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Eothen by A. W. Kinglake

Part 4 out of 5

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not see very plainly any corresponding change in the looks of the
streets until the seventh day after my arrival. I then first
observed that the city was SILENCED. There were no outward signs
of despair nor of violent terror, but many of the voices that had
swelled the busy hum of men were already hushed in death, and the
survivors, so used to scream and screech in their earnestness
whenever they bought or sold, now showed an unwonted indifference
about the affairs of this world: it was less worth while for men
to haggle and haggle, and crack the sky with noisy bargains, when
the great commander was there, who could "pay all their debts with
the roll of his drum."

At this time I was informed that of twenty-five thousand people at
Alexandria, twelve thousand had died already; the destroyer had
come rather later to Cairo, but there was nothing of weariness in
his strides. The deaths came faster than ever they befell in the
plague of London; but the calmness of Orientals under such
visitations, and the habit of using biers for interment, instead of
burying coffins along with the bodies, rendered it practicable to
dispose of the dead in the usual way, without shocking the people
by any unaccustomed spectacle of horror. There was no tumbling of
bodies into carts, as in the plague of Florence and the plague of
London. Every man, according to his station, was properly buried,
and that in the usual way, except that he went to his grave in a
more hurried pace than might have been adopted under ordinary

The funerals which poured through the streets were not the only
public evidence of deaths. In Cairo this custom prevails: At the
instant of a man's death (if his property is sufficient to justify
the expense) professional howlers are employed. I believe that
these persons are brought near to the dying man when his end
appears to be approaching, and the moment that life is gone they
lift up their voices and send forth a loud wail from the chamber of
death. Thus I knew when my near neighbours died; sometimes the
howls were near, sometimes more distant. Once I was awakened in
the night by the wail of death in the next house, and another time
by a like howl from the house opposite; and there were two or three
minutes, I recollect, during which the howl seemed to be actually
running along the street.

I happened to be rather teased at this time by a sore throat, and I
thought it would be well to get it cured if I could before I again
started on my travels. I therefore inquired for a Frank doctor,
and was informed that the only one then at Cairo was a young
Bolognese refugee, who was so poor that he had not been able to
take flight, as the other medical men had done. At such a time as
this it was out of the question to send for an European physician;
a person thus summoned would be sure to suppose that the patient
was ill of the plague, and would decline to come. I therefore rode
to the young doctor's residence. After experiencing some little
difficulty in finding where to look for him, I ascended a flight or
two of stairs and knocked at his door. No one came immediately,
but after some little delay the medico himself opened the door, and
admitted me. I of course made him understand that I had come to
consult him, but before entering upon my throat grievance I
accepted a chair, and exchanged a sentence or two of commonplace
conversation. Now the natural commonplace of the city at this
season was of a gloomy sort, "Come va la peste?" (how goes the
plague?) and this was precisely the question I put. A deep sigh,
and the words, "Sette cento per giorno, signor" (seven hundred a
day), pronounced in a tone of the deepest sadness and dejection,
were the answer I received. The day was not oppressively hot, yet
I saw that the doctor was perspiring profusely, and even the
outside surface of the thick shawl dressing-gown, in which he had
wrapped himself, appeared to be moist. He was a handsome,
pleasant-looking young fellow, but the deep melancholy of his tone
did not tempt me to prolong the conversation, and without further
delay I requested that my throat might be looked at. The medico
held my chin in the usual way, and examined my throat. He then
wrote me a prescription, and almost immediately afterwards I bade
him farewell, but as he conducted me towards the door I observed an
expression of strange and unhappy watchfulness in his rolling eyes.
It was not the next day, but the next day but one, if I rightly
remember, that I sent to request another interview with my doctor.
In due time Dthemetri, who was my messenger, returned, looking
sadly aghast--he had "MET the medico," for so he phrased it,
"coming out from his house--in a bier!"

It was of course plain that when the poor Bolognese was looking at
my throat, and almost mingling his breath with mine, he was
stricken of the plague. I suppose that the violent sweat in which
I found him had been produced by some medicine, which he must have
taken in the hope of curing himself. The peculiar rolling of the
eyes which I had remarked is, I believe, to experienced observers,
a pretty sure test of the plague. A Russian acquaintance, of mine,
speaking from the information of men who had made the Turkish
campaigns of 1828 and 1829, told me that by this sign the officers
of Sabalkansky's force were able to make out the plague-stricken
soldiers with a good deal of certainty.

It so happened that most of the people with whom I had anything to
do during my stay at Cairo were seized with plague, and all these
died. Since I had been for a long time en route before I reached
Egypt, and was about to start again for another long journey over
the Desert, there were of course many little matters touching my
wardrobe and my travelling equipments which required to be attended
to whilst I remained in the city. It happened so many times that
Dthemetri's orders in respect to these matters were frustrated by
the deaths of the tradespeople and others whom he employed, that at
last I became quite accustomed to the peculiar manner which he
assumed when he prepared to announce a new death to me. The poor
fellow naturally supposed that I should feel some uneasiness at
hearing of the "accidents" which happened to persons employed by
me, and he therefore communicated their deaths as though they were
the deaths of friends. He would cast down his eyes and look like a
man abashed, and then gently, and with a mournful gesture, allow
the words, "Morto, signor," to come through his lips. I don't know
how many of such instances occurred, but they were several, and
besides these (as I told you before), my banker, my doctor, my
landlord, and my magician all died of the plague. A lad who acted
as a helper in the house which I occupied lost a brother and a
sister within a few hours. Out of my two established donkey-boys,
one died. I did not hear of any instance in which a plague-
stricken patient had recovered.

Going out one morning I met unexpectedly the scorching breath of
the kamsin wind, and fearing that I should faint under the horrible
sensations which it caused, I returned to my rooms. Reflecting,
however, that I might have to encounter this wind in the Desert,
where there would be no possibility of avoiding it, I thought it
would be better to brave it once more in the city, and to try
whether I could really bear it or not. I therefore mounted my ass
and rode to old Cairo, and along the gardens by the banks of the
Nile. The wind was hot to the touch, as though it came from a
furnace. It blew strongly, but yet with such perfect steadiness,
that the trees bending under its force remained fixed in the same
curves without perceptibly waving. The whole sky was obscured by a
veil of yellowish grey, that shut out the face of the sun. The
streets were utterly silent, being indeed almost entirely deserted;
and not without cause, for the scorching blast, whilst it fevers
the blood, closes up the pores of the skin, and is terribly
distressing, therefore, to every animal that encounters it. I
returned to my rooms dreadfully ill. My head ached with a burning
pain, and my pulse bounded quick and fitfully, but perhaps (as in
the instance of the poor Levantine, whose death I was mentioning),
the fear and excitement which I felt in trying my own wrist may
have made my blood flutter the faster.

It is a thoroughly well believed theory, that during the
continuance of the plague you can't be ill of any other febrile
malady--an unpleasant privilege that! for ill I was, and ill of
fever, and I anxiously wished that the ailment might turn out to be
anything rather than plague. I had some right to surmise that my
illness may have been merely the effect of the hot wind; and this
notion was encouraged by the elasticity of my spirits, and by a
strong forefeeling that much of my destined life in this world was
yet to come, and yet to be fulfilled. That was my instinctive
belief, but when I carefully weighed the probabilities on the one
side and on the other, I could not help seeing that the strength of
argument was all against me. There was a strong antecedent
likelihood in FAVOUR of my being struck by the same blow as the
rest of the people who had been dying around me. Besides, it
occurred to me that, after all, the universal opinion of the
Europeans upon a medical question, such as that of contagion, might
probably be correct, and IF IT WERE, I was so thoroughly
"compromised," and especially by the touch and breath of the dying
medico, that I had no right to expect any other fate than that
which now seemed to have overtaken me. Balancing as well as I
could all the considerations which hope and fear suggested, I
slowly and reluctantly came to the conclusion that, according to
all merely reasonable probability, the plague had come upon me.

You would suppose that this conviction would have induced me to
write a few farewell lines to those who were dearest, and that
having done that, I should have turned my thoughts towards the
world to come. Such, however, was not the case. I believe that
the prospect of death often brings with it strong anxieties about
matters of comparatively trivial import, and certainly with me the
whole energy of the mind was directed towards the one petty object
of concealing my illness until the latest possible moment--until
the delirious stage. I did not believe that either Mysseri or
Dthemetri, who had served me so faithfully in all trials, would
have deserted me (as most Europeans are wont to do) when they knew
that I was stricken by plague, but I shrank from the idea of
putting them to this test, and I dreaded the consternation which
the knowledge of my illness would be sure to occasion.

I was very ill indeed at the moment when my dinner was served, and
my soul sickened at the sight of the food; but I had luckily the
habit of dispensing with the attendance of servants during my meal,
and as soon as I was left alone I made a melancholy calculation of
the quantity of food which I should have eaten if I had been in my
usual health, and filled my plates accordingly, and gave myself
salt, and so on, as though I were going to dine. I then
transferred the viands to a piece of the omnipresent Times
newspaper, and hid them away in a cupboard, for it was not yet
night, and I dared not throw the food into the street until
darkness came. I did not at all relish this process of fictitious
dining, but at length the cloth was removed, and I gladly reclined
on my divan (I would not lie down) with the "Arabian Nights" in my

I had a feeling that tea would be a capital thing for me, but I
would not order it until the usual hour. When at last the time
came, I drank deep draughts from the fragrant cup. The effect was
almost instantaneous. A plenteous sweat burst through my skin, and
watered my clothes through and through. I kept myself thickly
covered. The hot tormenting weight which had been loading my brain
was slowly heaved away. The fever was extinguished. I felt a new
buoyancy of spirits, and an unusual activity of mind. I went into
my bed under a load of thick covering, and when the morning came,
and I asked myself how I was, I found that I was thoroughly well.

I was very anxious to procure, if possible, some medical advice for
Mysseri, whose illness prevented my departure. Every one of the
European practising doctors, of whom there had been many, had
either died or fled. It was said, however, that there was an
Englishman in the medical service of the Pasha who quietly remained
at his post, but that he never engaged in private practice. I
determined to try if I could obtain assistance in this quarter. I
did not venture at first, and at such a time as this, to ask him to
visit a servant who was prostrate on the bed of sickness, but
thinking that I might thus gain an opportunity of persuading him to
attend Mysseri, I wrote a note mentioning my own affair of the sore
throat, and asking for the benefit of his medical advice. He
instantly followed back my messenger, and was at once shown up into
my room. I entreated him to stand off, telling him fairly how
deeply I was "compromised," and especially by my contact with a
person actually ill and since dead of plague. The generous fellow,
with a good-humoured laugh at the terrors of the contagionists,
marched straight up to me, and forcibly seized my hand, and shook
it with manly violence. I felt grateful indeed, and swelled with
fresh pride of race because that my countryman could carry himself
so nobly. He soon cured Mysseri as well as me, and all this he did
from no other motives than the pleasure of doing a kindness and the
delight of braving a danger.

At length the great difficulty {36} which I had had in procuring
beasts for my departure was overcome, and now, too, I was to have
the new excitement of travelling on dromedaries. With two of these
beasts and three camels I gladly wound my way from out of the pest-
stricken city. As I passed through the streets I observed a
fanatical-looking elder, who stretched forth his arms, and lifted
up his voice in a speech which seemed to have some reference to me.
Requiring an interpretation, I found that the man had said, "The
Pasha seeks camels, and he finds them not; the Englishman says,
'Let camels be brought,' and behold, there they are!"

