeysuckle andwoodbineon whitemouldering walls beneathand darkwavingtrees above; while the group of mountaineers whogatheredround its lightwith their long beards and vividdressescompleted the strange picture.
The clangof sword and spear resounded through the longgalleries;horses neighed among bowers and boudoirs; strangefigureshurried to and fro among the colonnadesshouting inArabicEnglishand Italian; the fire crackledthe startledbatsflapped their heavy wingsand the growl of distantthunderfilled up the pauses in the rough symphony.
Our dinnerwas spread on the floor in Lady Hester'sfavouriteapartment; her deathbed was our sideboardherfurnitureour fuelher name our conversation. Almost beforethe mealwas ended two of our party had dropped asleep overtheirtrenchers from fatigue; the Druses had retired from thehauntedprecincts to their village; and W-L-and I wentout intothe garden to smoke our pipes by Lady Hester'slonelytomb. About midnight we fell asleep upon the groundwrapped inour capotesand dreamed of ladies and tombs andprophetstill the neighing of our horses announced the dawn.
After ahurried breakfast on fragments of the last night'srepast westrolled out over the extensive gardens. Here manya brokenarbour and trellisbending under masses of jasmineandhoneysuckleshow the care and taste that were oncelavishedon this wild but beautiful hermitage: a garden-housesurrounded by an enclosure of roses run wildlies inthe midstof a grove of myrtle and bay trees. This was LadyHester'sfavourite resort during her lifetime; and nowwithin itssilent enclosure
"Afterlife's fitful fever she sleeps well."
The handof ruin has dealt very sparingly with all theseinterestingrelics; the Pasha's power by dayand the fear ofspirits bynightkeep off marauders; and though we made freewithbroken benches and fallen doorposts for fuelwereverentlyabstained from displacing anything in theestablishmentexcept a few roseswhich there was no livingthing butbees and nightingales to regret. It wasone of themoststriking and interesting spots I ever witnessed: itssilenceand beautyits richness and desolationlent to it atouchingand mysterious characterthat suited well thememoryof that strange hermit-lady who has made it a place ofpilgrimageeven in Palestine.
The Pashaof Sidon presented Lady Hester with the desertedconvent ofMar Elias on her arrival in his countryand thisshe soonconverted into a fortressgarrisoned by a band ofAlbanians:her only attendants besides were her doctorhersecretaryand some female slaves. Public rumour soon busieditselfwith such a personageand exaggerated her influenceandpower. It is even said that she was crowned Queen of theEast atPalmyra by fifty thousand Arabs. She certainlyexercisedalmost despotic power in her neighbourhood on themountain;and what was perhaps the most remarkable proof ofhertalentsshe prevailed on some Jews to advance large sumsof moneyto her on her note of hand. She lived for manyyearsbeset with difficulties and anxietiesbut to the lastshe heldon gallantly: even when confined to her bed anddying shesought for no companionship or comfort but such asshe couldfind in her own powerfulthough unmanageablemind.
Mr. Mooreour consul at Beyrouthearing she was illrodeover themountains to visit heraccompanied by Mr. ThomsontheAmerican missionary. It was evening when they arrivedand aprofound silence was over all the palace. No one metthem; theylighted their own lamps in the outer courtandpassedunquestioned through court and gallery until they cameto whereSHE lay. A corpse was the only inhabitant of thepalaceand the isolation from her kind which she had soughtso longwas indeed complete. That morning thirty-sevenservantshad watched every motion of her eye: its spell oncedarkenedby deathevery one fled with such plunder as theycouldsecure. A little girladopted by her and maintainedfor yearstook her watch and some papers on which she hadsetpeculiar value. Neither the child nor the property wereever seenagain. Not a single thing was left in the roomwhere shelay deadexcept the ornaments upon her person. Noone hadventured to touch these; even in death she seemedable toprotect herself. At midnight her countryman and themissionarycarried her out by torchlight to a spot in thegardenthat had been formerly her favourite resortand heretheyburied the self-exiled lady. - FROM "THE CRESCENT ANDTHECROSS" BY ELIOT WARBURTON.
*A"compromised" person is one who has been in contact withpeople orthings supposed to be capable of conveyinginfection. As a general rule the whole Ottoman Empire liesconstantlyunder this terrible ban. The "yellow flag" is theensign ofthe quarantine establishment.
