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Title: Artists and Arabs - Or, Sketching in Sunshine
Author: Henry Blackburn, - To be updated
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ARTISTS AND ARABS;

OR

Sketching in Sunshine

By Henry Blackburn,

Author Of 'Normandy Picturesque,' 'The Pyrenees,' 'Travelling In Spain,'
Etc.

Second Edition.

With Numerous Illustrations.

London:

Sampson Low, Son, And Marston,

1870.



ARGUMENT.

The advantage of winter studios abroad, and the value of sketching in
the open air; especially in Algeria.

'The best thing the author of a book can do, is to tell the reader, on a
piece of paper an inch square, what he means by it.'--Athenaeum.

[Illustration: 0019]

ARTISTS AND ARABS.



CHAPTER I. ON THE WING.

[Illustration: 9019]

Y the middle of the month of July, the Art season in London was on the
wane, and by the end of August the great body of English artists had
dispersed, some, the soundest workers perhaps, to the neighbourhood of
Welsh mountains and English homesteads, to--'The silence of thatched
cottages and the voices of blossoming fields.'

From the Tweed to the Shetland Isles, they were thick upon the hills;
in every nook and corner of England, amongst the cornfields and upon the
lakes; in the valleys and torrent beds of Wales, the cry was still 'they
come.'

On the continent, both artists and amateurs were everywhere. Smith
toiling across the Campagna with the thermometer at 95 (his reward
a quiet pipe at the 'café Greco' when the sun goes down) is but a
counterpart of a hundred other Smiths scattered abroad. In the
galleries of Florence and Rome no more easels could be admitted, and
in Switzerland and Savoy the little white tents and 'sun-umbrellas'
glistened on the mountain side. Brown might be seen rattling down an
arrête from the Flegére, with his _matériel_ swung across his back, like
a carpenter's basket, after a hard day's work sketching the Aiguilles
that tower above the valley of Chamounix; and Jones, with his little
wife beside him, sitting under the deep shade of the beech-trees in the
valley of Sixt.

We were a sketching party, consisting of two, three or four, according
to convenience or accident, wandering about and pitching our tent in
various places away from the track of tourists; we had been spending
most of the summer days in the beautiful Val d'Aosta (that school for
realistic work that a great teacher once selected for his pupil, giving
him three months to study its chesnut groves, 'to brace his mind to a
comprehension of facts'); we had prolonged the summer far into autumn on
the north shore of the Lago Maggiore, where from the heights above the
old towns of Intra and Pallanza we had watched its banks turn from green
to golden and from gold to russet brown. The mountains were no longer
_en toilette_, as the French express it, and the vineyards were stripped
of their purple bloom; the wind had come down from the Simplon in sudden
and determined gusts, and Monte Rosa no longer stood alone in her robe
of white; the last visitor had left the Hôtel de l'Univers at Pallanza,
and our host was glad to entertain us at the rate of four francs a day
'tout compris'--when the question came to us, as it does to so many
other wanderers in Europe towards the end of October, where to go for
winter quarters, where to steal yet a further term of summer days.

Should we go again to Spain to study Velasquez and Murillo, should we go
as usual to Rome; or should we strike out a new path altogether and go
to Trebizond, Cairo, Tunis, or Algeria?

There was no agreeing on the matter, diversity of opinion was very
great and discussion ran high (the majority we must own, having leanings
towards Rome and _chic_; and also 'because there would be more fun');
so, like true Bohemians, we tossed for places and the lot fell upon
Algeria.

The next morning we are on the way. Trusting ourselves and our baggage
to one of those frail-looking little boats with white awnings, that form
a feature in every picture of Italian lake scenery, and which, in their
peculiar motion and method of propulsion (the rower standing at the
stern and facing his work), bear just sufficient resemblance to the
Venetian gondola to make us chafe a little at the slow progress we
make through the smooth water, we sit and watch the receding towers of
Pallanza, as it seems, for the livelong day. There is nothing to relieve
the monotony of motion, and scarcely a sound to break the stillness,
until we approach the southern shore, and it becomes a question of
anxiety as to whether we shall really reach Arona before sundown. But
the old boatman is not to be moved by any expostulation or entreaty,
nor is he at all affected by the information that we run great risk of
losing the last train from Arona; and so we are spooned across the great
deep lake at the rate of two or three miles an hour, and glide into the
harbour with six inches of water on the flat-bottom of the boat amongst
our portmanteaus.

From Arona to Genoa by railway, and from Genoa to Nice by the Cornice
road--that most beautiful of all drives, where every variety of grandeur
and loveliness of view, both by sea and land, seems combined, and from
the heights of which, if we look seaward and scan the southern horizon,
we can sometimes trace an irregular dark line, which is Corsica--past
Mentone and Nice, where the 'winter swallows' are arriving fast; making
a wonderful flutter in their nests, all eagerness to obtain the most
comfortable quarters, * and all anxiety to have none but 'desirable'
swallows for neighbours. This last is a serious matter, this settling
down for the winter at Nice, for it is here that the swallows
choose their mates, pairing off wonderfully in the springtime, like
grouse-shooting M.P.s in August.

     * Necessary enough, to be protected from the cold blasts
     that sweep down the valleys, as many invalids know to their
     cost, who have taken houses or lodgings hastily at Nice.

A few hours' journey by railway and we are at Marseilles, where
(especially at the 'Grand Hotel') it is an understood and settled thing
that every Englishman is on his way, to or from Italy or India, and it
requires considerable perseverance to impress upon the attendants that
the steamer which sails at noon for Algiers is the one on which our
baggage is to be placed, and it is almost impossible to persuade the
driver of a fiacre that we do _not_ want to go by the boat just starting
for Civita Vecchia or Leghorn.

On stepping on board it almost seems as if there were some mistake, for
we appear to be the only passengers on the after deck, and to be looked
upon with some curiosity by the swarthy half-naked crew, who talk
together in an unknown tongue; notwithstanding that at the packet
office in the town we were informed that we could not secure berths for
certain.

We have several hours to wait and to look about us, for the mail is
not brought on board until three in the afternoon, and it is half-past,
before the officials have kissed each other on both cheeks and we are
really moving off--threading our way with difficulty through the mass of
shipping which hems us in on all sides.

The foredeck of the _Akhbar_ is one mass of confusion and crowding, but
the eye soon detects the first blush of oriental colour and costume, and
on nearer inspection it is easy to distinguish a few white bournouses
moving through the crowd. There are plenty of Zouaves in undress
uniforms, chiefly young men, with a superfluity of medals and the
peculiar swagger which seems inseparable from this costume; others old
and bronzed, who have been to Europe on leave and are returning to join
their regiments. Some parting scenes we witness between families of the
peasant order, of whom there appear to be a number on board, and their
friends who leave in the last boat for the shore. These, one and all,
take leave of each other with a significant 'au revoir,' which is the
key-note to the whole business, and tells us (who are not studying
politics and have no wish or intention, to trouble the reader with
the history or prospects of the colony) the secret of its ill-success,
viz.:--that these colonists _intend_ to _come back_, and that they are
much too near home in Algeria.

Looking down upon the fore-deck, as we leave the harbour of Marseilles,
there seems scarcely an available inch of space that is not encumbered
with bales and goods of all kinds; with heaps of rope and chain,
military stores, piles of arms, cavalry-horses, sheep, pigs, and a
prodigious number of live fowls.

On the after-deck there are but six passengers, there is a Moorish Jew
talking fluently with a French commercial traveller, a sad and silent
officer of Chasseurs with his young wife, and two lieutenants who
chatter away with the captain; the latter, in consideration of his rank
as an officer in the Imperial Marine, leaving the mate to take charge
of the vessel during the entire voyage. This gentleman seems to the
uninitiated to be a curious encumbrance, and to pass his time in
conversation, in sleep, and in the consumption of bad cigars. He is 6
a disappointed man' of course, as all officers are, of whatever nation,
age, or degree.

The voyage averages forty-eight hours, but is often accomplished in less
time on the southward journey. It is an uncomfortable period even in
fine weather, just too long for a pleasure trip, and just too short to
settle down and make up one's mind to it, as in crossing the Atlantic.
Our boat is an old Scotch screw, which has been lent to the Company of
the _Messageries Impériales_ for winter duty--the shaft hammering and
vibrating through the saloon and after-cabins incessantly for the first
twenty-four hours, whilst she labours against a cross sea in the Gulf of
Lyons, indisposes' the majority of the company, and the captain dines
by himself; but about noon on the next day it becomes calm, and the
_Akhbar_ steams quietly between the Balearic Islands, close enough for
us to distinguish one or two churches and white houses, and a square
erection that a fellow-traveller informs us is the work of the 'Majorca
Land, Compagnie Anglaise.'

In the following little sketch we have indicated the appearance in
outline of the two islands of Majorca and Minorca as we approach them
going southward, passing at about equal distances between the islands.

[Illustration: 0029]

The sea is calm and the sky is bright as we leave the islands behind us,
and the _Akhbar_ seems to skim more easily through the deep blue water,
leaving a wake of at least a mile, and another wake in the sky of sea
gulls, who follow us for the rest of the voyage in a graceful undulating
line, sleeping on the rigging at night unmolested by the crew, who
believe in their good omen.

On the second morning on coming on deck we find ourselves in the
tropics, the sky is a deep azure, the heat is intense, and the
brightness of everything is wonderful. The sun's rays pour down on the
vessel, and their effect on the occupants of the fore-deck is curious to
witness. The odd heaps of clothing that had lain almost unnoticed during
the voyage suddenly come to life, and here and there a dark visage peeps
from under a tarpaulin, from the inside of a coil of rope, or from a box
of chain, and soon the whole vessel, both the fore and after-deck,
is teeming with life, and we find at least double the number of human
beings on board that we had had any idea of at starting.

