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sence, we no longer delayed to present them to the Aga of the town, from whom we learnt that both Mahommed Bey and all his officers were at Cairo. The Aga being an Arab by birth, was somewhat more free from the haughty tone of office than the Turks who generally fill those situations; though it must be acknowledged, that to a pride of petty superiority above his fellows, was added, if possible, a grosser ignorance. We remained some time in waiting, before the letters could be read, when a dealer in the bazaars explained their contents, and our reception was as favorable as we could wish.
A small room of about eight feet square was given us for our accommodation, and though there was nothing beyond the bare mud walls and floor, not even a window, or a mat, yet its being covered with a loose flat roof was a luxury, after the burning days and chilling nights of the desert, and rendered it a comfortable lodging. The door of this apartment opening into the court of public justice, when we had got through the task of supplying the necessary provisions to our camels, and stretched ourselves along upon the floor to repose, I indulged myself in observing the divan, or place of audience, on the outside, and watching the bustling changes of its crowded assembly.
The Aga, seated like a king amid his courtiers, was distinguished from the others by the length of his beard, the whiteness of his turban, his red benishe, and gay-colored carpet. On each side of him were ranged the officers who assisted in the duties of the day, apparently traders belonging to the town. And in front were two Arabs, with long staves, for bringing the culprits before him, and for preserving the peace of the court. A number of cases were examined and gone through, with an extraordinary rapidity. There could be no complaint of legal delay; the matter in dispute was simply stated by the accusing party, and the witnesses called, when the prisoner was heard in his defence, and sentence given on the spot, ihe Aga being himself the sole judge, and that according to the dictates of his own discretion, without allusion or reference either to the opinion of others, to the written law, or even to common usage.
In exchanging civilities with a grave old father, who sat before our door to sun himself, being blind of opthalmia, I ventured to remark to him the temptation to injustice which such a system of unlimited authority was calculated to offer; when he replied, that as, since his blindness, he lived by the benevolence of the charitable, and was without occupation, it formed one of his most agreeable pleasures to attend the Aga's court, in order to hear the causes, and the decisions given on them. The experience he had thus obtained, he said, induced him to accord with me; for though in matters of importance, a show of equity was necessary to be observed, yet the bribes paid for favorable judgment in petty cases, afforded to the Aga himself a handsome revenue, beside leaving a large residue which he paid to the Pasha yearly, for the free exercise of those privileges of extortion and injustice which are attached to his office by purchase.
The last affair, before the sittings of the court closed, was the ex
amination of a young lad, who had been surprised in acts of improper familiarity with a still younger one than himself, and who was brought before the judge with crying and lamentation. It was to me a matter of some surprise, to find a custom cognizable by public justice, which I had so universally been given to understand was in common practice among the Egyptians; yet nothing could exceed the general feeling of repugnance to such a vice evinced by all the auditors. The culprit was threatened with much severity by the judge, pointed at as an object of scorn by the crowd, and being saved from heavier punishment in consideration only of his extreme youth was condemned to receive the bastinado, on the soles of his feet, which was given him on the spot, without delay or abatement, for the brawny arm of the executioner strained every nerve to give his strokes their proper weight. In a conversation resulting from this circumstance, the Aga undeceived me in the opinion I had previously entertained, by an assurance that the practice alluded to was purely a Turkish or Osmanlian vice, and was unknown to the mass of the Arab people. He added, also, that it was despised even by the greatest libertines among them, and was seldom ever mentioned but with execration and disgust.
As evening drew near, a large party had assembled around our door, and the most respectable among them entering to partake of our evening meal, we were scarcely left breathing-room for ourselves. The setting sun soon afterward summoning the most pious to pray. ers, we listened to the mingled tones of eleven worshippers at once. Having performed their ablutions, from a bowl handed round among them, the Aga preceded, in his station, and the others were ranged in triple rows behind him, all however making their prostrations with a regularity that seemed the effect of drilling, and uttering their • Salams' and · Allahs' with uniform solemnity. We sat up until long past midnight, engaged in conversation as curious as it was new, and which I deeply regretted my want of time and opportunity to transcribe, as it embraced subjects of such extensive variety, and was to me so full of interest.
