HotFreeBooks.com
Notes in North Africa - Being a Guide to the Sportsman and Tourist in Algeria and Tunisia
by W. G. Windham
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

Perhaps there existed in these days some machine, or some marvellous powder, by which real mountains might be removed (as spiritual ones by faith) at pleasure, and replaced in their original position; but as history makes no mention thereof, it is but fair to conclude not. No, the only machine used, the only mine, was the invincible and iron will of the Carthaginian hero. He, too, if I mistake not, lived under parliamentary regime, in the shape of a senate, a great hamper on military manoeuvres, where all should be done quickly, secretly, and unanimously. Napoleon was his own master, with a devoted people. I wonder if parliamentary debates, in Punic days, were as long and insipid as in modern; that is, I have not been to them, but judge by what one reads in that modern tyrant, the Times. Oh, mighty Times! how we abuse you, and yet how should we relish our breakfast without you? who ever comes up to all we look for when great occasions call for your wonderful pen, stirring us to the quick; or whether, in an idle mood, we seek to while away the passing hour by a description of the last new folly, or the latest odour of the Thames, or anything else instructive and amusing. By the way, if the senate of Carthage took quarter as long sending supplies to their general as the Commons discussing the way to purify the Thames, I fancy he would not have crossed the Pyrenees.

I said I went three times to Carthage; the first time, an English friend was leaving that day by a sailing ship, and I had promised to lunch with him at Goulette, and then see him on board, the first of which I did in a small house dignified by the name of locanda, or Hotel Francais, where some Maltese captains were breakfasting, who had a strong odour of onions and garlic, and at another table a Savoyard was discussing the question of annexation with a Provencal, in what I may term moitie Francais moitie Italien. They gave us soup made of, I don't know what, but the pepper was very strong, or rather, I may say, would have been, if it were not for the strong taste of the water, and vice versa; after that, some dried fish, called sardines, which they said had just been caught. For second course, we had a sort of gigot de mouton, which, in form, resembled the temple of Neptune at the "ruins," and you might almost have sworn they had cut it into that shape on purpose; and quails, very excellent; and we finished with cheese, which might have been manufactured from goat's milk, or cow's milk, or camel's milk, or all three, or any other milk, but was dignified by the appellation of Chesterrre, and was decidedly not Stilton, and eke delicious oranges. In this dinner we meet, as in life, with much good to counteract the evil, as the delicious quails made up for rancid flesh of sheep or horse; so, when next Lady Julia Plantagenet jilts me, I will remember Jessie Jones; or, again, as these fragrant oranges, redolent of the East, caused me to forget the nauseous fromage, so shall the friendship and good opinion of Brown console me for the putty eye and freezing regard of the fashionable Fitznoodle, when next we meet, not at Philippi, but in the park! After lunch, and adieux, I mounted my horse for the ruins, as my friend's vessel did not start as expected that day, owing to the calm.

On passing the gate of Goulette, several Arab convicts, in chains, shouted at me for something; what it was, I ignore; perhaps they asked for backsheesh, or tobacco, or powder, fine or coarse; or, may be, they called me a dog of a Giaour, and cursed my relations and their limbs. This Goulette appears to be the chief place for the Arab malefactors, and they are mainly employed in improving the high road between Goulette and Tunis, and also in repairing the fortifications.

The afternoon was beautiful, though hot. As it wanted some time to dinner at Tunis, I made a detour on my return to the ruins, and it requires a fine air to make you enjoy fine scenery. There was scarcely a ripple on the blue Mediterranean. Beautiful trees of every description, olive and orange trees, oleanders, and others, grew to the very base of the mountain, and sent up a delicious perfume. I visited the chapel of St. Louis, from which one enjoys a most delicious prospect. It is built over some god's temple—whose, I forget, or even whether a Roman or Punic one; but this is dedicated to the true God and Christian worship, in remembrance of that venerable French king, who is said to have perished here, while on his way to Palestine, to fight the Moslem. Peace to his ashes! However, I soon left the hill to re-descend, for I was very thirsty; all of a sudden, behind an olive bush, I saw a head, black as ink, pop out; I hallooed to it first in English, then in Italian. No effect. I saw a female figure disappear behind a cottage, and out rushed a fine tall Arab, with menacing gesture, and more menacing language. I was in his garden. "A glass of water, please," said I, in Italian. Still no effect. I thought he was going to be savage, when, from behind the house popped, or rather rolled out, another little naked, curly-headed, black ball—a triennial by his looks—the Arab's only boy, no doubt. He was so irresistibly comic in appearance, that I burst into a fit of laughter. The man's face changed in a moment. I suppose he thought I was admiring the child. He immediately understood what I required, which he brought in such a large cup, that I thought it was intended for a pail. I nearly emptied it, however. He then volunteered bread and olives, which, however, I declined, to spoil my dinner. We then made mutual signs of greeting, and parted. Had I been able to talk, I would have stopped longer. There was a sudden friendship sprung up between me and that poor unlettered infant of the desert.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE RUINS AGAIN.

