Oriental Encounters - Palestine and Syria, 1894-6
by Marmaduke Pickthall
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- Transcriber's note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Inconsistent spellings of Arabic terms have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -


Palestine And Syria (1894-5-6)



London: 48 Pall Mall W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. Glasgow Melbourne Auckland Copyright 1918









VI. NAWADIR (continued) 54





























Early in the year 1894 I was a candidate for one of two vacancies in the Consular Service for Turkey, Persia, and the Levant, but failed to gain the necessary place in the competitive examination. I was in despair. All my hopes for months had been turned towards sunny countries and old civilisations, away from the drab monotone of London fog, which seemed a nightmare when the prospect of escape eluded me. I was eighteen years old, and, having failed in one or two adventures, I thought myself an all-round failure, and was much depressed. I dreamed of Eastern sunshine, palm trees, camels, desert sand, as of a Paradise which I had lost by my shortcomings. What was my rapture when my mother one fine day suggested that it might be good for me to travel in the East, because my longing for it seemed to indicate a natural instinct, with which she herself, possessing Eastern memories, was in full sympathy!

I fancy there was some idea at the time that if I learnt the languages and studied life upon the spot I might eventually find some backstairs way into the service of the Foreign Office; but that idea, though cherished by my elders as some excuse for the expenses of my expedition, had never, from the first, appealed to me; and from the moment when I got to Egypt, my first destination, it lost whatever lustre it had had at home. For then the European ceased to interest me, appearing somehow inappropriate and false in those surroundings. At first I tried to overcome this feeling or perception which, while I lived with English people, seemed unlawful. All my education until then had tended to impose on me the cult of the thing done habitually upon a certain plane of our society. To seek to mix on an equality with Orientals, of whatever breeding, was one of those things which were never done, nor even contemplated, by the kind of person who had always been my model.

My sneaking wish to know the natives of the country intimately, like other unconventional desires I had at times experienced, might have remained a sneaking wish until this day, but for an accident which freed me for a time from English supervision. My people had provided me with introductions to several influential English residents in Syria, among others to a family of good position in Jerusalem; and it was understood that, on arrival in that country, I should go directly to that family for information and advice. But, as it chanced, on board the ship which took me to Port Said from Naples I met a man who knew those people intimately—had been, indeed, for years an inmate of their house—and he assumed the office of my mentor. I stayed in Cairo, merely because he did, for some weeks, and went with him on the same boat to Jaffa. He, for some unknown reason—I suspect insanity—did not want me in Jerusalem just then; and, when we landed, spun me a strange yarn of how the people I had thought to visit were exceedingly eccentric and uncertain in their moods; and how it would be best for me to stop in Jaffa until he sent me word that I was sure of welcome. His story was entirely false, I found out later, a libel on a very hospitable house. But I believed it at the time, as I did all his statements, having no other means of information on the subject.

So I remained at Jaffa, in a little gasthaus in the German colony, which had the charms of cleanliness and cheapness, and there I might have stayed till now had I awaited the tidings promised by my counsellor. There for the first two weeks I found life very dull. Then Mr. Hanauer, the English chaplain, and a famous antiquarian, took pity on my solitary state, walked me about, and taught me words of Arabic. He was a native of Jerusalem, and loved the country. My sneaking wish to fraternise with Orientals, when I avowed it after hesitations, appeared good to him. And then I made acquaintance with a clever dragoman and one of the most famous jokers in all Syria, who happened to be lodging at my little hostelry, with nothing in the world to do but stare about him. He helped me to throw off the European and plunge into the native way of living. With him I rode about the plain of Sharon, sojourning among the fellahin, and sitting in the coffee-shops of Ramleh, Lydda, Gaza, meeting all sorts of people, and acquiring the vernacular without an effort, in the manner of amusement. From dawn to sunset we were in the saddle. We went on pilgrimage to Nebi Rubin, the mosque upon the edge of marshes by the sea, half-way to Gaza; we rode up northward to the foot of Carmel; explored the gorges of the mountains of Judaea; frequented Turkish baths; ate native meals and slept in native houses—following the customs of the people of the land in all respects. And I was amazed at the immense relief I found in such a life. In all my previous years I had not seen happy people. These were happy. Poor they might be, but they had no dream of wealth; the very thought of competition was unknown to them, and rivalry was still a matter of the horse and spear. Wages and rent were troubles they had never heard of. Class distinctions, as we understand them, were not. Everybody talked to everybody. With inequality they had a true fraternity. People complained that they were badly governed, which merely meant that they were left to their devices save on great occasions. A Government which touches every individual and interferes with him to some extent in daily life, though much esteemed by Europeans, seems intolerable to the Oriental. I had a vision of the tortured peoples of the earth impelled by their own misery to desolate the happy peoples, a vision which grew clearer in the after years. But in that easy-going Eastern life there is a power of resistance, as everybody knows who tries to change it, which may yet defeat the hosts of joyless drudgery.

My Syrian friend—the Suleyman of the following sketches—introduced me to the only Europeans who espoused that life—a French Alsatian family, the Baldenspergers, renowned as pioneers of scientific bee-keeping in Palestine, who hospitably took a share in my initiation. They had innumerable hives in different parts of the country—I have seen them near the Jaffa gardens and among the mountains south of Hebron—which they transported in due season, on the backs of camels, seeking a new growth of flowers. For a long while the Government ignored their industry, until the rumour grew that it was very profitable. Then a high tax was imposed. The Baldenspergers would not pay it. They said the Government might take the hives if it desired to do so. Soldiers were sent to carry out the seizure. But the bee-keepers had taken out the bottom of each hive, and when the soldiers lifted them, out swarmed the angry bees. The soldiers fled; and after that experience the Government agreed to compromise. I remember well a long day's ride with Emile and Samuel Baldensperger, round by Askelon and Ekron, and the luncheon which a village headman had prepared for us, consisting of a whole sheep, roast and stuffed with nuts and vegetables; and a day with Henri Baldensperger in the Hebron region. The friendships of those days were made for life. Hanauer, the Baldenspergers, Suleyman, and other natives of the country—those of them who are alive—remain my friends to-day.

In short, I ran completely wild for months, in a manner unbecoming to an Englishman; and when at length, upon a pressing invitation, I turned up in Jerusalem and used my introductions, it was in semi-native garb and with a love for Arabs which, I was made to understand, was hardly decent. My native friends were objects of suspicion. I was told that they were undesirable, and, when I stood up for them, was soon put down by the retort that I was very young. I could not obviously claim as much experience as my mature advisers, whose frequent warnings to me to distrust the people of the country thus acquired the force of moral precepts, which it is the secret joy of youth to disobey.

That is the reason why the respectable English residents in Syria figure in these pages as censorious and hostile, with but few exceptions. They were hostile to my point of view, which was not then avowed, but not to me. Indeed, so many of them showed me kindness—particularly in my times of illness—that I cannot think of them without a glow of friendliness. But the attitude of most of them was never mine, and the fact that at the time I still admired that attitude as the correct one, and thought myself at intervals a sad backslider, made it seem forbidding. In my Oriental life they really were, as here depicted, a disapproving shadow in the background. With one—referred to often in these tales—I was in full agreement. We lived together for some months in a small mountain village, and our friendship then established has remained unbroken. But he, though not alone, was an exception.

Owing to the general verdict on my Arab friends, I led what might be called a double life during the months of my first sojourn in Jerusalem; until Suleyman, the tourist season being ended, came with promise of adventure, when I flung discretion to the winds. We hired two horses and a muleteer, and rode away into the north together. A fortnight later, at the foot of the Ladder of Tyre, Suleyman was forced to leave me, being summoned to his village. I still rode on towards the north, alone with one hired muleteer, a simple soul. A notion of my subsequent adventures may, perhaps, be gathered from the following pages, in which I have embodied fictionally some impressions still remaining clear after the lapse of more than twenty years. A record of small things, no doubt; yet it seems possible that something human may be learnt from such a comic sketch-book of experience which would never be derived from more imposing works.



The brown plain, swimming in a haze of heat, stretched far away into the distance, where a chain of mountains trenched upon the cloudless sky. Six months of drought had withered all the herbage. Only thistles, blue and yellow, and some thorny bushes had survived; but after the torrential winter rains the whole expanse would blossom like the rose. I traversed the plain afterwards in spring, when cornfields waved for miles around its three mud villages, wild flowers in mad profusion covered its waste places, and scarlet tulips flamed amid its wheat.

Now all was desert. After riding for four days in such a landscape, it was sweet to think upon the journey's end, the city of perennial waters, shady gardens, and the song of birds. I was picturing the scene of our arrival—the shade and the repose, the long, cool drinks, the friendly hum of the bazaars—and wondering what letters I should find awaiting me, all to the tune of 'Onward, Christian soldiers'—for the clip-clap of a horse's hoofs invariably beats out in my brain some tune, the most incongruous, against my will—when a sudden outcry roused me. It came from my companion, a hired muleteer, and sounded angry. The fellow had been riding on ahead. I now saw that he had overtaken other travellers—two men astride of one donkey—and had entered into conversation with them. One of the two, the hindmost, was a Turkish soldier. Except the little group they made together, and a vulture, a mere speck above them in the blue, no other living creature was in sight. Something had happened, for the soldier seemed amused, while my poor man was making gestures of despairing protest. He repeated the loud cry which had disturbed my reverie, then turned his mule and hurried back to meet me.