Our old Bedouin guide, Phanoose, having now ended his engagement with us, by conducting us safely through the desert, and bringing us again into the cultivated land of Egypt, proposed departing for Cairo before day-light in the morning, and we exchanged turbans as a memento of regard, a favor I could not refuse bim, it was urged by him with such importunity, though there was no great difference in their actual or relative value. I should depart from the invariable candor which influences the recording of my feelings, were I not to say, that I parted from this old man with that sort of regret which is the offspring of complete satisfaction. I had been happy in reposing perfect faith in his integrity, and in placing my life in bis hands; and the result had proved him worthy of my confidence. In speculating upon the probable diversity of routes we should both be pursuing in future life, just as we had risen to join our hands at parting, the old man absolutely wept, exclaiming at the same moment in Arabic: • Phanoose! to-day he is here ; to-morrow he will be gone! — but, oh! to-morrow - where will be his friend Mustapha ?
Balbeis, FEBRUARY 27. – Tormented as we had often been by the millions of fleas which swarm in Egyptian habitations, we had met with nothing equal to the hosts which assailed us through the last night. It was almost impossible to open either the eyes or mouth, without getting them filled, and my ears and nostrils were both literally obstructed by them. In short, their numbers so surpassed all belief or conception, that the most scrupulous observance of truth in computation would not exempt one from the charge of romancing. It was of course impossible to sleep, and I know not that I was ever more weary and impatient for the dawn.
With the first glimpse of day, we repaired to the bath, and although this was inferior to any we had yet seen in Egypt, in cleanliness and accommodation, the cause which hastened us there rendered its defects less objectionable. It was a luxury of the highest kind to strip, and such was my impatience to enjoy the certainty of being free from these innumerable tormentors, that I plunged at once into the cistern, before the operation of rubbing the body had been performed by the attendants. As our clean linen was in the same condition in this respect, as that which we had just taken off, I had ordered the whole of it, with every part of our dresses, even to the scull-cap, to be washed in boiling water; and as their being dried and made ready again to put on, would necessarily occupy some time, I profited by that opportunity to enjoy the whole process of the bath at leisure, and to follow it by a few hours' sweet and profound repose. • It was past noon, when we left the bath, like
persons awakened to a new existence; and the Aga's son having attended me for that purpose, I accepted his offer of accompanying me through the town and its environs.
As the site of the ancient Pharbæthus, its ruins are extensive, though not a remnant of them are in a state of high preservation. Blocks of granite, and marble columns, as usual, mark the situation of temples and public edifices, and the walls of private dwellings are also discernible at some distance from the gate of entrance. In the bath and mosques are also marble pillars, surmounted with Grecian capitals, dug from the surrounding ruins, and broken shafts are used as threshholds and supporters to the doors of the meanest huts.
The present town is almost entirely built of bricks, taken from the destroyed buildings of the ancient city. It contains only two mosques, and these possessing no beauty, though the population is estimated at eight thousand. One great source of maintenance to its inhabitants, is the supply of the Syrian caravans, which arrive here from Damascus, and frequently make some stay, until merchandise is collected for their transportation of it to that country from Egypt. It has also a manufactory of coarse linen and thread, which are sold at Cairo, and the few Christians of the town employ themselves, much like the inferior Jews in England, in the working of ear-rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other ornaments of female dress, which they carry round to families in pedlar's boxes — exactly in the same way
and send the more expensive to the capital. The inhabitants attribute their general healthiness to their vicinity to the desert, and the consequent dryness and purity of the air. It would be difficult to pronounce whether that be the only cause; yet
nothing is more visible than the effect itself. Diseases of the eye are by no means so general here as in many parts of Egypt; and in addition to these blessings, they were exempted from the plague during the last year, in which it made such dreadful ravages through Egypt, nor has it existed among them since the period of the French expedition.
It was during that period, which, from its importance in the history of their recollections, is now become an epoch of reference with them, that the town was walled in with materials hastily collected, and loosely put together. Their invaders also levelled the whole of the ruins that were without, in order to render the approach of an army more open to the range of their fire from within.
At the present moment, there are no soldiers here, though it is generally the station of an Albanian company of infantry; the reason assigned by the inhabitants for this, was, that all the commanders of distant provinces, as well as the troops who occupied villages, had been called to the defence of Cairo, since the recent revolution there, to supply the place of those who had been sent from thence to join the Pasha in Arabia.
