« PreviousContinue »
Numerous fables have been invented about the cataracts; for instance, that the noise of the waters may be heard several miles off. If Odysseus had passed them during his wanderings, he would not have found it necessary to fasten up the ears of his comrades to protect them from deafness.
In the evening I had a truly Homeric feast prepared, as I purchased a sheep for the sailors, which they devoured in a manner worthy of the much-travelled hero and his gorging companions.
Gustel Abdenhahn, Nov. 30.
When I woke this morning and found the vessel advancing so rapidly in a dead calm, I stepped out of the cabin to discover the cause. All the people of the boat, with the exception of one man and the pilot, were sitting in their Sunday gala on the forecastle, and smoking their pipes with great complacency, while the ship was towed by a dozen Barabras at a sharp trot, which was kept up by one of the sailors with his whip. I at first did not know what it all meant, but, on turning round and seeing the Turkish flag floating at the stern instead of the German one, I soon found out the trick the captain had been playing for the last two hours. He had, namely, sent the pilot and a sailor, dressed as Arnaouts, into the village, to press a dozen men, under the pretext that a pacha had an order to execute with all speed at Wadihalfa for the sultan. His plan had been fully successful. The poor fellows were forced to drag us from village to village without receiving a penny. As I could not allow this injustice, I ordered the Turkish flag to be immediately lowered, and mine hoisted. At first my people objected, as they were not at all desirous of taking on themselves the hard task of dragging the vessel along; but as I threatened the captain that I would favour him with 200 blows on the soles at Wadihalfa, by telling the circumstances to the governor, the German flag was in a moment flying again, and just as quickly the poor blacks disappeared, though without revenging themselves on the pretended Arnaouts-that is, by giving them a good thrashing—which I should have seen with a great deal of pleasure.
Denderah, January 1st.
During my stay in Thebes, I crawled about for three days in the subterranean passages, and discovered, among other curious tombs, those of a painter, a sculptor, a potter, a gardener, a merchant, &c. On one occasion, the following adventure happened to me. After examining the chambers belonging to a grave, I came to a small opening, which led down to some depth in the rocks. The boy who carried my torch said that it would be very difficult to clamber down there; still, I forced him to do it, as I wished to see into what labyrinth it might lead. We, therefore, got down slowly, and pressed forward, without finding any end, the passage often turned in another direction. The only inhabitants of this hole-vampires and bats-were terrified by the bright light, and flapped their wings above us; human skeletons and mummies sought our embrace, and still I did not like to give up my researches. Just as we came to a turning, the boy suddenly fell down before me with a sharp cry, while, at the same moment, I felt a jackal force its way between my legs, and hurry off with much howling. It would have been a poor joke had it been a hyæna, for the latter, when followed into its den, does not fail to commence the attack.
Constantinople, April 4th.
In the last days of February, before quitting Egypt, I made an excursion through the Great Desert to the peninsula of Arabia Petræa, in order for the last time to see the desert in all its various aspects. Already well acquainted with the desolate plains of Marocco and the deserts of Upper Nubia, broadcast with black granite blocks, I felt a desire to traverse the mirror-like plains which separate Asia from Africa. What labour and fatigue such a pilgrimage is accompanied by, I had been already sufficiently taught in the tropical regions of Nubia; and still I considered myself the most fortunate of men, when, seated on my dromedary, and under the escort of an Arab sheik from Sinai, and followed by my Egyptian servant, I hurried from the gates of Cairo towards the Desert.
In order to make my journey rapidly, I had hired some light and quick-stepping dromedaries, and only taken sufficient provision, and one bag of water, just enough for drinking, but none to spare for cooking purposes. I had even left my tent in Cairo, for which I should have required an extra dromedary. I, therefore, had the starry sky for my covering, and found it a most excellent one; for I was so tired at night, from the day's journey, that I was only too happy at being able to rest on the ground. Riding on a dromedary is excessively fatiguing; there is not a part of the body which does not feel the effect after a couple of days, and I therefore exchanged my dromedary for a quieter and slower moving camel during the last few days. On the first evening, when I set up my night's encampment, and took my provision out of the bag, I saw my two Beduins sitting in a very melancholy posture, without uttering a word. I asked them why they did not prepare their supper. "We have nothing to eat," was their reply. This carelessness seemed to me inexplicable, for, according to the contract, I had not to provide them sustenance, and had told them expressly, on starting, that I could give them nothing to eat, as I could only carry sufficient provision for myself and servant. At the first moment, and in my anger, I said to them that they could go without, on which they explained to me that they only had a little bag of meal with them, and the night was too dark for them to go in quest of dried camel-dung, to make a fire and bake bread. As I could not see the fellows starve, nothing was left me but to hand each of them a lump of dry bread, with which they were highly delighted. But if I had given them nothing, they would not have grumbled. On the next day I saw that they had spoken the truth. When I bivouacked at sunset, they prepared their bread, by putting some water and meal in a cup, and letting the paste bake a little while on the camel-dung fire, like a pancake.