Great Extent of the Ancient City.—Marsa, on the Sea-shore.—Carthaginian Catacombs near Camatte.—Quail Shooting.—Trait of Honesty in the Arabs.—The Arab Character.—Anecdotes concerning them.

The second time I went to the ruins I went, like Scipio, to weep, not over Carthage, but the loss of my breakfast; and the more so that it was to have been a very good one—a regular pic-nic, or fete champetre—under olive-trees, or orange-trees, or palms, shaded from the scorching rays of Phoebus. Champagne, Burgundy (my favourite wine), were to crown the repast. Nor was the food to be only corporal, but eke mental, as the great explorer—the great excavator—was to be there, to have explained that this was a theatre, that an aqueduct; the god to whom this temple or that altar was dedicated; and how many four-in-hands, driven by fast young Phoenician guardsmen, would have been able to pass each other down that "via longa." How many stones made up that house; and that this was a bath, and not a harem; and that a certain statue of some celebrity—whose name I had never heard, and never shall—was, by some, supposed to lie 100 feet under this marble pillar, though, according to others, he might be 102 feet deep interred—for all of which, I daresay, I should have been the wiser and the better; but I was sufficiently mundane to regret my dejeuner the most. The fact is, A——, whose back was not sufficiently recovered to accompany me riding, and the American Consul and Davies, had gone with the edibles and beverages in a carriage, and were to have met me at the temple of some god. But, unfortunately, I mistook the deity's name, and afterwards found that their shrine lay ten miles off from the one I worshipped at. This will give one a good idea of the vastness of the ancient city, and struck me more than all the lectures and description in the world. Where people were crowded like bees, as in our London, buying and selling, and riding and driving, some 2,000 years past—occupied then, as now, in all the frivolities of this empty world—to find a complete solitude—a desert nearly—where wander the jackal and hyena! A very clever people, no doubt, these same Phoenicians were, to judge by their edifices; yet they had not discovered the theory of water finding its own level, as the peculiar construction of an aqueduct proves, the remains of which still exist, and which was to convey water some forty miles from the interior. There was a Roman city built over the Punic one, and the latter alone, of course, interests, as the former is seen any day, at Pompeii, in better perfection. Besides Angelo and myself, there was not a human being in view—yes, there are three Arab youths reclining behind that ruin of a wall, motionless as statues; I thought they were statues at first. Two have long flint guns, perhaps to keep crows off the corn, or shoot quails; or, perhaps, to shoot me if they can; for I have a fine gold chain, not to mention a ring, which would maintain them till they died of old age—which could keep them in ease and elegance for a couple of years, at the least. You have yet to learn, if you know it not, that ten Arabs, fine men though they be, with such rusty weapons as yours, are barely a match for one European with an arm such as mine. But, my poor boys, there is no chance for you. I have, you see, a revolver with six barrels. When you see that, your brow droops as much as your eyes sparkled when you saw the chain. It is fancy, on my part, most probably; so, off my horse, and off with my clothes. The sun was scorching, and I took a delicious swim in the sea, and then rode on to Marsa, where is a ruin (everything is in ruins here) of modern date—the late Bey's palace—a most superb edifice. I said a ruin, yet it is scarcely a ruin, though fast becoming so. Marsa is a sort of watering-place for the Christians of Tunis during the heat of summer. A——'s description of the part he visited I will give: "I went with Davies and the Yankee Consul to see the catacombs of Carthage, near Camatte, which completely undermined a large mountain by the sea coast. They contain rows of niches for the coffins, and each chamber communicates with others. They hold some twenty coffins each. Some skeletons have been found, and nails; the former crumbled to pieces immediately, on being exposed to the air. These catacombs are now inhabited by hyenas and jackals, and had a strong odour of those animals." It is supposed they extend for miles, but the impurity of the atmosphere precludes entrance to any distance.

My third visit was to shoot quails on ground where, centuries ago, Hannibal had passed at the head of his bronzed legions, amid admiring groups of citizens, the bands playing, perhaps, "Partant pour l'Italie." The migration of quails takes place at this season, and, with a good retrieving spaniel, hundreds may be shot. But they lie very close, and require a dog to put them up. They are by no means easy to shoot, and require snipe shot. They lie in the young corn, which is very thick and thriving here as on the field of Waterloo. As I had put up No. 6 shot by mistake, and had no spaniel, I bagged but few comparatively, some twenty. A great number of these quails are sent alive to England, and on board the Italian steamer from Sicily there were about twenty large cages, containing about fifty live quails each, which they told me were going to Britain; they had been caught like larks by the net.