'My knife!' he bellowed 'My knife!—that grand steel blade which was my honour!—so finely tempered and inlaid!—an heirloom in the family! That miscreant, may Allah cut his life!—I mean the soldier—stole it. He asked to look at it a minute, seeming to admire. I gave it, like the innocent I am. He stuck it in his belt, and asked to see the passport which permitted me to carry weapons. Who ever heard of such a thing in this wild region? He will not give it back, though I entreated. I am your Honour's servant, speak for me and make him give it back! It is an heirloom!' That grey-haired man was crying like a baby.

Now, I was very young, and his implicit trust in my authority enthralled me. I valued his dependence on my manhood more than gold and precious stones. Summoning all the courage I possessed, I clapped spurs to my horse and galloped after the marauder.

'Give back that knife!' I roared. 'O soldier! it is thou to whom I speak.'

The soldier turned a studiously guileless face—a handsome face, with fair moustache and a week's beard. He had a roguish eye.

'What knife? I do not understand,' he said indulgently.

'The knife thou stolest from the muleteer here present.'

'Oh, that!' replied the soldier, with a deprecating laugh: 'That is a thing unworthy of your Honour's notice. The rogue in question is a well-known malefactor. He and I are old acquaintance.'

'By the beard of the Prophet, by the August Coran, I never saw his devil's face until this minute!' bawled the muleteer, who had come up behind me.

'Give back the knife,' I ordered for the second time.

'By Allah, never!' was the cool reply.

'Give it back, I say!'

'No, it cannot be—not even to oblige your Honour, for whose pleasure, Allah knows, I would do almost anything,' murmured the soldier, with a charming smile. 'Demand it not. Be pleased to understand that if it were your Honour's knife I would return it instantly. But that man, as I tell thee, is a wretch. It grieves me to behold a person of consideration in such an unbecoming temper upon his account—a dog, no more.'

'If he is a dog, he is my dog for the present; so give back the knife!'

'Alas, beloved, that is quite impossible.'

With a wave of the hand dismissing the whole subject the soldier turned away. He plucked a cigarette out of his girdle and prepared to light it. His companion on the donkey had not turned his head nor shown the slightest interest in the discussion. This had lasted long enough. I knew that in another minute I should have to laugh. If anything remained for me to do it must be done immediately. Whipping my revolver from the holster, I held it close against the rascal's head, yelling: 'Give back the knife this minute, or I kill thee!'

The man went limp. The knife came back as quick as lightning. I gave it to the muleteer, who blubbered praise to Allah and made off with it. Equally relieved, I was about to follow when the utterly forlorn appearance of the soldier moved me to open the revolver, showing that it was not loaded. Then my adversary was transfigured. His back straightened, his mouth closed, his eyes regained their old intelligence. He stared at me a moment, half incredulous, and then he laughed. Ah, how that soldier laughed! The owner of the donkey turned and shared his glee. They literally hugged each other, roaring with delight, while the donkey underneath them both jogged dutifully on.

Before a caravanserai in a small valley green with fruit-trees, beside a slender stream whose banks were fringed with oleander, I was sitting waiting for some luncheon when the donkey and its riders came again in sight. The soldier tumbled off on spying me and ran into the inn like one possessed. A minute later he brought out the food which I had ordered and set the table for me in the shade of trees.

'I would not let another serve thee,' he informed me, 'for the love of that vile joke that thou didst put upon me. It was not loaded. After all my fright!... It is a nice revolver. Let me look at it.'

'Aye, look thy fill, thou shalt not touch it,' was my answer; at which he laughed anew, pronouncing me the merriest of Adam's race.

'But tell me, what wouldst thou have done had I refused? It was not loaded. What wouldst thou have done?'

His hand was resting at that moment on a stool. I rapped his knuckles gently with the butt of the revolver to let him know its weight.

'Wallahi!' he cried out in admiration. 'I believe thou wouldst have smashed my head with it. All for the sake of a poor man of no account, whom thou employest for a week, and after that wilt see no more. Efendim, take me as thy servant always!' Of a sudden he spoke very earnestly. 'Pay the money to release me from the army. It is a largeish sum—five Turkish pounds. And Allah knows I will repay it to thee by my service. For the love of righteousness accept me, for my soul is thine.'

I ridiculed the notion. He persisted. When the muleteer and I set forth again, he rode beside us, mounted on another donkey this time—'borrowed,' as he put it—which showed he was a person of resource. 'By Allah, I can shoe a horse and cook a fowl; I can mend garments with a thread and shoot a bird upon the wing,' he told me. 'I would take care of the stable and the house. I would do everything your Honour wanted. My nickname is Rashid the Fair; my garrison is Karameyn, just two days' journey from the city. Come in a day or two and buy me out. No matter for the wages. Only try me!'

At the khan, a pretty rough one, where we spent the night, he waited on me deftly and enforced respect, making me really wish for such a servant. On the morrow, after an hour's riding, our ways parted.

'In sh'Allah, I shall see thee before many days,' he murmured. 'My nickname is Rashid the Fair, forget not. I shall tell our captain thou art coming with the money.'

I said that I might think about it possibly.

'Come,' he entreated. 'Thou wouldst never shame a man who puts his trust in thee. I say that I shall tell our captain thou art coming. Ah, shame me not before the Commandant and all my comrades! Thou thinkest me a thief, a lawbreaker, because I took that fellow's knife?' he asked, with an indulgent smile. 'Let me tell thee, O my lord, that I was in my right and duty as a soldier of the Sultan in this province. It is that muleteer who, truly speaking, breaks the law by carrying the knife without a permit. And thou, hast thou a passport for that fine revolver? At the place where we had luncheon yesterday were other soldiers. By merely calling on them to support me I could have had his knife and thy revolver with ease and honesty in strict accordance with the law. Why did I not do so? Because I love thee! Say thou wilt come to Karameyn and buy me out.'

I watched him jogging on his donkey towards a gulley of the hills along which lay the bridle-path to Karameyn. On all the evidence he was a rogue, and yet my intimate conviction was that he was honest. All the Europeans in the land would lift up hands of horror and exclaim: 'Beware!' on hearing such a story. Yet, as I rode across the parched brown land towards the city of green trees and rushing waters, I knew that I should go to Karameyn.



The long day's ride was uneventful, but not so the night. I spent it in a village of the mountains at a very curious hostelry, kept by a fat native Christian, named Elias, who laid claim, upon the signboard, to furnish food and lodging 'alafranga'—that is, in the modern European manner. There was one large guest-room, and an adjoining bedroom of the same dimensions, for some thirty travellers. I had to find a stable for my horse elsewhere. A dining-table was provided, and we sat on chairs around it; but the food was no wise European, and the cooking was degraded Greek. A knife, fork, and spoon were laid for every guest but several cast these on the floor and used their fingers. In the long bedroom were a dozen beds on bedsteads. By offering a trifle extra I secured one to myself. In others there were two, three, even four together. An elderly Armenian gentleman who had a wife with him, stood guard with pistols over her all night. He was so foolish as to threaten loudly anyone who dared approach her. After he had done so several times a man arose from the bed next to mine and strolling to him seized him by the throat.

'O man,' he chided. 'Art thou mad or what, thus to arouse our passions by thy talk of women? Be silent, or we honest men here present will wring thy neck and take thy woman from thee. Dost thou understand?' He shook that jealous husband as a terrier would shake a rat. 'Be silent, hearest thou? Men wish to sleep.'

'Said I not well, O brother?' said the monitor to me, as he got back to bed.

'By Allah, well,' was my reply. The jealous one was silent after that. But there were other noises. Some men still lingered in the guest-room playing cards. The host, devoted to things European, had a musical-box—it was happily before the day of gramophones—which the card-players kept going all night long. I had a touch of fever. There were insects. Sleep was hopeless. I rose while it was yet night, went out without paying, since the host was nowhere to be seen, and, in some danger from the fierce attacks of pariah dogs, found out the vault in which my horse was stabled. Ten minutes later I was clear of the village, riding along a mountain side but dimly visible beneath the stars. The path descended to a deep ravine, and rose again, up, up, interminably. At length, upon the summit of a ridge, I felt the dawn. The mountain tops were whitened like the crests of waves, while all the clefts and hollows remained full of night. Behind me, in the east, there was a long white streak making the mountain outlines bleak and keen. The stars looked strange; a fresh breeze fanned my cheek and rustled in the grass and shrubs. Before me, on an isolated bluff, appeared my destination, a large village, square-built like a fortress. Its buildings presently took on a wild-rose blush, which deepened to the red of fire—a splendid sight against a dark blue sky, still full of stars. A window flashed up there. The sun had risen.

Some English people, when informed of my intention to buy a man out of the Turkish Army had pronounced it madness. I did not know the people of the land as they did. I should be pillaged, brought to destitution, perhaps murdered. They, who had lived in the country twenty, thirty years, were better qualified to judge than I was. For peace and quiet I pretended acquiescence, and my purpose thus acquired a taste of stealth. It was with the feelings of a kind of truant that I had set out at length without a word to anyone, and with the same adventurous feelings that I now drew near to Karameyn. Two soldiers, basking in the sunshine on a dust-heap, sprang up at my approach. One was the man I sought, the rogue Rashid. They led me to their captain's house—a modest dwelling, consisting of a single room, with hardly any furniture. A score of soldiers followed after us.