On the second day I passed a castle, which Abbas Pacha built several years back, in the midst of a desert, in order to enjoy the quickening and fresh breezes here. In this neighbourhood several tribes of Beduins formerly camped; but they have now all withdrawn from it, in order not to excite suspicions, if anything was stolen from the palace, that they were participators in the robbery. Attempts have also been made here to find springs by digging; but unfortunately to no purpose, as my sheik told me the devil had called out to the workmen from the holes that they might as well go away again, for there was no water to be found
I have passed through the Red Sea, if not, like the Jews, dryfooted, still sitting high and dry on my dromedary. This sea has a very beautiful, blue, phosphorescent hue, and is enclosed by majestic chains of mountains, which, when the sun sinks behind them, seem to float in an ocean of Bengal fire.
On the Arabian peninsula I followed, for some distance, the track on which Moses led the Jews into the promised land, and came to a fountain, of which the water is disgustingly salt. The Jews named it Marah, and although Moses sweetened the water by throwing a tree into it, the miracle has no effect at the present day, and I was forced to take a supply of this dirty, noisome, and bitter water with me, as my own was exhausted. This disagreeable taste is even noticed in tea, however much sugar you put in; still the vagabond population of the desert are contented with this water. In the previous summer the spring was nearly dried up this was a great misfortune for the inhabitants of Suez, where the cholera broke out in consequence of the drought, and three-fourths of the population were carried off by it, although hundreds of camels daily brought Nile water from Cairo. When I arrived in Suez, where I lived with the French consul, whose acquaintance I had formed at Cairo, I wished to refresh myself with a glass of really pure water, but found myself deceived in my illusions, for I was considered fortunate in having a little Nile water still left in my bags. I poured it into a glass, in which I saw, in a few seconds, innumerable worms developed. I had probably swallowed plenty of them previously, but from this time felt myself induced to filter the water through a pocket-handkerchief. After a journey of eight days, when the salt water began to decompose rapidly, I passed the line of telegraph to Suez, and bought a little Nile water; but as I found worms in it of the size of a nut, I asked in joke whether it had been standing for years in the vessels. "Oh, no!" the reply was, "it is quite fresh, and is only two months old." What nice refreshment for the inhabitants of the desert!
The desert does not afford any great satisfaction to those who wish to see fine landscapes, in our sense. Imagine a plain of sand, spreading like a sea, in which you must find your way through innumerable sunbleached skeletons of camels. Their number was much greater than in Nubia, as the road of the Mecca caravan passes through it, and leaves countless victims behind. There is no want of vultures in search for The hyenas and jackals retire to their dens by day, but they may be heard howling through the night. Besides these, serpents, a large species of lizard, and rats, are the only denizens of these desolate plains. The serpents are very dangerous, and their bite is mortal. On camping for the night, a spot must be selected where the fewest holes can be seen. It is an enigma whence these animals procure nourishment in this immense desert. Once during the night I felt some animal crawl several times over my face, but I could not discover what it was, as I immediately drew my cloak over my head.
Suez is a most peculiar town; situated in the middle of the desert, on the borders of the Red Sea, it possesses no wells, no fountains, no grass, no shrubs, no flowers, no trees, and, consequently, no gardens. At a distance of three miles, and on the opposite coast of Arabia, the first little dirty and saline spring is met with.
After wandering about for a fortnight, I returned to Cairo in good health and condition.
A few days after my arrival, I accompanied my friend and companion, Von Wroublewsky, up the Nile to Bulak, where he took ship, in order to make a prosperous change, if possible, in a life enriched with adventures. Accused of having taken part in the revolutionary movements at Lemberg, he had found his way, with great difficulty, to Constantinople, and then went, in order not to be interné, with only one companion, on foot, and without any pecuniary resources, through Asia Minor to Cilicia, whence he sailed in fishing-boats to the coast of Syria, and at length arrived in Egypt, supported through his wanderings by Turkish hospitality. He has been compelled, to my great regret, to quit our continent, as he has not been able to obtain permission to return home.
