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Eothen by A. W. Kinglake

Part 3 out of 5

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measure the superiority of numbers.

Mysseri (not interpreting in Arabic) had no duty to perform, and he
seemed to be faint and listless as myself. Shereef looked
perfectly resigned to any fate. But Dthemetri (faithful terrier!)
was bristling with zeal and watchfulness. He could not understand
the debate, which indeed was carried on at a distance too great to
be easily heard, even if the language had been familiar; but he was
always on the alert, and now and then conferring with men who had
straggled out of the assembly. At last he found an opportunity of
making a proposal, which at once produced immense sensation; he
offered, on my behalf, that if the tribe should bear themselves
loyally towards me, and take my party and my baggage in safety to
the other bank of the river, I should give them a teskeri, or
written certificate of their good conduct, which might avail them
hereafter in the hour of their direst need. This proposal was
received and instantly accepted by all the men of the tribe there
present with the utmost enthusiasm. I was to give the men, too, a
baksheish, that is, a present of money, which is usually made upon
the conclusion of any sort of treaty; but although the people of
the tribe were so miserably poor, they seemed to look upon the
pecuniary part of the arrangement as a matter quite trivial in
comparison with the teskeri. Indeed the sum which Dthemetri
promised them was extremely small, and not the slightest attempt
was made to extort any further reward.

The council now broke up, and most of the men rushed madly towards
me, and overwhelmed me with vehement gratulations; they caressed my
boots with much affection, and my hands were severely kissed.

The Arabs now went to work in right earnest to effect the passage
of the river. They had brought with them a great number of the
skins which they use for carrying water in the desert; these they
filled with air, and fastened several of them to small boughs which
they cut from the banks of the river. In this way they constructed
a raft not more than about four or five feet square, but rendered
buoyant by the inflated skins which supported it. On this a
portion of my baggage was placed, and was firmly tied to it by the
cords used on my pack-saddles. The little raft with its weighty
cargo was then gently lifted into the water, and I had the
satisfaction to see that it floated well.

Twelve of the Arabs now stripped, and tied inflated skins to their
loins; six of the men went down into the river, got in front of the
little raft, and pulled it off a few feet from the bank. The other
six then dashed into the stream with loud shouts and swam along
after the raft, pushing it from behind. Off went the craft in
capital style at first, for the stream was easy on the eastern
side; but I saw that the tug was to come, for the main torrent
swept round in a bend near the western bank of the river.

The old men, with their long grey grisly beards, stood shouting and
cheering, praying and commanding. At length the raft entered upon
the difficult part of its course; the whirling stream seized and
twisted it about, and then bore it rapidly downwards; the swimmers,
flagged and seemed to be beaten in the struggle. But now the old
men on the bank, with their rigid arms uplifted straight, sent
forth a cry and a shout that tore the wide air into tatters, and
then to make their urging yet more strong they shrieked out the
dreadful syllables, "'brahim Pasha!" The swimmers, one moment
before so blown and so weary, found lungs to answer the cry, and
shouting back the name of their great destroyer, they dashed on
through the torrent, and bore the raft in safety to the western

Afterwards the swimmers returned with the raft, and attached to it
the rest of my baggage. I took my seat upon the top of the cargo,
and the raft thus laden passed the river in the same way, and with
the same struggle as before. The skins, however, not being
perfectly air-tight, had lost a great part of their buoyancy, so
that I, as well as the luggage that passed on this last voyage, got
wet in the waters of Jordan. The raft could not be trusted for
another trip, and the rest of my party passed the river in a
different and (for them) much safer way. Inflated skins were
fastened to their loins, and thus supported, they were tugged
across by Arabs swimming on either side of them. The horses and
mules were thrown into the water and forced to swim over. The poor
beasts had a hard struggle for their lives in that swift stream;
and I thought that one of the horses would have been drowned, for
he was too weak to gain a footing on the western bank, and the
stream bore him down. At last, however, he swam back to the side
from which he had come. Before dark all had passed the river
except this one horse and old Shereef. He, poor fellow, was
shivering on the eastern bank, for his dread of the passage was so
great, that he delayed it as long as he could, and at last it
became so dark that he was obliged to wait till the morning.

I lay that night on the banks of the river, and at a little
distance from me the Arabs kindled a fire, round which they sat in
a circle. They were made most savagely happy by the tobacco with
which I supplied them, and they soon determined that the whole
night should be one smoking festival. The poor fellows had only a
cracked bowl, without any tube at all, but this morsel of a pipe
they handed round from one to the other, allowing to each a fixed
number of whiffs. In that way they passed the whole night.

The next morning old Shereef was brought across. It was a strange
sight to see this solemn old Mussulman, with his shaven head and
his sacred beard, sprawling and puffing upon the surface of the
water. When at last he reached the bank the people told him that
by his baptism in Jordan he had surely become a mere Christian.
Poor Shereef!--the holy man! the descendant of the Prophet!--he was
sadly hurt by the taunt, and the more so as he seemed to feel that
there was some foundation for it, and that he really might have
absorbed some Christian errors.

When all was ready for departure I wrote the teskeri in French and
delivered it to Sheik Ali Djoubran, together with the promised
baksheish; he was exceedingly grateful, and I parted in a very
friendly way from this ragged tribe.

In two or three hours I gained Rihah, a village said to occupy the
site of ancient Jericho. There was one building there which I
observed with some emotion, for although it may not have been
actually standing in the days of Jericho, it contained at this day
a most interesting collection of--modern loaves.

Some hours after sunset I reached the convent of Santa Saba, and
there remained for the night.


The enthusiasm that had glowed, or seemed to glow, within me for
one blessed moment when I knelt by the shrine of the Virgin at
Nazareth, was not rekindled at Jerusalem. In the stead of the
solemn gloom and the deep stillness that of right belonged to the
Holy City, there was the hum and the bustle of active life. It was
the "height of the season." The Easter ceremonies drew near. The
pilgrims were flocking in from all quarters; and although their
objects were partly at least of a religious character, yet their
"arrivals" brought as much stir and liveliness to the city as if
they had come up to marry their daughters.

The votaries who every year crowd to the Holy Sepulchre are chiefly
of the Greek and Armenian Churches. They are not drawn into
Palestine by a mere sentimental longing to stand upon the ground
trodden by our Saviour, but rather they perform the pilgrimage as a
plain duty strongly inculcated by their religion. A very great
proportion of those who belong to the Greek Church contrive at some
time or other in the course of their lives to achieve the
enterprise. Many in their infancy and childhood are brought to the
holy sites by their parents, but those who have not had this
advantage will often make it the main object of their lives to save
money enough for this holy undertaking.

The pilgrims begin to arrive in Palestine some weeks before the
Easter festival of the Greek Church. They come from Egypt, from
all parts of Syria, from Armenia and Asia Minor, from Stamboul,
from Roumelia, from the provinces of the Danube, and from all the
Russias. Most of these people bring with them some articles of
merchandise, but I myself believe (notwithstanding the common taunt
against pilgrims) that they do this rather as a mode of paying the
expenses of their journey, than from a spirit of mercenary
speculation. They generally travel in families, for the women are
of course more ardent than their husbands in undertaking these
pious enterprises, and they take care to bring with them all their
children, however young; for the efficacy of the rites does not
depend upon the age of the votary, so that people whose careful
mothers have obtained for them the benefit of the pilgrimage in
early life, are saved from the expense and trouble of undertaking
the journey at a later age. The superior veneration so often
excited by objects that are distant and unknown shows not perhaps
the wrongheadedness of a man, but rather the transcendent power of
his imagination. However this may be, and whether it is by mere
obstinacy that they poke their way through intervening distance, or
whether they come by the winged strength of fancy, quite certainly
the pilgrims who flock to Palestine from the most remote homes are
the people most eager in the enterprise, and in number too they
bear a very high proportion to the whole mass.

The great bulk of the pilgrims make their way by sea to the port of
Jaffa. A number of families will charter a vessel amongst them,
all bringing their own provisions, which are of the simplest and
cheapest kind. On board every vessel thus freighted there is, I
believe, a priest, who helps the people in their religious
exercises, and tries (and fails) to maintain something like order
and harmony. The vessels employed in this service are usually
Greek brigs or brigantines and schooners, and the number of
passengers stowed in them is almost always horribly excessive. The
voyages are sadly protracted, not only by the land-seeking, storm-
flying habits of the Greek seamen, but also by their endless
schemes and speculations, which are for ever tempting them to touch
at the nearest port. The voyage too must be made in winter, in
order that Jerusalem may be reached some weeks before the Greek
Easter, and thus by the time they attain to the holy shrines the
pilgrims have really and truly undergone a very respectable
quantity of suffering. I once saw one of these pious cargoes put
ashore on the coast of Cyprus, where they had touched for the
purpose of visiting (not Paphos, but) some Christian sanctuary. I
never saw (no, never even in the most horridly stuffy ballroom)
such a discomfortable collection of human beings. Long huddled
together in a pitching and rolling prison, fed on beans, exposed to
some real danger and to terrors without end, they had been tumbled
about for many wintry weeks in the chopping seas of the
Mediterranean. As soon as they landed they stood upon the beach
and chanted a hymn of thanks; the chant was morne and doleful, but
really the poor people were looking so miserable, that one could
not fairly expect from them any lively outpouring of gratitude.

When the pilgrims have landed at Jaffa they hire camels, horses,
mules, or donkeys, and make their way as well as they can to the
Holy City. The space fronting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
soon becomes a kind of bazaar, or rather, perhaps, reminds you of
an English fair. On this spot the pilgrims display their
merchandise, and there too the trading residents of the place offer
their goods for sale. I have never, I think, seen elsewhere in
Asia so much commercial animation as upon this square of ground by
the church door; the "money-changers" seemed to be almost as brisk
and lively as if they had been WITHIN the temple.

When I entered the church I found a babel of worshippers. Greek,
Roman, and Armenian priests were performing their different rites
in various nooks and corners, and crowds of disciples were rushing
about in all directions, some laughing and talking, some begging,
but most of them going round in a regular and methodical way to
kiss the sanctified spots, and speak the appointed syllables, and
lay down the accustomed coin. If this kissing of the shrines had
seemed as though it were done at the bidding of enthusiasm, or of
any poor sentiment even feebly approaching to it, the sight would
have been less odd to English eyes; but as it was, I stared to see
grown men thus steadily and carefully embracing the sticks and the
stones, not from love or from zeal (else God forbid that I should
have stared!), but from a calm sense of duty; they seemed to be not
"working out," but TRANSACTING the great business of salvation.

Dthemetri, however, who generally came with me when I went out, in
order to do duty as interpreter, really had in him some enthusiasm.
He was a zealous and almost fanatical member of the Greek Church,
and had long since performed the pilgrimage, so now great indeed
was the pride and delight with which he guided me from one holy
spot to another. Every now and then, when he came to an unoccupied
shrine, he fell down on his knees and performed devotion; he was
almost distracted by the temptations that surrounded him; there
were so many stones absolutely requiring to be kissed, that he
rushed about happily puzzled and sweetly teased, like "Jack among
the maidens."

A Protestant, familiar with the Holy Scriptures, but ignorant of
tradition and the geography of modern Jerusalem, finds himself a
good deal "mazed" when he first looks for the sacred sites. The
Holy Sepulchre is not in a field without the walls, but in the
midst, and in the best part of the town, under the roof of the
great church which I have been talking about. It is a handsome
tomb of oblong form, partly subterranean and partly above ground,
and closed in on all sides except the one by which it is entered.
You descend into the interior by a few steps, and there find an
altar with burning tapers. This is the spot which is held in
greater sanctity than any other at Jerusalem. When you have seen
enough of it you feel perhaps weary of the busy crowd, and inclined
for a gallop; you ask your dragoman whether there will be time
before sunset to procure horses and take a ride to Mount Calvary.
Mount Calvary, signor?--eccolo! it is UPSTAIRS--ON THE FIRST FLOOR.
In effect you ascend, if I remember rightly, just thirteen steps,
and then you are shown the now golden sockets in which the crosses
of our Lord and the two thieves were fixed. All this is startling,
but the truth is, that the city having gathered round the
Sepulchre, which is the main point of interest, has crept
northward, and thus in great measure are occasioned the many
geographical surprises that puzzle the "Bible Christian."

