THE CITIES OF OLD

It was well for my immediate peace of mind that no prophet accosted me
on my way down to the harbor next morning, to foretell the hungry days
that were to be my portion in Marseilles. One of the strikes that
periodically tie up the seaport of southern France was at its height.
Dozens of sailing vessels rode at anchor in the little “Old Harbor”; the
_râde_ behind the great V-shaped breakwater was crowded with shipping;
at the wharves were moored long rows of ocean-liners, among which the
white, clipper-built steamers of the Méssagéries Maritimes predominated,
their cargoes rotting in their holds. In a season of customary activity
it would have been easy to “sign on” some ship eastward bound. On this
November morning, a blind man must have known, from the silence of the
port, that there was small prospect even of finding work ashore.

Six sous rattled in my pocket. I squandered the half of them for a
breakfast and set out on a tour of the warehouses on the wharves. But at
every spot where twenty longshoremen were needed for the unloading of a
mail steamer, there were hundreds surging around the timekeeper,
clamoring for employment. I reached the front ranks of several of these
groups by football tactics, only to be informed, when I shouted my name
to the official on the top of a cask or bale, that he was hiring only
those stevedores whom he knew personally, and could not find places for
a fourth of them. As darkness came on, I gave over the useless tramping
up and down the roadstead, wolfed a “stevedore’s hand-out” in one of the
open-air booths of the Place de la Joliette, and utterly penniless at
last, turned away to the Asile de Nuit, as the only refuge left me.

The night asylum of Marseilles, situated beyond the Avenue de la
République, just off the silent wharves, was no such one-room hovel as
housed the wanderer in Cannes or Cuers. It covered what would have been
a block in an American city and rose to a height of three stories; a
plain, cold structure above the door of which the legend, “Asile de
Nuit,” cut in stone, seemed to suggest how permanent and irremediable is
poverty. Before the entrance were at least a hundred men of every age,
from mere boys to wrinkled greybeards, chattering in groups, leaning
against the building, seated on the sidewalk with their feet in the
gutter, or strolling anxiously up and down. Not all of them were
vagabonds in outward appearance. Here and there were men in
comparatively clean linen and otherwise as faultless in attire as
well-to-do merchants. A half-dozen of them wore dress-suits. _They_ did
not sit with their feet in the gutter; most of them held aloof from
their ragged companions and strutted back and forth with the pompous air
of successful politicians. But their conversation was, like that of the
others, of the “grafts” of the road throughout the continent of Europe.

The “dress-suit vagabond” was a type new to me then. He became a
familiar figure long before my wanderings ended. Wherever I met him, he
hailed from the Kaiser’s realm. The German is admitted by the vagabonds
of every nationality to be the most successful beggar in “the
profession.” It is this well-dressed tramp who awakens the blatant
sympathy of English and American tourists—those infallible judges of
human nature—the world over. “Poor fellow!” will cry the hysterical lady
abroad, when approached by one of this suave-mannered gentry; “He is,
indeed, making a struggle to keep up in the world! Let’s give him
something worth while, Arthur, for, surely, he cannot be ranked with
those lazy, ragged tramps over there.” As a matter of fact, “those
ragged tramps over there” are, more often than not, unpresumptuous
sailors reduced to tatters by the rascalities of shipping companies or
their able assistants, the land sharks of great ports. They would jump
at any chance of employment, while the “poor fellow,” who has begged the
very clothes that give him this false appearance of respectability, has
been approaching just such hysterical ladies for years, fully intends
doing so to the end of his days, and would not accept the presidency of
a railroad.

The Asile of Marseilles was not controlled, as those of other French
cities, by the gendarmerie, but was the branch establishment of a
neighboring monastery. By eight o’clock the crowd before the building
had doubled, the doors were thrown open, and we filed into an office
where three monks, in cowl and _soutane_, sat behind a wicket. In
Europe, man’s fate often hangs on a few scraps of paper. The applicant
for lodging in the Asile was irrevocably turned out into the night
unless he could show two of these all-important documents, one to
establish his identity and nationality, and another to prove that he had
been at work at a not-too-distant date. To forge certificates of
employment is no unsurmountable task to those who cannot come by them
honestly, and the most laudatory ones presented were those of the
“dress-suit tramps.” A grey-haired frère read my papers rapidly and
asked me, in English, with hardly a trace of foreign accent, if I spoke
French. Upon my affirmative reply he pushed the documents I had handed
him to his younger colleague, who entered my name and biography in a
huge book and gave me, with my papers, a check entitling me to a bed in
the Asile for eight nights.

I passed into the common room, a sort of chapel, the long benches of
which were already half-filled with grumbling tramps. In front was a
plain pulpit, around the walls fifteen large crucifixes, and at the back
a table where several men were writing letters with materials furnished
by the establishment. The room was crowded when nine o’clock sounded
from the great Asile bell. The outer door closed with a bang, the
grey-haired monk marched in with a gigantic Bible in his arms, mounted
the pulpit, and launched forth in a service worthy of note for the
length of its prayers and a drowsy discourse on the life of some saint
or other, to which the assembled vagabonds listened with stolid
tolerance as something which must be endured as a punishment for being
penniless. A gong rang out in the hall at the end of the sermon. We
mounted the stairs and each, according to his check, entered one of
several large rooms containing fifty beds apiece. Those who had
registered at some previous date went at once to their cots. The
newcomers filed by a frère in charge of a huge pile of bedding in the
center of the room. As each one received two clean sheets and a
pillow-case, he promptly sought out the cot assigned him, pulled off the
soiled linen, carried it back to the monk, and returned to make up his
bed. The cleanliness of the cots was truly monasterial. But they were so
narrow that to turn over was a precarious operation, and so much harder
than a plank bed as to suggest that they were filled with ground stone.
In spite, however, of the chorus of snores which mocked the printed
notices on the walls, commanding silence, I lay not long awake, for I
had long since parted company with soft beds.

At five in the morning, long before daylight, we were awakened by a
clanging bell and a trio of frères who marched up and down the room,
shouting to us to be up and away. Woe betide the man who turned over for
another nap, for one of the monks was upon him in an instant and, with
an agility and a force that suggested that he had been a champion
wrestler before taking orders, dumped him unceremoniously on the floor.
When we had made up our beds and soused our faces at a hydrant in the
outer courtyard, we were driven out into the dreary streets.

I had fallen in with a stranded English sailor at the Asile. Not even on
shipboard can one strike up acquaintances as quickly as in a band of
sans-sous. For an hour we wandered about the city, shivering in the
chill that precedes the dawn, and then made our way down to the harbor.
A British merchantman was discharging a cargo at one of the wharves. We
slunk on board and, keeping out of sight of the officers, dodged into
the forecastle. The crew was struggling to do away with a plentiful
breakfast.

“I sye, shipmites,” cried my companion, “any show for a bite?”

“Sure, lads!” shouted several of the sailors, with that hearty
unselfishness of the English seamen the world over. “Eat up and give the
old ship a good name!”

“English? Eh, lad?” asked the old tar who gave me his seat at the table.

“My mate is, but I’m an American,” I answered, a bit dubiously.

“Oh, hell,” rumbled the veteran salt, heaping his plate in front of me,
“English _or_ American! What’s the bloody difference? I mean you’re not
a dago or a Dutchman? How long have you been on the beach?”

We did full justice to the ship’s good name and left her with bread and
meat enough in our pockets to stave off the hunger engendered by a day
of tramping up and down the wharves. Next morning the only English
vessel in harbor lay well out in mid-stream, and we subsisted on
unroasted peanuts and broken cocoanut-meat imported for its oil, of
which several vessels from the Orient were discharging whole shiploads.

Penniless sailors swarmed in the Place de la Joliette and the Place
Victor Gélu, the rendezvous of seamen in Marseilles. As my acquaintance
with these “beachcombers” increased, I picked up knowledge of the
“grafts” of the port. On my fourth morning in the city I was aroused
from a nap against the pedestal of the bronze Gélu by a Brazilian
sailor, who had been long stranded in the city.

“Hóla! Yank,” he shouted, “are you coming for breakfas’?”

“Busted!” I answered, shortly.

“Con̄o, me too,” he returned; “come along.”

He led the way round the _vieux port_ and far out along the beach by a
steep road. In that section of Marseilles known as _les catalans_, once
the home of Dumas’ Monte Cristo, we joined a crowd before a granite
building above the entrance of which was a sign reading, “Bouchée de
Pain.” When the door opened we filed through an anteroom where a man
handed each of us a wedge of bread, _de deuxieme qualité_, from several
bushel baskets of similar wedges, and we passed silently on into an
adjoining room. The two rough tables it contained were each garnished
with a jar of water, which, as we ate our bread, passed from hand to
hand. On the walls hung copies of the rules governing the Bouchée de
Pain, and in various parts of the room stood officials who strove to
enforce them to the letter. The important ones were as follows:

* * * * *

“1. No talking is allowed in the Bouchée de Pain.

“2. The bread must be eaten at the tables and not carried away.

“3. Anyone bringing other food into the Bouchée de Pain to eat with his
bread will be summarily ejected.

“4. Bread will be served daily at ten and at three to those who do not
forfeit their right to the kind charity of the city of Marseilles by
disobeying these rules.”

* * * * *

But, as he who has come into contact with tramps and adventurers knows,
it is difficult to suppress the inventive talents of the genus
vagabundus by mere printed statutes, even with a cohort of officers to
enforce them. The second of the rules, especially, was not strictly
adhered to. The crowds that reported daily at the institution were so
great as to fill the tables a third and even a fourth time. The wily
ones about me, knowing that this was only the “first table,” nibbled
their wedges ever so slowly, until the uninitiated had finished their
portions and the officers cried “allez,” when they tucked what was left
under their coats, and tumbled with the rest of us through a back door,
there to trade the wedge for tobacco, or to eat it with what they had
picked up about the city.

“Vámonos, hombre,” said the Brazilian; “now for the soup.”

A full two miles we walked over another steep hill to find, before a
building styled “Cuillère de Soupe,” much the same crowd as had been at
the Bouchée de Pain. The soup was more carefully doled out than the
bread had been. An officer at the door called for our papers, set down
our names in his register, and handed us tickets which entitled us to
soup at eleven and four daily, but only for eight days.

The fates preserve me from ever again tasting the concoction, misnamed
soup, which was set before me when I had gained admittance. A bowl of
water, grey in color, and of the temperature which the doctor calls for
when he has by him neither a stomach-pump nor a feather with which to
tickle the patient’s throat, contained one leaf—and that the very
outside one—of a cabbage, half an inch of the top of a carrot with the
leaves still on it, and three sprigs of what looked like grass. When I
had made a complete inventory of my own dish, I turned to peer into that
of the Brazilian. He had the selfsame portion of a carrot, a companion
to my cabbage-leaf, and three quite similar blades of grass. Certainly,
one could not accuse the soup officials of partiality, and if the cook
was sparing of specimens from the vegetable kingdom he made up for it in
ingredients from the world of minerals. There was salt enough in my mess
to have preserved a side of beef, and pebbles of various sizes and
shapes chased each other merrily around behind the spoon with which I
stirred up the mixture. I know not who supplied the establishment with
water, but the beach was not far distant.

Several times I returned to the Bouchée de Pain before I left Marseilles
behind; the Cuillère de Soupe I struck off my calling list at once.

The city of Marseilles has established these two institutions in an
attempt to reduce the begging class, and to provide an alternative for
the indiscriminate asking of alms, which is strictly forbidden in the
city. The buildings have purposely been placed in the most inconvenient
sections of the municipality and far apart, in the hope that only those
who are in dire want will visit them. As small an amount of food is
given as will sustain life, because it is fancied that this arrangement
will cause the penniless to redouble their efforts to become
self-supporting. Yet the plan is not entirely a success, though the
authorities may not know it. Many a man I have seen at these places whom
I knew had money enough on his person to buy a dozen hotel dinners—money
wheedled out of soft-hearted and soft-headed tourists, which he would
have considered it a sin to pay out for food when cool, green absinthe
could be bought with it. The “dress-suit tramps,” if they had no “bigger
game on the string,” made this walk their daily exercise, and referred
to it as their “constitutional.” Those who wished really to look for
work found that the long tramp twice a day used up both their time and
their strength, until they had little of either left to prosecute their
search.

The strike broke and business was slowly and half-heartedly resumed. All
my efforts to find work, however, turned to naught. It became evident
that if ever I “shipped” for the Orient it must be through the
assistance of someone of better standing. A few of the “beachcombers”
signed on, but every captain who wandered through the Place Victor Gélu
to pick up a sailor was at once surrounded by a half-hundred seamen
headed by their “boarding masters,” and chose his man long before an
“outsider” could gain a hearing. In many a city of Europe I had been
advised by fellow-wayfarers to appeal to the American consul. In the
opinion of my English companion and others: “That’s all the bloody
loafers are shipped over here for, anyway, to give we honest chaps a
lift when we’re down.” Not quite sharing this view, I had, thus far,
thanked the advisers and gone my way. But when I had seen several
“beachcombers” sail away through the assistance of higher authorities, I
determined to make my existence known to our Marseilles representative.

Accordingly, on my return from the Bouchée de Pain one morning, I
stopped in at the consulate. My papers were inspected by a negro
secretary in the outer office, passed on to the vice-consul, and finally
to the consul-general. That official, calling me inside to satisfy
himself as to my nationality, gave me a note to one “Portuguese Joe,”
whom I would find “hanging around on the Place Victor Gélu.” Joe, the
consul explained, was master of a sailors’ boarding house, who undertook
to shelter and feed such penniless mariners as the consul could vouch
for, until he found them berths, and took his reward in a month’s
advance on their wages—the regular blood-money system that is in vogue
in almost every port.

I found Joe “hanging around” as the consul had promised, hanging around
a lamp-post in the center of the _place_, and if he had not been able to
find some such support he would have been lying around the same public
spot. He was a big, greasy, half-breed nigger—I should hate to say
negro—and he had what, in Jack Tar’s parlance, is known as “a full
cargo.” In a ring about him were a score of sailors of various
nationalities and colors, from plain New Yorkers and Baltimore negroes,
to East Indians and men from the Congo Free State, who were making the
boarding master the butt of their raillery. These same men, except,
perhaps, the Anglo-Saxons, would have quailed before this maudlin
rascal, sober, whom they were repaying, now, by their ridicule, for many
a perfidious trick he had played them.

I received a franc from the drunken lout as soon as I had made him
understand the note from the consul, and lost no time in leaving it in a
restaurant. That night I slept on the floor of Joe’s house, with a huge
Antigua negro as a roommate. The house was a shack bordering on the
fish-market and the red-light district, a quarter requiring six
policemen to the block. Several times during the night I started up at
some piercing scream or long-drawn wail, and I borrowed a morning paper
fully expecting to read of deeds of unusual violence. But it was only
the customary list of minor misfortunes that was chronicled; a carousing
sailor run down in that street, an Italian stabbed by a
fellow-countryman in this, a demi-mondaine thrown out of a window in a
third.

Portuguese Joe was a totally different being the next morning from the
besotted wretch that I had seen the day before. Fat and pompous, dressed
as if to attend a fancy ball, he paraded up and down the seamens’
rendezvous, interviewing a captain here, stopping for a tête-à-tête with
another boarding master or a runner there, and scowling haughtily at the
common sailors who ventured to approach him.

Joe was a fair example of the type that is the visitation of seamen
ashore. Jack Tar is the most prodigal of existing beings, either with
the earnings in his pocket or with those he has yet to toil for, and he
bears with far too much resignation the knavery of these shipping
masters. With all its romance, life on the ocean wave is a dreary and
precarious enough existence to the man before the mast, yet many are the
nations that enhance the misery of his lot by tolerating these human
sharks and their nefarious practices in their ports. When Jack comes
ashore, his one desire, in most cases, is to spend his accumulated
earnings as soon as possible. At sea, money is the most worthless of
commodities. The man in the forecastle on a long voyage would not sell
his share of the soggy “plum-duff” that comes with his Sunday dinner for
a month’s wages in cash. Small wonder, then, that he is lavish with his
pounds and shillings during his few days ashore, and that he rarely
thinks of shipping again until his last coin is spent. It is then that
the careless prodigal falls an easy prey to Portuguese Joe and his ilk.
Joe boasted of “never having done a tap of work” in his life. His
mixture of Portuguese and negro blood had made him a tolerably
quick-witted fellow, with considerable tact, as that quality goes among
seafaring men. He had picked up a practicable use of most of the
European languages, and enough knowledge of the niceties of French law
to know how far he could go with impunity in fleecing his victims. In
various ways he had ingratiated himself with captains and the agents of
ships sailing from Marseilles, until he had become one of several
absolute monarchs in that port over slow-witted, spendthrift Jack Tar.
Was business going badly? Then Joe was down aboard some ship talking his
way with his oily tongue into a seat at the captain’s table. Were
sailors in demand? Then he was picking them up everywhere, giving them a
meal or two, and shipping them off with nothing but a bag of ragged
“gear” to show for the month or six weeks’ advance on their wages, which
he hastened back to throw on the gambling table or to spend in the nasty
vices of a great seaport. To be sure, some of this money would have gone
the same way if the sailor had received it. But one could more easily
have tolerated its squandering by the man who had undergone the
sufferings and privations of a long voyage to earn it, and at least we
“beachcombers” should have been spared the sight of Portuguese Joe and
his cronies, strutting back and forth across the Place Victor Gélu, and
putting their heads together to evolve new schemes for robbing other
victims.

There were few accommodations in Joe’s hovel, and on the second day I
was transferred to a seamens’ boarding house in the dingy backwater of
the Avenue de la République. The establishment was run by Joe’s brother,
a burly mulatto known in all the lower quarters of the city as
“Portuguese Pete” who, like his brother, lay claim to no family name;
and by his wife, a slatternly white woman of French parentage. In the
windowless upper story were a score of foul nests that ranked as beds.
The one to which I was assigned was a broken-backed cot. After a vain
attempt to sleep, doubled up like a pocketknife, amid the uproar of my
roommates, who were snoring in several languages, I crept down stairs to
borrow a plank from the kitchen wood-pile, and propping up the pallet,
fell asleep. Some time must have passed, for I was in deep slumber and
not even the house cat was stirring, when the cot, mattress, bedding,
and prop came down with a crash that certainly awakened the policeman in
the next block, and left me entangled in a Gordian knot of sheets and
counterpanes of the width of a ship’s hawser. I slept on the floor
during the rest of my stay with Portuguese Pete.

There was one advantage—and one only—gained by the change from the Asile
to this new lodging. The habits of Pete and his spouse were by no means
as austere as those of the monks who turned us out into the cold, grey
dawn. The meals we were to pay so dearly for, when we shipped, were on a
par with the sleeping accommodations. Each morning, after taking turns
in pounding on the proprietor’s door for an hour or two, we usually
succeeded in inducing his consort to descend, in négligé and a vicious
temper, to serve us each a cup of tepid water with a smell of chickory
about it, and a wedge of bread. At noon and night we did duty
alternately before the black, smoky fire-place, in assisting Madame Pete
to prepare the soup and macaroni that were served in painfully meager
quantities with bread and brackish wine. Like the pupils of Squeers, we
dared not ask for more, lest we call down upon our heads the mighty
wrath of Pete.

Pete spoke a cosmopolitan language, an Esperanto of his own making,
concocted from all the tongues represented around his board, with no
partiality or predeliction for any particular one. He who did not know
at least French, English, Italian, and Portuguese or Spanish, with
something of the patois of Provence, had small chance of catching more
than the drift of Pete’s remarks. English words with Italian endings,
Portuguese words with a French pronunciation, French words that started
out well enough but ended with a nondescript grunt, all uttered in a
voice that made the rafters ring and the wine-glasses on the table dance
excitedly, were the daily accompaniments of our gatherings. Yet Pete,
with all his bellow, was the exact antithesis of his brother. He had
spent years before the mast and had been rated an excellent sailor,
before he drifted into Marseilles and became the understudy of
unscrupulous Joe. He was as slow of wit as the seamen who quailed before
his wife’s bleary eye—and as for tact! The only influence or coercion
which Pete could bring to bear on those of his fellow-men who did not
heed the roar of his mighty voice were his no less mighty fists. More
than once he had threatened, like the giant Antiguan, to use these
powerful arguments on his brother’s anatomy; for Joe had never
hesitated, when there was something to be gained by it, to entrap Pete
in the meshes of his Machiavelian plots. As when, during a season of
sharp demand for sailors, he had generously served Pete with “knock-out
drops,” dragged him on board a ship bound for the fever-infected,
west-African coast, and made merry with the two months’ advance offered
for any seaman that could be captured. But Joe let himself be caught
only in the glare of daylight and on the public squares, and there the
wrath of Pete and many another who had fought his way back to Marseilles
with the avowed intention of throttling the rascally half-breed, had
vanished at the sound of that oily tongue. Pete was kind-hearted and
prodigal by nature, and years in the forecastle had by no means cured
him of these faults. Those who knew told tales of his favors to boarders
and of the groaning of his table in the days of prosperity. But evil
times had fallen on Marseilles and, like my fellow-boarders, I always
left Pete’s hovel with a gnawing hunger, and divided my days between
following the clue of some job and wandering with envious eyes through
the market-places.

The band that rose from our table to follow Pete to the ship-chandler’s
office or to tramp at Joe’s heels, by night or by day, to the far end of
the breakwater, in pursuit of a rumor that a ship was “signing on,” was
as variegated in experience as in color. Two hulking, good-hearted
Baltimore negroes were the heroes of the party. In a strike riot of two
months before they had been arrested for killing a gendarme, a crime of
which they were really, though unintentionally, guilty. The prosecution,
however, had not succeeded in proving a case against them. The older had
been sentenced to sixty days and the younger, who had been shot during
the mélée, was left to recuperate in the city hospital. They burst in
upon us almost at the same time during my first days at Pete’s, and took
the head of the board at once. Two nights later the hospital patient—a
youth of nineteen—gave an exhibition of cool, collected grit that is
rarely equaled even among seafaring men. A half-dozen of us had stepped
into a cabaret in the unconventional section of the city. A quarrel
began over some question of racial dislike. In the free-for-all battle
that ensued an Italian drew a long, double-edged sheath knife and sprang
for the youth from Baltimore. The latter had scarcely finished knocking
down another assailant but, without stepping aside ever so little, he
calmly grasped the finely ground blade in his left hand, and while the
blood gushed down his forearm, as the Italian strove to twist the knife
out of his grip of iron, he drew from his hip-pocket a razor, opened it
behind his back as tranquilly as for a morning shave, and slashed his
opponent from ear to chin. With the Italian’s necktie bound tightly
around his wrist, he marched homeward, singing plantation ballads at the
top of his voice, washed his mutilated palm in a bucket, tied it up with
the tail of a shirt, and sallied forth in quest of new adventures.

As near-heroes, there was a stocky little Spaniard, once a
_banderillero_, who had abandoned the bull-ring for the forecastle with
a dozen scars from sharp horns on his neck and body. His tales were
rivaled by a Jamaican negro, the only survivor of a shipwrecked crew,
who had risen to power in a South-Sea island, and by an Australian who
was credited with having thirty-six wives. An Italian who had been on
the operatic stage—what for, we could not find out; a Finn who chewed
tobacco while he ate; and a runaway boy from Madeira, who flooded his
macaroni with tears so regularly that his portion was always served
unsalted, were likewise on exhibition. Then there was “Antoine de la
Ceinture” (Tony of the Belt). Tony was one of the last-but-not-least
sort. Were we bound for the chandler’s office? Then Tony could be
trusted to bring up the rear. Was dinner late in being served? It was
because Tony had not yet put in an appearance. Was Joe lining us up for
inspection before some skipper? Then everyone knew without looking that
it was Tony who answered to his name at the end of the line. But Tony’s
most remarkable feature was his belt. Many of the workmen of France wear
in lieu of suspenders, long, gaily-colored sashes. Yet no belt in the
length and breadth of France could rival Tony’s. It was as red as the
blood that flowed on the night of the mélée—when Tony had lived up to
his reputation by being the farthest from the center of action;—it was a
good yard wide and longer than the longest royal brace ever rove through
a block; and forty times each day Tony must unwind it from around his
waist, give an end to one of us, with a warning to keep it stretched to
its full width, and march off down the street with the other end. There
he would take the first turn around his body, pull the sash taut; and
with a flutter of coat-tails and arms, up the street would come Tony,
spinning round and round as if carried along by a whirlwind, until he
reached his temporary valet, when he would heave a sigh of regret
because the belt was not longer, or brighter, or wider, or didn’t make
him look enough like the spool on which a bolt of cloth is wound, or for
some other reason quite beyond our comprehension; and, tucking in the
end, would tag at the _queue_ of our company to some other section of
the city, there to unwind and wind himself up again.

[Illustration: My entrance into Paris in the corduroy garb and with the
usual amount of baggage of the first months of the trip]

[Illustration: “Tony of the Belt”]

Workers were a drug on the market in Marseilles. There was one happy day
when, in wandering about the _vieux port_, where the fleet of
“windjammers” was rolling and pitching in a heavy gale, I was promised
extraordinary wages by the captain of a clumsy barkentine, flying the
checkerboard Greek flag, to help his depleted crew move the craft to a
safer mooring. He had picked up the Antiguan and—strange to relate—Tony
of the Belt; and together we tugged at hawser and brace for several
hours, while the barkentine under our feet seemed undetermined after
each roll whether to right herself again or turn turtle. But we got her
re-moored at last, and the three francs which the skipper dropped into
my hand had a merry jingle which I had almost forgotten. A day’s work in
the fish-market won me as much more, and I seemed to have struck
prosperity when, the following morning, I spent three hours in rolling
wine-barrels onto harbor trucks. But the only reward which the truckman
and the official taster offered when the task was done was “all the wine
you can hold,” and my humble capacity forced me to accept much less than
union wages. The six-franc fortune dwindled gradually away, though I
spent it sparingly to supplement the meager fare of Pete’s table, or for
an occasional investment of two sous in tobacco. The French government
does not sell the weed in such small quantities. But “beachcombers”
hesitated to spend a half-franc all at once, especially as the
invariable word of greeting from seemingly countless acquaintances was,
“Any smokin’ on you, Jack?” and the dealers—indifferent to the law and
with an eye to business—broke up the legal ten-sous packets into ten
two-sous lots, in their own wrappings. There were fellow-boarders who
laughed at my extravagance. _They_ sallied forth in the morning before
the street-sweepers had made their daily round, and tramped up and down
the Cannebière, a main thoroughfare which evening promenaders littered
with cigar and cigarette butts. But the Anglo-Saxons, for the most part,
refused to employ their talents in “shooting snipes on the Can o’ Beer.”