I no sooner breathed the free, wholesome air of the Desert than I
felt that a great burden which I had been scarcely conscious of
bearing was lifted away from my mind. For nearly three weeks I had
lived under peril of death; the peril ceased, and not till then did
I know how much alarm and anxiety I had really been suffering.


I went to see and to explore the Pyramids.

Familiar to one from the days of early childhood are the forms of
the Egyptian Pyramids, and now, as I approached them from the banks
of the Nile, I had no print, no picture before me, and yet the old
shapes were there; there was no change; they were just as I had
always known them. I straightened myself in my stirrups, and
strived to persuade my understanding that this was real Egypt, and
that those angles which stood up between me and the West were of
harder stuff, and more ancient than the paper pyramids of the green
portfolio. Yet it was not till I came to the base of the great
Pyramid that reality began to weigh upon my mind. Strange to say,
the bigness of the distinct blocks of stones was the first sign by
which I attained to feel the immensity of the whole pile. When I
came, and trod, and touched with my hands, and climbed, in order
that by climbing I might come to the top of one single stone, then,
and almost suddenly, a cold sense and understanding of the
Pyramid's enormity came down, overcasting my brain.

Now try to endure this homely, sick-nursish illustration of the
effect produced upon one's mind by the mere vastness of the great
Pyramid. When I was very young (between the ages, I believe, of
three and five years old), being then of delicate health, I was
often in time of night the victim of a strange kind of mental
oppression. I lay in my bed perfectly conscious, and with open
eyes, but without power to speak or to move, and all the while my
brain was oppressed to distraction by the presence of a single and
abstract idea, the idea of solid immensity. It seemed to me in my
agonies that the horror of this visitation arose from its coming
upon me without form or shape, that the close presence of the
direst monster ever bred in hell would have been a thousand times
more tolerable than that simple idea of solid size. My aching mind
was fixed and riveted down upon the mere quality of vastness,
vastness, vastness, and was not permitted to invest with it any
particular object. If I could have done so, the torment would have
ceased. When at last I was roused from this state of suffering, I
could not of course in those days (knowing no verbal metaphysics,
and no metaphysics at all, except by the dreadful experience of an
abstract idea)--I could not of course find words to describe the
nature of my sensations, and even now I cannot explain why it is
that the forced contemplation of a mere quality, distinct from
matter, should be so terrible. Well, now my eyes saw and knew, and
my hands and my feet informed my understanding that there was
nothing at all abstract about the great Pyramid--it was a big
triangle, sufficiently concrete, easy to see, and rough to the
touch; it could not, of course, affect me with the peculiar
sensation which I have been talking of, but yet there was something
akin to that old nightmare agony in the terrible completeness with
which a mere mass of masonry could fill and load my mind.

And Time too; the remoteness of its origin, no less than the
enormity of its proportions, screens an Egyptian Pyramid from the
easy and familiar contact of our modern minds; at its base the
common earth ends, and all above is a world--one not created of
God, not seeming to be made by men's hands, but rather the sheer
giant-work of some old dismal age weighing down this younger

Fine sayings! but the truth seems to be after all, that the
Pyramids are quite of this world; that they were piled up into the
air for the realisation of some kingly crotchets about immortality,
some priestly longing for burial fees; and that as for the
building, they were built like coral rocks by swarms of insects--by
swarms of poor Egyptians, who were not only the abject tools and
slaves of power, but who also ate onions for the reward of their
immortal labours! {37} The Pyramids are quite of this world.

I of course ascended to the summit of the great Pyramid, and also
explored its chambers, but these I need not describe. The first
time that I went to the Pyramids of Ghizeh there were a number of
Arabs hanging about in its neighbourhood, and wanting to receive
presents on various pretences; their Sheik was with them. There
was also present an ill-looking fellow in soldier's uniform. This
man on my departure claimed a reward, on the ground that he had
maintained order and decorum amongst the Arabs. His claim was not
considered valid by my dragoman, and was rejected accordingly. My
donkey-boys afterwards said they had overhead this fellow propose
to the Sheik to put me to death whilst I was in the interior of the
great Pyramid, and to share with him the booty. Fancy a struggle
for life in one of those burial chambers, with acres and acres of
solid masonry between one's self and the daylight! I felt
exceedingly glad that I had not made the rascal a present.

I visited the very ancient Pyramids of Aboukir and Sakkara. There
are many of these, and of various shapes and sizes, and it struck
me that, taken together, they might be considered as showing the
progress and perfection (such as it is) of pyramidical
architecture. One of the Pyramids at Sakkara is almost a rival for
the full-grown monster at Ghizeh; others are scarcely more than
vast heaps of brick and stone: these last suggested to me the idea
that after all the Pyramid is nothing more nor less than a variety
of the sepulchral mound so common in most countries (including, I
believe, Hindustan, from whence the Egyptians are supposed to have
come). Men accustomed to raise these structures for their dead
kings or conquerors would carry the usage with them in their
migrations, but arriving in Egypt, and seeing the impossibility of
finding earth sufficiently tenacious for a mound, they would
approximate as nearly as might be to their ancient custom by
raising up a round heap of stones--in short, conical pyramids. Of
these there are several at Sakkara, and the materials of some are
thrown together without any order or regularity. The transition
from this simple form to that of the square angular pyramid was
easy and natural, and it seemed to me that the gradations through
which the style passed from infancy up to its mature enormity could
plainly be traced at Sakkara.


And near the Pyramids more wondrous and more awful than all else in
the land of Egypt, there sits the lonely Sphinx. Comely the
creature is, but the comeliness is not of this world. The once
worshipped beast is a deformity and a monster to this generation;
and yet you can see that those lips, so thick and heavy, were
fashioned according to some ancient mould of beauty--some mould of
beauty now forgotten--forgotten because that Greece drew forth
Cytherea from the flashing foam of the Aegean, and in her image
created new forms of beauty, and made it a law among men that the
short and proudly wreathed lip should stand for the sign and the
main condition of loveliness through all generations to come. Yet
still there lives on the race of those who were beautiful in the
fashion of the elder world, and Christian girls of Coptic blood
will look on you with the sad, serious gaze, and kiss you your
charitable hand with the big pouting lips of the very Sphinx.

Laugh and mock if you will at the worship of stone idols, but mark
ye this, ye breakers of images, that in one regard the stone idol
bears awful semblance of Deity--unchangefulness in the midst of
change; the same seeming will, and intent for ever, and ever
inexorable! Upon ancient dynasties of Ethiopian and Egyptian
kings; upon Greek, and Roman; upon Arab and Ottoman conquerors;
upon Napoleon dreaming of an Eastern Empire; upon battle and
pestilence; upon the ceaseless misery of the Egyptian race; upon
keen-eyed travellers--Herodotus yesterday, and Warburton to-day:
upon all and more, this unworldly Sphinx has watched, and watched
like a Providence with the same earnest eyes, and the same sad,
tranquil mien. And we, we shall die, and Islam will wither away,
and the Englishman, leaning far over to hold his loved India, will
plant a firm foot on the banks of the Nile, and sit in the seats of
the Faithful, and still that sleepless rock will lie watching, and
watching the works of the new, busy race with those same sad,
earnest eyes, and the same tranquil mien everlasting. You dare not
mock at the Sphinx.


The "dromedary" of Egypt and Syria is not the two-humped animal
described by that name in books of natural history, but is, in
fact, of the same family as the camel, to which it stands in about
the same relation as a racer to a cart-horse. The fleetness and
endurance of this creature are extraordinary. It is not usual to
force him into a gallop, and I fancy from his make that it would be
quite impossible for him to maintain that pace for any length of
time; but the animal is on so large a scale, that the jog-trot at
which he is generally ridden implies a progress of perhaps ten or
twelve miles an hour, and this pace, it is said, he can keep up
incessantly, without food, or water, or rest, for three whole days
and nights.

Of the two dromedaries which I had obtained for this journey, I
mounted one myself, and put Dthemetri on the other. My plan was to
ride on with Dthemetri to Suez as rapidly as the fleetness of the
beasts would allow, and to let Myserri (who was still weak from the
effects of his late illness) come quietly on with the camels and

The trot of the dromedary is a pace terribly disagreeable to the
rider, until he becomes a little accustomed to it; but after the
first half-hour I so far schooled myself to this new exercise, that
I felt capable of keeping it up (though not without aching limbs)
for several hours together. Now, therefore, I was anxious to dart
forward, and annihilate at once the whole space that divided me
from the Red Sea. Dthemetri, however, could not get on at all.
Every attempt which he made to trot seemed to threaten the utter
dislocation of his whole frame, and indeed I doubt whether any one
of Dthemetri's age (nearly forty, I think), and unaccustomed to
such exercise, could have borne it at all easily; besides, the
dromedary which fell to his lot was evidently a very bad one; he
every now and then came to a dead stop, and coolly knelt down, as
though suggesting that the rider had better get off at once and
abandon the attempt as one that was utterly hopeless.

When for the third or fourth time I saw Dthemetri thus planted, I
lost my patience, and went on without him. For about two hours, I
think, I advanced without once looking behind me. I then paused,
and cast my eyes back to the western horizon. There was no sign of
Dthemetri, nor of any other living creature. This I expected, for
I knew that I must have far out-distanced all my followers. I had
ridden away from my party merely by way of gratifying my
impatience, and with the intention of stopping as soon as I felt
tired, until I was overtaken. I now observed, however (this I had
not been able to do whilst advancing so rapidly), that the track
which I had been following was seemingly the track of only one or
two camels. I did not fear that I had diverged very largely from
the true route, but still I could not feel any reasonable certainty
that my party would follow any line of march within sight of me.

I had to consider, therefore, whether I should remain where I was,
upon the chance of seeing my people come up, or whether I would
push on alone, and find my way to Suez. I had now learned that I
could not rely upon the continued guidance of any track, but I knew
that (if maps were right) the point for which I was bound bore just
due east of Cairo, and I thought that, although I might miss the
line leading most directly to Suez, I could not well fail to find
my way sooner or later to the Red Sea. The worst of it was that I
had no provision of food or water with me, and already I was
beginning to feel thirst. I deliberated for a minute, and then
determined that I would abandon all hope of seeing my party again,
in the Desert, and would push forward as rapidly as possible
towards Suez.

It was not, I confess, without a sensation of awe that I swept with
my sight the vacant round of the horizon, and remembered that I was
all alone, and unprovisioned in the midst of the arid waste; but
this very awe gave tone and zest to the exultation with which I
felt myself launched. Hitherto, in all my wandering, I had been
under the care of other people--sailors, Tatars, guides, and
dragomen had watched over my welfare, but now at last I was here in
this African desert, and I MYSELF, AND NO OTHER, HAD CHARGE OF MY
LIFE. I liked the office well. I had the greasiest part of the
day before me, a very fair dromedary, a fur pelisse, and a brace of
pistols, but no bread and no water; for that I must ride--and ride
I did.