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre comprises very compendiously
almost all the spots associated with the closing career of our
Lord. Just there, on your right, He stood and wept; by the pillar,
on your left, He was scourged; on the spot, just before you, He was
crowned with the crown of thorns; up there He was crucified, and
down here He was buried. A locality is assigned to every, the
minutest, event connected with the recorded history of our Saviour;
even the spot where the cock crew when Peter denied his Master is
ascertained, and surrounded by the walls of an Armenian convent.
Many Protestants are wont to treat these traditions contemptuously,
and those who distinguish themselves from their brethren by the
appellation of "Bible Christians" are almost fierce in their
denunciation of these supposed errors.

It is admitted, I believe, by everybody that the formal
sanctification of these spots was the act of the Empress Helena,
the mother of Constantine, but I think it is fair to suppose that
she was guided by a careful regard to the then prevailing
traditions. Now the nature of the ground upon which Jerusalem
stands is such, that the localities belonging to the events there
enacted might have been more easily, and permanently, ascertained
by tradition than those of any city that I know of. Jerusalem,
whether ancient or modern, was built upon and surrounded by sharp,
salient rocks intersected by deep ravines. Up to the time of the
siege Mount Calvary of course must have been well enough known to
the people of Jerusalem; the destruction of the mere buildings
could not have obliterated from any man's memory the names of those
steep rocks and narrow ravines in the midst of which the city had
stood. It seems to me, therefore, highly probable that in fixing
the site of Calvary the Empress was rightly guided. Recollect,
too, that the voice of tradition at Jerusalem is quite unanimous,
and that Romans, Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, all hating each other
sincerely, concur in assigning the same localities to the events
told in the Gospel. I concede, however, that the attempt of the
Empress to ascertain the sites of the minor events cannot be safely
relied upon. With respect, for instance, to the certainty of the
spot where the cock crew, I am far from being convinced.

Supposing that the Empress acted arbitrarily in fixing the holy
sites, it would seem that she followed the Gospel of St. John, and
that the geography sanctioned by her can be more easily reconciled
with that history than with the accounts of the other Evangelists.

The authority exercised by the Mussulman Government in relation to
the holy sites is in one view somewhat humbling to the Christians,
for it is almost as an arbitrator between the contending sects
(this always, of course, for the sake of pecuniary advantage) that
the Mussulman lends his contemptuous aid; he not only grants, but
enforces toleration. All persons, of whatever religion, are
allowed to go as they will into every part of the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre, but in order to prevent indecent contests, and also
from motives arising out of money payments, the Turkish Government
assigns the peculiar care of each sacred spot to one of the
ecclesiastic bodies. Since this guardianship carries with it the
receipt of the coins which the pilgrims leave upon the shrines, it
is strenuously fought for by all the rival Churches, and the
artifices of intrigue are busily exerted at Stamboul in order to
procure the issue or revocation of the firmans by which the coveted
privilege is granted. In this strife the Greek Church has of late
years signally triumphed, and the most famous of the shrines are
committed to the care of their priesthood. They possess the golden
socket in which stood the cross of our Lord whilst the Latins are
obliged to content themselves with the apertures in which were
inserted the crosses of the two thieves. They are naturally
discontented with that poor privilege, and sorrowfully look back to
the days of their former glory--the days when Napoleon was Emperor,
and Sebastiani ambassador at the Porte. It seems that the
"citizen" sultan, old Louis Philippe, has done very little indeed
for Holy Church in Palestine.

Although the pilgrims perform their devotions at the several
shrines with so little apparent enthusiasm, they are driven to the
verge of madness by the miracle displayed before them on Easter
Saturday. Then it is that the Heaven-sent fire issues from the
Holy Sepulchre. The pilgrims all assemble in the great church, and
already, long before the wonder is worked, they are wrought by
anticipation of God's sign, as well as by their struggles for room
and breathing space, to a most frightful state of excitement. At
length the chief priest of the Greeks, accompanied (of all people
in the world) by the Turkish Governor, enters the tomb. After
this, there is a long pause, and then suddenly from out of the
small apertures on either side of the sepulchre there issue long,
shining flames. The pilgrims now rush forward, madly struggling to
light their tapers at the holy fire. This is the dangerous moment,
and many lives are often lost.

The year before that of my going to Jerusalem, Ibrahim Pasha, from
some whim, or motive of policy, chose to witness the miracle. The
vast church was of course thronged, as it always is on that awful
day. It seems that the appearance of the fire was delayed for a
very long time, and that the growing frenzy of the people was
heightened by suspense. Many, too, had already sunk under the
effect of the heat and the stifling atmosphere, when at last the
fire flashed from the sepulchre. Then a terrible struggle ensued;
many sunk and were crushed. Ibrahim had taken his station in one
of the galleries, but now, feeling perhaps his brave blood warmed
by the sight and sound of such strife, he took upon himself to
quiet the people by his personal presence, and descended into the
body of the church with only a few guards. He had forced his way
into the midst of the dense crowd, when unhappily he fainted away;
his guards shrieked out, and the event instantly became known. A
body of soldiers recklessly forced their way through the crowd,
trampling over every obstacle that they might save the life of
their general. Nearly two hundred people were killed in the

The following year, however, the Government took better measures
for the prevention of these calamities. I was not present at the
ceremony, having gone away from Jerusalem some time before, but I
afterwards returned into Palestine, and I then learned that the day
had passed off without any disturbance of a fatal kind. It is,
however, almost too much to expect that so many ministers of peace
can assemble without finding some occasion for strife, and in that
year a tribe of wild Bedouins became the subject of discord. These
men, it seems, led an Arab life in some of the desert tracts
bordering on the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, but were not connected
with any of the great ruling tribes. Some whim or notion of policy
had induced them to embrace Christianity; but they were grossly
ignorant of the rudiments of their adopted faith, and having no
priest with them in their desert, they had as little knowledge of
religious ceremonies as of religion itself. They were not even
capable of conducting themselves in a place of worship with
ordinary decorum, but would interrupt the service with scandalous
cries and warlike shouts. Such is the account the Latins give of
them, but I have never heard the other side of the question. These
wild fellows, notwithstanding their entire ignorance of all
religion, are yet claimed by the Greeks, not only as proselytes who
have embraced Christianity generally, but as converts to the
particular doctrines and practice of their Church. The people thus
alleged to have concurred in the great schism of the Eastern Empire
are never, I believe, within the walls of a church, or even of any
building at all, except upon this occasion of Easter; and as they
then never fail to find a row of some kind going on by the side of
the sepulchre, they fancy, it seems, that the ceremonies there
enacted are funeral games of a martial character, held in honour of
a deceased chieftain, and that a Christian festival is a peculiar
kind of battle, fought between walls, and without cavalry. It does
not appear, however, that these men are guilty of any ferocious
acts, or that they attempt to commit depredations. The charge
against them is merely that by their way of applauding the
performance, by their horrible cries and frightful gestures, they
destroy the solemnity of divine service, and upon this ground the
Franciscans obtained a firman for the exclusion of such tumultuous
worshippers. The Greeks, however, did not choose to lose the aid
of their wild converts merely because they were a little backward
in their religious education, and they therefore persuaded them to
defy the firman by entering the city en masse and overawing their
enemies. The Franciscans, as well as the Government authorities,
were obliged to give way, and the Arabs triumphantly marched into
the church. The festival, however, must have seemed to them rather
flat, for although there may have been some "casualties" in the way
of eyes black and noses bloody, and women "missing," there was no
return of "killed."

Formerly the Latin Catholics concurred in acknowledging (but not, I
hope, in working) the annual miracle of the heavenly fire, but they
have for many years withdrawn their countenance from this
exhibition, and they now repudiate it as a trick of the Greek
Church. Thus of course the violence of feeling with which the
rival Churches meet at the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Saturday is
greatly increased, and a disturbance of some kind is certain. In
the year I speak of, though no lives were lost, there was, as it
seems, a tough struggle in the church. I was amused at hearing of
a taunt that was thrown that day upon an English traveller. He had
taken his station in a convenient part of the church, and was no
doubt displaying that peculiar air of serenity and gratification
with which an English gentleman usually looks on at a row, when one
of the Franciscans came by, all reeking from the fight, and was so
disgusted at the coolness and placid contentment of the Englishman
(who was a guest at the convent), that he forgot his monkish
humility as well as the duties of hospitality, and plainly said,
"You sleep under our roof, you eat our bread, you drink our wine,
and then when Easter Saturday comes you don't fight for us!"

Yet these rival Churches go on quietly enough till their blood is
up. The terms on which they live remind one of the peculiar
relation subsisting at Cambridge between "town and gown."

These contests and disturbances certainly do not originate with the
lay-pilgrims, the great body of whom are, as I believe, quiet and
inoffensive people. It is true, however, that their pious
enterprise is believed by them to operate as a counterpoise for a
multitude of sins, whether past or future, and perhaps they exert
themselves in after life to restore the balance of good and evil.
The Turks have a maxim which, like most cynical apophthegms,
carries with it the buzzing trumpet of falsehood as well as the
small, fine "sting of truth." "If your friend has made the
pilgrimage once, distrust him; if he has made the pilgrimage twice,
cut him dead!" The caution is said to be as applicable to the
visitants of Jerusalem as to those of Mecca, but I cannot help
believing that the frailties of all the hadjis, {28} whether
Christian or Mahometan, are greatly exaggerated. I certainly
regarded the pilgrims to Palestine as a well-disposed orderly body
of people, not strongly enthusiastic, but desirous to comply with
the ordinances of their religion, and to attain the great end of
salvation as quietly and economically as possible.

When the solemnities of Easter are concluded the pilgrims move off
in a body to complete their good work by visiting the sacred scenes
in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, including the wilderness of John
the Baptist, Bethlehem, and above all, the Jordan, for to bathe in
those sacred waters is one of the chief objects of the expedition.
All the pilgrims--men, women, and children--are submerged en
chemise, and the saturated linen is carefully wrapped up and
preserved as a burial-dress that shall enure for salvation in the
realms of death.

I saw the burial of a pilgrim. He was a Greek, miserably poor, and
very old; he had just crawled into the Holy City, and had reached
at once the goal of his pious journey and the end of his sufferings
upon earth. There was no coffin nor wrapper, and as I looked full
upon the face of the dead I saw how deeply it was rutted with the
ruts of age and misery. The priest, strong and portly, fresh, fat,
and alive with the life of the animal kingdom, unpaid, or ill paid
for his work, would scarcely deign to mutter out his forms, but
hurried over the words with shocking haste. Presently he called
out impatiently, "Yalla! Goor!" (Come! look sharp!), and then the
dead Greek was seized. His limbs yielded inertly to the rude men
that handled them, and down he went into his grave, so roughly
bundled in that his neck was twisted by the fall, so twisted, that
if the sharp malady of life were still upon him the old man would
have shrieked and groaned, and the lines of his face would have
quivered with pain. The lines of his face were not moved, and the
old man lay still and heedless, so well cured of that tedious life-
ache, that nothing could hurt him now. His clay was ITSELF AGAIN--
cool, firm, and tough. The pilgrim had found great rest. I threw
the accustomed handful of the holy soil upon his patient face, and
then, and in less than a minute, the earth closed coldly round him.

I did not say "alas!" (nobody ever does that I know of, though the
word is so frequently written). I thought the old man had got
rather well out of the scrape of being alive, and poor.