The boarding-masters of Marseilles refused to believe my assertion that
I was bound away from, and not towards, my native land. Three times
during my stay with Pete, I was called upon to sign on—once on a collier
for Algiers, and twice on tramps bound for the “States.” My refusal to
accept these berths aroused the ire of Joe; and, on the day following
the sailing of the last craft, I was turned out dinnerless from Pete’s
domicile on a world that had grown decidedly cold for a southern
country. I could not greatly regret this ejection; it left Joe unable to
make a demand on my wages, should I ever sign on. My list of
acquaintances had increased; on some occasions I had spent a few sous to
relieve the hunger of some unhoused beachcomber, and the thoughtfulness
stood me now in good stead. As I wandered from Pete’s house down to the
Place de la Joliette, I fell upon one of these, a little, wizened
Alexandrian Jew, who had “just made a haul of a franc” which, with that
unselfishness universal “on the beach,” he offered at once to share.
That night I found myself again in the crowd before the Asile de Nuit.

Quarrels were frequent among the destitutes who collected at the asylum,
but not often was it the scene of such a tragedy as was enacted on this
frosty evening. Five minutes after I had joined the group before the
building, a begrimed and tattered youth strolled up to within a few feet
of me, glanced about him, pulled a revolver from his pocket, fired
instantly at a group of vagabonds who chatted on the curb ten feet away,
and dashed off towards the harbor. The victim, a German who could not
have been over twenty, fell with scarcely a groan, rolled off the
sidewalk into the gutter, gave a few convulsive kicks, and lay still. A
doctor arrived as he was being carried into the office. He had been shot
directly through the heart. My first impulse, when two gendarmes began
inscribing the names of witnesses, was to offer my testimony. Luckily,
it occurred to me in time that justice is a slow process in France, and
that authorities are none too kind in their methods of assuring the
presence in court of such witnesses as lodge at an Asile de Nuit. To be
delayed in Marseilles several months would have put an end to my
wanderings before they had well begun; I backed towards the outskirts of
the increasing crowd and made answer to the excited officer with the
book;—“Moi, monsieur? Je viens d’arriver.”

The assassin was taken, before morning, and his story added to the
annals of “the road.” The dead man had been his companion during his
Wanderjahre in Servia. The few dollars that had been their common
possession he had trusted to his comrade—no unusual custom among tramps.
At a dismal mountain village the treasurer had decamped, leaving the
other to the tender mercies of the Servian police. When he was released
from several weeks of imprisonment as a vagrant, the deserted man
determined to have revenge. By methods peculiar to trampdom, and with a
persistency that would have done credit to the best of detectives, he
had tracked the absconder through Montenegro, the Turkish coast-towns,
and Italy, only to lose all trace of him in Genoa. A chance meeting put
him on the trail again; he tramped to Marseilles and ran the German
youth to earth five months after his act of treachery. The sympathy of
the beachcombers was entirely with the assassin. In the moral code of
“the road” there are few crimes more iniquitous than that of the dead
man. But sympathy availed him nothing, for months afterward the youth
was guillotined in the Place Victor Gélu, that dreary square in which
Portuguese Joe and penniless seamen were accustomed to “hang around.”

When excitement had abated somewhat, the Asile was thrown open—not for
me, however. The second frère received my papers from his superior, as
on the first night, but squinted at me above his glasses.

“Lodged here before?” he demanded.

“Yes.”

“When?”

“Two weeks ago.”

“Then I can’t admit you.”

“But I only stayed five of my eight days.”

“Ça ne fait rien! When you have been admitted once you can’t come back
again for six months. Allez-vous en!”

This mandate proved inexorable. When I attempted to argue the matter a
burly doorkeeper sent me spinning into the street. I wandered away
through the city and, towards midnight, turned down to the wharves. An
empty box car stood behind a warehouse. I crawled inside to find it
already occupied by three English sailors of former acquaintance. To
sleep was impossible, for it was bitter cold. After a couple of hours of
shivering on the icy floor of the car, we crept out and took to tramping
up and down the streets and byways—that most dismal experience, known
professionally as “carrying the banner”—until daybreak.

Long, hungry days passed, days in which I could scarcely withstand the
temptation to carry my kodak to the _mont de piété_ just off the
sailors’ square. Among the beachcombers there were daily some who gained
a few francs, by an odd job, by the sale of an extra garment, or by
“grafting,” pure and simple. When his hand closed on a bit of money, the
stranded fellow may have been weak with fasting. Yet his first thought
was not to gorge himself, but to share his fortune with his companions
under hatches. In those bleak November days, many a man, ranked a
“worthless outcast” by his more fortunate fellow-beings, toiled all day
at the coal-wharves of Marseilles, and tramped back, cold and hungry, to
the Place Victor Gélu to divide his earning with other famished
_misérables_, whom he had not known a week before. More than one man
sold the only shirt he owned to feed a new arrival who was an absolute
stranger to all. These men won no praise for their benefactions. They
expected none, and would have opened their eyes in wonder if they had
been told that their actions were worthy of praise. The stranded band
grew to be a corporate body. By a job here and there I contributed my
share to the common fund, and between us we fought off gaunt starvation.
In a dirty alley just off the Place was an inn kept by a Greek, in which
one could sleep on the floor at three sous, or in a cot at six; and
every evening a band of ragged mortals might have been seen dividing the
earnings of some of them into three-sou lots as they made their way
towards _l’Auberge chez le Grec_.

One spot in all Marseilles was the sole oasis in this desert of
dreariness and desolation, the Sailors’ Home. Here, as winter drove us
away from the sunny side of the breakwater, where we had been able to
swim in early November, we congregated around the roaring stove to
discuss the hopelessness of the situation, and to peruse the newspapers
that kept us somewhat in touch with the moving world outside. But when
dusk fell, the doors were closed behind us, and the biting air and the
squalor of other quarters were only increased by contrast. I turned in
at the Home one morning, to find that misfortune had overtaken the three
Englishmen of the box car. My first acquaintance had arrived in
Marseilles in the thinnest of overalls and jumper. Man can endure far
more than most of us suspect; but night after night out of doors in such
garb had broken the health of the Englishman, and the gendarme who had
found him unconscious on the wharf had bundled him off to the Home. Sick
as he was, it took four days of official red-tape and nonsense to get
him admitted to the hospital, and it was only by strenuous efforts that
we were able to pay his bad _chez le Grec_ while the question was
pending. His two companions had deserted from the British navy in Buenos
Ayres, changed in name and dress, and signed on a “windjammer” for
Genoa. To escape the king’s service had cost them months of labor and
danger, a year’s wages, and their possessions. Nothing will better
indicate the misery of Marseilles on strike than the fact that, with six
months’ imprisonment at Gibraltar and a re-serving of their time in
prospect, they had resolved to endure “the beach” no longer, and had
marched up to the consul’s office to give themselves up. They were held
under arrest at the Home for the first British steamer for the Rock.

There were those among the beachcombers who would not be outdone by the
force of circumstances, who put on a bold front and set out to get the
“living the world owed them.” In beggardom as in the world at large, the
brazenface carries the day, and the modest and unassuming are pushed
into the background. Among the first victims of this class, in foreign
ports, are the consuls. There was in Marseilles a certain Welshman who
won fame for his exploits during this season. Signed off in Barcelona,
he had made his way to the French port, and had received from the
British consul, within an hour of his arrival, two francs and a promise
of clothes, next day. In the morning, as per promise, he was well fitted
out and given another franc. He promptly hunted up a pawn shop, got back
into his rags, and made tracks for the nearest wine-shop. Next morning,
penniless, he was back early to see the consul, spun a pathetic yarn,
and came out with two more francs. This amount, however, could not last
long in a café. The Welshman pocketed the money, marched over to the
American consulate, and proved so satisfactorily that Pittsburg was his
home that two more francs were added to his collection. Day after day
new variations of his story were sprung in all sections of the city. On
his ability to speak some German, he “worked” the Austrian, Swiss, and
German consuls, besides several foreign charitable societies. These
institutions gave only clothing for the most part, but one of the
Welshman’s experience had little difficulty in turning them into money.

Meanwhile, he was “pumping” his own consul, who twice more fitted him
out, only to have him turn up again next morning as ragged and unkempt
as ever. The consul was not blind, but when a vagabond sits down in your
office and refuses to move until he receives a franc, it is often
cheaper to give it than to take time to throw him out. The day came,
however, when the consul determined to put an end to this system of
blackmail, and, after giving the customary franc one morning, he ordered
the Welshman not to come back again under pain of arrest. Bright and
early the next morning the “beachcomber” turned up, a strong smell of
absinthe entering the room with him.

“Good morning, consul,” he burst out, gaily, and loud enough to be heard
by those of us who were listening outside, “I wonder if you can spare me
a couple of francs for a morning bite?”

The consul stepped to the telephone and called for a policeman. A few
minutes later, a gendarme pushed past us, stepped inside, and received
orders to put the offender under arrest. But the Welshman, who lolled
undisturbed in an office chair through all this, had taken the trouble
to make himself familiar with the fine points of international law. He
grasped a heavy ruler from the table as the officer approached.

“If that Frog-eater touches me, I’ll brain ’im,” he shouted, “I’m a
British subject on British soil, and no bloody Frenchman can arrest me!”

The consul knew only too well the truth of this assertion. A French
officer has no more authority within the borders of a foreign consulate
than on London Bridge, and any injury which the Welshman might do the
gendarme in resisting arrest would come under the head of justifiable
self-defense. The consul, however, had police powers in his own office.
He took the belligerent seaman by the arm, led him outside onto the soil
of France, and turned him over to the policeman. The officer conducted
him to the station-house across the way, while several of us tagged
after him.

“Where was he arrested?” demanded the sergeant.

“In the British consulate, monsieur.”

“Vraiment! And the British consul has sent money for his keeping while
he is shut up, eh?”

“Non, monsieur.”

“Non? Then what do you mean by bringing him over here? Allez! Vous!” and
the Welshman, who knew all this process, move by move, made a deep bow
to the sergeant, stuck his thumbs in the armholes of his tattered vest,
strutted out across the park, and back into the consulate.

“Good morning, consul!” he cried, with the blandest of smiles, and
extending a gnarled and far from clean hand. “I’ve just escaped from
grave danger, consul, and I’ve come back to see if, perhaps, you haven’t
changed your mind about that couple of francs.”

The consul looked him over, glanced at the stack of letters and official
papers that demanded his attention, and, with the sheepish look of a man
who feels he is being made game of, admitted that he had.

There ran through the shipping quarters one morning the rumor that the
“Dag” was signing on a crew. She was a tiny wooden brigantine under
Norwegian colors, anchored in the vieux port. She carried a mere handful
of men, was reported as “the hungriest hell that ever weighed an
anchor,” and did not look seaworthy enough to cross an inland lake.
Moreover she was bound for Madagascar by way of the Cape of Good Hope, a
six-month trip at least. This was not the route I had mapped out for
myself. But it was eastward, twenty-five days in Marseilles had left me
ready to jump at any chance, and I raced down to the old harbor with the
rest. It was only a chance meeting with “Dutch Harry,” another of the
rascally boarding masters of the port, that saved me from putting my
name on the “Dag’s” articles. “Dutch” had a contract with the agents of
a tramp steamer from Boston to supply a force of seamen to paint the
vessel in harbor; and an hour later I was hanging over the side on a
swinging plank with the waves of the râde washing over my feet, daubing
paint on the rusty hull. The boarding master received six francs a day
for our labor—and paid us two and a half. But we took our meals with the
crew—whenever the captain was ashore—and I saved enough to come to the
assistance of several of my fellow destitutes, among whom was the
wizened Jew, who had once more fallen on evil days.

This work lasted several days. I was mixing paint on deck, one
afternoon, when the chief mate, strolled by, sauntered back, turned to
look away across the harbor as though he had not seen me within five
feet of him, and muttered as to himself, “We’re going out to-night,
homeward bound for Boston. The company don’t allow us any too many men.
If some of these painters was found stowed away on ’er after the pilot
left ’er, I don’t suppose the old man would do a hell of a lot o’
kicking.” Then he turned until he could glance at me out of the tail of
his eye, looked off across the harbor once more, swung round on his
heel, and marched aft.

If the ship had been eastward bound, the mate’s hint would have fallen
on fertile soil. Several painters disappeared during the afternoon and
they did not go ashore. I took supper with the crew when the day was
done, watched from the pier-head as the newly-painted vessel turned her
prow to the open sea, and hurried back to the dwelling of the boarding
master. “Dutch” was indeed wrathy—especially as I had called for two and
a half francs that he had considered safe in his pocket. When I opened
the door of his wine-shop, he stared at me from behind a dense cloud of
smoke and a tall bottle of greenish contents for several moments. Then
with a roar that only Portuguese Pete of all Marseilles could have
equaled, he burst out, “Why, you damn fool, why in hell didn’t you stow
away on that tub? Didn’t you know she was Boston bound?”

“Aye,” I answered. “But I told you, you remember, I’m not homeward
bound.”

Several ships bound for Egypt signed on a man or two during the next few
days, but they were all “boarding-house stiffs.” When the mate of the P
& O yacht _Vectis_ sent to the Home for an English quartermaster, I
fancied my time had come, as there was not another English-speaking
sailor “on the beach” after the arrest of the deserters. But the P & O
ships only Britons. The next day my first acquaintance was released from
the hospital and secured the berth.

The last day of November, a month after my arrival in Marseilles, found
me still gazing out upon the Château d’If and up at the ship’s ball on
the summit of Notre Dame de la Garde, and still tramping sorrowfully up
and down the breakwater and the endless wharves. But with the new month
my luck changed. The _Warwickshire_ of the Bibby Line, plying between
England and Burma, put in at Marseilles to await her overland passengers
and sent out a call for a sailor. I was the first man on board,
displayed my discharge from the cattle boat, and was called into the
cabin.

“It don’t tell in this discharge whether you are an A. B. or not,” said
the mate. “Are you?”

“I am an A. B.,” I replied, though I meant quite a different sort of A.
B. from what the mate understood by my answer. I was signed on at once,
and the next day I watched the familiar harbor of Marseilles grow
smaller and smaller until it faded away on the horizon.

On a placid sea the _Warwickshire_ sped eastward, sighting the mountain
ranges of Corsica and Sardinia, and sweeping through the straits of
Messina so close to the Sicilian shore that we could make out plainly,
from the deck, the evening strollers on the brightly-lighted promenade.
The crew was East Indian. The white quartermasters with whom I messed
were gorged with such food as only a French chef can cook, and valiantly
I struggled to make up for those famished days in the dismal streets of
Marseilles. My official duties were largely confined to “polishin’ ’er
brasses,” and, with all due modesty, I assert that the ship was the
brighter for my presence. The Bibby Line scorned to carry any but
first-class passengers. I took my “watch below” within easy hailing
distance of the promenade deck and those belinened voyagers to whom the
custom of tipping for every possible service had become second nature,
and picked up many a franc and six-pence among them.

On the morning of the fifth day out the brasses were pronounced in a
satisfactory condition, and I was ordered into the hold, with a score of
the native crew, to send up the trunks of Egyptian travelers. The
weather grew perceptibly warmer with every throb of the engines. When I
climbed on deck after the last chest, the deep blue of the ocean had
turned to a shabby brown, but the horizon was still unbroken. Suddenly
there rose from the sea, on our starboard bow, as a marionette bobs up
in a puppet-show, a flat-topped building, then another and another,
until a whole village, the houses of which seemed to sit like gulls on
the ruddy sea, spread out before us. It was Port Saïd. The pilot-boat
had swung alongside and the statue of de Lesseps was plainly visible
before we caught the first glimpse of land, a narrow stretch of reddish
desert sand beyond the town. Slowly the _Warwickshire_ nosed her way
into the canal, the anchor ran out with a rattle and roar of cable, and
there swarmed upon our decks a countless multitude of humans, that
seemed the denizens of some remote and unknown sphere.

Darkness fell soon after. I had signed on the _Warwickshire_ under a
promise that I might leave her at Port Saïd. Through all the voyage,
however, the quartermasters had spent the hours of the dogwatch in
pouring into my ears tales of the horrors that had befallen white men
stranded among the Arabs. The shrieks that rose from the maze of
buildings ashore, the snarling, scowling mobs that raced about our
decks, called back these stories all too vividly. In the blackest of
nights, this new and unknown world was in imagination peopled with
diabolical creatures lying in wait for lone mortals who might venture
ashore unarmed and well-nigh penniless. If I escaped a quick
assassination among these black hordes, a lingering starvation on this
neck of sand might be my lot. The captain had given me leave to continue
to Rangoon. An Englishman, returning to the Burmese district he
governed, had promised me a well-salaried position. Most foolhardy it
seemed to halt in this “dumping ground of rascality” when in a few days
I might complete half my journey around the globe and find a ready
employment.

For an hour I sat undecided, staring into the black inferno beyond the
wharves. Palestine and Egypt, however, were lands too famous to be
lightly passed by. I bade farewell to the astonished quartermasters,
collected my few days’ wages from the mate, and with some two pounds in
francs, lire, and shillings in my pocket, dropped into a _feluca_ and
was rowed ashore.

A scene typically Oriental graced my landing. In my ignorance, I had
neglected to spend a half-hour in bargaining with the swarthy boatman
before stepping into his craft. That the legal fare I paid him was
posted conspicuously on the wharf made him none the less assertive in
his demands. For an hour he dogged my footsteps, howling threats or
whining pleas in a cracked treble, now in his native Arabic, now in such
English as he could muster. The summary vengeance of the Islamites,
prophesied with such fullness of detail by my shipmates, seemed at hand;
but I shook the fellow off at last and set out to find a lodging.

The task at which I had grown so proficient in Europe was a far more
difficult problem in this strange world. To be sure, there were several
hotels along the avenue facing the wharves, before which well-dressed
white men lounged at little tables; and black, barefooted waiters
flitted back and forth, carrying cool drinks that we of America are wont
to associate with August mid-days rather than with December evenings.
But a strong financial backing is nowhere so indispensable as in
hostelries offering “European accommodations” in the Orient. There were,
undoubtedly, scores of native inns in the maze of hovels into which I
plunged at the first step off the avenue, but how distinguish them when
the only signs that met my eye were as meaningless as so many spatters
of ink? Even in Holland I had been able to guess at shop names. But
Arabic! I had not the remotest idea whether the ensign before me
announced a lodging house or the quarters of an undertaker. I returned
to the avenue; but the few white men who paused to listen to my inquiry
for a “native” hotel stared at me as at one who had lost his wits, and
passed on with a shrug of the shoulders. A long evening I pattered in
and out of crooked byways, bumping now and then into a swarthy Mussulman
who snarled at me and made off, and bringing up here and there in some
dismal blind alley. Fearful of wandering too far from the lighted
square, I turned back toward the harbor and suddenly caught sight of a
sign in English: “Catholic Sailors’ Home.” Whether the establishment was
Catholic or Coptic was small matter, so long as it announced itself in a
human language, and I dashed joyfully towards it.

The “Home” comprised little more than a small reading-room. Half-hidden
behind the stacks of ragged magazines sat the “manager,” a Maltese boy,
huddled over paper and pencil and staring disconsolately at an
Italian-English grammar. I stepped forward and offered my assistance,
and together we waded through an interminable lesson. Before we had
ended, six tattered white men wandered in and carefully chose books over
which to fall asleep.

“You must know,” said the manager, as he closed the grammar, “that there
am no sleepings here. And we closes at eleven. But I am fix you oop. I
am shelter all these seamans while I lose my place when the Catholic
society found it out.”

He peered out into the night, locked the doors, blew out the lights, and
aroused the sleepers. We groped our way along a stone-paved corridor to
the back of the building.

“You are getting in here,” said the Maltese, pulling open what proved by
morning light to be a heavy pair of shutters, “but be quietness.”

I climbed through after the others. A companion struck a match that
lighted up a stone room eight feet square, once the kitchen of the Home.
Closely packed as we were, it soon grew icy cold on the stone floor. Two
“beachcombers” rose with exclamations of disgust and crawled out through
the window, to tramp up and down the corridor. I groped my way to a
coffin-shaped cupboard in one corner, laid it lengthwise on the floor,
pulled out the shelves, and, crawling inside, closed the doors above me.
My sleep was unbroken until morning.

By the light of day my bedfellows, squatted against the wall of the
corridor, formed a heterogeneous group. At one end sat a Boer dressed in
heavy, woolen garments of the veldt, of a faded, weather-beaten
condition startlingly in keeping with the bronzed and bewhiskered
countenance of the wearer. A seedy Austrian youth lolled open-mouthed
between the South African and an oily Turk. A Liberian negro was sharing
a mangled crust with a Russian Finn, half-hidden behind a forest of
unpruned whiskers. A ragged Englishman stood stiffly erect near the
door.

We found ample time to divulge the secrets of our past before the
turnkey came to release us. With the Englishman I strolled down to the
harbor. Myriads of “coaling niggers,” in dirty, loose robes, as
indistinguishable one from another as ants, swarmed up the sides of
newly-arrived ships, or returned, jaded and begrimed, in densely packed
boat-loads, from a night of toil. The custom police, big, pompous
negroes beside whom the Arabs seemed light colored, strutted back and
forth within the wharf enclosure. As each band of heavers arrived, the
officers laid aside their brilliant fezes, slipped over their gay
uniforms a bag-like garment that covered them to their gaitered shoes,
and gathered the workmen, one by one, in a loving embrace.

“Affectionate fellows, these followers of the prophet,” I mused.

“Aye,” croaked my companion, “and bloody good smugglers, dressed in them
dirty skys’ls.”

They live in coal, these heavers of Port Saïd. Their beds, their wives,
their children, the merchants with whom they come in contact, even the
little baked fish which bleary-eyed females sell them outside the gates,
are covered with its dust.

The Englishman knew of but one “graft” in Port Saïd. Each day, at noon,
the friars of a Catholic monastery served dinner to the penniless. A
crowd overwhelmingly Oriental lined up with us under the trees of the
convent garden to await the serene pleasure of the tawny Arab who
dispensed the charity of the priests. Between a Tartar and a Nubian, I
received, after long delay, a deep tin-plate, a pewter spoon, and a
misshapen slice of bread. The entire party had lost hope of obtaining
anything more edible, when the monasterial servant appeared once more,
straining painfully along with a huge caldron of soup, which he
deposited on the flat grave-stone of a defunct friar. As we filed by
him, the Arab tossed at each of us a ladleful of the boiling concoction.
Whether it landed in our plates or distributed itself generously over
our nether garments depended entirely on our own dexterity, for the
haughty server dumped the ladle where, in his opinion, our dishes ought
to have been, utterly indifferent as to whether they were there or not.

The Englishman disappeared next day, and I joined fortunes with the
seedy Austrian. With a daily dinner and a lodging, even in a cupboard,
assured, I found Port Saïd a more agreeable halting-place than
Marseilles. There was work to be had here, too. On this second afternoon
we were stretched out on the breakwater, under the shadow of the statue
of de Lesseps, watching the coming and going of the pilot-boats and the
sparkle of the canal that dwindled to a thread on the far horizon of the
yellow desert, when a portly Greek approached and asked, in Italian, if
we wanted employment. We did, of course, and followed him back to land
and off to the westward along the beach to a hovel in the native
section. On the earth floor sat two massive stone mortars. The Greek
motioned to us to seat ourselves before them, poured into them some
species of small nut, and handed each of us a stone pestle. When we had
fallen to work, he sat down on a stool, prepared his _narghileh_ and,
except for an occasional wave of the hand as a signal to us to empty the
mortars of the beaten pulp and refill them, remained utterly motionless
for the rest of the day.

Mechanically we pounded hour after hour. The pestles were heavy when we
began, before the day was done my own weighed at least a ton. What we
were beating up and what, in the name of Allah, we were beating it up
for, I do not know to this day. The Austrian asserted that he knew the
use of the product, but fell silent when I asked to be enlightened.
Night sounds were drifting in through the door of the hovel when the
Greek signed to us to stop, and with the air of one who feels himself to
be over-generous but proud of his fault, handed each of us five small
piastres (12½ cents). My companion at once raised his voice in
vociferous protest, in which, at a nudge of his elbow, I joined. The
Greek was hurt to the point of tears. The ingratitude of man, when he
had, out of the kindness of his heart, given us a whole day’s wages for
a half-day’s work! How could we bring ourselves to complain when he had
cut his own profit in half simply because we were men of his own color
for whom he felt an altruistic and unmercenary sympathy? At the end of a
half-hour of noisy clamoring he consented to present us each with
another piastre, and we hurried away across the beach to a native shop
where spitted mutton sold cheaply.

Two days later I took a “deck-passage” for Beirut and boarded a hulk
flying the British flag. By sundown we lost sight of the low-lying port
and set a course northeastward. A throng of Arabs, Turks, and Syrians,
Christian and Mohammedan, male and female, squatted on the half-covered
deck. In one scupper were piled a half-hundred wooden gratings, the use
of which remained a mystery to me until my fellow-passengers fell to
pulling them down one by one and spreading their beds on them. I alone,
of all the multitude, was unsupplied with bedding; even the lean, gaunt
Bedouins, dressed in tattered filth, had each a roll of ragged blankets
in which, their evening prayers and salaams towards Mecca ended, they
rolled themselves and lay down together in a place apart. This dividing
into groups was general, for caste lines are sharp drawn in the Orient
and, when I stretched out on a bare grating, the entire throng was
huddled in a dozen isolated bands, each barricaded by the sturdiest
males.

Morning broke bright and clear. Far off to starboard rose the
snow-capped range of the Lebanon; but we were bearing northward now, and
several hours did not bring us perceptibly nearer the coast. The time
was close at hand when I must learn something of the modes of travel in
Asia Minor, though, to tell the truth, I had small hope of landing, for
passports were reported indispensable in this mysterious land of the
Turk. I strolled anxiously about the deck. In a group of Christian Turks
I came upon two who spoke French, and engaged them in conversation with
the ulterior motive of “pumping” them. A few stories of the highways of
Europe amused the party greatly. Casually I announced my intention of
walking to Damascus. The interpreted statement evoked loud shouts of
incredulity, not unmixed with derision.

“What!” cried one of the French-speaking Turks, waving a flabby hand
towards the snow banks that covered the wall-like Lebanon range, “Go to
Damascus on foot! _Pas possible._ You would be buried in the snow. This
country is not like Europe! There are thousands of murderous Bedouins
between here and Damascus who would glory in cutting the throat of a dog
of an unbeliever! Why, I have lived years in Beirut, and no man of my
acquaintance, native or Frank, would ever undertake such a journey on
foot.”

“And you would lose your way and die in the snow,” put in the other. All
through the morning the pair were kept busy interpreting the opinion of
the group on the absolutely unsurmountable obstacles against such an
undertaking. It was the first version of a story that grew old and
threadbare before I ended my journeyings in the Orient. But it was a new
tale then, told with an unoriental vehemence, and as I ran my eye along
the snow-cowled wall that faded into hazy distance to the north and
south, I was half inclined to believe that I was nearing a land where my
plans must be abandoned.