For several hours I urged forward my beast at a rapid though steady
pace, but now the pangs of thirst began to torment me. I did not
relax my pace, however, and I had not suffered long when a moving
object appeared in the distance before me. The intervening space
was soon traversed, and I found myself approaching a Bedouin Arab
mounted on a camel, attended by another Bedouin on foot. They
stopped. I saw that, as usual, there hung from the pack-saddle of
the camel a large skin water-flask, which seemed to be well filled.
I steered my dromedary close up alongside of the mounted Bedouin,
caused my beast to kneel down, then alighted, and keeping the end
of the halter in my hand, went up to the mounted Bedouin without
speaking, took hold of his water-flask, opened it, and drank long
and deep from its leathern lips. Both of the Bedouins stood fast
in amazement and mute horror; and really, if they had never
happened to see an European before, the apparition was enough to
startle them. To see for the first time a coat and a waistcoat,
with the semblance of a white human head at the top, and for this
ghastly figure to come swiftly out of the horizon upon a fleet
dromedary, approach them silently and with a demoniacal smile, and
drink a deep draught from their water-flask--this was enough to
make the Bedouins stare a little; they, in fact, stared a great
deal--not as Europeans stare, with a restless and puzzled
expression of countenance, but with features all fixed and rigid,
and with still, glassy eyes. Before they had time to get
decomposed from their state of petrifaction I had remounted my
dromedary, and was darting away towards the east.

Without pause or remission of pace I continued to press forward,
but after a while I found to my confusion that the slight track
which had hitherto guided me now failed altogether. I began to
fear that I must have been all along following the course of some
wandering Bedouins, and I felt that if this were the case, my fate
was a little uncertain.

I had no compass with me, but I determined upon the eastern point
of the horizon as accurately as I could by reference to the sun,
and so laid down for myself a way over the pathless sands.

But now my poor dromedary, by whose life and strength I held my
own, began to show signs of distress: a thick, clammy, and
glutinous kind of foam gathered about her lips, and piteous sobs
burst from her bosom in the tones of human misery. I doubted for a
moment whether I would give her a little rest, a relaxation of
pace, but I decided that I would not, and continued to push forward
as steadily as before.

The character of the country became changed. I had ridden away
from the level tracts, and before me now, and on either side, there
were vast hills of sand and calcined rocks, that interrupted my
progress and baffled my doubtful road, but I did my best. With
rapid steps I swept round the base of the hills, threaded the
winding hollows, and at last, as I rose in my swift course to the
crest of a lofty ridge, Thalatta! Thalatta! by Jove! I saw the

My tongue can tell where to find a clue to many an old pagan creed,
because that (distinctly from all mere admiration of the beauty
belonging to nature's works) I acknowledge a sense of mystical
reverence when first I look, to see some illustrious feature of the
globe--some coast-line of ocean, some mighty river or dreary
mountain range, the ancient barrier of kingdoms. But the Red Sea!
It might well claim my earnest gaze by force of the great Jewish
migration which connects it with the history of our own religion.
From this very ridge, it is likely enough, the panting Israelites
first saw that shining inlet of the sea. Ay! ay! but moreover, and
best of all, that beckoning sea assured my eyes, and proved how
well I had marked out the east for my path, and gave me good
promise that sooner or later the time would come for me to rest and
drink. It was distant, the sea, but I felt my own strength, and I
had HEARD of the strength of dromedaries. I pushed forward as
eagerly as though I had spoiled the Egyptians and were flying from
Pharaoh's police.

I had not yet been able to discover any symptoms of Suez, but after
a while I descried in the distance a large, blank, isolated
building. I made towards this, and in time got down to it. The
building was a fort, and had been built there for the protection of
a well which it contained within its precincts. A cluster of small
huts adhered to the fort, and in a short time I was receiving the
hospitality of the inhabitants, who were grouped upon the sands
near their hamlet. To quench the fires of my throat with about a
gallon of muddy water, and to swallow a little of the food placed
before me, was the work of few minutes, and before the astonishment
of my hosts had even begun to subside, I was pursuing my onward
journey. Suez, I found, was still three hours distant, and the sun
going down in the west warned me that I must find some other guide
to keep me in the right direction. This guide I found in the most
fickle and uncertain of the elements. For some hours the wind had
been freshening, and it now blew a violent gale; it blew not
fitfully and in squalls, but with such remarkable steadiness, that
I felt convinced it would blow from the same quarter for several
hours. When the sun set, therefore, I carefully looked for the
point from which the wind was blowing, and found that it came from
the very west, and was blowing exactly in the direction of my
route. I had nothing to do therefore but to go straight to
leeward; and this was not difficult, for the gale blew with such
immense force, that if I diverged at all from its line I instantly
felt the pressure of the blast on the side towards which I was
deviating. Very soon after sunset there came on complete darkness,
but the strong wind guided me well, and sped me, too, on my way.

I had pushed on for about, I think, a couple of hours after
nightfall when I saw the glimmer of a light in the distance, and
this I ventured to hope must be Suez. Upon approaching it,
however, I found that it was only a solitary fort, and I passed on
without stopping.

On I went, still riding down the wind, when an unlucky accident
occurred, for which, if you like, you can have your laugh against
me. I have told you already what sort of lodging it is that you
have upon the back of a camel. You ride the dromedary in the same
fashion; you are perched rather than seated on a bunch of carpets
or quilts upon the summit of the hump. It happened that my
dromedary veered rather suddenly from her onward course. Meeting
the movement, I mechanically turned my left wrist as though I were
holding a bridle rein, for the complete darkness prevented my eyes
from reminding me that I had nothing but a halter in my hand. The
expected resistance failed, for the halter was hanging upon that
side of the dromedary's neck towards which I was slightly leaning.
I toppled over, head foremost, and then went falling and falling
through air, till my crown came whang against the ground. And the
ground too was perfectly hard (compacted sand), but the thickly
wadded headgear which I wore for protection against the sun saved
my life. The notion of my being able to get up again after falling
head-foremost from such an immense height seemed to me at first too
paradoxical to be acted upon, but I soon found that I was not a bit
hurt. My dromedary utterly vanished. I looked round me, and saw
the glimmer of a light in the fort which I had lately passed, and I
began to work my way back in that direction. The violence of the
gale made it hard for me to force my way towards the west, but I
succeeded at last in regaining the fort. To this, as to the other
fort which I had passed, there was attached a cluster of huts, and
I soon found myself surrounded by a group of villainous, gloomy-
looking fellows. It was a horrid bore for me to have to swagger
and look big at a time when I felt so particularly small on account
of my tumble and my lost dromedary; but there was no help for it; I
had no Dthemetri now to "strike terror" for me. I knew hardly one
word of Arabic, but somehow or other I contrived to announce it as
my absolute will and pleasure that these fellows should find me the
means of gaining Suez. They acceded, and having a donkey, they
saddled it for me, and appointed one of their number to attend me
on foot.

I afterwards found that these fellows were not Arabs, but Algerine
refugees, and that they bore the character of being sad scoundrels.
They justified this imputation to some extent on the following day.
They allowed Mysseri with my baggage and the camels to pass
unmolested, but an Arab lad belonging to the party happened to lag
a little way in the rear, and him (if they were not maligned) these
rascals stripped and robbed. Low indeed is the state of bandit
morality when men will allow the sleek traveller with well-laden
camels to pass in quiet, reserving their spirit of enterprise for
the tattered turban of a miserable boy.

I reached Suez at last. The British agent, though roused from his
midnight sleep, received me in his home with the utmost kindness
and hospitality. Oh! by Jove, how delightful it was to lie on fair
sheets, and to dally with sleep, and to wake, and to sleep, and to
wake once more, for the sake of sleeping again!


I was hospitably entertained by the British consul, or agent, as he
is there styled. He is the employe of the East India Company, and
not of the Home Government. Napoleon during his stay of five days
at Suez had been the guest of the consul's father, and I was told
that the divan in my apartment had been the bed of the great

There are two opinions as to the point at which the Israelites
passed the Red Sea. One is, that they traversed only the very
small creek at the northern extremity of the inlet, and that they
entered the bed of the water at the spot on which Suez now stands;
the other, that they crossed the sea from a point eighteen miles
down the coast. The Oxford theologians, who, with Milman their
professor, {38} believe that Jehovah conducted His chosen people
without disturbing the order of nature, adopt the first view, and
suppose that the Israelites passed during an ebb-tide, aided by a
violent wind. One among many objections to this supposition is,
that the time of a single ebb would not have been sufficient for
the passage of that vast multitude of men and beasts, or even for a
small fraction of it. Moreover, the creek to the north of this
point can be compassed in an hour, and in two hours you can make
the circuit of the salt marsh over which the sea may have extended
in former times. If, therefore, the Israelites crossed so high up
as Suez, the Egyptians, unless infatuated by Divine interference,
might easily have recovered their stolen goods from the encumbered
fugitives by making a slight detour. The opinion which fixes the
point of passage at eighteen miles' distance, and from thence right
across the ocean depths to the eastern side of the sea, is
supported by the unanimous tradition of the people, whether
Christians or Mussulmans, and is consistent with Holy Writ: "the
waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, AND ON THEIR
LEFT." The Cambridge mathematicians seem to think that the
Israelites were enabled to pass over dry land by adopting a route
not usually subjected to the influx of the sea. This notion is
plausible in a merely hydrostatical point of view, and is supposed
to have been adopted by most of the Fellows of Trinity, but
certainly not by Thorp, who is one of the most amiable of their
number. It is difficult to reconcile this theory with the account
given in Exodus, unless we can suppose that the words "sea" and
"waters" are there used in a sense implying dry land.

Napoleon when at Suez made an attempt to follow the supposed steps
of Moses by passing the creek at this point, but it seems,
according to the testimony of the people at Suez, that he and his
horsemen managed the matter in a way more resembling the failure of
the Egyptians than the success of the Israelites. According to the
French account, Napoleon got out of the difficulty by that warrior-
like presence of mind which served him so well when the fate of
nations depended on the decision of a moment--he ordered his
horsemen to disperse in all directions, in order to multiply the
chances of finding shallow water, and was thus enabled to discover
a line by which he and his people were extricated. The story told
by the people of Suez is very different: they declare that
Napoleon parted from his horse, got thoroughly submerged, and was
only fished out by the assistance of the people on shore.

I bathed twice at the point assigned to the passage of the
Israelites, and the second time that I did so I chose the time of
low water and tried to walk across, but I soon found myself out of
my depth, or at least in water so deep, that I could only advance
by swimming.

The dromedary, which had bolted in the Desert, was brought into
Suez the day after my arrival, but my pelisse and my pistols, which
had been attached to the saddle, had disappeared. These articles
were treasures of great importance to me at that time, and I moved
the Governor of the town to make all possible exertions for their
recovery. He acceded to my wishes as well as he could, and very
obligingly imprisoned the first seven poor fellows he could lay his
hands on.

At first the Governor acted in the matter from no other motive than
that of courtesy to an English traveller, but afterwards, and when
he saw the value which I set upon the lost property, he pushed his
measures with a degree of alacrity and heat, which seemed to show
that he felt a personal interest in the matter. It was supposed
either that he expected a large present in the event of succeeding,
or that he was striving by all means to trace the property, in
order that he might lay his hands on it after my departure.

I went out sailing for some hours, and when I returned I was
horrified to find that two men had been bastinadoed by order of the
Governor, with a view to force them to a confession of their theft.
It appeared, however, that there really was good ground for
supposing them guilty, since one of the holsters was actually found
in their possession. It was said too (but I could hardly believe
it), that whilst one of the men was undergoing the bastinado, his
comrade was overheard encouraging him to bear the torment without
peaching. Both men, if they had the secret, were resolute in
keeping it, and were sent back to their dungeon. I of course took
care that there should be no repetition of the torture, at least so
long as I remained at Suez.