The destruction of the mere buildings in such a place as Jerusalem
would not involve the permanent dispersion of the inhabitants, for
the rocky neighbourhood in which the town is situate abounds in
caves, which would give an easy refuge to the people until they
gained an opportunity of rebuilding their dwellings; therefore I
could not help looking upon the Jews of Jerusalem as being in some
sort the representatives, if not the actual descendants, of the
rascals who crucified our Saviour. Supposing this to be the case,
I felt that there would be some interest in knowing how the events
of the Gospel history were regarded by the Israelites of modern
Jerusalem. The result of my inquiry upon this subject was, so far
as it went, entirely favourable to the truth of Christianity. I
ANY OF THE JEWS IN THE PLACE. All of them concurred in attributing
the works of our Lord to the influence of magic, but they were
divided as to the species of enchantment from which the power
proceeded. The great mass of the Jewish people believe, I fancy,
that the miracles had been wrought by aid of the powers of
darkness, but many, and those the more enlightened, would call
Jesus "the good Magician." To Europeans repudiating the notion of
all magic, good or bad, the opinion of the Jews as to the agency by
which the miracles were worked is a matter of no importance; but
the circumstance of their admitting that those miracles WERE IN
FACT PERFORMED, is certainly curious, and perhaps not quite

If you stay in the Holy City long enough to fall into anything like
regular habits of amusement and occupation, and to become, in
short, for the time "a man about town" at Jerusalem, you will
necessarily lose the enthusiasm which you may have felt when you
trod the sacred soil for the first time, and it will then seem
almost strange to you to find yourself so entirely surrounded in
all your daily pursuits by the designs and sounds of religion.
Your hotel is a monastery, your rooms are cells, the landlord is a
stately abbot, and the waiters are hooded monks. If you walk out
of the town you find yourself on the Mount of Olives, or in the
Valley of Jehoshaphat, or on the Hill of Evil Counsel. If you
mount your horse and extend your rambles you will be guided to the
wilderness of St. John, or the birthplace of our Saviour. Your
club is the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where everybody
meets everybody every day. If you lounge through the town, your
Bond Street is the Via Dolorosa, and the object of your hopeless
affections is some maid or matron all forlorn, and sadly shrouded
in her pilgrim's robe. If you would hear music, it must be the
chanting of friars; if you look at pictures, you see virgins with
mis-fore-shortened arms, or devils out of drawing, or angels
tumbling up the skies in impious perspective. If you would make
any purchases, you must go again to the church doors, and when you
inquire for the manufactures of the place, you find that they
consist of double-blessed beads and sanctified shells. These last
are the favourite tokens which the pilgrims carry off with them.
The shell is graven, or rather scratched, on the white side with a
rude drawing of the Blessed Virgin or of the Crucifixion or some
other scriptural subject. Having passed this stage it goes into
the hands of a priest. By him it is subjected to some process for
rendering it efficacious against the schemes of our ghostly enemy.
The manufacture is then complete, and is deemed to be fit for use.

The village of Bethlehem lies prettily couched on the slope of a
hill. The sanctuary is a subterranean grotto, and is committed to
the joint-guardianship of the Romans, Greeks, and Armenians, who
vie with each other in adorning it. Beneath an altar gorgeously
decorated, and lit with everlasting fires, there stands the low
slab of stone which marks the holy site of the Nativity; and near
to this is a hollow scooped out of the living rock. Here the
infant Jesus was laid. Near the spot of the Nativity is the rock
against which the Blessed Virgin was leaning when she presented her
babe to the adoring shepherds.

Many of those Protestants who are accustomed to despise tradition
consider that this sanctuary is altogether unscriptural, that a
grotto is not a stable, and that mangers are made of wood. It is
perfectly true, however, that the many grottos and caves which are
found among the rocks of Judea were formerly used for the reception
of cattle. They are so used at this day. I have myself seen
grottos appropriated to this purpose.

You know what a sad and sombre decorum it is that outwardly reigns
through the lands oppressed by Moslem sway. The Mahometans make
beauty their prisoner, and enforce such a stern and gloomy
morality, or at all events, such a frightfully close semblance of
it, that far and long the wearied traveller may go without catching
one glimpse of outward happiness. By a strange chance in these
latter days it happened that, alone of all the places in the land,
this Bethlehem, the native village of our Lord, escaped the moral
yoke of the Mussulmans, and heard again, after ages of dull
oppression, the cheering clatter of social freedom, and the voices
of laughing girls. It was after an insurrection, which had been
raised against the authority of Mehemet Ali, that Bethlehem was
freed from the hateful laws of Asiatic decorum. The Mussulmans of
the village had taken an active part in the movement, and when
Ibrahim had quelled it, his wrath was still so hot, that he put to
death every one of the few Mahometans of Bethlehem who had not
already fled. The effect produced upon the Christian inhabitants
by the sudden removal of this restraint was immense. The village
smiled once more. It is true that such sweet freedom could not
long endure. Even if the population of the place should continue
to be entirely Christian, the sad decorum of the Mussulmans, or
rather of the Asiatics, would sooner or later be restored by the
force of opinion and custom. But for a while the sunshine would
last, and when I was at Bethlehem, though long after the flight of
the Mussulmans, the cloud of Moslem propriety had not yet come back
to cast its cold shadow upon life. When you reach that gladsome
village, pray Heaven there still may be heard there the voice of
free, innocent girls. It will sound so dearly welcome!

To a Christian, and thoroughbred Englishman, not even the
licentiousness which generally accompanies it can compensate for
the oppressiveness of that horrible outward decorum, which turns
the cities and the palaces of Asia into deserts and gaols. So, I
say, when you see and hear them, those romping girls of Bethlehem
will gladden your very soul. Distant at first, and then nearer and
nearer the timid flock will gather around you, with their large
burning eyes gravely fixed against yours, so that they see into
your brain; and if you imagine evil against them, they will know of
your ill thought before it is yet well born, and will fly and be
gone in the moment. But presently, if you will only look virtuous
enough to prevent alarm, and vicious enough to avoid looking silly,
the blithe maidens will draw nearer and nearer to you, and soon
there will be one, the bravest of the sisters, who will venture
right up to your side and touch the hem of your coat, in playful
defiance of the danger, and then the rest will follow the daring of
their youthful leader, and gather close round you, and hold a
shrill controversy on the wondrous formation that you call a hat,
and the cunning of the hands that clothed you with cloth so fine;
and then growing more profound in their researches, they will pass
from the study of your mere dress to a serious contemplation of
your stately height, and your nut-brown hair, and the ruddy glow of
your English cheeks. And if they catch a glimpse of your ungloved
fingers, then again will they make the air ring with their sweet
screams of wonder and amazement, as they compare the fairness of
your hand with their warmer tints, and even with the hues of your
own sunburnt face. Instantly the ringleader of the gentle rioters
imagines a new sin; with tremulous boldness she touches, then
grasps your hand, and smoothes it gently betwixt her own, and pries
curiously into its make and colour, as though it were silk of
Damascus, or shawl of Cashmere. And when they see you even then
still sage and gentle, the joyous girls will suddenly and
screamingly, and all at once, explain to each other that you are
surely quite harmless and innocent, a lion that makes no spring, a
bear that never hugs, and upon this faith, one after the other,
they will take your passive hand, and strive to explain it, and
make it a theme and a controversy. But the one, the fairest and
the sweetest of all, is yet the most timid; she shrinks from the
daring deeds of her play-mates, and seeks shelter behind their
sleeves, and strives to screen her glowing consciousness from the
eyes that look upon her. But her laughing sisters will have none
of this cowardice; they vow that the fair one SHALL be their
'complice, SHALL share their dangers, SHALL touch the hand of the
stranger; they seize her small wrist, and drag her forward by
force, and at last, whilst yet she strives to turn away, and to
cover up her whole soul under the folds of downcast eyelids, they
vanquish her utmost strength, they vanquish your utmost modesty,
and marry her hand to yours. The quick pulse springs from her
fingers, and throbs like a whisper upon your listening palm. For
an instant her large timid eyes are upon you; in an instant they
are shrouded again, and there comes a blush so burning, that the
frightened girls stay their shrill laughter, as though they had
played too perilously, and harmed their gentle sister. A moment,
and all with a sudden intelligence turn away and fly like deer, yet
soon again like deer they wheel round and return, and stand, and
gaze upon the danger, until they grow brave once more.

"I regret to observe, that the removal of the moral restraint
imposed by the presence of the Mahometan inhabitants has led to a
certain degree of boisterous, though innocent, levity in the
bearing of the Christians, and more especially in the demeanour of
those who belong to the younger portion of the female population;
but I feel assured that a more thorough knowledge of the principles
of their own pure religion will speedily restore these young people
to habits of propriety, even more strict than those which were
imposed upon them by the authority of their Mahometan brethren."
Bah! thus you might chant, if you chose; but loving the truth, you
will not so disown sweet Bethlehem; you will not disown or
dissemble your right good hearty delight when you find, as though
in a desert, this gushing spring of fresh and joyous girlhood.


Gaza is upon the verge of the Desert, to which it stands in the
same relation as a seaport to the sea. It is there that you
CHARTER your camels ("the ships of the Desert"), and lay in your
stores for the voyage.

These preparations kept me in the town for some days. Disliking
restraint, I declined making myself the guest of the Governor (as
it is usual and proper to do), but took up my quarters at the
caravanserai, or "khan," as they call it in that part of Asia.

Dthemetri had to make the arrangements for my journey, and in order
to arm himself with sufficient authority for doing all that was
required, he found it necessary to put himself in communication
with the Governor. The result of this diplomatic intercourse was
that the Governor, with his train of attendants, came to me one day
at my caravanserai, and formally complained that Dthemetri had
grossly insulted him. I was shocked at this, for the man was
always attentive and civil to me, and I was disgusted at the idea
of his having been rewarded with insult. Dthemetri was present
when the complaint was made, and I angrily asked him whether it was
true that he had really insulted the Governor, and what the deuce
he meant by it. This I asked with the full certainty that
Dthemetri, as a matter of course, would deny the charge, would
swear that a "wrong construction had been put upon his words, and
that nothing was further from his thoughts," &c. &c., after the
manner of the parliamentary people, but to my surprise he very
plainly answered that he certainly HAD insulted the Governor, and
that rather grossly, but, he said, it was quite necessary to do
this in order to "strike terror and inspire respect." "Terror and
respect! What on earth do you mean by that nonsense?"--"Yes, but
without striking terror and inspiring respect, he (Dthemetri) would
never be able to force on the arrangements for my journey, and
vossignoria would be kept at Gaza for a month!" This would have
been awkward, and certainly I could not deny that poor Dthemetri
had succeeded in his odd plan of inspiring respect, for at the very
time that this explanation was going on in Italian the Governor
seemed more than ever, and more anxiously, disposed to overwhelm me
with assurances of goodwill, and proffers of his best services.
All this kindness, or promise of kindness, I naturally received
with courtesy--a courtesy that greatly perturbed Dthemetri, for he
evidently feared that my civility would undo all the good that his
insults had achieved.

You will find, I think, that one of the greatest draw-backs to the
pleasure of travelling in Asia is the being obliged, more or less,
to make your way by bullying. It is true that your own lips are
not soiled by the utterance of all the mean words that are spoken
for you, and that you don't even know of the sham threats, and the
false promises, and the vainglorious boasts, put forth by your
dragoman; but now and then there happens some incident of the sort
which I have just been mentioning, which forces you to believe, or
suspect, that your dragoman is habitually fighting your battles for
you in a way that you can hardly bear to think of.

A caravanserai is not ill adapted to the purposes for which it is
meant. It forms the four sides of a large quadrangular court. The
ground floor is used for warehouses, the first floor for guests,
and the open court for the temporary reception of the camels, as
well as for the loading and unloading of their burthens, and the
transaction of mercantile business generally. The apartments used
for the guests are small cells opening into a corridor, which runs
round the four sides of the court.