But the interest of every one is now centred on a low dark line of
coast, with a background of mountains, which every minute becomes more
defined; and we watch it until we can discern one or two of the highest
peaks, tipped with snow. Soon we can make out a bright green, or rather
as it seems in the sunlight, a golden shore, set with a single gem that
sparkles in the water. Again it changes into the aspect of a little
white pyramid or triangle of chalk on a green shore shelving to the sea,
next into an irregular mass of houses with flat roofs, and mosques
with ornamented towers and cupolas, surrounded and surmounted by grim
fortifications, which are not Moorish; and in a little while we can
distinguish the French houses and hotels, a Place, a modern harbour and
lighthouse, docks, and French shipping, and one piratical-looking craft
that passes close under our bows, manned by dark sailors with bright red
sashes and large earrings, dressed like the fishermen in the opera of
Mas-aniello. And whilst we are watching and taking it all in, we have
glided to our moorings, close under the walls of the great Mosque
(part of which we have sketched from this very point of view); and are
surrounded by a swarm of half-naked, half-wild and frantic figures, who
rush into the water vociferating and imploring us in languages difficult
to understand, to be permitted to carry the Franks' baggage to the
shore.

Taking the first that comes, we are soon at the landing steps and beset
by a crowd of beggars, touters, idlers and nondescripts of nearly every
nation and creed under heaven.

[Illustration: 0033]

[Illustration: 0035]



CHAPTER II. ALGIERS.


``'Ah oui, c'est qu'elle est belle avec ces châteaux forts,

``Couchés dans les près verts, comme les géants morts!

``C'est qu'elle est noble, Alger la fille du corsaire!

``Un réseau de murs blancs la protège et l'enserre.'=

[Illustration: 9035]

HE first view of the town of Algiers, with its pretty clusters of white
houses set in bright green hills, or as the French express it, 'like
a diamond set in emeralds,' the range of the lesser Atlas forming a
background of purple waves rising one above the other until they are
lost in cloud--was perhaps the most beautiful sight we had witnessed,
and it is as well to record it at once, lest the experience of the next
few hours might banish it from memory.

It was a good beginning to have a stately barefooted Arab to shoulder
our baggage from the port, and wonderful to see the load he carried
unassisted. * As he winds his way through the narrow and steep slippery
streets (whilst we who are shod by a Hoby and otherwise encumbered by
broadcloth, have enough to do to keep pace with him, and indeed to keep
our footing), it is good to see how nobly our Arab bears his load, how
beautifully balanced is his lithe figure, and with what grace and ease
he stalks along. As he slightly bows, when taking our three francs
(his 'tariff' as he calls it), there is a dignity in his manner, and
a composure about him that is almost embarrassing. How he came, in the
course of circumstances, to be carrying our luggage instead of wandering
with his tribe, perhaps civilization--French civilization--can answer.

     *  It is generally admitted, we believe, that  a vegetable
     diet will not produce heroes,' and there is certainly a
     prejudice in England about the value of beef for navvies and
     others who put muscular power into their work. It is an
     interesting fact to note, and one which we think speaks
     volumes for the climate of Algeria, that this gentleman
     lives almost entirely on fruit, rice, and Indian corn.

The first hurried glance (as we followed our cicerone up the landing
steps to the 'Hôtel de la Régence,' which faces the sea) at the
dazzlingly white flat-roofed houses without windows, at the mosques with
their gaily painted towers, at the palm-trees and orange-trees, and
at the crowd of miscellaneous costumes in which colour preponderated
everywhere, gave the impression of a thorough Mahommedan city; and now
as we walk down to the _Place_ and look about us at leisure, we find
to our astonishment and delight that the Oriental element is still most
prominent.

The most striking and bewildering thing is undoubtedly the medley
that meets the eye everywhere: the conflict of races, the contrast of
colours, the extraordinary brightness of everything, the glare, the
strange sounds and scenes that cannot be easily taken in at a first
visit; the variety of languages heard at the same time, and above
all the striking beauty of some faces, and the luxurious richness of
costume.

First in splendour come the Moors (traders looking like princes),
promenading or lounging about under the trees, looking as important and
as richly attired as was ever Caliph Haroun Alraschid.

They are generally fair and slight of figure, with false effeminate
faces, closely-shaven heads covered with fez and turban, loose baggy
trousers, jacket and vest of blue or crimson cloth, embroidered with
gold; round their waists are rich silken sashes, and their fingers are
covered with a profusion of rings. Their legs are often bare and their
feet are enclosed in the usual Turkish slipper.

This is the prominent town type of Moor or Jew, the latter to be
distinguished by wearing dark trousers, clean white stockings, French
shoes, and a round cloth cap of European pattern. There are various
grades, both of the Moors and Jews, some of course shabby and dirty
enough; but the most dignified and picturesque figures are the tall
dark Arabs and the Kabyles, with their flowing white bournouses, their
turbans of camel's hair, and their independent noble bearing. Here we
see them walking side by side with their conquerors in full military
uniform and their conquerors' wives in the uniform of _Le Follet_,
whilst white-robed female figures flit about closely veiled, and
Marabouts (the Mahom-medan priests) also promenade in their flowing
robes. Arab women and children lounge about selling fruit or begging
furtively, and others hurry to and fro carrying burdens; and everywhere
and ever present in this motley throng, the black frock-coat and
chimney-pot hat assert themselves, to remind us of what we might
otherwise soon be forgetting,--that we are but four days' journey from
England.

There is noise enough altogether on the _Place_ to bewilder any
stranger; for besides the talking and singing, and the cries of vendors
of fruit and wares, there is considerable traffic. Close to us as we sit
under the trees, (so close as almost to upset the little tables in front
of the cafés), without any warning, a huge diligence will come lunging
on to the _Place_ groaning under a pile of merchandise, with a bevy
of Arabs on the roof, and a party of Moorish women in the 'rotonde';
presently there passes a company of Zouaves at quick step, looking hot
and dusty enough, marching to their terrible tattoo; and next, by way
of contrast again, come two Arab women with their children, mounted on
camels, the beasts looking overworked and sulky; they edge their way
through the crowd with the greatest nonchalance, and with an impatient
croaking sound go shambling past.

The 'Place Royale' faces the north, and is enclosed on three sides with
modern French houses with arcades and shops, and when we have time to
examine their contents, we shall find them also principally French. Next
door to a bonnet-shop there is certainly the name of Mustapha over the
door, and in the window are pipes, coral, and filagree work exposed
for sale; but most of the goods come from France. Next door again is
a French café, where Arabs, who can afford it, delight in being waited
upon by their conquerors with white aprons and neck-ties.

The background of all this is superb: a calm sunlit sea, white sails
glittering and flashing, and far to the eastward a noble bay, with the
Kabyle mountains stretching out their arms towards the north.

At four o'clock the band plays on the _Place_, and as we sit and watch
the groups of Arabs and Moors listening attentively to the overture to
'William Tell,' or admiringly examining the gay uniforms and medals of
the Chasseurs d'Afrique--as we see the children of both nations at high
romps together--as the sweet sea-breeze that fans us so gently, bears
into the newly constructed harbour together, a corvette of the Imperial
Marine and a suspicious-looking raking craft with latteen sails--as
Marochetti's equestrian statue of the Duke of Orleans, and a mosque,
stand side by side before us--we have Algiers presented to us in
the easiest way imaginable, and (without going through the ordeal of
studying its history or statistics) obtain some idea of the general
aspect of the place and of the people, and of the relative position of
conquerors and conquered.

As our business is principally with the Moorish, or picturesque side of
things, let us first look at the great Mosque which we glanced at as we
entered the harbour, and part of which we have sketched for the reader.

[Illustration: 0043]

Built close to the water's edge, so close that the Mediterranean waves
are sapping its foundations--with plain white shining walls, nearly
destitute of exterior ornament, it is perhaps 'the most perfect example
of strength and beauty, and of fitness and grace of line, that we shall
see in any building of this type. * It is thoroughly Moorish in style,
although built by a Christian, if we may believe the story, of which
there are several versions; how the Moors in old days took captive a
Christian architect, and promised him his liberty on condition of his
building them a mosque; how he, true to his own creed, dexterously
introduced into the ground plan the form of a cross; and how the Moors,
true also to their promise, gave him his liberty indeed, but at the
cannon's mouth through a window, seaward.

     * This beautiful architectural feature of the town has not
     escaped the civilizing hand of the Frank; the last time we
     visited Algiers we found the oval window in the tower gone,
     and in its place an illuminated French clock!

The general outline of these mosques is familiar to most readers,
the square white walls pierced at intervals with quaint-shaped little
windows, the flat cupola or dome, and the square tower often standing
apart from the rest of the structure as in the little vignette on our
title-page, like an Italian campanile. Some of these towers are richly
decorated with arabesque ornamentation,' and glitter in the sun with
colour and gilding, but the majority of the mosques are as plain and
simple in design as shown in our large sketch.

Here, if we take off our shoes, we may enter and hear the Koran read,
and we may kneel down to pray with Arabs and Moors; religious tolerance
is equally exercised by both creeds. Altogether the Mahommedan places
of worship seem by far the most prominent, and although there is a Roman
Catholic church and buildings held by other denominations of Christians,
there is none of that predominant proselytizing aspect which we might
have expected after thirty years' occupation by the French! At Tetuan,
for instance, where the proportion of Christians to Mahommedans is
certainly smaller, the 'Catholic church' rears its head much more
conspicuously.

In Algiers the priestly element is undoubtedly active, and _Soeurs de
Charité_ are to be seen everywhere, but the buildings that first strike
the eye are not churches but mosques; the sounds that become more
familiar to the ear than peals of bells, are the Muezzin's morning and
evening salutation from the tower of a mosque, calling upon all true
believers to--=

```'Come to prayers, come to prayers,

```It is better to pray than to sleep.'=

The principal streets in Algiers lead east and west from the _Place_ to
the principal gates, the Bab-Azoun and the Bab-el-Oued. They are for the
most part French, with arcades like the Rue de Rivoli in Paris; many of
the houses are lofty and built in the style perhaps best known as
the 'Haussman.' Nearly all the upper town is still Moorish, and is
approached by narrow streets or lanes,--steep, slippery, and tortuous, *
which we shall examine by-and-bye.