The Governor was a thorough Oriental, and until a comparatively
recent period had shared in the old Mahometan feeling of contempt
for Europeans. It happened however, one day that an English gun-
brig had appeared off Suez, and sent her boats ashore to take in
fresh water. Now fresh water at Suez is a somewhat scarce and
precious commodity: it is kept in tanks, the chief of which is at
some distance from the place. Under these circumstances the
request for fresh water was refused, or at all events, was not
complied with. The captain of the brig was a simple-minded man
with a strongish will, and he at once declared that if his casks
were not filled in three hours, he would destroy the whole place.
"A great people indeed!" said the Governor; "a wonderful people,
the English!" He instantly caused every cask to be filled to the
brim from his own tank, and ever afterwards entertained for the
English a degree of affection and respect, for which I felt
infinitely indebted to the gallant captain.

The day after the abortive attempt to extract a confession from the
prisoners, the Governor, the consul, and I sat in council, I know
not how long, with a view of prosecuting the search for the stolen
goods. The sitting, considered in the light of a criminal
investigation, was characteristic of the East. The proceedings
began as a matter of course by the prosecutor's smoking a pipe and
drinking coffee with the Governor, who was judge, jury, and
sheriff. I got on very well with him (this was not my first
interview), and he gave me the pipe from his lips in testimony of
his friendship. I recollect, however, that my prime adviser,
thinking me, I suppose, a great deal too shy and retiring in my
manner, entreated me to put up my boots and to soil the Governor's
divan, in order to inspire respect and strike terror. I thought it
would be as well for me to retain the right of respecting myself,
and that it was not quite necessary for a well-received guest to
strike any terror at all.

Our deliberations were assisted by the numerous attendants who
lined the three sides of the room not occupied by the divan. Any
one of these who took it into his head to offer a suggestion would
stand forward and humble himself before the Governor, and then
state his views; every man thus giving counsel was listened to with
some attention.

After a great deal of fruitless planning the Governor directed that
the prisoners should be brought in. I was shocked when they
entered, for I was not prepared to see them come CARRIED into the
room upon the shoulders of others. It had not occurred to me that
their battered feet would be too sore to bear the contact of the
floor. They persisted in asserting their innocence. The Governor
wanted to recur to the torture, but that I prevented, and the men
were carried back to their dungeon.

A scheme was now suggested by one of the attendants which seemed to
me childishly absurd, but it was nevertheless tried. The plan was
to send a man to the prisoners, who was to make them believe that
he had obtained entrance into their dungeon upon some other
pretence, but that he had in reality come to treat with them for
the purchase of the stolen goods. This shallow expedient of course

The Governor himself had not nominally the power of life and death
over the people in his district, but he could if he chose send them
to Cairo, and have them hanged there. I proposed, therefore, that
the prisoners should be threatened with this fate. The answer of
the Governor made me feel rather ashamed of my effeminate
suggestion. He said that if I wished it he would willingly
threaten them with death, but he also said that if he threatened,

Thinking at last that nothing was to be gained by keeping the
prisoners any longer in confinement, I requested that they might be
set free. To this the Governor acceded, though only, as he said,
out of favour to me, for he had a strong impression that the men
were guilty. I went down to see the prisoners let out with my own
eyes. They were very grateful, and fell down to the earth, kissing
my boots. I gave them a present to console them for their wounds,
and they seemed to be highly delighted.

Although the matter terminated in a manner so satisfactory to the
principal sufferers, there were symptoms of some angry excitement
in the place: it was said that public opinion was much shocked at
the fact that Mahometans had been beaten on account of a loss
sustained by a Christian. My journey was to recommence the next
day, and it was hinted that if I preservered in my intention of
proceeding, the people would have an easy and profitable
opportunity of wreaking their vengeance on me. If ever they formed
any scheme of the kind, they at all events refrained from any
attempt to carry it into effect.

One of the evenings during my stay at Suez was enlivened by a
triple wedding. There was a long and slow procession. Some
carried torches, and others were thumping drums and firing pistols.
The bridegrooms came last, all walking abreast. My only reason for
mentioning the ceremony (which was otherwise uninteresting) is,
that I scarcely ever in all my life saw any phenomena so ridiculous
as the meekness and gravity of those three young men whilst being
"led to the altar."


The route over the Desert from Suez to Gaza is not frequented by
merchants, and is seldom passed by a traveller. This part of the
country is less uniformly barren than the tracts of shifting sand
that lie on the El Arish route. The shrubs on which the camel
feeds are more frequent, and in many spots the sand is mingled with
so much of productive soil, as to admit the growth of corn. The
Bedouins are driven out of this district during the summer by the
total want of water, but before the time for their forced departure
arrives they succeed in raising little crops of barley from these
comparatively fertile patches of ground. They bury the fruit of
their labours, leaving marks by which, upon their return, they may
be able to recognise the spot. The warm, dry sand stands them for
a safe granary. The country at the time I passed it (in the month
of April) was pretty thickly sprinkled with Bedouins expecting
their harvest. Several times my tent was pitched alongside of
their encampments. I have told you already what the impressions
were which these people produced upon my mind.

I saw several creatures of the antelope kind in this part of the
Desert, and one day my Arabs surprised in her sleep a young gazelle
(for so I called her), and took the darling prisoner. I carried
her before me on my camel for the rest of the day, and kept her in
my tent all night. I did all I could to coax her, but the
trembling beauty refused to touch food, and would not be comforted.
Whenever she had a seeming opportunity of escaping she struggled
with a violence so painfully disproportioned to her fine, delicate
limbs, that I could not continue the cruel attempt to make her my
own. In the morning, therefore, I set her free, anticipating some
pleasure from seeing the joyous bound with which, as I thought, she
would return to her native freedom. She had been so stupefied,
however, by the exciting events of the preceding day and night, and
was so puzzled as to the road she should take, that she went off
very deliberately, and with an uncertain step. She went away quite
sound in limb, but her intellect may have been upset. Never in all
likelihood had she seen the form of a human being until the
dreadful moment when she woke from her sleep and found herself in
the grip of an Arab. Then her pitching and tossing journey on the
back of a camel, and lastly, a soiree with me by candlelight! I
should have been glad to know, if I could, that her heart was not
utterly broken.

My Arabs were somewhat excited one day by discovering the fresh
print of a foot--the foot, as they said, of a lion. I had no
conception that the lord of the forest (better known as a crest)
ever stalked away from his jungles to make inglorious war in these
smooth plains against antelopes and gazelles. I supposed that
there must have been some error of interpretation, and that the
Arabs meant to speak of a tiger. It appeared, however, that this
was not the case. Either the Arabs were mistaken, or the noble
brute, uncooped and unchained, had but lately crossed my path.

The camels with which I traversed this part of the Desert were very
different in their ways and habits from those that you get on a
frequented route. They were never led. There was not the
slightest sign of a track in this part of the Desert, but the
camels never failed to choose the right line. By the direction
taken at starting they knew, I suppose, the point (some encampment)
for which they were to make. There is always a leading camel
(generally, I believe, the eldest), who marches foremost, and
determines the path for the whole party. If it happens that no one
of the camels has been accustomed to lead the others, there is very
great difficulty in making a start. If you force your beast
forward for a moment, he will contrive to wheel and draw back, at
the same time looking at one of the other camels with an expression
and gesture exactly equivalent to apres vous. The responsibility
of finding the way is evidently assumed very unwillingly. After
some time, however, it becomes understood that one of the beasts
has reluctantly consented to take the lead, and he accordingly
advances for that purpose. For a minute or two he goes on with
much indecision, taking first one line and then another, but soon
by the aid of some mysterious sense he discovers the true
direction, and follows it steadily from morning to night. When
once the leadership is established, you cannot by any persuasion,
and can scarcely by any force, induce a junior camel to walk one
single step in advance of the chosen guide.

On the fifth day I came to an oasis, called the Wady el Arish, a
ravine, or rather a gully, through which during a part of the year
there runs a stream of water. On the sides of the gully there were
a number of those graceful trees which the Arabs call tarfa. The
channel of the stream was quite dry in the part at which we
arrived, but at about half a mile off some water was found, which,
though very muddy, was tolerably sweet. This was a happy
discovery, for all the water that we had brought from the
neighbourhood of Suez was rapidly putrefying.

The want of foresight is an anomalous part of the Bedouin's
character, for it does not result either from recklessness or
stupidity. I know of no human being whose body is so thoroughly
the slave of mind as that of the Arab. His mental anxieties seem
to be for ever torturing every nerve and fibre of his body, and yet
with all this exquisite sensitiveness to the suggestions of the
mind, he is grossly improvident. I recollect, for instance, that
when setting out upon this passage of the Desert my Arabs, in order
to lighten the burthen of their camels, were most anxious that we
should take with us only two days' supply of water. They said that
by the time that supply was exhausted we should arrive at a spring
which would furnish us for the rest of the journey. My servants
very wisely, and with much pertinacity, resisted the adoption of
this plan, and took care to have both the large skins well filled.
We proceeded and found no water at all, either at the expected
spring or for many days afterwards, so that nothing but the
precaution of my own people saved us from the very severe suffering
which we should have endured if we had entered upon the Desert with
only a two days' supply. The Arabs themselves being on foot would
have suffered much more than I from the consequences of their

This unaccountable want of foresight prevents the Bedouin from
appreciating at a distance of eight or ten days the amount of the
misery which he entails upon himself at the end of that period.
His dread of a city is one of the most painful mental affections
that I have ever observed, and yet when the whole breadth of the
Desert lies between him and the town to which you are going, he
will freely enter into an agreement to LAND you in the city for
which you are bound. When, however, after many a day of toil the
distant minarets at length appear, the poor Bedouin relaxes the
vigour of his pace, his steps become faltering and undecided, every
moment his uneasiness increases, and at length he fairly sobs
aloud, and embracing your knees, implores with the most piteous
cries and gestures that you will dispense with him and his camels,
and find some other means of entering the city. This, of course,
one can't agree to, and the consequence is that one is obliged to
witness and resist the most moving expressions of grief and fond
entreaty. I had to go through a most painful scene of this kind
when I entered Cairo, and now the horror which these wilder Arabs
felt at the notion of entering Gaza led to consequences still more
distressing. The dread of cities results partly from a kind of
wild instinct which has always characterised the descendants of
Ishmael, but partly too from a well-founded apprehension of ill-
treatment. So often it happens that the poor Bedouin, when once
jammed in between walls, is seized by the Government authorities
for the sake of his camels, that his innate horror of cities
becomes really justified by results.

The Bedouins with whom I performed this journey were wild fellows
of the Desert, quite unaccustomed to let out themselves or their
beasts for hire, and when they found that by the natural ascendency
of Europeans they were gradually brought down to a state of
subserviency to me, or rather to my attendants, they bitterly
repented, I believe, of having placed themselves under our control.
They were rather difficult fellows to manage, and gave Dthemetri a
good deal of trouble, but I liked them all the better for that.