Whilst I lay near the opening of my cell looking down into the
court below, there arrived from the Desert a caravan, that is, a
large assemblage of travellers. It consisted chiefly of Moldavian
pilgrims, who to make their good work even more than complete had
begun by visiting the shrine of the Virgin in Egypt, and were now
going on to Jerusalem. They had been overtaken in the Desert by a
gale of wind, which so drove the sand and raised up such mountains
before them, that their journey had been terribly perplexed and
obstructed, and their provisions (including water, the most
precious of all) had been exhausted long before they reached the
end of their toilsome march. They were sadly wayworn. The arrival
of the caravan drew many and various groups into the court. There
was the Moldavian pilgrim with his sable dress and cap of fur and
heavy masses of bushy hair; the Turk, with his various and
brilliant garments; the Arab, superbly stalking under his striped
blanket, that hung like royalty upon his stately form; the jetty
Ethiopian in his slavish frock; the sleek, smooth-faced scribe with
his comely pelisse, and his silver ink-box stuck in like a dagger
at his girdle. And mingled with these were the camels, some
standing, some kneeling and being unladen, some twisting round
their long necks, and gently stealing the straw from out of their
own pack-saddles.

In a couple of days I was ready to start. The way of providing for
the passage of the Desert is this: there is an agent in the town
who keeps himself in communication with some of the desert Arabs
that are hovering within a day's journey of the place. A party of
these upon being guaranteed against seizure or other ill-treatment
at the hands of the Governor come into the town, bringing with them
the number of camels which you require, and then they stipulate for
a certain sum to take you to the place of your destination in a
given time. The agreement which they thus enter into includes a
safe conduct through their country as well as the hire of the
camels. According to the contract made with me I was to reach
Cairo within ten days from the commencement of the journey. I had
four camels, one for my baggage, one for each of my servants, and
one for myself. Four Arabs, the owners of the camels, came with me
on foot. My stores were a small soldier's tent, two bags of dried
bread brought from the convent at Jerusalem, and a couple of
bottles of wine from the same source, two goat-skins filled with
water, tea, sugar, a cold tongue, and (of all things in the world)
a jar of Irish butter which Mysseri had purchased from some
merchant. There was also a small sack of charcoal, for the greater
part of the Desert through which we were to pass is destitute of

The camel kneels to receive her load, and for a while she will
allow the packing to go on with silent resignation; but when she
begins to suspect that her master is putting more than a just
burthen upon her poor hump she turns round her supple neck and
looks sadly upon the increasing load, and then gently remonstrates
against the wrong with the sigh of a patient wife. If sighs will
not move you, she can weep. You soon learn to pity, and soon to
love, her for the sake of her gentle and womanish ways.

You cannot, of course, put an English or any other riding saddle
upon the back of the camel, but your quilt or carpet, or whatever
you carry for the purpose of lying on at night, is folded and
fastened on to the pack-saddle upon the top of the hump, and on
this you ride, or rather sit. You sit as a man sits on a chair
when he sits astride and faces the back of it. I made an
improvement on this plan. I had my English stirrups strapped on to
the cross-bars of the pack-saddle, and thus by gaining rest for my
dangling legs, and gaining too the power of varying my position
more easily than I could otherwise have done, I added very much to
my comfort. Don't forget to do as I did.

The camel, like the elephant, is one of the old-fashioned sort of
animals that still walk along upon the (now nearly exploded) plan
of the ancient beasts that lived before the Flood. She moves
forward both her near legs at the same time, and then awkwardly
swings round her off shoulder and haunch so as to repeat the
manoeuvre on that side. Her pace, therefore, is an odd, disjointed
and disjoining, sort of movement that is rather disagreeable at
first, but you soon grow reconciled to it. The height to which you
are raised is of great advantage to you in passing the burning
sands of the Desert, for the air at such a distance from the ground
is much cooler and more lively than that which circulates beneath.

For several miles beyond Gaza the land, which had been plentifully
watered by the rains of the last week, was covered with rich
verdure, and thickly jewelled with meadow flowers so fresh and
fragrant, that I began to grow almost uneasy, to fancy that the
very Desert was receding before me, and that the long-desired
adventure of passing its "burning sands" was to end in a mere ride
across a field. But as I advanced the true character of the
country began to display itself with sufficient clearness to dispel
my apprehensions, and before the close of my first day's journey I
had the gratification of finding that I was surrounded on all sides
by a tract of real sand, and had nothing at all to complain of
except that there peeped forth at intervals a few isolated blades
of grass, and many of those stunted shrubs which are the accustomed
food of the camel.

Before sunset I came up with an encampment of Arabs (the encampment
from which my camels had been brought), and my tent was pitched
amongst theirs. I was now amongst the true Bedouins. Almost every
man of this race closely resembles his brethren. Almost every man
has large and finely-formed features; but his face is so thoroughly
stripped of flesh, and the white folds from his headgear fall down
by his haggard cheeks so much in the burial fashion, that he looks
quite sad and ghastly. His large dark orbs roll slowly and
solemnly over the white of his deep-set eyes; his countenance shows
painful thought and long-suffering, the suffering of one fallen
from a high estate. His gait is strangely majestic, and he marches
along with his simple blanket as though he were wearing the purple.
His common talk is a series of piercing screams and cries, {29}
more painful to the ear than the most excruciating fine music that
I ever endured.

The Bedouin women are not treasured up like the wives and daughters
of other Orientals, and indeed they seemed almost entirely free
from the restraints imposed by jealousy. The feint which they made
of concealing their faces from me was always slight. They never, I
think, wore the yashmak properly fixed. When they first saw me
they used to hold up a part of their drapery with one hand across
their faces, but they seldom persevered very steadily in subjecting
me to this privation. Unhappy beings! they were sadly plain. The
awful haggardness that gave something of character to the faces of
the men was sheer ugliness in the poor women. It is a great shame,
but the truth is that, except when we refer to the beautiful
devotion of the mother to her child, all the fine things we say and
think about woman apply only to those who are tolerably good-
looking or graceful. These Arab women were so plain and clumsy,
that they seemed to me to be fit for nothing but another and a
better world. They may have been good women enough so far as
relates to the exercise of the minor virtues, but they had so
grossly neglected the prime duty of looking pretty in this
transitory life, that I could not at all forgive them. They seemed
to feel the weight of their guilt, and to be truly and humbly
penitent. I had the complete command of their affections, for at
any moment I could make their young hearts bound and their old
hearts jump by offering a handful of tobacco, and yet, believe me,
it was not in the first soiree that my store of Latakia was

The Bedouin women have no religion. This is partly the cause of
their clumsiness. Perhaps if from Christian girls they would learn
how to pray, their souls might become more gentle, and their limbs
be clothed with grace. You who are going into their country have a
direct personal interest in knowing something about "Arab
hospitality"; but the deuce of it is, that the poor fellows with
whom I have happened to pitch my tent were scarcely ever in a
condition to exercise that magnanimous virtue with much eclat.
Indeed, Mysseri's canteen generally enabled me to outdo my hosts in
the matter of entertainment. They were always courteous, however,
and were never backward in offering me the youart, a kind of whey,
which is the principal delicacy to be found amongst the wandering

Practically, I think, Childe Harold would have found it a dreadful
bore to make "the Desert his dwelling-place," for at all events, if
he adopted the life of the Arabs he would have tasted no solitude.
The tents are partitioned, not so as to divide the Childe and the
"fair spirit" who is his "minister" from the rest of the world, but
so as to separate the twenty or thirty brown men that sit screaming
in the one compartment from the fifty or sixty brown women and
children that scream and squeak in the other. If you adopt the
Arab life for the sake of seclusion you will be horribly
disappointed, for you will find yourself in perpetual contact with
a mass of hot fellow-creatures. It is true that all who are
inmates of the same tent are related to each other, but I am not
quite sure that that circumstance adds much to the charm of such a
life. At all events, before you finally determine to become an
Arab try a gentle experiment. Take one of those small, shabby
houses in May Fair, and shut yourself up in it with forty or fifty
shrill cousins for a couple of weeks in July.

In passing the Desert you will find your Arabs wanting to start and
to rest at all sorts of odd times. They like, for instance, to be
off at one in the morning, and to rest during the whole of the
afternoon. You must not give way to their wishes in this respect.
I tried their plan once, and found it very harassing and
unwholesome. An ordinary tent can give you very little protection
against heat, for the fire strikes fiercely through single canvas,
and you soon find that whilst you lie crouching and striving to
hide yourself from the blazing face of the sun, his power is harder
to bear than it is where you boldly defy him from the airy heights
of your camel.

It had been arranged with my Arabs that they were to bring with
them all the food which they would want for themselves during the
passage of the Desert, but as we rested at the end of the first
day's journey by the side of an Arab encampment, my camel men found
all that they required for that night in the tents of their own
brethren. On the evening of the second day, however, just before
we encamped for the night, my four Arabs came to Dthemetri, and
formally announced that they had not brought with them one atom of
food, and that they looked entirely to my supplies for their daily
bread. This was awkward intelligence. We were now just two days
deep in the Desert, and I had brought with me no more bread than
might be reasonably required for myself and my European attendants.
I believed at the moment (for it seemed likely enough) that the men
had really mistaken the terms of the arrangement, and feeling that
the bore of being put upon half-rations would be a less evil (and
even to myself a less inconvenience) than the starvation of my
Arabs, I at once told Dthemetri to assure them that my bread should
be equally shared with all. Dthemetri, however, did not approve of
this concession; he assured me quite positively that the Arabs
thoroughly understood the agreement, and that if they were now
without food they had wilfully brought themselves into this strait
for the wretched purpose of bettering their bargain by the value of
a few paras' worth of bread. This suggestion made me look at the
affair in a new light. I should have been glad enough to put up
with the slight privation to which my concession would subject me,
and could have borne to witness the semi-starvation of poor
Dthemetri with a fine, philosophical calm, but it seemed to me that
the scheme, if scheme it were, had something of audacity in it, and
was well enough calculated to try the extent of my softness. I
well knew the danger of allowing such a trial to result in a
conclusion that I was one who might be easily managed; and
therefore, after thoroughly satisfying myself from Dthemetri's
clear and repeated assertions that the Arabs had really understood
the arrangement, I determined that they should not now violate it
by taking advantage of my position in the midst of their big
Desert, so I desired Dthemetri to tell them that they should touch
no bread of mine. We stopped, and the tent was pitched. The Arabs
came to me, and prayed loudly for bread. I refused them.

"Then we die!"

"God's will be done!"

I gave the Arabs to understand that I regretted their perishing by
hunger, but that I should bear this calmly, like any other
misfortune not my own, that, in short, I was happily resigned to
THEIR fate. The men would have talked a great deal, but they were
under the disadvantage of addressing me through a hostile
interpreter; they looked hard upon my face, but they found no hope
there; so at last they retired as they pretended, to lay them down
and die.

In about ten minutes from this time I found that the Arabs were
busily cooking their bread! Their pretence of having brought no
food was false, and was only invented for the purpose of saving it.
They had a good bag of meal, which they had contrived to stow away
under the baggage upon one of the camels in such a way as to escape
notice. In Europe the detection of a scheme like this would have
occasioned a disagreeable feeling between the master and the
delinquent, but you would no more recoil from an Oriental on
account of a matter of this sort, than in England you would reject
a horse that had tried, and failed, to throw you. Indeed, I felt
quite good-humouredly towards my Arabs, because they had so
woefully failed in their wretched attempt, and because, as it
turned out, I had done what was right. They too, poor fellows,
evidently began to like me immensely, on account of the hard-
heartedness which had enabled me to baffle their scheme.

The Arabs adhere to those ancestral principles of bread-baking
which have been sanctioned by the experience of ages. The very
first baker of bread that ever lived must have done his work
exactly as the Arab does at this day. He takes some meal and holds
it out in the hollow of his hands, whilst his comrade pours over it
a few drops of water; he then mashes up the moistened flour into a
paste, which he pulls into small pieces, and thrusts into the
embers. His way of baking exactly resembles the craft or mystery
of roasting chestnuts as practised by children; there is the same
prudence and circumspection in choosing a good berth for the
morsel, the same enterprise and self-sacrificing valour in pulling
it out with the fingers.