     * It may be interesting to artists to learn that in this
     present year 1868, most of the quaint old Moorish streets
     and buildings are intact--neither disturbed by earthquakes
     nor 'improved' out of sight.

The names of some of the streets are curious, and suggestive of change.
Thus we see the 'Rue Royale,' the 'Rue Impériale there is, or was until
lately, a 'Place Nationale,' and one street is still boldly proclaimed
to be the 'Rue dé la Révolution'!

In passing through the French quarter, through the new wide streets,
squares and inevitable boulevards, the number of shops for fancy goods
and Parisian wares, especially those of hairdressers and modistes, seems
rather extraordinary; remembering that the entire European population
of Algeria, agricultural as well as urban, is not much more than that
of Brighton. In a few shops there are tickets displayed in different
languages, but linguists are rare, and where there are announcements of
the labels have generally a perplexing, composite character, like the
inscription on a statue at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, which ran thus
'Miss Ofelia dans Amlet.'

Before we proceed further, let us glance at the general mode of living
in Algiers, speaking first of the traveller who goes to the hotels.

The ordinary visitor of a month or two will drop down pleasantly enough
into the system of hotel life in Algiers; and even if staying for the
winter he will probably find it more convenient and amusing to take his
meals in French fashion at the hotels, ringing the changes between three
or four of the best, and one or two well-known cafés, There is generally
no table-d'hôte, but strangers can walk in and have breakfast or dine
very comfortably at little tables '_a part_,' at a fixed hour and at a
moderate price. The rooms are pleasant, cool, and airy, with large
windows open to the sea.

Everything is neatly and quietly served, the menu is varied enough, with
good French dishes and game in abundance; the hosts being especially
liberal in providing those delicious little birds that might be larks or
quails,--which in Algiers we see so often on the table and so seldom on
the wing.

````INGLIS

````SPOKEN.=

Half the people that are dining at the 'Hôtel d'Orient' to-day are
residents or habitués; they come in and take their accustomed places as
cosily, and are almost as particular and fastidious, as if they were at
their club.

There is the colonel of a cavalry regiment dining alone, and within
joking distance, five young officers, whose various grades of rank are
almost as evident from their manner as from the number of stripes on
their bright red kepis ranged on the wall of the salon. A French
doctor and his wife dine vis-à-vis, at one table, a lady _solitaire_ at
another; some gentlemen, whose minds are tuned to commerce, chatter in a
corner by themselves; whilst a group of newly-arrived English people in
the middle of the room, are busily engaged in putting down the various
questions with which they intend to bore the viceconsul on the morrow,
as if he were some good-natured house-agent, valet-de-place, and
interpreter in one, placed here by Providence for their especial behoof.
But it is all very orderly, sociable, and comfortable, and by no means
an unpleasant method of living for a time.

There is the _cercle_, the club, at which we may dine sometimes; there
are those pretty little villas amongst the orange-trees at Mustapha
Supérieure, where we may spend the most delightful evenings of all; and
there are also the Governor's weekly balls, soirées at the consulate,
and other pleasant devices for turning night into day, in Algiers as
everywhere else--which we shall be wise if we join in but sparingly.
And there are public amusements, concerts, balls, and the theatre--the
latter with a company of operatic singers with weak lungs, but voices
as sweet as any heard in Italy; and there are the moonlight walks by the
sea, to many the greatest delight of all.

The ordinary daily occupations are decidedly social and domestic; and
it may be truly said that for a stranger, until he becomes accustomed to
the place, there is very little going on.

You must not bathe, for instance, on this beautiful shelving shore.
'Nobody bathes, it gives fever,' was the invariable answer to enquiries
on this subject, and though it is not absolutely forbidden by the
faculty, there are so many restrictions imposed upon bathers that few
attempt it; moreover, an Englishman is not likely to have brought an
acrobatic suit with him, nor will he easily find a 'costume de bain' in
Algiers.

There is very little to do besides wander about the town, or make
excursions in the environs or into the interior (in which latter case it
is as well to take a fowling-piece, as there is plenty of game to be met
with); and altogether we may answer a question often asked about Algiers
as to its attractions for visitors, that it has not many (so called),
for the mere holiday lounger.

But for those who have resources of their own, for those who have work
to do which they wish to do quietly, and who breathe more freely under a
bright blue sky, Algiers seems to us to be _the_ place to come to.

The 'bird of passage,' who has unfortunately missed an earthquake, often
reports that Algiers is a little dull; but even he should not find it
so, for beyond the 'distractions' we have hinted at, there is plenty to
amuse him if he care little for what is picturesque. There are (or were
when we were there), a troop of performing Arabs of the tribe of 'Beni
Zouzoug,' who performed nightly the most hideous atrocities in the name
of religious rites: wounding their wretched limbs with knives, eating
glass, holding burning coals in their mouths, standing on hot iron
until the feet frizzled and gave forth sickening odours, and doing other
things in an ecstacy of religious frenzy which we could not print, and
which would scarcely be believed in if we did. *

     * Since writing the above, we observe that these Arabs (or a
     band of mountebanks in their name), have been permitted to
     perform their horrible orgies in Paris and London, and that
     young ladies go in evening dress to the 'stalls' to witness
     them.

There are various Moorish ceremonies to be witnessed. There are the
sacrifices at the time of the Ramadhan, when the negro priestesses go
down to the water side and offer up beasts and birds; the victims, after
prolonged agonies which crowds assemble to witness, being finally handed
over to a French _chef de cuisine_.

There are the mosques to be entered barefoot, and the native courts of
law to be seen. Then if possible, a Moor should be visited at home, and
a glimpse obtained of his domestic economy, including a dinner without
knives or forks.

An entertainment consisting entirely of Moorish dances and music is
easily got up, and is one of the characteristic sights of Algiers. The
young trained dancing girls, urged on to frenzy by the beating of the
tom-tom, and falling exhausted at last into the arms of their masters;
(dancing with that monotonous motion peculiar to the East, the body
swaying to and fro without moving the feet); the uncouth wild airs they
sing, their shrieks dying away into a sigh or moan, will not soon be
forgotten, and many other scenes of a like nature, on which we must not
dwell--for are they not written in twenty books on Algeria already?

But there are two sights which are seldom mentioned by other writers,
which we must just allude to in passing.

The Arab races, which take place in the autumn on the French racecourse
near the town, are very curious, and well worth seeing. Their
peculiarity consists in about thirty Arabs starting off pell-mell,
knocking each other over in their first great rush, their bournouses
mingling together and flying in the wind, but arriving at the goal
generally singly, and at a slow trot, in anything but racing fashion.

Another event is the annual gathering of the tribes, when
representatives from the various provinces camp on the hills of the
Sahel, and the European can wander from one tent to another and spend
his day enjoying Arab hospitality, in sipping coffee and smoking
everywhere the pipe of peace.

These things we only hint at as resources for visitors, if they are
fortunate enough to be in Algiers at the right time; but there are one
or two other things that they are not likely to miss, whether they wish
to do so or not.

They will probably meet one day, in the 'Street of the Eastern Gate,'
the Sirocco wind, and they will have to take shelter from a sudden
fearful darkness and heat, a blinding choking dust, drying up as it were
the very breath of life; penetrating every cavity, and into rooms closed
as far as possible from the outer air. Man and beast lie down before
it, and there is a sudden silence in the streets, as if they had been
overwhelmed by the sea. For two or three hours this mysterious blight
pours over the city, and its inhabitants hide their heads.

Another rather startling sensation for the first time is the 'morning
gun.' In the consulate, which is in an old Moorish house in the upper
town, the newly arrived visitor may have been shown imbedded in the wall
a large round shot, which he is informed was a messenger from one of
Lord Exmouth's three-deckers in the days before the French occupation;
and not many yards from it, in another street, he may have had pointed
out to him certain fissures or chasms in the walls of the houses, as the
havoc made by earthquakes; he may also have experienced in his travels
the sudden and severe effect of a tropical thunderstorm.

Let him retire to rest with a dreamy recollection of such events in his
mind, and let him have his windows open towards the port just before
sunrise,--when the earthquake, and the thunder, and the bombardment,
will present themselves so suddenly and fearfully to his sleepy senses,
that he will bear malice and hatred against the military governor for
evermore.

But it has roused him to see some of the sights of Algiers. Let him go
out at once to the almost deserted _Place_, where a few tall figures
wrapped in military cloaks are to be seen quietly sidling out of a door
in the corner of a square under the arcades,--coming from the club where
the gas is not quite extinguished, and where the little green baize
tables are not yet put away for the night; * and then let him hurry out
by the _Bab-el-Oued_ and mount the fortifications, and he will see a
number of poor Arabs shivering in their white bournouses, perched on the
highest points of the rocks like eagles, watching with eager eyes and
strained aspect for the rising of the sun, for the coming of the second
Mahomet. Let him look in the same direction, eastward, over the town
and over the bay to the mountains far beyond. The sparks from the
chariot-wheels of fire just fringe the outline of the Kabyle Hills, and
in another minute, before all the Arabs have clambered up and reached
their vantage ground, the whole bay is in a flood of light. The Arabs
prostrate themselves before the sun, and '_Allah il Allah_' (God is
great) is the burden of their psalm of praise.

     * How often have we seen in the Tuileries gardens, the
     bronzed heroes of Algerian wars, and perhaps have pitied
     them for their worn appearance; but we shall begin to think
     that something more than the African sun and long marches
     have given them a prematurely aged appearance, and that
     absinthe and late hours in a temperature of 90° Fahrenheit
     may have something to do with it.