Selim, the chief of the party, and the man to whom all our camels
belonged, was a fine, savage, stately fellow. There were, I think,
five other Arabs of the party, but when we approached the end of
the journey they one by one began to make off towards the
neighbouring encampments, and by the time that the minarets of Gaza
were in sight, Selim, the owner of the camels, was the only one who
remained. He, poor fellow, as we neared the town began to discover
the same terrors that my Arabs had shown when I entered Cairo. I
could not possibly accede to his entreaties and consent to let my
baggage be laid down on the bare sands, without any means of having
it brought on into the city. So at length, when poor Selim had
exhausted all his rhetoric of voice and action and tears, he fixed
his despairing eyes for a minute upon the cherished beasts that
were his only wealth, and then suddenly and madly dashed away into
the farther Desert. I continued my course and reached the city at
last, but it was not without immense difficulty that we could
constrain the poor camels to pass under the hated shadow of its
walls. They were the genuine beasts of the Desert, and it was sad
and painful to witness the agony they suffered when thus they were
forced to encounter the fixed habitations of men. They shrank from
the beginning of every high narrow street as though from the
entrance of some horrible cave or bottomless pit; they sighed and
wept like women. When at last we got them within the courtyard of
the khan they seemed to be quite broken-hearted, and looked round
piteously for their loving master; but no Selim came. I had
imagined that he would enter the town secretly by night in order to
carry off those five fine camels, his only wealth in this world,
and seemingly the main objects of his affection. But no; his dread
of civilisation was too strong. During the whole of the three days
that I remained at Gaza he failed to show himself, and thus
sacrificed in all probability not only his camels, but the money
which I had stipulated to pay him for the passage of the Desert.
In order, however, to do all I could towards saving him from this
last misfortune I resorted to a contrivance frequently adopted by
the Asiatics: I assembled a group of grave and worthy Mussulmans
in the courtyard of the khan, and in their presence paid over the
gold to a Sheik who was accustomed to communicate with the Arabs of
the Desert. All present solemnly promised that if ever Selim
should come to claim his rights, they would bear true witness in
his favour.

I saw a great deal of my old friend the Governor of Gaza. He had
received orders to send back all persons coming from Egypt, and
force them to perform quarantine at El Arish. He knew so little of
quarantine regulations, however, that his dress was actually in
contact with mine whilst he insisted upon the stringency of the
orders which he had received. He was induced to make an exception
in my favour, and I rewarded him with a musical snuffbox which I
had bought at Smyrna for the purpose of presenting it to any man in
authority who might happen to do me an important service. The
Governor was delighted with his toy, and took it off to his harem
with great exultation. He soon, however, returned with an altered
countenance; his wives, he said, had got hold of the box and put it
out of order. So short-lived is human happiness in this frail

The Governor fancied that he should incur less risk if remained at
Gaza for two or three days more, and he wanted me to become his
guest. I persuaded him, however, that it would be better for him
to let me depart at once. He wanted to add to my baggage a roast
lamb and a quantity of other cumbrous viands, but I escaped with
half a horse-load of leaven bread, which was very good of its kind,
and proved a most useful present. The air with which the
Governor's slaves affected to be almost breaking down under the
weight of the gifts which they bore on their shoulders, reminded me
of the figures one sees in some of the old pictures.


Passing now once again through Palestine and Syria I retained the
tent which I had used in the Desert, and found that it added very
much to my comfort in travelling. Instead of turning out a family
from some wretched dwelling, and depriving them of a repose which I
was sure not to find for myself, I now, when evening came, pitched
my tent upon some smiling spot within a few hundred yards of the
village to which I looked for my supplies, that is, for milk and
bread if I had it not with me, and sometimes also for eggs. The
worst of it is, that the needful viands are not to be obtained by
coin, but only by intimidation. I at first tried the usual agent,
money. Dthemetri, with one or two of my Arabs, went into the
village near which I was encamped and tried to buy the required
provisions, offering liberal payment, but he came back empty-
handed. I sent him again, but this time he held different
language. He required to see the elders of the place, and
threatening dreadful vengeance, directed them upon their
responsibility to take care that my tent should be immediately and
abundantly supplied. He was obeyed at once, and the provisions
refused to me as a purchaser soon arrived, trebled or quadrupled,
when demanded by way of a forced contribution. I quickly found (I
think it required two experiments to convince me) that this
peremptory method was the only one which could be adopted with
success. It never failed. Of course, however, when the provisions
have been actually obtained you can, if you choose, give money
exceeding the value of the provisions to SOMEBODY. An English, a
thoroughbred English, traveller will always do this (though it is
contrary to the custom of the country) for the quiet (false quiet
though it be) of his own conscience, but so to order the matter
that the poor fellows who have been forced to contribute should be
the persons to receive the value of their supplies, is not
possible. For a traveller to attempt anything so grossly just as
that would be too outrageous. The truth is, that the usage of the
East, in old times, required the people of the village, at their
own cost, to supply the wants of travellers, and the ancient custom
is now adhered to, not in favour of travellers generally, but in
favour of those who are deemed sufficiently powerful to enforce its
observance. If the villagers therefore find a man waiving this
right to oppress them, and offering coin for that which he is
entitled to take without payment, they suppose at once that he is
actuated by fear (fear of THEM, poor fellows!), and it is so
delightful to them to act upon this flattering assumption, that
they will forego the advantage of a good price for their provisions
rather than the rare luxury of refusing for once in their lives to
part with their own possessions.

The practice of intimidation thus rendered necessary is utterly
hateful to an Englishman. He finds himself forced to conquer his
daily bread by the pompous threats of the dragoman, his very
subsistence, as well as his dignity and personal safety, being made
to depend upon his servant's assuming a tone of authority which
does not at all belong to him. Besides, he can scarcely fail to
see that as he passes through the country he becomes the innocent
cause of much extra injustice, many supernumerary wrongs. This he
feels to be especially the case when he travels with relays. To be
the owner of a horse or a mule within reach of an Asiatic
potentate, is to lead the life of the hare and the rabbit, hunted
down and ferreted out. Too often it happens that the works of the
field are stopped in the daytime, that the inmates of the cottage
are roused from their midnight sleep, by the sudden coming of a
Government officer, and the poor husbandman, driven by threats and
rewarded by curses, if he would not lose sight for ever of his
captured beasts, must quit all and follow them. This is done that
the Englishman may travel. He would make his way more harmless if
he could, but horses or mules he MUST have, and these are his ways
and means.

The town of Nablus is beautiful; it lies in a valley hemmed in with
olive groves, and its buildings are interspersed with frequent
palm-trees. It is said to occupy the site of the ancient Sychem.
I know not whether it was there indeed that the father of the Jews
was accustomed to feed his flocks, but the valley is green and
smiling, and is held at this day by a race more brave and beautiful
than Jacob's unhappy descendants.

Nablus is the very furnace of Mahometan bigotry; and I believe that
only a few months before the time of my going there it would have
been quite unsafe for a man, unless strongly guarded, to show
himself to the people of the town in a Frank costume; but since
their last insurrection the Mahometans of the place had been so far
subdued by the severity of Ibrahim Pasha, that they dared not now
offer the slightest insult to an European. It was quite plain,
however, that the effort with which the men of the old school
refrained from expressing their opinion of a hat and a coat was
horribly painful to them. As I walked through the streets and
bazaars a dead silence prevailed; every man suspended his
employment, and gazed on me with a fixed, glassy look, which seemed
to say, "God is good, but how marvellous and inscrutable are His
ways that thus He permits this white-faced dog of a Christian to
hunt through the paths of the faithful."

The insurrection of these people had been more formidable than any
other that Ibrahim Pasha had to contend with. He was only able to
crush them at last by the assistance of a fellow renowned for his
resources in the way of stratagem and cunning, as well as for his
knowledge of the country. This personage was no other than Aboo
Goosh ("the father of lies" {39}), who was taken out of prison for
the purpose. The "father of lies" enabled Ibrahim to hem in the
insurrection and extinguish it. He was rewarded with the
Governorship of Jerusalem, which he held when I was there. I
recollect, by-the-bye, that he tried one of his stratagems upon me.
I did not go to see him, as I ought in courtesy to have done,
during my stay at Jerusalem; but I happened to be the owner of a
rather handsome amber tchibouque piece, which the Governor heard
of, and by some means contrived to see. He sent to me, and dressed
up a statement that he would give me a price immensely exceeding
the sum which I had given for it. He did not add my tchibouque to
the rest of his trophies.

There was a small number of Greek Christians resident in Nablus,
and over these the Mussulmans held a high hand, not even permitting
them to speak to each other in the open streets; but if the Moslems
thus set themselves above the poor Christians of the place, I, or
rather my servants, soon took the ascendant over THEM. I recollect
that just as we were starting from the place, and at a time when a
number of people had gathered together in the main street to see
our preparations, Mysseri, being provoked at some piece of
perverseness on the part of a true believer, coolly thrashed him
with his horsewhip before the assembled crowd of fanatics. I was
much annoyed at the time, for I thought that the people would
probably rise against us. They turned rather pale, but stood

The day of my arrival at Nablus was a fete--the new-year's day of
the Mussulmans. {40} Most of the people were amusing themselves in
the beautiful lawns and shady groves without the city. The men
(except myself) were all remotely apart from the other sex. The
women in groups were diverting themselves and their children with
swings. They were so handsome, that they could not keep up their
yashmaks. I believe that they had never before looked upon a man
in the European dress, and when they now saw in me that strange
phenomenon, and saw, too, how they could please the creature by
showing him a glimpse of beauty, they seemed to think it was better
fun to do this than to go on playing with swings. It was always,
however, with a sort of zoological expression of countenance that
they looked on the horrible monster from Europe, and whenever one
of them gave me to see for one sweet instant the blushing of her
unveiled face, it was with the same kind of air as that with which
a young, timid girl will edge her way up to an elephant and
tremblingly give him a nut from the tips of her rosy fingers.


There is no spirit of propagandism in the Mussulmans of the Ottoman
dominions. True it is that a prisoner of war, or a Christian
condemned to death, may on some occasions save his life by adopting
the religion of Mahomet, but instances of this kind are now
exceedingly rare, and are quite at variance with the general
system. Many Europeans, I think, would be surprised to learn that
which is nevertheless quite true, namely, that an attempt to
disturb the religious repose of the empire by the conversion of a
Christian to the Mahometan faith is positively illegal. The event
which now I am going to mention shows plainly enough that the
unlawfulness of such interference is distinctly recognised even in
the most bigoted stronghold of Islam.

During my stay at Nablus I took up my quarters at the house of the
Greek "papa" as he is called, that is, the Greek priest. The
priest himself had gone to Jerusalem upon the business I am going
to tell you of, but his wife remained at Nablus, and did the
honours of her home.

Soon after my arrival a deputation from the Greek Christians of the
place came to request my interference in a matter which had
occasioned vast excitement.

And now I must tell you how it came to happen, as it did
continually, that people thought it worth while to claim the
assistance of a mere traveller, who was totally devoid of all just
pretensions to authority or influence of even the humblest
description, and especially I must explain to you how it was that
the power thus attributed did really belong to me, or rather to my
dragoman. Successive political convulsions had at length fairly
loosed the people of Syria from their former rules of conduct, and
from all their old habits of reliance. The violence and success
with which Mehemet Ali crushed the insurrection of the Mahometan
population had utterly beaten down the head of Islam, and
extinguished, for the time at least, those virtues and vices which
had sprung from the Mahometan faith. Success so complete as
Mehemet Ali's, if it had been attained by an ordinary Asiatic
potentate, would have induced a notion of stability. The readily
bowing mind of the Oriental would have bowed low and long under the
feet of a conqueror whom God had thus strengthened. But Syria was
no field for contests strictly Asiatic. Europe was involved, and
though the heavy masses of Egyptian troops, clinging with strong
grip to the land, might seem to hold it fast, yet every peasant
practically felt, and knew, that in Vienna or Petersburg or London
there were four or five pale-looking men who could pull down the
star of the Pasha with shreds of paper and ink. The people of the
country knew, too, that Mehemet Ali was strong with the strength of
the Europeans--strong by his French general, his French tactics,
and his English engines. Moreover, they saw that the person, the
property, and even the dignity of the humblest European was guarded
with the most careful solicitude. The consequence of all this was,
that the people of Syria looked vaguely, but confidently, to Europe
for fresh changes. Many would fix upon some nation, France or
England, and steadfastly regard it as the arriving sovereign of
Syria. Those whose minds remained in doubt equally contributed to
this new state of public opinion, which no longer depended upon
religion and ancient habits, but upon bare hopes and fears. Every
man wanted to know, not who was his neighbour, but who was to be
his ruler; whose feet he was to kiss, and by whom HIS feet were to
be ultimately beaten. Treat your friend, says the proverb, as
though he were one day to become your enemy, and your enemy as
though he were one day to become your friend. The Syrians went
further, and seemed inclined to treat every stranger as though he
might one day become their Pasha. Such was the state of
circumstances and of feeling which now for the first time had
thoroughly opened the mind of Western Asia for the reception of
Europeans and European ideas. The credit of the English especially
was so great, that a good Mussulman flying from the conscription,
or any other persecution, would come to seek from the formerly
despised hat that protection which the turban could no longer
afford; and a man high in authority (as, for instance, the Governor
in command of Gaza) would think that he had won a prize, or at all
events, a valuable lottery ticket, if he obtained a written
approval of his conduct from a simple traveller.