By the way, I had here a proof of Arab honesty, refreshing as an oasis in the desert. Riding back through a village to Goutelle (where I was staying, previously to embarking for Malta), I dropped my powder-flask, unawares to myself. I had not passed two minutes when I heard a loud halloo, and turning, perceived an Arab running at full speed to me with my powder-flask. Now, powder is what Arabs prize more than gold even, precious stones, or tobacco, yet they might easily have taken this without my knowing anything. On my offering him coin worth about sixpence, the Arab, in broken lingua Franca, made me comprehend he preferred a few charges of powder, which I immediately gave, and which he carefully wrapped up in some old paper. I record this, because at Tunis and elsewhere, we hear of nothing but Arab dishonesty and thieving propensities. Is it true, and this exception a proof of the rule? or are all these stories false? It is hard to say.

They are a curious race, apparently a mass of contradictions. One thing is certain; you must not treat them in the du haut en bas style. They are very proud, and naturally regard every Christian ipso facto as individually inferior to the Mussulman, more specially in the far interior, where Christians have not as yet penetrated. A—— and his party had started for Kef, malgre my dissuasions. The fact of a man going to explore Punic ruins with one going to discover Mauritanian lions, was, to my mind, like mixing oil and vinegar, or fire and water, or eating meat with your knife, or soup with a fork, or taking two helpings of soup, or anything else incongruous. D—— was to be their interpreter. The Arabs there told them that a lion can carry away a camel on his back, but not lift a sheep. This they firmly believe. The reason assigned is, that in former times (when animals spoke), the lion said, "I will carry off this sheep, with or without the consent of Allah;" and Allah said to the lion, "You shall not;" and from that time the monarch has never been able to lift a sheep. At one time the man and the lion were great friends, and the lion did not know he was stronger than the man. One day, as they were out walking together, a thorn ran into the lion's foot; he limped, and stopped to pull it out, when the man, in derision, said, "What! so strong a creature hurt with a thorn?" Then the lion in anger ran the thorn into the man's eye, who cried out with pain. This proved to the lion the man's inferiority, and ever after they were declared enemies. At a place called Tibursok, where A——'s party passed on their road to Keff, not a Christian, or even a Jew, were to be seen, consequently the Arabs were very intolerant. D—— walked into this town alone, in front of the party, and, speaking Arabic well, questioned one of the Arabs about some ruin, when another came up and said, "Why do you attend to that dog of a Christian?" D—— took no notice, when the other shouted out, "Cursed be your father, your mother, and all the members of your house." D—— then collared him; the Arab inquired, "What for?" "Because you cursed my relatives," said D——, seeing the rest of the party with the Bey's escort coming up, "and now, just show me the Caid's residence, and I will have you bastinadoed." However, as some of the other Arabs crowded round and begged for mercy, D—— thought it better to let him off.



CHAPTER XV.

HOME!

My fellow-passenger, the Sportsman.—Passage from Tunis to Malta in a Sailing Vessel.—Disagreeables of the Passage.—Home, Overland.—Conclusion.

On the steamer Meludiah, for Malta, I found a sporting Frenchman on deck. He had been my fellow-passenger from Bona to Tunis, and carried a revolver and a gun; the first for porpoises, the second for gulls, &c. He recounted to me, with great glee, how he had shot a grosbeak, and some other small birds, near Tunis, and given them to the cook on board for our dinner. It was a Mussulman steamer, and, being Rhamazan, they did not serve dinner till after sunset. I was nearly famished. The first course was salad served with rancid oil, which immediately brought me and the Frenchman on deck. During the rest of the passage I made Angelo serve my repasts. The Frenchman was a character. "Je viens de perdre ma femme," he said; "il y a des femmes mechantes vous savez, Monsieur, et des femmes bonnes; la mienne etait bonne! mais bonne! Tenez, je l'ai mis dans le cercueil moi meme, et maintenant je suis ici pour me distraire, car je n'en trouverai pas une comme celle-la, allez. Je ferai le voyage, j'irai en Alexandrie—n'importe ou, travailler j'irai a l'Isthme de Suez." At last we arrived in Malta. It is a pity for officers and others there is no regular communication by steam between Malta and Tunis; for the desagremens of a sailing-vessel are by no means despicable. Witness a friend of mine's report thereon:—