The Captain—Hasan Agha—an old man, with face scarred and heavy white moustache, was in full uniform, and, as I entered, was engaged in putting on a pair of cotton gloves. He was one of the old 'alaili,' Turkish officers—those whose whole knowledge of their business was derived from service in a regiment or 'alai,' instead of from instruction at a military school; and his manner towards the men had nothing of the martinet. He addressed them as 'my children,' with affection; and they, though quite respectful, conversed freely in his presence. Hasan Agha paid me many compliments, and repeatedly inquired after my health. He would not hear about my business till I had had breakfast. Luncheon had been arranged for me, he said, but that could not be ready for some hours. Would I be so kind as to excuse a makeshift? Even as he spoke, a soldier entered with a tray on which were slabs of Arab bread, a pitcher of sour milk, and heaps of grapes. Another soldier began pounding coffee, while yet another blew upon the charcoal in a brazier. I refused to eat unless my host ate with me, which he did only after much polite resistance. After the meal, we sat and talked, the soldiers joining in the conversation. They told me of old wars and deeds of valour. Hasan Agha was, it seemed, a famous fighter; and the men did all they could to make him tell me of his battles. They brought an old man in out of the town to see me because he had fought in the Crimean war, and knew the English. Before it grew too hot, they took me out to see the barracks and a ramshackle old fieldpiece which they seemed to idolise. Then followed luncheon with its long array of Arab dishes, of which the soldiers had their share eventually. Rashid assured me afterwards that all the food on this occasion had been 'borrowed.' That was in Abdul Hamid's golden days. After luncheon, there was coffee with more compliments; and then at last we got to business.

A public writer was brought in. He wrote out a receipt for me, and also the discharge Rashid required. Hasan Agha stamped both documents with an official seal, and handed them to me, who gave him in exchange the money.

'Bismillah!' he exclaimed. 'I call all here to witness that Rashid, the son of Ali, called the Fair, is free henceforth to go what way he chooses.'

To me he said: 'Rashid is a good lad, and you will find him useful. The chief fault I have found in him is this: that, when obeying orders, he is apt to think, and so invent a method of his own, not always good. Also, he is too susceptible to female charms, a failing which has placed him in some strange positions.'

The last remark evoked much laughter, relating, evidently to some standing joke unknown to me. Rashid looked rather sheepish. Hasan Agha turned to him, and said:

'My son, praise Allah for thy great good fortune in finding favour in the sight of one so noble and benevolent as our beloved guest, who is henceforth thy master. Remember, he is not as I am—one who has been what thou art, and so knows the tricks. Serve him freely with thy mind and soul and conscience, not waiting for commands as in the Army. Come hither, O my son, grasp hands with me. I say, may God be with thee now and always! Forget not all the good instruction of thy soldier days. Be sure that we shall pray for thy good master and for thee.'

The old man's eyes were wet, so were Rashid's, so were the eyes of all the soldiers squatting round.

Rashid, dismissed, went off to change his uniform for an old suit of mine which I had brought for him, while Hasan Agha, talking of him as a father might, explained to me his character and little failings.

At last I took my leave. Rashid was waiting in my cast-off clothes, a new fez of civilian shape upon his head. He held my stirrup, and then jumped on to a raw-boned beast which had been 'borrowed' for him by his friends, so he informed me. It might be worth my while to buy it for him, he suggested later—the price was only eight pounds Turk, the merest trifle. The whole garrison escorted us to the last houses, where they stood a long while, waving their farewells. Two hours later, on the mountain-ridge, beyond the wady, we turned to look our last on Karameyn. It stood amid the flames of sunset like a castle of the clouds.

We returned, then, to the 'alafranga' hostelry; but Rashid, having heard the story of my sleepless night, would not allow me to put up there. I paid my debt to the proprietor, and then he found for me an empty house to which he brought a mattress and a coverlet, a lot of cushions, a brazier, and the things required for making coffee, also a tray of supper—all of them borrowed from the neighbouring houses. I might be pillaged, brought to destitution, and eventually murdered by him, as my friends had warned me. At least, the operation promised to be comfortable.



'Where is the whip?' Rashid cried, suddenly, turning upon me in the gateway of the khan where we had just arrived.

'Merciful Allah! It is not with me. I must have left it in the carriage.'

Rashid threw down the saddlebags, our customary luggage, which he had been carrying, and started running for his life. The carriage had got half-way down the narrow street half-roofed with awnings. At Rashid's fierce shout of 'Wait, O my uncle! We have left our whip!' the driver turned and glanced behind him, but, instead of stopping, lashed his horses to a gallop. Rashid ran even faster than before. The chase, receding rapidly, soon vanished from my sight. Twilight was coming on. Above the low, flat roofs to westward, the crescent moon hung in the green of sunset behind the minarets of the great mosque. I then took up the saddle-bags and delicately picked my way through couchant camels, tethered mules and horses in the courtyard to the khan itself, which was a kind of cloister. I was making my arrangements with the landlord, when Rashid returned, the picture of despair. He flung up both his hands, announcing failure, and then sank down upon the ground and moaned. The host, a burly man, inquired what ailed him. I told him, when he uttered just reflections upon cabmen and the vanity of worldly wealth. Rashid, as I could see, was 'zi'lan'—a prey to that strange mixture of mad rage and sorrow and despair, which is a real disease for children of the Arabs. An English servant would not thus have cared about the loss of a small item of his master's property, not by his fault but through that master's oversight. But my possessions were Rashid's delight, his claim to honour. He boasted of them to all comers. In particular did he revere my gun, my Service revolver, and this whip—a tough thong of rhinoceros hide, rather nicely mounted with silver, which had been presented to me by an aged Arab in return for some imagined favour. I had found it useful against pariah dogs when these rushed out in packs to bite one's horse's legs, but had never viewed it as a badge of honour till Rashid came to me. To him it was the best of our possessions, marking us as of rank above the common. He thrust it on me even when I went out walking; and he it was who, when we started from our mountain home at noon that day, had laid it reverently down upon the seat beside me before he climbed upon the box beside the driver. And now the whip was lost through my neglectfulness. Rashid's dejection made me feel a worm.

'Allah! Allah!' he made moan, 'What can I do? The driver was a chance encounter. I do not know his dwelling, which may God destroy!'

The host remarked in comfortable tones that flesh is grass, all treasure perishable, and that it behoves a man to fix desire on higher things. Whereat Rashid sprang up, as one past patience, and departed, darting through the cattle in the yard with almost supernatural agility. 'Let him eat his rage alone!' the host advised me, with a shrug.

Having ordered supper for the third hour of the night, I, too, went out to stretch my limbs, which were stiff and bruised from four hours' jolting in a springless carriage, always on the point of overturning. We should have done better to have come on horseback in the usual way; but Rashid, having chanced upon the carriage, a great rarity, had decided on that way of going as more fashionable, forgetful of the fact that there was not a road.

The stars were out. In the few shops which still kept open lanterns hung, throwing streaks of yellow light on the uneven causeway, a gleam into the eyes of wayfarers and prowling dogs. Many of the people in the streets, too, carried lanterns whose swing made objects in their circle seem to leap and fall. I came at length into an open place where there was concourse—a kind of square which might be called the centre of the city.

The crowd there, as I noticed with surprise, was stationary, with all its faces turned in one direction. I heard a man's voice weeping and declaiming wildly.

'What is it?' I inquired, among the outskirts.

'A great misfortune!' someone answered. 'A poor servant has lost a whip worth fifty Turkish pounds, his master's property. It was stolen from him by a miscreant—a wicked cabman. His lord will kill him if he fails to find it.'

Seized with interest, I shouldered my way forward. There was Rashid against the wall of a large mosque, beating himself against that wall with a most fearful outcry. A group of high-fezzed soldiers, the policemen of the city, hung round him in compassion, questioning. Happily, I wore a fez, and so was inconspicuous.

'Fifty Turkish pounds!' he yelled. 'A hundred would not buy its brother! My master, the tremendous Count of all the English—their chief prince, by Allah!—loves it as his soul. He will pluck out and devour my heart and liver. O High Protector! O Almighty Lord!'

'What like was this said cabman?' asked a sergeant of the watch.

Rashid, with sobs and many pious interjections, described the cabman rather neatly as 'a one-eyed man, full-bearded, of a form as if inflated in the lower half. His name, he told me, was Habib; but Allah knows!'

'The man is known!' exclaimed the sergeant, eagerly. 'His dwelling is close by. Come, O thou poor, ill-used one. We will take the whip from him.'

At that Rashid's grief ceased as if by magic. He took the sergeant's hand and fondled it, as they went off together. I followed with the crowd as far as to the cabman's door, a filthy entry in a narrow lane, where, wishing to avoid discovery, I broke away and walked back quickly to the khan.

I had been there in my private alcove some few minutes, when Rashid arrived with a triumphant air, holding on high the famous whip. The sergeant came across the court with him. A score of soldiers waited in the gateway as I could see by the light of the great lantern hanging from the arch.

'Praise be to Allah, I have found it!' cried Rashid.