Still, in order that any immediate result should follow from all
this unwonted readiness in the Asiatic to succumb to the European,
it was necessary that some one should be at hand who could see and
would push the advantage. I myself had neither the inclination nor
the power to do so, but it happened that Dthemetri, who as my
dragoman represented me on all occasions, was the very person of
all others best fitted to avail himself with success of this
yielding tendency in the Oriental mind. If the chance of birth and
fortune had made poor Dthemetri a tailor during some part of his
life, yet religion and the literature of the Church which he served
had made him a man, and a brave man too. The lives of saints with
which he was familiar were full of heroic actions provoking
imitation, and since faith in a creed involves a faith in its
ultimate triumph, Dthemetri was bold from a sense of true strength.
His education too, though not very general in its character, had
been carried quite far enough to justify him in pluming himself
upon a very decided advantage over the great bulk of the Mahometan
population, including the men in authority. With all this
consciousness of religious and intellectual superiority Dthemetri
had lived for the most part in countries lying under Mussulman
governments, and had witnessed (perhaps too had suffered from)
their revolting cruelties: the result was that he abhorred and
despised the Mahometan faith and all who clung to it. And this
hate was not of the dry, dull, and inactive sort. Dthemetri was in
his sphere a true Crusader, and whenever there appeared a fair
opening in the defences of Islam, he was ready and eager to make
the assault. These sentiments, backed by a consciousness of
understanding the people with whom he had to do, made Dthemetri not
only firm and resolute in his constant interviews with men in
authority, but sometimes also (as you may know already) very
violent and even insulting. This tone, which I always disliked,
though I was fain to profit by it, invariably succeeded. It swept
away all resistance; there was nothing in the then depressed and
succumbing mind of the Mussulman that could oppose a zeal so warm
and fierce.

As for me, I of course stood aloof from Dthemetri's crusades, and
did not even render him any active assistance when he was striving
(as he almost always was, poor fellow) on my behalf; I was only the
death's head and white sheet with which he scared the enemy. I
think, however, that I played this spectral part exceedingly well,
for I seldom appeared at all in any discussion, and whenever I did,
I was sure to be white and calm.

The event which induced the Christians of Nablus to seek for my
assistance was this. A beautiful young Christian, between fifteen
and sixteen years old, had lately been married to a man of her own
creed. About the same time (probably on the occasion of her
wedding) she was accidentally seen by a Mussulman Sheik of great
wealth and local influence, who instantly became madly enamoured of
her. The strict morality which so generally prevails where the
Mussulmans have complete ascendency prevented the Sheik from
entertaining any such sinful hopes as an European might have
ventured to cherish under the like circumstances, and he saw no
chance of gratifying his love except by inducing the girl to
embrace his own creed. If he could induce her to take this step,
her marriage with the Christian would be dissolved, and then there
would be nothing to prevent him from making her the last and
brightest of his wives. The Sheik was a practical man, and quickly
began his attack upon the theological opinions of the bride. He
did not assail her with the eloquence of any imaums or Mussulman
saints; he did not press upon her the eternal truths of the "Cow,"
{41} or the beautiful morality of "the Table"; {42} he sent her no
tracts, not even a copy of the holy Koran. An old woman acted as
missionary. She brought with her a whole basketful of arguments--
jewels and shawls and scarfs and all kinds of persuasive finery.
Poor Mariam! she put on the jewels and took a calm view of the
Mahometan religion in a little hand-mirror; she could not be deaf
to such eloquent earrings, and the great truths of Islam came home
to her young bosom in the delicate folds of the cashmere; she was
ready to abandon her faith.

The Sheik knew very well that his attempt to convert an infidel was
illegal, and that his proceedings would not bear investigation, so
he took care to pay a large sum to the Governor of Nablus in order
to obtain his connivance.

At length Mariam quitted her home and placed herself under the
protection of the Mahometan authorities, who, however, refrained
from delivering her into the arms of her lover, and detained her in
a mosque until the fact of her real conversion (which had been
indignantly denied by her relatives) should be established. For
two or three days the mother of the young convert was prevented
from communicating with her child by various evasive contrivances,
but not, it would seem, by a flat refusal. At length it was
announced that the young lady's profession of faith might be heard
from her own lips. At an hour appointed the friends of the Sheik
and the relatives of the damsel met in the mosque. The young
convert addressed her mother in a loud voice, and said, "God is
God, and Mahomet is the Prophet of God, and thou, oh my mother, art
an infidel, feminine dog!"

You would suppose that this declaration, so clearly enounced, and
that, too, in a place where Mahometanism is perhaps more supreme
than in any other part of the empire, would have sufficed to have
confirmed the pretensions of the lover. This, however, was not the
case. The Greek priest of the place was despatched on a mission to
the Governor of Jerusalem (Aboo Goosh), in order to complain
against the proceedings of the Sheik and obtain a restitution of
the bride. Meanwhile the Mahometan authorities at Nablus were so
conscious of having acted unlawfully in conspiring to disturb the
faith of the beautiful infidel, that they hesitated to take any
further steps, and the girl was still detained in the mosque.

Thus matters stood when the Christians of the place came and sought
to obtain my assistance.

I felt (with regret) that I had no personal interest in the matter,
and I also thought that there was no pretence for my interfering
with the conflicting claims of the Christian husband and the
Mahometan lover, and I therefore declined to take any step.

My speaking of the husband, by-the-bye, reminds me that he was
extremely backward about the great work of recovering his youthful
bride. The relations of the girl, who felt themselves disgraced by
her conduct, were vehement and excited to a high pitch, but the
Menelaus of Nablus was exceedingly calm and composed.

The fact that it was not technically my duty to interfere in a
matter of this kind was a very sufficient, and yet a very
unsatisfactory, reason for my refusal of all assistance. Until you
are placed in situations of this kind you can hardly tell how
painful it is to refrain from intermeddling in other people's
affairs--to refrain from intermeddling when you feel that you can
do so with happy effect, and can remove a load of distress by the
use of a few small phrases. Upon this occasion, however, an
expression fell from one of the girl's kinsmen which not only
determined me against the idea of interfering, but made me hope
that all attempts to recover the proselyte would fail. This
person, speaking with the most savage bitterness, and with the
cordial approval of all the other relatives, said that the girl
ought to be beaten to death. I could not fail to see that if the
poor child were ever restored to her family she would be treated
with the most frightful barbarity. I heartily wished, therefore,
that the Mussulmans might be firm, and preserve their young prize
from any fate so dreadful as that of a return to her own relations.

The next day the Greek priest returned from his mission to Aboo
Goosh, but the "father of lies," it would seem, had been well plied
with the gold of the enamoured Sheik, and contrived to put off the
prayers of the Christians by cunning feints. Now, therefore, a
second and more numerous deputation than the first waited upon me,
and implored my intervention with the Governor. I informed the
assembled Christians that since their last application I had
carefully considered the matter. The religious question I thought
might be put aside at once, for the excessive levity which the girl
had displayed proved clearly that in adopting Mahometanism she was
not quitting any other faith. Her mind must have been thoroughly
blank upon religious questions, and she was not, therefore, to be
treated as a Christian that had strayed from the flock, but rather
as a child without any religion at all, who was willing to conform
to the usages of those who would deck her with jewels, and clothe
her with cashmere shawls.

So much for the religious part of the question. Well, then, in a
merely temporal sense, it appeared to me that (looking merely to
the interests of the damsel, for I rather unjustly put poor
Menelaus quite out of the question) the advantages were all on the
side of the Mahometan match. The Sheik was in a much higher
station of life than the superseded husband, and had given the best
possible proof of his ardent affection by the sacrifices he had
made, and the risks he had incurred, for the sake of the beloved
object. I, therefore, stated fairly, to the horror and amazement
of all my hearers, that the Sheik, in my view, was likely to make a
most capital husband, and that I entirely "approved of the match."

I left Nablus under the impression that Mariam would soon be
delivered to her Mussulman lover. I afterwards found, however,
that the result was very different. Dthemetri's religious zeal and
hate had been so much excited by the account of these events, and
by the grief and mortification of his co-religionists, that when he
found me firmly determined to decline all interference in the
matter, he secretly appealed to the Governor in my name, and
(using, I suppose, many violent threats, and telling no doubt many
lies about my station and influence) extorted a promise that the
proselyte should be restored to her relatives. I did not
understand that the girl had been actually given up whilst I
remained at Nablus, but Dthemetri certainly did not desist from his
instances until he had satisfied himself by some means or other
(for mere words amounted to nothing) that the promise would be
actually performed. It was not till I had quitted Syria, and when
Dthemetri was no longer in my service, that this villainous, though
well-motived trick, of his came to my knowledge. Mysseri, who had
informed me of the step which had been taken, did not know it
himself until some time after we had quitted Nablus, when Dthemetri
exultingly confessed his successful enterprise. I know not whether
the engagement which my zealous dragoman extorted from the Governor
was ever complied with. I shudder to think of the fate which must
have befallen poor Mariam if she fell into the hands of the


For some hours I passed along the shores of the fair lake of
Galilee; then turning a little to the westward, I struck into a
mountainous tract, and as I advanced thenceforward, the lie of the
country kept growing more and more bold. At length I drew near to
the city of Safed. It sits as proud as a fortress upon the summit
of a craggy height; yet because of its minarets and stately trees,
the place looks happy and beautiful. It is one of the holy cities
of the Talmud, and according to this authority, the Messiah will
reign there for forty years before He takes possession of Sion.
The sanctity and historical importance thus attributed to the city
by anticipation render it a favourite place of retirement for
Israelites, of whom it contains, they say, about four thousand, a
number nearly balancing that of the Mahometan inhabitants. I knew
by my experience of Tabarieh that a "holy city" was sure to have a
population of vermin somewhat proportionate to the number of its
Israelites, and I therefore caused my tent to be pitched upon a
green spot of ground at a respectful distance from the walls of the

When it had become quite dark (for there was no moon that night) I
was informed that several Jews had secretly come from the city in
the hope of obtaining some assistance from me in circumstances of
imminent danger; I was also informed that they claimed my aid upon
the ground that some of their number were British subjects. It was
arranged that the two principal men of the party should speak for
the rest, and these were accordingly admitted into my tent. One of
the two called himself the British vice-consul, and he had with him
his consular cap, but he frankly said that he could not have dared
to assume this emblem of his dignity in the daytime, and that
nothing but the extreme darkness of the night rendered it safe for
him to put it on upon this occasion. The other of the spokesmen
was a Jew of Gibraltar, a tolerably well-bred person, who spoke
English very fluently.