*Thenarghile is a water-pipe upon the plan of the hookahbut moregracefully fashioned; the smoke is drawn by a verylongflexible tubethat winds its snake-like way from thevase tothe lips of the beatified smoker.
*Theyashmakyou knowis not a mere semi-transparent veilbut rathera good substantial petticoat applied to the face;itthoroughly conceals all the featuresexcept the eyes; theway ofwithdrawing it is by pulling it down.
*The"pipe of tranquillity" is a TCHIBOUQUE too long to beconvenientlycarried on a journey; the possession of itthereforeimplies that its owner is stationaryor at alleventsthat he is enjoying a long repose from travel.
*TheJews of Smyrna are poorand having little merchandiseof theirown to dispose ofthey are sadly importunate inofferingtheir services as intermediaries: their troublesomeconducthas led to the custom of beating them in the openstreets. It is usual for Europeans to carry long sticks withthemforthe express purpose of keeping off the chosenpeople. I always felt ashamed to strike the poor fellowsmyselfbut I confess to the amusement with which I witnessedtheobservance of this custom by other people. The Jewseldom gothurt muchfor he was always expecting the blowand wasready to recede from it the moment it came: one couldnot helpbeing rather gratified at seeing him bound away sonimblywith his long robes floating out in the airand thenagainwheel roundand return with fresh importunities.
*AGreek woman wears her whole fortune upon her person inthe shapeof jewels or gold coins; I believe that this modeofinvestment is adopted in great measure for safety's sake.It has theadvantage of enabling a suitor to RECKON as wellas toadmire the objects of his affection.
*Thewriter advises that none should attempt to read thefollowingaccount of the late Lady Hester Stanhope exceptthose whomay already chance to feel an interest in thepersonageto whom it relates. The chapter (which has beenwrittenand printed for the reasons mentioned in the preface)is chieflyfilled with the detailed conversationor ratherdiscourseof a highly eccentric gentlewoman.
*Iam told that in youth she was exceedingly sallow. *This wasmy impression at the time of writing the abovepassagean impression created by the popular anduncontradictedaccounts of the matteras well as by thetenor ofLady Hester's conversation. I have now some reasonto thinkthat I was deceivedand that her sway in the desertwas muchmore limited than I had supposed. She seems to havehad fromthe Bedouins a fair five hundred pounds' worth ofrespectand not much more.
*Theproceedings thus described to me by Lady Hester ashavingtaken place during her illnesswere afterwards re-enacted atthe time of her death. Since I wrote the words towhich thisnote is appendedI received from Warburton aninterestingaccount of the heroine's deathor rather thecircumstancesattending the discovery of the event; and Icaused itto be printed in the former editions of this work.I must nowgive up the borrowed ornamentand omit my extractfrom myfriend's letterfor the rightful owner has reprintedit in "TheCrescent and the Cross." I know what a sacrificeI ammakingfor in noticing the first edition of this bookreviewersturned aside from the text to the noteandremarkedupon the interesting information which Warburton'slettercontained. [This narrative is reproduced in anAppendixto the present edition.]
*Ina letter which I afterwards received from Lady Hestershementioned incidentally Lord Hardwickeand said that hewas "thekindest-hearted man existing - a most manlyfirmcharacter. He comes from a good breed - all the Yorkesexcellentwith ANCIENT French blood in their veins." Theunderscoring of the word "ancient" is by the writer of theletterwho had certainly no great love or veneration for theFrench ofthe present day: she did not consider them asdescendedfrom her favourite stock.
*Itis said that deaf people can hear what is saidconcerningthemselvesand it would seem that those who livewithoutbooks or newspapers know all that is written aboutthem. Lady Hester Stanhopethough not admitting a book ornewspaperinto her fortressseems to have known the way inwhich M.Lamartine mentioned her in his bookfor in a letterwhich shewrote to me after my return to England she says"Althoughneglectedas Monsieur le M." (referringas Ibelieveto M. Lamartine) "describesand without booksyetmy head isorganised to supply the want of them as well asacquiredknowledge."
*Ihave been recently told that this Italian's pretensionsto thehealing art were thoroughly unfounded. My informantis agentleman who enjoyed during many years the esteem andconfidenceof Lady Hester Stanhope: his adventures in theLevantwere most curious and interesting.
