Billeder på siden



and I hasten to give you the particulars of that excursion, not less interesting than toilsome and perilous.

I was on the point of starting, when the Russian Consul at Jaffa recommended to me two young Frenchmen, who had been travelling for the last two years in Greece and Asia. These gentlemen called to see me; I found them very amiable; we soon got acquainted, and the very same day we agreed to make the trip together.

It was necessary to obtain the permission of the Egyptian governor, who now commands in Jerusalem, and who, by his firmness, has made himself feared by the Arabs. He granted it the more willingly, because Ibrahim, not wholly without uneasiness respecting the ultimate issue of the war, is endeavouring to conciliate more especially the good-will of the Europeans : and his compliance was moreover marked by all the politeness, all the grace, of which a man of his country is susceptible. That our excursion might he performed with the greater safety, he sent for the sheik of the tribe of Bedouins nearest to that part of the Dead Sea which we intended to visit; and, for fear this chief should suspect some ambush, he gave to the messenger a letter explanatory of the motives for which he summoned him to Jerusalem.

At any time, the journey to the Dead Sea is attended with danger, but this danger has been greatly increased since the invasion of the pacha of Egypt. The governor has not troops enough to repress the Arabs, and their depredations are becoming more frequent from day to day.



The sheik arrived on the day after the next, and swore by his head to bring us back safe and sound, on condition of our taking an escort of twenty Bedouins, which he would provide for us. Our departure was fixed for the 24th. Our caravan was to be composed of about thirty persons, namely, the sheik, twenty Bedouins, my two young friends, Messrs. C. and B., an American who joined us, a dragoman, a Greek servant, the janissary of the monastery, a Turkish soldier belonging to the governor, and your humble servant.

Accordingly, on the 22nd, at eight in the morning, we set out from Jerusalem, headed by the Turkish soldier, who carried a lance. We were all well mounted, armed cap-a-pee, and determined, in case of our meeting with an enemy, not to submit to be robbed. I had put off my monastic dress, which would have incommoded me too much for defence. Be not surprised, my dear friend, to see a Trappist armed: on this point I had sought to set my conscience at ease. I was assured that it was allowable for me to bear arms, since it was not to go to war that I provided myself with them; but to save my own life, and the life of my companions, in case of attack. I was sensible, on my return, that this reason was not wholly free from objection. At first, I had not looked at the matter so closely.

We halted for a moment before the residence of the governor, to receive the papers requisite for us, and left the city by the gate of St. Stephen, where some armed Bedouins of our escort were waiting for us. When our baggage-horse, laden with provisions, came up, the Bedouins, hard pressed by famine, especially at this

[blocks in formation]

disastrous time, begged earnestly for bread. I was for giving them some; but it was justly observed that, if we yielded so readily to their solicitations, there would be no order whatever in our meals; that, on the first cravings of hunger, our Bedouins would renew their entreaties; that we had more than thirty mouths to feed; and that, if we would not run the risk of soon seeing our resources exhausted, we ought to defer this distribution till the hour for dinner. These considerations prevailed. We descended the hill where St. Stephen was stoned, crossed the brook Cedron, and passed the garden of Gethsemane; and, after leaving the Mount of Olives on our left, and traversed the valley of Jehoshaphat, we took the road to Bethany, where we arrived in three quarters of an hour. Half a league farther, we found our sheik waiting for us, with the rest of his troop. Mounted on a mare of extraordinary beauty, and armed with a lance, he placed himself at our head. All the Bedouins that we met approached him, and gave him their hand; those of our escort did the same. It seemed to us that this was a mutual sign of recognition, by which each knew whether the other belonged to a friendly or a hostile tribe.

The Bedouins are of middling stature, well made, spare, and indefatigable. Some of them have very fine faces; all have a characteristic expression in their features; and they are, in general, dark as Ethiopians. They go barefoot. Most of them wear a long coat, fastened round the waist by a belt. Some of them are wrapped in a sort of white blanket, with coloured stripes, which they arrange according to circumstances: they





throw it over the arm in hot weather, over the shoulders when they are cold, and over the head when it rains. On horseback, they are armed with a dagger and a musket, or a lance.

Some of those who formed our escort marched by our side. Most of them kept along the hills and the rocks, that they might be able the more easily to discover any hidden foe, and give notice of the approach of Arabs, who might be coming to surprise us: these were our scouts.

As for our sheik, in order to display his forecast, his cleverness, and, more especially, the spirit of his mare, he would sometimes dash away from us at full gallop, in spite of the inequalities of a stony and difficult road, and soon be out of our sight; but presently we perceived him on the top of a mountain, which we should have thought it impossible for him to reach. Then, stopping for a moment to look about him, he would clear, with the rapidity of lightning, the space by which we were separated, and come back and rejoin us.

None of the Arabian horses that I have seen in Europe can be compared to the Arab steed, such as he is in the country where he is bred : there it is that he appears in all his beauty, all his vigour. The mare of the Arab is his wealth; she feeds him in emergency, and saves his head, when the hand of the oppressor would strike it off. How beautiful, how true, is the picture which Job has drawn of the horse !

“Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible.



He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength : he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear and is not affrighted ; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting.”

In Arabia there are but two breeds of horses: the kadichi, which are the common sort; and the cochlani, a noble breed, generally supposed to have come originally from the stables of Solomon. The utmost care is taken to keep this breed pure. The cochlani will pass whole days without food; he will endure unheard-of fatigues, and fears no danger : he is absolutely the horse of Job.

The Arabs make it a point of great importance to preserve the pedigree of their horses. To this end they keep regular registers : the excellent and pure blood of a horse reflects honour

his owner.

M. Rousseau has given a copy of one of these pedigrees, which is so curious that I cannot refrain from quoting at least a

part of it.

“ In the name of God, clement and merciful, from whom we expect all help and assistance, the Prophet has said: My people shall never join to strengthen error. The object of this paper is as follows :

“We, the undersigned, declare before the supreme God, certify, and attest, swearing by our fate, our fortune, and our writings, that the bay mare, marked (with such or such marks), is descended from noble progenitors,

« ForrigeFortsæt »