These men informed me that the Jews of the place, who were
exceedingly wealthy, had lived peaceably in their retirement until
the insurrection which took place in 1834, but about the beginning
of that year a highly religious Mussulman called Mohammed Damoor
went forth into the market-place, crying with a loud voice, and
prophesying that on the fifteenth of the following June the true
Believers would rise up in just wrath against the Jews, and despoil
them of their gold and their silver and their jewels. The
earnestness of the prophet produced some impression at the time,
but all went on as usual, until at last the fifteenth of June
arrived. When that day dawned the whole Mussulman population of
the place assembled in the streets that they might see the result
of the prophecy. Suddenly Mohammed Damoor rushed furious into the
crowd, and the fierce shout of the prophet soon ensured the
fulfilment of his prophecy. Some of the Jews fled and some
remained, but they who fled and they who remained, alike, and
unresistingly, left their property to the hands of the spoilers.
The most odious of all outrages, that of searching the women for
the base purpose of discovering such things as gold and silver
concealed about their persons, was perpetrated without shame. The
poor Jews were so stricken with terror, that they submitted to
their fate even where resistance would have been easy. In several
instances a young Mussulman boy, not more than ten or twelve years
of age, walked straight into the house of a Jew and stripped him of
his property before his face, and in the presence of his whole
family. {43} When the insurrection was put down some of the
Mussulmans (most probably those who had got no spoil wherewith they
might buy immunity) were punished, but the greater part of them
escaped. None of the booty was restored, and the pecuniary redress
which the Pasha had undertaken to enforce for them had been
hitherto so carefully delayed, that the hope of ever obtaining it
had grown very faint. A new Governor had been appointed to the
command of the place, with stringent orders to ascertain the real
extent of the losses, and to discover the spoilers, with a view of
compelling them to make restitution. It was found that,
notwithstanding the urgency of the instructions which the Governor
had received, he did not push on the affair with the vigour that
had been expected. The Jews complained, and either by the
protection of the British consul at Damascus, or by some other
means, had influence enough to induce the appointment of a special
commissioner--they called him "the Modeer"--whose duty it was to
watch for and prevent anything like connivance on the part of the
Governor, and to push on the investigation with vigour and

Such were the instructions with which some few weeks since the
Modeer came charged. The result was that the investigation had
made no practical advance, and that the Modeer as well as the
Governor was living upon terms of affectionate friendship with
Mohammed Damoor and the rest of the principal spoilers.

Thus stood the chance of redress for the past, but the cause of the
agonising excitement under which the Jews of the place now laboured
was recent and justly alarming. Mohammed Damoor had again gone
forth into the market-place, and lifted up his voice and prophesied
a second spoliation of the Israelites. This was grave matter; the
words of such a practical man as Mohammed Damoor were not to be
despised. I fear I must have smiled visibly, for I was greatly
amused and even, I think, gratified at the account of this second
prophecy. Nevertheless, my heart warmed towards the poor oppressed
Israelites, and I was flattered, too, in the point of my national
vanity at the notion of the far-reaching link by which a Jew in
Syria, who had been born on the rock of Gibraltar, was able to
claim me as his fellow-countryman. If I hesitated at all between
the "impropriety" of interfering in a matter which was no business
of mine and the "infernal shame" of refusing my aid at such a
conjecture, I soon came to a very ungentlemanly decision, namely,
that I would be guilty of the "impropriety," and not of the
"infernal shame." It seemed to me that the immediate arrest of
Mohammed Damoor was the one thing needful to the safety of the
Jews, and I felt confident (for reasons which I have already
mentioned in speaking of the Nablus affair) that I should be able
to obtain this result by making a formal application to the
Governor. I told my applicants that I would take this step on the
following morning. They were very grateful, and were, for a
moment, much pleased at the prospect of safety which might thus be
opened to them, but the deliberation of a minute entirely altered
their views, and filled them with new terror. They declared that
any attempt, or pretended attempt, on the part of the Governor to
arrest Mohammed Damoor would certainly produce an immediate
movement of the whole Mussulman population, and a consequent
massacre and robbery of the Israelites. My visitors went out, and
remained I know not how long consulting with their brethren, but
all at last agreed that their present perilous and painful position
was better than a certain and immediate attack, and that if
Mohammed Damoor was seized, their second estate would be worse than
their first. I myself did not think that this would be the case,
but I could not of course force my aid upon the people against
their will; and, moreover, the day fixed for the fulfilment of this
second prophecy was not very close at hand. A little delay,
therefore, in providing against the impending danger would not
necessarily be fatal. The men now confessed that although they had
come with so much mystery and, as they thought, at so great a risk
to ask my assistance, they were unable to suggest any mode in which
I could aid them, except indeed by mentioning their grievances to
the consul-general at Damascus. This I promised to do, and this I

My visitors were very thankful to me for the readiness which I had
shown to intermeddle in their affairs, and the grateful wives of
the principal Jews sent to me many compliments, with choice wines
and elaborate sweetmeats.

The course of my travels soon drew me so far from Safed, that I
never heard how the dreadful day passed off which had been fixed
for the accomplishment of the second prophecy. If the predicted
spoliation was prevented, poor Mohammed Damoor must have been
forced, I suppose, to say that he had prophesied in a metaphorical
sense. This would be a sad falling off from the brilliant and
substantial success of the first experiment.


For a part of two days I wound under the base of the snow-crowned
Djibel el Sheik, and then entered upon a vast and desolate plain,
rarely pierced at intervals by some sort of withered stem. The
earth in its length and its breadth and all the deep universe of
sky was steeped in light and heat. On I rode through the fire, but
long before evening came there were straining eyes that saw, and
joyful voices that announced, the sight of Shaum Shereef--the
"holy," the "blessed" Damascus.

But that which at last I reached with my longing eyes was not a
speck in the horizon, gradually expanding to a group of roofs and
walls, but a long, low line of blackest green, that ran right
across in the distance from east to west. And this, as I
approached, grew deeper, grew wavy in its outline. Soon forest
trees shot up before my eyes, and robed their broad shoulders so
freshly, that all the throngs of olives as they rose into view
looked sad in their proper dimness. There were even now no houses
to see, but only the minarets peered out from the midst of shade
into the glowing sky, and bravely touched the sun. There seemed to
be here no mere city, but rather a province wide and rich, that
bounded the torrid waste.

Until about a year, or two years, before the time of my going there
Damascus had kept up so much of the old bigot zeal against
Christians, or rather, against Europeans, that no one dressed as a
Frank could have dared to show himself in the streets; but the
firmness and temper of Mr. Farren, who hoisted his flag in the city
as consul-general for the district, had soon put an end to all
intolerance of Englishmen. Damascus was safer than Oxford. {44}
When I entered the city in my usual dress there was but one poor
fellow that wagged his tongue, and him, in the open streets,
Dthemetri horsewhipped. During my stay I went wherever I chose,
and attended the public baths without molestation. Indeed, my
relations with the pleasanter portion of the Mahometan population
were upon a much better footing here than at most other places.

In the principal streets of Damascus there is a path for foot-
passengers, which is raised, I think, a foot or two above the
bridle-road. Until the arrival of the British consul-general none
but a Mussulman had been permitted to walk upon the upper way. Mr.
Farren would not, of course, suffer that the humiliation of any
such exclusion should be submitted to by an Englishman, and I
always walked upon the raised path as free and unmolested as if I
had been in Pall Mall. The old usage was, however, maintained with
as much strictness as ever against the Christian Rayahs and Jews:
not one of them could have set his foot upon the privileged path
without endangering his life.

I was lounging one day, I remember, along "the paths of the
faithful," when a Christian Rayah from the bridle-road below
saluted me with such earnestness, and craved so anxiously to speak
and be spoken to, that he soon brought me to a halt. He had
nothing to tell, except only the glory and exultation with which he
saw a fellow-Christian stand level with the imperious Mussulmans.
Perhaps he had been absent from the place for some time, for
otherwise I hardly know how it could have happened that my
exaltation was the first instance he had seen. His joy was great.
So strong and strenuous was England (Lord Palmerston reigned in
those days), that it was a pride and delight for a Syrian Christian
to look up and say that the Englishman's faith was his too. If I
was vexed at all that I could not give the man a lift and shake
hands with him on level ground, there was no alloy to his pleasure.
He followed me on, not looking to his own path, but keeping his
eyes on me. He saw, as he thought, and said (for he came with me
on to my quarters), the period of the Mahometan's absolute
ascendency, the beginning of the Christian's. He had so closely
associated the insulting privilege of the path with actual
dominion, that seeing it now in one instance abandoned, he looked
for the quick coming of European troops. His lips only whispered,
and that tremulously, but his fiery eyes spoke out their triumph in
long and loud hurrahs: "I, too, am a Christian. My foes are the
foes of the English. We are all one people, and Christ is our

If I poorly deserved, yet I liked this claim of brotherhood. Not
all the warnings which I heard against their rascality could hinder
me from feeling kindly towards my fellow-Christians in the East.
English travellers, from a habit perhaps of depreciating sectarians
in their own country, are apt to look down upon the Oriental
Christians as being "dissenters" from the established religion of a
Mahometan empire. I never did thus. By a natural perversity of
disposition, which my nursemaids called contrariness, I felt the
more strongly for my creed when I saw it despised among men. I
quite tolerated the Christianity of Mahometan countries,
notwithstanding its humble aspect and the damaged character of its
followers. I went further and extended some sympathy towards those
who, with all the claims of superior intellect, learning, and
industry, were kept down under the heel of the Mussulmans by reason
of their having OUR faith. I heard, as I fancied, the faint echo
of an old crusader's conscience, that whispered and said, "Common
cause!" The impulse was, as you may suppose, much too feeble to
bring me into trouble; it merely influenced my actions in a way
thoroughly characteristic of this poor sluggish century, that is,
by making me speak almost as civilly to the followers of Christ as
I did to their Mahometan foes.

This "holy" Damascus, this "earthly paradise" of the Prophet, so
fair to the eyes that he dared not trust himself to tarry in her
blissful shades, she is a city of hidden palaces, of copses and
gardens, and fountains and bubbling streams. The juice of her life
is the gushing and ice-cold torrent that tumbles from the snowy
sides of Anti-Lebanon. Close along on the river's edge, through
seven sweet miles of rustling boughs and deepest shade, the city
spreads out her whole length. As a man falls flat, face forward on
the brook, that he may drink and drink again, so Damascus,
thirsting for ever, lies down with her lips to the stream and
clings to its rushing waters.

The chief places of public amusement, or rather, of public
relaxation, are the baths and the great cafe; this last, which is
frequented at night by most of the wealthy men, and by many of the
humbler sort, consists of a number of sheds, very simply framed and
built in a labyrinth of running streams, which foam and roar on
every side. The place is lit up in the simplest manner by numbers
of small pale lamps strung upon loose cords, and so suspended from
branch to branch, that the light, though it looks so quiet amongst
the darkening foliage, yet leaps and brightly flashes as it falls
upon the troubled waters. All around, and chiefly upon the very
edge of the torrents, groups of people are tranquilly seated. They
all drink coffee, and inhale the cold fumes of the narghile; they
talk rather gently the one to the other, or else are silent. A
father will sometimes have two or three of his boys around him; but
the joyousness of an Oriental child is all of the sober sort, and
never disturbs the reigning calm of the land.