The coast line drew nearer. On the plain at the mountain foot appeared
well-cultivated patches, interspersed with dreary stretches of blood-red
sand. At high noon we dropped anchor well out in the harbor of Beirut.
Clamoring boatmen were soon rowing first-class passengers ashore. But
the red flag of quarantine was snapping in the breeze above the custom
house, and as deck passengers, more likely to spread the plague than
tourists well supplied with “backsheesh,” we were detained on board.
Four sweltering hours had passed when a screech sounded ashore, and
several company tenders put out from the inner harbor. Down the gangway
tumbled a mighty cascade of Orientals, male and female, large and small,
dirty and half dirty, pushing, kicking, scratching, and biting each
other with utter disregard of color, sex, or social standing, and
hopelessly entangled with bundles of every conceivable shape. The sinewy
boatmen established something like an equality of burdens by rough and
ready tactics, and amid the shrieks of husbands separated from wives,
children from parents, Bedouins from their priceless rolls of blankets,
the tenders set off for a stern, stone building on a barren rock across
the bay. The spirit of segregation grew contagious. As we swung in
against the rock I caught a haughty Bedouin attempting to separate me
from my knapsack. A well-directed push landed him in the laps of several
heavily-veiled females and I sprang up a stairway cut in the face of the
rock. The building at the summit bore the star and crescent, and the
title “Lazeret.” In small groups we passed into a room where a
pudgy-faced man in European garments, topped by a fez, stared at me long
and quizzically before he beckoned to the first of our party to
approach. One by one my fellow passengers answered a few questions,
received a paper signed by the man in the fez, and fell to quarreling
with him over the price thereof. Well they knew that no amount of
bellowing could reduce the official fee, but as Orientals they could not
have purchased a postage stamp without attempting to “beat down” the
salesman. The officer heaved a sigh of relief when I handed him without
protest the five piastres demanded, and I passed on, still wondering why
I had been taxed. The paper was in French as well as Turkish and
informed me that I had paid for disinfection.

Some time after the last man had paid his fee—the female passengers had
mysteriously disappeared—a second door swung open, an official folded
our papers, tore a round hole in them, and we entered a room containing
several long tables. An unwashed and officious Arab handed to each of us
a garment not unlike a scanty nightshirt, and ordered us to strip. When
our wardrobes had been laid out on the tables in separate heaps, a
half-dozen ragged urchins appeared, rolled each heap into a bundle, and
disappeared through a tight-fitting steel door. Disinfecting a Frank
was, evidently, a new problem in the Lazeret of Beirut. An urchin stared
at my clothing, bawled something to the unwashed official, and passed me
by. The officer picked my garments up one by one with a puzzled air,
handed me my sweater and suspenders, as if he did not feel that such
mysterious articles could be rated as clothing, and sped away with the
rest.

A long hour passed. The nightshirts lent their wearers neither dignity
nor modesty. My own had been designed for the smallest of Arabs and did
a white man meager service, but the jabbering natives would not have
been in the least disturbed if their wardrobe had been reduced to the
fig leaf of notorious past. The steel door opened. We filed into the
next room and found our disinfected bundles arrayed on more long tables
and steaming like newly-boiled cabbages. As rapidly as the garments
cooled, I attired myself and turned out upon a tiny square before the
Lazeret. Suddenly there rang out a cry for passports. An icy bubble ran
up and down my spine, but I stepped boldly forward and thrust my letter
of introduction into the face of a diminutive, white-haired officer at
the gate. He received it gingerly, as if expecting it to explode in his
hands, turned it up sidewise, upside down, sidewise once more, and,
certain that he had found its proper position, began to run his finger
up and down the lines, mumbling to himself and shaking his head sagely
from side to side. Slowly he turned, eyed me suspiciously, and after
several preliminary gurgles, wheezed: “Paseeporto? Paseeporto?”

“Sure, it’s a passeporto!” I replied, nodding my head vigorously. The
officer glanced from the paper to my face and back at the paper several
times, plainly as helpless before a problem for which he knew no
precedent as a child. The doctor who had made out our disinfection slips
stepped out into the square, and the officer, knowing that he read and
spoke French, rushed upon him. The good leech could hold the letter
right side up, but he knew no more of its contents than the man who had
read it sidewise. He turned to ply me with questions. I assured him that
American passports were just such simple things, and he accepted my
assertion. The officer thrust the letter into his sack—for in Turkey
passports are held over night by the police and returned to the owner’s
consulate in the morning—and waved his hand as a sign of dismissal.

Darkness had fallen and the city was some miles distant. The doctor
called a sinister-looking native, attired in a single garment that
reached his knees, and ordered him to guide me to the town. We set off
through the night, heavy with the smell of oranges, along a narrow road,
six inches deep in the softest mud. At the outskirts of the city the
native halted and addressed me in Arabic. I shook my head. Like most
uneducated Orientals, he was of the opinion that, if a full-grown Frank
could not understand language intelligible to the smallest child of his
acquaintance, it was through some fault of his hearing. He put the
question again and again, louder and more rapidly with every repetition.
I let him bellow until breath failed him and he gave up and splashed on.
He halted once more in a square, reeking with mud, in the center of the
city, and burst forth in a greater vehemence of incoherency than before.

“Ingleesee?” he shrieked with his last gasp.

“No,” I answered, comprehending this one word, “Americano.”

“Ha!” shouted the Arab, “Americano?” and he began his bellowing once
more. Evidently he was attempting to explain something about my fellow
countrymen, for the word “americano” was often repeated. Exhausted once
more, he struck off to the southward. I shouted “hotel” and “inn” in
every language I could muster, but after a few mumbles he fell silent
and only the splash of our feet in the muddy roadway attended our
progress. We left the city behind, but still the Arab plodded steadily
and silently southward. Many a quartermaster’s story of white men led
into Mussulman traps passed through my mind. Far out among the orange
groves of the suburbs he turned into a small garden and pointed to a
lighted sign above the portal of the building among the trees. It
announced the American consulate. Not knowing what else to do with a
Frank who did not understand the loudest Arabic, the native had led me
to the only man in Beirut to whom he had heard the term “americano”
applied.

When I had paid my bill next morning in the French _pension_ to which I
had been directed, my worldly wealth was reduced to one English
sovereign. I turned in at the office of Cook and Son and, tossing the
piece to the native clerk, asked him to change it into coin of the
realm, of small denomination. He turned the sovereign over several
times, bit it, laid it carefully away, and set to pulling out boxes and
drawers and dumping the coins they contained on the counter before me.
There were pieces of copper, pieces of silver, pieces of bronze, tin,
iron, nickel, zinc; coins half the size of a dime, coins that looked
like tobacco tags, coins big enough with which to fell an ox, coins with
holes in them, coins bent double, saucer-shaped coins, coins that had
been scalloped around the edge by some erstwhile possessor of artistic
temperament and hours of leisure; and still the clerk continued to pour
out coins until I felt in duty bound, as a tolerably honest member of
society, to call a halt.

“Say, old man,” I put in, “that was only a sov. I gave you, you know.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” panted the native, dumping another handful that
rattled down the sides of the heap like a bucketful of stones on the
pile under a stone crusher, “I know, and I am very sorry I have not
enough to change him. But I give you this and he just make him up.”

He tossed towards me a gold piece of ten francs.

“What!” I cried, “You don’t mean that I get that heap and ten francs
besides, for one quid?”

“Aywa, efendee, yes, that makes one pound,” he answered.

I pawed over the heap. Each rake brought to light pieces of new and
unique pattern. “Fine collection,” I said, “but what’s the answer?”

The clerk drew a long breath as if for an extended lecture, and picked
up one of the tobacco tags; “This,” he said, “is a metleek. It is
worth eleven-twelfths of a half-penny. Five of these coppers make a
metleek—only not quite—that is—here in Beirut—in Damascus five of them
make a metleek and a little more. Ten metleeks make a bishleek—” he
picked up one of the coins the owner of which would be arrested, in a
civilized country, for carrying concealed weapons, “one bishleek—that
is—except one and a half of these copper coins—that is—here—in
Damascus ten metleeks make a bishleek and four coppers—except not
quite—and in Sidon they make the same as in Damascus—only a little
less—and these coins are worth the same as a bishleek—except not
quite—that is—here—if they have a hole in them they are worth a copper
and three-fourths—more—that is, here—in Damascus they are worth a
copper and one-fourth more, and this dish-shaped one is worth three
bishleeks and three metleeks and two coppers and sometimes
three-fourths of a copper more, except they with holes in them which
are worth two metleeks and a copper and a half more, and this
mejeedieh is worth in Damascus seven bishleeks and seven metleeks and
two coppers and sometimes three and sometimes here not so much by two
and a half coppers and in Jerusalem—”

“And suppose it is a rainy day?”

“Oh, that does not make any difference,” said the clerk, with owl-like
solemnity, “but sometimes on busy days, as on feast days, the bishleek
is worth three coppers and a half more—that is, here—in Damascus it is
worth two more and sometimes not so much—as in Ramadan, and in Sidon it
is worth three-fourths of a copper less and in—here in Beirut—”

“Hold on, efendee,” I cried. “If you have a pencil and a ream of paper
at hand—”

I understood his explanation perfectly, of course, but I had an
unconquerable dread of forgetting it in my sleep.

“Certainly,” cried the obliging clerk, and he dragged forth two sheets
of paper and covered both with figures. Reduced to writing, the monetary
system of Syria was simplicity itself. One could see through it as
easily as through six inches of armor plate.

“Now, in carting this around—” I asked, tucking the sheets of paper away
in a pocket, “you don’t hire a porter—”

“Ah,” said the clerk, “you have not the large purse? Our Syrians carry a
purse which is very long, which is long like the stocking which it is
said are worn by the lady; but if you have not such a long purse and you
have not any ladies—” I drew out a large handkerchief and fell to raking
the heap of coins into it. “Ah,” he cried, “that does very good, only
you do not forget that in Damascus the mejeedieh is worth seven
bishleeks and seven metleeks and two coppers and sometimes—” But I had
escaped into the silence outside.

I reduced my burden somewhat by spending the heaviest pieces of junk for
breakfast and, strolling down to the harbor, sat down on a pier. The
bedlam of shrieking stevedores, braying camels, and the rattle of
discharging ships drowned for some time all individual sounds. In a
sudden lull, I caught faintly a shout in English behind me and turned
around. A lean native in European dress and fez was beckoning to me from
the opening of one of the narrow streets. I dropped from the pier and
turned shoreward. The native ran towards me. “You speak Eengleesh?” he
cried, “Yes? No? What countryman you?”

“American.”

“No? Not American?” shrieked the native, dancing up and down, “You not
American? Ha! ha! ver’ fine. I American one time, too. I be one time
sailor on American warsheep Brooklyn. You know Brooklyn? Ver’ nice
sheep, Brooklyn. You write Eengleesh, too, No? Yes? Ver’ fine! You like
job? I got letters write in Eengleesh! Come, you!”

He led the way through the swarming bazaar, shouting answers to the
questions I put to him. He claimed the name of Abdul Razac Bundak and
the profession of “bumboat-man,” one of those familiar figures of
Oriental ports, a native who had picked up a fluent use of so-called
English, the language of the shipping world, and turned it to
practicable account. His activities were varied. He sold supplies to
foreign ships, acted as interpreter for officers ashore, led tourists on
sight-seeing expeditions, and, in the busy season, ran a sailors’
boarding house.

Some distance back from the harbor, in a shoe shop kept by his uncle, I
sat down to write three letters at Bundak’s dictation. By the time we
had finished them—and a dozen cigarettes—my familiarity with other
languages had leaked out, and I wrote three more, two in French and one
in Spanish. With one exception, all six were bids to ship captains
accustomed to visit Beirut. The bumboat-man paid me two unknown coins,
and “set up” a dinner in a neighboring shop.

[Illustration: As I appeared during my tramp in Asia Minor. A picture
taken by Abdul Razac Bundak, bumboat-man of Beirut]

That afternoon we piloted a party of Germans through the labyrinthian
bazaars and out across the orange groves to Dog River. Abdul chattered
in his pidgin English, and I strove to turn his uncouth speech into the
language of the Fatherland. In the days that followed, our “company,” as
Abdul styled it, was the busiest in Beirut. The fame of Bundak’s
“faranchee secretary” spread abroad. The scribes who sat in their little
stands in the market-places were called upon now and then to pen letters
in some European language. Hitherto, they had refused such commissions.
Now they despatched an urchin to the shop in Custom-House street, before
which our “company” was wont to sit dreaming over narghilehs supplied by
a neighboring café, and summoned us to some distant corner of the
bazaars. The priest in his confessional was never entrusted with more
secrets than fell from the lips of the scribes amid the droning of
Bundak, the interpreter. Had those men of letters been less indolent,
the volume of their business might well-nigh have doubled. But they
insisted on exercising their profession after the laggard manner of the
East, and ever and anon drifted away into the land of day-dreams with a
sentence stranded on their lips. The palm of the left hand was the
writing desk to which they were accustomed; it was always with
difficulty that I stirred them up to clear a space on their littered
stands. They and their fathers before them had always written from right
to left; they stared in amazement when I began in the left-hand corner.
More than one burst forth in vociferous protest at this unprecedented
use of a pen, and long harangues from the senior member of our firm did
not always convince them that the result of my labor was more than
meaningless scratches. The fees of this new profession were never
princely. The scribes themselves received no more than a bishleek for a
letter, and must supply the materials. But even from the half of our
share I added something each day to the scrap iron in my handkerchief.

When business lagged there were but two resources left to Abdul—to eat
or to drink. Let his narghileh burn out before a summons came, and the
bumboat-man rose with a yawn and we rambled away through the intricate
windings of the bazaars to some tiny tavern, tucked away in an utterly
unexpected corner. The keepers were always delighted to be awakened from
their siestas by our “company.” While we sat on a log or an upturned
basket and sipped a glass of some native concoction which the proprietor
placed on the ground—there being no floor—at our feet, Abdul spun long
tales of the _faranchee_ world. They were bold forays into the field of
fiction, most of them, but with a live faranchee to serve as
illustration, the shopkeepers were never critical and listened
open-mouthed, after the fashion of all children of the East before a
story teller.

There was really no reason why these taverns should not have supplied
all our wants during the day, for the “free lunch” system, that has long
been credited to America, is indigenous to Beirut. With every drink the
keeper served a half-dozen tiny dishes of hazelnuts, radishes, peas in
the pod, cold squares of boiled potatoes, and berries and vegetables
known only in Syria. But Abdul was gifted with an inexhaustible
appetite, and at least once after every transaction he led the way to
one of the many eating-shops facing the busiest streets and squares. In
a gloomy grotto, the front of which was all door, stood two long tables
of the roughest materials, flanked by rougher benches with barely space
enough between them for the passage of clients. The proprietor rarely
stirred from behind a great block of brick and mortar near the entrance,
over which simmered a score of black kettles. I read the bill of fare by
raising the covers of each caldron in succession, chose a dish of the
least unfathomable mystery, picked up a discus-shaped loaf and a cruse
of water from the bench at the entrance, and retreated to the rear.
Whatever I chose, it was almost certain to contain mutton. The sheep
appears in sundry and strange disguises in the Mohammedan world. The
Arabian cook, however, sets nothing over the fire until he has cut it
into small pieces, and each dinner was an almost unbroken succession of
stews of varying tastes and colors. Each order, whether of meat or
vegetables, we ate separately, with a bread-cake.

Abdul rarely concerned himself with the contents of the kettles, for his
unrivaled favorite was a dish prepared by running alternately tiny cubes
of liver and kidneys on a spit and revolving them over the glowing
coals. I, too, should have ordered this delicacy more often had not
Abdul, with his incurable “Eengleesh,” persisted in referring to it as
“kittens.” I parted from the bumboat-man each evening; for, though his
home was roomy enough, he was a true Mohammedan and would never have
thought of introducing even his business partner into the same building
with his wives. Beds were good and rates low in the native inns. Though
we lived right royally in Beirut, my expenses were rarely twenty-five
cents a day.

With all its mud and squalor there was something marvelously pleasing
about this corner of the Arab world. The lazy droning of its
shopkeepers, the roll of the incoming sea, the twitter of birds that
spoke of summer and seemed to belie the calendar, above all, the
picturesque contrast of orange trees bending under the ripening fruit
that perfumed the soft air, with the snowdrifts almost within stone’s
throw on the peaks above, lent to the spot a charm unique. For all that,
I should not have remained so long in Beirut by choice, for the road was
long before me, and to each day I had allotted its portion of the
journey. The traveler in the East, however, must learn that he cannot
lay plans and expect to hold to them as at home. To the Oriental it is
entirely immaterial whether he sets out to-day or to-morrow, and the
view point of the Frank is beyond his grasp. Had you planned a departure
for Monday and find that some petty obstacle makes it impossible? “Oh!
well,” says the native, “Tuesday is as good a day as Monday. Wait until
to-morrow.” Does Tuesday bring some new difficulty? The native will
repeat his consoling advice just as jauntily as if he had not worn it
threadbare the day before. The expression “wasting time” has no meaning
whatever to the Oriental. Twenty-four hours does not represent to him
one-half the value of one of his miserable copper coins. A certain
number of days must run by between his birth and death. What matters it
just how he occupies himself during that period? He is, perhaps, a bit
happier if a task already planned must be put off, for the postponement
reduces the sum-total of exertion of his allotted span, and nothing does
the Oriental hate so much as exertion.

The officials of the Porte, imbued with this philosophy of life, were in
no haste to examine my papers. Not until my third visit to the consulate
did the air of consternation with which the American representative met
me at the door inform me that my letter had been returned.

“What the devil did you pass this note as a passport for?” shouted the
consul; “Why, man, in ten years I never heard of a man entering Turkish
territory without a passport—except one, and he was fined a hundred
pounds.”

“Tourist, wasn’t he?” I answered, “I’ve found that workingmen pass more
easily.”

“In Europe, perhaps,” said the consul, “but not here. Now don’t venture
into the interior until you have a teskereh—a local passport—unless you
want to be shipped to one of the Sick Man’s dungeons on the double
quick.”

Four days passed before this document, with its description of my
features in the unfathomable orthography of the Turk, was ready. Even
had I received it earlier, it is by no means certain that I could have
set out for Damascus at once. Native or Frank, not a resident of Beirut
admitted knowing which of her reeking alleyways led to the foothills to
the eastward. Abdul threw up his hands in startled horror when I
broached the subject of my intended journey. “Impossible!” he shrieked,
“There is not road. You be froze in the snow before the Bedouins cut
your liver. You no can go. Business good. Damascus no good. Ver’ col’ in
Damascus now.”

It cost me a day’s earnings one afternoon among the tavern keepers to
revive his flagging memory before he recalled that there was a road to
Damascus, and that caravans had been known to pass over it; but even in
such good spirits he persisted with great vehemence that the journey
could not be made on foot.

The bumboat-man left me next morning at the outskirts of the city and a
bend in the road soon hid him from view. For an hour the highway was
perfectly level, flanked by rich gardens and orange groves, and thronged
with dusky, supple-limbed men and women garbed in flowing sheets. Soon
all this changed. The road wound upward, the delicate orange tree gave
place to the sturdy olive, the fertile gardens to haggard hillsides, the
gay throng to an occasional Arab, grim and austere of visage, leading or
riding a swaying camel. Over the dull solitude fell a silence broken
only by the rising wind sighing mournfully through the jagged gullies
and stocky trees. The summer breeze of the sea level turned chilly and I
found it worth while to seek the sunny side of a boulder before
broaching the lunch in my knapsack. Nearer the summit of the first range
the aspect was less dreary. The cedar forests began and broke the
monotony of the ragged landscape. Here and there a group of peasants was
grubbing on the wayside slopes. To the north or south a flat-roofed
village clung to a mountain flank.

How strange and foreign seemed everything about me! The implements of
the peasants, the food in my knapsack, the very tobacco in my pipe,
every detail of custom and costume seemed but to widen the vast gulf
between this and my accustomed world. If I addressed a fellow-wayfarer,
he answered back an incomprehensible jumble of words, wound the folds of
his unfamiliar garments about him, and hurried on. If I caught sight of
a village clock, its hands pointed to six when the hour was midday. Even
the familiar name of the famous city to which I was bound was
meaningless to the natives, for they called it “Shaam.”

My pronunciation of the word was at fault, no doubt, for though I stood
long at a fork in the route in the early afternoon shouting “Shaam” at
each passer-by, I took the wrong branch. Some hours I had tramped along
a rapidly deteriorating highway before a suspicion of this mistake
assailed me. Even then, with no means to verify it, I kept on. At last
the route emerged from a cutting, and the shimmering sea almost at my
feet showed that I was marching due southward. Two peasants appeared
above a rise of ground beyond. As they drew near, I pointed off down the
road and shouted “Shaam?” The pair halted, wonderingly, in the center of
the highway some distance from me. “Shaam! Shaam! Shaam!” I repeated,
striving to give the word an accentuation that would suggest the
interrogation point that went with it. The peasants stared open-mouthed,
drew back several paces, and peered down the road and back at me a dozen
times, as if undecided whether I was calling their attention to some
phenomenon of nature or attempting to distract their attention long
enough to pick their pockets. Then a slow, half-hearted smile broke out
on the features of the quicker witted. He stood first on one leg, then
on the other, squinted along the highway once more, and began to repeat
after me, “Shaam! Shaam! Shaam.”

“Aywa, Shaam!” I cried.

He turned to his companion. The parley that ensued was long enough to
have settled all differences of opinion in politics, religion, and the
rotation of crops. Then both began to shake their heads so vigorously
that the muscles of their necks stood out like steel hawsers. Two broad
grins that were meant to be reassuring distorted their leathery visages.
They stretched out their arms to the southward and burst forth in
unharmonious duet: “La! la! la! la! la! Shaam! la! la! la! la! la!” The
Arab says “la” when he means “no.” I turned about and hurried back the
way I had come.

Dusk was falling when I traversed for the second time a two-row village
facing the highway. As I expected, there was not a building in any way
resembling an inn. For the Arab, even of the twentieth century,
considers it a sin that “the stranger within his gates” shall be obliged
to put up at a public house. I had already seen enough of the Syrian,
however, to know the chief weakness of his character—insatiable
curiosity. One thing he cannot do is mind his own business. Is there a
trade going on, a debt being paid, a quarrel raging? The vociferations
of bargaining, the jingle of money, the angry shrieks drive from his
head every thought of his own affairs, and he hastens to join the
increasing throng around the parties interested, to offer his advice and
bellow his criticisms. I sat down on a boulder at the end of the
village.

In three minutes a small crowd had collected. In ten, half the
population was swarming around me and roaring at my vain attempt to
address them, as at some entertainment specially arranged for their
enjoyment. A good half-hour of incessant chattering ensued before one of
the band motioned to me to follow him, and turned back into the village.
The multitude surged closely around me, examining minutely every article
of my apparel that was visible, grinning, smirking, running from one
side to the other, lest they lose some point in the make-up of so
strange a creature, and babbling the while like an army of apes.

The leader turned off the highway towards the largest building in the
village. Ten yards from the door he halted, the multitude formed a
semicircle, leaving me in the center like the chief buffoon in a comic
opera ensemble, and one and all began to bellow at the top of his lungs.
A girl of some sixteen years appeared on the threshold. “Taala hena!”
(come here) roared the chorus. The girl ran down the steps. A roar as of
an angry sea burst forth as every member of the company stretched out an
arm towards me. Plainly, each was determined that he, and not his
neighbor, should have the distinction of introducing this novel being.

“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” shrieked the girl in my ear.

“Ja wohl,” I answered.

The rabble fell utterly silent at the first word, and I asked to be
directed to an inn.

“There is no hotel in our city of Bhamdoon,” replied the girl, with
flashing eyes; “We should be insulted. In this house, with my family,
lives a German missionary lady. You must stop here.”

She led the way to the door. The missionary met me on the steps with a
cry of delight, which she hastened to excuse on the ground that she had
not seen a European in many months.

“What would supper and lodging cost me here?” I demanded. The habit of
making such an inquiry had become almost an instinct among the grasping
innkeepers of Europe. Luckily, the German lady was hard of hearing. The
girl gave me a quick glance, half scornful, half astonished, which
reminded me that such a question is an insult in the land of the Arabs.

“The lady is busy, now,” said the girl, “come and visit my family.”

She led the way along a hall and threw open a door. I pulled off my cap.

“Keep it on,” said my guide, “and leave your shoes there.”

She stepped out of her own loose slippers and into the room. It was
square and low, the stone floor half covered with mats and cushions; in
the center glowed a small, sheet-iron stove, and around three of the
walls ran a divan. Two men, two women, and several children were seated
in a semicircle on the floor, their legs folded in front of them. They
rose without a word as I entered. The girl placed a cushion for me on
the floor. The family sat down again, carefully and leisurely adjusted
their legs, and then one and all, in regular succession, according to
age, cried “lailtak saeedee” (good evening).

In the center of the group set three large bowls, one of lentils and
another of chopped-up potatoes in oil. The third contained a delicacy
made of sour milk—a cross between a soup and a pudding, that is a great
favorite among the Arabs. On the floor, beside each member of the
family, lay several sheets of bread, half a yard in diameter and as thin
as cardboard, each heap bearing a close resemblance to the famous “stack
of wheats” of our own land. The head of the house pushed the bowls
toward me, ordered a stack of bread to be placed beside my cushion, and
motioned to me to eat. I stared helplessly at the bowls, for there was
neither knife, fork, nor spoon in sight. The girl, however, knowing the
ways of faranchees from years in a mission-school in Beirut, explained
my perplexity to her father. He cast upon me such a look as an American
society leader might bestow upon an Australian Bushman at her table,
begged my pardon, through his daughter, for overriding the dictates of
etiquette by partaking of a morsel before his guest had begun, tore a
few inches from a bread-sheet, and folding it between his fingers,
picked up a pinch of lentils and ate. I lost no time in falling to.

A wonderful invention is this _gkebis_ or Arab bread. If one purchases
food in a native bazaar, it is wrapped in a bread-sheet—and a very
serviceable wrapper it is, for it requires a good grip and a fair pair
of biceps to tear it. A bread-sheet takes the place of many table
utensils: arab matrons, ’tis said, never complain of their dishwashing
tasks. It makes a splendid cover for pots and pans, it does well as a
waiter’s tray. Never have I seen it used to cover roofs, nor as shaving
paper—but the Oriental is noted for his inability to make the most of
his opportunities. In its primary mission—as an article of food—however,
gkebis is not an unqualified success. In taste it is not always
unsavory, but ten minutes chewing makes far less impression on it than
on a rubber mat. It is rumored, too, that more than one Frank has lost
his appetite in striving to pronounce its guttural Arabic name. Very
often—as on this occasion—when weeks have passed since its baking, the
gkebis grows brittle and is inclined to break when used as a spoon. My
host picked up one of my sheets, held it against the glowing stove with
the flat of his hand, and returned it. It was as pliable as cloth and
much more toothsome than before.

The younger man rolled cigarettes for the three of us. We had settled
back to chat—through interpreter—when there came a tap at the door and a
few words in Arabic that caused the family to jump hurriedly to their
feet. An awe-struck whisper passed from mouth to mouth; “sheik! sheik!”
The children were whisked into one corner, the door flung open, and
there entered a diminutive man of about sixty. Long, flowing robes
enveloped his form, a turban-wound fez perched almost jauntily on his
head, and his feet were bare, for he had dropped his slippers at the
door. His face, above all, attracted attention. Deep-wrinkled, with a
long scar across one cheek, a visage browned and weather-beaten by the
wild storms that sometimes rage over the Lebanon, there was about it an
expression of frankness; yet from his eyes there flashed shrewd,
worldly-wise glances that stamped him as a man vastly different from his
simple fellow-townsmen.