But Mahomet's coming is not yet, and so they return down the hill, and
crowd together to a very different scene. The officers whom we saw
just now leaving the _Place_, have arrived at the Champ de Mars, the
drill-ground immediately below us, and here, in the cool morning air,
they are exercising and manoeuvring troops. There are several companies
going through their drill, and the bugle and the drum drown the
Muezzins' voices, who, from almost every mosque and turret in the city,
repeat their cry to the faithful to 'Come to prayers.'

[Illustration: 0061]

[Illustration: 0063]



CHAPTER III. THE MOORISH QUARTER--OUR STUDIO.

[Illustration: 9063]

E said, in the last chapter, that in Algiers there was very little going
on for the visitor or idler; but if the traveller have anything of the
artist in him, he will be delighted with the old town. If he is wise he
will spend the first week in wandering about, and losing himself in the
winding streets, going here, there, and everywhere on a picturesque tour
of inspection. His artistic tendencies will probably lead him to spend
much time in the Moorish cafés, where he may sit down unmolested (if
unwelcomed) for hours on a mat, and drink his little saucer of thick,
sweet coffee, for which he pays one sou, and smoke in the midst of a
group of silent Moors, who may perchance acknowledge his presence by a
slight gesture, and offer him their pipes, but who will more frequently
affect not to see him, and sit still doing absolutely nothing, with that
dignified solemnity peculiar to the East.

He will pass through narrow streets and between mysterious-looking old
houses that meet over head and shut out the sky; he will jostle often
in these narrow ways, soft plump objects in white gauze, whose eyes
and ankles give the only visible signs of humanity; he may turn back to
watch the wonderful dexterity with which a young Arab girl balances a
load of fruit upon her head down to the market place; and he will, if
he is not careful, be finally carried down himself by an avalanche
of donkeys, driven by a negro gamin who sits on the tail of the last,
threading their way noiselessly and swiftly, and carrying everything
before them; * and he will probably take refuge under the ruined arch
of some old mosque, whose graceful lines and rich decoration are still
visible here and there, and he will in a few hours be enchanted with the
place, and the more so for the reason that we have already hinted at,
viz.:--that in Algiers he is _let alone_, that he is free to wander and
'moon' about at will, without custodian or commissionaire, or any of the
tribe of 'valets de place.'

     * How different from what we read of in _Æothen_. The cry is
     not, 'Get out of the way, O old man! O virgin!--the
     Englishman, he comes, he comes!' If we were to push an old
     man out of the way, or, ever so little, to forget our duty
     to a fair pedestrian, we should be brought up before the
     Cadi, and fined and scorned, by a jury of unbelievers!

He may go into the Grand Divan; or into the streets where the
embroiderers are at work, sitting in front of their open shops, amongst
heaps of silks, rich stuffs and every variety of material; or where the
old merchant traders, whose occupation is nearly gone, sit smoking out
their lazy uncommercial lives.

He may go to the old Moorish bath, in a building of curious pattern,
which is as well worth seeing as anything in Algiers; and, if an Arabic
scholar, he may pick up an acquaintance or two amongst the Moors,
and visit their homes when their wives are away for the day, on some
mourning expedition to a suburban cemetery. He may explore innumerable
crooked, irregular streets, with low doorways and carved lattices, some
painted, some gilt; the little narrow windows and the grilles, being as
perfectly after the old type as when the Moors held undivided possession
of the city.

One old street, now pulled down, we remember well; it was the one always
chosen for an evening stroll because it faced the western sea, and
caught and reflected from its pavement and from its white walls, the
last rosy tints of sunset, long after the cobblers and the tinkers in
the lower town had lighted their little lanterns, and the cafés were
flaring in the French quarter. It was steep and narrow, so steep, in
fact, that steps were made in the pavement to climb it, and at the upper
end there was the dome of a mosque shining in the sun. It was like the
child's picture of 'Jacob's ladder,' brighter and more resplendent at
each step, and ending in a blaze of gold.

We are often reminded of Spain in these old streets; there are massive
wooden doors studded with iron bosses or huge nails as we see them at
Toledo, and there is sometimes to be seen over them, the emblem of the
human hand pointing upwards, which recalls the Gate of Justice at the
entrance to the Alhambra at Granada.

The Moors cling to their old traditions, and the belief that they will
some day reconquer Spain is still an article of faith. But if ever the
Moors are to regain their imaginary lost possessions in Spain, they must
surely be made of sterner stuff than the present race, who, judging from
appearances, are little likely to do anything great.

There are little shops and dark niches where the Moors sit cross-legged,
with great gourds and festoons of dried fruits hanging above and around
them; the piles of red morocco slippers, the oddshaped earthenware
vessels, and the wonderful medley of form and colour, resembling in
variety the bazaars at Constantinople, or carrying us in imagination
still further East.

Other sights and sounds we might mention, some not quite so pleasant but
peculiarly Eastern; and we should not forget to note the peculiar
scent of herbs and stuffs, which, mingled with the aroma of coffee
and tobacco, was sometimes almost overpowering in the little Covered
streets; and one odour that went up regularly on Sunday mornings in the
Moorish quarter that was not incense, and which it took us a long
time to discover the origin of--an Arab branding his donkeys with his
monogram!

Everything we purchase is odd and quaint, irregular or curious in some
way. Every piece of embroidery, every remnant of old carpet, differs
from another in pattern as the leaves on the trees. There is no
repetition, and herein lies its charm and true value to us. Every fabric
differs either in pattern or combination of colours--it is something, as
we said, unique, something to treasure, something that will not remind
us of the mill. *

     * The little pattern at the head of this chapter was traced
     from a piece of embroidered silk, worked by the Moors.

If we explore still further we shall come to the Arab quarter, where we
also find characteristic things. Here we may purchase for about thirty
francs a Kabyle match-lock rifle, or an old sabre with beautifully
ornamented hilt; we may, if we please, ransack piles of primitive and
rusty implements of all kinds, and pick up curious women's ornaments,
beads, coral, and anklets of filagree work; and, if we are fortunate,
meet with a complete set or suit of harness and trappings, once the
property of some insolvent Arab chief, and of a pattern made familiar to
us in the illustrated history of the Cid.

In the midst of the Moorish quarter, up a little narrow street (reached
in five or six minutes from the centre of the town) passing under an
archway and between white walls that nearly meet overhead, we come to a
low dark door, with a heavy handle and latch which opens and shuts with
a crashing sound; and if we enter the courtyard and ascend a narrow
staircase in one corner, we come suddenly upon the interior view of the
first or principal floor, of our Moorish home.

The house, as may be seen from the illustration, has two stories, and
there is also an upper terrace from which we overlook the town. The
arrangement of the rooms round the courtyard, all opening inwards, is
excellent; they are cool in summer, and warm even on the coldest nights,
and although we are in a noisy and thickly populated part of the town,
we are ignorant of what goes on outside, the massive walls keeping out
nearly all sound. The floors and walls are tiled, so that they can be
cleansed and cooled by water being thrown over them; the carpets and
cushions spread about invite one to the most luxurious repose, tables
and chairs are unknown, there is nothing to offend the eye in shape or
form, nothing to offend the ear--not even a door to slam.

Above, there is an open terrace, where we sit in the mornings and
evenings, and can realise the system of life on the housetops of the
East. Here we can cultivate the vine, grow roses and other flowers,
build for ourselves extempore arbours, and live literally in the open
air.

From this terrace we overlook the flat roofs of the houses of the
Moorish part of the city, and if we peep over, down into the streets
immediately below us, a curious hum of sounds comes up. Our neighbours
are certainly industrious; they embroider, they make slippers, they
hammer at metal work, they break earthenware and mend it, and appear to
quarrel all day long, within a few feet of us; but as we sit in the room
from which our sketch is taken, the sounds become mingled and subdued
into a pleasant tinkle which is almost musical, and which we can, if we
please, shut out entirely by dropping a curtain across the doorway.

Our attendants are Moorish, and consist of one old woman, whom we see
by accident (closely veiled) about once a month, and a bare-legged,
bare-footed Arab boy who waits upon us. There are pigeons on the roof,
a French poodle that frequents the lower regions, and a guardian of our
doorstep who haunts it day and night, whose portrait is given at Chapter
V.

Here we work with the greatest freedom and comfort, without interruption
or any drawbacks that we can think of. The climate is so equal, warm,
and pleasant--even in December and January--that by preference we
generally sit on the upper terrace, where we have the perfection of
light, and are at the same time sufficiently protected from sun and
wind.

At night we sleep almost in the open air, and need scarcely drop the
curtains at the arched doorways of our rooms; there are no mosquitoes to
trouble us, and there is certainly no fear of intrusion. There is also
perfect stillness, for our neighbours are at rest soon after sundown.

Such is a general sketch of our dwelling in Algiers; let us for a
moment, by way of contrast, return in imagination to London, and picture
to ourselves our friends as they are working at home.

It is considered very desirable, if not essential, to an artist,
that his immediate surroundings should be in some sort graceful and
harmonious, and it is a lesson worth learning, to see what may be done,
with ingenuity and taste, towards converting a single room, in a dingy
street, into a fitting abode of the arts.

We know a certain painter well, one whose studio it is always a delight
to enter, and whose devotion to Art (both music and painting) for its
own sake has always stood in the way of his advancement and pecuniary
success. He has converted a room in the neighbourhood of Gower Street
into a charming nook where colour, form, and texture are all considered
in the simplest details of decoration, where there is nothing
inharmonious to eye or ear, but where perhaps the sound of the guitar
may be heard a little too often. The walls of his studio are draped,
the light falls softly from above, the doorway is arched, the seats are
couches or carpets on a raised daïs, a Florentine lamp hangs from the
ceiling, a medley of vases, costumes, old armour, &c, are grouped about
in picturesque confusion, and our friend, in an easy undress of the last
century, works away in the midst.