"25th.—Came on board the Gemo at seven A.M.; went on shore again at nine, and stopped all day. Dined and slept on board; rough living here, but no cattle, which is a great thing.—26th. Set sail at eleven A.M.; fair wind; fine day, and very hot.—27th. Rain all night; wind light and variable, and one made but little progress. Cape Bona still close to us this morning. We are only going at three and three-quarter knots per hour. A fine breeze got up at twelve, and at seven we passed Panteleria Isle, going at seven knots.—28th. Wind fell away early this morning, and about eleven blew strong from the east: the worst quarter it could for us.—29th. This accursed wind has lasted all night, and blows harder this morning; the sea, too, is very high. It is intensely miserable; rough sea, bad grub, no one to talk to, no books, and no idea when we shall reach Malta.—30th. East wind still; an almighty swell on; one can neither sit, lie, nor stand with comfort. The coast of Sicily is very plain this morning. We are about forty-five miles from Malta, but no one can say when we shall reach it. Fresh provisions have nearly come to an end. Let any one ever catch me on board a sailing-ship again, unless I am forced.—1st. Half a gale, and a heavy sea last night; got no sleep, as the ship jumped so; and the mattress—fancy now!—is stuffed with sticks, and is so cursedly hard, that, after five days of it, one's bones ache all over. A very fine day; but this awful wind still east. At eleven A.M. we were off Gozo, only twenty miles from our destination; but it was impossible to get there. The diet and food on board are awful; I am nearly starved. There was only one thing amusing. A Maltese, who slept in the other berth near me, sneezed nine times in as many minutes; and, after each sternutation, he went through a short formula of prayer, beginning 'Santo Something,' to keep the devil to leeward, I suppose; and, egad, I think he must have been on board in propria persona, under some disguise, to have caused us so bad a passage. This afternoon, to vary the programme pleasantly, we had a dead calm. Our miseries seem to have no end. I begin to think I shall rival the 'Flying Dutchman,' and never make my port, but sail on for ever.—2nd. A north-west wind sprang up at five P.M., and we reached Malta at seven."

Thus, the sailing-vessel took seven days to do what I did in thirty hours on the steamer. After the usual amount of driving, dining, &c., at Malta, in the words of the poet I bid

Adieu to joys of La Valette, Adieu, sirocco, sun, and sweat; Adieu, ye females without graces, Adieu, red coats and redder faces; Adieu, the supercilious air Of those that strut en militaire.

And now the word is "homeward;" and across a track well known to the English tourist, we journey onward, till

The mountains of Trieste afar are seen, And farther yet, the Alps, whose highest peak Now glitters with a gay and snowy sheen In the bright sun; as quick our sailors seek An anchorage in the port, where Turk and Greek, Swede and Levantine, and full many more, The haughty Spaniard, and the German sleek, All races, from the Nile unto the Nore, Into Trieste, in many a varied costume pour.

Along thy silent streets I wander now, Venice, once queen, aye, empress of the sea! Fairest in art as clime, yet sunk so low Beneath the despot Teuton's rule, I see Thy halls deserted, fallen, yet in thee Much splendour to admire there still exists. Well could I quit my native land, and flee The rugged northern clime, the vapid mists, With thee to dwell, did I that only what me lists.

The fiery car speeds on her iron way, Through hill, o'er valley quickly do we fly. There lies the grot of Adelberg, and day Sees us past Gratze's fortress hasten by Like lightning's flash, nor stop until we spy St. Stephen's dome from out the darkness peer. Like bas reliefs her turrets in the sky O'ertop Vienna, great the pious fear Of holy men, who such vast beauteous structures rear.

There Coeur de Lion lived and almost died, In yonder ruin gray o'erbent by time, But that a troubadour, a servant tried, His well-loved master sought through every clime; Nor sought in vain, for by a simple rhyme, A soft tuned sonnet, in a dungeon cold, Imprisoned here he found him for no crime, And saved. The ruins past, I now behold Prague's lofty palaces arise, and turrets old.

The scene is changed by many a lovely vale: Upon the Elbe my rapid way I went, Where Nature reigns supreme, nor aught avail 'Gainst her the charms a Raphael's touch can lend To Art's supremest works; these all depend On light, on colour, on the master's hand; Nature's own work, so thought I, as I bend My steps through Dresden's galleries, and stand Before Art's fairest deeds in this fair Saxon land!

Swift be my verse, and swifter still my pace (Oh, pardon me, for I'll be sworn I bore) By Berlin's quays, past oft a plain, I race To Hamburg's crowded port, until the roar Of ocean's wave is heard again once more. Once more upon the deck I stand and view Behind that cloud arise old Albion's shore— Shore that I love, roast beef, plum-pudding too, Pale ale, the Times, and scandal, like a Briton true.



NOTES FOR THE SPORTSMAN OR TOURIST IN NORTH AFRICA.