It has been generally understood, I believe, that the houses of
Damascus are more sumptuous than those of any other city in the
East. Some of these, said to be the most magnificent in the place,
I had an opportunity of seeing.

Every rich man's house stands detached from its neighbours at the
side of a garden, and it is from this cause no doubt that the city
(severely menaced by prophecy) has hitherto escaped destruction.
You know some parts of Spain, but you have never, I think, been in
Andalusia: if you had, I could easily show you the interior of a
Damascene house by referring you to the Alhambra or Alcanzar of
Seville. The lofty rooms are adorned with a rich inlaying of many
colours and illuminated writing on the walls. The floors are of
marble. One side of any room intended for noonday retirement is
generally laid open to a quadrangle, in the centre of which there
dances the jet of a fountain. There is no furniture that can
interfere with the cool, palace-like emptiness of the apartments.
A divan (which is a low and doubly broad sofa) runs round the three
walled sides of the room. A few Persian carpets (which ought to be
called Persian rugs, for that is the word which indicates their
shape and dimensions) are sometimes thrown about near the divan;
they are placed without order, the one partly lapping over the
other, and thus disposed, they give to the room an appearance of
uncaring luxury; except these (of which I saw few, for the time was
summer, and fiercely hot), there is nothing to obstruct the welcome
air, and the whole of the marble floor from one divan to the other,
and from the head of the chamber across to the murmuring fountain,
is thoroughly open and free.

So simple as this is Asiatic luxury! The Oriental is not a
contriving animal; there is nothing intricate in his magnificence.
The impossibility of handing down property from father to son for
any long period consecutively seems to prevent the existence of
those traditions by which, with us, the refined modes of applying
wealth are made known to its inheritors. We know that in England a
newly-made rich man cannot, by taking thought and spending money,
obtain even the same-looking furniture as a gentleman. The
complicated character of an English establishment allows room for
subtle distinctions between that which is comme il faut, and that
which is not. All such refinements are unknown in the East; the
Pasha and the peasant have the same tastes. The broad cold marble
floor, the simple couch, the air freshly waving through a shady
chamber, a verse of the Koran emblazoned on the wall, the sight and
the sound of falling water, the cold fragrant smoke of the
narghile, and a small collection of wives and children in the inner
apartments--these, the utmost enjoyments of the grandee, are yet
such as to be appreciable by the humblest Mussulman in the empire.

But its gardens are the delight, the delight and the pride of
Damascus. They are not the formal parterres which you might expect
from the Oriental taste; they rather bring back to your mind the
memory of some dark old shrubbery in our northern isle, that has
been charmingly un--"kept up" for many and many a day. When you
see a rich wilderness of wood in decent England, it is like enough
that you see it with some soft regrets. The puzzled old woman at
the lodge can give small account of "the family." She thinks it is
"Italy" that has made the whole circle of her world so gloomy and
sad. You avoid the house in lively dread of a lone housekeeper,
but you make your way on by the stables; you remember that gable
with all its neatly nailed trophies of fitchets and hawks and owls,
now slowly falling to pieces; you remember that stable, and that--
but the doors are all fastened that used to be standing ajar, the
paint of things painted is blistered and cracked, grass grows in
the yard; just there, in October mornings, the keeper would wait
with the dogs and the guns--no keeper now; you hurry away, and gain
the small wicket that used to open to the touch of a lightsome
hand--it is fastened with a padlock (the only new looking thing),
and is stained with thick, green damp; you climb it, and bury
yourself in the deep shade, and strive but lazily with the tangling
briars, and stop for long minutes to judge and determine whether
you will creep beneath the long boughs and make them your archway,
or whether perhaps you will lift your heel and tread them down
under foot. Long doubt, and scarcely to be ended till you wake
from the memory of those days when the path was clear, and chase
that phantom of a muslin sleeve that once weighed warm upon your

Wild as that, the nighest woodland of a deserted home in England,
but without its sweet sadness, is the sumptuous garden of Damascus.
Forest trees, tall and stately enough if you could see their lofty
crests, yet lead a tussling life of it below, with their branches
struggling against strong numbers of bushes and wilful shrubs. The
shade upon the earth is black as night. High, high above your
head, and on every side all down to the ground, the thicket is
hemmed in and choked up by the interlacing boughs that droop with
the weight of roses, and load the slow air with their damask
breath. {45} There are no other flowers. Here and there, there
are patches of ground made clear from the cover, and these are
either carelessly planted with some common and useful vegetable, or
else are left free to the wayward ways of Nature, and bear rank
weeds, moist-looking and cool to the eyes, and freshening the sense
with their earthy and bitter fragrance. There is a lane opened
through the thicket, so broad in some places that you can pass
along side by side; in some so narrow (the shrubs are for ever
encroaching) that you ought, if you can, to go on the first and
hold back the bough of the rose-tree. And through this wilderness
there tumbles a loud rushing stream, which is halted at last in the
lowest corner of the garden, and there tossed up in a fountain by
the side of the simple alcove. This is all.

Never for an instant will the people of Damascus attempt to
separate the idea of bliss from these wild gardens and rushing
waters. Even where your best affections are concerned, and you,
prudent preachers, "hold hard" and turn aside when they come near
the mysteries of the happy state, and we (prudent preachers too),
we will hush our voices, and never reveal to finite beings the joys
of the "earthly paradise."


"The ruins of Baalbec!" Shall I scatter the vague, solemn thoughts
and all the airy phantasies which gather together when once those
words are spoken, that I may give you instead tall columns and
measurements true, and phrases built with ink? No, no; the
glorious sounds shall still float on as of yore, and still hold
fast upon your brain with their own dim and infinite meaning.

Come! Baalbec is over; I got "rather well" out of that.

The path by which I crossed the Lebanon is like, I think, in its
features to one which you must know, namely, that of the Foorca in
the Bernese Oberland. For a great part of the way I toiled rather
painfully through the dazzling snow, but the labour of ascending
added to the excitement with which I looked for the summit of the
pass. The time came. There was a minute in the which I saw
nothing but the steep, white shoulder of the mountain, and there
was another minute, and that the next, which showed me a nether
heaven of fleecy clouds that floated along far down in the air
beneath me, and showed me beyond the breadth of all Syria west of
the Lebanon. But chiefly I clung with my eyes to the dim,
steadfast line of the sea which closed my utmost view. I had grown
well used of late to the people and the scenes of forlorn Asia--
well used to tombs and ruins, to silent cities and deserted plains,
to tranquil men and women sadly veiled; and now that I saw the even
plain of the sea, I leapt with an easy leap to its yonder shores,
and saw all the kingdoms of the West in that fair path that could
lead me from out of this silent land straight on into shrill
Marseilles, or round by the pillars of Hercules to the crash and
roar of London. My place upon this dividing barrier was as a man's
puzzling station in eternity, between the birthless past and the
future that has no end. Behind me I left an old, decrepit world;
religions dead and dying; calm tyrannies expiring in silence; women
hushed and swathed, and turned into waxen dolls; love flown, and in
its stead mere royal and "paradise" pleasures. Before me there
waited glad bustle and strife; love itself, an emulous game;
religion, a cause and a controversy, well smitten and well
defended; men governed by reasons and suasion of speech; wheels
going, steam buzzing--a mortal race, and a slashing pace, and the
devil taking the hindmost--taking ME, by Jove (for that was my
inner care), if I lingered too long upon the difficult pass that
leads from thought to action.

I descended and went towards the west.

The group of cedars remaining on this part of the Lebanon is held
sacred by the Greek Church on account of a prevailing notion that
the trees were standing at a time when the temple of Jerusalem was
built. They occupy three or four acres on the mountain's side, and
many of them are gnarled in a way that implies great age, but
except these signs I saw nothing in their appearance or conduct
that tended to prove them contemporaries of the cedars employed in
Solomon's Temple. The final cause to which these aged survivors
owed their preservation was explained to me in the evening by a
glorious old fellow (a Christian chief), who made me welcome in the
valley of Eden. In ancient times the whole range of the Lebanon
had been covered with cedars, and as the fertile plains beneath
became more and more infested by government officers and tyrants of
high and low degree, the people by degrees abandoned them and
flocked to the rugged mountains, which were less accessible to
their indolent oppressors. The cedar forests gradually shrank
under the axe of the encroaching multitudes, and seemed at last to
be on the point of disappearing entirely, when an aged chief who
ruled in this district, and who had witnessed the great change
effected even in his own lifetime, chose to say that some sign or
memorial should be left of the vast woods with which the mountains
had formerly been clad, and commanded accordingly that this group
of trees (which was probably situated at the highest point to which
the forest had reached) should remain untouched. The chief, it
seems, was not moved by the notion I have mentioned as prevailing
in the Greek Church, but rather by some sentiment of veneration for
a great natural feature--sentiment akin, perhaps, to that old and
earthborn religion, which made men bow down to creation before they
had yet learnt how to know and worship the Creator.

The chief of the valley in which I passed the night was a man of
large possessions, and he entertained me very sumptuously. He was
highly intelligent, and had had the sagacity to foresee that Europe
would intervene authoritatively in the affairs of Syria. Bearing
this idea in mind, and with a view to give his son an advantageous
start in the ambitious career for which he was destined, he had
hired for him a teacher of the Italian language, the only
accessible European tongue. The tutor, however, who was a native
of Syria, either did not know or did not choose to teach the
European forms of address, but contented himself with instructing
his pupil in the mere language of Italy. This circumstance gave me
an opportunity (the only one I ever had, or was likely to have
{46}) of hearing the phrases of Oriental courtesy in an European
tongue. The boy was about twelve or thirteen years old, and having
the advantage of being able to speak to me without the aid of an
interpreter, he took a prominent part in doing the honours of his
father's house. He went through his duties with untiring
assiduity, and with a kind of gracefulness, which by mere
description can scarcely be made intelligible to those who are
unacquainted with the manners of the Asiatics. The boy's address
resembled a little that of a highly polished and insinuating Roman
Catholic priest, but had more of girlish gentleness. It was
strange to hear him gravely and slowly enunciating the common and
extravagant compliments of the East in good Italian, and in soft,
persuasive tones. I recollect that I was particularly amused at
the gracious obstinacy with which he maintained that the house in
which I was so hospitably entertained belonged not to his father,
but to me. To say this once was only to use the common form of
speech, signifying no more than our sweet word "welcome," but the
amusing part of the matter was that, whenever in the course of
conversation I happened to speak of his father's house or the
surrounding domain, the boy invariably interfered to correct my
pretended mistake, and to assure me once again with a gentle
decisiveness of manner that the whole property was really and
exclusively mine, and that his father had not the most distant
pretensions to its ownership.

I received from my host much, and (as I now know) most true,
information respecting the people of the mountains, and their power
of resisting Mehemet Ali. The chief gave me very plainly to
understand that the mountaineers, being dependent upon others for
bread and gunpowder (the two great necessaries of martial life),
could not long hold out against a power which occupied the plains
and commanded the sea; but he also assured me, and that very
significantly, that if this source of weakness were provided
in ten or fifteen days the chiefs could bring together some fifty
thousand fighting men.


Whilst I was remaining upon the coast of Syria I had the good
fortune to become acquainted with the Russian Sataliefsky, {47} a
general officer, who in his youth had fought and bled at Borodino,

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