Not to particularize further, let the reader consider for a moment what
one step beyond his own door brings about, on an average winter's day.
A straight, ungraceful, colourless costume of the latter half of the
nineteenth century which he _must_ assume, a hat of the period, an
umbrella raised to keep off sleet and rain, and for landscape a damp,
dreary, muddy, blackened street, with a vista of areas and lamp-posts,
and, if perchance he be going to the Academy, a walk through the parish
of St. Giles!

Perhaps the most depressing prospect in the world, is that from a Gower
Street doorstep on a November morning about nine o'clock; but of
this enough. We think of our friend as we sit out here on our
_terrasse_--sheltering ourselves on the same day, at the same hour, from
the sun's rays--we think of him painting Italian scenes by the light of
his gas 'sun-burner,' and wish he would come out to Algiers. 'Surely,'
we would say to him, 'it is something gained, if we can, ever so little,
harmonize the realities of life with our ideal world--if we can, without
remark, dress ourselves more as we dress our models, and so live, that
one step from the studio to the street shall not be the abomination of
desolation.' *

     * It would be obviously in bad taste for Europeans to walk
     in the streets of Algiers, _en costume Maure_; but we may
     make considerable modifications in our attire in an oriental
     city, to our great comfort and peace of mind.

Let us turn again to Nature and to Light, and transport the reader to a
little white house, overlooking a beautiful city, on the North African
shore, where summer is perpetual and indoor life the exception; and draw
a picture for him which _should_ be fascinating and which certainly is
true.=

_Algiers, Sunrise, December 10._

The mysterious, indefinable charm of the first break of day, is an old
and favourite theme in all countries and climates, and one on which
perhaps little that is new can be said. In the East it is always
striking, but in Algiers it seems to us peculiarly so; for sleeping, or
more often lying awake, with the clear crisp night air upon our faces,
it comes to our couch in the dreamiest way imaginable--instead of being
clothed (as poets express it) with the veil of night, a mantle seems
rather to be spread over us in the morning; there is perfect quiet at
this hour, and we seem to be almost under a spell not to disturb the
stillness--the dawn whispers to us so softly and soothingly that we are
powerless to do ought but watch or sleep.

The break of day is perhaps first announced to us by a faint stream of
light across the courtyard, or the dim shadow of a marble pillar on the
wall. In a few minutes, we hear the distant barking of a dog, a slight
rustle in the pigeon-house above, or a solitary cry from a minaret which
tells us that the city is awaking. We rouse ourselves and steal out
quietly on to the upper terrace to see a sight of sights--one of those
things that books tell us, rightly or wrongly, is alone worth coming
from England to see.

The canopy of stars, that had encompassed us so closely during the
night, as if to shut in the courtyard overhead, seems lifted again, and
the stars themselves are disappearing fast in the grey expanse of sky;
and as we endeavour to trace them, looking intently seaward, towards the
North and East, we can just discern an horizon line and faint shadows
of the 'sleeping giants,' that we know to be not far off. Soon--in about
the same time that it takes to write these lines--they begin to take
form and outline one by one, a tinge of delicate pearly pink is seen at
intervals through their shadows, and before any nearer objects have
come into view, the whole coast line and the mountains of Kabylia,
stretching-far to the eastward, are flushed with rosy light, opposed to
a veil of twilight grey which still hangs over the city.

Another minute or two, and our shadows are thrown sharply on a glowing
wall, towers and domes come distinctly into view, housetops innumerable
range themselves in close array at our feet, and we, who but a few
minutes ago, seemed to be standing as it were alone upon the top of
a high mountain, are suddenly and closely beleaguered. A city of flat
white roofs, towers, and cupolas, relieved here and there by coloured
awnings, green shutters, and dark doorways, and by little courtyards
blooming with orange and citron trees--intersected with innumerable
winding ways (which look like streams forcing their way through a chalk
cliff)--has all grown up before our eyes; and beyond it, seaward--a
harbour, and a fleet of little vessels with their white sails, are seen
shining in the sun.

Then come the hundred sounds of a waking city, mingling and increasing
every moment; and the flat roofs (some so close that we can step upon
them) are soon alive with those quaint white figures we meet in the
streets, passing to and fro, from roof to roof, apparently without
restraint or fear. There are numbers of children peeping out from odd
corners and loopholes, and women with them, some dressed much less
scrupulously than we see them in the market place, and some, to tell the
truth, entirely without the white robes aforesaid. A few, a very few,
are already winding their way through the streets to the nearest mosque,
but the majority are collected in groups in conversation, enjoying the
sweet sea breeze, which comes laden with the perfume of orange-trees,
and a peculiar delicious scent as of violets.

The pigeons on the roof-tops now plume their gilded wings and soar--not
upward but downward, far away into space; they scarcely break the
silence in the air, or spread their wings as they speed along.