'Praise be to Allah, we have been enabled to do a little service for your Highness,' cried the sergeant. Therewith he pounced upon my hand and kissed it. I made them both sit down and called for coffee. Between the two of them, I heard the story. The sergeant praised Rashid's intelligence in going out and crying in a public place until the city and its whole police force had a share in his distress. Rashid, on his side, said that all that would have been in vain but for the sergeant's knowledge of the cabman's house. The sergeant, with a chuckle, owned that that same knowledge would have been of no effect had not Rashid once more displayed his keen intelligence. They had poured into the house—a single room, illumined only by a saucer lamp upon the ground—and searched it thoroughly, the cabman all the while protesting his great innocence, and swearing he had never in this world beheld a whip like that described. The soldiers, finding no whip, were beginning to believe his word when Rashid, who had remained aloof, observing that the cabman's wife stood very still beneath her veils, assailed her with a mighty push, which sent her staggering across the room. The whip was then discovered. It had been hidden underneath her petticoats. They had given the delinquent a good beating then and there. Would that be punishment enough in my opinion? asked the sergeant.

We decided that the beating was enough. I gave the sergeant a small present when he left. Rashid went with him, after carefully concealing the now famous whip. I suppose they went off to some tavern to discuss the wonderful adventure more at length; for I supped alone, and had been some time stretched upon my mattress on the floor before Rashid came in and spread his bed beside me.

'Art thou awake, O my dear lord?' he whispered. 'By Allah, thou didst wrong to give that sergeant any money. I had made thy name so great that but to look on thee was fee sufficient for a poor, lean dog like him.'

He then was silent for so long a while that I imagined he had gone to sleep. But, suddenly, he whispered once again:

'O my dear lord, forgive me the disturbance, but hast thou our revolver safe?'

'By Allah, yes! Here, ready to my hand.'

'Good. But it would be better for the future that I should bear our whip and our revolver. I have made thy name so great that thou shouldst carry nothing.'



We were giving a dinner-party on that day to half a dozen Turkish officers, and, when he brought me in my cup of tea at seven-thirty a.m., Rashid informed me that our cook had been arrested. The said cook was a decent Muslim, but hot-tempered, and something of a blood in private life. At six a.m., as he stood basking in the sunlight in our doorway, his eyes had fallen on some Christian youths upon their way to college, in European clothes, with new kid gloves and silver-headed canes. Maddened with a sense of outrage by that horrid sight, he had attacked the said youths furiously with a wooden ladle, putting them to flight, and chasing them all down the long acacia avenue, through two suburbs into the heart of the city, where their miserable cries for help brought the police upon him. Rashid, pursuing in vain attempts to calm the holy warrior, had seen him taken into custody still flourishing the ladle; but could tell me nothing of his after fate, having at that point deemed it prudent to retire, lest he, too, might be put in prison by mistake.

It was sad. As soon as I was up and dressed, I wrote to Hamdi Bey, the chief of our intended visitors, informing him of the mishap which would prevent our giving him and his comrades a dinner at all worthy of their merit. By the time that I had finished dressing, Rashid had found a messenger to whom the note was given with an order to make haste. He must have run the whole way there and back, for, after little more than half an hour, he stood before me, breathless and with streaming brow, his bare legs dusty to the knee. Rashid had then gone out to do some marketing. The runner handed me a note. It said:

'Why mention such a trifling detail? We shall, of course, be charmed with anything you set before us. It is for friendship, not for food, we come!'

There was a postscript:—

'Why not go and see the judge?'

Suleyman was in the room. He was an old acquaintance, a man of decent birth, but poor, by trade a dragoman, who had acquired a reputation for unusual wisdom. When he had nothing else to do, he came to me unfailingly, wherever I might chance to be established or encamped. He was sitting cross-legged in a corner, smoking his narghileh, capriciously illumined by thin slants of light, alive with motes, from the Venetian blinds. He seized upon the postscript, crying:—

'It is good advice. Why not, indeed? Let us approach the judge.'

Therewith he coiled the tube of his narghileh carefully around the bowl thereof, and, rising with the same deliberation, threw upon his shoulders a white dust-cloak, then looked at me, and questioned: 'Are you ready?'

'But I do not know the judge.'

'No more do I. But that, my dear, is a disease which can be remedied.'

Without much trouble we found out the judge's house. A servant told us that his Honour had already started for the court. We took a carriage and pursued his Honour. At the court we made inquiry of the crowd of witnesses—false witnesses for hire—who thronged the entrance. The judge, we heard, had not yet taken his seat. We should be sure to find his Honour in the coffee-shop across the road. One of the false witnesses conducted us to the said coffee-shop and pointed out our man. Together with his clerk and certain advocates, one of whom read aloud the morning news, the judge sat underneath a vine arbour in pleasant shade. He smiled. His hands were clasped upon a fair round belly.

Suleyman, his dust-cloak billowing, strolled forward coolly, and presented me as 'one of the chief people of the Franks.' The company arose and made us welcome, placing stools for our convenience.

'His Highness comes to thee for justice, O most righteous judge. He has been wronged,' observed Suleyman, dispassionately.

The judge looked much concerned. 'What is the case?' he asked.

'Our cook is snatched from us,' was the reply, 'and to-night we have invited friends to dinner.'

'Is he a good cook?' asked the judge, with feeling.

'If your Excellency will restore him to us, and then join us at the meal——'

'How can I be of service in this matter?'

I motioned to Suleyman to tell the story, which he did so well that all the company were soon in fits of laughter.

The judge looked through the cause list till he found the case, putting a mark against it on the paper.

'How can we dine to-night without a cook?' I sighed, despairingly.

'Fear nothing,' said the judge. 'He shall be with you in an hour. Come, O my friends, we must to business! It grows late.'

The judge took leave of me with much politeness.

'Now,' said Suleyman, when they were gone, 'let us go into the court and watch the course of justice.'

We crossed the narrow street to an imposing portal. Suleyman whispered to a soldier there on guard, who smiled and bade us enter, with a gracious gesture.

The hall inside was crowded. Only after much exertion could we see the dais. There sat the judge, and there stood our lamented cook, the picture of dejection. A soldier at his side displayed the wooden ladle. The Christian dandies whom he had assaulted were giving their account of the adventure volubly, until his Honour, with a heavy frown, bade them be silent. Then they cowered.

'Be careful what you say,' the judge enjoined. 'You have not hesitated to impute the anger of this cook to religious fanaticism. The Nazarenes are much too ready to bring such a charge against the Muslims, forgetful that there may be other causes of annoyance. Nay, many of the charges brought have proved upon investigation to be altogether groundless. You Nazarenes are often insolent in your demeanour. Confiding in the favour of the foreign consuls, foreign missionaries, you occasionally taunt and irritate, even revile, the Muslims. Now, even supposing your account of this affair to be correct—which I much doubt, for, on the one hand, I behold a wooden ladle of no weight; while, on the other, there are two fine walking-sticks with silver heads'—one of the Christian youths let fall his stick in trepidation—'and you are two, while this poor cook is one. Even supposing what you say is true, are you certain that nothing in your appearance, conversation, or behaviour gave him cause for anger? I incline to conjecture that you must have flouted him, or uttered, it may be, some insult to his creed.'

'He beat us for no reason, and most grievously,' moaned one of the assailed. Such language from a Muslim judge in a court filled with Muslims made the two Christians tremble in their shoes.

'We did not even see him till he started beating us. By Allah, my poor head is sore, my back is broken with that awful beating. He was like a madman!' The speaker and his fellow-plaintiff wept aloud.

'Didst thou beat these youths, as he describes?' inquired the judge, turning towards the cook with like severity.

'No, O Excellency!' came the bitter cry. 'I am an ill-used man, much slandered. I never set eyes upon those men until this minute.' He also began weeping bitterly.

'Both parties tell me lies!' exclaimed the judge, with anger. 'For thou, O cook, didst beat these youths. The fact is known, for thou wast taken in the act of beating them. And you, O Nazarenes, are not much injured, for everyone beholds you in most perfect health, with clothes unspoilt. The more shame to you, for it is evident that you bring the charge against this Muslim from religious hatred.'

'By Allah, no, O Excellency. We wish that man no harm. We did but state what happened.'

'You are a pack of rogues together,' roared the judge. 'Let each side pay one whole mejidi[1] to the court; let the parties now, this minute, here before me, swear peace and lifelong friendship for the future, and never let me hear of them again!'

The Christian youths embraced the cook, the cook embraced the Christian youths repeatedly, all weeping in a transport of delight at their escape from punishment. I paid the money for our man, who then went home with us; Suleyman, upon the way, delivering a lecture of such high morality, such heavenly language, that the poor, simple fellow wept anew, and called on Allah for forgiveness.

'Repentance is thy duty,' said Suleyman approvingly. 'But towards this world also thou canst make amends. Put forth thy utmost skill in cookery this evening, for the judge is coming.'


[1] About four shillings.



We had arrived in a village of the mountains late one afternoon, and were sauntering about the place, when some rude children shouted: 'Hi, O my uncle, you have come in two!'