The best time to go to Algeria or Tunis is October, when the heats of summer begin to become cooler. By all means, let the traveller, if he wish to be independent, travel on horseback. In Algeria he will meet with accommodation everywhere, and proceed as safely as in London, or any part of England.

He can go to Boussada or Laghouat, about six days' journey from Algiers, staying every night at caravanserais en route. Boussada I did not visit myself, but from rumour, I believe, there is excellent gazelle shooting in the neighbourhood. By the plains of Boussada, the tourist can pass into Tunisia over the French frontier. At Algiers, the best hotels are the Hotel d'Orient and the Hotel de la Regence, on the Grande Place. For ammunition, I recommend Huet, armourer, near the English Consul's; and for horses—Francois or Francisco, a Maltese, who speaks French and English. The grand thing to be considered is economy of space. Let every necessary for clothing, if possible, be crammed into the saddle-bags attached to one's saddle, as ammunition, guns, &c. &c., must be placed on the other horses. Well did the Romans call baggage by the appellation of impedimenta. In this country it is so literally, not figuratively. It is absolutely necessary to have an interpreter who can talk Arabic; for though in Algeria there are many natives who jabber broken French or Italian, even this lingua Franca is so disguised that it is almost impossible to comprehend them; and in the interior there are very few "indigenes" who understand anything but Arabic. In Tunisia nothing but Arabic is of any use whatever.

To travel in the interior of Tunis, it is necessary to have a mounted escort, and also a letter of recommendation to the "Caids" (mayors) of the different towns through which you pass. Here you must expect a great want of comfort, as there are no beds, and you generally have to sleep on the floor. On the Lake of Tunis, close to the city, there is very good flamingo shooting. The flamingoes sit on the water in rows like a regiment, and the method I employed in shooting them was as follows:—I used to take a boat with my gun loaded with buckshot (chevrotine), and my rifle. I fired my rifle at the line of flamingoes when about 400 yards off, which used to bring them flying over the boat for curiosity, when I managed, generally with my gun, to bring down one or two. This is, I am sure, the best way of shooting them, though several Europeans told me at Tunis I could shoot them with the rifle.

The shortest way direct to Tunis is by Malta; and, in passing, let the sporting tourist visit Gozo, where, in April and September, there is excellent quail shooting.

The inhabitants of this isle are a simple, primitive race of people, very lively and intelligent; they speak nearly a pure Arabic. They live chiefly by fishing, and also serve as sailors in foreign vessels, where they remain sometimes entire years without being heard of by their families. In this way they often find a watery grave; and in the isle I met some females, whose male relations had all perished in this way.

Navigation appears to have a great charm for these simple islanders; and when they sail along these southern waters, where the sun shines with a brilliant lustre, and the moon with a fairy splendour, they forget not the simple home where the members of their family are crouched side by side, enveloped in a sort of bournouse, and drinking perhaps tea which differs only nominally from the tepid waters of the surrounding ocean, and gabbling a jargon which one can scarcely believe that they understand themselves. The charm which binds these poor people together in their sober and modest existence is less the penchant of natural and intimate affection, than the chain of habit, the necessity of a life of fraternal community and sentiment. A certain equality of position and social development gives them the same desires, the same ends of existence, and like ideas produce an easy mutual understanding. Each one reads, as it were, in the eye of the other; and when they talk, each knows what the other will say almost before he has opened his lips. All the ordinary relations of life are thus present to their memory; and so, by a simple intonation of the voice, by the expression of the visage, by a mute gesture, they excite, inter se, as many smiles or tears, more joy or vexation, than we, among our equals, could perhaps evoke by the longest demonstrations or declarations. For we civilised ones live, on an average, in intellectual solitude; each of us, thanks to our particular form of mind or education, has received a different bias of character; each of us, morally weighed, thinks, acts, and believes differently from his neighbour; and hence misunderstandings arise so frequently among us, that, even in the largest families, life in common becomes difficult, and we are often, as it were, apart, utterly unknown one to another, and everywhere feel ourselves as on strange territory.

