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Eothen by A. W. Kinglake

Part 2 out of 5

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minute how I connect this piece of prose' with the isle of Cyprus),
there is none in which mere wealth, mere unaided wealth, is held
half so cheaply; none in which a poor devil of a millionaire,
without birth, or ability, occupies so humble a place as in
England. My Greek host and I were sitting together, I think, upon
the roof of the house (for that is the lounging-place in Eastern
climes), when the former assumed a serious air, and intimated a
wish to converse upon the subject of the British Constitution, with
which he assured me that he was thoroughly acquainted. He
presently, however, informed me that there was one anomalous
circumstance attended upon the practical working of our political
system which he had never been able to hear explained in a manner
satisfactory to himself. From the fact of his having found a
difficulty in his subject, I began to think that my host might
really know rather more of it than his announcement of a thorough
knowledge had led me to expect. I felt interested at being about
to hear from the lips of an intelligent Greek, quite remote from
the influence of European opinions, what might seem to him the most
astonishing and incomprehensible of all those results which have
followed from the action of our political institutions. The
anomaly, the only anomaly which had been detected by the vice-
consular wisdom, consisted in the fact that Rothschild (the late
money-monger) had never been the Prime Minister of England! I
gravely tried to throw some light upon the mysterious causes that
had kept the worthy Israelite out of the Cabinet, but I think I
could see that my explanation was not satisfactory. Go and argue
with the flies of summer that there is a power divine, yet greater
than the sun in the heavens, but never dare hope to convince the
people of the south that there is any other God than Gold.

My intended journey was to the site of the Paphian temple. I take
no antiquarian interest in ruins, and care little about them,
unless they are either striking in themselves, or else serve to
mark some spot on which my fancy loves to dwell. I knew that the
ruins of Paphos were scarcely, if at all, discernible, but there
was a will and a longing more imperious than mere curiosity that
drove me thither.

For this just then was my pagan soul's desire--that (not forfeiting
my inheritance for the life to come) it had yet been given me to
live through this world--to live a favoured mortal under the old
Olympian dispensation--to speak out my resolves to the listening
Jove, and hear him answer with approving thunder--to be blessed
with divine counsels from the lips of Pallas Athenie--to believe--
ay, only to believe--to believe for one rapturous moment that in
the gloomy depths of the grove, by the mountain's side, there were
some leafy pathway that crisped beneath the glowing sandal of
Aphrodetie--Aphrodetie, not coldly disdainful of even a mortal's
love! And this vain, heathenish longing of mine was father to the
thought of visiting the scene of the ancient worship.

The isle is beautiful. From the edge of the rich, flowery fields
on which I trod to the midway sides of the snowy Olympus, the
ground could only here and there show an abrupt crag, or a high
straggling ridge that up-shouldered itself from out of the
wilderness of myrtles, and of the thousand bright-leaved shrubs
that twined their arms together in lovesome tangles. The air that
came to my lips was warm and fragrant as the ambrosial breath of
the goddess, infecting me, not (of course) with a faith in the old
religion of the isle, but with a sense and apprehension of its
mystic power--a power that was still to be obeyed--obeyed by ME,
for why otherwise did I toil on with sorry horses to "where, for
HER, the hundred altars glowed with Arabian incense, and breathed
with the fragrance of garlands ever fresh"? {13}

I passed a sadly disenchanting night in the cabin of a Greek
priest--not a priest of the goddess, but of the Greek Church; there
was but one humble room, or rather shed, for man, and priest, and
beast. The next morning I reached Baffa (Paphos), a village not
far distant from the site of the temple. There was a Greek
husbandman there who (not for emolument, but for the sake of the
protection and dignity which it afforded) had got leave from the
man at Limasol to hoist his flag as a sort of deputy-provisionary-
sub-vice-pro-acting-consul of the British sovereign: the poor
fellow instantly changed his Greek headgear for the cap of consular
dignity, and insisted upon accompanying me to the ruins. I would
not have stood this if I could have felt the faintest gleam of my
yesterday's pagan piety, but I had ceased to dream, and had nothing
to dread from any new disenchanters.

The ruins (the fragments of one or two prostrate pillars) lie upon
a promontory, bare and unmystified by the gloom of surrounding
groves. My Greek friend in his consular cap stood by, respectfully
waiting to see what turn my madness would take, now that I had come
at last into the presence of the old stones. If you have no taste
for research, and can't affect to look for inscriptions, there is
some awkwardness in coming to the end of a merely sentimental
pilgrimage; when the feeling which impelled you has gone, you have
nothing to do but to laugh the thing off as well as you can, and,
by-the-bye, it is not a bad plan to turn the conversation (or
rather, allow the natives to turn it) towards the subject of hidden
treasures. This is a topic on which they will always speak with
eagerness, and if they can fancy that you, too, take an interest in
such matters, they will not only think you perfectly sane, but will
begin to give you credit for some more than human powers of forcing
the obscure earth to show you its hoards of gold.

When we returned to Baffa, the vice-consul seized a club with the
quietly determined air of a brave man resolved to do some deed of
note. He went into the yard adjoining his cottage, where there
were some thin, thoughtful, canting cocks, and serious, low-church-
looking hens, respectfully listening, and chickens of tender years
so well brought up, as scarcely to betray in their conduct the
careless levity of youth. The vice-consul stood for a moment quite
calm, collecting his strength; then suddenly he rushed into the
midst of the congregation, and began to deal death and destruction
on all sides. He spared neither sex nor age; the dead and dying
were immediately removed from the field of slaughter, and in less
than an hour, I think, they were brought on the table, deeply
buried in mounds of snowy rice.

My host was in all respects a fine, generous fellow. I could not
bear the idea of impoverishing him by my visit, and I consulted my
faithful Mysseri, who not only assured me that I might safely offer
money to the vice-consul, but recommended that I should give no
more to him than to "the others," meaning any other peasant. I
felt, however, that there was something about the man, besides the
flag and the cap, which made me shrink from offering coin, and as I
mounted my horse on departing I gave him the only thing fit for a
present that I happened to have with me, a rather handsome clasp-
dagger, brought from Vienna. The poor fellow was ineffably
grateful, and I had some difficulty in tearing myself from out of
the reach of his thanks. At last I gave him what I supposed to be
the last farewell, and rode on, but I had not gained more than
about a hundred yards when my host came bounding and shouting after
me, with a goat's-milk cheese in his hand, which he implored me to
accept. In old times the shepherd of Theocritus, or (to speak less
dishonestly) the shepherd of the "Poetae Graeci," sung his best
song; I in this latter age presented my best dagger, and both of us
received the same rustic reward.

It had been known that I should return to Limasol, and when I
arrived there I found that a noble old Greek had been hospitably
plotting to have me for his guest. I willingly accepted his offer.
The day of my arrival happened to be the birthday of my host, and
in consequence of this there was a constant influx of visitors, who
came to offer their congratulations. A few of these were men, but
most of them were young, graceful girls. Almost all of them went
through the ceremony with the utmost precision and formality; each
in succession spoke her blessing, in the tone of a person repeating
a set formula, then deferentially accepted the invitation to sit,
partook of the proffered sweetmeats and the cold, glittering water,
remained for a few minutes either in silence or engaged in very
thin conversation, then arose, delivered a second benediction,
followed by an elaborate farewell, and departed.

The bewitching power attributed at this day to the women of Cyprus
is curious in connection with the worship of the sweet goddess, who
called their isle her own. The Cypriote is not, I think, nearly so
beautiful in face as the Ionian queens of Izmir, but she is tall,
and slightly formed; there is a high-souled meaning and expression,
a seeming consciousness of gentle empire, that speaks in the wavy
line of the shoulder, and winds itself like Cytherea's own cestus
around the slender waist; then the richly-abounding hair (not
enviously gathered together under the head-dress) descends the
neck, and passes the waist in sumptuous braids. Of all other women
with Grecian blood in their veins the costume is graciously
beautiful, but these, the maidens of Limasol--their robes are more
gently, more sweetly imagined, and fall like Julia's cashmere in
soft, luxurious folds. The common voice of the Levant allows that
in face the women of Cyprus are less beautiful than their brilliant
sisters of Smyrna; and yet, says the Greek, he may trust himself to
one and all the bright cities of the Aegean, and may yet weigh
anchor with a heart entire, but that so surely as he ventures upon
the enchanted isle of Cyprus, so surely will he know the rapture or
the bitterness of love. The charm, they say, owes its power to
that which the people call the astonishing "politics" (p???t???) of
the women, meaning, I fancy, their tact and their witching ways:
the word, however, plainly fails to express one-half of that which
the speakers would say. I have smiled to hear the Greek, with all
his plenteousness of fancy, and all the wealth of his generous
language, yet vainly struggling to describe the ineffable spell
which the Parisians dispose of in their own smart way by a summary
"Je ne scai quoi."

I went to Larnaca, the chief city of the isle, and over the water
at last to Beyrout.


Beyrout on its land side is hemmed in by the Druses, who occupy all
the neighbouring highlands.

Often enough I saw the ghostly images of the women with their
exalted horns stalking through the streets, and I saw too in
travelling the affrighted groups of the mountaineers as they fled
before me, under the fear that my party might be a company of
income-tax commissioners, or a pressgang enforcing the conscription
for Mehemet Ali; but nearly all my knowledge of the people, except
in regard of their mere costume and outward appearance, is drawn
from books and despatches, to which I have the honour to refer you.

I received hospitable welcome at Beyrout from the Europeans as well
as from the Syrian Christians, and I soon discovered that their
standing topic of interest was the Lady Hester Stanhope, who lived
in an old convent on the Lebanon range, at the distance of about a
day's journey from the town. The lady's habit of refusing to see
Europeans added the charm of mystery to a character which, even
without that aid, was sufficiently distinguished to command

Many years of Lady Hester's early womanhood had been passed with
Lady Chatham at Burton Pynsent, and during that inglorious period
of the heroine's life her commanding character, and (as they would
have called it in the language of those days) her "condescending
kindness" towards my mother's family, had increased in them those
strong feelings of respect and attachment, which her rank and
station alone would have easily won from people of the middle
class. You may suppose how deeply the quiet women in Somersetshire
must have been interested, when they slowly learned by vague and
uncertain tidings that the intrepid girl who had been used to break
their vicious horses for them was reigning in sovereignty over the
wandering tribes of Western Asia! I know that her name was made
almost as familiar to me in my childhood as the name of Robinson
Crusoe--both were associated with the spirit of adventure; but
whilst the imagined life of the cast-away mariner never failed to
seem glaringly real, the true story of the Englishwoman ruling over
Arabs always sounded to me like fable. I never had heard, nor
indeed, I believe, had the rest of the world ever heard, anything
like a certain account of the heroine's adventures; all I knew was,
that in one of the drawers which were the delight of my childhood,
along with attar of roses and fragrant wonders from Hindustan,
there were letters carefully treasured, and trifling presents which
I was taught to think valuable because they had come from the queen
of the desert, who dwelt in tents, and reigned over wandering

This subject, however, died away, and from the ending of my
childhood up to the period of my arrival in the Levant, I had
seldom even heard a mentioning of the Lady Hester Stanhope, but
now, wherever I went, I was met by the name so familiar in sound,
and yet so full of mystery from the vague, fairy-tale sort of idea
which it brought to my mind; I heard it, too, connected with fresh
wonders, for it was said that the woman was now acknowledged as an
inspired being by the people of the mountains, and it was even
hinted with horror that she claimed to be MORE THAN A PROPHET.