Oh, what a flight above the azure sea!=

```'Quis dabat mihi pennas sicut columbæ;=

the very action of flying seems repose to them.

It is still barely sunrise on this soft December morning, the day's
labour has scarcely begun, the calm is so perfect that existence alone
seems a delight, and the Eastern aroma (if we may so express it) that
pervades the air might almost lull us to sleep again, but Allah wills it
otherwise.

Suddenly---with terrible impulse and shrill accent impossible to
describe--a hurricane of women's voices succeeds the calm. Is it
treachery? Is it scandal? Has Hassan proved faithless, or has Fatima
fled? Oh, the screeching and yelling that succeeded to the quiet beauty
of the morning! Oh, the rushing about of veiled (now all closely
veiled) figures on house-tops! Oh, the weeping and wailing, and literal,
terrible, gnashing of teeth! 'Tell it not upon the house-tops', (shall
we ever forget it being told on the housetops? ) 'let not a whole city
know thy misdeeds,' is written in the Koran, 'it is better for the
faithful to come to prayers!' Merciful powers, how the tempest raged
until the sun was up and the city was alive again, and its sounds helped
to drown the clamour.

Let us come down, for our Arab boy now claps his hands in sign, that (on
a little low table or tray, six inches from the ground) coffee and
pipes are provided for the unbelievers; and like the Calendar in Eastern
Story, he proceeds to tell us the cause of the tumult--a trinket taken
from one wife and given to another!

Oh, Islam! that a lost bracelet or a jealous wife, should make the earth
tremble so!

[Illustration: 0083]

[Illustration: 0085]



CHAPTER IV. 'MODELS.'

[Illustration: 9085]

ROM the roof-tops of our own and the neighbouring houses we have
altogether many opportunities of sketching, and making studies from
life. * By degrees, by fits and starts, and by most uncertain means
(such as attracting curiosity, making little presents, &c.) we manage
to scrape up a distant talking acquaintance with some of the mysterious
wayward creatures we have spoken of, and in short, to become almost
'neighbourly.'

     *  In the Exhibition of the Royal Academy of 1867, there was
     a picture by Alfred Elmore, R.A., taken almost from this
     spot.

But we never get much nearer than talking distance, conversing from one
roof to another with a narrow street like a river flowing between us;
and only once or twice during our winter sojourn, did we succeed in
enticing a veiled houri to venture on our terrace and shake hands with
the 'Frank.' If we could manage to hold a young lady in conversation,
and exhibit sufficient admiration of her to induce her, ever so
slightly, to unveil whilst we made a hasty sketch, it was about all that
we could fairly succeed in accomplishing, and 'the game was hardly worth
the candle:' it took, perhaps, an hour to ensnare our bird, and in ten
minutes or less, she would be again on the wing. Veiled beauties are
interesting (sometimes much more interesting for being veiled); but it
does not serve our artistic purposes much to see two splendid black eyes
and a few white robes.

However models we must have, although the profession is almost unknown
in Algiers. At Naples we have only to go down to the seashore, at Rome
to the steps of St. Peter's, and we find 'subjects' enough, who will
come for the asking; but here, where there is so much distinctive
costume and variety of race, French artists seem to make little use of
their opportunities.

It takes some days before we can hear of any one who will be willing to
sit, for double the usual remuneration. But they come at last, and when
it gets abroad that the Franks have money and 'mean business,' we have
a number of applicants, some of whom are not very desirable, and none
particularly attractive.

We select 'Fatima' first, because she is the youngest and has the
best costume, and also because she comes with her father and appears
tractable. She is engaged at two francs an hour, which she considers
poor pay.

How shall we give the reader an idea of this little creature, when she
comes next morning and coils herself up amongst the cushions in the
corner of our room, like a young panther in the Jardin des Plantes? Her
costume, when she throws off her haïk (and with it a tradition of the
Mahommedan faith, that forbids her to show her face to an unbeliever) is
a rich loose crimson, jacket embroidered with gold, a thin white bodice,
loose silk trowsers reaching to the knee and fastened round the waist by
a magnificent sash of various colours; red morroco slippers, a profusion
of rings on her little fingers, and bracelets and anklets of gold
filagree work. Through her waving black hair are twined strings of coins
and the folds of a silk handkerchief, the hair falling at the back in
plaits below the waist.

She is not beautiful, she is scarcely interesting in expression, and
she is decidedly unsteady. She seems to have no more power of keeping
herself in one position or of remaining in one part of the room, or even
of being quiet, than a humming top. The whole thing is an unutterable
bore to her, for she does not even reap the reward--her father or
husband, or male attendant, always taking the money.

She is _petite_, constitutionally phlegmatic, and as fat as her parents
can manage to make her; she has small hands and feet, large rolling
eyes--the latter made to appear artificially large by the application of
henna or antimony black; her attitudes are not ungraceful, but there
is a want of character about her, and an utter abandonment to the
situation, peculiar to all her race. In short her movements are more
suggestive of a little caged animal that had better be petted and
caressed, or kept at a safe distance, according to her humour. She does
one thing, she smokes incessantly and makes us cigarettes with a skill
and rapidity which are wonderful.

Her age is thirteen, and she has been married six months; * her ideas
appear to be limited to three or four; and her pleasures, poor creature,
are equally circumscribed. She had scarcely ever left her father's
house, and had never spoken to a man until her marriage. No wonder we,
in spite of a little Arabic on which we prided ourselves, could not make
much way; no wonder that we came very rapidly to the conclusion that the
houris of the Arabian Nights, must have been dull creatures, and their
'Entertainments' rather a failure, if there were no diviner fire than
this. No wonder that the Moors advocate a plurality of wives, for if one
represents an emotion, a harem would scarcely suffice!

     *  We hear much of the perils of living too fast, and of the
     preternaturally aged, worn appearance, of English girls
     after two or three London seasons. What would a British
     matron say to a daughter--a woman at twelve, married at
     thirteen, _blasée_ directly, and old at twenty?

We get on but indifferently with our studies with this young lady,
and, to tell the truth, not too well in Fatima's good graces. Our
opportunities are not great, our command of Arabic is limited, and
indeed, we do not feel particularly inspired.

We cannot tell her many love stories, or sing songs set to a
'_tom-tom_;' we can, indeed, offer 'backshish' in the shape of tobacco
and sweetmeats, or some trifling European ornament or trinket; but it
is clear that she would prefer a greater amount of familiarity, and more
demonstrative tokens of esteem. However, she came several times, and
we succeeded in obtaining some valuable studies of colour, and
'bits,' memoranda only; but very useful, from being taken down almost
unconsciously, in such a luminous key, and with a variety of reflected
light and pure shadow tone, that we find unapproachable in after work.

As for sketches of character, we obtained very few of Mauresques; our
subjects were, as a rule, much too restless, and we had one or two
'scenes' before we parted. On one unfortunate occasion our model
insisted upon examining our work before leaving, and the scorn and
contempt with which it was regarded was anything but flattering.

It nearly caused a breach between us, for, as she observed, it was not
only contrary to her creed to have her likeness taken, but it would be
perdition to be thus represented amongst the Franks. * We promised to
be as careful of this portrait as if it were the original, and, in fact,
said anything to be polite and soothing.

     * For fear of the 'evil eye.' There is a strong belief
     amongst Mahommedans that portraits are part of their
     identity; and that the original will suffer if the portrait
     receive any indignity.

On another occasion, we had been working on rather more quietly than
usual for half-an-hour, and were really getting a satisfactory study of
a new position, when, without apparent cause or warning of any kind, the
strange, pale, passionless face, which stared like a wooden marionette,
suddenly suffused with crimson, the great eyes filled with tears, the
whole frame throbbed convulsively, and the little creature fell into
such a passion of crying that we were fain to put by our work and
question ourselves whether we had been cruel or unkind. But it was
nothing: the cup of boredom had been filled to the brim, all other
artifices had failed her to obtain relief from restraint, and so this
apparently lethargic little being, who had it seemed, both passion and
grief at command, opened the flood-gates upon us, and of course gained
her end. There was no more work that day, and she got off with a double
allowance of bonbons, and something like a reconciliation. She gave us
her little white hand at parting--the fingers and thumbs crowded with
rings, and the nails stained black with henna--but the action meant
nothing; we dare not press it, it was too soft and frail, and the rings
would have cut her fingers, we could only hand it tenderly back again,
and bid our 'model' farewell.

We got on better afterwards with a Moorish Jewess who, for a
'consideration,' unearthed her property, * including a tiara of gold and
jewels, and a bodice of silver embroidery worked on crimson velvet;
we purposely reverse the position and speak of the embroidery first,
because the velvet was almost hidden. She came slouching in one morning,
closely wrapped in a dirty shawl, her black hair all dishevelled
and half covering her handsome face, her feet bare and her general
appearance so much more suggestive of one of the 'finest pisantry in the
world,' that we began to feel doubtful, and to think with Beau Brummel
that this must be 'one of our failures.' But when her mother had
arranged the tiara in her hair, when the curtain was drawn aside and
the full splendour of the Jewish costume was displayed--when, in short,
the dignity and grace of a queen were before us, we felt amply rewarded.

     * Many of the poorest Jewesses possess gold ornaments as
     heirlooms, burying them in the ground for security, when not
     in use.

The Jewish dress differs from the Mauresque entirely; it is European in
shape, with high waist and flowing robes without sleeves, a square cut
bodice, often of the same material as the robe itself, and a profusion
of gold ornaments, armlets, necklaces, and rings. A pair of tiny velvet
slippers (also embroidered) on tiny feet, complete the costume, which
varies in colour, but is generally of crimson or dark velvet.

As a 'model,' although almost her first appearance in that character,
this Jewish woman was very valuable, and we had little trouble after the
first interview, in making her understand our wishes. But we had to
pay more than in England; there were many drawbacks, and of course much
waste of time. On some holydays and on all Jewish festivals, she did not
make her appearance, and seemed to think nothing of it when some feast
that lasted a week, left us stranded with half-done work.

Without being learned in _costumes des dames_, we believe, we may say,
that the shape and cut of some of these dresses, and the patterns of the
embroidery (old as they are) might be copied with advantage by Parisian
modistes; the more we study these old patterns, the more we cannot cease
to regret that the _Deae ex machina_, the arbiters of fashion in the
city where Fashion is Queen, have not managed to infuse into the
costume of the time more character and purity of design--conditions not
inconsistent with splendour, and affording scope, if need be, for any
amount of extravagance.

We are led irresistibly into this digression, if it be a digression,
because the statuesque figure before us displays so many lines of grace
and beauty that have the additional charm of novelty. We know, for
instance, that the pattern of this embroidery is unique, that the
artificer of that curiously twined chain of gold has been dead perhaps
for ages, that the rings on her fingers and the coins suspended from her
hair are many of them real art treasures. *

     * The 'jewels turned out to be paste on close inspection,
     but the gold filagree work, and the other ornaments, were
     old, and some very valuable and rare.

The result of our studies, as far as regards Moorish women, we must
admit to have been after all, rather limited and unsatisfactory. We
never once lighted upon a Moorish face that moved us much by its beauty,
for the simple reason that it nearly always lacked expression; anything
like emotion seemed inharmonious and out of place, and to disturb the
uniformity of its lines. Even those dark lustrous eyes, when lighted by
passion, had more of the tiger in them, than the tragedy queen.

The perfection of beauty, according to the Moorish ideal, seems to
depend principally upon symmetry of feature, and is nothing without
roundness of limb and a certain flabbiness of texture. It is an ideal of
repose, not to say of dulness and insipidity; a heavy type of beauty