We must now take our leave of our author and our readers, with cordial thanks to the first for the entertainment he has afforded ourselves, and begging the latter to bear with us a little longer, while we narrate a piquant adventure which befel Mr. Gentz, near Smyrna :
Among the numerous things which especially strike every traveller in Smyrna, the beauty of the women occupies the first rank. It is a fact acknowledged by all, that Oriental female loveliness is at home there in the fullest perfection. I had the great good fortune, which few acquire in Turkey, of admiring it in a number of unveiled ladies. It was on a Friday, when I surmounted a hill without the town, to visit the remains of an old Genoese castle. I saw there, among the ruins and masses of rock, a quantity of women's cloaks. I looked round, and, as I could not perceive a single man in the whole neighbourhood, I walked, with true Christian impudence, into the midst of a number of women, girls, and children, who regarded me with astonishment; and the lovelier they were the less did they attempt to veil themselves. I therefore employed the opportunity to feast my eyes on this repast of Oriental beauty, and had not the slightest idea of beating a retreat. The most beautiful women I ever saw came towards me, and did not appear at all offended, because my eyes paid the merited tribute to their charms. Had they seen a single Turk in the vicinity, they would have immediately caught up great stones to punish my audacity. A little, young, and graceful girl raised a stone with both hands, so large that she could scarce carry it. I smiled at her, and looked as if I wished to say: "Throw at me-it could not hurt me, when hurled at me by such a charming creature." The stone then fell from her hands, and she blushed deeply. But the other maidens helped her out of her embarrassment, for they picked up stones with much natural grace, and prepared to throw them at one another. Behind the hill there was a green valley, in which the little girls were sporting and dancing, without perceiving that they were watched by a Giaur. I confess, I never saw more charming maidens. Du reste, Europeans or Franks are allowed in the East all possible liberties which, in a Mussulman, would be regarded suspiciously. In the society of the Armenian and Greek ladies in the Levant, everything is permitted to Europeans, as it is good-naturedly presumed that it may be the etiquette among them when at home.
BY SIR NATHANIEL.
No. III.-NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
ALREADY have we devoted a few pages of this Magazine to a general notice* of the writings of Mr. Hawthorne. The present series, however, affords an opportunity for resuming the subject-with a particular reference to one of his publications ("Twice-told Tales") which was then hardly mentioned, and to another ("The Blithedale Romance") which has been subsequently produced.
His reputation has advanced, is increasing, and ought still to be progressive. He is now read, in their own consonant-crazy tongue, by borderers on the Black Sea, and exiles of Siberia. There is an individual charm about his writings, not perhaps, to the minds most influenced by it, of a wholly unexceptionable kind; for it may be true that "il fait chacun, après l'avoir lu, est plus mécontent de son être." Indeed, it is impossible, we should think, to read him without becoming sadder if not wiser-in spite of an assumed air of gaillardise, and a cheery moral tacked now and then to a sorrowful parable, he is essentially sad-hearted, and confirms any similar tendency in his readers. We expect a hue-andcry to he raised against him in this matter by the sanatory commissioners of criticism and guardians of the literary board of health. In his choice of subjects, he has already been indicted by them as himself a mauvais sujet. He is charged with a fondness for the delineation of abnormal character; and it is a true bill. If guilt be involved in the indictment, guilty he will plead. Individuality, idiosyncrasy, propria persona-lity, he must have at any price. Into the recesses and darker sub-surface nooks of human character he will penetrate at all hazards. "This long while past," says Zenobia to the Blithedale romancer, 66 you have been following up your game, groping for human emotions in the dark corners of the heart." The romancer himself records his fear, that a certain cold tendency, between instinct and intellect, which made him " pry with a speculative interest into people's passions and impulses," had gone far towards unhumanising his heart. Elsewhere he expresses his apprehension that it is no healthy employ, devoting ourselves too exclusively to the study of individual men and women; for, if the person under examination be one's self, the result is pretty certain to be diseased action of the heart, almost before we can snatch a second glance; or, if we put another under our microscope, we thereby insulate him from many of his true relations, magnify his peculiarities, inevitably tear him into parts, and, of course, patch him very clumsily together again-the quotient being a very monster-which, though we can point to every feature of his deformity in the real personage-may be said to have been created mainly by ourselves. In harmony with this tendency-this "making my prey of people's individualities, as my custom was"t-is a fondness for merging ME (as the Germans have it) in NOT ME: as where one of Mr. Hawthorne's characters, in the wantonness of youth, strength, and comfortable conNew Monthly, February, 1852.
"Blithedale Romance," cnf. vol. i., pp. 187, 152; and vol. ii., pp. 84, 214.