I felt at once that my mother would be sadly sorry to hear that I
had been within a day's ride of her early friend without offering
to see her, and I therefore despatched a letter to the recluse,
mentioning the maiden name of my mother (whose marriage was
subsequent to Lady Hester's departure), and saying that if there
existed on the part of her ladyship any wish to hear of her old
Somersetshire acquaintance, I should make a point of visiting her.
My letter was sent by a foot-messenger, who was to take an
unlimited time for his journey, so that it was not, I think, until
either the third or the fourth day that the answer arrived. A
couple of horsemen covered with mud suddenly dashed into the little
court of the "locanda" in which I was staying, bearing themselves
as ostentatiously as though they were carrying a cartel from the
Devil to the Angel Michael: one of these (the other being his
attendant) was an Italian by birth (though now completely
orientalised), who lived in my lady's establishment as doctor
nominally, but practically as an upper servant; he presented me a
very kind and appropriate letter of invitation.

It happened that I was rather unwell at this time, so that I named
a more distant day for my visit than I should otherwise have done,
and after all, I did not start at the time fixed. Whilst still
remaining at Beyrout I received this letter, which certainly
betrays no symptom of the pretensions to divine power which were
popularly attributed to the writer:-

"SIR,--I hope I shall be disappointed in seeing you on Wednesday,
for the late rains have rendered the river Damoor if not dangerous,
at least very unpleasant to pass for a person who has been lately
indisposed, for if the animal swims, you would be immerged in the
waters. The weather will probably change after the 21st of the
moon, and after a couple of days the roads and the river will be
passable, therefore I shall expect you either Saturday or Monday.

"It will be a great satisfaction to me to have an opportunity of
inquiring after your mother, who was a sweet, lovely girl when I
knew her.
"Believe me, sir,
"Yours sincerely,

Early one morning I started from Beyrout. There are no regularly
established relays of horses in Syria, at least not in the line
which I took, and you therefore hire your cattle for the whole
journey, or at all events, for your journey to some large town.
Under these circumstances you have no occasion for a Tatar (whose
principal utility consists in his power to compel the supply of
horses). In other respects, the mode of travelling through Syria
differs very little from that which I have described as prevailing
in Turkey. I hired my horses and mules (for I had some of both)
for the whole of the journey from Beyrout to Jerusalem. The owner
of the beasts (who had a couple of fellows under him) was the most
dignified member of my party; he was, indeed, a magnificent old
man, and was called Shereef, or "holy"--a title of honour which,
with the privilege of wearing the green turban, he well deserved,
not only from the blood of the Prophet that flowed in his veins,
but from the well-known sanctity of his life and the length of his
blessed beard.

Mysseri, of course, still travelled with me, but the Arabic was not
one of the seven languages which he spoke so perfectly, and I was
therefore obliged to hire another interpreter. I had no difficulty
in finding a proper man for the purpose--one Demetrius, or, as he
was always called, Dthemetri, a native of Zante, who had been
tossed about by fortune in all directions. He spoke the Arabic
very well, and communicated with me in Italian. The man was a very
zealous member of the Greek Church. He had been a tailor. He was
as ugly as the devil, having a thoroughly Tatar countenance, which
expressed the agony of his body or mind, as the case might be, in
the most ludicrous manner imaginable. He embellished the natural
caricature of his person by suspending about his neck and shoulders
and waist quantities of little bundles and parcels, which he
thought too valuable to be entrusted to the jerking of pack-
saddles. The mule that fell to his lot on this journey every now
and then, forgetting that his rider was a saint, and remembering
that he was a tailor, took a quiet roll upon the ground, and
stretched his limbs calmly and lazily, like a good man awaiting a
sermon. Dthemetri never got seriously hurt, but the subversion and
dislocation of his bundles made him for the moment a sad spectacle
of ruin, and when he regained his legs, his wrath with the mule
became very amusing. He always addressed the beast in language
which implied that he, as a Christian and saint, had been
personally insulted and oppressed by a Mahometan mule. Dthemetri,
however, on the whole, proved to be a most able and capital
servant. I suspected him of now and then leading me out of my way
in order that he might have the opportunity of visiting the shrine
of a saint, and on one occasion, as you will see by-and-by, he was
induced by religious motives to commit a gross breach of duty; but
putting these pious faults out of the question (and they were
faults of the right side), he was always faithful and true to me.

I left Saide (the Sidon of ancient times) on my right, and about an
hour, I think, before sunset began to ascend one of the many low
hills of Lebanon. On the summit before me was a broad, grey mass
of irregular building, which from its position, as well as from the
gloomy blankness of its walls, gave the idea of a neglected
fortress. It had, in fact, been a convent of great size, and like
most of the religious houses in this part of the world, had been
made strong enough for opposing an inert resistance to any mere
casual band of assailants who might be unprovided with regular
means of attack: this was the dwelling-place of the Chatham's
fiery granddaughter.

The aspect of the first court which I entered was such as to keep
one in the idea of having to do with a fortress rather than a mere
peaceable dwelling-place. A number of fierce-looking and ill-clad
Albanian soldiers were hanging about the place, and striving to
bear the curse of tranquillity as well as they could: two or three
of them, I think, were smoking their tchibouques, but the rest of
them were lying torpidly upon the flat stones, like the bodies of
departed brigands. I rode on to an inner part of the building, and
at last, quitting my horses, was conducted through a doorway that
led me at once from an open court into an apartment on the ground
floor. As I entered, an Oriental figure in male costume approached
me from the farther end of the room with many and profound bows,
but the growing shades of evening prevented me from distinguishing
the features of the personage who was receiving me with this solemn
welcome. I had always, however, understood that Lady Hester
Stanhope wore the male attire, and I began to utter in English the
common civilities that seemed to be proper on the commencement of a
visit by an uninspired mortal to a renowned prophetess; but the
figure which I addressed only bowed so much the more, prostrating
itself almost to the ground, but speaking to me never a word. I
feebly strived not to be outdone in gestures of respect; but
presently my bowing opponent saw the error under which I was
acting, and suddenly convinced me that, at all events, I was not
YET in the presence of a superhuman being, by declaring that he was
not "miladi," but was, in fact, nothing more or less god-like than
the poor doctor, who had brought his mistress's letter to Beyrout.

Her ladyship, in the right spirit of hospitality, now sent and
commanded me to repose for a while after the fatigues of my
journey, and to dine.

The cuisine was of the Oriental kind, which is highly artificial,
and I thought it very good. I rejoiced too in the wine of the

Soon after the ending of the dinner the doctor arrived with
miladi's compliments, and an intimation that she would he happy to
receive me if I were so disposed. It had now grown dark, and the
rain was falling heavily, so that I got rather wet in following my
guide through the open courts that I had to pass in order to reach
the presence chamber. At last I was ushered into a small
apartment, which was protected from the draughts of air passing
through the doorway by a folding screen; passing this, I came
alongside of a common European sofa, where sat the lady prophetess.
She rose from her seat very formally, spoke to me a few words of
welcome, pointed to a chair which was placed exactly opposite to
her sofa at a couple of yards' distance, and remained standing up
to the full of her majestic height, perfectly still and motionless,
until I had taken my appointed place; she then resumed her seat,
not packing herself up according to the mode of the Orientals, but
allowing her feet to rest on the floor or the footstool; at the
moment of seating herself she covered her lap with a mass of loose
white drapery which she held in her hand. It occurred to me at the
time that she did this in order to avoid the awkwardness of sitting
in manifest trousers under the eye of an European, but I can hardly
fancy now that with her wilful nature she would have brooked such a
compromise as this.

The woman before me had exactly the person of a prophetess--not,
indeed, of the divine sibyl imagined by Domenichino, so sweetly
distracted betwixt love and mystery, but of a good business-like,
practical prophetess, long used to the exercise of her sacred
calling. I have been told by those who knew Lady Hester Stanhope
in her youth, that any notion of a resemblance betwixt her and the
great Chatham must have been fanciful; but at the time of my seeing
her, the large commanding features of the gaunt woman, then sixty
years old or more, certainly reminded me of the statesman that lay
dying {15} in the House of Lords, according to Copley's picture.
Her face was of the most astonishing whiteness; {16} she wore a
very large turban, which seemed to be of pale cashmere shawls, so
disposed as to conceal the hair; her dress, from the chin down to
the point at which it was concealed by the drapery which she held
over her lap, was a mass of white linen loosely folding--an
ecclesiastical sort of affair, more like a surplice than any of
those blessed creations which our souls love under the names of
"dress" and "frock" and "boddice" and "collar" and "habit-shirt"
and sweet "chemisette."

Such was the outward seeming of the personage that sat before me,
and indeed she was almost bound by the fame of her actual
achievements, as well as by her sublime pretensions, to look a
little differently from the rest of womankind. There had been
something of grandeur in her career. After the death of Lady
Chatham, which happened in 1803, she lived under the roof of her
uncle, the second Pitt, and when he resumed the Government in 1804,
she became the dispenser of much patronage, and sole secretary of
state for the department of Treasury banquets. Not having seen the
lady until late in her life, when she was fired with spiritual
ambition, I can hardly fancy that she could have performed her
political duties in the saloons of the Minister with much of
feminine sweetness and patience. I am told, however, that she
managed matters very well indeed: perhaps it was better for the
lofty-minded leader of the House to have his reception-rooms
guarded by this stately creature, than by a merely clever and
managing woman; it was fitting that the wholesome awe with which he
filled the minds of the country gentlemen should be aggravated by
the presence of his majestic niece. But the end was approaching.
The sun of Austerlitz showed the Czar madly sliding his splendid
army like a weaver's shuttle from his right hand to his left, under
the very eyes--the deep, grey, watchful eyes of Napoleon; before
night came, the coalition was a vain thing--meet for history, and
the heart of its great author was crushed with grief when the
terrible tidings came to his ears. In the bitterness of his
despair he cried out to his niece, and bid her, "ROLL UP THE MAP OF
EUROPE"; there was a little more of suffering, and at last, with
his swollen tongue (so they say) still muttering something for
England, he died by the noblest of all sorrows.

Lady Hester, meeting the calamity in her own fierce way, seems to
have scorned the poor island that had not enough of God's grace to
keep the "heaven-sent" Minister alive. I can hardly tell why it
should be, but there is a longing for the East very commonly felt
by proud-hearted people when goaded by sorrow. Lady Hester
Stanhope obeyed this impulse. For some time, I believe, she was at
Constantinople, where her magnificence and near alliance to the
late Minister gained her great influence. Afterwards she passed
into Syria. The people of that country, excited by the
achievements of Sir Sidney Smith, had begun to imagine the
possibility of their land being occupied by the English, and many
of them looked upon Lady Hester as a princess who came to prepare
the way for the expected conquest. I don't know it from her own
lips, or indeed from any certain authority, but I have been told
that she began her connection with the Bedouins by making a large
present of money (500 pounds it was said--immense in piastres) to
the Sheik whose authority was recognised in that part of the desert
which lies between Damascus and Palmyra. The prestige created by
the rumours of her high and undefined rank, as well as of her
wealth and corresponding magnificence, was well sustained by her
imperious character and her dauntless bravery. Her influence
increased. I never heard anything satisfactory as to the real
extent or duration of her sway, but it seemed that for a time at
least she certainly exercised something like sovereignty amongst
the wandering tribes. {17} And now that her earthly kingdom had
passed away she strove for spiritual power, and impiously dared, as
it was said, to boast some mystic union with the very God of very

A couple of black slave girls came at a signal, and supplied their
mistress as well as myself with lighted tchibouques and coffee.

The custom of the East sanctions, and almost commands, some moments
of silence whilst you are inhaling the first few breaths of the
fragrant pipe. The pause was broken, I think, by my lady, who
addressed to me some inquiries respecting my mother, and
particularly as to her marriage; but before I had communicated any
great amount of family facts, the spirit of the prophetess kindled
within her, and presently (though with all the skill of a woman of
the world) she shuffled away the subject of poor, dear
Somersetshire, and bounded onward into loftier spheres of thought.