It was the common joke at sight of European trousers, which were rare in those days. But Suleyman was much offended upon my account. He turned about and read those children a tremendous lecture, rebuking them severely for thus presuming to insult a stranger and a guest. His condemnation was supported on such lofty principles as no man who possessed a particle of religion or good feeling could withstand; and his eloquence was so commanding yet persuasive that, when at length he moved away, not children only but many also of the grown-up people followed him.

The village was high up beneath the summit of a ridge, and from a group of rocks within a stone's throw of it could be seen the sea, a great blue wall extending north and south. We perched among those rocks to watch the sunset. The village people settled within earshot, some below and some above us. Presently an old man said:

'Thou speakest well, O sage! It is a sin for them to cry such things behind a guest of quality. Their misbehaviour calls for strong correction. But I truly think that no child who has heard your Honour's sayings will ever be so impudent again.'

'Aman!'[3] cried one of the delinquents. 'Allah knows that our intention was not very evil.'

I hastened to declare that the offence was nothing. But Suleyman would not allow me to decry it.

'Your Honour is as yet too young,' he said severely, 'to understand the mystic value of men's acts and words. A word may be well meant and innocent, and yet the cause of much disaster, possessing in itself some special virtue of malignity. You all know how the jann[4] attend on careless words; how if I call a goat, a dog, or cat by its generic name without pointing to the very animal intended, a jinni will as like as not attach himself to me, since many of the jann are called by names of animals. You all know also that to praise the beauty of a child, without the offer of that child to Allah as a sacrifice, is fatal; because there is unseen a jealous listener who hates and would deform the progeny of Eve. Such facts as those are known to every ignoramus, and their cause is plain. But there exists another and more subtle danger in the careless use of words, particularly with regard to personal remarks, like that of these same children when they cried to our good master: 'Thou hast come in two,' directing the attention to a living body. I have a rare thing in my memory which perhaps may lead you to perceive my meaning darkly.

'A certain husbandman (fellah) was troubled with a foolish wife. Having to go out one day, he gave her full instructions what to do about the place, and particularly bade her fix her mind upon their cow, because he was afraid the cow might stray, as she had done before, and cause ill-feeling with the neighbours. He never thought that such a charge to such a person, tending to concentrate the woman's mind upon a certain object, was disastrous. The man meant well; the woman, too, meant well. She gave her whole mind to obey his parting words. Having completed every task within the house, she sat down under an olive tree which grew before the door, and fixed her whole intelligence in all its force upon the black-and-white cow, the only living thing in sight, which was browsing in the space allowed by a short tether. So great did the responsibility appear to her that she grew anxious, and by dint of earnest gazing at the cow came to believe that there was something wrong with it. In truth the poor beast had exhausted all the grass within its reach, and it had not entered her ideas to move the picket.

'At length a neighbour passed that way. She begged him, of his well-known kindness, to inspect the cow and tell her what the matter really was. This neighbour was a wag, and knew the woman's species; he also knew the cow as an annoyance, for ever dragging out its peg and straying into planted fields. After long and serious examination he declared: "The tail is hurting her and ought to be removed. See how she swishes it from side to side. If the tail is not cut off immediately, the cow will die one day."

'"Merciful Allah!" cried the woman. "Please remove it for me. I am all alone, and helpless."

'The man lifted up an axe which he was carrying and cut off the cow's tail near the rump. He gave it to the woman and she thanked him heartily. He went his way, while she resumed her watch upon the cow. And still she fancied that its health was not as usual.

'Another neighbour came along. She told him of her fears, and how the Sheykh Mukarram, of his well-known kindness, had befriended her by cutting off the damaged tail.

'"Of course," cried the newcomer, "that accounts for it! The animal is now ill-balanced. It is always a mistake to take from one end without removing something also from the other. If thou wouldst see that cow in health again, the horns must go."

'"Oh, help me; I am all alone! Perform the operation for me," said the woman.

'Her friend sawed off the horns and gave them to her. She exhausted thanks. But still, when he was gone, the cow appeared no better. She grew desperate.

'By then the news of her anxiety about the cow had spread through all the village, and every able body came to help her or look on. They cut the udder and the ears, and then the legs, and gave them to her, and she thanked them all with tears of gratitude. At last there was no cow at all to worry over. Seeing the diminished carcase lying motionless, the woman smiled and murmured: "Praise to Allah, she is cured at last; she is at rest! Now I am free to go into the house and get things ready for my lord's return."

'Her lord returned at dusk. She told him: "I have been obedient. I watched the cow and tended her for hours. She was extremely ill, but all the neighbours helped to doctor her, performing many operations, and we were able to relieve her of all pain, the praise to Allah! Here are the various parts which they removed. They gave them to me, very kindly, since the cow is ours."

'Without a word the man went out to view the remnant of the cow. When he returned he seized the woman by the shoulders, and, gazing straight into her eyes, said grimly: "Allah keep thee! I am going to walk this world until I find one filthier than thou art. And if I fail to find one filthier than thou art, I shall go on walking—I have sworn it—to the end."'

Suleyman broke off there suddenly, to the surprise of all.

'I fail to see how that rare thing applies to my case,' I observed, as soon as I felt sure that he had finished speaking.

'It does not apply to your case, but it does to others,' he replied on brief reflection. 'It is dangerous to put ideas in people's heads or rouse self-consciousness, for who can tell what demons lurk in people's brains.... But wait and I will find a rare thing suited to the present instance.'

'Say, O Sea of Wisdom, did he find one filthier than she was?'

'Of course he did.'

'Relate the sequel, I beseech thee.'

But Suleyman was searching in his memory for some event more clearly illustrating the grave risks of chance suggestion. At length he gave a sigh of satisfaction, and then spoke as follows:

'There was once a Turkish pasha of the greatest, a benevolent old man, whom I have often seen. He had a long white beard, of which he was extremely proud, until one day a man, who was a wag, came up to him and said:

'"Excellency, we have been wondering: When you go to bed, do you put your beard inside the coverings or out?"

'The Pasha thought a moment, but he could not tell, for it had never come into his head to notice such a matter. He promised to inform his questioner upon the morrow. But when he went to bed that night he tried the beard beneath the bedclothes and above without success. Neither way could he get comfort, nor could he, for the life of him, remember how the beard was wont to go. He got no sleep on that night or the next night either, for thinking on the problem thus presented to his mind. On the third day, in a rage, he called a barber and had the beard cut off. Accustomed as he was to such a mass of hair upon his neck, for lack of it he caught a cold and died.

'That story fits the case before us to a nicety,' said Suleyman in conclusion, with an air of triumph.

'What is the moral of it, deign to tell us, master!' the cry arose from all sides in the growing twilight.

'I suppose,' I hazarded, 'that, having had attention called to the peculiar clothing of my legs, I shall eventually have them amputated or wear Turkish trousers?'

'I say not what will happen; God alone knows that. But the mere chance that such catastrophes, as I have shown, may happen is enough to make wise people shun that kind of speech.'

I cannot to this day distinguish how much of his long harangue was jest and how much earnest. But the fellahin devoured it as pure wisdom.


[2] Rare things.

[3] Equivalent to 'Pax.'

[4] Genii.


NAWADIR (continued)

'What happened to the man who went to seek one filthier than she was? How could he ever find one filthier?' inquired Rashid, reverting to Suleyman's unfinished story of the foolish woman and her husband and the hapless cow, when we lay down to sleep that evening in the village guest-room. I also asked to hear the rest of that instructive tale. Suleyman, sufficiently besought, raised himself upon an elbow and resumed the narrative. Rashid and I lay quiet in our wrappings.

'We had reached that point, my masters, where the injured husband, having seen the remnant of the cow, said to his wife: "Now, I am going to walk this world until I find one filthier than thou art; and if I fail to find one filthier than thou art I shall go on walking till I die." Well, he walked and he walked—for months, some people say, and others years—until he reached a village in Mount Lebanon—a village of the Maronites renowned for foolishness. It was the reputation of their imbecility which made him go there.'

'What was his name?' inquired Rashid, who liked to have things clear.

'His name?' said Suleyman reflectively, 'was Salih.'

'He was a Muslim?'

'Aye, a Muslim, I suppose—though, Allah knows, he may perhaps have been an Ismaili or a Druze. Any more questions? Then I will proceed.

'He came into this village of the Maronites, and, being thirsty, looked in at a doorway. He saw the village priest and all his family engaged in stuffing a fat sheep with mulberry leaves. The sheep was tethered half-way up the steps which led on to the housetop. The priest and his wife, together with their eldest girl, sat on the ground below, amid a heap of mulberry boughs; and all the other children sat, one on every step, passing up the leaves, when ready, to the second daughter, whose business was to force the sheep to go on eating. This they would do until the sheep, too full to stand, fell over on its side, when they would slaughter it for their supply of fat throughout the coming year.

'So busy were they in this occupation that they did not see the stranger in the doorway until he shouted: "Peace upon this house," and asked them for a drink of water kindly. Even then the priest did not disturb himself, but, saying "Itfaddal!" pointed to a pitcher standing by the wall. The guest looked into it and found it dry.

'"No water here," he said.

'"Oh," sighed the priest, "to-day we are so thirsty with this work that we have emptied it, and so busy that the children have forgotten to refill it. Rise, O Nesibeh, take the pitcher on thy head, and hasten to the spring and bring back water for our guest."