Races, indeed, have lived—aye, for centuries—in a state of community of ideas and sentiments such as I have described in the Isle of Gozo. Perhaps, but only perhaps, the Roman Church of the Middle Ages wished to establish among the nations of Catholic Europe such a state of equality and uniformity of spirit. Hence, no doubt, the reason why she took under her guardianship all the social relations, all the force and manifestations of this life—in fine, man himself, moral and physical man. I will not deny, nor will any one else, that much peaceful happiness, much piety has been established by these means; that human existence in the Middle Ages took an expression of greater fervour and intimacy; that the arts, like flowers, mysteriously developed, unfolded then, and showed to the day a beauty we now admire and deplore, and that the rash and unquiet spirit of modern days cannot imitate. But mind has its rights from all eternity; mind will not be fettered by dogmas, or lulled to sleep by the ringing of a bell; mind has cast aside his swaddling-clothes, and broken the string by which his nurse (the Roman Church) held him, and, in the madness and intoxication of his holiday, has rounded the globe, has traversed all nations, has scaled the Himalayas, and, returning again to Mother Earth, has begun to meditate over the wonders of creation by day, and the stars of heaven by night. We know not, indeed, nor ever shall, perhaps, the number of the stars that shine in the canopy of heaven; we have not yet unveiled the dread mysteries of earth or of sea. Enough: many enigmas are resolved; we know much—we guess at still more. There remains one question unsolved—it is this: Is there more real felicity in our minds now than there was in ancient times? I will confess that if we look at the many, now-a-days, we could scarcely answer this question in the affirmative; yet, it must also be remembered that happiness, which is in part due to mental tyranny, is scarcely true happiness, and that in the few moments of real intellectual dignity some educated man can enjoy more real felicity than the uneducated coal-heaver during many years of uninquiring tranquillity.

But while, with a certain benevolence, I was dilating on the intentions of the Roman Church, I find myself all of a sudden seized with a zeal worthy of Exeter Hall. So I return to my Gozo friends. Living among these simple, Christian islanders, of Moorish descent, one is apt to meditate on the mighty transformations which have swept over Europe and left them untouched.

The reason I recommend the route via Malta and Tunis, instead of passing by Algiers, as I did, is the miserable accommodation on board the steamers between Tunis and Algiers. The passengers on these boats are chiefly bagmen and colonists of different nations. We had a Savoyard, a Spaniard, and two or three Frenchmen and Italians at one table; and the noise, and row, and heat after dinner were very edifying. Bottles were quickly emptied, and heads as quickly filled. One of the guests sung songs; another neighed; a third shouted in tragic verse; a fourth spoke Latin; and a fifth preached temperance; a sixth gave himself out for a professor, and his lecture was nearly as follows:—"The earth, my friends, is a cylinder, and men are but little diminutive dots spread over its surface, apparently at hazard; but voila, the cylinder takes a fancy to turn, the little dots are hustled about, some here, others there, and so emit a sort of vibratory sound, some frequently, others more rarely; and this is the marvellous, complicated music that men call universal history," &c. &c. A fat-looking German, who kept his nose continually dipped in a glass of punch, inhaling the steam with a very gratified look, observed that he felt as though he was in the refreshment saloon of the Berlin theatre; while the Savoyard kept looking at us through his glass, as though it were a lorgnette, and the red wine streamed down his purple cheeks into his gaping jaws.

And now to proceed to matters of sport. With regard to small game, partridges, ducks, quails, rabbits, &c., there is abundance to be found in Algeria. Near Algiers there is hawking of partridges and hares among the Arab tribes; and, before the French occupation, falconry was the especial amusement of the Arab aristocracy. For shooting of small game I would more especially recommend a caravanserai called Oued el Massin, about half way between Milianah and Teniet. Partridges and woodcock abound there; the quarters, moreover, are remarkably good, and the cuisine, superintended by my friend, Mr. Ball, is by no means despicable. From Oued el Massin, a day's journey beyond Milianah, I am convinced excellent shooting may be obtained with a couple of good pointers. Quails are also very numerous. Aquatic birds abound in Algeria, more especially on the lake Fetzara, near Bona, in the province of Constantine. Nothing is more beautiful than the lake Fetzara at sunrise; on its banks are a thousand plants and flowers of every colour and hue, and on its waters repose birds of every description and plumage. As yet it is dusk; everything animal and vegetable is in repose; but with the first ray of the sun come sounds and cries of every imaginable description, and thousands, aye, myriads, of birds are everywhere on the wing. In the impetuosity of their flight, they shake, as it were, the plants and flowers on the border of the lake, who thus pay their morning salute to the sun of Africa. A small barque, however, advances (vide picture), and from this frail skiff suddenly appears the flash of a gun. In a moment the whole air is in motion; grebes with their beautiful plumage, flamingoes with flaming wings, wild swans, and ducks, and teals, by thousands whirl through the air.