The sheik greeted the head of the family, took a seat near me on the
divan, salaamed solemnly to each person present, acknowledged the
greetings they returned, and with a wave of his hand bade them be
seated. The newcomer had, quite plainly, been attracted to the house by
the rumor that a faranchee was visiting the family. After a few
preliminary remarks, the drift of which I could follow from his
expressive gestures and the few words I had picked up, he turned the
conversation, with the ease of a diplomat, to the subject of their
strange guest. My hosts needed no urging. For a time the sheik listened
to their explanations and suppositions with an unruffled mien, puffing
the while at a cigarette with as blasé an air as if faranchees were the
most ordinary beings to him.

As a climax to his tale the head of the house remarked that I was bound
to “Shaam” on foot. The ending was fully as effective as he could have
hoped. The sheik fairly bounded into the air, threw his cigarette at the
open stove, and burst forth into an excited tirade. The girl
interpreted. It was the old story of “impossible,” “can’t be done,” and
the rest; but a new element was introduced into a threadbare prediction;
for the sheik declared that, as village magistrate, he would not permit
me to continue in such a foolhardy undertaking. How many weapons did I
carry? None? What? No weapon? Travel to far-off Damascus without being
armed? Why, his own villagers never ventured along the highway to the
nearest towns without their guns! He would not hear of it; and he was
still disclaiming as only an excited Oriental can, when the missionary
came to invite me to a second supper.

I took leave of my host early next morning, swung my knapsack over my
shoulder, and limped down to the road. But Bhamdoon was not yet done
with me. In the center of the highway, in front of the little shop of
which he was proprietor, stood the sheik and several fellow townsmen.
With great politeness, he invited me to step inside. My feet were still
swollen and blistered from the long tramp of the day before, for the
cloth slippers of Port Saïd offered no more protection from the sharp
stones of the highway than a sheet of paper, and I accepted the
invitation. The village head placed a stool for me in the front of the
shop, in full sight from up or down the route. It soon became evident
that I was on exhibition as a freak of humanity, for the sheik pointed
me out with great delight to every passer-by. Apparently, too, he had
chosen this opportune moment to collect some village tax. On the floor
beside me stood an earthenware pot, and the sheik, as soon as his
exhibit had been viewed from all sides, called upon each newcomer to
drop into it a bishleek (ten cents). Like true Orientals, they gave
smaller pieces, some half bishleeks, some one or two metleeks; but not a
man passed without contributing his mite, for the command of the sheik
of a Syrian village is law to all its inhabitants.

Some time I had served as a bait for tax-dodgers when a villager I had
not yet seen put in an appearance, and addressed me in fluent English.
He had gathered a Syrian fortune in Maine and returned, years before, to
the rugged slopes of his native Lebanon. He insisted that I visit his
house nearby and, once there, fell to tucking bread-sheets, black
olives, raisins, and pieces of sugar-cane into any knapsack, shouting
incessantly at the same time of his undying affection for America and
things American. Out of mere pride for his bleak country, he took care,
on the way back to the shop, to point out a narrow path that wound up
the steep slope of a neighboring range.

“That,” he said, “leads to the Damascus road. But no man can journey to
Damascus on foot.”

The earthenware pot was almost full when I took my seat again on the
stool. I turned to my new acquaintance.

“What special taxes is the sheik gathering this morning?” I demanded.

“Eh! What?” cried the erstwhile New Englander, following the indication
of my finger, “The pot? Why, don’t you know what that’s for?”

“No,” I answered.

“Why, that is a collection the sheik is taking up to buy you a ticket to
Damascus on the railroad.”

I picked up my knapsack from the floor and stepped into the highway. The
sheik and several bystanders threw themselves upon me with cries of
dismay. It was no use attempting to escape from a dozen horny hands. I
permitted myself to be led back to the stool and sat down with the
knapsack across my knees. The sheik addressed me in soothing tones,
pointing at the pot with every third word. The others resumed their
seats on the floor, rolled new cigarettes, and fell quiet once more.
With one leap I sprang from the stool into the street and set off at top
speed down the highway, a screaming, howling, ever-increasing but ever
more distant throng at my heels. A half-hour later I gained the summit
of the neighboring range and slid down the opposite slope onto the
highway to Damascus.

For miles the road ascended sharply, elbowing its way through narrow
gorges, or crawling along the face of a mountain where its edge was a
yawning precipice. The giant cedars of the first slopes had given way to
clumps of stunted dwarfs, cowering in deep-cut ravines behind protecting
shoulders of the range. Few were the villages, and being low and flat
and built of the same calcareous rock as the mountains, they escaped the
eye until one was almost upon them. In every hamlet one or more of the
householders marched back and forth on the top of his dwelling, dragging
after him a great stone roller and chanting a mournful dirge that seemed
to cheer him on in his labor. At first sight these flat roofs seem to be
of heavy blocks of stone. In reality they are made of branches and
bushes, plastered over with mud, and, were the rolling neglected for a
fortnight in this rainy season, they would soon sag and fall in of their
own weight. More frequent than the villages were the ruins of a more
pretentious generation, standing bleak and drear on commanding hillsides
and adding to the haggard desolation. At long intervals appeared a line
of camels, plodding westward with a tread of formal dignity, a company
of villagers on horseback, or a straggling band of evil-eyed Bedouins
astride lean asses. Never a human being alone, never a man on foot, and
never a traveler without a long gun slung across his shoulders. The
villagers stared at me open-mouthed, the camel drivers leered
sarcastically, the scowling Bedouins halted to watch my retreating form
as if undecided whether I was worth the robbing.

The snow, which, seen from Beirut, seemed to cover the entire summit of
the range in impenetrable drifts, lay in isolated patches along the way.
Here was no such Arctic realm as Abdul had pictured. The air was crisp
at noonday; by night, no doubt, it would have been bitter cold—mere
autumn weather to us of northern clime. But it was easy to understand
why those accustomed to the perpetual summer of the coast had fancied
the passage an unprecedented hardship.

At the summit, the snow lay deeper. Far below stretched a rectangular
tableland, a fertile plain dotted with clusters of dwellings, and shut
in on every side by mountain ranges. Across it, like a white ribbon, lay
the Damascus highway, growing smaller and smaller, to be lost in
tortuous windings in the foothills beyond.

I reached the plain by evening and halted in a hamlet not far off the
city of Zakleh. Among the heavy-handed peasants who surrounded me was
one who had labored long enough in Italy to have picked up a smattering
of her language. We of the West might well take lessons in hospitality
from the Arab. Imagine a Syrian arriving at night and on foot in, let us
say, a village of rural Kansas; a Syrian in native costume who, in
answer to the questions put to him could do no more than point to the
road across the prairie and gurgle some such word as “Chikak! Cheekako!”
each time with a different accent. An Arabic-speaking villager, arriving
on the scene, would, possibly, pause to inquire the stranger’s wants. He
might direct him to an inn, but he would not consider it his duty to put
himself to the annoyance of seeing that he found it. Such was not the
Italian-speaking Arab’s notion of the proper treatment of strangers. He
took personal charge of me at once, led the way to the caravanserai,
acted as interpreter, quarreled with the proprietor when he tried to
overcharge me, and to save me a dismal evening surrounded by a jabbering
multitude, remained until late at night.

I took leave of him at the door of a stone stable—the only lodging which
the hamlet offered. The few camel drivers already gathered there were
well supplied with bags and blankets which they made no offer to share
with me. When I had watched them chasing through the mysteries and
hiding-places of their manifold garments the nimble creatures with which
they were infected, I lay down on the cobblestone floor without a sigh
of regret. Long before morning, however, I should gladly have accepted
the most flea-bitten covering. The kodak that served me as a pillow
rattled hour after hour with my shivering. I shivered until my neck and
arms ached with the exertion of vainly trying to hold myself still, and
never before had I realized the astonishing length of a December night.

I put off with the first suspicion of dawn and was already halfway
across the plain when the sun climbed the mountain rampart to the
eastward. To the natives the morning was bitter cold. Bands of laborers
on their way to the fields grinned at me sympathetically and passed
their hands over the scarfs wound round and round their necks and heads.
They were certain that, with face and ears unprotected, I was suffering
acutely; yet each and all of them, in low slippers, was bare of leg
halfway to the knee.

Where the plain ended the highway wound upward through a narrow, rocky
defile. Marauding Bedouins could not have chosen a better spot to lie in
wait for their victims. I started in alarm when a shout rang out at the
summit of the pass. The summons came from no highwayman, however. Before
a ruined hut on the hill above, stood a man in khaki uniform, the reins
of a saddle horse that grazed at his feet over one arm. “Teskereh!” he
bawled. I climbed the hillside and handed over my Turkish passport. The
officer grew friendly at once, tethered his horse, and invited me into
the hut. Its only furnishings were a mat-covered bench that served the
guardian as a bed, and a pan of coals. I drew out a few coins and ate an
imaginary breakfast. The officer could not—or would not—understand my
pantomime. He motioned me to a seat, offered a cigarette, and poured out
a cup of muddy coffee from a pot over the coals. But food he would not
bring forth.

While we sat grinning speechlessly at each other, the tinkle of a bell
sounded up the pass. The officer sprang to his feet and hurried down the
hill. Not once before had I been called upon to produce the teskereh
which the American consul had assured me was indispensable, and a
suspicion that one-half the amount it had cost would have sufficed to
blind the officers of the Porte to its absence grew to conviction at
this Thermopylæ of the Lebanon. A war of words sounded from the highway.
I stepped to the door. The soldier and the driver of an overburdened ass
were screaming at each other in the center of the route. When the
quarrel had reached its height, the traveler dropped something into the
guardsman’s hand and continued on his way. The officer climbed the hill,
smiling broadly, “Teskereh, ma feesh!” he cried, “Etnane bishleek!” (he
had no teskereh! Two bishleeks); and he dropped the coins with a rattle
into a stocking-like purse that was by no means empty. I drew him out of
the hut and, once in the sunshine, opened my kodak. He gave one wild
shriek and stumbled over himself in his haste to regain the hovel; nor
could any amount of wheedling induce him to venture forth again until I
had closed the apparatus. Accepting a bribe was a mere matter of
business; to have his picture taken was a sure way to future perdition.

[Illustration: The lonely, Bedouin-infected road over the Lebanon. “Few
corners of the globe offer more utter solitude than Syria and
Palestine”]

[Illustration: The Palestine beast of burden loaded with stone]

Beyond the pass stretched mile after mile of desolation absolute, hills
upon hills sank down behind each other, barren and drear, except for an
occasional olive tree, a sturdy form of vegetation that, in itself,
added to the general loneliness. Few corners of the globe can equal in
fearful stretches of utter solitude this land so aptly termed, in
Biblical phraseology, “the waste places of the earth.” All through the
day I tramped on, with never a sight nor sound of an animate object,
save once in mid-afternoon, when I broke my fast on bread-sheets and
cakes of ground sugar-cane at an isolated shop. Darkness fell over the
same haggard wilderness. The wind, howling across the solitary waste,
filled my ears. On this blackest of nights I could not have made out a
ghost a yard away, and the unknown highway led me into many a pitfall.
Long hours after sunset I was plodding blindly on, my cloth slippers
making not a sound, when I ran squarely into the arms of some species of
human whose native footwear had rendered his approach as noiseless as my
own. Three startled male voices rang out in guttural shrieks of
“Allah”—Arabic invocations, evidently, against evil spirits—as the trio
sprang back in terror.

Before I could pass on, one of them—plainly a materialist—struck a
match. The howling wind blew it out instantly, but in that brief flicker
I caught sight of three ugly faces under a headdress that belongs to the
roving Bedouin. With a simultaneous scream of “Faranchee!” the nomads
flung themselves upon the particular corner of the darkness where the
match had shown me standing. The motive of their attack, perhaps, was
Oriental hospitality. In the excitement of the moment I credited them
with a desire to increase their capital in the kingdom of black-eyed
houris, and evacuated the spot by a bit of side stepping that would have
won me fame in the roped arena. In my haste to execute the manœuvre,
however, I fell off the highway, and the rattling of stones under my
feet precipitated another charge. A dozen times during the ensuing game
of hide-and-seek I felt the breath of one of the flea-bitten rascals in
my face. The Arabic rules of the game, fortunately, required the players
to keep up a continual howling for mutual encouragement, while I moved
silently, after the fashion of the West. Aided by this unfair advantage,
I eluded their welcoming embraces until they stopped for a consultation,
and, creeping noiselessly on hands and knees, I lay hold on the highway
and sped silently away, by no means certain whether I was headed towards
Damascus or the coast.

An hour later the howling of dogs heralded my approach to some hamlet.
Once in it, I halted to listen for sounds of human life. Its
inhabitants, apparently, were lost in slumber, for what Syrian could be
awake and silent? The lights that shone from every hovel proved nothing,
for the Arab nations are unaccountably fearful of the evil spirits that
lurk in the darkness. I beat off the snapping curs and started on again.
Suddenly muffled peals of laughter and the excited voices of male and
female sounded from the depths of a building before me. I hurried
towards it and knocked loudly on the iron-studded door. The festivities
ceased as suddenly as if I had touched an electric button controlling
them. For several moments the silence was absolute. Then there came the
slapping of slippered feet along the passageway inside, and a woman’s
voice called out to me. I summoned up my limited Arabic: “M’abarafshee
arabee! Faranchee! Fee wahed locanda? Bnam!” (I don’t speak Arabic!
Foreigner! Is there an inn? Sleep!). Without a word the unknown lady
slapped back along the corridor. A good five minutes elapsed. I knocked
once more and again there came the patter of feet. This time a man’s
gruff voice greeted me. I repeated my Arabic vocabulary. There sounded
the sliding of innumerable bolts and bars, the massive door opened ever
so slightly, and the muzzle of a matchlock was thrust out into my face.

The eyes that appeared above it were evidently satisfied with their
inspection. The door was thrown wide open, and a very Hercules of a
native, with a mustache that would have put the Kaiser to shame, stepped
out, holding his clumsy gun ready for instant use. I could not but laugh
at his frightened aspect. He smiled sheepishly and, retreating into the
house, returned in a moment unarmed, and carrying a lamp and a rush mat.
At one end of the building he pushed open a door that hung by one hinge
and lighted me into a room with earth floor and one window, from which
five of the six panes were missing. A heap of dried branches at one end
stamped it as a wood shed.

A gaunt cur wandered in at our heels. The native drove him off, spread
the mat on the ground and brought from the house a pan of live coals. I
called for food. When he returned with several bread-sheets, I drew out
my handkerchief and began to untie it. My host shook his head fiercely,
made the sign of the cross and pointed several times at the ceiling,
implying, evidently, that he was a convert of the Catholic missionaries
and that the Allah of the Christians would pay my bill.

Barely had the native disappeared when the dog poked his ugly head
through the half-open door and snarled viciously at me. He was a wolfish
animal of the yellow mongrel variety so common in Syria, and in his eye
gleamed a rascality that gave him a startling resemblance to the
thieving nomads that infect that drear land. I drove him off and made
the door fast, built a roaring fire of twigs, and rolling up in the mat,
lay down beside the blaze. I awoke from a half-conscious nap to find
that irrepressible cur sniffing at me and displaying his ugly fangs
within six inches of my face. A dozen times I fastened the door against
him in vain. Had he merely bayed the moon all night it would have
mattered little, for with a fire to tend I had small chance to sleep;
but his silent skulking and muffled snarls kept me wide-eyed with
apprehension until the grey of dawn peeped in at the ragged window.

The village was named Hemeh—a station of the railway from the coast not
far beyond told me as much. The dreary ranges of the day before fell
quickly away. The highway descended a narrow, fertile valley in close
company with a small river, on the banks of which grew willows and
poplars in profusion.

A bright morning sun soon made the air grateful, though the chill of
night and the mountains still hovered in the shadows. Travelers became
frequent; peasant families driving their asses homeward from the morning
market, bands of merchants on horseback, well-to-do natives in a garb
that recalled the ill-omened coat of Joseph. Here passed a camel caravan
whose drivers would, perhaps, purchase just such a slave of his brothers
this very day. There squatted a band of Bedouins at breakfast and their
eating was as ceremonial as any meal among the ancient Jews. Beyond rode
a full-bearded sheik who was surely as much a patriarch in appearance as
Abraham of old.

The road continued its descent, the passing throng became almost a
procession, and I swung at last round a mountain spur that had hidden
from view an unequaled sight. Two miles away, across a vast, level
plain, traversed by the sparkling river, and peopled by a battalion of
soldiers in manœuvre, the white city of Damascus stood out against a
background of dull-red hills, the morning sun gleaming on graceful domes
and minarets of superb Saracenic architecture. It was an ultra-Oriental
panorama before which that first quatrain of Omar sprang unbidden to the
lips. I passed on with the throng and was soon swallowed up in the
multitude that surged through “the Street called Straight”—which isn’t.

More successfully than all other cities of its age and fame, Damascus
has repulsed the advance of Western civilization and invention. To be
sure, the whistle of the locomotive is heard now in her suburbs; for
besides the railway to the coast, a new line brings to the ancient city
the produce of the vast and fertile Hauran beyond Jordan. A few single
telegraph wires, too, connect “Shaam” with the outside world, and the
whir of the American sewing machine is heard in her long, vaulted
bazaars. But these things make the prehistoric way of the city the
stranger by comparison, and serve to remind the traveler that he is not
on another sphere, but merely far removed from the progressive and
prosaic West.

Here is a man, with a hammer that might have existed in the stone age,
beating into shape a vessel of brass on a flat rock. There a father and
son are turning a log into wooden clogs with a primitive bucksaw, the
man standing on the log, the boy kneeling on the ground beneath. Beyond
them is a turning lathe such as the workmen of Solomon may have used in
the building of his temple. The operator squats on the floor of his open
booth, facing the street—for no Damascan can carry on his business with
his back turned to the sights and sounds of the ever-changing multitude.
With one hand he draws back and forth a sort of Indian bow, the cord
wound once round the stick, which, whirling almost as rapidly as in a
steam lathe, is fashioned into the desired shape by a chisel held with
the left hand and the bare toes of the artisan. Mile after mile through
the endless rows of bazaars such prehistoric trades are plied. Not a
foot of space on either side of the narrow streets is unoccupied. Where
the overdressed owners of great heaps of silks and rugs have left a
pigeon-hole between their booths, sits the ragged vendor of sweetmeats
and half-inch slices of cocoanut. The Damascan does not set up his
business as far as possible from his competitors. In one quarter are
crowded a hundred manufacturers of the red fez of Islam. In another a
colony of brass workers make a deafening din. Beyond, sounds the squeak
of innumerable saws where huge logs are slowly turned into lumber by
hand power. The shopper in quest of a pair of slippers may wander from
daylight to dusk among booths overflowing with every other imaginable
ware, to come at last, when he is ready to purchase the first thing
bearing the remotest resemblance to footwear, into a section where
slippers of every size, shape, and quality are displayed in such
superabundance as to make him forget from very bewilderment what he came
for.

To endeavor to make headway against the surging multitude is much like
attempting to swim up the gorge of Niagara. Long lines of camels splash
through the human stream, utterly indifferent to the urchins under their
feet. Donkeys all but hidden under enormous bundles of fagots that
scrape the buildings on either side, asses bestraddled by foul-mouthed
boys who guide the beasts by kicking them behind either ear and urge
them on by a sound peculiar to the Arab—a disgusting trilling of the
soft palate—dash with set teeth out of obscure and unexpected side
streets. Not an inch do they swerve from their course, not once do they
slacken their pace. The faranchee who expects them to do so is sure to
receive many a jolt in the ribs from asinine shoulders or some unwieldy
cargo and to be sent sprawling, if there is room to sprawl, as the beast
and his driver glance back at his discomfiture with a diabolical gleam
in their eyes. Hairless, scabby mongrel curs, yellow or grey in color,
prowl among the legs of the throng, skulk through the byways devouring
the refuse, or lie undisturbed in the puddles that abound in every
street. The donkey may knock down a dozen pedestrians an hour, but he
takes good care to step over the pariah dogs in his path. Periodically
the mongrels gather in bands at busy corners, yelping and snarling,
snapping their yellow fangs, and raising an infernal din that impedes
bargainings a hundred yards away. If a bystander wades among them with
his stick and drives them off, it is only to have them collect again
five minutes after the last yelp has been silenced.

[Illustration: Damascus. “The street called Straight—which isn’t”]

[Illustration: A wood-turner of Damascus. He watches the ever-passing
throng, turning the stick with a bow and a loose string, and holding the
chisel with his toes]

Where in the Western world does the pursuit of dollars raise such a
hubbub as the scramble for metleeks in the streets of Damascus? A
dollar, after all, is a dollar and under certain conditions worth
shouting for; but a metleek is only a cent and the incessant calling
after it, like a multitude searching the wilderness for a lost child,
sounds penurious. “Metleek!” cries the seller of flat loaves, on the
ground at your feet. “Metleek!” roars the gruff-voiced nut vendor,
fighting his way through the rabble, basket on arm. “Metleek!” screams
the wandering bartender, jingling his brass disks. Unendingly the word
echoes through the recesses and windings of the bazaars; commandingly
from the hawker whose novelty has attracted the ever-susceptible
multitude, threateningly from the sturdy fellow whose stand has been
deserted, pleadingly from the crippled beggar who threads his way
miraculously through the human whirlpool. A great, discordant symphony
of “Metleek!” rises over the land, wherein are blended even the voices
of the pasha in his palace, the mullah in his mosque, and His Impuissant
Majesty in far-off “Stamboul.” Lives there a man in all the realm who
would accept a larger coin even under compulsion?

One figure stands out as the most miserable in all the teeming life of
Damascus—the Turkish soldier. The burden of conscription falls only on
the Mohammedan, for none but the followers of the prophet of Medina may
be enrolled under the Sick Man’s banners. The recruit receives a uniform
of the shoddiest material once a year, and an allowance of about two
cents a day. What the allowance will not cover, he pays for out of his
meager rations. His tobacco, his amusements, the very patches on his
miserable uniform, he reckons in terms of the flabby biscuits that are
served out to him. Every morning there sallies forth from the
tumble-down barracks an unkempt private, hopeless weariness of the petty
things of life stamped on his coarse features, his garb a crazy quilt of
awkward patches, who, holding before him a sack of soggy gkebis
contributed by his fellow-conscripts, wanders through the market places,
adding his long-drawn wail to the chorus of “Metleek.” Individually, he
is a gaunt scarecrow; on parade he bears far more resemblance to a band
of Bowery bootblacks than to a military company. In outward forms he is
as devoutly religious as his taskmaster at Stamboul, or the bejewelled
merchant who picks his way with effeminate tread through the reeking
streets to his mosque. Five times each day he halts for his prayers
wherever the voice of the muezzin finds him. Not even his racial dread
of water deters him from performing the ablutions required by the Koran.
In spite of his poverty he finds means to stain his nails with henna,
and to tattoo the knuckles or the backs of his hands with grotesque
figures that assist materially, no doubt, in the ultimate salvation of
his soul; and he snarls angrily at the dog of an unbeliever who would
transfix his image on photographic paper.

On the Sunday afternoon of my arrival in Damascus a surging multitude
swept me through the entrance to the parade ground opposite the
barracks. A sea of upturned faces surrounded a ragged band that was
perpetrating a concert of German and Italian airs. For a time I hung on
the tail of the crowd. When endurance failed, I withdrew to the only
seat in evidence—a stone pile in a far corner—to change the film in my
kodak. Almost before I had begun, a steady flow of humanity set in
towards me. In a twinkling I was the center of a jostling throng of
Damascans, each one screaming and pushing for a view of the strange
machine; and the players struggled on despairingly with only themselves
as audience. Distressed at having unintentionally set up a counter
attraction, I closed the apparatus and turned away. The move but
aggravated the difficulty. For a moment the Damascans gazed hesitatingly
from the deserted band stand to my retreating figure, swelled with
curiosity, and surged pell-mell after me. My reputation as a
self-sacrificing member of society was at stake. Bravely I turned and
marched back to the struggling musicians—the adjective, at least, is
used advisedly—and held the kodak in plain sight. An unprecedented
audience of music-lovers quickly gathered and for a time the concert
moved with great gusto. But the players were merely human, and only
Arabian humans at that. One by one they caught sight of the “queer
machine” below them. The technique faltered; the trombones lost the
key—or found it, which was quite as disconcerting; the fifers paused;
the cornetists lost their pucker; the leader turned to stare,
open-mouthed as the rest, and an air that had suggested, here and there,
the triumphal march from Aïda died a lingering, agonizing death.

This, surely, was the psychological moment for a photograph! I opened
the kodak. A hoarse murmur rose from the multitude. At last they
recognized the nefarious instrument! I pointed it at the leader. He
screamed like a pin-pricked infant, a man beside me snatched at the
kodak, another thumped me viciously in the ribs, a third tore at my
hair, and the frenzied population of Damascus swept down upon me, bent
on wreaking summary vengeance on a defiler of their religious
superstitions. I left them entangled in their own legs and darted under
the band stand towards the gate. A guard bellowed at me. I squirmed
through his arms and sped far away through the half-deserted streets of
the music-loving metropolis.

Darkness was falling when I caught breath in some unknown corner of the
city. Long lines of merchants were setting up the board-shutters before
their booths. Hardly a straggler remained of the maudlin, daytime
multitude. Dismally I wandered through the labyrinth so animate at
noonday, shut in on either side by endless, high board fences. It
mattered not in what European language I inquired for an inn from
belated citizens; each one muttered “m’abarafshee,” and hurried on. I
sat down before a lighted tobacco booth and feigned sleep. The
proprietor came out to drive off the curs sniffing at my feet and led
the way to a neighboring _khan_, in which the keeper spread me a bed of
blankets on the cobblestone floor.

I ventured next day into the “Hotel Stamboul,” a proud hostelry facing
the stable that serves Damascus as post office, with little hope either
of making known my wants or of finding the rate within my means. The
proprietor, strange to say, mutilated a little French and, stranger
still, assigned me to a room at eight cents a day. The cost of living
was thereby reduced to a mere nothing. The Arab has a great abhorrence
of eating his fill at definite hours and prefers to nibble, nibble all
day long as if in constant fear of losing the use of his jaws by a
moment’s inactivity. Countless shops in Damascus cater to this nibbling
trade. For a copper or two they serve a well-filled dish of fruit, nuts,
sweetmeats, pastry, puddings, ragoût, syrups, or a variety of indigenous
products and messes which no Westerner could identify. They are savory
portions, too, for the Arab cook, however much he may differ in methods
from the Occidental chef, knows his profession. Like the street hawker
who sells a quart of raisins for a cent—the Mohammedan makes no wine—his
prices seem scarcely worth the collecting; and be his customer Frank or
Mussulman, they never vary. In the seaports of the Orient the whiteman
must expect to be “done.” The ignorance and asininity of generations of
tourists have turned seaside merchants into commercial vultures. In
untutored Damascus not a shopkeeper attempted to cheat me out of the
fraction of a copper.