Among the dresses of the women here, I observed no other change than the use of larger ear-rings, bracelets, etc., of silver, tin, and pewter, and a white linen veil, bound with black cord at the edges, between which the eyes appear, producing an effect difficult to be described.
On our return from this agreeable ramble, the court of justice was cro d, as at the same hour of yesterday, but so much more numerously, that it was with difficulty we could push our way through the attendants, when the Aga, beckoning me to come up to the bench and sit by his side, I joined him there, and we crossed our legs upon the same carpet. I was both amused and instructed by listening to the various causes that succeeded each other; and though the decisions on them were exceedingly rapid, yet I cannot but confess that the verdicts appeared to me to be consistent with the most rigid justice. The parties were alternately heard, in the statement of their own cases, without counsel or assistance; and as they confronted each other, but few misrepresentations would be allowed by either to pass unnoticed, without an appeal to other witnesses on the spot, so that nothing was more easy than to distinguish the innocent from the guilty; and while impartial judgment prevailed, no evil could result from this brief and simple mode of trial.
Among a number of familiar cases of dispute, which occupied the attention of the court, was one relative to the purchase of two asses, which were ultimately returned to the seller, on its being proved that he had been guilty of misrepresentation in overrating their good qualities, a decision sufficient of itself to prove that impartial justice can sometimes be obtained.
On the breaking up of the divan, and the conclusion of sun-set prayers, we passed our evening as on the preceding one, having made all our preparations for departure early in the morning, and remained up late, to delay our combat with the dark hosts that awaited us in millions, until the last moment.
Balbers to HASLOUGEY, FEBRUARY 28.- We had so reduced our luggage, that by the purchase of a double sack, my servant and my. self could each take a portion on our own animal, and we wanted neither guide nor attendant beside ourselves. This also was an arrangement so perfectly accordant with my own wishes, that I would not suffer any anticipated inconveniences, or the incessant obstacles created by my servant, to disturb it ; because I wished to be at perfect liberty as to our route, our balting places, and every other incident connected with the tour, that I might assume such appearances as might be most convenient, and change that appearance without observation, as often as new motives for such a change might occur. At sun-rise, then, we mounted and departed, taking our road in a south-east direction, through a beautifully fertile country, enjoying a refreshing breeze and moderately-heated atmosphere, which, with the richness of the scenery, contributed to render our ride delightful.
Attracted by the elevated mounds of Tal-Metabeel, the sure indication of ancient remains, we halted at the foot of them, about an hour after our leaving Balbeis. On ascending those heaps, I was somewhat surprised to find that they formed a sort of enclosure to a small town, rather less than a mile in circumference, which town occupied the centre on a level with the outer cultivated land, though the hills or embankment which encompassed it was at least fifty feet in elevation, and completely hid the interior from the view of the passenger, who, from a sight of those heaps, would be led to suppose them of an uniform level at the top. The dwellings thus enclosed were many of them unusually perfect in their remains, so as to entitle them to the character of a deserted village, rather than a ruined town, and but for their superiority in the form of the sun-dried bricks, the regularity of the layers of cement by which they were united, and other characteristic points of resemblance to the ruins of Heroöpolis and other cities, by which its antiquity was rendered indisputable, one would almost suppose its desertion recent, though it is the character of all the ancient fragments with which this interesting country abounds, to retain, from the dryness of the climate, a freshness of appearance, that is extremely deceptive to the eye, and is only to be detected by frequent observation, and close comparison between the doubtful and those which are self-evidently decisive.
These embankments, as could be clearly traced from the remains of masonry and brick work, were the ruins of buildings elevated above the central town, and most probably of subsequent erection, about the period when the levels of the Egyptian cities were raised, partly for the benefit of a cool and refreshing air, as well as for a better defence against the inconveniences occasioned to private dwellings by the elevation of the soil and influx of waters, accom. panying every inundation of the Nile,
This salutary improvement of the ancient settlements is thus mentioned by Herodotus in his Euterpe: 'In the reign of Anysis, a king of Egypt, who was blind, Sabacus, king of Ethiopia, overran the country with a numerous army. Anysis fied to the morasses and saved his life, but Sabacus continued master of Egypt for the space of fifty years. While he retained his authority, he made it a rule