Is it really to be believed that Nature has affixed (so to speak) some danger to everything charming? One is almost tempted to say so, after examining the enchanting borders of this lake, whose azure waters flow from the mountainous frontier of Tunisia to the opulent plains of Bona. You botanists, who are attracted by the singular colour or strange beauty of some plant or flower here, beware how you approach. Under this magnificent vegetation a trap—a mortal trap—is laid: the banks are of quick-sand! One step, and you meet death—a horrible death. The earth gives way, and you disappear without a trace, for those delicious flowers and plants close up their ranks again, like immortelles over your sepulchre. Listen:—A French cavalry officer came from Bona to shoot flamingoes on this lake. He was accompanied by his servant, also on horseback. He shot a flamingo, who tumbled just on the border of the lake, and dispatched his servant to fetch the bird. At three or four yards from the bird, the soldier disappeared with his horse; and some Arabs, coming up, at the cries of the officer (for the Mussulman believes that the genius of the lake, propitious to Mahometans, devours the profane European), with difficulty saved his servant. As soon as the soldier was out of danger, he cried out, with all the gasconade of a Frenchman, "Je ne laisserai pas la ce maudit oiseau, cause de ma mesaventure!" In spite of the energetic dissuasions of the natives, whom, by the way, he could not understand, he advanced on foot; but the earth opened again—he disappeared. One moment his head remained above this liquid ground, one moment he cried for aid, and the abyss had swallowed its prey. However, at certain points, this lake is quite approachable; and, there being several barques, excellent sport may be had. I would, however, recommend sportsmen to procure a letter of introduction to some neighbouring grandee. There is an excellent caravanserai close by, at Ain Mokra. For gazelles one must go quite into the interior of the desert—to Boussada and Laghouat—in the great Sahara desert. Ghazella is, in the Arab language, the synonym for beauty and velocity.

Those persons who really desire sport, however, I would recommend to travel from Algiers to Tunisia by land, and, if possible, let them pass by Kef, which is the frontier town. In the vicinity of this town there are, no doubt, plenty of lions; and my friend (who visited it with Dr. Davies, the celebrated explorer and excavator at Carthage) heard of several there, though his stay was so short that he did not succeed in bagging one. For lion-hunting, as for many other things, "il faut bien de la patience." Thus it very frequently happens that a man may search without success for months and months for the whereabouts of a lion, and then, suddenly, when your hunter is least prepared for it, and perhaps unarmed, the monarch of the desert will present himself to his astonished gaze. Notwithstanding the formidable character attributed to the lion, he will rarely attack any man unless previously molested. There are three sorts of lions in North Africa—the black, the tawny, and the grey, though the latter is by some supposed to be the same genus as the tawny, only grizzled by age. There are two ways of hunting the lion, by day and by night. That by day is by battue, when a whole tribe turns out to "beard the lion in his den" and make him break cover. Those who are well armed are posted at the outlets of the cover or beaten tracks by which the lion generally passes; any Europeans who assist are usually so stationed; they, however, need have but little fear, for the monarch almost always attacks the tawny native by preference. Is it from sympathy of colour, similia similibus gaudent, or from a sort of instinct that the European is better armed, or because he supposes the Arab will make a better repast? The other way of killing the lion is in ambuscade, of which there are two or three kinds. Sometimes the hunters dig a hole in the ground near the spot where the lion is in the habit of passing by night; over this hole they throw branches of trees, which they cover with stones and mortar; they then place some bait near, which can be commanded through holes made in the covering, and when the lion approaches to examine the carcase, he is immediately brought down. Another way of shooting is from a tree. My friend, Count Zamoyski, who has a residence at the Lake Fetzara, shot several in this way. I will, however, refer the reader to Jules Gerard's book for a description of this kind of sport. I did not stay long enough in North Africa to be able to judge of it myself. What I recount now with regard to lion hunting is from hearsay, not from personal experience.

The panther is a more dangerous animal than the lion, and much more cunning. Like his relative, the cat, he is very difficult to kill, and it must be a well-directed ball through the head or heart that will prevent him from avenging his wound. For the rest, he is hunted much as the lion. I will not mention the jackal and hyena, both of which animals can be shot after dusk from the tent or hut, by throwing out some carcase or bait before sunset to attract them. Let us pass to that animal which, in my opinion, of all creatures presents by far the best sport on the coast of Barbary—I mean, of course, the wild boar, or halouf, as he is called in the Arabic language.

I had long had a desire to hunt the halouf. On my arrival at the Caid's house at Solyman (about twenty miles from Tunis), an old Arab named Mahmoud was sent for, who was reported to be, like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord and before the tribes.

The next day we started before sunrise to the river, where the boar was supposed to be.

En route I questioned my Arab by interpreter. "The halouf," he replied, "when wounded, is as dangerous as the lion. I have," he continued, "myself seen a boar repulse the attack of a young lion."