of which we obtain some idea in the illustration before us, of a young
girl, about thirteen years old, of one of the tribes from the interior.
The drawing is by a Frenchman, and pretends to no particular artistic
excellence, but it attempts to render (and we think succeeds in
rendering) the style of a Mahommedan beauty in bridal array; one who is
about to fulfil her destiny, and who appears to have as little animation
or intelligence as the Prophet ordained for her, being perfectly fitted
(according to the Koran) to fill her place in this world or in the
next. *

     * It detracts a little from the romance of these things to
     learn from Mrs. Evans (who witnessed, what only ladies, of
     course, could witness, the robing and decorating of the
     bride before marriage) the manner in which the face of a
     Moorish lady is prepared on the day of marriage:

     'An old woman having carefully washed the bride's face with
     water, proceeded to whiten it all over with a milky-looking
     preparation, and after touching up the cheeks with rouge
     (and, her eyes with antimony black), bound an amulet round
     the head; then with a fine camel-hair pencil, she passed a
     line of liquid glue over the eyebrows, and taking from a
     folded paper a strip of gold-leaf fixed it across them both,
     forming one long gilt bar, and then proceeded to give a few
     finishing touches to the poor lay figure before her, by
     fastening two or three tiny gold spangles on the forehead!'

     We cannot help thinking that this might have been an
     exceptional case, especially in the matter of gilding, but
     we have seen both patches and paint on Moorish features--as
     indeed we have seen them in England.

[Illustration: 0098]

Thus decked with her brightest jewels and adorned with a crown of gold,
she waits to meet her lord, to be his 'light of the harem,' his 'sun
and moon.' What if we, with our refined aesthetic tastes, what if
disinterested spectators, vote her altogether the dullest and most
uninteresting of beings? what if she seem to us more like some young
animal, magnificently harnessed, waiting to be trotted out to the
highest bidder? She shakes the coins and beads on her head sometimes,
with a slight impatient gesture, and takes chocolate from her little
sister, and is petted and pacified just as we should soothe and pacify
an impatient steed; there is clearly no other way to treat her, it is
the will of Allah that she should be so debased! *

     * We have before spoken of the influence of beautiful forms
     and harmony in colour, in our homes and surroundings; and we
     feel acutely, that the picture of this Moorish woman,
     intellectually, does not prove our case; but Mahomet decreed
     that women should endeavour to _be_ beautiful rather than
     understand, or enjoy it.

One day we had up a tinker, an old brown grizzled Maltese, who with his
implements of trade, his patchwork garments and his dirt, had a tone
about him, like a figure from one of the old Dutch masters. He sat down
in the corner of our courtyard against a marble pillar, and made himself
quite at home; he worked with his feet as well as his hands at his
grinding, he chattered, he sang, and altogether made such a clatter that
we shall not be likely to forget him.

This gentleman, and the old negro that lived upon our doorstep, were
almost the only subjects that we succeeded in inducing to come
within doors; our other life studies were made under less favourable
circumstances.

From the roof of our own house, it is true, we obtained a variety of
sketches, not (as might be supposed from the illustrations and pictures
with which we are all familiar) of young ladies attired as scantily as
the nymphs at the _Theâtre du Chatelet_, standing in pensive attitudes
on their housetops, but generally of groups of veiled women--old,
ugly, haggard, shrill of voice, and sometimes rather fierce of aspect,
performing various household duties on the roof-tops, including the
beating of carpets and of children, the carrying of water-pots and the
saying of prayers.

A chapter on 'Models' would not be complete without some mention of the
camels, of which there are numbers to be found in the Arab quarter of
the town. Some of them are splendid creatures, and as different from
any exotic specimens that we can see in this country as an acclimatised
palm-tree from its wild growth.

Some one tells us that these Algerian 'ships of the desert' have not the
same sailing qualities, nor the same breadth of beam, as those at Cairo.
But (if true) we should have to go to Cairo to study them, so let us be
content. We should like to see one or two of our popular artists, who
persist in painting camels and desert scenes without ever having been
to the East, just sit down here quietly for one day and paint a camel's
head; not flinching from the work, but mastering the wonderful texture
and shagginess of his thick coat or mane, its massive beauty, and its
infinite gradations of colour. Such a sitter no portrait painter ever
had in England. Feed him up first, get a boy to keep the flies from him,
and he will sit almost immoveably through the day. He will put on a
sad expression in the morning, which will not change; he will give no
trouble whatever, he will but sit still and croak.

[Illustration: 0105]

Do we seem to exaggerate the value of such studies? We cannot
exaggerate, if we take into full account, the vigorous quality which
we impart into our work. And we cannot, perhaps, better illustrate
our argument in favour of drawing from, what we should call, _natural_
models, than by comparing the merits of two of the most popular pictures
of our time, viz.:--Frith's '_Derby Day_,' and Rosa Bonheur's '_Horse
Fair?_' The former pleasing the eye by its cleverness and prettiness;
the latter impressing the spectator by its power, and its truthful
rendering of animal life.

The difference between the two painters is probably, one, more of
education than of natural gifts. But whilst the style of the former is
grafted on a fashion, the latter is founded on a rock--the result of a
close study of nature, chastened by classic feeling, and a remembrance
it may be, of the friezes of the Parthenon.

[Illustration: 0109]

[Illustration: 0111]



CHAPTER V. OUR 'LIFE SCHOOL'

[Illustration: 9111]

F the various studies to be made in Algiers, there are none at the same
time so quaint and characteristic, as the Moors in their own homes,
seated at their own doors or benches at work, or at the numerous cafés
and bazaars; and nothing seems to harmonize so well in these Moorish
streets as the groups of natives (both Moors and negroes) with their
bright costumes, and 'wares for sale. Colour and contrast of colour,
seem to be considered, or _felt_, everywhere. Thus for instance, no two
Orientals will walk down a street side by side, unless the colours
of their costume harmonize or blend together (they seem to know it
instinctively), and then there is always grey or some quiet contrasting
tone for a background, and a sky of deep, deep blue. A negress will
generally be found selling oranges or citrons; an Arab boy with a red
fez and white turban, carrying purple fruit in a basket of leaves; and
so on. The reader will think this fanciful, but it is truer than he
imagines; let him come and see.

It was not at all times easy to sketch in the open street on account of
the curiosity it excited; a crowd sometimes collecting until it became
almost impossible to breathe. The plan was to go as often as possible to
the cafés and divans, and by degrees to make friends with the Moors.

There was one café, in a street that we have been to so often, that it
is as familiar to us as any in the western world; and where by dint of a
little tact and a small outlay of tobacco, we managed to make ourselves
quite at home, and were permitted to work away all day, comparatively
unmolested. It was a narrow and steep overhanging street, crowded at all
times with Moors on one side embroidering, or pretending to sell goods
of various kinds; and on the opposite side there was a café, not four
feet distant, where a row of about eighteen others sat and smoked,
and contemplated their brethren at work. The street was always full of
traffic, being an important thoroughfare from the upper to the lower
town, and there were perpetually passing up and down, droves of laden
donkeys; men with burdens carried on poles between them; vendors
of fruit, bread, and live fowls, and crowds of people of every
denomination.

In a little corner out of sight, where we were certainly rather closely
packed, we used to install ourselves continually and sketch the people
passing to and fro. The Moors in the café used to sit beside us all day
and watch, and _wait_; they gave us a grave silent salutation when we
took our places, and another when we left, but we never got much further
with our unknown neighbours. If we can imagine a coterie in a small
political club, where the open discussion of politics is, with
one consent, tabooed for fear of a disturbance, and where the most
frolicsome of its members play at chess for relaxation, we shall get
some notion of the state of absolute decorum which existed in our little
_café maure_.

It was very quaint. The memory of the grave quiet faces of these most
polite Moorish gentlemen, looking so smooth and clean in their white
bournouses, seated solemnly doing nothing, haunts us to this day. Years
elapsed between our first and last visit to our favourite street, yet
there they were when we came again, still doing nothing in a row; and
opposite to them, the merchants who do no trade, also sitting in their *
accustomed places, surrounded with the same old wares.

There was the same old negro in a dark corner making coffee, and handing
it to the same customers, sitting in the same places, in the same dream.

[Illustration: 0115]

There is certainly both art and mystery in doing nothing well which
these men achieve in their peculiar lives; here they sit for years
together, silently waiting, without a trace of boredom on their faces,
and without exhibiting a gesture of impatience. They--the 'gentlemen'
in the café on the right hand--have saved up money enough to keep
life together, they have for ever renounced work, and can look on with
complacency at their poorer brethren. They have their traditions, their
faith, their romance of life, and the curious belief before alluded to,
that if they fear God and Mahomet, and sit here long enough, they will
one day be sent for to Spain, to repeople the houses where their fathers
dwelt.

This corner is the one _par excellence_, where the Moors sit and wait.
There is the 'wall of wailing' at Jerusalem; there is the 'street of
waiting' in Algiers, where the Moors sit clothed in white, dreaming
of heaven--with an aspect of more than content, in a state of
dreamy delight achieved, apparently, more by habit of mind than any
opiates--the realisation of '_Keyf_'.

Not far from this street, but still in the Moorish quarter, we may
witness a much more animated scene, and obtain in some respects a still
better study of character and costume--at a clothes auction in the
neighbourhood of the principal bazaar. If we go in the afternoon, we
shall probably find a crowd collected in a courtyard, round a number of
Jews who are selling clothes, silks, and stuffs, and so intent are they
all on the business that is going forward, that we are able to take up a
good position to watch the proceedings.

We arrived one day at this spot, just as a terrible scuffle or wrangle,
was going forward, between ten or a dozen old men (surrounded by at
least a hundred spectators) about the quality or ownership of some
garment. The merits of the discussion were of little interest to us and
were probably of little importance to anybody, but the result was in
its way as interesting a spectacle as ever greeted the eye and ear,
something that we could never have imagined, and certainly could never
have seen, in any other land.

This old garment had magical powers, and was a treasure to _us_ at
least. It attracted the old and young, the wise and foolish, the excited
combatant and the calm and dignified spectator; it collected them all
in a large square courtyard with plain whitewashed walls and Moorish
arcades. On one side a palm-tree drooped its gigantic leaves, and cast
broad shadows on the ground, which in some places, was almost of the
brightness of orange; on the other side, half in sunlight, half in
shadow, a heavy awning was spread over a raised daïs or stage, and
through its tatters and through the deep arcades, the sky appeared in
patches of the deepest blue--blue of a depth and brilliancy that few
painters have ever succeeded in depicting. It gave in a wider and truer
sense, just that quality to our picture--if we may be excused a little
technicality and a familiar illustration--that a broad red sash thrown
across the bed of a sleeping child in Millais' picture in the Royal
Academy Exhibition of 1867, gave to his composition, as many readers may
remember.

But we cannot take our eyes from the principal group, or do much more
than watch the crowd in its changing phases. To give any idea of the
uproar, the 'row' we ought to call it, would be to weary the reader with
a polyglot of words and sentences, some not too choice, and many too
shrill and fiercely accentuated; but to picture the general aspect in a
few words is worth a trial, although to do this we must join the throng
and fight our way to the front.

Where have we seen the like? We have seen such upturned faces in
pictures of the early days of the Reformation by Henry Leys; we have
seen such passion in _Shy lock_, such despair in _Lear _; such grave and
imposing-looking men with 'reverend beards' in many pictures by the old