Four days I had passed in Damascus before I turned to the problem of how
to get out of it. I had planned to strike southwestward through the
country to Nazareth. On the map the trip seemed easy. The journey from
the coast had proved, however, that the sketches of the gazetteer were
little to be trusted in this mysterious country. The highway from the
coast, moreover, is one of the few roads in all the land between Smyrna
and the Red Sea. Across the Bedouin-infected wilderness between Damascus
and Nazareth lay only a vaguely marked route, traversed in springtime by
a great concourse of pilgrims. In this late December the rainy season
was at hand. Several violent downpours, that would have convinced the
most skeptical of the literal truth of the Biblical account of the
deluge, had already burst over Damascus, storms that were sure to have
reduced Palestine to a soggy marsh and turned its summer brooks into
roaring torrents.

The passage, however, could not have been more difficult than the
gathering of information concerning it. The dwellers in the cities of
Asia Minor are the most incorrigible stay-at-homes on the globe. Travel
for pleasure or instruction they have never dreamed of. Only the direst
necessity can draw them forth from their accustomed haunts, and they
know no more of the territory a few miles outside their walls than of
the antipodes. It cost me a half-day’s search to find the American
consulate, a shame-faced hovel decorated with a battered shield of the
size and picturesqueness of a peddler’s license. The consul himself
opened the door and my hopes fell—for he was a native. A real American
would have seen my point of view and given me all the information in his
power. This suave and lady-like mortal dealt out cigarettes with a
lavish hand and delved into the details of my existence back to the
fourth generation; but directions he would not give, on the ground that
when I had been stolen by Bedouins or washed away by the rain my ghost
would rise up in the hours of darkness to denounce him. His last reason,
especially, was forceful. “If you attempt to go to Nazareth on foot,” he
cried, “you will get tired.”

Towards evening I ran to earth in the huddled bazaars a French-speaking
tailor who claimed to have made the first few miles of the journey.
Gleefully I jotted down his explicit directions. An hour’s walk, next
morning, brought me out on a wind-swept stretch of greyish sand beyond
the city. For some miles a vague path led across the monotonous waste.
Pariah dogs growled and snarled over the putrid carcasses of horses and
sheep that lined the way. The wind whirled aloft tiny particles of sand
that bit my cheeks and filled my eyes. A chilling rain began to fall,
sinking quickly into the desert. At the height of the storm the path
ceased at the brink of a muddy torrent that it would have been madness
to have attempted to cross. A solitary shepherd plodded along the bank
of the stream. I pointed across it and shouted, “Banias? Nazra?” The
Arab stared at me a moment, tossed his arms aloft, crying to Allah to
note the madness of a roving faranchee, and sped away across the desert.

I plodded back to the city. In the armorers’ bazaar a sword-maker called
out to me in German and I halted to renew my inquiries. The workman
paused in his task of beating a scimitar to venture his solemn opinion
that the tailor was an imbecile and an ass, and assured me that the road
to Nazareth left the city in exactly the opposite direction. “’Tis a
broad caravan trail,” he went on, “opening out beyond the shoemakers’
bazaar.” A bit more hopeful, I struck off again next morning.

The assertion of Abdul that it was “ver’ col’” in Damascus was not
without foundation. In the sunshine summer reigned, but in the shadow
lurked a chill that penetrated to the bones. On this cloudy morning the
air was biting. Before I had passed the last shoemaker’s booth a cold
drizzle set in. On the desert it turned to a wet snow that clung to bush
and boulder like shreds of white clothing. A toe protruded here and
there from my dilapidated cloth slippers. The sword-maker, apparently,
had indulged in a practical joke at my expense. A caravan track there
was beyond the last wretched hovel, a track that showed for miles across
the bleak country. But though it might have taken me to Bagdad or the
steppes of Siberia, it certainly did not lead to the land of the chosen
people.

I turned and trotted back to the city, cheered on by the anticipation of
such a fire as roars up the chimneys of American homes on the memorable
days of the first snow. The anticipation proved my ignorance of Damascan
customs. The proprietor and his guests were shivering over a pan of
coals that could not have heated a doll’s house. I fought my way into
the huddled group and warmed alternately a finger and a toe. But the
chill of the desert would not leave me. A servant summoned the landlord
to another part of the building. He picked up the “stove” and marched
away with it, and I took leave of my quaking fellow-guests and went to
bed, as the only possible place to restore my circulation.

Dusk was falling the next afternoon when I stumbled upon the British
consulate. Here, at last, was a man. The dull natives with their
slipshod mental habits had given me far less information in four days
than I gained from a five-minute interview with this alert Englishman.
He was none the less certain than they, however, that the overland
journey was impossible at that season. Late reports from the Waters of
Meron announced the route utterly impassable.

The consul was a director of the Beirut-Damascus line. Railway directors
in Asia Minor have, evidently, special privileges. For the Englishman
assured me that a note over his signature would take me back to the
coast as readily as a ticket. The next day I spent Christmas in a stuffy
coach on the cogwheel railway over the Lebanon and stepped out at
Beirut, shortly after dark, to run directly into the arms of Abdul Razac
Bundak.

Our “company” was definitely dissolved on the afternoon of December
twenty-seventh and I set out for Sidon. Here, at least, I could not lose
my way, for I had but to follow the coast. Even Abdul, however, did not
know whether the ancient city was one or ten days distant. A highway
through an olive grove, where lean Bedouins squatted on their hams, soon
broke up into several diverging footpaths. The one I chose led over
undulating sand dunes where the misfit shoes that I had picked up in a
pawn shop of Beirut soon filled to overflowing. I swung them over a
shoulder and plodded on barefooted. A roaring brook blocked the way. I
crossed it by climbing a willow on one bank and swinging into the
branches of another opposite, and plunged into another wilderness of
sand.

Towards dusk I came upon a peasant’s cottage on a tiny plain and halted
for water. A youth in the Sultan’s crazy quilt, sitting on the well
curb, brought me a basinful. I had started on again when a voice rang
out behind me, “Hé! D’où est-ce que vous venez? Où est-ce que vous
allez?” In the doorway of the hovel stood a slatternly woman of some
fifty years of age. I mentioned my nationality.

“American?” cried the feminine scarecrow, this time in English, as she
rushed out upon me, “My God! You American? Me American, too! My God!”

The assertion seemed scarcely credible, as she was decidedly Syrian,
both in dress and features.

“Yes, my God!” she went on, “I live six years in America, me! I go back
to America next month! I not see America for one year. Come in house!”

I followed her into the cottage. It was the usual dwelling of the
peasant class—dirt floor, a kettle hanging over an open fire in one
corner, a few ears of corn and bunches of dried grapes suspended from
the ceiling. On one of the rough stone walls, looking strangely out of
place amid this Oriental squalor, was pinned a newspaper portrait of
McKinley.

“Oh, my God!” cried the woman, as I glanced towards the distortion, “Me
Republican, me. One time I see McKinley when I peddle by Cleveland,
Ohio. You know Cleveland? My man over there”—she pointed away to the
fertile slopes of the Lebanon—“My man go back with me next month, vote
one more time for Roosevelt.”

The patch-work youth poked his head in at the door.

“Taala hena, Maghmoód,” bawled the boisterous Republican. “This American
man! He no have to go for soldier fight long time for greasy old Sultan.
Not work all day to get bishleek, him! Get ten, fifteen, twenty bishleek
day! Bah! You no good, you! Why for you not run away to America?”

The soldier listened to this more or less English with a silly smirk on
his face and shifted from one foot to the other with every fourth word.
The woman repeated the oration in her native tongue. The youth continued
to grin until the words “ashara, gkamsashar, ashreen” turned his smirk
to wide-eyed astonishment, and he dropped on his haunches in the dirt,
as if his legs had given way under the weight of such untold wealth.

The woman ran a sort of lodging house in an adjoining stone hut and
insisted that I spend the night there. Her vociferous affection for
Americans would, no doubt, have forced her to cling to my coat-tails had
I attempted to escape. Chattering disconnectedly, she prepared a supper
of lentils, bread-sheets, olives, and crushed sugar cane, and set out—to
the horror of the Mohammedan youth—a bottle of _beet_ (native wine). The
meal over, she lighted a narghileh, leaned back in a home-made chair,
and blew smoke at the ceiling with a far-away look in her eyes.

“Oh, my God!” she cried suddenly, “You sing American song! I like this
no-good soldier hear good song. Then he sing Arab song for you.”

I essayed the rôle of wandering minstrel with misgiving. At the first
lines of “The Swanee River” the conscript burst forth in a roar of
laughter that doubled him up in a paroxysm of mirth.

“You damn fool, you,” bellowed the female, shaking her fist at the
prostrate property of the Sultan. “You no know what song is! American
songs wonderful! Shut up! I split your head!”

This gentle hint, rendered into Arabic, convinced the youth of the
solemnity of the occasion, and he listened most attentively with set
teeth until the Occidental concert was ended.

When his turn came, he struck up a woeful monotone that sounded not
unlike the wailing of a lost soul, and sang for nearly an hour in about
three notes, shaking his head and rocking his body back and forth in the
emotional passages as his voice rose to an ear-splitting yell.

The dirge was interrupted by a shout from the darkness outside. The
woman called back in answer, and two ragged, bespattered Bedouins pushed
into the hut. The howling and shouting that ensued left me undecided
whether murder or merely highway robbery had been committed. The
contention, however, subsided after a half-hour of shaking of fists and
alternate reduction to the verge of tears, and my hostess took from the
wall a huge key and stepped out, followed by the Bedouins.

“You know what for we fight?” she demanded, as she returned alone. “They
Arabs. Want to sleep in my hotel. They want pay only four coppers. I say
must pay five coppers—one metleek. Bah! This country no good.”

Four-fifths of a cent was, perhaps, as great a price as she should have
demanded from any lodger in the “hotel” to which she conducted me a
half-hour later.

All next day I followed a faintly-marked path that clung closely to the
coast, swerving far out on every headland as if fearful of losing itself
in the solitude of the moors. Here and there a woe-begone peasant from a
village in the hills was toiling in a tiny patch. Across a stump or a
gnarled tree trunk, always close at hand, leaned a long, rusty gun, as
primitive in appearance as the wooden plow which the tiny oxen dragged
back and forth across the fields. Those whose curiosity got the better
of them served as illustrations to the Biblical assertion, “No man
having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom
of Heaven.” For the implement was sure to strike a root or a rock, and
the peasant who picked himself up out of the mire could never have been
admitted by the least fastidious St. Peter. Nineteen showers flung their
waters upon me during the day, showers that were sometimes distinctly
separated from each other by periods of sunshine, showers that merged
one into another through a dreary drizzle.

A wind from off the Mediterranean put the leaden clouds to flight late
in the afternoon and the sun was smiling bravely when the path turned
into a well-kept road, winding through a forest of orange trees where
countless natives, in a garb that did not seem particularly adapted to
such occupation, were stripping the overladen branches of their fruit.
Her oranges and her tobacco give livelihood—of a sort—to the ten
thousand inhabitants of modern Sidon. From the first shop in the
outskirts to the drawbridge of the ruined castle boldly facing the sea,
the bazaar was one long, orange-colored streak. The Sidonese who
gathered round me in the market would have buried me under their
donations of the fruit—windfalls that had split open—had I not waved
them off and followed one of their number, I knew not whither.

[Illustration: Women of Bethlehem going to the Church of the Nativity]

[Illustration: The most thickly settled portion of Damascus is the
graveyard. A picture taken at risk of mobbing]

He turned in at a gate that gave admittance to a large walled inclosure.
From the doors and down the outside stairways of a large building in its
center poured a multitude of boys and youths, in drab-colored uniforms,
shrieking words of welcome. A young man at the head of the throng
reached me first.

“They students,” he cried; “I am teacher. This American Mission College.
They always run to see white man because they study white man’s language
and country!”

Every class in the institution, evidently, had been dismissed that they
might attend an illustrated lecture on anthropology. The students formed
a circle about me, and the “teacher” marched round and round me,
discoursing on the various points of my person and dress that differed
from the native, as glibly as any medical failure over a cadaver.

“Will you, kind sir,” he said, pausing for breath, “will you show to my
students the funny things with which the white man holds up his
stockings?”

I refused the request, indignantly, of course—the bare thought of such
immodesty! Besides, those important articles of my attire had long since
been gathered into the bag of a Marseilles rag-picker.

I moved towards the gate.

“Wait, sir,” cried the tutor, “very soon the American president of the
school comes. He will give you supper and bed.”

“I’ll pay my own,” I answered.

“What!” shouted the Syrian, “You got metleek? Thees man bring you here
because you sit in the market-place like you have no money.”

Some time later, as I emerged from an eating shop, a native sprang
forward with a wild shout and grasped me by the hand. Grinning with
self-complacency at his knowledge of the faranchee mode of greeting, he
fell to working my arm like a pump handle, yelping at the same time an
unbroken string of Arabic that rapidly brought down upon us every
lounger in the market-place. He was dressed in the blanket-like cloak
and the flowing headdress of the countryman. His weather-beaten visage,
at best reminiscent of a blue-ribbon bulldog, was rendered hideous by a
broken nose that had been driven entirely out of its normal position and
halfway into his left cheek. Certainly he was no new acquaintance. For
some moments I struggled to recall where I had seen that wreck of a face
before. From the jumble that fell from his lips I caught a few
words:—“locanda, bnam, Beirut.” Then I remembered. He of the pump-handle
movement had occupied a bed beside my own during my first days in Beirut
and had turned the nights into purgatory by wailing a native song in a
never-changing monotone, while he rolled and puffed at innumerable
cigarettes.

When I had disengaged my aching arm I enquired for an inn. My
long-lost roommate nodded his head and led the way to the one large
building abutting on the street, a blank wall of sun-baked bricks some
forty feet in length, unbroken except for a door through which the
Arab pushed me before him. We found ourselves in a vast, gloomy room,
its walls the seamy side of the sun-baked bricks, its floor trampled
earth, and its flat roof supported by massive beams of such wood as
Hiram sent to Solomon for the temple on Mt. Moriah. Save for a bit of
space near the door, the room was crowded with camels, donkeys, dogs,
and men, and heaps of bundled merchandise. It was the Sidon khan, a
station for the caravan trains that make their way up and down the
coast. Across the room, above the door, ran a wooden gallery, some ten
feet wide. My companion pushed me up the ladder before him, took two
blankets—evidently his own property—from a heap in the corner, and,
spreading them out in a space unoccupied by prostrate muleteers or
camel drivers, invited me to lie down.

The scene below us was a very pandemonium. Donkeys, large and small,
lying, standing, kicking, braying, broke away, now and then, to lead
their owners a merry chase in and out of the throng. Reclining camels
chewed their cud, and gazed at the chaos about them with scornful
dignity. Others of these phlegmatic beasts, newly arrived, shrilly
protested against kneeling until their cursing masters could relieve
them of their loads. Men and dogs were everywhere. Gaunt curs glared
about them like famished wolves. Men in coarse cloaks, that resembled
grain-sacks split up the front, were cudgeling their beasts, quarreling
over the sharing of a blanket, or shrieking at the keeper who collected
the khan dues. Among them, less excited mortals squatted, singly or in
groups, on blankets spread between a camel and an ass, rolled out the
stocking-like rags swinging over their shoulders, and fell to munching
their meager suppers. Here and there a man stood barefooted on his
cloak, deaf to every sound about him, salaaming his reverences towards
the south wall, beyond which lay Mecca.

Before the first grey of dawn appeared, the mingling sounds that had
made an incessant murmur during the night increased to a roar. There
came the tinkling of bells on ass and dromedary, the braying and cursing
of the denizens of the desert. Men wrestled with unwieldy cargoes, or
cudgeled animals reluctant to take up their burdens. At frequent
intervals the door beneath our gallery creaked, and one by one the
caravans filed out into the breaking day.

The khan was almost empty when I descended the ladder. Late risers were
hurrying through their prayers or loading the few animals that remained.
The keeper, sitting crosslegged near the door, rolled me a cigarette and
demanded a bishleek for my lodging. I knew as well as he that such a
price was preposterous, and he was fully aware of my knowledge. He had
merely begun the skirmish that is the preliminary of every financial
transaction in the East. A little experience with Oriental merchants
imbues the faranchee traveler with the spirit of haggling; when he
learns, as soon he will, that every tradesman who gets the better of him
laughs at him for a fool, self-respect comes to the rescue. For who
would not spend a half-hour of sluggish Eastern time to prove that the
men of his nation are no inferiors in astuteness to these suave
followers of “Maghmoód,” however small may be the amount under
discussion?

By the time my cigarette was half finished I had reduced the price to
four metleeks. Before I tossed it away, the keeper of the khan had
accepted a mouth-organ that had somehow found its way into my pack and
about three reeds of which responded to the most powerful pair of lungs;
and he bade me good-bye with a much more respectful opinion of
faranchees than he would have done had I paid the first amount demanded.

The wail of a leather-lunged muezzin echoed across the wilderness as I
set off again to the southward. A road that sallied forth from the city
stopped short at the edge of an inundated morass and left me to lay my
own course, guided by the booming of the Mediterranean. The cheering
prospect of a night out of doors lay before me; for, if the map was to
be trusted, the next village was fully two days distant. Mile after mile
the way led over slippery spurs of the mountain chain and across marshes
in which I sank halfway to my knees, with here and there a muddy stream
to be forded. Only an occasional sea gull, circling over the waves, gave
life to the dreary landscape. A few isolated patches showed signs of
cultivation, but the cold, incessant downpour kept even the hardy
peasants cooped up in their villages among the hills to the eastward.

The utter solitude was broken but once by a human being, a ragged
muleteer splashing northward as fast as the clinging mud permitted. On
his face was the utter dejection of one who had been denied admittance
at St. Peter’s gate. At sight of me he struggled to increase his pace
and, pointing away through the storm, bawled plaintively, “Homar,
efendee? Shoof! Fee homar henak?” (Ass, sir? Look! Is there an ass
beyond?) When I shook my head he lifted up his voice and wept in true
Biblical fashion, and stumbled on across the morass.

The gloomy day was waning when I plunged into a valley of rank
vegetation, where several massive stone ruins and a crumbling stone
bridge that humped its back over a wandering stream, suggested an
ancient center of civilization. I scanned the debris for a hole in which
to sleep. Shelter there was none, and a gnawing hunger protested against
a halt. From the top of the bridge an unhoped-for sight caught my eye.
Miles away, at the end of a low cape that ran far out into the sea, rose
a slender minaret, surrounded by a jumble of flat buildings. I tore my
way through the undergrowth with hope renewed and struck out towards the
unknown, perhaps unpeopled, hamlet.

Dusk turned to utter darkness. For an interminable period I staggered on
through the mire, sprawling, now and then, in a stinking slough. The
lapping of waves sounded at last, and I struck a solider footing of
sloping sand. Far ahead twinkled a few lights, so far out across the
water that, had I not seen the village by day, I had fancied them the
illuminated portholes of a steamer at anchor. The beach described a
half-circle. The twinkling lights drew on before like wills o’ the wisp.
The flat sand gave way to rocks and boulders—the ruins, apparently, of
ancient buildings—against which I barked my shins repeatedly.

I had all but given up in despair the pursuit of the fugitive glowworms,
when the baying of dogs fell on my ear. An unveiled corner of the moon
disclosed a faintly defined path up the sloping beach, which, leading
across the sand-dunes, brought up against a fort-like building, pierced
in the center by a gateway. Two flickering lights under the archway cast
weird shadows over a group of Arabs, huddled in their blankets.

The arrival of any traveler at such an hour was an event to bring
astonishment; a mud-bespattered faranchee projected thus upon them out
of the blackness of the night brought them to their feet with excited
cries. I pushed through the group and plunged into a maze of wretched,
hovel-choked alleyways. Silence reigned in the bazaars, but the keeper
of one squalid shop was still dozing over his pan of coals between a
stack of aged bread-sheets and a simmering kettle of sour-milk soup. I
prodded him into semi-wakefulness and, gathering in the gkebis, sat down
in his place. He dipped up a bowl of soup from force of habit, then
catching sight of me for the first time, generously distributed the
jelly-like mixture over my outstretched legs.

The second serving reached me in the orthodox manner. To the nibbling
Arabs who had ranged themselves on the edge of the circle of light cast
by the shop lamp, a bowl of soup was an ample meal for one man. When I
called for a second, they stared open-mouthed. Again I sent the bowl
back. The bystanders burst forth in a roar of laughter which the
deserted labyrinth echoed back to us a third and a fourth time, and the
boldest stepped forward to pat their stomachs derisively.

I inquired for an inn as I finished. A ragged Sampson stepped into the
arc of light and crying “taala,” set off to the westward. Almost at a
trot, he led the way by cobbled streets, down the center of which ran an
open sewer, up hillocks and down, under vaulted bazaars and narrow
archways, by turns innumerable.

He stopped at last before a high garden wall, behind which, among the
trees, stood a large building of monasterial aspect.

“Italiano faranchee henak,” he said, raising the heavy iron knocker over
the gate and letting it fall with a boom that startled the dull ear of
night. Again and again he knocked. The muffled sound of an opening door
came from the distant building. A step fell on the graveled walk, a step
that advanced with slow and stately tread to within a few feet of the
gate; then a deep, reverberant voice called out something in Arabic.

I replied in Italian; “I am a white man, looking for an inn.”

The voice that answered was trained to the chanting of masses. One could
almost fancy himself in some vast cathedral, listening to an invocation
from far back in the nave, as the words came, deep and sharp-cut, one
from another: “Non si riceveno qui pellegrini.” The scrape of feet on
the graveled walk grew fainter and fainter, a heavy door slammed, and
all was still.

The Arab put his ear to the keyhole of the gate, scratched his head in
perplexity, and with another “taala” dashed off once more. A no less
devious route brought us out on the water front of the back bay. In a
brightly lighted café sat a dozen convivial souls over narghilehs and
coffee. My cicerone paused some distance away and set up a wailing chant
in which the word “faranchee” was often repeated. Plainly, the revelers
gave small credence to this cry of Frank out of the night. Calmly they
continued smoking and chattering, peering indifferently, now and then,
into the outer darkness. The Arab drew me into the circle of light. A
roar went up from the carousers and they tumbled pell-mell out upon us.

My guide was, evidently, a village butt, rarely permitted to appear
before his fellow-townsman in so important a rôle. Fame, at last, was
knocking at his door. His first words tripped over each other
distressingly, but his racial eloquence of phrase and gesture came to
the rescue, and he launched forth in a panegyric such as never
congressional candidate suffered at the hands of a rural chairman. His
zeal worked his undoing. From every dwelling within sound of his
trumpet-like voice poured forth half-dressed men who, crowding closely
around, raised a Babel that drowned out the orator before his
introductory premise had been half ended. An enemy suggested an
adjournment to the café and left the new Cicero—the penniless being
denied admittance—to deliver his maiden speech to the unpeopled
darkness.

The keeper, with his best company smile, placed a chair for me in the
center of the room; the elder men grouped themselves about me on similar
articles of furniture; and the younger squatted on their haunches around
the wall. The language of signs was proving a poor means of
communication, when a native, in more elaborate costume, pushed into the
circle and addressed me in French. With an interpreter at hand, nothing
short of my entire biography would satisfy my hearers; and to avoid any
semblance of partiality, I was forced to swing round and round on my
stool in the telling, despite the fact that only one of the audience
understood the queer faranchee words. The proprietor, meanwhile, in a
laudable endeavor to make hay while the sun shone, made the circuit of
the room at frequent intervals, asking each with what he could serve
him. Those few who did not order were ruthlessly pushed into the street,
where a throng of boys and penniless men flitted back and forth on the
edge of the light, peering in upon us. Anxious to secure the good-will
of so unusual an attraction, the keeper ran forward each time my
whirling brought him within my field of vision to offer a cup of thick
coffee, a narghileh, or a native liquor.

I concluded my saga with the statement that I had left Sidon that
morning.

“Impossible!” shouted the interpreter. “No man can walk from Sidra to
Soor in one day.”

“Soor?” I cried, recognizing the native name for Tyre, and scarcely
believing my ears. “Is this Soor?”

“Is it possible,” gasped the native, “that you have not recognized the
ancient city of Tyre? Yes, indeed, my friend, this is Soor. But if you
have left Sidon this morning you have slept a night on the way without
knowing it.”

I turned the conversation by inquiring the identity of the worthies
about me. The interpreter introduced them one by one. The village
scribe, the village barber, the village carpenter, the village tailor,
and—even thus far from the land of chestnut trees—the village blacksmith
were all in evidence. Most striking of all the throng in appearance was
a young man of handsome, forceful face and sturdy, well-poised figure,
attired in a flowing, jet-black gown and almost as black a fez. From
time to time he rose to address his companions on the all-important
topic of faranchees. A gift of native eloquence of which he seemed
supremely unconscious, and the long sweep of his gown over his left
shoulder with which he ended every discourse, recalled my visualization
of Hamlet. I was surprised to find that he was only a common sailor, and
that in a land where the seaman is regarded as the lowest of created
beings.

“Hamlet” owed his position of authority on this occasion to a single
journey to Buenos Ayres. After long striving, I succeeded in exchanging
with him a few meager ideas in Spanish, much to the discomfiture of the
“regular” interpreter, who, posing as a man of unexampled erudition,
turned away with an angry shrug of the shoulders and fell upon my
unguarded knapsack. I swung round in time to find him complacently
turning the film-wind of my kodak and clawing at the edges in an attempt
to open it. If one would keep his possessions intact in the East he must
sit upon them, for not even the apes of the jungle have the curiosity of
the Oriental nor less realization of the difference between mine and
thine.

The city fathers of Tyre, in solemn conviviality assembled, resolved
unanimously that I could not be permitted to continue on foot. Some days
before, midway between Tyre and Acre, a white man had been found,
murdered by some blunt instrument and nailed to the ground by a stake
driven through his body. The tale was told, with the fullness of detail
doted on by our yellow journals, in French and crippled Spanish; and
innumerable versions in Arabic were followed by an elaborate pantomime
by the village carpenter, with Hamlet and the scribe as the assassins,
and the tube of a water-pipe as the stake. Midnight had long since
passed. I promised the good citizens of Tyre to remain in their city for
a day of reflection, and inquired for a place to sleep.

Not a man among them, evidently, had thought of that problem. The
assemblage resolved itself into a committee of the whole and spent a
good half hour in weighty debate. Then the interpreter rose to
communicate to me the result of the deliberations. There was no public
inn in the city of Tyre—they thanked God for that. But its inhabitants
had ever been ready to treat royally the stranger within their gates.
The keeper of the café had a back room. In that back room was a wooden
bench. The keeper was moved to give me permission to occupy that back
room and that bench. Nay! Even more! He was resolved to spread on that
bench a rush mat, and cover me over with what had once been the sail of
his fishing-smack. But first he must ask me one question. Aye! The
citizens of Tyre, there assembled, must demand an answer to that query
and the spokesman abjured me, by the beard of Allah, to answer
truthfully and deliberately.