Of boars there are no doubt plenty in Tunisia. They are fond of lying in the thickest brushwood, what the French call broussailles, and the main difficulty is to drive them out. It requires some one perfectly conversant with Arabic, and having some authority over the natives, to make them beat properly; otherwise, in a short time they will give over, and pretend that there is nothing there. The best localities for boar are near Solyman, in Tunisia, and Biserta, about fifty miles from Tunis. As for Algeria, the country is now so much frequented by Europeans of all nations, who frighten, if they do not kill, the game, that one has to go a long way into the interior before any sport can be met with.

The French talk a great deal about "la chasseaux pantheres" and "la chasse aux lions," &c. &c.; but, in my humble opinion, their forte is "la chasse aux dames" or, in plain Saxon English, the success of the "salon." Let me conclude with a few words regarding regimen. In this burning climate, above all things observe temperance. I do not mean by that expression that you must be a teetotaller, but the more you can abstain from heating liquids or solids, the better. The other extreme, too, is bad; too much lemonade, or water, or sherbet, is apt to produce diarrhoea. Nature seems to have indicated to the Arabs the best beverage in this zone, both to quench thirst and to preserve health, viz., coffee; but as on a march or out shooting you cannot always stop to have a fire lit, the next best drink is a little weak brandy and water, which you should carry from where you start in the morning, as the water of the rivers is pestiferous. To avoid fever or malaria, I would always take a small quantity of bark of quinine. During the time I was in Africa I enjoyed most excellent health, as I believe everybody may who takes the commonest precautions, and does not indulge, as he may with impunity in more northern climes.

Finally, let me give one piece of advice to the sportsman. If he comes to these countries with the expectation that he can, as in England, go out with his gun of a morning and return with his bag full in the evening to a capital dinner, he had better stay at home. To do anything in this country, a man must make his mind up to long and fatiguing marches in the heat of the day, with miserable quarters often at night, in places infested by vermin of every description; in a word, he must be content to rough it. I will also candidly own that, from the accounts I had previously received, I was very much disappointed as regards the quantity of large game to be found in these parts; still, I was, to a certain extent, indemnified for this by the pleasure of visiting a beautiful country, a remarkable people, and magnificent scenery, the entire appearance of which is utterly unlike what one is accustomed to see in the hackneyed countries of modern continental Europe.



ITINERARY CARTE.

ROUTE—from London to Marseilles, about forty-eight hours. Marseilles, Hotel d'Orient.

Marseilles to Algiers, average passage, three days. Hotels—Hotel de la Regence and Hotel de Paris, both good.

Algiers to Blidah—horse or diligence—about five hours; Blidah to Medeah—horse or diligence—about eight hours; Blidah to Milianah, about fourteen hours. Blidah—Hotel de la Regence; Medeah—Hotel du Gastronome; Milianah—Hotel d'Iffly.

Milianah to Teniet, two days, staying at Oued el Massin, caravanserai; Teniet to Boghar, two days; Boghar to Laghouat, extremity of French frontier in Great Sahara Desert, three days.

From there visit Boussada for Gargelles, thence to Constantine, five days; Constantine to Lake Fetzara and Bona, one day. Bona—Hotel de France.

Another way, is to return to Algiers and proceed by sea to Bona, passing Boujie, and Djidjelli, and Philippeville, about forty-eight hours.

From Bona to Tunis, by sea, about eighteen hours; or by land, via Keff, the frontier town of Tunisia and Algeria, about six days; an escort required. Tunis—Hotel de France.

Tunis to Solyman, four hours; Tunis to Biserta, fourteen hours.

On horseback, take two flannel shirts, one change of boots, and bournouse, &c. Average expense per diem, with horse and servant, twenty-five francs. I had three horses and one interpreter, and my expenses averaged L1 10s. par jour.



THE END.

PETTER AND GALPIN, BELLE SAUVAGE PRINTING WORKS, LUDGATE HILL, E.C.



* * * * *



Transcriber's Notes:

Illustrations have been moved closer to their relevant paragraphs. The page numbers in the List of Illustrations do not reflect the new placement of the illustrations, but are as in the original.

Author's archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation is preserved.

Author's punctuation style is preserved.

Passages in italics indicated by underscores.

Passages in bold indicated by equal signs.

Typographical problems have been changed and are listed below.

Transcriber's Changes:

Page 5: Original Table of Contents lists Chapter III as page 17.

Page 8: Was 'unhapy' (his cutting sarcasm, and the unhappy frivolity which defaces the works of the man)

Page 30: Was 'Kadir' (FURTHER EXPERIENCES:—Abd-el-Kader (but not the Emir)—Difficult Road)

Page 33: Was 'twent' (The Arab had fired at the brute at twenty paces, but missed his aim.)

Page 85: Was 'mattrass' (and the mattress—fancy now!—is stuffed with sticks, and is so cursedly hard)

THE END

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse