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not to punish any crime with death, but according to the magnitude of the offence, he condemned the criminal to raise the ground near the place to which he belonged, by which means the situation of the different cities became more and more elevated.'
The appearance of the present town corresponded perfectly with this description, as the existence of central dwellings within the elevated enclosure, proved that such elevation was a progressive work, and subsequent to the foundation of the town itself. There was nothing, however, among all its remains, that evinced either comfort, opulence, or splendor ; the habitations were small and mean, nor was there the vestige of a public building to be seen.
The venerated tomb of Sheick Amrahn is now the only object that cheers this solitary desolation, which tomb, standing on the summit of the hills, is occasionally visited by devotees, to be graced, on the days peculiarly sacred to his memory, with votive offerings from the sick and unfortunate, and with ragged banners from the grateful who have not implored his shade in vain.
Leaving this place, we remounted our animals, and pursued our ride, with
occasional inquiries for the road, through a country charming and fertile beyond description, like one continued garden, in which Nature had scattered with a lavish hand all the bounties of her reign to compensate for the absence of her grander and wilder beauties, by a luxuriance of vegetation along those smiling plains, which renders Egypt lovely in abundance, and rich in pleasing pictures amid her simplicity.
We passed through the villages of Metemyer, Sandanahour, Zancalaour, Met-Abou-Ali, and Haslougey, where we alighted at the house of the Sheick, and were kindly received by his family, the old man being absent in the fields. When our beasts were taken care of, and we were seated upon the mat which had been spread out for our repose, a number of questions were asked us by the women and children, as to the place of our destination, from whence we came, and what was the object of our journey. Above all, our pronunciation of the language was remarked, as differing from that of this district, for my servant's knowledge of Arabic, though he had resided in the country so long, was not greater than my own, ciation was worse, so that I spoke now without an interpreter, and was really surprised at my own facility of expression in a language of which I knew not yet the grammar, and which I had gathered up so imperceptibly, by learning it as we learn our mother tongue, from the mouths of those who speak it. The assurance that we came from Syria, where the Arabic is somewhat different from that of Egypt, was therefore sufficient to satisfy them, and we were received as men of that country, who, having executed the purpose of our journey into Egypt, were now returning to Salaheah, for the purpose of joining the Damascus caravan assembling there. Cakes of dourra were immediately prepared by the females, and set before us wbile warm, with bowls of yaourt, or curdled milk, and raw herbs, from which we made a hearty repast.
The sight of my map, however, into which I had been looking for the purpose of correcting the relative situations of the villages, completely changed the opinion which our kind entertainers had con
and his pronun;
ceived of us; and they now contended that we were learned men, magii, protected of God, etc.; an idea which they were not satisfied with indulging in secret, but promulgated among their curious and inquisitive neighbors.
We had scarcely finished our humble meal, before the court was thronged with the lame, the blind, the barren, and the pregnant, all soliciting written charms for their separate maladies, and that too with such importunity for preference, that it was with difficulty I could make myself heard among them. At first I had hoped to have escaped this new duty, by frankly declaring myself unqualified; but such declaration was considered by them only as a subterfuge to enhance my claims of reward; and poor as these people were, piastres and paras were held out in their hands, each individual owner proclaiming the sum his poverty would allow him to pay me for attending to his case. I saw it was in vain to resist any longer, and amidst their acclamations, crossed my legs upon the mat, and laid before me, with all possible gravity, my compass, map, brass ink-stand, and dividers, calling the eldest of the party before me, in conformity with their known veneration for age. This poor afflicted daughter of sickness, bending beneath the weight of years, was almost blind and deaf, and complained of a head-ache so violent as to occasion frequent delirium. While I was employed in counting her pulse, observing her tongue, and inquiring into her diet and mode of living, she had uncovered the upper part of her head, though her veil still continued on, and was but partially lifted to expose her mouth. Around it were tied five rolls of paper, which had been written by saints, ideots, or holy men, and given her for money, as infallible specifics, yet she was obliged to confess their total inefficacy.