I moved the previous question. The village elders hitched their stools
nearer, the squatters strained their necks to listen. The man of
learning gasped twice, nay, thrice, and broke the utter silence with a
tense whisper:—

“Are you, sir, a _Jew_?”

I denied the allegation.

“Because,” went on the speaker, “we are haters of the Jews and no Jew
could stop in this café over night, though the clouds rained down
boulders and water-jars on our city of Tyre.”

The keeper fulfilled his promise to the letter and, putting up the
shutters of the café, locked me in and marched away.

[Illustration: Tyre is now a miserable village connected with the
mainland by a wind-blown neck of sand]

[Illustration: Agriculture in Palestine. There is not an ounce of iron
about the plow]

The nephew of the village carpenter, a youth educated in the American
Mission School of Sidon, appointed himself my guide next morning. The
ancient city of Tyre is to-day a collection of stone and mud hovels,
covering less than a third of the sandy point that once teemed with
metropolitan life, and housing four thousand humble humans, destitute
alike of education, arts, and enterprise. Our pilgrimage began at the
narrow neck of wind-blown sand—all that remains of the causeway of
Alexander. To the south of the present hamlet, once the site of rich
dwellings, stretched rambling rows of crude head-stones over Christian
and Mohammedan graves, a dreary spot above which circled and swooped a
few sombre rooks. On the eastern edge a knoll rose above the pathetic
village wall, a rampart that would not afford defense against a
self-confident goat. Below lay a broad playground, worn bare and smooth
by the tramp of many feet, peopled now by groups of romping children and
here and there an adult loafing under the rays of the December sun. Only
a few narrow chasms, from which peeped the top of a window or door,
served to remind the observer that he was not looking down upon an open
space, but on the flat housetops of the closely-packed city.

Further away rose an unsteady minaret, and beyond, the tree-girdled
dwelling of the Italian monks. To the north, in the wretched roadstead,
a few decrepit fishing smacks, sad remnants of the fleets whose mariners
once caroused and sang in the streets of Tyre, lay at anchor. Down on
the encircling beach, half buried under the drifting sands and worn away
by the lapping waves, lay the ruins of what must long ago have been
great business blocks. The Tyreans of to-day, mere parasites, have borne
away stone by stone these edifices of a mightier generation to build
their own humble habitations. Even as we looked, a half dozen ragged
Arabs were prying off the top of a great pillar and loading the
fragments into a dilapidated feluca.

A narrow street through the center of the town forms the boundary
between her two religions. To the north dwell Christians, to the south
Metawalies, Mohammedans of unorthodox superstitions. Their women do not
cover their faces, but tattoo their foreheads, cheeks, and hands. To
them the unpardonable sin is to touch, ever so slightly, a being not of
their faith. Ugly scowls greeted our passage in all this section. I
halted at a shop to buy oranges. A mangy old crone tossed the fruit at
me and, spreading a cloth over her hand, stretched it out. I attempted
to lay the coppers in her open palm. She snatched her hand away with a
snarl and a display of yellow fangs less suggestive of a human than of a
mongrel over a bone.

“Hold your hand above hers and drop the money,” said my companion. “If
you touch her, she is polluted.”

To a mere unbeliever the danger of pollution seemed reversed. But mayhap
it is not given to unbelievers to see clearly.

Once across the line of demarkation cheery greetings sounded from every
shop. Generations of intermarriage have welded this Christian community
into one great family. Often the youth halted to observe:

“Here lives my uncle; that man is my cousin; this shop belongs to my
sister’s husband; in that house dwells the brother-in-law of my father.”

America was the promised land to every denizen of this section. Hardly a
man of them had given up hope of putting together money enough to
emigrate to the new world. The brother of my guide voiced a prayer that
I had often heard among the Christians of Asia Minor.

“We hope more every day,” he said, “that America will some time take
this land away from the Turks, for the Turks are rascals and the king
rascal is the Sultan at Stamboul. Please, you, sir, get America to do
this when you come back.”

My cicerone was a true Syrian, in his horror of travel. His family had
been Christians—of the Greek faith—for generations, and Nazareth and
Jerusalem lay just beyond the ranges to the eastward; yet neither he,
his father, nor any ancestor, to his knowledge, had ever journeyed
further than to Sidon. His teachers had imbued him with an almost
American view of life, had instilled in him a code of personal morals at
utter variance with those of this land, in which crimes ranging from
bribery to murder are discussed in a spirit of levity by all classes.
But they had not given him the energy of the West, nor convinced him
that the education he had acquired was something more than an added
power for the amassing of metleeks. Some day, when he had money enough,
he would go to America to turn his linguistic ability into more money.
Meanwhile, he squatted on his haunches in the filth of Tyre, waiting
more patiently than Micawber for something to “turn up.”

The highest ideal, to the people he represented, is the merchant—a
middle-man between work and responsibility who may drone out his days in
reposeful self-sufficiency. The round of the streets led us to the
liquor and fruit shop kept by his father, a flabby-skinned fellow who
stretched his derelict bulk on a divan and growled whenever a client
disturbed his day-dreams. To his son he was the most fortunate being in
Tyre.

“Why,” cried the youth in admiration, “he never has to do anything but
rest in his seat all day and put up his shutters and go home at night!
Would you not like to own a shop and never have to work again all the
days of your life?”

My answer that the dénouement of such a fate would probably be the
sighing of willows over a premature grave was lost upon him.

An unprecedented throng was gathered in the café when I reached it in
the evening. The proprietor danced blindly about the room, well nigh
frantic from an ambitious but vain endeavor to serve all comers.
“Hamlet,” done with his day’s fishing and his sea-going rags, was again
on hand to give unconscious entertainment. The village scribe, if the
bursts of laughter were as unforced as they seemed, had brought with him
a stock of witty tales less threadbare than those of the night before;
and the expression on the face of my guide, and his repeated refusals to
interpret them, suggested that the stories were not of the jeune fille
order.

The village carpenter was the leader of the opposition against my
departure on foot, and finding that his pantomime had not aroused in me
a becoming dread of the Bedouin-infected wilderness, he set out on a new
tack. A coasting steamer was due in a few days. He proposed that the
assembled Tyreans take up a collection to pay my passage to the next
port, and set the ball rolling by dropping a bishleek into his empty
coffee cup. A steady flow of metleeks had already set in before my
protests grew vociferous enough to check it. Why I should refuse to
accept whatever they proposed to give was something very few of these
simple fellows could understand. The carpenter wiped out all my
arguments in the ensuing debate by summing up with that incontestable
postulate of the Arab: “Sir,” he cried, by interpreter, appealing to the
others for confirmation, “if you go to Acre on foot, you will get
tired!”

I slept again on the rush mat. My guide and his uncle accompanied me
through the city gate next morning, still entreating me to reconsider my
rash decision. The older man gave up just outside the village and with
an “Allah m’akum’” (the Lord be with you) hurried back, as if the
unwonted experience of getting out of sight of his workshop had filled
him with unconquerable terror. The youth halted beyond the wind-blown
neck of sand, and, after entreating me to send for him as soon as I
returned to America, fled after his uncle. From this distance the gloomy
huddle of kennels behind recalled even more readily than a closer view
those lines of the wandering bard:

“Dim is her glory, gone her fame,
Her boasted wealth has fled.
On her proud rock, alas, her shame,
The fisher’s net is spread.
The tyrean harp has slumbered long,
And Tyria’s mirth is low;
The timbrel, dulcimer, and song
Are hushed, or wake to woe.”

For the first few miles the way led along the hard sands of the beach.
Beyond, the “Ladder of Tyre,” a spur of the Lebanon falling sharply off
into the sea, presented a precipitous slope that I scaled with many
bruises. Few spots on the globe present a more desolate prospect than
the range after range of barren hills that stretch out from the summit
of the “Ladder.” Half climbing, half sliding, I descended the southern
slope and struggled on across a trackless country in a never-ceasing
downpour.

It was the hour of nightfall when the first habitation of man broke the
monotony of the lifeless waste. Half famished, I hurried towards it. At
a distance the hamlet presented the appearance of a low fortress or
blockhouse. The outer fringe of buildings—all these peasant villages
form a more or less perfect circle—were set so closely together as to
make an almost continuous wall, with never a window nor door opening on
the world outside. I circled half the town before I found an entrance to
its garden of miseries. The hovels, partly of limestone, chiefly of
baked mud, were packed like stacks in a scanty barnyard. The spaces
between them left meager passages, and, being the village dumping ground
and sewer as well as the communal barn, reeked with every abomination of
man and beast. In cleanliness and picturesqueness the houses resembled
the streets. Here and there a human sty stood open and lazy smoke curled
upward from its low doorway; for the chimney is as yet unknown in rural
Asia Minor.

A complete circuit of the “city” disclosed no shops and I began a
canvass of the hovels, stooping to thrust my head through the
smoke-choked doorways, and shaking my handkerchief of coins in the faces
of the half asphyxiated occupants, with a cry of “gkebis.” Wretched hags
and half-naked children glared at me. My best pulmonary efforts evoked
no more than a snarl or a stolid stare. Only once did I receive verbal
reply. A peasant whose garb was one-fourth cloth, one-fourth the skin of
some other animal, and one-half the accumulated filth of some two-score
years, squatted in the center of the last hut, eating from a stack of
newly baked bread-sheets. Having caught him with the goods, I bawled
“gkebis” commandingly. He turned to peer at me through the smoke with
the lack-luster eye of a dead haddock. Once more I demanded bread. A
diabolical leer overspread his features. He rose to a crouching posture,
a doubled sheet between his fangs, and, springing at me half way across
the hut, roared, “MA FEESH!”

Now there is no more forcible word in the Arabic language than “ma
feesh.” It is rich in meanings, among which “there is none!” “We haven’t
any!” “None left!” “Can’t be done!” and “Nothing doing!” are but a few.
The native can give it an articulation that would make the most
aggressive of bulldogs put his tail between his legs and decamp. My eyes
certainly had not deceived me. There was bread and plenty of it. But
somehow I felt no longing to tarry, near nightfall, in a fanatical
village far from the outskirts of civilization, to wage debate with an
Arab who could utter “ma feesh” in that tone of voice. With never an
audible reply, I fled to the encircling wilderness.

The sun was settling to his bath in the Mediterranean. Across the
pulsating sea to the beach below the village stretched an undulating
ribbon of orange and red. Away to the eastward, in the valleys of the
Lebanon, darkness already lay. On the rugged peaks a few isolated trees,
swaying in a swift landward breeze, stood out against the evening sky.
Within hail of the hamlet a lonely shepherd guarded a flock of
fat-tailed sheep. Beyond him lay utter solitude. The level plain soon
changed to row after row of sand dunes, unmarked by a single footprint,
over which my virgin path rose and fell with the regularity of a tossing
ship.

The last arc of the blazing sun sank beneath the waves. The prismatic
ribbon quivered a moment longer, faded, and disappeared, leaving only an
unbroken expanse of black water. Advancing twilight dimmed the outline
of the swaying trees, the very peaks lost individuality and blended into
the darkening sky of evening. In the trough of the sand dunes the night
made mysterious gulfs in which the eye could not distinguish where the
descent ended and the ascent began.

Invariably I stumbled half way up each succeeding slope. The shifting
sands muffled to silence my footsteps. On the summit of the ridges
sounded a low moaning of the wind, rising and falling like far-off
sobbing. A creative imagination might easily have peopled the
surrounding blackness with flitting forms of murderous nomads. Somewhere
among these never-ending ridges the “staked faranchee” had been done to
death.

Mile after mile the way led on, rising and falling as rhythmically as
though over and over the same sandy billow. Sunset had dispelled the
rain, but not a star broke through the overcast sky, and only the
hoarse-voiced boom of the breakers guided my steps. Now and then I
halted at the summit of a ridge to search for the glimmer of a distant
light and to strain my ears for some other sound than the wailing of the
wind and the muffled thunder of the ocean. But even Napoleon was once
forced to build a hill from which to sweep the horizon before he could
orientate himself in this billowy wilderness.

The surly peasant was long since forgotten when, descending a ridge with
my feet raised high at each step in anticipation of a succeeding ascent,
I plunged into a slough in which I sank almost to my knees. From force
of habit I plowed on. The booming of the waves grew louder, as if the
land receded, and the wind from off the sea blew stronger and more
chilling. Suddenly there sounded at my feet the rush of waters. I moved
forward cautiously and felt the edge of what seemed to be a broad river,
pouring seaward. It was an obstacle not to be surmounted on a black
night. I drew back from the brink and, finding a spot that seemed to
offer some resistance beneath my feet, threw myself down.

But I sank inch by inch into the morass, and fearful of being buried
before morning, I rose and wandered towards the sea. On a slight rise of
ground I stumbled over a heap of cobblestones, piled up at some earlier
date by the peasants. I built a bed of stones under the lee of the pile,
tucked my kodak in a crevice, and pulling my coat over my head, lay
down. A patter of rain sounded on the coat, then another and another,
faster and faster, and in less than a minute there began a downpour that
abated not once during the night. The heap afforded small protection
against the piercing wind, and, being short and semicircular in shape,
compelled me to lie motionless on my right side, for only my body
protected the kodak and films beneath. The rain quickly soaked through
my clothing and ran in rivulets along my skin. The wind turned colder
and whistled through the chinks of the pile. The sea boomed incessantly,
and in the surrounding marshes colonies of unwearying frogs croaked a
dismal refrain. Thus, on the fringe of the Mediterranean, I watched out
the old year, and, though not a change in the roar of the sea, the
tattoo of the storm, nor the note of a frog, marked the hour, I was
certainly awake at the waning.

An Oriental proverb tells us that “He who goes not to bed will be early
up.” He who goes to bed on a rock pile will also be up betimes—though
with difficulty. The new year was peering over the Lebanon when I rose
to my feet. My left leg, though creaking like a rusty armor, sustained
me; but I had no sooner shifted my weight to the right than it gave way
like a thing of straw and let me down with disconcerting suddenness in
the mud. By dint of long massaging, I recovered the use of the limb; but
even then an attempt to walk in a straight line sent me round in a
circle from left to right. Daylight showed the river to be lined with
quicksands. It was broad and swift, but not deep, and some distance up
the stream I effected a crossing without sinking below my armpits. Far
off to the southeast lay a small forest. A village, perhaps, was hidden
in its shade, and I dashed eagerly forward through a sea of mud.

The forest turned out to be a large orange grove, surrounded by a high
hedge and a turgid, moat-like stream. There was not a human habitation
in sight. The trees were heavily laden with yellow fruit. I cast the
contents of my knapsack on the ground, plunged through moat and hedge,
and tore savagely at the tempting fare. With half-filled bag I regained
the plain, caught up my scattered belongings, and struck southward,
peeling an orange. The skin was close to an inch thick, the fruit inside
would have aroused the dormant appetite of an Epicurean. Greedily I
stuffed a generous quarter into my mouth—and stopped stock-still with a
sensation as of a sudden blow in the back of the neck. The orange was as
green as the Emerald Isle, its juice more acrid than a half-and-half of
vinegar and gall! I peeled another and another. Each was more sour and
bitter than its forerunner. Tearfully I dumped the treasure trove in the
mire and stumbled on.

Two hours later, under a blazing sun—so great is the contrast in this
hungry land between night and unclouded day—I entered a native village,
more wretched if possible than that of the night before. Scowls and
snarls greeted me in almost every hut; but one hideously tattooed female
pushed away the proffered coins and thrust into my hands two
bread-sheets the ragged edge of which showed the marks of infant teeth.
They were as tender as a sea boot, as palatable as a bath towel, and
satisfied my hunger as a peanut would have satisfied that of an
elephant. But no amount of vociferation could induce the villagers to
part with another morsel, and, thankful for small favors, I trudged on.

A well-marked path, inundated here and there and peopled by bands of
natives, turned westward beyond an ancient aqueduct, and at noonday I
passed through the fortified gate of Acre. The power of faranchee
appetites was the absorbing topic of conversation in the stronghold when
I fell in with a band of emigrating Bedouins, and departed. The white
city of Haiffa, perched on the nose of recumbent Mt. Carmel across the
bay, seemed but a stone’s throw distant. It was an illusion of sea and
sun, however. Long hours I splashed after the Arabs through surf and
rivulet along the narrow beach, my shoes swinging over my shoulder, and
night had fallen before we parted in the Haiffan market place.

At a Jewish inn, in Haiffa, I made the acquaintance of a
fellow-countryman. He was a _dragoman_ of a well-known tourist company,
born in Nazareth, of Arab blood, and had never been outside the confines
of Asia Minor. His grandfather had lived a few years in New York, and,
though the good old gentleman had long since been gathered to his
fathers, his descendants were still entitled to flaunt his
naturalization papers in the faces of the Turkish police and
tax-gatherers and to greet travelers from the new world as compatriots.
Nazry Kawar, the dragoman, was overjoyed at the meeting. He dedicated
the afternoon to drawing, for my benefit, sketches of the routes of
Palestine, and took his leave, promising to write me a letter of
introduction to his uncle, a Nazarene dentist.

Early the next morning I passed through the vaulted market of Haiffa and
out upon the road to Nazareth. It was really a road, repaired not long
before for the passage of the German Emperor; but already the labor of
the Sultan’s servants had been half undone by the peasants, to whom a
highway is useful only as an excellent place in which to pitch stones
picked up in the adjoining fields. For once the day was clear and balmy
and a sunshine as of June illuminated the rugged fields and their
tillers. Towards noon, in the bleak hills beyond the first village, two
Bedouins, less bloodthirsty than hungry, fell upon me while I ate my
lunch by the wayside. Though they bombarded me with stones from opposite
sides, they threw like boarding-school misses and dodged like ocean
liners, and I had wrought more injury than I had received when I
challenged them to a race down the highway. They were no mean runners,
but the appearance over the first hill of a road-repair gang, a score of
bronze-faced, sinewy women under command of a skirt-clad male, forced
them to postpone their laudable attempt to win favor with the houris.

[Illustration: On the road between Haifa and Nazareth I meet a
road-repair gang, all women but the boss]

[Illustration: On the summit of Jebel es Sihk, back of Nazareth. From
left to right: Shukry Nasr, teacher; Elias Awad, cook; and Nehmé Simán,
teacher; my hosts in Nazareth]

An hour later I gained the highest point of the route. Far below the
highway, colored by that peculiar atmosphere of Palestine a delicate
blue that undulated and trembled in the afternoon sunshine, stretched
the vast plain of Esdraelon, walled by mountain ranges that seemed
innumerable leagues away. The route crawled along the top of the western
wall, choked here between two mountain spurs, breathing freely there on
a tiny plateau, and, rounding at last a gigantic boulder, burst into
Nazareth.

A mere village in the time of Christ, Nazareth covers to-day the
bowl-shaped valley in which it is built to the summits of the
surrounding hills and, viewed from a distance, takes on the form of an
almost perfect amphitheatre. In the arena of the circus, a teeming,
babbling bazaar, I endeavored in vain to find the dentist Kawar to whom
my letter was addressed. When my legs grew aweary of wandering through
the labyrinth and my tongue refused longer to deform itself in attempts
to reproduce the peculiar sounds of the Arabic language, I sat down on a
convenient and conspicuous bazaar stand, rolled a cigarette, and leaned
back in the perfect contentment of knowing that I should presently be
taken care of. Near me on all sides rose a whisper, in the hoarse voice
of squatting shopkeepers, in the treble of passing children under heavy
burdens, a whisper that seemed to grow into a thing animate and hurried
away through the long rows and intricate byways of the market as no
really living thing of the Orient ever does hurry, crying: “Faranchee!
Fee wahed faranchee!” Before my first cigarette was well lighted an
awe-struck urchin paused nearby to stare unqualifiedly, with the manner
of one ready to take to terror-stricken flight at the first inkling of a
hostile move on the part of this strange being, in dress so ludicrous,
and whose legs were clothed in separate garments! Here, surely, was one
of those dread boogiemen who are known to dine on small Arabs, and so
near that—perhaps he had better edge away and take to his heels
before—but no, here are a dozen men of familiar mien collecting in a
semicircle back of him! And there comes his uncle, the camel driver.
Perhaps the boogieman is not ferocious after all, for the men crowd
close around, calling him “faranchee” and “efendee,” and appearing not
in the least afraid.

The camel-driver is doubly courageous—who would not be proud to be his
nephew?—for he actually addresses himself to the strange being, while
the throng behind him grows and grows.

“Barhaba!” says the camel-driver, in greeting, “Lailtak saeedee! Where
does the efendee hail from? Italiano, perhaps?”

“No, American.”

“Amerikhano!” The word runs from mouth to mouth and the faces of all
hearers light up with interest. “America? Why, that is where Abdul el
Kassab, the butcher, went, long years ago. It is said to be far away,
further than “El Gkudis” (Jerusalem) or “Shaam” (Damascus).” But the
camel driver has derived another bit of information. Listen! “Bahree!
The faranchee is a bahree, a sailor, a man who works on the great water,
the ‘bahr’ that anyone can see from the top of Jebel es Sihk above, and
on the shores of which this same camel driver claims to have been. It is
even rumored that to reach this America of the faranchee and of Abdul el
Kassab, one must travel on the great water! Indeed, ’tis far away, and,
were the faranchee not a bahree, how could he have journeyed from
far-off America to this very Nazra?”

But my Arabic was soon exhausted and the simple Nazarenes, to whom a man
unable to express himself in their vernacular was as much to be pitied
as a deaf-mute, burst forth in sympathetic cries of “meskeen” (poor
devil). The camel driver, striving to gain further information, was
rapidly becoming the butt of the bystanders, when a native, in more
festive dress, pushed through the throng and addressed me in English. I
held up the letter.

“Ah,” he cried, “the dentist Kawar?” and he snatched the note out of my
hand and tore it open.

“But, here,” I cried, “are you the dentist?”

“Oh, no, indeed,” said the native, without looking up from the reading.

“Then what right have you to open that letter?” I demanded, grasping it.

The native gazed at me a moment, the picture of Innocence Accused and
astonished at the accusation.

“Oh, sir,” he said; “the Kawar is my friend. If it is my friend’s
letter, it is my letter. If it is my letter, it is my friend’s letter.
Arabs make like that, sir. I am Elias Awad, cook to the British
missionary and friend to the dentist. Very nice man, but gone to Acre.
But Kawar family live close here. Please, you, sir, come with me.”

Ten minutes later I had been received by the family Kawar like a
long-lost friend. One glimpse of their dwelling showed them to be people
of Nazarene wealth and position. The head of the house, keeper of a
dry-goods store, had once been sheik or mayor of Nazareth and was a man
of extreme courtesy. He spoke only Arabic. His sons, ranging from
bearded men to a boy of nine, had been impartially distributed among the
mission schools of the town. Two spoke English and one German and were
stout champions of the Protestant faith. The fourth and fifth spoke
French and Italian, respectively, and posed as devout Catholics. The
youngest, already well versed in Russian, clung to the faith of his
father, the orthodox Greek. Amid the bombardment of questions in four
languages I found a moment, here and there, to congratulate myself on my
ignorance of the tongue of the Cossacks.

While the evening meal was preparing, the cosmopolitan family, a small
army in assorted sizes, sallied forth to show me the regulation
“sights.” With deep reverence for every spot reminiscent of Jesus, they
pointed out Mary’s Well, the Greek church over the supplying spring, the
workshop of Joseph, and many a less authentic relic; and, utterly
oblivious of the incongruity, halted on the way back to cry: “This, sir,
is the house of the only Jew, thank God, who still dwells in Nazareth!”

Supper over, the Protestants dragged me away to a little church on the
brow of the valley. The service, though conducted in Arabic, was
Presbyterian even to the tunes of the hymns; the worship quite the
antithesis. For the men displayed the latest creations in fezes in the
front pews, and the women, in uniform white gowns, sat with bated breath
on the rear benches. Now and then a communicant kicked off his loose
slippers and folded his legs in his seat; and the most devout could not
suppress entirely a desire to stare at a faranchee who sat bareheaded in
church! After the benediction the ladies modestly hurried home, but not
one of the males was missing from the throng that greeted our exit. To
these my companions hastened to divulge my qualities, history, and
raison d’être, as exactly as some information and an untrammeled
imagination permitted. Among the hearers were two young men, by name
Shukry Nasr and Nehmé Simán, teachers of English in the mission school,
who, eager for conversational practice and touched with the curiosity of
the Arab, refused to leave until I had promised to be their guest after
my stay with the Kawars was ended.

The next day was one long lesson on the customs and traits of the
better-class Arab. Shukry Nasr and Nehmé Simán called early and led me
away to visit their friend, Elias, the cook. On the way I protested
against their refusal to allow me to spend a single metleek even for
tobacco. “You are our guest, sir,” said Nehmé; “we are very glad to have
you for a guest and to talk English. But even if we did not like, we
should take good care of you, for Christ said, ‘Thou shalt house the
stranger who is within thy gates.’”

“Why,” cried the cook, when our discussion had been carried into his
room in the mission, “in the days of my father, for a stranger to pay a
place to live would have been insult to all. A stranger in town! Why,
Let _my_ house be his—and _mine_!—and _mine_! would have shouted every
honorable citizen!”

“But Nazareth is getting bad,” sighed Shukry. “The faranchees who are
coming are very proud. They will not eat our food and sleep in our small
houses. And so many are coming! So some inns have been built and even
the Italian monastery like to have pay. Very disgraceful!”

“Did you give any policemen a nice whipping?” asked Elias, suddenly.

“Eh?” I cried.

“If a faranchee comes to our country,” he explained, “or if we go to
live in America and come back, the policeman cannot arrest.”

“Yes, I know,” I answered.

“If a policeman touches you, then, you must give him a nice whipping,”
continued the cook. “If _my_ father had been to America I would give
nice whippings every day. Many friends I have—” and he launched forth
into a series of anecdotes the heroes of which had returned with
naturalization papers for the sole purpose, evidently, of making life
unendurable for the officers of the Sultan.

“If they only refuse to obey the soldiers,” said Nehmé, “that is
nothing. Everybody does that. But here is the wonderful! They do not
have even to give backsheesh!”

“Do you have backsheesh in America?” demanded Shukry.

“Ah—er—well—the name is not in common use,” I stammered.

“It is in my town of Acre that the backsheesh is nice,” cried the cook,
proudly, “and the nicest smuggling. Have you seen that big, strong gate
to my town, sir? Ah, sir, many nice smugglings go in there. But how you
think?”—he winked one eye long and solemnly—“The nice smugglings are the
ladies. Many things the lady can carry under her long dress.”

“But there are the guards,” I put in.

“The guards? Quick the guard get dead if he put the finger on the lady.”

“Then why not have a woman guard?” I suggested.

“Aah!” cried the cook. “How nasty!”

“But the man,” he went on, sadly, “must pay backsheesh if he smuggle a
pound of arabee (native tobacco, so-called in distinction from
“Stambouli,” the revenued weed) or if he make a man dead.”

“What!” I cried, “Backsheesh for murder?”

“Oh, of course,” apologized the cook, “if the man that makes dead has no
money, he is made dead by the soldiers—”

“‘Kill’ is the English word, Elias,” put in Nehmé.

“Oh, yes,” continued Elias, “if the man that kills has money, the
officer sends a soldier after him. The man puts his head through his
door and drops some mejeediehs in the soldier’s hand. Then the soldier
comes back and gives almost all the mejeediehs to the officer, and they
decide that the man has run away and cannot be find. But if it is a
faranchee has been made—er—killed, very bad, for the consul tell the
government to find the man and kill him—and if the man have not so much
money that the government cannot find—very bad!”

“To-morrow,” said Shukry, as I stropped the razor which the cook invited
me to use, “you are coming to live with me.”

“To-morrow,” I answered, “I go to the Sea of Galilee.”

“Ah!” cried the three, in chorus, “Then we give you a letter to our good
friend, Michael Yakoumy. He is teacher in Tiberias and he takes much
pleasure to see you.”

“And you take a letter for my wife,” said Elias. “She is nurse in the
hospital. Often I write but the government lose the letter.”

“So you’re married?” I observed, through the lather.

“No! no!” screamed the cook. “How you can come to my house if I am
married? This only my—my—”

“Fiancée,” said Nehmé.

“Or sweetheart,” said Shukry.

“Aah!” muttered Elias, “I know the word ‘sweetheart.’ But I don’t like.
How you call a woman _sweet_? Every woman bad, and if she live in
Palestine or America, she cannot be trust”; and Nehmé and Shukry, in all
the wisdom of seventeen years, nodded solemnly in approval.

“But _your_ fiancée—” I began.

“All the same,” said the cook, “but every man shall get married—Look
out, sir, you are cutting your moustaches!”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Aah!” shrieked the cook, as I scraped my upper lip clean, “why
faranchees make that? So soon I my moustaches would shave, so soon would
I cut my neck.”

There is a road that, beginning down by Mary’s Well and winding its way
out of the Nazarene arena, leads to Cana and the Sea of Galilee. Nehmé
and Shukry, however, true sons of Palestine, utterly ignored the highway
when they set out next morning to accompany me to the first village.
From the Kawar home they struck off through the village and traversed
Nazareth as the crow flies, with total disregard of the trend of the
streets. Down through the market, dodging into tiny alleys, under
vaulted passageways, through spaces where we were obliged to walk
sidewise, they led the way. Where a shop intervened, they marched boldly
through it, stepping over the merchandise and even over the squatting
keeper, who returned their “good morning” without losing a puff at his
narghileh. With never a moment of hesitation in the labyrinth of bazaars
nor among the dwellings above, they stalked straight up the slope of
Jebel es Sihk, by trails at times almost perpendicular, and out upon a
well-marked path that led over the brow of the hill.

At the summit they paused. To the north rose the snow-capped peak of Mt.
Hermon. Between the hills, to the west, peeped the sparkling
Mediterranean. Eastward, unbroken as far as the eye could see in either
direction, stretched the mighty wall of the trans-Jordan range. The view
embraced a dozen villages, tucked away in narrow ravines, clinging to
steep slopes, or lying prone on sharp ridges like broken-backed
creatures. Shukry’s enumeration savored of Biblical lore. There was
Raineh, down in the throat of the valley; further on Jotapta and Ruman;
across the gorge Sufurieh, the home of fanatical rascals among whom
Christians are outlaws. Every hamlet has a character of its own in
Palestine. The inhabitants of one may be honest, industrious, kindly
disposed towards any advance of civilization; while another, five miles
distant, boasts a population of the worst scoundrels unhung, bigoted,
clannish, and sworn enemies to every fellow-being who has not had the
good fortune to be born in their enlightened midst. This diversity of
characteristics, so marked that a man from across the valley is styled
“foreigner,” makes resistance to the Turk impossible and breeds a deadly
hatred that raises even to-day that sneering question, “Can any good
thing come out of Nazareth?”

The teachers took their leave in Raineh. Beyond Cana, perched on a
gentle rise of ground among flourishing groves of pomegranates, the
highway wavered and was lost in the mire. I set my own course across a
half-inundated plain. Late in the afternoon the Horns of Hutin, adorned
by a solitary shepherd whose flock grazed where once the multitude
listened to the Sermon on the Mount, rose up to assure me that I had not
gone astray, and an hour later the ground dropped suddenly away beneath
my feet and the end of my pilgrimage lay before me. Near seven hundred
feet below sea level, in a hollow of the earth dug by some gigantic
spade, glimmered the blue Sea of Galilee, already in deep shadow, though
the sunshine still flooded the plain behind me. I stepped over the edge
of the precipice and, slipping, stumbling from rock to rock, steering
myself by clutching at bush and boulder, fell headlong down into the
city of Tiberias.

A city of refuge in ancient times, Tiberias is to-day one of the few
towns of Palestine in which the Jewish population preponderates. It is a
human cesspool. Greasy-locked males squat in the doorways of its
wretched hovels; hideous females, dressed in an open jacket stiff with
filth, which discloses to the public gaze their withered, bag-like
breasts and their bloated abdomens, wallow through the sewerage of the
streets in company with foul brats infected with every unclean disease
from scurvy to leprosy. Dozens of idiots, the hair eaten off their
heads, and their bodies covered with running sores, roam at large and
quarrel with mongrel curs over the refuse. For these are the “men
possessed of devils,” privileged members of society in all the Orient.
An Arab proverb asserts that the king of fleas holds his court in
Tiberias. To be king of all the fleas that dwell in Palestine is a
position of far greater importance than to be czar of all the Russias;
and it is strange that His Nimble Majesty has not long ago chosen a
capital in which it would not be necessary to disinfect his palace
daily.

The home of Michael Yakoumy, from the windows of which stretched an
unobstructed view of the sea from the sortie of the Jordan to the site
of Capernaum, was a model of cleanliness. Here, in this wretched hamlet,
that whole-hearted descendant of Greek immigrants toils year after year
at a ludicrous wage, striving to instill some knowledge and right living
into the children of the surrounding rabble. He was, all unknowingly, a
true disciple of the “simple life” in its best sense, displaying the
interest of a child in the commonplace occurrences of the daily round,
not entirely ignorant of, but wholly unenvious of the big things of the
world outside.

I attended the opening of his school next morning and then turned back
towards Nazareth. At the foot of the precipitous slope a storm broke and
the combination of water and jagged rocks wrought disaster to my
worn-out shoes. When I reached sea level they were succumbing to a rapid
disintegration. In the first half-mile across the plain the heels, the
soles, the uppers, the very laces, dropped bit by bit along the way. For
a time the cakes of mud that clung to my socks protected my feet, but
the socks, too, wore away and left me to plod on barefooted over the
jagged stones of the field.

Long before I had reached the mountainous tract about Cana, I was
suffering from a dozen cuts and stone-bruises; and the journey beyond
must have appealed to a Hindu ascetic as a penance by which to win
unlimited merit. As for Cana, it will always be associated in my mind
with that breed of human who finds his pleasure in bear-baiting and
cock-fighting. For, as I attempted to climb into the village market, my
feet refused to cling to the slimy hillside and I skidded and sprawled
into a slough at the bottom, amid shrieks of derisive laughter from a
group of villagers above.

By the time I reached Raineh it was as dark as a pocket, and the path
over the Jebel was out of the question. The winding highway pursued its
leisurely course and led me into Nazareth at an hour when every shop was
closed. For some time I could not orientate myself and wandered
shivering through the silent bazaars, the cold, dank stones underfoot
sending through me a thrill of helplessness such as Anteus must have
felt when lifted off the strength-giving earth. Then a familiar corner
gave me my bearings, and I hobbled away to the home of Elias.

The village shoemaker, being summoned next morning, appeared with
several pairs of Nazarene slippers, heelless and thin as Indian
moccasins; again shod, I set out with the teachers for the home of
Shukry. It was a simple dwelling of the better class, halfway up the
slope of Jebel es Sihk, and from its roof spread out the bowl-shaped
village at our feet, Mt. Tabor, and the lesser peaks away in the
distance. The recent death of his father had left the youth to rule over
the household. In all but years he was a mature man, boasting already a
bristling moustache, for humans ripen early in the East.

It was January seventh according to our calendar, or Christmas Day
according to the Russian, a time of festival among the Greek churchmen
and of ceremonial visits among all Christians. Our shoes off, we were
sitting on a divan when the guests began to appear. Each arrival—all
men, of course, though Shukry’s mother hovered in the far background—was
greeted by the head of the family standing erect in the center of the
room. There was no hand-shaking, but a low kow-tow by guest and host and
a carelessly mumbled greeting. Then the visitor slid out of his
slippers, squatted on the capacious divan, and, when all were firmly
seated, the salutation “naharak saeed” was exchanged, this time being
clearly enunciated. If the newcomer was a priest, Shukry’s small brother
slid forward to kiss his hand and retired again into an obscure corner.
These formalities over, the guest, priest or layman, was served
cigarettes and a tiny cup of coffee. Frankness is the key to the Arab
character. The hypocritical smirks of our own social gatherings are not
required of the Nazarene who lays claim to good breeding. If the visitor
was a friend or fellow-churchman of his host an animated conversation
broke out and, interrupted at brief intervals by new arrivals, raged
long and vociferously. Those who professed a different faith—the Greek
priests especially—sipped their coffee in absolute silence, puffed at a
cigarette, and, with another “naharak saeed,” glided into their slippers
and departed.

Later in the day I made, with my host, the round of the Christian
families, deafened with questions in Protestant homes, suffered to sit
in painful silence in Greek dwellings, and undermining my constitution
with every known brand of cigarette. Our course ended at the Kawar home.
The former mayor, dressed in latest faranchee garb, with a vast expanse
of white vest, sat cross-legged in his white stocking-feet, a fez
perched on his head. The conversation soon turned to things American.

“Many years ago,” translated the eldest son, on behalf of his father, “I
began to wonder why, by the beard of the prophet, faranchees come from a
great, rich country like America to travel in a miserable land like
ours.”

A long dissertation on the joys and advantages of globe-trotting drew
from the former sheik only an exclamation of “M’abaraf!” (I don’t
understand).

“An American who was in Nazareth long ago,” he went on, by mouth of
offspring, “told me a strange story. I did not believe him, for it
cannot be true. He said that in America people _buy_ dogs!” and the mere
suggestion of so ludicrous a transaction sent the assembled group into
paroxysms of laughter.

“They _do_,” I replied.

The pompous ex-mayor fell into such convulsions of merriment that his
rotund face grew the color of burnished copper.

“BUY dogs?” roared his sons, in a chorus of several languages. “But what
for?”

Never having settled that question entirely to my own satisfaction, I
parried it with another: “How do _you_ get a dog if you want one?”

“W—w—w—why,” answered the eldest son, wiping the tears from his eyes,
“if anyone _wants_ a dog he tells someone else and they give him one;
but who ever WANTS a dog?”

Once the guest of the better-class Arab, the traveler is almost certain
to be relayed from one city to another through an endless chain of the
friends of his original host. I had announced my intention of leaving
Nazareth in the morning. The ex-mayor, after attempting to frighten me
out of my project by the usual bear-stories, wrote me four letters of
introduction.

“Without these letters,” he explained, “you would not dare stay in
Gineen or Nablous, for my friends are the only Christians and those are
very bad towns. My friends in Jerusalem and Jaffa—if you ever get there
alive—may be able to help you find work.”

The sun, rising red and clear next morning, put to rout even the
protests of Nehmé and Shukry against my departure on Sunday. Elias
sorrowfully said farewell at the mission gate. The teachers, carrying
between them a package at which they cast mysterious glances now and
then, conducted me to the foot of the Nazarene range. Pointing out a
guiding mountain peak that rose above Gineen, far across the trackless
plain of Esdraelon, they bade me good-by almost tearfully, thrust the
package into my hands, and turned back up the mountain pass. Half
certain of what the bundle contained, I did not open it until noonday
overtook me, well out on the plain. Inside was a goodly supply of
gkebis, oranges, native cheeses, and black olives; and at the bottom, a
bundle of home-made cigarettes, and a package of “arabee,” with a book
of papers.

Late afternoon brought me to the edge of Esdraelon. A veritable garden
spot, covered with graceful palms and waving pomegranates and perfumed
with the fragrance of orange and lemon groves, covered the lower slope
of the peak that had been my phare. Back of the garden stood the
fanatical town of Gineen. The appearance of a defenseless unbeliever in
their midst aroused its inhabitants to scowls and curses, and a few
stones from a group of youngsters at a corner of the bazaar rattled in
the streets behind me. My letter was addressed in native script. The
squatting shopkeeper to whom I displayed it attempted to scowl me out of
countenance, then, recalling his duty of hospitality towards whoever
should enter his dwelling, called a passing urchin and, mumbling a few
words to him, bade me follow. The urchin mounted the sloping
market-place, made several unexpected turnings, and, pointing out a
large house surrounded by a forbidding stone wall, scampered away like
one accustomed to take no chances of future damnation by lingering at
the entrance to a Christian hotbed.

I clanged the heavy knocker until the sound echoed up and down the
adjoining streets, and, receiving no response, sat down on the curb. A
well-dressed native wandered by and I displayed the letter. He glared at
it, muttered “etnashar săă” (twelve o’clock, i. e., nightfall by Arabic
reckoning) and continued his way. From time to time visitors paused at
neighboring gates or house doors and, standing in the center of the
street, lifted up their voices in mournful wails that endured long
enough to have given the wailer’s pedigree from the time of Noah; and
were finally admitted. Beggars made the rounds, wailing longer and more
mournfully than the others, seldom ceasing until a few bread-sheets or
coppers were tossed out to them. Bands of females, whose veils may have
covered great beauty or the hideous visages of hags, drew up in a circle
round me now and then to discuss my personal attractions, and to fill me
with the creepy feeling one might experience at a visit of the White
Caps or the Klu-Klux Klan.

Full two hours I had squatted against the wall when an old man, in
European garb, slowly ascended the street, mumbling to himself as he ran
through his fingers a string of yellow beads. He paused at the gate and
pulled out a key. I sprang to my feet and handed him the letter. He read
it with something of a scowl and, motioning to me to wait, went inside.
A long delay followed. At last the gate groaned and gave exit to the
ugliest creature in the Arab world. He was a youth of about twenty, as
long as a day without bread, and too thin to deflect a ray of light. His
shoulders were bowed until his head stuck out at right angles to his
body; his long, yellow teeth protruded from his lips; in his one eye was
the gleam of the rascal; and his very attitude stamped him as one who
hated faranchees with a deadly hatred. Around his lank form hung a
half-dozen long, flowing garments as from a hat-rack, and on his head
was the coiffure of the Bedouin.

I caught enough of his snarling harangue to know that he was a family
domestic ordered to conduct me to the servants’ quarters. On the
opposite side of the long street he unlocked a battered door, and
admitted me to a hovel furnished with a moth-eaten divan and a pan of
dead coals. A dapper young native entered soon after and addressed me in
fluent French.

“My family is in a sad situation,” he explained; “we are friends of the
Kawar and so always the friends of his friends. But we are the only
Christians in Gineen and so we can only give you servant quarters.” His
train of reasoning was not particularly clear. “But you must not stay in
Gineen to-night. If you wait until to-morrow, you must go on alone and
in the mountains are Bedouins who every day catch travelers, and fill
their eyes and mouths and noses with sand, and drag them around by a
rope, and cut them up in small pieces, and scatter them all around! You
must go to-night, with the mail-train. Then you will be safe.”

“I’ve tramped all day,” I protested; “I’ll find lodgings in the town if
I am inconveniencing your family.”

“Mon Dieu!” shrieked the young man; “there you would be cut to pieces in
an hour! Gineen hates Christians. If you stop here, they will beat my
family—”

His distress, real or feigned, was so acute that I assented at last to
his plan. He ordered the misshapen servant to bring me supper, and
departed.

The living caricature followed his master and returned with a bowl of
lentils and several “side dishes.” With him appeared two companions,
almost as unprepossessing of mien as himself; and he had no sooner
placed the food on the floor than all three squatted around it and,
clawing with both hands, made way with the meal so rapidly that I had
barely time to snatch a few mouthfuls. When the last scrap had
disappeared, the newcomers fell to licking out the bowls. The elongated
servant set up the wailing monotony that is the Arabic notion of a song,
and, swaying back and forth and thrusting out his misplaced fangs in a
fixed leer, he continued for an unbroken two hours a performance which
the roars of mirth from his mates proved was no compliment to
faranchees.

Towards nine in the evening he turned his fellow-rascals into the
street, and motioning to me to take up my knapsack, dived out into the
night. By good fortune I managed to keep at his heels without splitting
my head on the huts among which he dodged and doubled in an effort to
shake me off before we arrived at the mail-train khan. The keeper was a
bitter enemy of unbelievers and admitted me only under protest, and with
a steady flow of vile oaths that was unchecked as long as I remained in
the building. My guide deposited his cadaverous frame on a heap of chaff
and took up his song of derision and his leering where he had left off.

At the appearance of the mail train the song ceased, and the singer,
having briefly stated the desire of his master, disappeared. The snarls
of the servant and the khan-keeper had been friendly greetings compared
with those of the three drivers of the mail train. To all appearances
they were more to be feared than capture by sand-stuffing Bedouins; but
my sponsor was a man of higher caste than mere muleteers and would
surely in some degree hold them responsible for my safe arrival—so it
seemed—and I determined to stick to the plan. Of the four mules that
made up the train, one was saddled with the mail-sacks and, at a signal
from the leader, the driver sprang astride the others. The khan door
opened, letting in a cutting draught of January air, and I followed the
party outside, fully expecting to be offered a mount. The train,
however, kept steadily on. The hindmost Arab signed to me to grasp the
crupper of his mule; then he cut the animal across the flanks perilously
near my fingers. Only then did the truth burst upon me. Instead of
letting me ride, as certainly the Christian had expected them to do, the
rascals had taken this golden opportunity to reverse the usual order of
things Oriental. The true believers would serenely bestride their
animals and the faranchee might trot behind like a Damascus donkey-boy.
I fancied I heard several chuckles of delight, half-smothered in blatant
curses.

The night was as black as a Port Saïd coaling nigger. In the first few
rods I lost my footing more than once and barked my shins on a dozen
boulders. The practical joke of the Arabs, however, was not ended. Once
far enough from the khan to make a return difficult, the leader shouted
an order, the three struck viciously at their animals, and with a rattle
of small stones against the boulders away went the party at full gallop.
I lost my grip on the crupper, broke into a run in an attempt to keep
the pace, slipped and slid on the stones, struck a slope that I had not
made out in the darkness, and stumbling halfway up it on my hands and
knees, sprawled at full length over a boulder.

I sat up and listened until the tinkle of the pack-mule’s bell died away
on the night air; then rose to grope my way back to the khan. It was
closed and locked. By some rare fortune I found my way to the street in
which the Christian lived and pushed open the door of the hovel. The
room was unoccupied, though the lighted wick of a tallow lamp showed
that the servant had returned. I spread out three of the four blankets
folded away on the divan and lay down. A moment later the walking
mizzenmast entered, leaped sidewise as though he saw the ghost of a
forgotten victim, and spreading the remaining blanket in the most
distant corner, curled up with all his multifarious garb upon him. I
rose to blow out the light, but the Arab set up a howl of abject terror
that might have been heard on the northern wall of Esdraelon, and I
desisted.

The route between Gineen and Nablous was in strange contrast to that of
the day before, much like a sudden transition from Holland to an
uncivilized Tyrol. Directly back of the fanatical town lay range after
range of rocky peaks, half covered with tangled forests of oak and
terebinth. A pathway there was, but it indicated little travel, and
broke up now and then into forking trails from which I could only choose
at random. Against a mountain side, here and there clung a black-hide
village of roving Bedouins. These were the tribes which, if rumor was to
be believed, busied themselves with corralling lone Christians and
scattering their remains among the wooded valleys. To-day, however, they
were engaged in a no more awful vocation than the tending of a few
decimated flocks of fat-tailed sheep.

Late in the morning I came in sight of the mud village of Dothan. A
well-marked path marched boldly up to the first hovel, ran close along
its wall, swung round behind the building, and ended. It neither broke
up into small paths nor led to an opening in the earth; it merely
vanished into thin air as if the hovel were the station of some aërial
line. A score of giant mongrels, coming down upon me from the hill
above, gave me little time for reflection. Luckily—for my clothing, at
least—there lay within reach a long-handled kettle such as natives use
in boiling lentils; and half the mangy population of the village,
tumbling down the slope to gaze upon the unprecedented sight of a lone
faranchee in their midst, beheld him laying about him right merrily. Not
one of the villagers made the least attempt to call off the curs. It was
the usual Arab case of every man’s dog no man’s dog.

The village above was a crowded collection of dwellings of the same
design as those of the Esquimaux, with mud substituted for snow, perched
on a succession of rock ledges that rose one above the other. The human
mongrels inside them answered my inquiries with snarls and curses, one
old hag exerting herself to the extent of rising to spit at me through
her toothless gums. Wherever a narrow passageway gave suggestion of a
trail I scrambled up the jagged faces of the rock ledges in an effort to
find the route. As well might a landlubber have attempted to pick out
the fore-royal halyards. Regularly I brought up in back yards where
several human kennels choked the ground with their sewerage and the air
with their smoke, and the reward of every scramble was several gashes in
my hands and volleys of curses from the disturbed householders.

I caught sight at length of a peasant astride an ass, tacking back and
forth through the town, but mounting steadily higher. Shadowing him, I
came out upon an uninhabited ledge above. The precipitous path beyond
was but a forerunner of the entire day’s journey. Over the range I
overtook the peasant, and not far beyond a horseman burst out of a
tributary cut and joined us. The peasant carried a cudgel and a long,
blunt knife, and seemed quite anxious to keep both in a position that
would attract attention. The horseman, in half-civilian, half-military
trappings, carried two pistols and a dagger in his belt, a sword at his
side, and a long, slim gun across his shoulders. The countryman offered
me a mount, but, as his beast was scarcely my equal in weight, I
contented myself with trudging at the heels of the animals.

About noon, in a narrow plateau, we came upon an open well from which a
party of Bedouins, that I should not have chosen to meet alone,
scattered at sight of the officer. My companions tethered their animals
on the lip of grass and drew out their dinners. The officer knelt beside
the well with a pot; but the water was out of reach of his corpulent and
much-garbed form, and the peasant being of the Tom Thumb variety, I won
the eloquent gratitude of both by coming to the rescue. Vainly I
struggled to do away with the food that was thrust upon me from either
side. The officer was, evidently, a man of wide experience and
savoir-faire. Not only did he display no great astonishment at the
faranchee manner of eating, but he owned a mysterious machine that
filled the peasant with speechless awe. The mystery was none other than
an alcohol lamp! Not until the coffee was prepared could the countryman
be enticed within ten feet of it. But once having summoned up courage to
touch the apparatus, he fell upon it like a child upon a mechanical toy
and examined its inner workings so thoroughly that the officer spent a
half-hour in fitting it together again.

During the afternoon the peasant turned aside to his village, and not
far beyond, the horseman lost his way. I could not but speculate on the
small chance I should have had alone on a route which eluded a native
well acquainted with the country. We had followed for some distance a
wild gorge which, ending abruptly, offered us on one side an impassable
jungle of rocks and trees, and on the other a precipitous slope covered
for hundreds of feet above with loose shale and rubble. The officer
dismounted and squatted contentedly on his haunches. In the course of an
hour, during which my companion had not once moved except to roll
several cigarettes, a bedraggled _fellah_ approached and replied to the
officer’s question by pointing up the unwooded slope. Three times the
horse essayed the climb, only to slide helplessly to the bottom. The
Arab handed me his gun and, dismounting, sought to lead the steed up the
slope by tacking back and forth across it. Several times the animal fell
on its haunches and tobogganed down the hill, dragging the cavalryman
after him. The gun soon weighed me down like a cannon; but we reached
the summit at last, and were glad to stretch ourselves out on the solid
rock surface of the wind-swept peak.

The officer spread out food between us. To the southward lay a panorama
that rivaled the prospect from the summit of Jebel es Sihk. Two ranges
of haggard mountains, every broken peak as distinct in individuality as
though each were fearful of being charged with imitation of its fellows,
raced side by side to the southeast. Between them lay a wild tangle of
rocks and small forests through which a swift stream fought its way,
deflected far to the southward in its struggle towards the Mediterranean
by the rounded base of the mountain beneath us. Over all the scene
hovered utter desolation and solitude, as of an undiscovered world
innumerable leagues distant from any human habitation.

For an hour we followed the trend of the stream far below, rounding
several peaks and gradually descending. The path became a bit more
distinct; but our surroundings lost none of their savage aspect, and as
far as the eye could see appeared neither man, beast, nor fowl. Suddenly
the cavalryman, rounding a jutting boulder before me, reined in his
horse with an excited jerk, and, grasping his sword, pointed with the
scabbard across the valley. “Nablous!” he shouted. I hastened to his
side. On a small plateau far below us, and moated by the rushing stream,
in a setting of haggard wilderness, stood a city, a real city, with
street after street of closely packed stone buildings of very modern
architecture. Like a regiment drawn up in close ranks, the houses
presented on four sides an unwavering line; inside there was not an open
space, outside hardly a shepherd’s shelter.

We wound down the mountain path to an ancient stone bridge that led
directly into the city. A squad of those ragged, half-starved soldiers
indigenous to the Turkish empire would have stopped me at the gate but
for my companion, who, with a wave of the hand, drove them off. Without
prelude we plunged into the seething life of the bazaars. The streets
were as narrow, as intricate, and as numerous as those of Damascus; but
their novelty lay in the fact that they were nearly everywhere vaulted
over, and one had the sensation of strolling through a crowded subway
from which rails and cars were lacking. The shoes of the horse rang
sharp and metallic against the cobblestones as the animal plowed his way
through the jabbering multitude, and by keeping close at his heels, I
escaped the returning waves of humanity that rebounded from the unbroken
line of shops on either side of the narrow passages to fill our wake.
The cavalryman dismounted before a shop that minutely resembled its
neighbors, handed the reins to a keeper who advanced to meet him, and
urgently invited me to spend the night in the inn above. My Nazarene
friends, however, had intrusted me with personal epistles, which I felt
in duty bound to deliver.

The addressee was one Iskander Saaba, a Nazarene school teacher. His
house was not nearly so easily found as the proof that the inhabitants
of Nablous were fanatical, unreasonable haters of Christians. In the
cities of Asia Minor the streets are neither named nor the houses
numbered. Mr. Smith, you learn, lives near the house of Mr. Jones. If
you pursue the investigation further you may gather the information that
Mr. Jones lives not far from the house of Mr. Smith, and all the raving
of western impatience will not gain you more. A few yards from the inn a
water carrier and a baker’s boy struck me simultaneously in the ribs
with their respective burdens. A wayward donkey, bestrided by a leering
wretch, ran me down. A tradesman carrying a heavy beam turned a corner
just in time to give me a distinct view of a starry firmament in a
vaulted passageway. These things, of course, were purely accidental. But
when three stout rascals grasped the knapsack across my shoulders and
clung to it until I had kicked one of them into a neighboring shop, and
a corner street vendor went out of his way to step on my heels, I could
not so readily excuse them. As long as I remained in the teeming bazaars
these sneaking injuries continued. Wherever I stopped a crowd quickly
gathered and showed their enmity openly by jostling against me, by
reviling the whole faranchee race, and even by spitting on my nether
garments.

In a residential district my inquiries were answered at last, and I was
soon welcomed with true Arabian hospitality by Iskander Saaba. A most
pleasant evening I spent in the dwelling of the youthful teacher, a cosy
house adjoining the mission school, the windows of which looked down on
the roaring river far beneath. The family and a white-haired native,
whom Saaba introduced as “my assistance in the school,” plied me with
questions ranging from the age of my grandfather to the income of my
various cousins, and gasped when I pleaded ignorance. But these things
were but harmless examples of the frankness of the Arab, at which only
an underfed mortal could have taken offense.

A steady rain was falling next morning and my host awoke me with the old
saw—“To-morrow is just as good a day as to-day.” When I had convinced
him that this was not an Occidental proverb, he set out to pilot me
through the city. On the way he paused often to purchase food or
tobacco, with which he stuffed my knapsack in spite of my protests,
answering always: “It is far to Jerusalem, and some day I will come to
America.” All in all, he did not spend twenty-five cents; but I was well
nigh staggering under my load when I took leave of him at the southern
gate of the city and struck off across the oblong plateau shielded by
Mt. Ebal and Mt Gerizim. Since the day when it was called Shechem, a
city of refuge, Nablous has carried on much traffic with Jerusalem, and
in recent years the pusillanimous Turk has set himself to the task of
building a connecting highway. The section beyond the southern gate
promised well; but in this rainy season it was a river of mud which
clung to my shoes in great cakes and made progress more difficult than
in the trackless mountains to the north.

The highway ended abruptly at noonday, as I had been warned it would.
“It is all complete,” Shukry had said, “except over the mountain, the
highest mountain in Palestine, and over that it runs not.” The barrier
must, indeed, have been a problem to the engineers, for it towered
hundreds of feet above, as nearly perpendicular as nature is wont to
construct her works. Diagonally up the face of the cliff a path was cut,
but no spiral stairway, compressed within a slender tower, ever offered
more difficult ascent. At the summit I came again upon the road, as
wide, as finely ballasted, as well engineered, as the most exacting
traveler could have demanded; yet, as it stood, utterly useless. It had
been built that carriages might pass from Nablous to the Holy City; but
no wheeled vehicle in existence could have been dragged up that
wall-like hillside; and the sure-footed ass, who still carries on the
traffic between the two cities, would make the journey exactly as well
had the highway never been proposed. One could read in that road the
character of the power that holds Palestine, and fancy its builders,
like the highway, wandering irresolutely from east to west and west to
east, and halting at the highest point to peer helplessly over the dizzy
edge upon the section below.

Long after nightfall I stumbled upon an isolated shop, occupied by the
keeper and an errant salesman of tobacco. The building was no more than
a wooden frame covered over with sheet iron; and the rain, that began
soon after I turned in with the drummer on one of the shelves that
served as bunks, thundered on the roof through the night and made sleep
as impossible as inside the bass drum at a Wagnerian performance. In the
morning, a deluge more violent than I had ever known, held us prisoners;
and, the weather being bitterly cold, I kept to my shelf and listened to
the roaring of the tin shack through the longest day that ever rained
and blew itself into the past tense.

The storm had abated somewhat when I set out again on the following day.
One stone village broke the dreary prospect; the ancient Bethel, beyond
the sharp hills of which the highway side-stepped to the eastward. The
rain of the preceding days had, no doubt, left the peculiar atmosphere
of Palestine unusually humid. In no other way can I account for the
strange vision that appeared late in the morning. The hills ahead were
somewhat indistinct, in the valleys lay a thick, gray mist, while
overhead, the sky was dull and leaden. Before me, well above the
horizon, hung a long dark cloud which, as I looked, took on gradually
the faint shape of a distant line of buildings. It could have been no
more than a mirage, for beneath it was a considerable strip of sky; yet
it grew plainer and plainer until there rode in the heavens, like the
army in that weird painting of the soldier’s dream, a dull, gray city, a
long city, bounded at one end by a great tower, at the other shading off
into nothing. Then suddenly it vanished. Black clouds, hurrying westward
from across Jordan, wiped out the vision as one erases a lightly
penciled line. Yet the image was Jerusalem. Miles beyond, the fog lifted
and showed the city plainly, and it was that same long city bounded on
the eastward by a great tower, but with solid footing now on a dull,
drear hill that sloped to the west. The highway led downward across
bleak fields, past the reputed Tombs of the Kings and Judges, to-day the
refuges of shivering shepherd boys, and through the Damascus gate into
the crowded bazaars of the Holy City.

[Illustration: The shopkeeper and the traveling salesman with whom I
spent two nights and a day on the lonely road to Jerusalem. Arabs are
very sensitive to cold, except on their feet and ankles]

[Illustration: A high official of Mohammedanism. It being against the
teachings of the Koran to have one’s picture taken, master and servant
turn away their faces]

A howling horde swept me away through markets infinitely dirtier and far
less picturesque than those of Damascus, up and down slimy stone steps,
jostling, pushing, trampling upon me at every turn, not maliciously, but
from mere indifference to such familiar beings as faranchees. At the end
of a reeking street I turned for refuge to an open doorway, through
which I had caught a glimpse of a long greensward and a great mosque
with superbly graceful dome. A shout rose from a rabble of men and boys
at one side of the square. In Damascus, such demonstrations, bursting
forth each time I entered a mosque enclosure, had soon subsided. So I
marched on with an air of indifference. The shouts redoubled. Men and
youths came down upon me from every direction, howling like demons, and
discharging a volley of stones, some of which struck me in the legs,
while others whistled ominously near my head. I beat a hasty retreat.
Not until later in the day did I know the reason for my expulsion. I had
trespassed on the sacred precincts of the mosque of Omar on the summit
of Mt. Moriah, where no unbeliever may enter without an escort of bribed
soldiers.

A second attempt to escape the throng led me down more slimy steps and
along a narrow alley to a towering stone wall, where Hebrews, rich and
poor, filthy and bediamonded, alternately kissed and beat with their
fists the great beveled blocks of stone, shrieking and moaning, with
tears streaming down their cheeks. It needed no inquiry to tell me that
I had fallen upon the “Jews’ Wailing-Place.”

Random wandering brought me at noonday into the European section about
David street. Light as had been my expenditures in Palestine, my
fortunes had fallen. A sum barely equal to forty cents jingled in my
pockets. It was high time to seek employment. With this end in view, I
sought out the addressee of my letter. Unfortunately, his influence was
not far-reaching in the city, for he was a mere man-of-all-work in a
mission school outside its walls.

“But it is all right,” he cried; “if you are an American, I will take
you to ‘the Americans.’”

“The Americans” proved to be a community of my countrymen of Quaker
ancestry, who dwelt in a great modern building to the northwest of the
city. The errand boy introduced me into the inner courtyard, thickly
planted in orange and lemon trees, and a self-appointed committee
invited me in to supper. It seemed almost a new experience to sit again
at a white-decked table, partaking of such familiar dishes as roast pork
and rice pudding, with men and women of my own land chatting on every
side. An aged native of Pennsylvania, for no better reason, apparently,
than that he had crossed the Atlantic forty years before on the ship
that had brought me to Glasgow, espoused my cause and set himself to the
task of supplying me with employment, and of getting me to heaven as
well. The meal over, the colony adjourned to the parlor on the second
floor for a short religious meeting, and then spent the evening in mild
merry-making. Several visitors dropped in, among them two natives in
faultless evening attire, a disconcerting contrast to my own, but still
wearing their fezes. My sponsor announced one as the Superintendent of
Public Instruction and the other as the Chief of Police. Though they did
not speak English, neither would have been out of place in the most
accomplished society.

“These men,” said the Pennsylvanian, “are Mohammedans, and each has
several wives. Yet for years they have been welcome guests here, for
according to their code of morals they are very moral men. The
Superintendent, there, is a famous singer.” He was even then beginning a
duet with one of the young ladies at the piano, and that with the clear
tone of a man who sait faire.

“The Chief of Police has been rather roughly used?” I suggested. Across
his left cheek was a great scar and his left eye was missing.

“Every Christian,” said the man beside me, “should blush with shame at
sight of that scar. Each year, as you know, the Christian pilgrims to
Jerusalem celebrate feasts and festivals in the churches here, and for
years clashes and free fights have frequently broken out between
followers of rival creeds. For that reason the Turks have found it
necessary to establish a guard in every general Christian edifice. Two
years ago, at the Feast of the Assumption in the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, the Greek and Armenian pilgrims, in spite of the guards, fell
upon each other. The Chief, there, a man of very peaceful and kindly
temperament, went among the combatants and spoke to them through an
interpreter. Instead of dispersing, the frenzied pilgrims swept down
upon this whole-hearted Mohammedan, and some good Christian, of one side
or the other, slashed him across the cheek with a heavy knife and gouged
out his eye. They tell us, you know, over in America that Mohammedans
are savages and Christians are civilized. I, too, used to think that;
but I have lived a long time in Jerusalem now.”

Several members of the community, in business in David street, promised
to find me work. A round among them in the morning, however, brought
only reiterated promises, and I wandered away through the city. Scores
of Christian pilgrims were engaged in a similar occupation, and my
weather-beaten and bedraggled appearance led more than one of these
devout nomads to accost me. I soon fell in with an Italian who had spent
nearly two years in making his way from his home in Urbino to carry out
a vow made in an hour of distress.

“Why do you not go to a hospice?” he asked, when he had learned my
situation. “I have been in one for three weeks and get both food and
bed. There is the Russian, the Greek, the Armenian, the Coptic, the
Italian, the French—”

“But no American?” I put in, less eager for charity than for a glimpse
of the life within these institutions.

“N—no,” admitted the pilgrim; “no American—but I’ll tell you! Go to the
French hospice. Archbishop Ireland of America is there this week and—”

“Where is it?” I asked.

The pilgrim led the way through several narrow, uneven streets and
pointed out a time-blackened door. A French servant met me in the
anteroom and listened to my request.

“Are you a Catholic?” he demanded.

“No,” I answered.

“Wait,” he murmured.

A few moments later he returned with the information that “the reverend
father could admit only those of the faith.” “You must look to the
Protestants,” he concluded.

“But I believe there are no Protestant hospices here?” I suggested.

“Ah! It is true,” cried the servant, waving his hands above his head,
“but tant pis! You should be a Catholic and all would be well.”

I turned away to the American consulate. If there was work to be had by
faranchees in the city, the consul, surely, should know of it. I fought
my way through a leering throng of doorkeepers and _kawasses_ into the
outer office. While I waited for an interview the population of our land
increased. A greasy, groveling Jew, of the laboring classes, the
love-locks at his temples untrimmed and unperfumed, pushed timidly at
the swinging door several times, entered, and bowed and scraped before
the native secretary to attract his attention.

“Gonsul,” he wheezed, holding out his naturalization papers, “Gonsul, I
vant rregister my vife; she got boy.”

The secretary glanced at the papers and duly enrolled the new arrival as
an American citizen, with all the immunities and privileges thereunto
appertaining.

A moment later I was admitted to the inner office. The kindly,
white-haired consul asked for a detailed account of my journey in
Palestine.

“I am often much exercised,” he said, when I had finished; “I am often
much incensed that, with all the hospices for every other brand of
Christian, there are no accommodations in Jerusalem for American
pilgrims. It seems like cruel discrimination—”

“But I am scarcely a pilgrim,” I suggested.

“Yes, you are! Yes, you are!” cried the consul; “But never mind. I shall
give you a note to the Jewish hotel across the way and you may pay the
bill when you earn the money. For ‘the Americans’ will find you work,
you may be sure. See me again before you leave the city.”

I mounted an outdoor stairway on the opposite side of David street to a
very passable hostelry. The window of the room assigned me offered a
far-reaching view. Directly below, walled by the backs of adjoining
shops, stenched the ancient pool of Hezekiah. To the north, east, and
south spread a jumble of small buildings, their dome-shaped roofs of mud
or stone thrown into contrast by a few houses covered with red tiles,
the general level broken by several minarets and the architectural
hotch-potch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the further edge of
the city, yet so near as to be as plainly visible from base to dome as
in the compound itself, stood the beautiful mosque of Omar. From the
valley of Jehoshaphat beneath rose the Mount of Olives; the
stone-terraced Garden of Gethsemane of the lower slope backed by a
forest of olive trees; the summit crowned by the three-storied tower on
the “Russian Calvary.” Beyond, a desolation of rolling hills stretched
away to the massive wall of the mountains of Moab.

Descending to the street after dinner, I came upon the Pennsylvanian.
With him was an English resident who wished some documents turned into
French. I began on them at once and worked late into the night. In the
three days following, I interspersed my sightseeing with similar tasks.
The bazaars were half-deserted during this period; for on Friday the
Mohammedans held festival, Saturday and Sunday were respectively the
Jewish and Christian Sabbath, and the influence of each of the sects on
the other two was so marked that the entire population lost energy soon
after the middle of the week. On Saturday, the hotel guests subsisted on
the usual meals of meat, meat, meat; this time served cold, for what
orthodox Jew could bid his servants build a fire on the Sabbath? The day
grew wintry cold, however. The proprietor summoned a domestic, and,
speaking a Yiddish that closely resembled German, issued several orders,
ending with the wholly irrelevant remark, “I believe this is one of the
coldest days we have had in many a year.”

The servant scratched his moth-eaten poll, shuffled off, and returned
with a bundle of fagots that were soon crackling in the tiny sheet-iron
stove.

Sunday found me unoccupied, and, pushing through the howling chaos at
the Jaffa gate, I strolled southward along a highway, which afforded,
here and there, a glimpse of the Dead Sea. Turning off at the tomb of
Rachel, I climbed into the wind-swept village of Bethlehem.

From a cobblestone square in the center of the town, a low doorway,
flanked by blocks of unhewn stone so blackened by the none too cleanly
hands of centuries of pilgrims as to give it the appearance of a huge
rat hole, offered admittance to the Church of the Nativity. A score of
worshiping Christians gave me welcome in the grotto of the manger by
tramping on my lightly-shod toes and I quickly retreated to the
cedar-groined church above. At their altar in one section of the
transept a group of bejeweled dignitaries of the Greek church were
celebrating mass. Plainly, it was a solemn and holy occasion to the
patriarchs and their assistants. A small army of acolytes hovered round
the priests like blackbirds over an ear of corn, advancing and
retreating with great robes and surplices of rich design, each of which
served only for a kow-tow to some object of religious veneration. In the
center of the transept, a few feet away from the worshiping priests,
just where the Greek territory meets that of some other sect, stood the
Sultan’s guard. He was a typical soldier of the Porte, his uniform of
patches stretched and bagged out of all semblance to modern clothing,
his head covered with a moth-eaten fez, its tassel long since departed
and its lower edge turned from its original red to a greasy brown
through long contact with the oily scalp of its wearer. Lazily he leaned
on the muzzle of the musket under his armpit, one dusty foot resting on
the other, and gazed with an unshaven grimace, half of scorn, half of
pity, at those gullible beings who performed their amusing antics to a
false god. His relief arrived soon after. The scoffer stalked out of the
church, cast his musket on the cobblestones, and turning an ultra-solemn
face towards Mecca, stepped out of his shoes and bowed down in afternoon
prayer.

From the Pools of Solomon, I returned to Jerusalem. The English resident
came next morning with another document, which I returned at noon and,
having paid my bill, presented myself at the consulate to announce my
departure.

“How much money have you?” asked the consul.

“A ten-franc piece.”

“Good! Now, my lad, take my advice. There is a steamer leaving Jaffa for
Egypt to-morrow. Take the afternoon train—ten francs will more than pay
your fare—and once in Jaffa perhaps you can get a berth on the steamer.
Ask the American consul there to give you his assistance.”

“I can save money by walking,” I ventured.

“Impossible!” cried the consul; “It’s forty miles to Jaffa; the ship
leaves at noon, and there is not another for ten days. Take the train.
You can’t walk there in time.”

Just to prove that the consul had underestimated my abilities as a
pedestrian, I spent half my wealth for a roll of films and struck out on
the highway to the coast. Long after dark I usurped lodgings in Latron,
the home of the penitent thief, and put off again before daylight, in a
pouring rain, across the marshy plain of Sharon. It was nearly noon when
I reached the port; but the sea was running mountain high and the task
of loading the steamer was proceeding slowly. A native offered to pilot
me to the dwelling of the American consul for a few coppers. Urged on by
an occasional jab in the ribs, he splashed through the streets,
ankle-deep in Jaffa soil in solution, to a large hotel that made great
effort to pose as an exclusive faranchee establishment. I dashed into
the office in a shower of mud that raised a shriek of horror from the
immaculately attired clerk, and called for the consul.

“Impossible!” cried the clerk; “The consul is at dinner.”

Two steps towards the dining-room convinced him that my business was of
pressing importance. He snatched wildly at my dripping garments and sent
a servant to make known my errand.

[Illustration: The view of Jerusalem from my window in the Jewish hotel]

[Illustration: Sellers of oranges and bread in Jerusalem. Notice
Standard Oil can]

Had the low comedian of a Broadway burlesque suddenly appeared in full
regalia amid these Oriental surroundings, I should have been far less
astonished than at the strange being who pounced down upon me. He was
tall, this American consul, tall as any man who hoped to be ranked as a
man could venture to be, spare of shank as the contortionist who drives
the envious small boy to bathe himself in angle-worm oil in the secret
recesses of the barn for the fortnight succeeding circus day—and he was
excited. Several other things he was as well—among them, a Frenchman,
and, despite his efforts, none but the words of his native tongue would
go forth from his lips—and that foreign jargon it was not my place, as a
common sailor, to understand. He stood framed in the doorway of the
dining-room—though, to be frank, the frame was a good six inches too
short, and wrinkled the picture sadly—and between whirlwind gusts of red
hot Gaelic, tore at his dancing mane.

“Sacré nom d’un chien!—to be disturbed entre le dessert et le fromage—by
a sunburned, muddy wretch—and with a knapsack!—Un misérable
court-le-monde, mille tonnerres!—Un sans-sous—and these fellows were
always after money—”

Had I been able to understand him, I might have protested. As it was,
what more could I do than try to rush a word across the track where one
train of invectives broke off and another began:—

“Say, mister, be youse the Amurican consil—?”

But the words were mercilessly ground under the wheels;—

“—And where should he get this money?—Mille diables!—Was he a
millionaire because he was consul for a few countries?—Un vagabond!—Par
le—”

“Say, mister, can’t youse talk English?”

“Anglais—angl—engl—Engleesh—certainly he could parle Engleesh!—But to
be called from dinner avant le demi-tasse—An American?—yes, yes,
oui—certainment, American consul—and to be called out—Sailor,
hein!—Aha! Quoi?—From Jerusa—Couldn’t be—no
train—hein?—walk?—diable!—non!—impossible!—Comment?—consul in
Jerusalem told—Par le barbe de—Help me?—A poor Jaffa consul with no
salary help a man sent by the Jerusalem consul who drew des millards
de francs!—le coquin—Hein?—Quoi?—My paper that?—A ragged sailor with a
letter from the Secretary of State?—Un vagabond?—coming during
dinner—Quoi?—my letter?—Quelle histoire—what a lie!—elle était
volée!—Oui—If he did his duty, he would keep it for the lawful
owner—elle était volée—still, he would—”

He certainly would, for I had already twisted it out of his hands.

“Diable!—Quoi?—Write letter to the cap!—didn’t know him!—ship’s
agent—hein? certainly—one of his best friends—write letter?—of
course—but the din—and money?—Hein?—Quoi?—dis donc!—Pas
d’argent?—no money?—vraiment!—sailor, and not want money!—Sainte
Vierge au—Note?—certainly—at once—why hadn’t I said long
ago—No!—no!—n’importe!—not the least harm done—wasn’t hungry
anyway—appetite very poor—only a note?—pas d’ar—Delighted to know
me—my letter?—certainly it was my letter—Never doubted it for a
moment—Would I take a demi-tasse?—No?—Hurry?—of course—at
once!”—and he was gone.

A moment later the clerk handed me an unfolded note and I hurried away
to the wharf, a half-mile distant. The ship still rode at anchor. I
rushed to the wicket and presented the epistle. Why had I not been
warned that Jaffa was the refuge of worn-out comic opera stars? The
agent who peered out at me wore a glass eye, a headdress of the Middle
Ages, and—by the beard of Allah!—a celluloid nose.

His face puckered up as he read the missive—all, that is, except the
nose, which preserved a noncommital serenity. “Ah!” he snored, drawing
out a ticket from the rack, “Very well! The fare is twelve francs.”

“The fare? But doesn’t the consul ask you to give me a berth as a
sailor?”

The noseless one pushed the note towards me. It was in French, but a
warning whistle from the harbor made me forget my ignorance of that
language. The letter was as upset in construction as the consul had been
when he noted my name. It ran:—

DEAR FRIEND:—

The bearer, Harris Frank, is an American sailor who wishes to go to
Egypt. Will you kindly sell him a ticket and oblige, your humble,
etc., etc.

____ ____,
American Consular Agent.

A letter authorizing the company to sell me a ticket that it would have
been delighted to sell to any species of man or ape who had the money!
It was as valuable as a letter from the mayor of New York would be in
buying a subway ticket! I dumped my possessions recklessly on the floor
and sped away to the hotel at a pace that spilled four natives in the
mire, by actual count. The consul was as raving as before. He had just
lain down for his siesta and was convinced that I had repented my
refusal to ask for money. A few words reassured him. He fidgeted while I
explained the desired wording of the new note; and I was soon speeding
back to the owner of the junk-shop face.

He read the new communication after the leisurely way of the East, and
said:—“Well, as a sailor we can give you a ticket at half-price—six
francs.”

I snatched the note out of his hand. The goblins catch that
scatter-brained consul! He had unburdened himself as follows:—

DEAR FRIEND:—

The bearer, Frank Harris, is an American sailor without funds who
wishes to go to Egypt. Kindly sell him a ticket as cheaply as
possible, and oblige, etc., etc.

—— ——,
American Consular Agent.

Utterly indifferent to the rain, I sat down against a pillar outside the
office. Four paltry francs rattled in my pocket. Long, penniless days on
the Jaffa beach seemed my promised lot. Stevedores were struggling to
breast the towering waves. Now and then a giant comber overturned a
laden rowboat high on the beach. Barefooted natives waded into the surf
with tourists in their arms. Each warning whistle seemed to thrust Egypt
further and further away. If only—

I felt a tap on the shoulder. A young native in the uniform of Gook and
Son was bending over me.

“Go on board anyway,” he said.

“Eh?” I cried.

“The captain is English. If you are a sailor he will give you work.”

“But I can’t get on board,” I answered.

For reply, the native pointed to the tourist-company boat, laden with
baggage and mails, at the edge of the wharf. I snatched up my knapsack
and dropped into the craft.

The steamer was weighing anchor when I scrambled up the gangway. I
fought my way through a chaos of tumbled baggage, seasick natives, and
bellowing seamen, and attempted to mount to the bridge. A burly Arab
seaman pushed me back. When darkness fell on an open sea I had not yet
succeeded in breaking through the bodyguard that surrounded the captain.
Writhing natives covered every spot on the open deck. I crawled under
the canvas that covered the winch, converted my bundle into a pillow,
and fell asleep.

In what seemed a half-hour later I awoke to find the ship gliding along
as smoothly as in a river. I crawled out on deck. A bright morning sun
was shining, and before my astonished eyes lay Port Saïd. The ticket
collector had neglected to look under the winch for passengers.

The steamer was held in quarantine for several hours. I purchased food
of a ship’s boy and settled down to await the good will of the port
doctors. As I lined up with the rest, to be thumped and prodded by order
of His Majesty, the Khedive, a new plan flashed through my mind. The
ship was to continue to Alexandria. That port, certainly, gave far
easier access to the real Egypt than Port Saïd, and it was an unexplored
city. Instead of disembarking with the others, therefore, I sought out
the captain once more—and once more was repulsed by a thick-witted
seaman.

I returned to the deck and sat down on a hatch. To my dismay, the native
purser began to collect the tickets before the last tender was unloaded.
He approached me and held out his hand.

“Where can I see the captain?” I demanded.

“M’abarafshee,” he answered, shaking his head, “bilyeto!” (ticket).

Certainly I must offer some excuse for being on board without a ticket.
The lean form of the purser bending over me called up the memory of the
Jaffa consul. I rummaged through my pockets, and, spreading out his
second note to the ship’s agent, laid it in the purser’s hand. The
consul’s yellow stationery bore a disconcerting contrast to the bundle
of dark-blue tickets. The officer gave vent to his astonishment in an
avalanche of Arabic.

“M’abarafshee!” I imitated.

He opened his mouth to launch a second avalanche, hesitated, scratched
his head, and, with a shrug of the shoulders, went on gathering
“bilyetos” from the native passengers.

Some time later he descended from the upper deck and, beckoning to me,
led the way to the bridge. The steamer was preparing to get under way.
The captain, a burly Briton, stormed back and forth across the ship,
striving to give orders to the crew in such Arabic as he could muster,
and bursting the bounds of that unnatural tongue with every fourth
word, to berate the blockheads in forcible excerpts from the
King’s—private—English. His eye fell upon me.

“Here,” he roared, profanely, ’tis true, but to the point, “what the
bloody —— is all this?” and he waved the now ragged note in my face.

“Why, that’s a note from the Amurican consil in Jaffa, sir, sayin’ I
want t’ ship for Egypt.”

The purple rage on the skipper’s face, the result of his attempt to set
forth in Arabic thoughts only expressible in English, subsided somewhat
at the sound of his own tongue.

[Illustration: The Palestine beast of burden carrying an iron beam to a
building in construction]

[Illustration: Jews of Jerusalem in typical costume]

“But,” he went on, in milder tones, “this note asks the company to give
you as cheap a passage as possible; and it’s addressed to the agent, not
to the captain of this ship.”

“What, sir!” I cried, “Is that all? Why, the consil knowed I ’adn’t no
money, sir.”

“It’s open; why the devil didn’t you read it?” retorted the skipper.

“Aye, sir,” I answered, “but it’s wrote in some foreign lingo.”

“Eh?—er—well, that’s right,” admitted the commander, with a waver of
pride in his voice. “It’s written in French, and this is what it
says”—and he translated it.

“Why that bloomin’ consil—” I gasped.

“American sailor, are you?” demanded the captain.

I handed him my Sardinian and Warwickshire discharges.

“Well,” he mused, “if that note had been in English, I’d—”

“I’m ready to turn to with the crew, sir,” I put in.

“N—no. That’ll be all right,” said the skipper, stuffing the note into
his pocket as he turned his attention to the seamen on the deck below.
“Cover that hatch, you bloody fools, before a sea fills her!”

Early the next morning I disembarked in Alexandria.

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