*TheGreek Church does not recognise this as the truesanctuaryand many Protestants look upon all the traditionsby whichit is attempted to ascertain the holy places ofPalestineas utterly fabulous. For myselfI do not meaneither toaffirm or deny the correctness of the opinion whichhas fixedupon this as the true sitebut merely to mentionit as abelief entertained without question by my brethren ofthe LatinChurchwhose guest I was at the time. It would bea greataggravation of the trouble of writing about thesematters ifI were to stop in the midst of every sentence forthepurpose of saying "so called" or "so it is said"andwouldbesides sound very ungraciously: yet I am anxious to beliterallytrue in all I write. Nowthus it is that I meanto getover my difficulty. Whenever in this great bundle ofpapers orbook (if book it is to be) you see any words aboutmatters ofreligion which would seem to involve the assertionof my ownopinionyou are to understand me just as if one orother ofthe qualifying phrases above mentioned had beenactuallyinserted in every sentence. My general directionfor you toconstrue me thus will render all that I write asstrictlyand actually true as if I had every time lugged in aformaldeclaration of the fact that I was merely expressingthenotions of other people.
*There issome semblance of bravado in my manner of talkingabout theplague. I have been more careful to describe theterrors ofother people than my own. The truth isthatduring thewhole period of my stay at Cairo I remainedthoroughlyimpressed with a sense of my danger. I may almostsaythatI lived in perpetual apprehensionfor even insleepasI fancythere remained with me some faint notionof theperil with which I was encompassed. But fear does notnecessarilydamp the spirits; on the contraryit will oftenoperate asan excitementgiving rise to unusual animationand thusit affected me. If I had not been surrounded atthis timeby new facesnew scenesand new soundstheeffectproduced upon my mind by one unceasing cause of alarmmight havebeen very different. As it wasthe eagernesswith whichI pursued my rambles among the wonders of Egyptwassharpened and increased by the sting of the fear ofdeath. Thus my account of the matter plainly conveys animpressionthat I remained at Cairo without losing mycheerfulnessand buoyancy of spirits. And this is the truthbut it isalso trueas I have freely confessedthat mysense ofdanger during the whole period was lively andcontinuous.
*Anglicefor "je le sais." These answers of mineas givenabovearenot meant as specimens of mere Frenchbut of thatfinetersenervousCONTINENTAL ENGLISH with which I and mycompatriotsmake our way through Europe. This languageby-the-byeis one possessing great force and energyand is notwithoutits literaturea literature of the very highestorder. Where will you find more sturdy specimens ofdownrighthonestand noble English than in the Duke ofWellington's"French" despatches?
*Theimport of the word "compromised"when used inreferenceto contagion has already been explained.
*Itis saidthat when a Mussulman finds himself attacked bythe plaguehe goes and takes a bath. The couches on whichthebathers recline would carry infectionaccording to thenotions ofthe Europeans. WheneverthereforeI took thebath atCairo (except the first time of my doing so) Iavoidedthat part of the luxury which consists in being "putup to dry"upon a kind of bed.
*Thisis an appellation not implying blamebut merit; the"lies"which it purports to affiliate are feints and cunningstratagemsrather than the baser kind of falsehoods. Theexpressionin shorthas nearly the same meaning as theEnglishword "Yorkshireman."
*Anenterprising American travellerMr. Everettlatelyconceivedthe bold project of penetrating to the Universityof Oxfordand this notwithstanding that he had been in hisinfancy(they begin very young those Americans) an Unitarianpreacher. Having a notionit seemsthat the ambassadorialcharacterwould protect him from insulthe adopted thestratagemof procuring credentials from his Government asMinisterPlenipotentiary at the Court of her BritannicMajesty;he also wore the exact costume of a Trinitarian.But allhis contrivances were vain; Oxford disdainedandrejectedand insulted him (not because he represented aswindlingcommunitybut) because that his infantine sermonswerestrictly remembered against him; the enterprise failed. *Therose-trees which I saw were all of the kind we call"damask";they grow to an immense height and size.
*WhileLady Hester Stanhope livedalthough numbers visitedtheconventshe almost invariably refused admittance tostrangers. She assigned as a reason the use which M. deLamartinehad made of his interview. Mrs. T.who passedsome weeksat Djounitold methat when Lady Hester read hisaccount ofthis interviewshe exclaimed"It is all false;we did notconverse together for more than five minutes; butno matterno traveller hereafter shall betray or forge myconversation." The author of "Eothen" howeverwas herguestandhas given us an interesting account of his visitin hisbrilliant volume.