'The girl Nesibeh, who was fourteen years of age, rose up obediently, shaking off the mulberry leaves and caterpillars from her clothing. Taking up the pitcher, she went out through the village to the spring, which gushed out of the rock beneath a spreading pear tree.

'There were so many people getting water at the moment that she could not push her way among them, so sat down to wait her turn, choosing a shady spot. She was a thoughtful girl, and, as she sat there waiting, she was saying in her soul:

'"O soul, I am a big girl now. A year or two and mother will unite me to a proper husband. The next year I shall have a little son. Again a year or two, he will be big enough to run about; and his father will make for him a pair of small red shoes, and he will come down to this pleasant spring, as children do, to splash the water. Being a bold lad, he will climb that tree."

'And then, as she beheld one great bough overhanging like a stretched-out arm, and realised how dangerous it was for climbing children, she thought:

'"He will fall down and break his neck."

'At once she burst out weeping inconsolably, making so great a din that all the people who had come for water flocked around her, asking: "O Nesibeh, what has hurt thee?" And between her sobs, she told them:

'"I'm a big girl, now."

'"That is so, O beloved!"

'"A year or two, and mother will provide me with a husband."

'"It is likely."

'"Another year, and I shall have a little son."

'"If God wills!" sighed the multitude, with pious fervour.

'"Again a year or two, he will be big enough to run about, and his father will make for him a pair of small red shoes. And he will come down to the spring with other children, and will climb the tree. And—oh!—you see that big bough overhanging. There he will slip and fall and break his neck! Ah, woe!"

'At that the people cried: "O cruel fate!" and many of them rent their clothes. They all sank down upon the ground around Nesibeh, rocking themselves to and fro and wailing:

'"Ah, my little neighbour. My poor, dear little neighbour! Ah, would that thou had lived to bury me, my little neighbour!"[5]

'Meanwhile the stranger waiting for the water grew impatient, and he once more ventured to interrupt the work of sheep-stuffing with a remark that the young girl was long returning with her pitcher. The priest said: "That is true," and sent his second daughter to expedite the first. This girl went running to the spring, and found the population of the village sitting weeping on the ground around her sister. She asked the matter. They replied: "A great calamity! Thy sister—poor distracted mother!—will inform thee of its nature." She ran up to Nesibeh, who moaned out: "I am a big girl now. A year or two, our mother will provide me with a husband. The next year I shall have a little son. Again a year or two he will be old enough to run about. His father will make for him a pair of small red shoes. He comes down to the spring to play in childish wise. He climbs that tree, and from that overhanging branch he falls and breaks his neck."

'At this sad news the second girl forgot her errand. She threw her skirt over her head and started shrieking: "Alas, my little nephew! My poor, dear little nephew! Would God that thou had lived to bury me, my little nephew!" And she too sat down upon the ground to hug her sorrow with the rest.

'The priest said: "That one too is long in coming; I will send another child; but thou must take her place upon the steps, O stranger, or else the work of stuffing will be much delayed."

'The stranger did as he was asked, while child after child was sent, till he alone was left to do the work of carrying the fresh leaves up from the ground and stuffing them into the sheep. Still none returned.

'The priest's wife went herself, remarking that her husband and the stranger were able by themselves to carry on the work. They did so a long while, yet no one came.

'At last the priest rose, saying: "I myself will go and beat them for this long delay. Do thou, O stranger, feed the sheep meanwhile. Cease not to carry up the leaves and stuff him with them, lest all the good work done be lost through negligence."

'In anger the priest strode out through the village to the spring. But all his wrath was changed into amazement when he saw the crowd of people sitting on the ground, convulsed with grief, around the members of his family.

'He went up to his wife and asked the matter.

'She moaned: "I cannot speak of it. Ask poor Nesibeh!"

'He then turned to his eldest daughter, who, half-choked by sobs, explained:

'"I am a big girl now."

'"That is so, O my daughter."

'"A year or two, and you and mother will provide me with a husband."

'"That is possible."

'"Another year, and I shall have a little son!"

'"In sh' Allah!" said her father piously.

'"Again a year or two, and my son runs about. His father makes for him a pair of small red shoes. He came down to the spring to play with other children, and from that overhanging bough—how shall I tell it?—he fell and broke his darling little neck!" Nesibeh hid her face again and wailed aloud.

'The priest, cut to the heart by the appalling news, tore his cassock up from foot to waist, and threw the ends over his face, vociferating:

'"Woe, my little grandson! My darling little grandson! Oh, would that thou had lived to bury me, my little grandson!" And he too sank upon the ground, immersed in grief.

'At last the stranger wearied of the work of stripping off the mulberry leaves and carrying them up the staircase to the tethered sheep. He found his thirst increased by such exertions.'

'Did he in truth do that, with no one looking?' said Rashid. 'He must have been as big a fool as all the others.'

'He was, but in a different way,' said Suleyman.

'He walked down to the spring, and saw the congregation seated underneath the pear tree, shrieking like sinners at the Judgment Day. Among them sat the priest, with features hidden in his torn black petticoat. He ventured to approach the man and put a question. The priest unveiled his face a moment and was going to speak, but recollection of his sorrow overcame him. Hiding his face again, he wailed:

'"Alas, my little grandson! My pretty little grandson! Ah, would that thou hadst lived to bury me, my little grandson!"

'A woman sitting near plucked at the stranger's sleeve and said:

'"You see that girl. She will be soon full-grown. A year or two, and she will certainly be married. Another year, and she will have a little son. Her little son grows big enough to run about. His father made for him a pair of small red shoes. He came down to the spring to play with other children. You see that pear tree? On a day like this—a pleasant afternoon—he clambered up it, and from that bough, which overhangs the fountain, he fell and broke his little neck upon those stones. Alas, our little neighbour! Oh, would that thou had lived to bury us, our little neighbour!" And everyone began to rock and wail anew.

'The stranger stood and looked upon them for a moment, then he shouted: "Tfu 'aleykum!"[6] and spat upon the ground. No other word did he vouchsafe to them, but walked away; and he continued walking till he reached his native home. There, sitting in his ancient seat, he told his wife:

'"Take comfort, O beloved! I have found one filthier."'

Suleyman declared the story finished.

'Is there a moral to it?' asked Rashid.

'The moral is self-evident,' replied the story-teller. 'It is this: however bad the woman whom one happens to possess may be, be certain it is always possible to find a worse.'

'It is also possible to find a better,' I suggested.

'Be not so sure of that!' said Suleyman. 'There are three several kinds of women in the world, who all make claim to be descended from our father Noah. But the truth is this: Our father Noah had one daughter only, and three men desired her; so not to disappoint the other two, he turned his donkey and his dog into two girls, whom he presented to them, and that accounts for the three kinds of women now to be observed. The true descendants of our father Noah are very rare.'

'How may one know them from the others?' I inquired.

'By one thing only. They will keep your secret. The second sort of woman will reveal your secret to a friend; the third will make of it a tale against you. And this they do instinctively, as dogs will bark or asses bray, without malevolence or any kind of forethought.

'That same priest of the Maronites of whom I told just now, in the first days of his married life was plagued by his companion to reveal to her the secrets people told him in confession. He refused, declaring that she would divulge them.

'"Nay, I can keep a secret if I swear to do so. Only try me!" she replied.

'"Well, we shall see," the priest made answer, in a teasing manner.

'One day, as he reclined upon the sofa in their house, that priest began to moan and writhe as if in agony. His wife, in great alarm, inquired what ailed him.

'"It is a secret," he replied, "which I dare not confide to thee, for with it is bound up my earthly welfare and my soul's salvation."

'"I swear by Allah I will hide it. Tell me!" she implored.

'"Well," he replied, as if in torment, "I will risk my life and trust thee. Know thou art in the presence of the greatest miracle. I, though not a woman, am far gone with child—a thing which never happened on the earth till now—and in this hour it is decreed that I produce my first-born."

'Then, with a terrific cry, he thrust his hand beneath his petticoat, and showed his wife a little bird which he had kept there hidden. He let it fly away out through the window. Having watched it disappear, he said devoutly:

'"Praise be to Allah! That is over! Thou hast seen my child. This is a sacred and an awful mystery. Preserve the secret, or we all are dead!"

'"I swear I will preserve it," she replied, with fervour.

'But the miracle which she had witnessed burned her spirit. She knew that she must speak of it or die; and so she called upon a friend whose prudence she could trust, and binding her by vows, told her the story.

'This woman also had a trusted friend, to whom she told the story, under vows of secrecy, and so on, with the consequence that that same evening the priest received a deputation of the village elders, who requested, in the name of the community, to be allowed to kiss the feet of his mysterious son—that little, rainbow-coloured bird, which had a horn upon its head and played the flute.

'The priest said nothing to his wife. He did not beat her. He gave her but one look. And yet from that day forward, she never plagued him any more, but was submissive.'

'The priest was wise on that occasion, yet so foolish in the other story!' I objected.

'The way of the majority of men!' said Suleyman. 'But women are more uniformly wise or foolish. A happy night!' said Suleyman conclusively, settling himself to sleep.

The usual night-light of the Syrian peasants—a wick afloat upon a saucerful of oil and water—burned upon the ground between us, making great shadows dance upon the walls and vaulting. The last I heard before I fell asleep was Rashid's voice, exclaiming:

'He is a famous liar, is our wise man yonder; yet he speaks the truth!'