Following up that confession, I demanded of her how she could again repose confidence in such remedies, after having been so egregiously deceived, more particularly when I had frankly acknowledged my incapacity to effect a cure by such means. Hope, however, that deluder of the miserable, had told her that some virtue must exist in a practice so avowedly holy, a practice neither known nor exercised by any but the inspired of God, men versed in books, and consequently capable of conversing with genii and superior spirits; and she took care to add, either to soothe me with flattery, or to explain the revival of that hope, that as I possessed mysterious instruments, which lay before me, and the use of which was unknown among them, whatever I attempted must be effectual.
Amidst the sincere commiseration wbich I felt for the poor woman's sufferings, as well as the ignorance which had placed her expectations on so frail a basis, I felt ashamed of adding another disappointment to the list ; but all remonstrance, and avowal of incapacity on my part was misinterpreted, and I was compelled both to listen to their wishes, and comply.
Profiting, then, by the works of my predecessors in the healing art, I had the five written papers laid out before me, for the purpose of forming my own productions upon their models, so as to preserve an outline of resemblance at least; a task that was the more easy, as not one of them were written in Arabic; a mere collection of scrawls, destitute of order or arrangement, upon one of which,
gaudily bordered with red paint, a very high value was set, so that I made it my principal guide, and filled my own with characters of a similar description.
The old woman being despatched, after many kisses on the hand, for my unprecedented generosity in doing all this without reward, the other children of A Mietion's family followed in their turn, and from the infant to the aged, their claims were not more rational. There was not one among them who demanded medicine, or bloodletting, remedies known and estimated among the most uncivilized ; but as I found the task grow rather tedious, my prescriptions or charms were in studied brevity toward the close of my labors.
We had seen the patients all dispersed, however, with new hopes and lighter hearts, and were preparing to depart for Bubastos, having arranged to return and sleep at the village to-night, when a green-turbanned shereese eame to the Sheick's, and with an air of great secrecy and importance, told me that he wished a private conversation with me on the behalf of a friend. By mounting on the flat roof of the house, to which there was a small ladder that ascended, we were completely alone, when he communicated to me that his friend labored under the greatest depression of spirits, from his having been married three years without being blessed with children; and his shame at this misfortune was the reason of his not coming to me among the crowd; but he entertained no doubt of my ability to remove this misfortune, and he would reward me with any sum I should name, and that too upon the spot, if I wished it!
I explained to him that the healing art provided no remedies for such a case as this ; which, however, I could not persuade him to believe, so that he was really angry at my refusal to undertake the cure he desired; and was only kept from publicly expressing his anger, by a fear that this might give still farther publicity to his misfortune, by my communication of it to others; but these were at length removed, upon a solemn pledge, on my part, of inviolable secrecy.
It was already sun-set when we returned to the Sheick's, whom we now found at home, and with whom we supped from a large bowl of paste, mixed with various ingredients, in company with fifteen or sixteen of his family. The supper was eaten in the open court; but after washing, we retired into a dark room, already halffilled with doura-stalks, straw, and poultry, and heated by a furnace or oven, in which cakes were baked. Bitter coffee, pounded between stones, and made almost eatable from its thickness, with pipes of bad tobacco, followed our repast. As the heads of the other families of the village had also finished their meal, they came to pay their evening visit to the learned strangers, so that in a short time our party was increased to nearly fifty persons, the women of the family occupying the upper part of the furnace, and those who could find no room within, ranging themselves around the outer door. A quantity of cotton was then brought, in the pod, and set in the centre of the room, while each one of the company, resting his pipe on the ground, took a portion of the cotton to open, and this we all did, without its disturbing the enjoyment of smoking.
The old Sheick began first to amuse his auditors with the Tales
of Haroun el Raschid, which were so well accompanied with pantomimic gesture, and so deliberately recited, that I could follow him through the whole with great ease and pleasure. To this succeeded songs, in which both myself and servant bore a share, the latter singing in Greek, and I in Italian, which they thought were the learned languages of the country from whence we came. Among the Arabs, one sang in Turkish, and the rest in Arabic. • Ya Leila! Leila! tahly ya Leila ! was thrice repeated. O Night! Night! Hasten ! O Night! for thou art the Friend of Love! Yes ! darkness is the lover's heaven,' etc. Another, which I had not heard before, was rapturously applauded; it was from a newly married virgin to her spouse. And the group of females who sat aloof upon the furnace, not daring to lift their veils, or join among the rest of the party, were yet suffered to express their shouts of approbation and of praise. Next followed a conversation by the fingers, in much the same way as I have seen it practised in England, the changes of their positions bearing a fancied resemblance to the shape of the alphabetic characters. It was exercised with great skill, and our amusement was considerably heightened by a third person's interpretation of this mystic discourse.
Under the hope that more novelties might be presented to us by the women's singing, I ventured to ask the Sheick whether such a favor might not be permitted. He expressed his surprise at the question, and added that such a proposition, coming from any other than a stranger to their customs, would be received with a very bad grace. He told us, then, a story of an intrigue being discovered, which originated in what he termed the indelicacy of a female singing, the subject of her strains having made such an impression upon a male hearer, as to inspire him with a passion for her, which ended in the discovery of their amours, and the private strangling of both.
Thus employed, dividing our time between picking the cotton, hearing tales and songs, and filling our pipes in the intervals of conversation, the midnight stole upon us unperceived, before even any of the visitors began to retire. They excused their long stay, by saying, that as strangers sojourned among them but seldom, it was allow. able for them to make a jubilee of the occasion. On the breaking up of the assembly, therefore, which was done more suddenly than it had been formed, we began to think of arrangements for sleeping, which I should have been content to have done upon the mat on which we had passed the evening; but as the Sheick had ordered it otherwise, we were obliged to comply with his wish, and for this purpose we retired to a small room within, about ten feet by seven, having no other aperture than the door of entrance through which we were obliged to stoop almost double. The alleged reason for his preferring this for our use, was its superior warmth, from it being much smaller in size, and having a furnace yet retaining the heat of the fire by which the cakes of our evening meal were baked. I could not persuade him of the superior freshness of the outer part, and our danger of suffocation here; they knew of no distinction between a freer circulation of air and a sharper cold, any more than they could separate the idea of cold from that of extreme pain ; and as to my
sleeping on the outside alone, allowing them to follow their own choice for themselves, every one objected to this. I tried every mode of persuasion in vain, and a mat being spread out upon the furnace, we stripped to lay down, five in number, in a room ten feet by seven, lying in a row, with our heads toward the inner wall, and our feet hanging over the edge of the furnace, which was elevated nearly three feet from the ground, and had a space between it and the outer wall, of about two feet wide, for the purpose of tending the fires with fuel.
The Arabs stripped off even their shirts, and rolled themselves in their blue Melyahs, a practice I adopted also myself, having left off the use of flannel next the skin, after the bath at Balbeis; and so excessive was the heat of this literal oven, that I could have stripped my skin off too, if possible, to refresh myself. We had scarcely lain . down, before three females came in, whom we could but faintly perceive, from the glimmer of the expiring lamp that was yet burning, and who, without a stretch of imagination, from their hooded dresses, veiled faces, and stolen manner of entrance, looked like the fitting beings of another world. They sank upon the ground without a whisper, and must have literally lain on one another, as they occupied only the narrow space between the furnace and the wall.
The repose of the weary is certainly enviable, and the art or faculty of enjoying that repose, in spite of every obstacle that may attend it, is a desirable qualification, which some of the party possessed a larger share of than myself; for an hour had not elapsed, before most of them were snoring, while the united torments of rats and mice, which ran across us in troops, to nibble the fragments of the last baked cakes, the bugs and fleas that were like crawling hosts, collected to devour our bodies, and the buzzing mosquitoes, enjoying free access to every vein, kept me not only awake, but employed too, throughout the night, which, short as it was, in the number of its hours, was to me the longest in duration, and most weary in its progress, that I ever remember to have counted.