The manner of my daily march was this. At about an hour before
dawn I rose and made the most of about a pint of water, which I
allowed myself for washing. Then I breakfasted upon tea and bread.
As soon as the beasts were loaded I mounted my camel and pressed
forward. My poor Arabs, being on foot, would sometimes moan with
fatigue and pray for rest; but I was anxious to enable them to
perform their contract for bringing me to Cairo within the
stipulated time, and I did not therefore allow a halt until the
evening came. About midday, or soon after, Mysseri used to bring
up his camel alongside of mine, and supply me with a piece of bread
softened in water (for it was dried hard like board), and also (as
long as it lasted) with a piece of the tongue; after this there
came into my hand (how well I remember it) the little tin cup half-
filled with wine and water.

As long as you are journeying in the interior of the Desert you
have no particular point to make for as your resting-place. The
endless sands yield nothing but small stunted shrubs; even these
fail after the first two or three days, and from that time you pass
over broad plains, you pass over newly-reared hills, you pass
through valleys that the storm of the last week has dug, and the
hills and the valleys are sand, sand, sand, still sand, and only
sand, and sand and sand again. The earth is so samely that your
eyes turn towards heaven--towards heaven, I mean, in the sense of
sky. You look to the sun, for he is your task-master, and by him
you know the measure of the work that you have done, and the
measure of the work that remains for you to do. He comes when you
strike your tent in the early morning, and then, for the first hour
of the day as you move forward on your camel, he stands at your
near side and makes you know that the whole day's toil is before
you; then for a while, and a long while, you see him no more, for
you are veiled and shrouded, and dare not look upon the greatness
of his glory, but you know where he strides overhead by the touch
of his flaming sword. No words are spoken, but your Arabs moan,
your camels sigh, your skin glows, your shoulders ache, and for
sights you see the pattern and the web of the silk that veils your
eyes and the glare of the outer light. Time labours on; your skin
glows and your shoulders ache, your Arabs moan, your camels sigh,
and you see the same pattern in the silk, and the same glare of
light beyond, but conquering Time marches on, and by-and-by the
descending sun has compassed the heaven, and now softly touches
your right arm, and throws your lank shadow over the sand right
along on the way to Persia. Then again you look upon his face, for
his power is all veiled in his beauty, and the redness of flames
has become the redness of roses; the fair, wavy cloud that fled in
the morning now comes to his sight once more, comes blushing, yet
still comes on, comes burning with blushes, yet hastens and clings
to his side.

Then arrives your time for resting. The world about you is all
your own, and there, where you will, you pitch your solitary tent;
there is no living thing to dispute your choice. When at last the
spot had been fixed upon and we came to a halt, one of the Arabs
would touch the chest of my camel and utter at the same time a
peculiar gurgling sound. The beast instantly understood and obeyed
the sign, and slowly sunk under me till she brought her body to a
level with the ground, then gladly enough I alighted. The rest of
the camels were unloaded and turned loose to browse upon the shrubs
of the desert, where shrubs there were, or where these failed, to
wait for the small quantity of food that was allowed them out of
our stores.

My servants, helped by the Arabs, busied themselves in pitching the
tent and kindling the fire. Whilst this was doing I used to walk
away towards the east, confiding in the print of my foot as a guide
for my return. Apart from the cheering voices of my attendants I
could better know and feel the loneliness of the Desert. The
influence of such scenes, however, was not of a softening kind, but
filled me rather with a sort of childish exultation in the self-
sufficiency which enabled me to stand thus alone in the wideness of
Asia--a short-lived pride, for wherever man wanders he still
remains tethered by the chain that links him to his kind; and so
when the night closed around me I began to return, to return, as it
were, to my own gate. Reaching at last some high ground I could
see, and see with delight, the fire of our small encampment, and
when at last I regained the spot it seemed to me a very home that
had sprung up for me in the midst of these solitudes. My Arabs
were busy with their bread; Mysseri rattling tea-cups; the little
kettle, with her odd old-maidish looks, sat humming away old songs
about England; and two or three yards from the fire my tent stood
prim and tight, with open portal, and with welcoming look, like
"the old arm-chair" of our lyrist's "sweet Lady Anne."

At the beginning of my journey the night breeze blew coldly; when
that happened, the dry sand was heaped up outside round the skirts
of the tent, and so the wind, that everywhere else could sweep as
he listed along those dreary plains, was forced to turn aside in
his course and make way, as he ought, for the Englishman. Then
within my tent there were heaps of luxuries--dining-rooms,
dressing-rooms, libraries, bedrooms, drawing-rooms, oratories, all
crowded into the space of a hearthrug. The first night, I
remember, with my books and maps about me, I wanted light; they
brought me a taper, and immediately from out of the silent Desert
there rushed in a flood of life unseen before. Monsters of moths,
of all shapes and hues, that never before perhaps had looked upon
the shining of a flame, now madly thronged into my tent, and dashed
through the fire of the candle till they fairly extinguished it
with their burning limbs. Those who had failed in attaining this
martyrdom suddenly became serious, and clung despondingly to the

By-and-by there was brought to me the fragrant tea and big masses
of scorched and scorching toast, and the butter that had come all
the way to me in this Desert of Asia from out of that poor, dear,
starving Ireland. I feasted like a king, like four kings, like a
boy in the fourth form.

When the cold, sullen morning dawned, and my people began to load
the camels, I always felt loth to give back to the waste this
little spot of ground that had glowed for a while with the
cheerfulness of a human dwelling. One by one the cloaks, the
saddles, the baggage, the hundred things that strewed the ground
and made it look so familiar--all these were taken away and laid
upon the camels. A speck in the broad tracts of Asia remained
still impressed with the mark of patent portmanteaus and the heels
of London boots; the embers of the fire lay black and cold upon the
sand, and these were the signs we left.

My tent was spared to the last, but when all else was ready for the
start then came its fall; the pegs were drawn, the canvas shivered,
and in less than a minute there was nothing that remained of my
genial home but only a pole and a bundle. The encroaching
Englishman was off, and instant upon the fall of the canvas, like
an owner who had waited and watched, the genius of the Desert
stalked in.

To servants, as I suppose of any other Europeans not much
accustomed to amuse themselves by fancy or memory, it often happens
that after a few days journeying the loneliness of the Desert will
become frightfully oppressive. Upon my poor fellows the access of
melancholy came heavy, and all at once, as a blow from above; they
bent their necks, and bore it as best they could, but their joy was
great on the fifth day when we came to an oasis called Gatieh, for
here we found encamped a caravan (that is, an assemblage of
travellers) from Cairo. The Orientals living in cities never pass
the Desert except in this way; many will wait for weeks, and even
for months, until a sufficient number of persons can be found ready
to undertake the journey at the same time--until the flock of sheep
is big enough to fancy itself a match for wolves. They could not,
I think, really secure themselves against any serious danger by
this contrivance, for though they have arms, they are so little
accustomed to use them, and so utterly unorganised, that they never
could make good their resistance to robbers of the slightest
respectability. It is not of the Bedouins that such travellers are
afraid, for the safe conduct granted by the chief of the ruling
tribe is never, I believe, violated, but it is said that there are
deserters and scamps of various sorts who hover about the skirts of
the Desert, particularly on the Cairo side, and are anxious to
succeed to the property of any poor devils whom they may find more
weak and defenceless than themselves.

These people from Cairo professed to be amazed at the ludicrous
disproportion between their numerical forces and mine. They could
not understand, and they wanted to know, by what strange privilege
it is that an Englishman with a brace of pistols and a couple of
servants rides safely across the Desert, whilst they, the natives
of the neighbouring cities, are forced to travel in troops, or
rather in herds. One of them got a few minutes of private
conversation with Dthemetri, and ventured to ask him anxiously
whether the English did not travel under the protection of evil
demons. I had previously known (from Methley, I think, who had
travelled in Persia) that this notion, so conducive to the safety
of our countrymen, is generally prevalent amongst Orientals. It
owes its origin, partly to the strong wilfulness of the English
gentleman (which not being backed by any visible authority, either
civil or military, seems perfectly superhuman to the soft Asiatic),
but partly too to the magic of the banking system, by force of
which the wealthy traveller will make all his journeys without
carrying a handful of coin, and yet when he arrives at a city will
rain down showers of gold. The theory is, that the English
traveller has committed some sin against God and his conscience,
and that for this the evil spirit has hold of him, and drives him
from his home like a victim of the old Grecian furies, and forces
him to travel over countries far and strange, and most chiefly over
deserts and desolate places, and to stand upon the sites of cities
that once were and are now no more, and to grope among the tombs of
dead men. Often enough there is something of truth in this notion;
often enough the wandering Englishman is guilty (if guilt it be) of
some pride or ambition, big or small, imperial or parochial, which
being offended has made the lone place more tolerable than
ballrooms to him, a sinner.

I can understand the sort of amazement of the Orientals at the
scantiness of the retinue with which an Englishman passes the
Desert, for I was somewhat struck myself when I saw one of my
countrymen making his way across the wilderness in this simple
style. At first there was a mere moving speck on the horizon. My
party of course became all alive with excitement, and there were
many surmises. Soon it appeared that three laden camels were
approaching, and that two of them carried riders. In a little
while we saw that one of the riders wore the European dress, and at
last the travellers were pronounced to be an English gentleman and
his servant. By their side there were a couple, I think, of Arabs
on foot, and this was the whole party.

You, you love sailing; in returning from a cruise to the English
coast you see often enough a fisherman's humble boat far away from
all shores, with an ugly black sky above and an angry sea beneath.
You watch the grizzly old man at the helm carrying his craft with
strange skill through the turmoil of waters, and the boy, supple-
limbed, yet weather-worn already, and with steady eyes that look
through the blast, you see him understanding commandments from the
jerk of his father's white eyebrow, now belaying and now letting
go, now scrunching himself down into mere ballast, or baling out
death with a pipkin. Stale enough is the sight, and yet when I see
it I always stare anew, and with a kind of Titanic exultation,
because that a poor boat with the brain of a man and the hands of a
boy on board can match herself so bravely against black heaven and
ocean. Well, so when you have travelled for days and days over an
Eastern desert without meeting the likeness of a human being, and
then at last see an English shooting-jacket and his servant come
listlessly slouching along from out of the forward horizon, you
stare at the wide unproportion between this slender company and the
boundless plains of sand through which they are keeping their way.

This Englishman, as I afterwards found, was a military man
returning to his country from India, and crossing the Desert at
this part in order to go through Palestine. As for me, I had come
pretty straight from England, and so here we met in the wilderness
at about half-way from our respective starting-points. As we
approached each other it became with me a question whether we
should speak. I thought it likely that the stranger would accost
me, and in the event of his doing so I was quite ready to be as
sociable and chatty as I could be according to my nature; but still
I could not think of anything particular that I had to say to him.
Of course, among civilised people the not having anything to say is
no excuse at all for not speaking, but I was shy and indolent, and
I felt no great wish to stop and talk like a morning visitor in the
midst of those broad solitudes. The traveller perhaps felt as I
did, for except that we lifted our hands to our caps and waved our
arms in courtesy, we passed each other as if we had passed in Bond
Street. Our attendants, however, were not to be cheated of the
delight that they felt in speaking to new listeners and hearing
fresh voices once more. The masters, therefore, had no sooner
passed each other than their respective servants quietly stopped
and entered into conversation. As soon as my camel found that her
companions were not following her she caught the social feeling and
refused to go on. I felt the absurdity of the situation, and
determined to accost the stranger if only to avoid the awkwardness
of remaining stuck fast in the Desert whilst our servants were
amusing themselves. When with this intent I turned round my camel
I found that the gallant officer who had passed me by about thirty
or forty yards was exactly in the same predicament as myself. I
put my now willing camel in motion and rode up towards the
stranger, who seeing this followed my example and came forward to
meet me. He was the first to speak. He was much too courteous to
address me as if he admitted the possibility of my wishing to
accost him from any feeling of mere sociability or civilian-like
love of vain talk. On the contrary, he at once attributed my
advances to a laudable wish of acquiring statistical information,
and accordingly, when we got within speaking distance, he said, "I
dare say you wish to know how the plague is going on at Cairo?"
And then he went on to say, he regretted that his information did
not enable him to give me in numbers a perfectly accurate statement
of the daily deaths. He afterwards talked pleasantly enough upon
other and less ghastly subjects. I thought him manly and
intelligent, a worthy one of the few thousand strong Englishmen to
whom the empire of India is committed.

The night after the meeting with the people of the caravan,
Dthemetri, alarmed by their warnings, took upon himself to keep
watch all night in the tent. No robbers came except a jackal, that
poked his nose into my tent from some motive of rational curiosity.
Dthemetri did not shoot him for fear of waking me. These brutes
swarm in every part of Syria, and there were many of them even in
the midst of the void sands, that would seem to give such poor
promise of food. I can hardly tell what prey they could be hoping
for, unless it were that they might find now and then the carcass
of some camel that had died on the journey. They do not marshal
themselves into great packs like the wild dogs of Eastern cities,
but follow their prey in families, like the place-hunters of
Europe. Their voices are frightfully like to the shouts and cries
of human beings. If you lie awake in your tent at night you are
almost continually hearing some hungry family as it sweeps along in
full cry. You hear the exulting scream with which the sagacious
dam first winds the carrion, and the shrill response of the
unanimous cubs as they sniff the tainted air, "Wha! wha! wha! wha!
wha! wha! Whose gift is it in, mamma?"

Once during this passage my Arabs lost their way among the hills of
loose sand that surrounded us, but after a while we were lucky
enough to recover our right line of march. The same day we fell in
with a Sheik, the head of a family, that actually dwells at no
great distance from this part of the Desert during nine months of
the year. The man carried a matchlock, of which he was very proud.
We stopped and sat down and rested awhile for the sake of a little
talk. There was much that I should have liked to ask this man, but
he could not understand Dthemetri's language, and the process of
getting at his knowledge by double interpretation through my Arabs
was unsatisfactory. I discovered, however (and my Arabs knew of
that fact), that this man and his family lived habitually for nine
months of the year without touching or seeing either bread or
water. The stunted shrub growing at intervals through the sand in
this part of the Desert enables the camel mares to yield a little
milk, which furnishes the sole food and drink of their owner and
his people. During the other three months (the hottest of the
months, I suppose) even this resource fails, and then the Sheik and
his people are forced to pass into another district. You would ask
me why the man should not remain always in that district which
supplies him with water during three months of the year, but I
don't know enough of Arab politics to answer the question. The
Sheik was not a good specimen of the effect produced by the diet to
which he is subjected. He was very small, very spare, and sadly
shrivelled, a poor, over-roasted snipe, a mere cinder of a man. I
made him sit down by my side, and gave him a piece of bread and a
cup of water from out of my goat-skins. This was not very tempting
drink to look at, for it had become turbid, and was deeply reddened
by some colouring matter contained in the skins, but it kept its
sweetness, and tasted like a strong decoction of russia leather.
The Sheik sipped this, drop by drop, with ineffable relish, and
rolled his eyes solemnly round between every draught, as though the
drink were the drink of the Prophet, and had come from the seventh

An inquiry about distances led to the discovery that this Sheik had
never heard of the division of time into hours; my Arabs
themselves, I think, were rather surprised at this.

About this part of my journey I saw the likeness of a fresh-water
lake. I saw, as it seemed, a broad sheet of calm water, that
stretched far and fair towards the south, stretching deep into
winding creeks, and hemmed in by jutting promontories, and shelving
smooth off towards the shallow side. On its bosom the reflected
fire of the sun lay playing, and seeming to float upon waters deep
and still.

Though I knew of the cheat, it was not till the spongy foot of my
camel had almost trodden in the seeming waters that I could
undeceive my eyes, for the shore-line was quite true and natural.
I soon saw the cause of the phantasm. A sheet of water heavily
impregnated with salts had filled this great hollow, and when dried
up by evaporation had left a white saline deposit, that exactly
marked the space which the waters had covered, and thus sketched a
good shore-line. The minute crystals of the salt sparkled in the
sun, and so looked like the face of a lake that is calm and smooth.

The pace of the camel is irksome, and makes your shoulders and
loins ache from the peculiar way in which you are obliged to suit
yourself to the movements of the beast, but you soon of course
become inured to this, and after the first two days this way of
travelling became so familiar to me, that (poor sleeper as I am) I
now and then slumbered for some moments together on the back of my
camel. On the fifth day of my journey the air above lay dead, and
all the whole earth that I could reach with my utmost sight and
keenest listening was still and lifeless as some dispeopled and
forgotten world that rolls round and round in the heavens through
wasted floods of light. The sun growing fiercer and fiercer shone
down more mightily now than ever on me he shone before, and as I
dropped my head under his fire, and closed my eyes against the
glare that surrounded me, I slowly fell asleep, for how many
minutes or moments I cannot tell, but after a while I was gently
awakened by a peal of church bells, my native bells, the innocent
bells of Marlen, that never before sent forth their music beyond
the Blaygon hills! My first idea naturally was, that I still
remained fast under the power of a dream. I roused myself and drew
aside the silk that covered my eyes, and plunged my bare face into
the light. Then at least I was well enough wakened, but still
those old Marlen bells rung on, not ringing for joy, but properly,
prosily, steadily, merrily ringing "for church." After a while the
sound died away slowly. It happened that neither I nor any of my
party had a watch by which to measure the exact time of its
lasting, but it seemed to me that about ten minutes had passed
before the bells ceased. I attributed the effect to the great heat
of the sun, the perfect dryness of the clear air through which I
moved, and the deep stillness of all around me. It seemed to me
that these causes, by occasioning a great tension, and consequent
susceptibility, of the hearing organs had rendered them liable to
tingle under the passing touch of some mere memory that must have
swept across my brain in a moment of sleep. Since my return to
England it has been told me that like sounds have been heard at
sea, and that the sailor becalmed under a vertical sun in the midst
of the wide ocean has listened in trembling wonder to the chime of
his own village bells.

At this time I kept a poor shabby pretence of a journal, which just
enabled me to know the day of the month and the week according to
the European calendar, and when in my tent at night I got out my
pocket-book I found that the day was Sunday, and roughly allowing
for the difference of time in this longitude, I concluded that at
the moment of my hearing that strange peal the church-going bells
of Marlen must have been actually calling the prim congregation of
the parish to morning prayer. The coincidence amused me faintly,
but I could not pluck up the least hope that the effect which I had
experienced was anything other than an illusion, an illusion liable
to be explained (as every illusion is in these days) by some of the
philosophers who guess at Nature's riddles. It would have been
sweeter to believe that my kneeling mother by some pious
enchantment had asked, and found, this spell to rouse me from my
scandalous forgetfulness of God's holy day, but my fancy was too
weak to carry a faith like that. Indeed, the vale through which
the bells of Marlen send their song is a highly respectable vale,
and its people (save one, two, or three) are wholly unaddicted to
the practice of magical arts.

After the fifth day of my journey I no longer travelled over
shifting hills, but came upon a dead level, a dead level bed of
sand, quite hard, and studded with small shining pebbles.

The heat grew fierce; there was no valley nor hollow, no hill, no
mound, no shadow of hill nor of mound, by which I could mark the
way I was making. Hour by hour I advanced, and saw no change--I
was still the very centre of a round horizon; hour by hour I
advanced, and still there was the same, and the same, and the same-
-the same circle of flaming sky--the same circle of sand still
glaring with light and fire. Over all the heaven above, over all
the earth beneath, there was no visible power that could balk the
fierce will of the sun: "he rejoiced as a strong man to run a
race; his going forth was from the end of the heaven, and his
circuit unto the ends of it; and there was nothing hid from the
heat thereof." From pole to pole, and from the east to the west,
he brandished his fiery sceptre as though he had usurped all heaven
and earth. As he bid the soft Persian in ancient times, so now,
and fiercely too, he bid me bow down and worship him; so now in his
pride he seemed to command me, and say, "Thou shalt have none other
gods but me." I was all alone before him. There were these two
pitted together, and face to face--the mighty sun for one, and for
the other this poor, pale, solitary self of mine, that I always
carry about with me.

But on the eighth day, and before I had yet turned away from
Jehovah for the glittering god of the Persians, there appeared a
dark line upon the edge of the forward horizon, and soon the line
deepened into a delicate fringe, that sparkled here and there as
though it were sewn with diamonds. There, then, before me were the
gardens and the minarets of Egypt and the mighty works of the Nile,
and I (the eternal Ego that I am!)--I had lived to see, and I saw

When evening came I was still within the confines of the Desert,
and my tent was pitched as usual; but one of my Arabs stalked away
rapidly towards the west, without telling me of the errand on which
he was bent. After a while he returned; he had toiled on a
graceful service; he had travelled all the way on to the border of
the living world, and brought me back for token an ear of rice,
full, fresh, and green.

The next day I entered upon Egypt, and floated along (for the
delight was as the delight of bathing) through green wavy fields of
rice, and pastures fresh and plentiful, and dived into the cold
verdure of groves and gardens, and quenched my hot eyes in shade,
as though in deep, rushing waters.


Cairo and plague! During the whole time of my stay the plague was
so master of the city, and showed itself so staringly in every
street and every alley, that I can't now affect to dissociate the
two ideas.

When coming from the Desert I rode through a village which lies
near to the city on the eastern side, there approached me with busy
face and earnest gestures a personage in the Turkish dress. His
long flowing beard gave him rather a majestic look, but his
briskness of manner, and his visible anxiety to accost me, seemed
strange in an Oriental. The man in fact was French, or of French
origin, and his object was to warn me of the plague, and prevent me
from entering the city.

"Arretez-vous, monsieur, je vous en prie--arretez-vous; il ne faut
pas entrer dans la ville; la peste y regne partout."

"Oui, je sais,{31} mais--"

"Mais monsieur, je dis la peste--la peste; c'est de LA PESTE, qu'il
est question."

"Oui, je sais, mais--"

"Mais monsieur, je dis encore LA PESTE--LA PESTE. Je vous conjure
de ne pas entrer dans la ville--vous seriez dans une ville

"Oui, je sais, mais--"

"Mais monsieur, je dois donc vous avertir tout bonnement que si
vous entrez dans la ville, vous serez--enfin vous serez COMPROMIS!"

"Oui, je sais, mais--"

The Frenchman was at last convinced that it was vain to reason
with a mere Englishman, who could not understand what it was to be
"compromised." I thanked him most sincerely for his kindly meant
warning; in hot countries it is very unusual indeed for a man to go
out in the glare of the sun and give free advice to a stranger.

When I arrived at Cairo I summoned Osman Effendi, who was, as I
knew, the owner of several houses, and would be able to provide me
with apartments. He had no difficulty in doing this, for there was
not one European traveller in Cairo besides myself. Poor Osman! he
met me with a sorrowful countenance, for the fear of the plague sat
heavily on his soul. He seemed as if he felt that he was doing
wrong in lending me a resting-place, and he betrayed such a
listlessness about temporal matters, as one might look for in a man
who believed that his days were numbered. He caught me too soon
after my arrival coming out from the public baths, {33} and from
that time forward he was sadly afraid of me, for he shared the
opinions of Europeans with respect to the effect of contagion.

Osman's history is a curious one. He was a Scotchman born, and
when very young, being then a drummer-boy, he landed in Egypt with
Fraser's force. He was taken prisoner, and according to Mahometan
custom, the alternative of death or the Koran was offered to him;
he did not choose death, and therefore went through the ceremonies
which were necessary for turning him into a good Mahometan. But
what amused me most in his history was this, that very soon after
having embraced Islam he was obliged in practice to become curious
and discriminating in his new faith, to make war upon Mahometan
dissenters, and follow the orthodox standard of the Prophet in
fierce campaigns against the Wahabees, who are the Unitarians of
the Mussulman world. The Wahabees were crushed, and Osman
returning home in triumph from his holy wars, began to flourish in
the world. He acquired property, and became effendi, or gentleman.
At the time of my visit to Cairo he seemed to be much respected by
his brother Mahometans, and gave pledge of his sincere alienation
from Christianity by keeping a couple of wives. He affected the
same sort of reserve in mentioning them as is generally shown by
Orientals. He invited me, indeed, to see his harem, but he made
both his wives bundle out before I was admitted. He felt, as it
seemed to me, that neither of them would bear criticism, and I
think that this idea, rather than any motive of sincere jealousy,
induced him to keep them out of sight. The rooms of the harem
reminded me of an English nursery rather than of a Mahometan
paradise. One is apt to judge of a woman before one sees her by
the air of elegance or coarseness with which she surrounds her
home; I judged Osman's wives by this test, and condemned them both.
But the strangest feature in Osman's character was his
inextinguishable nationality. In vain they had brought him over
the seas in early boyhood; in vain had he suffered captivity,
conversion, circumcision; in vain they had passed him through fire
in their Arabian campaigns, they could not cut away or burn out
poor Osman's inborn love of all that was Scotch; in vain men called
him Effendi; in vain he swept along in eastern robes; in vain the
rival wives adorned his harem: the joy of his heart still plainly
lay in this, that he had three shelves of books, and that the books
were thoroughbred Scotch--the Edinburgh this, the Edinburgh that,
and above all, I recollect, he prided himself upon the "Edinburgh
Cabinet Library."

The fear of the plague is its forerunner. It is likely enough that
at the time of my seeing poor Osman the deadly taint was beginning
to creep through his veins, but it was not till after I had left
Cairo that he was visibly stricken. He died.

As soon as I had seen all that I wanted to see in Cairo and in the
neighbourhood I wished to make my escape from a city that lay under
the terrible curse of the plague, but Mysseri fell ill, in
consequence, I believe, of the hardships which he had been
suffering in my service. After a while he recovered sufficiently
to undertake a journey, but then there was some difficulty in
procuring beasts of burthen, and it was not till the nineteenth day
of my sojourn that I quitted the city.

During all this time the power of the plague was rapidly
increasing. When I first arrived, it was said that the daily
number of "accidents" by plague, out of a population of about two
hundred thousand, did not exceed four or five hundred, but before I
went away the deaths were reckoned at twelve hundred a day. I had
no means of knowing whether the numbers (given out, as I believe
they were, by officials) were at all correct, but I could not help
knowing that from day to day the number of the dead was increasing.
My quarters were in a street which was one of the chief
thoroughfares of the city. The funerals in Cairo take place
between daybreak and noon, and as I was generally in my rooms
during this part of the day, I could form some opinion as to the
briskness of the plague. I don't mean this for a sly insinuation
that I got up every morning with the sun. It was not so; but the
funerals of most people in decent circumstances at Cairo are
attended by singers and howlers, and the performances of these
people woke me in the early morning, and prevented me from
remaining in ignorance of what was going on in the street below.

These funerals were very simply conducted. The bier was a shallow
wooden tray, carried upon a light and weak wooden frame. The tray
had, in general, no lid, but the body was more or less hidden from
view by a shawl or scarf. The whole was borne upon the shoulders
of men, who contrived to cut along with their burthen at a great
pace. Two or three singers generally preceded the bier; the
howlers (who are paid for their vocal labours) followed after, and
last of all came such of the dead man's friends and relations as
could keep up with such a rapid procession; these, especially the
women, would get terribly blown, and would straggle back into the
rear; many were fairly "beaten off." I never observed any
appearance of mourning in the mourners: the pace was too severe
for any solemn affectation of grief.

When first I arrived at Cairo the funerals that daily passed under
my windows were many, but still there were frequent and long
intervals without a single howl. Every day, however (except one,
when I fancied that I observed a diminution of funerals), these
intervals became less frequent and shorter, and at last, the
passing of the howlers from morn till noon was almost incessant. I
believe that about one-half of the whole people was carried off by
this visitation. The Orientals, however, have more quiet fortitude
than Europeans under afflictions of this sort, and they never allow
the plague to interfere with their religious usages. I rode one
day round the great burial-ground. The tombs are strewed over a
great expanse, among the vast mountains of rubbish (the
accumulations of many centuries) which surround the city. The
ground, unlike the Turkish "cities of the dead," which are made so
beautiful by their dark cypresses, has nothing to sweeten
melancholy, nothing to mitigate the odiousness of death.
Carnivorous beasts and birds possess the place by night, and now in
the fair morning it was all alive with fresh comers--alive with
dead. Yet at this very time, when the plague was raging so
furiously, and on this very ground, which resounded so mournfully
with the howls of arriving funerals, preparations were going on for
the religious festival called the Kourban Bairam. Tents were
holiday; but the Mahometans take a pride, and a just pride, in
following their ancient customs undisturbed by the shadow of death.

I did not hear, whilst I was at Cairo, that any prayer for a
remission of the plague had been offered up in the mosques. I
believe that however frightful the ravages of the disease may be,
the Mahometans refrain from approaching Heaven with their
complaints until the plague has endured for a long space, and then
at last they pray God, not that the plague may cease, but that it
may go to another city!

A good Mussulman seems to take pride in repudiating the European
notion that the will of God can be eluded by eluding the touch of a
sleeve. When I went to see the pyramids of Sakkara I was the guest
of a noble old fellow, an Osmanlee, whose soft rolling language it
was a luxury to hear after suffering, as I had suffered of late,
from the shrieking tongue of the Arabs. This man was aware of the
European ideas about contagion, and his first care therefore was to
assure me that not a single instance of plague had occurred in his
village. He then inquired as to the progress of the plague at
Cairo. I had but a bad account to give. Up to this time my host
had carefully refrained from touching me out of respect to the
European theory of contagion, but as soon as it was made plain that
he, and not I, would be the person endangered by contact, he gently
laid his hand upon my arm, in order to make me feel sure that the
circumstance of my coming from an infected city did not occasion
him the least uneasiness. In that touch there was true

Very different is the faith and the practice of the Europeans, or
rather, I mean of the Europeans settled in the East, and commonly
called Levantines. When I came to the end of my journey over the
Desert I had been so long alone, that the prospect of speaking to
somebody at Cairo seemed almost a new excitement. I felt a sort of
consciousness that I had a little of the wild beast about me, but I
was quite in the humour to be charmingly tame, and to be quite
engaging in my manners, if I should have an opportunity of holding
communion with any of the human race whilst at Cairo. I knew no
one in the place, and had no letters of introduction, but I carried
letters of credit, and it often happens in places remote from
England that those "advices" operate as a sort of introduction, and
obtain for the bearer (if disposed to receive them) such ordinary
civilities as it may be in the power of the banker to offer.

Very soon after my arrival I went to the house of the Levantine to
whom my credentials were addressed. At his door several persons
(all Arabs) were hanging about and keeping guard. It was not till
after some delay, and the passing of some communications with those
in the interior of the citadel, that I was admitted. At length,
however, I was conducted through the court, and up a flight of
stairs, and finally into the apartment where business was
transacted. The room was divided by an excellent, substantial
fence of iron bars, and behind this grille the banker had his
station. The truth was, that from fear of the plague he had
adopted the course usually taken by European residents, and had
shut himself up "in strict quarantine"--that is to say, that he
had, as he hoped, cut himself off from all communication with
infecting substances. The Europeans long resident in the East,
without any, or with scarcely any, exception are firmly convinced
that the plague is propagated by contact, and by contact only; that
if they can but avoid the touch of an infecting substance they are
safe, and that if they cannot, they die. This belief induces them
to adopt the contrivance of putting themselves in that state of
siege which they call "quarantine." It is a part of their faith
that metals, and hempen rope, and also, I fancy, one or two other
substances, will not carry the infection; and they likewise believe
that the germ of pestilence, which lies in an infected substance,
may be destroyed by submersion in water, or by the action of smoke.
They therefore guard the doors of their houses with the utmost care
against intrusion, and condemn themselves, with all the members of
their family, including any European servants, to a strict
imprisonment within the walls of their dwelling. Their native
attendants are not allowed to enter at all, but they make the
necessary purchases of provisions, which are hauled up through one
of the windows by means of a rope, and are then soaked in water.

I knew nothing of these mysteries, and was not therefore prepared
for the sort of reception which I met with. I advanced to the iron
fence, and putting my letter between the bars, politely proffered
it to Mr. Banker. Mr. Banker received me with a sad and dejected
look, and not "with open arms," or with any arms at all, but with--
a pair of tongs! I placed my letter between the iron fingers,
which picked it up as if it were a viper, and conveyed it away to
be scorched and purified by fire and smoke. I was disgusted at
this reception, and at the idea that anything of mine could carry
infection to the poor wretch who stood on the other side of the
grille, pale and trembling, and already meet for death. I looked
with something of the Mahometan's feeling upon these little
contrivances for eluding fate; and in this instance, at least, they
were vain. A few more days, and the poor money-changer, who had
striven to guard the days of his life (as though they were coins)
with bolts and bars of iron--he was seized by the plague, and he

To people entertaining such opinions as these respecting the fatal
effect of contact, the narrow and crowded streets of Cairo were
terrible as the easy slope that leads to Avernus. The roaring
ocean and the beetling crags owe something of their sublimity to
this--that if they be tempted, they can take the warm life of a
man. To the contagionist, filled as he is with the dread of final
causes, having no faith in destiny nor in the fixed will of God,
and with none of the devil-may-care indifference which might stand
him instead of creeds--to such one, every rag that shivers in the
breeze of a plague-stricken city has this sort of sublimity. If by
any terrible ordinance he be forced to venture forth, he sees death
dangling from every sleeve, and as he creeps forward, he poises his
shuddering limbs between the imminent jacket that is stabbing at
his right elbow and the murderous pelisse that threatens to mow him
clean down as it sweeps along on his left. But most of all, he
dreads that which most of all he should love--the touch of a
woman's dress; for mothers and wives, hurrying forth on kindly
errands from the bedsides of the dying, go slouching along through
the streets more wilfully and less courteously than the men. For a
while it may be that the caution of the poor Levantine may enable
him to avoid contact, but sooner or later perhaps the dreaded
chance arrives; that bundle of linen, with the dark tearful eyes at
the top of it, that labours along with the voluptuous clumsiness of
Grisi--she has touched the poor Levantine with the hem of her
sleeve! From that dread moment his peace is gone; his mind, for
ever hanging upon the fatal touch, invites the blow which he fears.
He watches for the symptoms of plague so carefully, that sooner or
later they come in truth. The parched mouth is a sign--his mouth
is parched; the throbbing brain--his brain DOES throb; the rapid
pulse--he touches his own wrist (for he dares not ask counsel of
any man lest he be deserted), he touches his wrist, and feels how
his frighted blood goes galloping out of his heart; there is
nothing but the fatal swelling that is wanting to make his sad
conviction complete; immediately he has an odd feel under the arm--
no pain, but a little straining of the skin; he would to God it
were his fancy that were strong enough to give him that sensation.
This is the worst of all; it now seems to him that he could be
happy and contented with his parched mouth and his throbbing brain
and his rapid pulse, if only he could know that there were no
swelling under the left arm; but dare he try?--In a moment of
calmness and deliberation he dares not, but when for a while he has
writhed under the torture of suspense, a sudden strength of will
drives him to seek and know his fate. He touches the gland, and
finds the skin sane and sound, but under the cuticle there lies a
small lump like a pistol-bullet, that moves as he pushes it. Oh!
but is this for all certainty, is this the sentence of death? Feel
the gland of the other arm; there is not the same lump exactly, yet
something a little like it: have not some people glands naturally
enlarged?--would to Heaven he were one! So he does for himself the
work of the plague, and when the Angel of Death, thus courted, does
indeed and in truth come, he has only to finish that which has been
so well begun; he passes his fiery hand over the brain of the
victim, and lets him rave for a season, but all chance-wise, of
people and things once dear, or of people and things indifferent.
Once more the poor fellow is back at his home in fair Provence, and
sees the sun-dial that stood in his childhood's garden; sees part
of his mother, and the long-since-forgotten face of that little
dead sister (he sees her, he says, on a Sunday morning, for all the
church bells are ringing); he looks up and down through the
universe, and owns it well piled with bales upon bales of cotton,
and cotton eternal--so much so that he feels, he knows, he swears
he could make that winning hazard, if the billiard table would not
slant upwards, and if the cue were a cue worth playing with; but it
is not--it's a cue that won't move--his own arm won't move--in
short, there's the devil to pay in the brain of the poor Levantine,
and perhaps the next night but one he becomes the "life and the
soul" of some squalling jackal family who fish him out by the foot
from his shallow and sandy grave.

Better fate was mine. By some happy perverseness (occasioned
perhaps by my disgust at the notion of being received with a pair
of tongs) I took it into my pleasant head that all the European
notions about contagion were thoroughly unfounded; that the plague
might be providential or "epidemic" (as they phrase it), but was
not contagious; and that I could not be killed by the touch of a
woman's sleeve, nor yet by her blessed breath. I therefore
determined that the plague should not alter my habits and
amusements in any one respect. Though I came to this resolve from
impulse, I think that I took the course which was in effect the
most prudent, for the cheerfulness of spirits which I was thus
enabled to retain discouraged the yellow-winged angel, and
prevented him from taking a shot at me. I, however, so far
respected the opinion of the Europeans, that I avoided touching
when I could do so without privation or inconvenience. This
endeavour furnished me with a sort of amusement as I passed through
the streets. The usual mode of moving from place to place in the
city of Cairo is upon donkeys, of which great numbers are always in
readiness, with donkey-boys attached. I had two who constantly
(until one of them died of the plague) waited at my door upon the
chance of being wanted. I found this way of moving about
exceedingly pleasant, and never attempted any other. I had only to
mount my beast, and tell my donkey-boy the point for which I was
bound, and instantly I began to glide on at a capital pace. The
streets of Cairo are not paved in any way, but strewed with a dry
sandy soil, so deadening to sound, that the footfall of my donkey
could scarcely be heard. There is no trottoir, and as you ride
through the streets you mingle with the people on foot. Those who
are in your way, upon being warned by the shouts of the donkey-boy,
move very slightly aside, so as to leave you a narrow lane, through
which you pass at a gallop. In this way you glide on delightfully
in the very midst of crowds, without being inconvenienced or
stopped for a moment. It seems to you that it is not the donkey
but the donkey-boy who wafts you on with his shouts through
pleasant groups, and air that feels thick with the fragrance of
burial spice. "Eh! Sheik, Eh! Bint,--reggalek,--"shumalek, &c.
&c.--O old man, O virgin, get out of the way on the right--O
virgin, O old man, get out of the way on the left--this Englishman
comes, he comes, he comes!" The narrow alley which these shouts
cleared for my passage made it possible, though difficult, to go on
for a long way without touching a single person, and my endeavours
to avoid such contact were a sort of game for me in my loneliness,
which was not without interest. If I got through a street without
being touched, I won; if I was touched, I lost--lost a deuce of
stake, according to the theory of the Europeans; but that I deemed
to be all nonsense--I only lost that game, and would certainly win
the next.

There is not much in the way of public buildings to admire at
Cairo, but I saw one handsome mosque, to which an instructive
history is attached. A Hindustanee merchant having amassed an
immense fortune settled in Cairo, and soon found that his riches in
the then state of the political world gave him vast power in the
city--power, however, the exercise of which was much restrained by
the counteracting influence of other wealthy men. With a view to
extinguish every attempt at rivalry the Hindustanee merchant built
this magnificent mosque at his own expense. When the work was
complete, he invited all the leading men of the city to join him in
prayer within the walls of the newly built temple, and he then
caused to be massacred all those who were sufficiently influential
to cause him any jealousy or uneasiness--in short, all "the
respectable men" of the place; after this he possessed undisputed
power in the city and was greatly revered--he is revered to this
day. It seemed to me that there was a touching simplicity in the
mode which this man so successfully adopted for gaining the
confidence and goodwill of his fellow-citizens. There seems to be
some improbability in the story (though not nearly so gross as it
might appear to an European ignorant of the East, for witness
Mehemet Ali's destruction of the Mamelukes, a closely similar act,
and attended with the like brilliant success {34}), but even if the
story be false as a mere fact, it is perfectly true as an
illustration--it is a true exposition of the means by which the
respect and affection of Orientals may be conciliated.

I ascended one day to the citadel, which commands a superb view of
the town. The fanciful and elaborate gilt-work of the many
minarets gives a light and florid grace to the city as seen from
this height, but before you can look for many seconds at such
things your eyes are drawn westward--drawn westward and over the
Nile, till they rest upon the massive enormities of the Ghizeh

I saw within the fortress many yoke of men all haggard and
woebegone, and a kennel of very fine lions well fed and
flourishing: I say YOKE of men, for the poor fellows were working
together in bonds; I say a KENNEL of lions, for the beasts were not
enclosed in cages, but simply chained up like dogs.

I went round the bazaars: it seemed to me that pipes and arms were
cheaper here than at Constantinople, and I should advise you
therefore if you go to both places to prefer the market of Cairo.
I had previously bought several of such things at Constantinople,
and did not choose to encumber myself, or to speak more honestly, I
did not choose to disencumber my purse by making any more
purchases. In the open slave-market I saw about fifty girls
exposed for sale, but all of them black, or "invisible" brown. A
slave agent took me to some rooms in the upper storey of the
building, and also into several obscure houses in the
neighbourhood, with a view to show me some white women. The owners
raised various objections to the display of their ware, and well
they might, for I had not the least notion of purchasing; some
refused on account of the illegality of the proceeding, {35} and
others declared that all transactions of this sort were completely
out of the question as long as the plague was raging. I only
succeeded in seeing one white slave who was for sale but on this
one the owner affected to set an immense value, and raised my
expectations to a high pitch by saying that the girl was
Circassian, and was "fair as the full moon." After a good deal of
delay I was at last led into a room, at the farther end of which
was that mass of white linen which indicates an Eastern woman. She
was bid to uncover her face, and I presently saw that, though very
far from being good looking, according to my notion of beauty, she
had not been inaptly described by the man who compared her to the
full moon, for her large face was perfectly round and perfectly
white. Though very young, she was nevertheless extremely fat. She
gave me the idea of having been got up for sale, of having been
fattened and whitened by medicines or by some peculiar diet. I was
firmly determined not to see any more of her than the face. She
was perhaps disgusted at this my virtuous resolve, as well as with
my personal appearance; perhaps she saw my distaste and
disappointment; perhaps she wished to gain favour with her owner by
showing her attachment to his faith: at all events, she holloaed
out very lustily and very decidedly that "she would not be bought
by the infidel."

Whilst I remained at Cairo I thought it worth while to see
something of the magicians, because I considered that these men
were in some sort the descendants of those who contended so stoutly
against the superior power of Aaron. I therefore sent for an old
man who was held to be the chief of the magicians, and desired him
to show me the wonders of his art. The old man looked and dressed
his character exceedingly well; the vast turban, the flowing beard,
and the ample robes were all that one could wish in the way of
appearance. The first experiment (a very stale one) which he
attempted to perform for me was that of showing the forms and faces
of my absent friends, not to me, but to a boy brought in from the
streets for the purpose, and said to be chosen at random. A
mangale (pan of burning charcoal) was brought into my room, and the
magician bending over it, sprinkled upon the fire some substances
which must have consisted partly of spices or sweetly burning
woods, for immediately a fragrant smoke arose that curled around
the bending form of the wizard, the while that he pronounced his
first incantations. When these were over the boy was made to sit
down, and a common green shade was bound over his brow; then the
wizard took ink, and still continuing his incantations, wrote
certain mysterious figures upon the boy's palm, and directed him to
rivet his attention to these marks without looking aside for an
instant. Again the incantations proceeded, and after a while the
boy, being seemingly a little agitated, was asked whether he saw
anything on the palm of his hand. He declared that he saw a kind
of military procession, with flags and banners, which he described
rather minutely. I was then called upon to name the absent person
whose form was to be made visible. I named Keate. You were not at
Eton, and I must tell you, therefore, what manner of man it was
that I named, though I think you must have some idea of him
already, for wherever from utmost Canada to Bundelcund--wherever
there was the whitewashed wall of an officer's room, or of any
other apartment in which English gentlemen are forced to kick their
heels, there likely enough (in the days of his reign) the head of
Keate would be seen scratched or drawn with those various degrees
of skill which one observes in the representations of saints.
Anybody without the least notion of drawing could still draw a
speaking, nay scolding, likeness of Keate. If you had no pencil,
you could draw him well enough with a poker, or the leg of a chair,
or the smoke of a candle. He was little more (if more at all) than
five feet in height, and was not very great in girth, but in this
space was concentrated the pluck of ten battalions. He had a
really noble voice, which he could modulate with great skill, but
he had also the power of quacking like an angry duck, and he almost
always adopted this mode of communication in order to inspire
respect. He was a capital scholar, but his ingenuous learning had
NOT "softened his manners" and HAD "permitted them to be fierce"--
tremendously fierce; he had the most complete command over his
temper--I mean over his GOOD temper, which he scarcely ever allowed
to appear: you could not put him out of humour--that is, out of
the ILL-humour which he thought to be fitting for a head-master.
His red shaggy eyebrows were so prominent, that he habitually used
them as arms and hands for the purpose of pointing out any object
towards which he wished to direct attention; the rest of his
features were equally striking in their way, and were all and all
his own; he wore a fancy dress partly resembling the costume of
Napoleon, and partly that of a widow-woman. I could not by any
possibility have named anybody more decidedly differing in
appearance from the rest of the human race.

"Whom do you name?"--"I name John Keate."--"Now, what do you see?"
said the wizard to the boy.--"I see," answered the boy, "I see a
fair girl with golden hair, blue eyes, pallid face, rosy lips."
THERE was a shot! I shouted out my laughter to the horror of the
wizard, who perceiving the grossness of his failure, declared that
the boy must have known sin (for none but the innocent can see
truth), and accordingly kicked him downstairs.

One or two other boys were tried, but none could "see truth"; they
all made sadly "bad shots."

Notwithstanding the failure of these experiments, I wished to see
what sort of mummery my magician would practise if I called upon
him to show me some performances of a higher order than those which
had been attempted. I therefore entered into a treaty with him, in
virtue of which he was to descend with me into the tombs near the
Pyramids, and there evoke the devil. The negotiation lasted some
time, for Dthemetri, as in duty bound, tried to beat down the
wizard as much as he could, and the wizard, on his part, manfully
stuck up for his price, declaring that to raise the devil was
really no joke, and insinuating that to do so was an awesome crime.
I let Dthemetri have his way in the negotiation, but I felt in
reality very indifferent about the sum to be paid, and for this
reason, namely, that the payment (except a very small present which
I might make or not, as I chose) was to be CONTINGENT ON SUCCESS.
At length the bargain was made, and it was arranged that after a
few days, to be allowed for preparation, the wizard should raise
the devil for two pounds ten, play or pay--no devil, no piastres.

The wizard failed to keep his appointment. I sent to know why the
deuce he had not come to raise the devil. The truth was, that my
Mahomet had gone to the mountain. The plague had seized him, and
he died.

Although the plague had now spread terrible havoc around me, I did

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