[5] 'Ya takbar jarak, ya jari!'—a very common cry of grief in Syria.

[6] Something like 'Pooh-pooh to you!' but more insulting.



The sand which had been a rich ochre turned to creamy white, the sea from blue became a livid green, the grass upon the sand-hills blackened and bowed down beneath a sudden gust of wind. The change was instantaneous, as it seemed to me. I had observed that clouds were gathering upon the mountain peaks inland, but I had been riding in hot sunlight, only a little less intense than it had been at noon, when suddenly the chill and shadow struck me. Then I saw the sky completely overcast with a huge purple cloud which bellied down upon the land and sea. The waves which had been lisping all day long gave forth an ominous dull roar. White horses reared and plunged. A wind sang through the grass and thistles of the dunes, driving the sand into my face.

Rashid, who had been riding far behind, in conversation with our muleteer, came tearing up, and I could hear the shouts of the mukari urging his two beasts to hurry.

'There is a village on the headland over there—a village of Circassian settlers,' cried my servant, breathless. 'It has a bad name, and I had not thought to spend the night there. But any roof is good in such a storm. Ride fast! We may arrive before the downpour.'

My horse had broken to a canter of his own accord. I urged him to a gallop. We flew round the bay. The village on the headland took shape rapidly—a few cube-shaped, whitewashed houses perched amid what seemed at first to be great rocks, but on a close approach revealed themselves as blocks of masonry, the ruins of some city of antiquity. From time to time a jet of spray shot up above them, white as lilies in the gloom. The sea was rising. I discerned an ancient gateway opening on the beach, and set my horse towards it, while the rain came down in sheets. I saw no more until the ruins loomed up close before me, a blind wall.

'Your right hand!' called Rashid; and, bearing to the right, I found the gateway. We waited underneath its vault until the muleteer, a dripping object, shrouded in a sack, came up with his two mules; and then we once more plunged into the deluge. The path, a very rough one, wavered up and down and in and out among the ruins. There were, perhaps, a dozen scattered houses without gardens or any sign of cultivation round them. Only one of them possessed an upper storey, and towards that, supposing it to be the guest-room, we now picked our way. It stood alone right out upon the promontory, topped by clouds of spray.

A little courtyard gave us partial shelter while Rashid ran up some rough stone steps and hammered at a door, exclaiming:

'Peace be on this house! My master craves for food and shelter, and we, his servants, ask the same boon of thy goodness. O master of the house, God will reward thy hospitality!'

The door was opened and a man appeared, bidding us all come in, in Allah's name. He was of middle height and thick-set, with a heavy grey moustache. An old-fashioned, low-crowned fez, with large blue tassel, was bound about his brow with an embroidered turban. A blue zouave jacket, crimson vest and baggy trousers of a darker blue completed his apparel, for his feet were bare. In his girdle were a pair of pistols and a scimitar.

He bade us welcome in bad Arabic, showing us into a good-sized room—the upper chamber we had seen from far. Its windows, innocent of glass, were closed by wooden shutters, roughly bolted, which creaked and rattled in the gale. A very fine-looking old man rose from the divan to greet us.

'What countryman art thou? A Turk, or one of us?' he asked, as I removed my head-shawl. 'An Englishman, sayest thou?' He seized my hand, and pressed it. 'An Englishman—any Englishman—is good, and his word is sure. But the English Government is very bad. Three Englishmen in Kars behaved like warrior-angels, fought like devils. And while they fought for us their Government betrayed our country. What? Thou hast heard about it? Praise to Allah! At last I meet with one who can confirm the story. My son here thinks that I invented it.'

I happened to have read of the defence of Kars under the leadership of three heroic Englishmen—General Williams, Captain Teesdale, and Doctor Sandwith—and of the betrayal of the Circassian rising under Shamyl at the time of the Crimean war.

The old man was delighted. 'Listen, O my son!' he called out to the person who had let us in. 'It is true what I have often told to thee. This Englishman knows all about it. So does all the world, except such blockheads as thyself and thy companions.'

His son begged to be excused a minute while he put his crops into the barn. Therewith he dragged a sack out of the room. What crops he may have grown I do not know; but this I know—the contents of that sack clanked as he dragged it out.

When he returned, he brought a bowl of eggs cooked in clarified butter, two slabs of bread, and a great jug of water, apologising for the coarseness of the fare. We all supped together, the old man babbling of the days of old with great excitement. His son stared at me with unblinking eyes. At last he said:

'I like thee, O khawajah. I had once a son about thy age. Say, O my father, is there not a strong resemblance?'

Thereafter he talked quite as much as the old man, giving me the history of their emigration from the Caucasus to escape the yoke of the accursed Muscovite, and enumerating all the troubles which attended their first coming into Syria.

'We are not subjects of the Government,' he told me, 'but allies; and we have special privileges. But the dishonoured dogs round here forget old compacts, and want us to pay taxes like mere fellahin.'

We sat up talking far into the night, while the storm raged without, and the rain and the sea-spray pounded on the shutters; and never have I met with kinder treatment. It was the custom for chance comers to have food at evening only and leave betimes next morning. But our host, when I awoke in splendid sunlight, had breakfast ready—sour milk and Arab bread and fragrant coffee—and when I went out to my horse he followed me, and thrust two roasted fowls into my saddle-bags, exclaiming 'Zad!'—which means 'food for the road.' And much to my abashment he and the old man fell upon my neck and kissed me on both cheeks.

'Good people! The very best of people! They would take no money. God reward them,' chanted Rashid, as we rode out of the ruins inland through a garden of wild flowers. The storm had passed completely. Not a cloud remained.

After an hour we came in sight of a large khan outside a mud-built village on the shore. Before it was a crowd, including several soldiers. As we drew near, Rashid inquired the meaning of the throng.

'A great calamity,' he was informed. 'A man, a foreigner, is dying, killed by highwaymen. One of his companions, a poor servant, is already dead.'

We both dismounted, and Rashid pushed in to learn more of the matter. Presently a soldier came to me.

'Your Honour is an Englishman?' he questioned. 'Praise be to Allah! I am much relieved. This other also is an Englishman, they tell me. He is severely wounded, at the gate of death.'

I went with him at once to see the sufferer, who seemed relieved to hear me speak, but could not answer. Rashid and I did what we could to make him comfortable, giving the soldiers orders to keep out the crowd. We decided to ride on and send a doctor, and then report the matter to a British consul.

'He was going down to start some kind of business in the city over there,' the leader of the soldiers told me, nodding towards the south. 'He had a largeish company, with several camels. But near the village of —— he was attacked by the Circassians, and was so foolish as to make resistance. They took everything he had of worth—his arms, his money—and killed a camel-driver, besides wounding him. It happened yesterday before the storm. They say I should take vengeance for him. What am I—a corporal with six men—to strive with Huseyn Agha and his cavalry! It needs a regiment.'

He went grumbling off. Rashid and I were staring hard at one another; for the village named was that where we had spent the night, and Huseyn Agha's roasted fowls were in our saddle-bags.

Rashid, as I could see, was troubled upon my account. He kept silence a good while. At last he said:

'It is like this, my lord. Each man must see with his own eyes and not another's. People are as one finds them, good or bad. They change with each man's vision, yet remain the same. For us those highway robbers are good people; we must bless them; having cause to do so. This other man is free to curse them, if he will. Good to their friends, bad to their enemies. What creature of the sons of Adam can condemn them quite?'



Having to dress for dinner on a certain evening, I took off my money-belt, and quite forgot to put it on again. It happened to contain twelve English pounds. I left it lying on the table in the hotel bedroom. When I came back in the small hours of the morning it was gone. Rashid—who slept out at a khan in charge of our two horses—came in at eight o'clock to rouse me. Hearing of my loss, he gave me the worst scolding I have ever had, and then went out to blow up the hotel proprietor.

It was, for once, a real hotel with table d'hote, hall-porter, and a palm-lounge—everything, in fact, excepting drains. The owner was a fat, brown individual, whom I had generally seen recumbent on a sofa in his office, while someone of his many sons did all the work. But that he could show energy upon occasion I now learnt. Hearing from Rashid that I, a guest in his hotel, had suffered robbery, he sprang on to his feet and danced with rage.

When I arrived upon the scene, which was the palm-lounge—an open courtyard shaded by an awning—he was flourishing a monstrous whip, with dreadful imprecations, literally foaming at the mouth. I begged him to do nothing rash, but he seemed not to hear me. With the squeal of a fighting stallion, he rushed off to the servants' quarters, whence presently there came heartrending shrieks and cries for mercy. His sons, in fear of murder, followed him, and added their remonstrance to the general din. The women of his house appeared in doorways, weeping and wringing their hands.

Rashid seemed gratified by this confusion, regarded as a tribute to our greatness, his and mine.

'Be good enough to go away,' he told me. 'The scene is quite unworthy of your dignity. I will take care that all is done to raise your honour.'

I remained, however. Presently, the host returned, perspiring freely, mopping his brown face with a crimson handkerchief. He smiled as one who has had healthy exercise.

'It is no use,' he told me, with a shrug. 'I beat them well, and every one of them confessed that he alone, and not another, was the thief. Each, as his turn came, wished to stay my hand at any cost.'