My old acquaintance with some of "the twelve" enabled me to bear my
part (of course a very humble one) in a conversation relative to
occult science. Milnes once spread a report, that every gang of
gipsies was found upon inquiry to have come last from a place to
the westward, and to be about to make the next move in an eastern
direction; either therefore they where to be all gathered together
towards the rising of the sun by the mysterious finger of
Providence, or else they were to revolve round the globe for ever
and ever: both of these suppositions were highly gratifying,
because they were both marvellous; and though the story on which
they were founded plainly sprang from the inventive brain of a
poet, no one had ever been so odiously statistical as to attempt a
contradiction of it. I now mentioned the story as a report to Lady
Hester Stanhope, and asked her if it were true. I could not have
touched upon any imaginable subject more deeply interesting to my
hearer, more closely akin to her habitual train of thinking. She
immediately threw off all the restraint belonging to an interview
with a stranger; and when she had received a few more similar
proofs of my aptness for the marvellous, she went so far as to say
that she would adopt me as her eleve in occult science.

For hours and hours this wondrous white woman poured forth her
speech, for the most part concerning sacred and profane mysteries;
but every now and then she would stay her lofty flight and swoop
down upon the world again. Whenever this happened I was interested
in her conversation.

She adverted more than once to the period of her lost sway amongst
the Arabs, and mentioned some of the circumstances that aided her
in obtaining influence with the wandering tribes. The Bedouin, so
often engaged in irregular warfare, strains his eyes to the horizon
in search of a coming enemy just as habitually as the sailor keeps
his "bright lookout" for a strange sail. In the absence of
telescopes a far-reaching sight is highly valued, and Lady Hester
possessed this quality to an extraordinary degree. She told me
that on one occasion, when there was good reason to expect a
hostile attack, great excitement was felt in the camp by the report
of a far-seeing Arab, who declared that he could just distinguish
some moving objects upon the very farthest point within the reach
of his eyes. Lady Hester was consulted, and she instantly assured
her comrades in arms that there were indeed a number of horses
within sight, but that they were without riders. The assertion
proved to be correct, and from that time forth her superiority over
all others in respect of far sight remained undisputed.

Lady Hester related to me this other anecdote of her Arab life. It
was when the heroic qualities of the Englishwoman were just
beginning to be felt amongst the people of the desert, that she was
marching one day, along with the forces of the tribe to which she
had allied herself. She perceived that preparations for an
engagement were going on, and upon her making inquiry as to the
cause, the Sheik at first affected mystery and concealment, but at
last confessed that war had been declared against his tribe on
account of its alliance with the English princess, and that they
were now unfortunately about to be attacked by a very superior
force. He made it appear that Lady Hester was the sole cause of
hostility betwixt his tribe and the impending enemy, and that his
sacred duty of protecting the Englishwoman whom he had admitted as
his guest was the only obstacle which prevented an amicable
arrangement of the dispute. The Sheik hinted that his tribe was
likely to sustain an almost overwhelming blow, but at the same time
declared, that no fear of the consequences, however terrible to him
and his whole people, should induce him to dream of abandoning his
illustrious guest. The heroine instantly took her part: it was
not for her to be a source of danger to her friends, but rather to
her enemies, so she resolved to turn away from the people, and
trust for help to none save only her haughty self. The Sheiks
affected to dissuade her from so rash a course, and fairly told her
that although they (having been freed from her presence) would be
able to make good terms for themselves, yet that there were no
means of allaying the hostility felt towards her, and that the
whole face of the desert would be swept by the horsemen of her
enemies so carefully, as to make her escape into other districts
almost impossible. The brave woman was not to be moved by terrors
of this kind, and bidding farewell to the tribe which had honoured
and protected her, she turned her horse's head and rode straight
away from them, without friend or follower. Hours had elapsed, and
for some time she had been alone in the centre of the round
horizon, when her quick eye perceived some horsemen in the
distance. The party came nearer and nearer; soon it was plain that
they were making towards her, and presently some hundreds of
Bedouins, fully armed, galloped up to her, ferociously shouting,
and apparently intending to take her life at the instant with their
pointed spears. Her face at the time was covered with the yashmak,
according to Eastern usage, but at the moment when the foremost of
the horsemen had all but reached her with their spears, she stood
up in her stirrups, withdrew the yashmak that veiled the terrors of
her countenance, waved her arm slowly and disdainfully, and cried
out with a loud voice "Avaunt!" {18} The horsemen recoiled from
her glance, but not in terror. The threatening yells of the
assailants were suddenly changed for loud shouts of joy and
admiration at the bravery of the stately Englishwoman, and festive
gunshots were fired on all sides around her honoured head. The
truth was, that the party belonged to the tribe with which she had
allied herself, and that the threatened attack as well as the
pretended apprehension of an engagement had been contrived for the
mere purpose of testing her courage. The day ended in a great
feast prepared to do honour to the heroine, and from that time her
power over the minds of the people grew rapidly. Lady Hester
related this story with great spirit, and I recollect that she put
up her yashmak for a moment in order to give me a better idea of
the effect which she produced by suddenly revealing the awfulness
of her countenance.

With respect to her then present mode of life, Lady Hester informed
me, that for her sin she had subjected herself during many years to
severe penance, and that her self-denial had not been without its
reward. "Vain and false," said she, "is all the pretended
knowledge of the Europeans--their doctors will tell you that the
drinking of milk gives yellowness to the complexion; milk is my
only food, and you see if my face be not white." Her abstinence
from food intellectual was carried as far as her physical fasting.
She never, she said, looked upon a book or a newspaper, but trusted
alone to the stars for her sublime knowledge; she usually passed
the nights in communing with these heavenly teachers, and lay at
rest during the daytime. She spoke with great contempt of the
frivolity and benighted ignorance of the modern Europeans, and
mentioned in proof of this, that they were not only untaught in
astrology, but were unacquainted with the common and every-day
phenomena produced by magic art. She spoke as if she would make me
understand that all sorcerous spells were completely at her
command, but that the exercise of such powers would be derogatory
to her high rank in the heavenly kingdom. She said that the spell
by which the face of an absent person is thrown upon a mirror was
within the reach of the humblest and most contemptible magicians,
but that the practice of such-like arts was unholy as well as

We spoke of the bending twig by which, it is said, precious metals
may be discovered. In relation to this, the prophetess told me a
story rather against herself, and inconsistent with the notion of
her being perfect in her science; but I think that she mentioned
the facts as having happened before the time at which she attained
to the great spiritual authority which she now arrogated. She told
me that vast treasures were known to exist in a situation which she
mentioned, if I rightly remember, as being near Suez; that
Napoleon, profanely brave, thrust his arm into the cave containing
the coveted gold, and that instantly his flesh became palsied, but
the youthful hero (for she said he was great in his generation) was
not to be thus daunted; he fell back characteristically upon his
brazen resources, and ordered up his artillery; but man could not
strive with demons, and Napoleon was foiled. In after years came
Ibrahim Pasha, with heavy guns, and wicked spells to boot, but the
infernal guardians of the treasure were too strong for him. It was
after this that Lady Hester passed by the spot, and she described
with animated gesture the force and energy with which the divining
twig had suddenly leaped in her hands. She ordered excavations,
and no demons opposed her enterprise; the vast chest in which the
treasure had been deposited was at length discovered, but lo and
behold, it was full of pebbles! She said, however, that the times
were approaching in which the hidden treasures of the earth would
become available to those who had true knowledge.

Speaking of Ibrahim Pasha, Lady Hester said that he was a bold, bad
man, and was possessed of some of those common and wicked magical
arts upon which she looked down with so much contempt. She said,
for instance, that Ibrahim's life was charmed against balls and
steel, and that after a battle he loosened the folds of his shawl
and shook out the bullets like dust.

It seems that the St. Simonians once made overtures to Lady Hester.
She told me that the Pere Enfantin (the chief of the sect) had sent
her a service of plate, but that she had declined to receive it.
She delivered a prediction as to the probability of the St.
Simonians finding the "mystic mother," and this she did in a way
which would amuse you. Unfortunately I am not at liberty to
mention this part of the woman's prophecies; why, I cannot tell,
but so it is, that she bound me to eternal secrecy.

Lady Hester told me that since her residence at Djoun she had been
attacked by a terrible illness, which rendered her for a long time
perfectly helpless; all her attendants fled, and left her to
perish. Whilst she lay thus alone, and quite unable to rise,
robbers came and carried away her property. {19} She told me that
they actually unroofed a great part of the building, and employed
engines with pulleys, for the purpose of hoisting out such of her
valuables as were too bulky to pass through doors. It would seem
that before this catastrophe Lady Hester had been rich in the
possession of Eastern luxuries; for she told me, that when the
chiefs of the Ottoman force took refuge with her after the fall of
Acre, they brought their wives also in great numbers. To all of
these Lady Hester, as she said, presented magnificent dresses; but
her generosity occasioned strife only instead of gratitude, for
every woman who fancied her present less splendid than that of
another with equal or less pretension, became absolutely furious:
all these audacious guests had now been got rid of, but the
Albanian soldiers, who had taken refuge with Lady Hester at the
same time, still remained under her protection.

In truth, this half-ruined convent, guarded by the proud heart of
an English gentlewoman, was the only spot throughout all Syria and
Palestine in which the will of Mehemet Ali and his fierce
lieutenant was not the law. More than once had the Pasha of Egypt
commanded that Ibrahim should have the Albanians delivered up to
him, but this white woman of the mountain (grown classical not by
books, but by very pride) answered only with a disdainful
invitation to "come and take them." Whether it was that Ibrahim
was acted upon by any superstitious dread of interfering with the
prophetess (a notion not at all incompatible with his character as
an able Oriental commander), or that he feared the ridicule of
putting himself in collision with a gentlewoman, he certainly never
ventured to attack the sanctuary, and so long as the Chatham's
granddaughter breathed a breath of life there was always this one
hillock, and that too in the midst of a most populous district,
which stood out, and kept its freedom. Mehemet Ali used to say, I
am told, that the Englishwoman had given him more trouble than all
the insurgent people of Syria and Palestine.

The prophetess announced to me that we were upon the eve of a
stupendous convulsion, which would destroy the then recognised
value of all property upon earth; and declaring that those only who
should be in the East at the time of the great change could hope
for greatness in the new life that was now close at hand, she
advised me, whilst there was yet time, to dispose of my property in
poor frail England, and gain a station in Asia. She told me that,
after leaving her, I should go into Egypt, but that in a little
while I should return into Syria. I secretly smiled at this last
prophecy as a "bad shot," for I had fully determined after visiting
the Pyramids to take ship from Alexandria for Greece. But men
struggle vainly in the meshes of their destiny. The unbelieved
Cassandra was right after all; the plague came, and the necessity
of avoiding the quarantine, to which I should have been subjected
if I had sailed from Alexandria, forced me to alter my route. I
went down into Egypt, and stayed there for a time, and then crossed
the desert once more, and came back to the mountains of the
Lebanon, exactly as the prophetess had foretold.

Lady Hester talked to me long and earnestly on the subject of
religion, announcing that the Messiah was yet to come. She strived
to impress me with the vanity and the falseness of all European
creeds, as well as with a sense of her own spiritual greatness:
throughout her conversation upon these high topics she carefully
insinuated, without actually asserting, her heavenly rank.

Amongst other much more marvellous powers, the lady claimed to have
one which most women, I fancy, possess namely, that of reading
men's characters in their faces. She examined the line of my
features very attentively, and told me the result, which, however,
I mean to keep hidden.

One favoured subject of discourse was that of "race," upon which
she was very diffuse, and yet rather mysterious. She set great
value upon the ancient French {20} (not Norman blood, for that she
vilified), but did not at all appreciate that which we call in this
country "an old family." She had a vast idea of the Cornish miners
on account of their race, and said, if she chose, she could give me
the means of rousing them to the most tremendous enthusiasm.

Such are the topics on which the lady mainly conversed, but very
often she would descend to more worldly chat, and then she was no
longer the prophetess, but the sort of woman that you sometimes
see, I am told, in London drawing-rooms--cool, decisive in manner,
unsparing of enemies, full of audacious fun, and saying the
downright things that the sheepish society around her is afraid to
utter. I am told that Lady Hester was in her youth a capital
mimic, and she showed me that not all the queenly dulness to which
she had condemned herself, not all her fasting and solitude, had
destroyed this terrible power. The first whom she crucified in my
presence was poor Lord Byron. She had seen him, it appeared, I
know not where, soon after his arrival in the East, and was vastly
amused at his little affectations. He had picked up a few
sentences of the Romantic, with which he affected to give orders to
his Greek servant. I can't tell whether Lady Hester's mimicry of
the bard was at all close, but it was amusing; she attributed to
him a curiously coxcombical lisp.

Another person whose style of speaking the lady took off very
amusingly was one who would scarcely object to suffer by the side
of Lord Byron--I mean Lamartine, who had visited her in the course
of his travels. The peculiarity which attracted her ridicule was
an over-refinement of manner: according to my lady's imitation of
Lamartine (I have never seen him myself), he had none of the
violent grimace of his countrymen, and not even their usual way of
talking, but rather bore himself mincingly, like the humbler sort
of English dandy. {21}

Lady Hester seems to have heartily despised everything approaching
to exquisiteness. She told me, by-the-bye (and her opinion upon
that subject is worth having), that a downright manner, amounting
even to brusqueness, is more effective than any other with the
Oriental; and that amongst the English of all ranks and all classes
there is no man so attractive to the Orientals, no man who can
negotiate with them half so effectively, as a good, honest, open-
hearted, and positive naval officer of the old school.

I have told you, I think, that Lady Hester could deal fiercely with
those she hated. One man above all others (he is now uprooted from
society, and cast away for ever) she blasted with her wrath. You
would have thought that in the scornfulness of her nature she must
have sprung upon her foe with more of fierceness than of skill; but
this was not so, for with all the force and vehemence of her
invective she displayed a sober, patient, and minute attention to
the details of vituperation, which contributed to its success a
thousand times more than mere violence.

During the hours that this sort of conversation, or rather
discourse, was going on our tchibouques were from time to time
replenished, and the lady as well as I continued to smoke with
little or no intermission till the interview ended. I think that
the fragrant fumes of the latakiah must have helped to keep me on
my good behaviour as a patient disciple of the prophetess.

It was not till after midnight that my visit for the evening came
to an end. When I quitted my seat the lady rose and stood up in
the same formal attitude (almost that of a soldier in a state of
"attention") which she had assumed at my entrance; at the same time
she let go the drapery which she had held over her lap whilst
sitting and allowed it to fall to the ground.

The next morning after breakfast I was visited by my lady's
secretary--the only European, except the doctor, whom she retained
in her household. This secretary, like the doctor, was Italian,
but he preserved more signs of European dress and European
pretensions than his medical fellow-slave. He spoke little or no
English, though he wrote it pretty well, having been formerly
employed in a mercantile house connected with England. The poor
fellow was in an unhappy state of mind. In order to make you
understand the extent of his spiritual anxieties, I ought to have
told you that the doctor {22} (who had sunk into the complete
Asiatic, and had condescended accordingly to the performance of
even menial services) had adopted the common faith of all the
neighbouring people, and had become a firm and happy believer in
the divine power of his mistress. Not so the secretary. When I
had strolled with him to a distance from the building, which
rendered him safe from being overheard by human ears, he told me in
a hollow voice, trembling with emotion, that there were times at
which he doubted the divinity of "miledi." I said nothing to
encourage the poor fellow in that frightful state of scepticism
which, if indulged, might end in positive infidelity. I found that
her ladyship had rather arbitrarily abridged the amusements of her
secretary, forbidding him from shooting small birds on the
mountain-side. This oppression had arouses in him a spirit of
inquiry that might end fatally, perhaps for himself, perhaps for
the "religion of the place."

The secretary told me that his mistress was greatly disliked by the
surrounding people, whom she oppressed by her exactions, and the
truth of this statement was borne out by the way in which my lady
spoke to me of her neighbours. But in Eastern countries hate and
veneration are very commonly felt for the same object, and the
general belief in the superhuman power of this wonderful white
lady, her resolute and imperious character, and above all, perhaps,
her fierce Albanians (not backward to obey an order for the sacking
of a village), inspired sincere respect amongst the surrounding
inhabitants. Now the being "respected" amongst Orientals is not an
empty or merely honorary distinction, but carries with it a clear
right to take your neighbour's corn, his cattle, his eggs, and his
honey, and almost anything that is his, except his wives. This law
was acted upon by the princess of Djoun, and her establishment was
supplied by contributions apportioned amongst the nearest of the

I understood that the Albanians (restrained, I suppose, by the
dread of being delivered up to Ibrahim) had not given any very
troublesome proofs of their unruly natures. The secretary told me
that their rations, including a small allowance of coffee and
tobacco, were served out to them with tolerable regularity.

I asked the secretary how Lady Hester was off for horses, and said
that I would take a look at the stable. The man did not raise any
opposition to my proposal, and affected no mystery about the
matter, but said that the only two steeds which then belonged to
her ladyship were of a very humble sort. This answer, and a storm
of rain then beginning to descend, prevented me at the time from
undertaking my journey to the stable, which was at some distance
from the part of the building in which I was quartered, and I don't
know that I ever thought of the matter afterwards until my return
to England, when I saw Lamartine's eye-witnessing account of the
horse saddled by the hands of his Maker!

When I returned to my apartment (which, as my hostess told me, was
the only one in the whole building that kept out the rain) her
ladyship sent to say that she would be glad to receive me again. I
was rather surprised at this, for I had understood that she reposed
during the day, and it was now little later than noon. "Really,"
said she, when I had taken my seat and my pipe, "we were together
for hours last night, and still I have heard nothing at all of my
old friends; now DO tell me something of your dear mother and her
sister; I never knew your father--it was after I left Burton
Pynsent that your mother married." I began to make slow answer,
but my questioner soon went off again to topics more sublime, so
that this second interview, which lasted two or three hours, was
occupied by the same sort of varied discourse as that which I have
been describing.

In the course of the afternoon the captain of an English man-of-war
arrived at Djoun, and her ladyship determined to receive him for
the same reason as that which had induced her to allow my visit,
namely, an early intimacy with his family. I and the new visitor,
who was a pleasant, amusing person, dined together, and we were
afterwards invited to the presence of my lady, with whom we sat
smoking and talking till midnight. The conversation turned
chiefly, I think, upon magical science. I had determined to be off
at an early hour the next morning, and so at the end of this
interview I bade my lady farewell. With her parting words she once
more advised me to abandon Europe and seek my reward in the East,
and she urged me too to give the like counsels to my father, and
tell him that "SHE HAD SAID IT."

Lady Hester's unholy claim to supremacy in the spiritual kingdom
was, no doubt, the suggestion of fierce and inordinate pride most
perilously akin to madness, but I am quite sure that the mind of
the woman was too strong to be thoroughly overcome by even this
potent feeling. I plainly saw that she was not an unhesitating
follower of her own system, and I even fancied that I could
distinguish the brief moments during which she contrived to believe
in herself, from those long and less happy intervals in which her
own reason was too strong for her.

As for the lady's faith in astrology and magic science, you are not
for a moment to suppose that this implied any aberration of
intellect. She believed these things in common with those around
her, for she seldom spoke to anybody except crazy old dervishes,
who received her alms, and fostered her extravagancies, and even
when (as on the occasion of my visit) she was brought into contact
with a person entertaining different notions, she still remained
uncontradicted. This entourage and the habit of fasting from books
and newspapers were quite enough to make her a facile recipient of
any marvellous story.

I think that in England we are scarcely sufficiently conscious of
the great debt we owe to the wise and watchful press which presides
over the formation of our opinions, and which brings about this
splendid result, namely, that in matters of belief the humblest of
us are lifted up to the level of the most sagacious, so that really
a simple cornet in the Blues is no more likely to entertain a
foolish belief about ghosts or witchcraft, or any other
supernatural topic, than the Lord High Chancellor or the Leader of
the House of Commons. How different is the intellectual regime of
Eastern countries! In Syria and Palestine and Egypt you might as
well dispute the efficacy of grass or grain as of magic. There is
no controversy about the matter. The effect of this, the unanimous
belief of an ignorant people upon the mind of a stranger, is
extremely curious, and well worth noticing. A man coming freshly
from Europe is at first proof against the nonsense with which he is
assailed, but often it happens that after a little while the social
atmosphere in which he lives will begin to infect him, and if he
has been unaccustomed to the cunning of fence by which Reason
prepares the means of guarding herself against fallacy, he will
yield himself at last to the faith of those around him, and this he
will do by sympathy, it would seem, rather than from conviction. I
have been much interested in observing that the mere "practical
man," however skilful and shrewd in his own way, has not the kind
of power that will enable him to resist the gradual impression made
upon his mind by the common opinion of those whom he sees and hears
from day to day. Even amongst the English (whose good sense and
sound religious knowledge would be likely to guard them from error)
I have known the calculating merchant, the inquisitive traveller,
and the post-captain, with his bright, wakeful eye of command--I
have known all these surrender themselves to the REALLY magic-like
influence of other people's minds. Their language at first is that
they are "staggered," leading you by that expression to suppose
that they had been witnesses to some phenomenon, which it was very
difficult to account for otherwise than by supernatural causes; but
when I have questioned further, I have always found that these
"staggering" wonders were not even specious enough to be looked
upon as good "tricks." A man in England who gained his whole
livelihood as a conjurer would soon be starved to death if he could
perform no better miracles than those which are wrought with so
much effect in Syria and Egypt; SOMETIMES, no doubt, a magician
will make a good hit (Sir John once said a "good thing"), but all
such successes range, of course, under the head of mere "tentative
miracles," as distinguished by the strong-brained Paley.


I crossed the plain of Esdraelon and entered amongst the hills of
beautiful Galilee. It was at sunset that my path brought me
sharply round into the gorge of a little valley, and close upon a
grey mass of dwellings that lay happily nestled in the lap of the
mountain. There was one only shining point still touched with the
light of the sun, who had set for all besides; a brave sign this to
"holy" Shereef and the rest of my Moslem men, for the one
glittering summit was the head of a minaret, and the rest of the
seeming village that had veiled itself so meekly under the shades
of evening was Christian Nazareth!

Within the precincts of the Latin convent in which I was quartered
there stands the great Catholic church which encloses the
sanctuary, the dwelling of the blessed Virgin. {23} This is a
grotto of about ten feet either way, forming a little chapel or
recess, to which you descend by steps. It is decorated with
splendour. On the left hand a column of granite hangs from the top
of the grotto to within a few feet of the ground; immediately
beneath it is another column of the same size, which rises from the
ground as if to meet the one above; but between this and the
suspended pillar there is an interval of more than a foot; these
fragments once formed a single column, against which the angel
leant when he spoke and told to Mary the mystery of her awful
blessedness. Hard by, near the altar, the holy Virgin was

I had been journeying (cheerily indeed, for the voices of my
followers were ever within my hearing, but yet), as it were, in
solitude, for I had no comrade to whet the edge of my reason, or
wake me from my noonday dreams. I was left all alone to be taught
and swayed by the beautiful circumstances of Palestine travelling--
by the clime, and the land, and the name of the land, with all its
mighty import; by the glittering freshness of the sward, and the
abounding masses of flowers that furnished my sumptuous pathway; by
the bracing and fragrant air that seemed to poise me in my saddle,
and to lift me along as a planet appointed to glide through space.

And the end of my journey was Nazareth, the home of the blessed
Virgin! In the first dawn of my manhood the old painters of Italy
had taught me their dangerous worship of the beauty that is more
than mortal, but those images all seemed shadowy now, and floated
before me so dimly, the one overcasting the other, that they left
me no one sweet idol on which I could look and look again and say,
"Maria mia!" Yet they left me more than an idol; they left me (for
to them I am wont to trace it) a faint apprehension of beauty not
compassed with lines and shadows; they touched me (forgive, proud
Marie of Anjou!)--they touched me with a faith in loveliness
transcending mortal shapes.

I came to Nazareth, and was led from the convent to the sanctuary.
Long fasting will sometimes heat my brain and draw me away out of
the world--will disturb my judgment, confuse my notions of right
and wrong, and weaken my power of choosing the right: I had fasted
perhaps too long, for I was fevered with the zeal of an insane
devotion to the heavenly queen of Christendom. But I knew the
feebleness of this gentle malady, and knew how easily my watchful
reason, if ever so slightly provoked, would drag me back to life.
Let there but come one chilling breath of the outer world, and all
this loving piety would cower and fly before the sound of my own
bitter laugh. And so as I went I trod tenderly, not looking to the
right nor to the left, but bending my eyes to the ground.

The attending friar served me well; he led me down quietly and all
but silently to the Virgin's home. The mystic air was so burnt
with the consuming flames of the altar, and so laden with incense,
that my chest laboured strongly, and heaved with luscious pain.
There--there with beating heart the Virgin knelt and listened. I
strived to grasp and hold with my riveted eyes some one of the
feigned Madonnas, but of all the heaven-lit faces imagined by men
there was none that would abide with me in this the very sanctuary.
Impatient of vacancy, I grew madly strong against Nature, and if by
some awful spell, some impious rite, I could--Oh most sweet
Religion, that bid me fear God, and be pious, and yet not cease
from loving! Religion and gracious custom commanded me that I fall
down loyally and kiss the rock that blessed Mary pressed. With a
half consciousness, with the semblance of a thrilling hope that I
was plunging deep, deep into my first knowledge of some most holy
mystery, or of some new rapturous and daring sin, I knelt, and
bowed down my face till I met the smooth rock with my lips. One
moment--one moment my heart, or some old pagan demon within me,
woke up, and fiercely bounded; my bosom was lifted, and swung, as
though I had touched her warm robe. One moment, one more, and then
the fever had left me. I rose from my knees. I felt hopelessly
sane. The mere world reappeared. My good old monk was there,
dangling his key with listless patience, and as he guided me from
the church, and talked of the refectory and the coming repast, I
listened to his words with some attention and pleasure.


Whenever you come back to me from Palestine we will find some
"golden wine" {24} of Lebanon, that we may celebrate with apt
libations the monks of the Holy Land, and though the poor fellows
be theoretically "dead to the world," we will drink to every man of
them a good long life, and a merry one! Graceless is the traveller
who forgets his obligations to these saints upon earth; little love
has he for merry Christendom if he has not rejoiced with great joy
to find in the very midst of water-drinking infidels those lowly
monasteries, in which the blessed juice of the grape is quaffed in
peace. Ay! ay! we will fill our glasses till they look like cups
of amber, and drink profoundly to our gracious hosts in Palestine.

Christianity permits, and sanctions, the drinking of wine, and of
all the holy brethren in Palestine there are none who hold fast to
this gladsome rite so strenuously as the monks of Damascus; not
that they are more zealous Christians than the rest of their
fellows in the Holy Land, but that they have better wine. Whilst I
was at Damascus I had my quarters at the Franciscan convent there,
and very soon after my arrival I asked one of the monks to let me
know something of the spots that deserved to be seen. I made my
inquiry in reference to the associations with which the city had
been hallowed by the sojourn and adventures of St. Paul. "There is
nothing in all Damascus," said the good man, "half so well worth
seeing as our cellars"; and forthwith he invited me to go, see, and
admire the long range of liquid treasure that he and his brethren
had laid up for themselves on earth. And these I soon found were
not as the treasures of the miser, that lie in unprofitable disuse,
for day by day, and hour by hour, the golden juice ascended from
the dark recesses of the cellar to the uppermost brains of the
friars. Dear old fellows! in the midst of that solemn land their
Christian laughter rang loudly and merrily, their eyes kept
flashing with joyous bonfires, and their heavy woollen petticoats
could no more weigh down the springiness of their paces, than the
filmy gauze of a danseuse can clog her bounding step.

You would be likely enough to fancy that these monastics are men
who have retired to the sacred sites of Palestine from an
enthusiastic longing to devote themselves to the exercise of
religion in the midst of the very land on which its first seeds
were cast; and this is partially, at least, the case with the monks
of the Greek Church, but it is not with enthusiasts that the
Catholic establishments are filled. The monks of the Latin
convents are chiefly persons of the peasant class from Italy and
Spain, who have been handed over to these remote asylums by order
of their ecclesiastical superiors, and can no more account for
their being in the Holy Land, than men of marching regiments can
explain why they are in "stupid quarters." I believe that these
monks are for the most part well conducted men, punctual in their
ceremonial duties, and altogether humble-minded Christians. Their
humility is not at all misplaced, for you see at a glance (poor
fellows!) that they belong to the LAG REMOVE of the human race. If
the taking of the cowl does not imply a complete renouncement of
the world, it is at least (in these days) a thorough farewell to
every kind of useful and entertaining knowledge, and accordingly
the low bestial brow and the animal caste of those almost Bourbon
features show plainly enough that all the intellectual vanities of
life have been really and truly abandoned. But it is hard to
quench altogether the spirit of inquiry that stirs in the human
breast, and accordingly these monks inquire--they are ALWAYS
inquiring inquiring for "news"! Poor fellows! they could scarcely
have yielded themselves to the sway of any passion more difficult
of gratification, for they have no means of communicating with the
busy world except through European travellers; and these, in
consequence I suppose of that restlessness and irritability that
generally haunt their wanderings, seem to have always avoided the
bore of giving any information to their hosts. As for me, I am
more patient and good-natured, and when I found that the kind monks
who gathered round me at Nazareth were longing to know the real
truth about the General Bonaparte who had recoiled from the siege
of Acre, I softened my heart down to the good humour of Herodotus,
and calmly began to "sing history," telling my eager hearers of the
French Empire and the greatness of its glory, and of Waterloo and
the fall of Napoleon! Now my story of this marvellous ignorance on
the part of the poor monks is one upon which (though depending on
my own testimony) I look "with considerable suspicion." It is
quite true (how silly it would be to INVENT anything so witless!),
and yet I think I could satisfy the mind of a "reasonable man" that
it is false. Many of the older monks must have been in Europe at
the time when the Italy and the Spain from which they came were in
act of taking their French lessons, or had parted so lately with
their teachers, that not to know of "the Emperor" was impossible,
and these men could scarcely, therefore, have failed to bring with
them some tidings of Napoleon's career. Yet I say that that which
I have written is true--the one who believes because I have said it
will be right (she always is), whilst poor Mr. "reasonable man,"
who is convinced by the weight of my argument, will be completely

In Spanish politics, however, the monks are better instructed. The
revenues of the monasteries, which had been principally supplied by
the bounty of their most Catholic majesties, have been withheld
since Ferdinand's death, and the interests of these establishments
being thus closely involved in the destinies of Spain, it is not
wonderful that the brethren should be a little more knowing in
Spanish affairs than in other branches of history. Besides, a
large proportion of the monks were natives of the Peninsula. To
these, I remember, Mysseri's familiarity with the Spanish language
and character was a source of immense delight; they were always
gathering around him, and it seemed to me that they treasured like
gold the few Castilian words which he deigned to spare them.

The monks do a world of good in their way; and there can be no
doubting that previously to the arrival of Bishop Alexander, with
his numerous young family and his pretty English nursemaids, they
were the chief propagandists of Christianity in Palestine. My old
friends of the Franciscan convent at Jerusalem some time since gave
proof of their goodness by delivering themselves up to the peril of
death for the sake of duty. When I was their guest they were forty
I believe in number, and I don't recollect that there was one of
them whom I should have looked upon as a desirable life-holder of
any property to which I might be entitled in expectancy. Yet these
forty were reduced in a few days to nineteen. The plague was the
messenger that summoned them to a taste of real death; but the
circumstances under which they perished are rather curious; and
though I have no authority for the story except an Italian
newspaper, I harbour no doubt of its truth, for the facts were
detailed with minuteness, and strictly corresponded with all that I
knew of the poor fellows to whom they related.

It was about three months after the time of my leaving Jerusalem
that the plague set his spotted foot on the Holy City. The monks
felt great alarm; they did not shrink from their duty, but for its
performance they chose a plan most sadly well fitted for bringing
down upon them the very death which they were striving to ward off.
They imagined themselves almost safe so long as they remained
within their walls; but then it was quite needful that the Catholic
Christians of the place, who had always looked to the convent for
the supply of their spiritual wants, should receive the aids of
religion in the hour of death. A single monk therefore was chosen,
either by lot or by some other fair appeal to destiny. Being thus
singled out, he was to go forth into the plague-stricken city, and
to perform with exactness his priestly duties; then he was to
return, not to the interior of the convent, for fear of infecting
his brethren, but to a detached building (which I remember)
belonging to the establishment, but at some little distance from
the inhabited rooms. He was provided with a bell, and at a certain
hour in the morning he was ordered to ring it, IF HE COULD; but if
no sound was heard at the appointed time, then knew his brethren
that he was either delirious or dead, and another martyr was sent
forth to take his place. In this way twenty-one of the monks were
carried off. One cannot well fail to admire the steadiness with
which the dismal scheme was carried through; but if there be any
truth in the notion that disease may be invited by a frightening
imagination, it is difficult to conceive a more dangerous plan than
that which was chosen by these poor fellows. The anxiety with
which they must have expected each day the sound of the bell, the
silence that reigned instead of it, and then the drawing of the
lots (the odds against death being one point lower than yesterday),
and the going forth of the newly doomed man--all this must have
widened the gulf that opens to the shades below. When his victim
had already suffered so much of mental torture, it was but easy
work for big bullying pestilence to follow a forlorn monk from the
beds of the dying, and wrench away his life from him as he lay all
alone in an outhouse.

In most, I believe in all, of the Holy Land convents there are two
personages so strangely raised above their brethren in all that
dignifies humanity, that their bearing the same habit, their
dwelling under the same roof, their worshipping the same God
(consistent as all this is with the spirit of their religion), yet
strikes the mind with a sense of wondrous incongruity; the men I
speak of are the "Padre Superiore," and the "Padre Missionario."
The former is the supreme and absolute governor of the
establishment over which he is appointed to rule, the latter is
entrusted with the more active of the spiritual duties attaching to
the Pilgrim Church. He is the shepherd of the good Catholic flock,
whose pasture is prepared in the midst of Mussulmans and
schismatics; he keeps the light of the true faith ever vividly
before their eyes, reproves their vices, supports them in their
good resolves, consoles them in their afflictions, and teaches them
to hate the Greek Church. Such are his labours, and you may
conceive that great tact must be needed for conducting with success
the spiritual interests of the church under circumstances so odd as
those which surround it in Palestine.

But the position of the Padre Superiore is still more delicate; he
is almost unceasingly in treaty with the powers that be, and the
worldly prosperity of the establishment over which he presides is
in great measure dependent upon the extent of diplomatic skill
which he can employ in its favour. I know not from what class of
churchmen these personages are chosen, for there is a mystery
attending their origin and the circumstance of their being
stationed in these convents, which Rome does not suffer to be
penetrated. I have heard it said that they are men of great note,
and, perhaps, of too high ambition in the Catholic Hierarchy, who
having fallen under the grave censure of the Church, are banished
for fixed periods to these distant monasteries. I believe that the
term during which they are condemned to remain in the Holy Land is
from eight to twelve years. By the natives of the country, as well
as by the rest of the brethren, they are looked upon as superior
beings; and rightly too, for Nature seems to have crowned them in
her own true way.

The chief of the Jerusalem convent was a noble creature; his
worldly and spiritual authority seemed to have surrounded him, as
it were, with a kind of "court," and the manly gracefulness of his
bearing did honour to the throne which he filled. There were no
lords of the bedchamber, and no gold sticks and stones in waiting,
yet everybody who approached him looked as though he were being
"presented"; every interview which he granted wore the air of an
"audience"; the brethren as often as they came near bowed low and
kissed his hand; and if he went out, the Catholics of the place
that hovered about the convent would crowd around him with devout
affection, and almost scramble for the blessing which his touch
could give. He bore his honours all serenely, as though calmly
conscious of his power to "bind and to loose."


Neither old "sacred" {25} himself, nor any of his helpers, knew the
road which I meant to take from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee and
from thence to Jerusalem, so I was forced to add another to my
party by hiring a guide. The associations of Nazareth, as well as
my kind feeling towards the hospitable monks, whose guest I had
been, inclined me to set at naught the advice which I had received
against employing Christians. I accordingly engaged a lithe,
active young Nazarene, who was recommended to me by the monks, and
who affected to be familiar with the line of country through which
I intended to pass. My disregard of the popular prejudices against
Christians was not justified in this particular instance by the
result of my choice. This you will see by-and-by.

I passed by Cana and the house in which the water had been turned
into wine; I came to the field in which our Saviour had rebuked the
Scotch Sabbath-keepers of that period, by suffering His disciples
to pluck corn on the Lord's day; I rode over the ground on which
the fainting multitude had been fed, and they showed me some
massive fragments--the relics, they said, of that wondrous banquet,
now turned into stone. The petrifaction was most complete.

I ascended the height on which our Lord was standing when He
wrought the miracle. The hill was lofty enough to show me the
fairness of the land on all sides, but I have an ancient love for
the mere features of a lake, and so forgetting all else when I
reached the summit, I looked away eagerly to the eastward. There
she lay, the Sea of Galilee. Less stern than Wast Water, less fair
than gentle Windermere, she had still the winning ways of an
English lake; she caught from the smiling heavens unceasing light
and changeful phases of beauty, and with all this brightness on her
face, she yet clung so fondly to the dull he-looking mountain at
her side, as though she would

"Soothe him with her finer fancies,
Touch him with her lighter thought." {26}

If one might judge of men's real thoughts by their writings, it
would seem that there are people who can visit an interesting
locality and follow up continuously the exact train of thought that
ought to be suggested by the historical associations of the place.
A person of this sort can go to Athens and think of nothing later
than the age of Pericles; can live with the Scipios as long as he
stays in Rome; can go up in a balloon, and think how resplendently
in former times the now vacant and desolate air was peopled with
angels, how prettily it was crossed at intervals by the rounds of
Jacob's ladder! I don't possess this power at all; it is only by
snatches, and for few moments together, that I can really associate
a place with its proper history.

"There at Tiberias, and along this western shore towards the north,
and upon the bosom too of the lake, our Saviour and His disciples--
" away flew those recollections, and my mind strained eastward,
because that that farthest shore was the end of the world that
belongs to man the dweller, the beginning of the other and veiled
world that is held by the strange race, whose life (like the
pastime of Satan) is a "going to and fro upon the face of the
earth." From those grey hills right away to the gates of Bagdad
stretched forth the mysterious "desert"--not a pale, void, sandy
tract, but a land abounding in rich pastures, a land without cities
or towns, without any "respectable" people or any "respectable"
things, yet yielding its eighty thousand cavalry to the beck of a
few old men. But once more--"Tiberias--the plain of Gennesareth--
the very earth on which I stood--that the deep low tones of the
Saviour's voice should have gone forth into eternity from out of
the midst of these hills and these valleys!"--Ay, ay, but yet again
the calm face of the lake was uplifted, and smiled upon my eyes
with such familiar gaze, that the "deep low tones" were hushed, the
listening multitudes all passed away, and instead there came to me
a dear old memory from over the seas in England, a memory sweeter
than Gospel to that poor wilful mortal, me.

I went to Tiberias, and soon got afloat upon the water. In the
evening I took up my quarters in the Catholic church, and the
building being large enough, the whole of my party were admitted to
the benefit of the same shelter. With portmanteaus and carpet
bags, and books and maps, and fragrant tea, Mysseri soon made me a
home on the southern side of the church. One of old Shereef's
helpers was an enthusiastic Catholic, and was greatly delighted at
having so sacred a lodging. He lit up the altar with a number of
tapers, and when his preparations were complete, he began to
perform his orisons in the strangest manner imaginable. His lips
muttered the prayers of the Latin Church, but he bowed himself down
and laid his forehead to the stones beneath him after the manner of
a Mussulman. The universal aptness of a religious system for all
stages of civilisation, and for all sorts and conditions of men,
well befits its claim of divine origin. She is of all nations, and
of all times, that wonderful Church of Rome!

Tiberias is one of the four holy cities, {27} according to the
Talmud, and it is from this place, or the immediate neighbourhood
of it, that the Messiah is to arise.

Except at Jerusalem, never think of attempting to sleep in a "holy
city." Old Jews from all parts of the world go to lay their bones
upon the sacred soil, and as these people never return to their
homes, it follows that any domestic vermin which they may bring
with them are likely to become permanently resident, so that the
population is continually increasing. No recent census had been
taken when I was at Tiberias, but I know that the congregation of
fleas which attended at my church alone must have been something
enormous. It was a carnal, self-seeking congregation, wholly
inattentive to the service which was going on, and devoted to the
one object of having my blood. The fleas of all nations were
there. The smug, steady, importunate flea from Holywell Street;
the pert, jumping puce from hungry France, the wary, watchful pulce
with his poisoned stiletto; the vengeful pulga of Castile with his
ugly knife; the German floh with his knife and fork, insatiate, not
rising from table; whole swarms from all the Russias, and Asiatic
hordes unnumbered--all these were there, and all rejoiced in one
great international feast. I could no more defend myself against
my enemies than if I had been pain a discretion in the hands of a
French patriot, or English gold in the claws of a Pennsylvanian
Quaker. After passing a night like this you are glad to pick up
the wretched remains of your body long, long before morning dawns.
Your skin is scorched, your temples throb, your lips feel withered
and dried, your burning eyeballs are screwed inwards against the
brain. You have no hope but only in the saddle and the freshness
of the morning air.


The course of the Jordan is from the north to the south, and in
that direction, with very little of devious winding, it carries the
shining waters of Galilee straight down into the solitudes of the
Dead Sea. Speaking roughly, the river in that meridian is a
boundary between the people living under roofs and the tented
tribes that wander on the farther side. And so, as I went down in
my way from Tiberias towards Jerusalem, along the western bank of
the stream, my thinking all propended to the ancient world of
herdsmen and warriors that lay so close over my bridle arm.

If a man, and an Englishman, be not born of his mother with a
natural Chiffney-bit in his mouth, there comes to him a time for
loathing the wearisome ways of society; a time for not liking tamed
people; a time for not dancing quadrilles, not sitting in pews; a
time for pretending that Milton and Shelley, and all sorts of mere
dead people, were greater in death than the first living Lord of
the Treasury; a time, in short, for scoffing and railing, for
speaking lightly of the very opera, and all our most cherished
institutions. It is from nineteen to two or three and twenty
perhaps that this war of the man against men is like to be waged
most sullenly. You are yet in this smiling England, but you find
yourself wending away to the dark sides of her mountains, climbing
the dizzy crags, exulting in the fellowship of mists and clouds,
and watching the storms how they gather, or proving the mettle of
your mare upon the broad and dreary downs, because that you feel
congenially with the yet unparcelled earth. A little while you are
free and unlabelled, like the ground that you compass; but
civilisation is coming and coming; you and your much-loved waste
lands will be surely enclosed, and sooner or later brought down to
a state of mere usefulness; the ground will be curiously sliced
into acres and roods and perches, and you, for all you sit so
smartly in your saddle, you will be caught, you will be taken up
from travel as a colt from grass, to be trained and tried, and
matched and run. All this in time, but first came Continental
tours and the moody longing for Eastern travel. The downs and the
moors of England can hold you no longer; with large strides you
burst away from these slips and patches of free land; you thread
your path through the crowds of Europe, and at last, on the banks
of Jordan, you joyfully know that you are upon the very frontier of
all accustomed respectabilities. There, on the other side of the
river (you can swim it with one arm), there reigns the people that
will be like to put you to death for NOT being a vagrant, for NOT
being a robber, for NOT being armed and houseless. There is
comfort in that--health, comfort, and strength to one who is dying
from very weariness of that poor, dear, middle-aged, deserving,
accomplished, pedantic, and painstaking governess, Europe.

I had ridden for some hours along the right bank of Jordan when I
came to the Djesr el Medjame (an old Roman bridge, I believe),
which crossed the river. My Nazarene guide was riding ahead of the
party, and now, to my surprise and delight, he turned leftwards,
and led on over the bridge. I knew that the true road to Jerusalem
must be mainly by the right bank of Jordan, but I supposed that my
guide was crossing the bridge at this spot in order to avoid some
bend in the river, and that he knew of a ford lower down by which
we should regain the western bank. I made no question about the
road, for I was but too glad to set my horse's hoofs upon the land
of the wandering tribes. None of my party except the Nazarene knew
the country. On we went through rich pastures upon the eastern
side of the water. I looked for the expected bend of the river,
but far as I could see it kept a straight southerly course; I still
left my guide unquestioned.

The Jordan is not a perfectly accurate boundary betwixt roofs and
tents, for soon after passing the bridge I came upon a cluster of
huts. Some time afterwards the guide, upon being closely
questioned by my servants, confessed that the village which we had
left behind was the last that we should see, but he declared that
he knew a spot at which we should find an encampment of friendly
Bedouins, who would receive me with all hospitality. I had long
determined not to leave the East without seeing something of the
wandering tribes, but I had looked forward to this as a pleasure to
be found in the desert between El Arish and Egypt; I had no idea
that the Bedouins on the east of Jordan were accessible. My
delight was so great at the near prospect of bread and salt in the
tent of an Arab warrior, that I wilfully allowed my guide to go on
and mislead me. I saw that he was taking me out of the straight
route towards Jerusalem, and was drawing me into the midst of the
Bedouins; but the idea of his betraying me seemed (I know not why)
so utterly absurd, that I could not entertain it for a moment. I
fancied it possible that the fellow had taken me out of my route in
order to attempt some little mercantile enterprise with the tribe
for which he was seeking, and I was glad of the opportunity which I
might thus gain of coming in contact with the wanderers.

Not long after passing the village a horseman met us. It appeared
that some of the cavalry of Ibrahim Pasha had crossed the river for
the sake of the rich pastures on the eastern bank, and that this
man was one of the troopers. He stopped and saluted; he was
obviously surprised at meeting an unarmed, or half-armed,
cavalcade, and at last fairly told us that we were on the wrong
side of the river, and that if we proceeded we must lay our account
with falling amongst robbers. All this while, and throughout the
day, my Nazarene kept well ahead of the party, and was constantly
up in his stirrups, straining forward and searching the distance
for some objects which still remained unseen.

For the rest of the day we saw no human being; we pushed on eagerly
in the hope of coming up with the Bedouins before nightfall. Night
came, and we still went on in our way till about ten o'clock. Then
the thorough darkness of the night, and the weariness of our beasts
(which had already done two good days' journey in one), forced us
to determine upon coming to a standstill. Upon the heights to the
eastward we saw lights; these shone from caves on the mountain-
side, inhabited, as the Nazarene told us, by rascals of a low sort-
-not real Bedouins, men whom we might frighten into harmlessness,
but from whom there was no willing hospitality to be expected.

We heard at a little distance the brawling of a rivulet, and on the
banks of this it was determined to establish our bivouac. We soon
found the stream, and following its course for a few yards, came to
a spot which was thought to be fit for our purpose. It was a
sharply cold night in February, and when I dismounted I found
myself standing upon some wet rank herbage that promised ill for
the comfort of our resting-place. I had bad hopes of a fire, for
the pitchy darkness of the night was a great obstacle to any
successful search for fuel, and besides, the boughs of trees or
bushes would be so full of sap in this early spring, that they
would not be easily persuaded to burn. However, we were not likely
to submit to a dark and cold bivouac without an effort, and my
fellows groped forward through the darkness, till after advancing a
few paces they were happily stopped by a complete barrier of dead
prickly bushes. Before our swords could be drawn to reap this
welcome harvest it was found to our surprise that the fuel was
already hewn and strewed along the ground in a thick mass. A spot
for the fire was found with some difficulty, for the earth was
moist and the grass high and rank. At last there was a clicking of
flint and steel, and presently there stood out from darkness one of
the tawny faces of my muleteers, bent down to near the ground, and
suddenly lit up by the glowing of the spark which he courted with
careful breath. Before long there was a particle of dry fibre or
leaf that kindled to a tiny flame; then another was lit from that,
and then another. Then small crisp twigs, little bigger than
bodkins, were laid athwart the glowing fire. The swelling cheeks
of the muleteer, laid level with the earth, blew tenderly at first
and then more boldly upon the young flame, which was daintily
nursed and fed, and fed more plentifully when it gained good
strength. At last a whole armful of dry bushes was piled up over
the fire, and presently, with a loud cheery crackling and
crackling, a royal tall blaze shot up from the earth and showed me
once more the shapes and faces of my men, and the dim outlines of
the horses and mules that stood grazing hard by.

My servants busied themselves in unpacking the baggage as though we
had arrived at an hotel--Shereef and his helpers unsaddled their
cattle. We had left Tiberias without the slightest idea that we
were to make our way to Jerusalem along the desolate side of the
Jordan, and my servants (generally provident in those matters) had
brought with them only, I think, some unleavened bread and a rocky
fragment of goat's milk cheese. These treasures were produced.
Tea and the contrivances for making it were always a standing part
of my baggage. My men gathered in circle round the fire. The
Nazarene was in a false position from having misled us so
strangely, and he would have shrunk back, poor devil, into the cold
and outer darkness, but I made him draw near and share the luxuries
of the night. My quilt and my pelisse were spread, and the rest of
my party had all their capotes or pelisses, or robes of some sort,
which furnished their couches. The men gathered in circle, some
kneeling, some sitting, some lying reclined around our common
hearth. Sometimes on one, sometimes on another, the flickering
light would glare more fiercely. Sometimes it was the good Shereef
that seemed the foremost, as he sat with venerable beard the image
of manly piety--unknowing of all geography, unknowing where he was
or whither he might go, but trusting in the goodness of God and the
clinching power of fate and the good star of the Englishman.
Sometimes, like marble, the classic face of the Greek Mysseri would
catch the sudden light, and then again by turns the ever-perturbed
Dthemetri, with his old Chinaman's eye and bristling, terrier-like
moustache, shone forth illustrious.

I always liked the men who attended me on these Eastern travels,
for they were all of them brave, cheery-hearted fellows; and
although their following my career brought upon them a pretty large
share of those toils and hardships which are so much more amusing
to gentlemen than to servants, yet not one of them ever uttered or
hinted a syllable of complaint, or even affected to put on an air
of resignation. I always liked them, but never perhaps so much as
when they were thus grouped together under the light of the bivouac
fire. I felt towards them as my comrades rather than as my
servants, and took delight in breaking bread with them, and merrily
passing the cup.

The love of tea is a glad source of fellow-feeling between the
Englishman and the Asiatic. In Persia it is drunk by all, and
although it is a luxury that is rarely within the reach of the
Osmanlees, there are few of them who do not know and love the
blessed tchai. Our camp-kettle, filled from the brook, hummed
doubtfully for a while, then busily bubbled under the sidelong
glare of the flames; cups clinked and rattled; the fragrant steam
ascended, and soon this little circlet in the wilderness grew warm
and genial as my lady's drawing-room.

And after this there came the tchibouque--great comforter of those
that are hungry and wayworn. And it has this virtue--it helps to
destroy the gene and awkwardness which one sometimes feels at being
in company with one's dependents; for whilst the amber is at your
lips, there is nothing ungracious in your remaining silent, or
speaking pithily in short inter-whiff sentences. And for us that
night there was pleasant and plentiful matter of talk; for the
where we should be on the morrow, and the wherewithal we should be
fed, whether by some ford we should regain the western bank of
Jordan, or find bread and salt under the tents of a wandering
tribe, or whether we should fall into the hands of the Philistines,
and so come to see death--the last and greatest of all "the fine
sights" that there be--these were questionings not dull nor
wearisome to us, for we were all concerned in the answers. And it
was not an all-imagined morrow that we probed with our sharp
guesses, for the lights of those low Philistines, the men of the
caves, still hung over our heads, and we knew by their yells that
the fire of our bivouac had shown us.

At length we thought it well to seek for sleep. Our plans were
laid for keeping up a good watch through the night. My quilt and
my pelisse and my cloak were spread out so that I might lie
spokewise, with my feet towards the central fire. I wrapped my
limbs daintily round, and gave myself positive orders to sleep like
a veteran soldier. But I found that my attempt to sleep upon the
earth that God gave me was more new and strange than I had fancied
it. I had grown used to the scene which was before me whilst I was
sitting or reclining by the side of the fire, but now that I laid
myself down at length it was the deep black mystery of the heavens
that hung over my eyes--not an earthly thing in the way from my own
very forehead right up to the end of all space. I grew proud of my
boundless bedchamber. I might have "found sermons" in all this
greatness (if I had I should surely have slept), but such was not
then my way. If this cherished self of mine had built the
universe, I should have dwelt with delight on "the wonders of
creation." As it was, I felt rather the vainglory of my promotion
from out of mere rooms and houses into the midst of that grand,
dark, infinite palace.

And then, too, my head, far from the fire, was in cold latitudes,
and it seemed to me strange that I should be lying so still and
passive, whilst the sharp night breeze walked free over my cheek,
and the cold damp clung to my hair, as though my face grew in the
earth and must bear with the footsteps of the wind and the falling
of the dew as meekly as the grass of the field. Besides, I got
puzzled and distracted by having to endure heat and cold at the
same time, for I was always considering whether my feet were not
over-devilled and whether my face was not too well iced. And so
when from time to time the watch quietly and gently kept up the
languishing fire, he seldom, I think, was unseen to my restless
eyes. Yet at last, when they called me and said that the morn
would soon be dawning, I rose from a state of half-oblivion not
much unlike to sleep, though sharply qualified by a sort of
vegetable's consciousness of having been growing still colder and
colder for many and many an hour.


The grey light of the morning showed us for the first time the
ground which we had chosen for our resting-place. We found that we
had bivouacked upon a little patch of barley plainly belonging to
the men of the caves. The dead bushes which we found so happily
placed in readiness for our fire had been strewn as a fence for the
protection of the little crop. This was the only cultivated spot
of ground which we had seen for many a league, and I was rather
sorry to find that our night fire and our cattle had spread so much
ruin upon this poor solitary slip of corn-land.

The saddling and loading of our beasts was a work which generally
took nearly an hour, and before this was half over daylight came.
We could now see the men of the caves. They collected in a body,
amounting, I should think, to nearly fifty, and rushed down towards
our quarters with fierce shouts and yells. But the nearer they got
the slower they went; their shouts grew less resolute in tone, and
soon ceased altogether. The fellows, however, advanced to a
thicket within thirty yards of us, and behind this "took up their
position." My men without premeditation did exactly that which was
best; they kept steadily to their work of loading the beasts
without fuss or hurry; and whether it was that they instinctively
felt the wisdom of keeping quiet, or that they merely obeyed the
natural inclination to silence which one feels in the early
morning, I cannot tell, but I know that, except when they exchanged
a syllable or two relative to the work they were about, not a word
was said. I now believe that this quietness of our party created
an undefined terror in the minds of the cave-holders and scared
them from coming on; it gave them a notion that we were relying on
some resources which they knew not of. Several times the fellows
tried to lash themselves into a state of excitement which might do
instead of pluck. They would raise a great shout and sway forward
in a dense body from behind the thicket; but when they saw that
their bravery thus gathered to a head did not even suspend the
strapping of a portmanteau or the tying of a hatbox, their shout
lost its spirit, and the whole mass was irresistibly drawn back
like a wave receding from the shore.

These attempts at an onset were repeated several times, but always
with the same result. I remained under the apprehension of an
attack for more than half-an-hour, and it seemed to me that the
work of packing and loading had never been done so slowly. I felt
inclined to tell my fellows to make their best speed, but just as I
was going to speak I observed that every one was doing his duty
already; I therefore held my peace and said not a word, till at
last Mysseri led up my horse and asked me if I were ready to mount.

We all marched off without hindrance.

After some time we came across a party of Ibrahim's cavalry, which
had bivouacked at no great distance from us. The knowledge that
such a force was in the neighbourhood may have conduced to the
forbearance of the cave-holders.

We saw a scraggy-looking fellow nearly black, and wearing nothing
but a cloth round the loins; he was tending flocks. Afterwards I
came up with another of these goatherds, whose helpmate was with
him. They gave us some goat's milk, a welcome present. I pitied
the poor devil of a goatherd for having such a very plain wife. I
spend an enormous quantity of pity upon that particular form of
human misery.

About midday I began to examine my map and to question my guide,
who at last fell on his knees and confessed that he knew nothing of
the country in which we were. I was thus thrown upon my own
resources, and calculating that on the preceding day we had nearly
performed a two days' journey, I concluded that the Dead Sea must
be near. In this I was right, for at about three or four o'clock
in the afternoon I caught a first sight of its dismal face.

I went on and came near to those waters of death. They stretched
deeply into the southern desert, and before me, and all around, as
far away as the eye could follow, blank hills piled high over
hills, pale, yellow, and naked, walled up in her tomb for ever the
dead and damned Gomorrah. There was no fly that hummed in the
forbidden air, but instead a deep stillness; no grass grew from the
earth, no weed peered through the void sand; but in mockery of all
life there were trees borne down by Jordan in some ancient flood,
and these, grotesquely planted upon the forlorn shore, spread out
their grim skeleton arms, all scorched and charred to blackness by
the heats of the long silent years.

I now struck off towards the debouchure of the river; but I found
that the country, though seemingly quite flat, was intersected by
deep ravines, which did not show themselves until nearly
approached. For some time my progress was much obstructed; but at
last I came across a track which led towards the river, and which
might, as I hoped, bring me to a ford. I found, in fact, when I
came to the river's side that the track reappeared upon the
opposite bank, plainly showing that the stream had been fordable at
this place. Now, however, in consequence of the late rains the
river was quite impracticable for baggage-horses. A body of waters
about equal to the Thames at Eton, but confined to a narrower
channel, poured down in a current so swift and heavy, that the idea
of passing with laden baggage-horses was utterly forbidden. I
could have swum across myself, and I might, perhaps, have succeeded
in swimming a horse over; but this would have been useless, because
in such case I must have abandoned not only my baggage, but all my
attendants, for none of them were able to swim, and without that
resource it would have been madness for them to rely upon the
swimming of their beasts across such a powerful stream. I still
hoped, however, that there might be a chance of passing the river
at the point of its actual junction with the Dead Sea, and I
therefore went on in that direction.

Night came upon us whilst labouring across gullies and sandy
mounds, and we were obliged to come to a stand-still quite suddenly
upon the very edge of a precipitous descent. Every step towards
the Dead Sea had brought us into a country more and more dreary;
and this sand-hill, which we were forced to choose for our resting-
place, was dismal enough. A few slender blades of grass, which
here and there singly pierced the sand, mocked bitterly the hunger
of our jaded beasts, and with our small remaining fragment of
goat's-milk rock by way of supper, we were not much better off than
our horses. We wanted, too, the great requisite of a cheery
bivouac--fire. Moreover, the spot on which we had been so suddenly
brought to a standstill was relatively high and unsheltered, and
the night wind blew swiftly and cold.

The next morning I reached the debouchure of the Jordan, where I
had hoped to find a bar of sand that might render its passage
possible. The river, however, rolled its eddying waters fast down
to the "sea" in a strong, deep stream that shut out all hope of

It now seemed necessary either to construct a raft of some kind, or
else to retrace my steps and remount the banks of the Jordan. I
had once happened to give some attention to the subject of military
bridges--a branch of military science which includes the
construction of rafts and contrivances of the like sort--and I
should have been very proud indeed if I could have carried my party
and my baggage across by dint of any idea gathered from Sir Howard
Douglas or Robinson Crusoe. But we were all faint and languid from
want of food, and besides, there were no materials. Higher up the
river there were bushes and river plants, but nothing like timber;
and the cord with which my baggage was tied to the pack-saddles
amounted altogether to a very small quantity, not nearly enough to
haul any sort of craft across the stream.

And now it was, if I remember rightly, that Dthemetri submitted to
me a plan for putting to death the Nazarene, whose misguidance had
been the cause of our difficulties. There was something
fascinating in this suggestion, for the slaying of the guide was of
course easy enough, and would look like an act of what politicians
call "vigour." If it were only to become known to my friends in
England that I had calmly killed a fellow-creature for taking me
out of my way, I might remain perfectly quiet and tranquil for all
the rest of my days, quite free from the danger of being considered
"slow"; I might ever after live on upon my reputation, like
"single-speech Hamilton" in the last century, or "single sin--" in
this, without being obliged to take the trouble of doing any more
harm in the world. This was a great temptation to an indolent
person, but the motive was not strengthened by any sincere feeling
of anger with the Nazarene. Whilst the question of his life and
death was debated he was riding in front of our party, and there
was something in the anxious writhing of his supple limbs that
seemed to express a sense of his false position, and struck me as
highly comic. I had no crotchet at that time against the
punishment of death, but I was unused to blood, and the proposed
victim looked so thoroughly capable of enjoying life (if he could
only get to the other side of the river), that I thought it would
be hard for him to die merely in order to give me a character for
energy. Acting on the result of these considerations, and
reserving to myself a free and unfettered discretion to have the
poor villain shot at any future moment, I magnanimously decided
that for the present he should live, and not die.

I bathed in the Dead Sea. The ground covered by the water sloped
so gradually, that I was not only forced to "sneak in," but to walk
through the water nearly a quarter of a mile before I could get out
of my depth. When at last I was able to attempt to dive, the salts
held in solution made my eyes smart so sharply, that the pain which
I thus suffered, together with the weakness occasioned by want of
food, made me giddy and faint for some moments, but I soon grew
better. I knew beforehand the impossibility of sinking in this
buoyant water, but I was surprised to find that I could not swim at
my accustomed pace; my legs and feet were lifted so high and dry
out of the lake, that my stroke was baffled, and I found myself
kicking against the thin air instead of the dense fluid upon which
I was swimming. The water is perfectly bright and clear; its taste
detestable. After finishing my attempts at swimming and diving, I
took some time in regaining the shore, and before I began to dress
I found that the sun had already evaporated the water which clung
to me, and that my skin was thickly encrusted with salts.


My steps were reluctantly turned towards the north. I had ridden
some way, and still it seemed that all life was fenced and barred
out from the desolate ground over which I was journeying. On the
west there flowed the impassable Jordan, on the east stood an
endless range of barren mountains, and on the south lay that desert
sea that knew not the plashing of an oar; greatly therefore was I
surprised when suddenly there broke upon my ear the long,
ludicrous, persevering bray of a donkey. I was riding at this time
some few hundred yards ahead of all my party except the Nazarene
(who by a wise instinct kept closer to me than to Dthemetri), and I
instantly went forward in the direction of the sound, for I fancied
that where there were donkeys, there too most surely would be men.
The ground on all sides of me seemed thoroughly void and lifeless,
but at last I got down into a hollow, and presently a sudden turn
brought me within thirty yards of an Arab encampment. The low
black tents which I had so long lusted to see were right before me,
and they were all teeming with live Arabs--men, women, and

I wished to have let my party behind know where I was, but I
recollected that they would be able to trace me by the prints of my
horse's hoofs in the sand, and having to do with Asiatics, I felt
the danger of the slightest movement which might be looked upon as
a sign of irresolution. Therefore, without looking behind me,
without looking to the right or to the left, I rode straight up
towards the foremost tent. Before this was strewed a semicircular
fence of dead boughs, through which there was an opening opposite
to the front of the tent. As I advanced, some twenty or thirty of
the most uncouth-looking fellows imaginable came forward to meet
me. In their appearance they showed nothing of the Bedouin blood;
they were of many colours, from dingy brown to jet black, and some
of these last had much of the negro look about them. They were
tall, powerful fellows, but awfully ugly. They wore nothing but
the Arab shirts, confined at the waist by leathern belts.

I advanced to the gap left in the fence, and at once alighted from
my horse. The chief greeted me after his fashion by alternately
touching first my hand and then his own forehead, as if he were
conveying the virtue of the touch like a spark of electricity.
Presently I found myself seated upon a sheepskin, which was spread
for me under the sacred shade of Arabian canvas. The tent was of a
long, narrow, oblong form, and contained a quantity of men, women,
and children so closely huddled together, that there was scarcely
one of them who was not in actual contact with his neighbour. The
moment I had taken my seat the chief repeated his salutations in
the most enthusiastic manner, and then the people having gathered
densely about me, got hold of my unresisting hand and passed it
round like a claret jug for the benefit of every body. The women
soon brought me a wooden bowl full of buttermilk, and welcome
indeed came the gift to my hungry and thirsty soul.

After some time my party, as I had expected, came up, and when poor
Dthemetri saw me on my sheepskin, "the life and soul" of this
ragamuffin party, he was so astounded, that he even failed to check
his cry of horror; he plainly thought that now, at last, the Lord
had delivered me (interpreter and all) into the hands of the lowest

Mysseri carried a tobacco-pouch slung at his belt, and as soon as
its contents were known the whole population of the tent began
begging like spaniels for bits of the beloved weed. I concluded
from the abject manner of these people that they could not possibly
be thoroughbred Bedouins, and I saw, too, that they must be in the
very last stage of misery, for poor indeed is the man in these
climes who cannot command a pipeful of tobacco. I began to think
that I had fallen amongst thorough savages, and it seemed likely
enough that they would gain their very first knowledge of
civilisation by ravishing and studying the contents of my dearest
portmanteaus, but still my impression was that they would hardly
venture upon such an attempt. I observed, indeed, that they did
not offer me the bread and salt which I had understood to be the
pledges of peace amongst wandering tribes, but I fancied that they
refrained from this act of hospitality, not in consequence of any
hostile determination, but in order that the notion of robbing me
might remain for the present an "open question." I afterwards
found that the poor fellows had no bread to offer. They were
literally "out at grass." It is true that they had a scanty supply
of milk from goats, but they were living almost entirely upon
certain grass stems, which were just in season at that time of the
year. These, if not highly nourishing, are pleasant enough to the
taste, and their acid juices come gratefully to thirsty lips.


And now Dthemetri began to enter into a negotiation with my hosts
for a passage over the river. I never interfered with my worthy
dragoman upon these occasions, because from my entire ignorance of
the Arabic I should have been quite unable to exercise any real
control over his words, and it would have been silly to break the
stream of his eloquence to no purpose. I have reason to fear,
however, that he lied transcendently, and especially in
representing me as the bosom friend of Ibrahim Pasha. The mention
of that name produced immense agitation and excitement, and the
Sheik explained to Dthemetri the grounds of the infinite respect
which he and his tribe entertained for the Pasha. A few weeks
before Ibrahim had craftily sent a body of troops across the
Jordan. The force went warily round to the foot of the mountains
on the east, so as to cut off the retreat of this tribe, and then
surrounded them as they lay encamped in the vale; their camels, and
indeed all their possessions worth taking, were carried off by the
soldiery, and moreover the then Sheik, together with every tenth
man of the tribe, was brought out and shot. You would think that
this conduct on the part of the Pasha might not procure for his
"friend" a very gracious reception amongst the people whom he had
thus despoiled and decimated; but the Asiatic seems to be animated
with a feeling of profound respect, almost bordering upon
affection, for all who have done him any bold and violent wrong,
and there is always, too, so much of vague and undefined
apprehension mixed up with his really well-founded alarms, that I
can see no limit to the yielding and bending of his mind when it is
wrought upon by the idea of power.

After some discussion the Arabs agreed, as I thought, to conduct me
to a ford, and we moved on towards the river, followed by seventeen
of the most able-bodied of the tribe, under the guidance of several
grey-bearded elders, and Sheik Ali Djoubran at the head of the
whole detachment. Upon leaving the encampment a sort of ceremony
was performed, for the purpose, it seemed, of ensuring, if
possible, a happy result for the undertaking. There was an
uplifting of arms, and a repeating of words that sounded like
formulae, but there were no prostrations, and I did not understand
that the ceremony was of a religious character. The tented Arabs
are looked upon as very bad Mahometans.

We arrived upon the banks of the river--not at a ford, but at a
deep and rapid part of the stream, and I now understood that it was
the plan of these men, if they helped me at all, to transport me
across the river by some species of raft. But a reaction had taken
place in the opinions of many, and a violent dispute arose upon a
motion which seemed to have been made by some honourable member
with a view to robbery. The fellows all gathered together in
circle, at a little distance from my party, and there disputed with
great vehemence and fury for nearly two hours. I can't give a
correct report of the debate, for it was held in a barbarous
dialect of the Arabic unknown to my dragoman. I recollect I
sincerely felt at the time that the arguments in favour of robbing
me must have been almost unanswerable, and I gave great credit to
the speakers on my side for the ingenuity and sophistry which they
must have shown in maintaining the fight so well.

During the discussion I remained lying in front of my baggage,
which had all been taken from the pack-saddles and placed upon the
ground. I was so languid from want of food, that I had scarcely
animation enough to feel as deeply interested as you would suppose
in the result of the discussion. I thought, however, that the
pleasantest toys to play with during this interval were my pistols,
and now and then, when I listlessly visited my loaded barrels with
the swivel ramrods, or drew a sweet, musical click from my English
firelocks, it seemed to me that I exercised a slight and gentle
influence on the debate. Thanks to Ibrahim Pasha's terrible
visitation the men of the tribe were wholly unarmed, and my
advantage in this respect might have counterbalanced in some

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