He sank down on a sofa which was in the court. 'What further is your Honour's will?' he asked. 'I will beat anyone. The story is so bad for the hotel. I should be ruined if it reached the ears of Cook or Baedeker.'

The cries of those unhappy servants having shamed me, I told him that I was content to count the money lost rather than that harmless folk should suffer for my carelessness. Rashid protested, saying twelve pounds was no trifle, although I might, in youthful folly, so regard it. He, as my servant, had to guard my wealth.

'The gold is lost. It is the will of Allah. Let it be,' I answered irritably.

'Thou wilt not tell the English consul?' cried the host, with sudden eagerness. 'Thou wilt refrain from saying any word to Cook or Baedeker to bring ill-fame and ruin on the place? Our Lord augment thy wealth and guard thee always! May thy progeny increase in honour till it rules the world!'

'But something must be done,' Rashid remonstrated. 'A crime has been committed. We must find the culprit.'

'True,' said the host, 'and I will help with all my strength. The consul would not help at all. He would but frighten the police, with the result that they would torture—perhaps hang—a man or two, but not the man who stole your belt of money. Our police, when not alarmed, are clever. Go to them and give a little money. They will find the thief.'

'I go this minute,' said Rashid.

I bade him wait. Knowing his way of magnifying me and my possessions, I thought it better to be present at the interview, lest he should frighten the police no less than would the intervention of a consul.

We went together through the shady markets, crossing here and there an open space of blinding sunlight, asking our way at intervals, until at last we entered a large whitewashed room where soldiers loitered and a frock-coated, be-fezzed official sat writing at a desk. This personage was very sympathetic.

'Twelve pounds!' he cried. 'It is a serious sum. The first thing to be done is to survey the scene of crime. Wait, I will send with you a knowing man.'

He called one of the soldiers, who stepped forward and saluted, and gave him charge of the affair.

'You can place confidence in him. He knows his business,' he assured me, bowing with extreme politeness, as we took our leave.

With the soldier who had been assigned to us we sauntered back to the hotel. The man abounded in compassion for me. He said it was the worst case he had ever heard of—to rob a man so manifestly good and amiable of so great a sum. Alas! the badness of some people. It put out the sun!

At the hotel he spent a long while in my room, searching, as he said, for 'traces.' Rashid, the host and all his family, and nearly all the servants, thronged the doorway. After looking into every drawer, and crawling underneath the bed, which he unmade completely, he spent some minutes in debating whether the thief had entered by the window or the door. Having at last decided for the door, he turned to me and asked if there was anybody I suspected. When I answered 'no,' I saw him throw a side-glance at Rashid, as if he thought him fortunate in having so obtuse a master. As he was departing, Rashid, at my command, gave him a silver coin, for which he kissed my hand and, having done so, said:

'I know a clever man, none like him for such business. I will send him to your presence in an hour.'

Three hours passed. I had finished luncheon, and was sipping coffee in the lounge, when a sleek personage in gorgeous robes was brought to me. He had a trick of looking down his nose at his moustache, the while he stroked it, with a gentle smirk.

'Your Excellency has been robbed,' he murmured in a secret tone, 'and you would know the robber? There is nothing simpler. I have discovered many thieves. I think it likely that I know the very man. I will disguise myself as an old woman or a begging dervish. There are many ways. But, first, your Honour must bestow on me an English pound. That is my fee. It is but little for such services.'

I answered languidly that the affair had ceased to thrill me; I wished to hear no more about the money or the thief. He stayed a long while, wheedling and remonstrating, depicting his own subtlety in glowing terms; but in the end departed with despairing shrugs and backward glances, hoping that I might relent.

Rashid, who had been out to tend the horses, came presently and asked if I had seen the great detective. When I described our interview, he nearly wept.

'The people here think me the thief,' he told me. 'They say nothing, but I feel it in their bearing towards me. And now you give up seeking for the culprit! Am I to bear this shame for evermore?'

Here was a new dilemma! No way out of it appeared to me, for even if we did employ the great detective, our chance of finding the delinquent seemed exceeding small. I was thinking what could possibly be done to clear Rashid, when a familiar figure came into the court and strolled towards us. It was Suleyman! I had imagined him three hundred miles away, at Gaza, in the south of Palestine. Loud were our exclamations, but his calm rebuked us. I never knew him show excitement or surprise.

He heard our story with deliberation, and shook his head at the police and the detective.

'No use at all,' he scoffed. 'The one man for your purpose is the Chief of the Thieves. I know him intimately.'

'Ma sh'Allah! Is there then a guild of thieves?'

'There is.'

'The Sheykh of the Thieves must be the greatest rogue. I do not care to have to do with him.'

'You err,' remarked Suleyman, with dignity. 'Your error has its root in the conviction that a thief is evil. He may be evil as an individual; all men are apt to be who strive for gain; but as a member of a corporation he has pride and honour. With Europeans, it is just the opposite. They individually are more honourable than their governments and corporations. The Sheykh of the Thieves, I can assure you, is the soul of honour. I go at once to see him. He can clear Rashid.'

'If he does that, he is the best of men!' exclaimed my servant.

An hour later one of the hotel men, much excited, came to tell me that some soldiers were approaching, who had caught the thief. The host and all his family ran out into the hall. Rashid and all the servants came from kitchen purlieus. Four soldiers entered with triumphant exclamations, dragging and pushing forward—Suleyman!

The prisoner's demeanour had its usual calm.

'I have regained the belt,' he called to me. 'These men were watching near the house, and found it on me. They would not hear reason. The man who stole the belt—a Greek—has left the city. He gave the Sheykh the belt, but kept the money.'

The soldiers, disappointed, let him go.

'How dost thou know all that?' inquired their leader.

'The Headman of the Thieves informed me of it.'

'Ah, then, it is the truth,' the soldier nodded. 'He is a man of honour. He would not deceive thee.'

I do not claim to understand these things. I but relate them.



One summer, in the south of Syria, amid that tumbled wilderness of cliff and chasm, shale and boulder, which surges all around the Sea of Lot, we had been riding since the dawn without encountering a human being, and with relief at last espied a village, having some trace of cultivated land about it, and a tree.

Rashid was on ahead. Suleyman had been beside me, but had dropped behind in order to perform some operation on his horse's hoof. As I came down the last incline on to the village level I heard angry shouts, and saw a crowd of fellahin on foot mobbing Rashid. Urging my horse, I shouted to him to know what was happening. At once a number of the villagers forsook him and surrounded me, waving their arms about and talking volubly.

I had gathered, from their iteration of the one word 'moyeh,' that water was the matter in dispute, even before Rashid succeeded in rejoining me.

He said: 'I rode up to the spring which flows beneath that arch, and was letting my horse drink from the stone trough of water, when these maniacs rushed up and dragged my horse away, and made this noise. They say the water in the spring is theirs, and no one else has any right to touch it. I offered to make payment, but they would not hear me. I threatened them with vengeance, but they showed no fear. Is it your Honour's will that I should beat a few of them?'

Seeing their numbers, I considered it the wiser plan for us to let them be till their excitement had cooled down, and till Suleyman arrived to help us with advice. Accordingly, I smiled and nodded to the villagers, and rode back up the path a little way, Rashid obeying my example with reluctance, muttering curses on their faith and ancestry. Then we dismounted and lay down in the shadow of some rocks. It wanted still two hours before the sun would set.

Suleyman came on us, and dismounted at a call from me.

'What is the noise down there?' he questioned, looking at the village with that coolness, like indifference, habitual to his face when meeting problems of importance.

'They will not let us touch the water—curse their fathers!' growled Rashid. 'Heard anyone the like of such inhospitality? It would but serve them right if we destroyed their houses.'

Suleyman screwed up his eyes, the better to survey the crowd of villagers below, who now sat guard around the spring, and murmured carelessly:

'It is evident that thou hast angered them, O son of rashness. We shall do well to wait before approaching them again with our polite request.'

Therewith he stretched his length upon the ground, with a luxurious sigh, and would, I think, have gone to sleep, had not Rashid, conceiving himself blamed, thought necessary to relate in full the whole adventure.

'What else could man have done?' he asked defiantly. 'Say in what respect, however trifling, did I act unwisely?'

'By Allah, thou didst nothing wrong, and yet thou mightest have done better, since thy efforts led to failure,' said the sage, benignly. 'Thou art a soldier yet in thought, and thy one method is to threaten. If that avails not, thou art helpless. There are other ways.'

'I offered money,' cried Rashid indignantly. 'Could man do more?'

'What are those other ways? Instruct us, O beloved!' I put in, to save Rashid from feeling lonely under blame for ignorance.

'No truly great one ever argues with a crowd. He chooses out one man, and speaks to him, him only,' said Suleyman; and he was going to tell us more, but just then something in the wadi down below the village caught his eye, and he sat up, forgetting our dilemma.

'A marvel!' he exclaimed after a moment spent in gazing. 'Never, I suppose, since first this village was created, have two Franks approached it in a single day before. Thou art as one of us in outward seeming,' he remarked to me; 'but yonder comes a perfect Frank with two attendants.'

We looked in the direction which his finger pointed, and beheld a man on horseback clad in white from head to foot, with a pith helmet and a puggaree, followed by two native servants leading sumpter-mules.

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