masters; but seldom have we seen such concentration of emotion (if we
may so express it), and unity of purpose, in one group.

Do our figure-painters want a subject, with variety of colour
and character in one canvas? They need not go to the bazaars of
Constantinople, or to the markets of the East. Let them follow us here
crushing close to the platform, our faces nearly on a level with the
boards. Look at the colours, at the folds of their cloaks, bournouses
and yachmahs--purple, deep red, and spotless white, all crushed
together--with their rich transparent shadows, as the sun streams across
them, reflected on the walls. The heavy awning throws a curious glow
over the figures, and sometimes almost conceals their features with a
dazzle of reflected light. Look at the legs of these eager traders, as
they struggle and fight and stand on tiptoe, to catch a glimpse of some
new thing exposed for sale; look at them well--the lean, the shambling,
the vigorous, the bare bronze (bronzed with sun and grime), the dark
hose, the purple silk, and the white cotton, the latter the special
affectation of the dandy Jew. What a medley, but what character
here--the group from knee to ankle forms a picture alone.

And thus they crowd together for half-an-hour, whilst all ordinary
business seems suspended. Nothing could be done with such a clatter,
not to mention the heat. Oh, how the Arab gutturals, the impossible
consonants (quite impossible to unpractised European lips) were
interjected and hurled, so to speak, to and fro! How much was said to
no purpose, how incoherent it all seemed, and how we wished for a few
vowels to cool the air!

In half-an-hour a calm has set in and the steady business of the day is
allowed to go forward; we may now smoke our pipes in peace, and from a
quiet corner watch the proceedings almost unobserved, asking ourselves
a question or two suggested by the foregoing scene. Is expression really
worth anything? Is the exhibition of passion much more than acting?
Shall grey beards and flowing robes carry dignity with them any more, if
a haggle about old clothes can produce it in five minutes?

And so we sit and watch for hours, wondering at the apparently endless
variety of the patterns, and colours of the fabrics exposed for
sale; and perhaps we doze, perhaps we dream. Is it the effect of the
hachshish? Is it the strong coffee? Are we, indeed, dreaming, or is the
auction a sham? Surely that pretty bright handkerchief--now held up
and eagerly scanned by bleared old eyes--now rumpled and drawn sharply
between haggard fingers--is an old friend, and has no business in a sale
like this? Let us rub our eyes and try and remember where we have seen
it o before. Yes--there is no mistaking the pattern, we have seen it in
Spain. It was bound turbanwise round the head of a woman who performed
in the bull ring at Seville, on the occasion of a particularly high and
rollicking festival of the 'Catholic Church;' it was handed out of a
diligence window one dark night on the Sierra Morena, when a mule had
broken its leg, and the only method of getting it along was to tie the
injured limb to the girth, and let the animal hop on three legs for the
rest of the way. It found its way into the Tyrol, worn as a sash; it
was in the market-place at Bastia in Corsica, in the hands of a maiden
selling fruit; it flaunted at Marseilles, drying in the wind on a ship's
spar; and the last time we saw it (if our memory serves us well) it was
carefully taken from a drawer in a little shop, '_Au Dey d'Alger_' in
the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, and offered to us, by that greatest of all
humbugs, Mustapha, as the latest Algerian thing in neckties, which he
asked fifteen francs for, and would gladly part with for two.

It was a pattern we knew by heart, that we meet with in all parts of the
world, thanks to the universality of Manchester cottons. But the pattern
was simple and good, nothing but an arrangement of red and black stripes
on a maize ground, and therein lay its success. It had its origin in
the first principles of decoration, it transgressed no law or canon of
taste, it was easily and cheaply made (as all the best patterns are),
and so it travelled round the world, and the imitation work came to be
sold in, perhaps, the very bazaar whence the pattern first came, and its
originators squabbled over the possession of it, as of something unique.

But we can hardly regret the repetition of these Moorish patterns, for
they are useful in such a variety of ways. Wind one of the handkerchiefs
in and out amongst dark tresses, and see what richness it gives; make
a turban of it for a negress's head; tie it nattily under the chin of a
little Parisienne and, _hey presto!_ she is pretty; make a sash of
it, or throw it loosely on the ground, and the effect is graceful and
charming to the eye. In some Japanese and Chinese silks we may meet with
more brilliant achievements in positive colours; but the Moors seem to
excel all other nations in taste, and in their skilful juxta-position
of tints. We have seen a Moorish designer hard at work, with a box of
butterflies' wings for his school of design, and we might, perhaps, take
the hint at home.

But we must leave the Moors and their beautiful fabrics for a while, and
glance at the Arab quarter of the town. We shall see the Arabs bye and
bye in the plains and in their tents, in their traditionary aspect; but
here we come in contact with a somewhat renegade and disreputable race,
who hang, as it were, on the outskirts of civilization. Many of them
have come from the neighbouring villages and from their camps across the
plains of the Sahel; and have set up a market of their own, where they
are in full activity, trading with each other and with the Frank. * Here
they may be seen by hundreds--some buying and selling, some fighting
and not unfrequently, cursing one another heartily; others ranged close
together in rows upon the ground, like so many white loaves ready for
baking. Calm they are, and almost dignified in appearance, when sitting
smoking in conclave; but only give them something to quarrel about,
touch them up ever so little on their irritable side, and they will beat
Geneva washerwomen for clatter.

     * This market-place is a sort of commercial neutral ground,
     where both Arabs and Kabyles meet the French in the
     strictest amity, and cheat them if they can.

Take them individually, these trading men, who have had years of
intercourse with their French conquerors, and they disappoint us
altogether. They are no longer true followers of the Prophet, although
they are a great obstruction to traffic, by spreading carpets on the
ground in the middle of the road, and prostrating themselves towards
Mahomet and the sun. Trade--paltry, mean, and cowardly as it so often
makes men--has done the Arab irreparable harm: it has taught him to
believe in counterfeits and little swindles as a legitimate mode of
life, to pass bad money, and to cringe to a conqueror because he could
make money thereby. He could not do these things in the old days, with
his face to the sun.

The Arab is generally pictured to us in his tent or with his tribe,
calm, dignified and brave, and perhaps we may meet with him thus on
the other side of the Sahel, but here in Algiers he is a metamorphosed
creature. The camels that crouch upon the ground, and scream and bite
at passers-by, are more dignified and consistent in their ill-tempered
generation than these 'Sons of the Prophet,' these 'Lights of Truth.'

And they have actually caught European tricks. What shall we say when
two Arabs meet in the street, and after a few words interchanged, pass
away from each other with a quickened, jaunty step, like two city men,
who have 'lost time,' and must make it up by a spurt! Shall we
respect our noble Arab any more when we see him walking abroad with a
stereotyped, plausible smile upon his face, and every action indicating
an eye to the main chance? *

     * It may seem a stretch of fancy, but even the bournous
     itself, with its classic outline and flowing folds, loses
     half its dignity and picturesqueness on these men. It has
     been rather vulgarised of late years in Western Europe; and
     when we see it carried on the arm of an Arab (as we do
     sometimes), there is a suggestion of opera stalls, and
     lingering last good nights on unromantic doorsteps, that is
     fatal to its patriarchal character.

A step lower, of which there are too many examples in the crowd, and
there is a sadder metamorphose yet--the patriarch turned scamp--one who
has left his family and his tribe to seek his fortune. Look at him, with
his ragged bournous, his dirt and his cringing ways, and contrast his
life now, with what he has voluntarily abandoned. Oh! how civilization
has lowered him in his own eyes, how his courage has turned to bravado,
and his tact to cunning; how even natural affection has languished, and
family ties are but threads of the lightest tissue. He has failed in his
endeavour to trade, he has disobeyed the Koran, and is an outcast and
unclean--one of the waifs and strays of cities!

As we wend our way homeward (as John Bunyan says), 'thinking of these
things,' we see two tall white figures go down to the water side, like
the monks in Millais' picture of 'A Dream of the Past.' They stand on
the bank in the evening light, their reflections repeated in the water.
It is the hour of prayer; what are they doing? They are fishing with
a modern rod and line, and their little floats are painted with the
tricolour!

[Illustration: 0131]

[Illustration: 0133]



CHAPTER VI. THE BOUZAREAH--A STORM.

[Illustration: 9133]

T would be passing over the most-enjoyable part of our life abroad, if
we omitted all mention of those delightful days, spent on the hill-sides
of Mustapha, on the heights of the Bouzareah, and indeed everywhere in
the neighbourhood of Algiers, sketching in winter time in the open air.

Odours of orange-groves, the aromatic scent of cedars, the sweet breath
of wild flowers, roses, honeysuckles and violets, should pervade this
page; something should be done, which no words can accomplish, to give
the true impression of the scene, to picture the luxuriant wild
growth of the surrounding vegetation (radiant in a sunshine which to a
northerner is unknown), and to realise in any method of description, the
sense of calm enjoyment of living this pure life in a climate neither
too hot nor too cold, neither too enervating nor too exciting; of
watching the serene days decline into sunsets that light up the Kabyle
Hills with crests of gold, and end in sudden twilights that spread a
weird unearthly light across the silver sea. *

     * There are effects of light sometimes, towards evening,
     especially over the sea, such as we have never seen in any
     other part of the world. We know one or two landscape
     painters who have filled their note-books with memoranda of
     these phases.

We take our knapsacks and walk off merrily enough on the bright.
December mornings, often before the morning gun has fired or the city
is fully awake. If we go out at the eastern gate and keep along near the
sea shore in the direction of the _Maison Carrée_ (a French fort, now
used as a prison), we obtain fine views of the bay, and of the town of
Algiers itself, with its mole and harbour stretching out far into the
sea.

There is plenty to interest us here, if it is only in sketching the
wild palmettos, or in watching the half-wild Arabs who camp in the
neighbourhood, and build mud huts which they affect to call cafés, and
where we can, if we please, obtain rest and shelter from the midday sun,
and a considerable amount of 'stuffiness,' for one sou. But there is
no need to trouble them, as there are plenty of shady valleys and
cactus-hedges to keep off the sun's rays; the only disturbers of our
peace are the dogs who guard the Arab encampments, and have to be
diligently kept off with stones.

Perhaps the best spots for quiet work are the precincts of the
Marabouts' tombs, where we can take refuge unobserved, behind some old
wall and return quietly to the same spot, day after day. And here, as
one experience of sketching from Nature, let us allude to the theory
(laid down pretty confidently by those who have never reduced it to
practice), that one great advantage of this climate is, that you may
work at the same sketch from day to day, and continue it where you left
off! You can do nothing of the kind. * If your drawing is worth
anything, it will at least have recorded something of the varying phases
of light and shade, that really alter every hour.

Let us take an example. About six feet from us, at eight o'clock in the
morning, the sheer white wall of a Moslem tomb is glowing with a white
heat, and across it are cast the shadows of three palm-leaves, which at
a little distance, have the contrasted effect of the blackness of
night. ** Approach a little nearer and examine the real colour of these
photographic leaf-lines, shade off (with the hand) as much as possible
of the wall, the sky, and the reflected light from surrounding leaves,
and these dark shadows become a delicate pearl grey, deepening into
mauve, or partaking sometimes of the tints of the rich earth below them.
They will be deeper yet before noon, and pale again, and uncertain and
fantastic in shape, before sundown. If we sketch these shadows only
each hour, as they pass from left to right upon the wall (laying down a
different wash for the ground each time) and place them side by side
in our note-book, we shall have made some discoveries in light and
transparent shadow tone, which will be very valuable in after time.
No two days or two hours, are under precisely the same atmospheric
conditions; the gradations and changes are extraordinary, and would
scarcely be believed in by anyone who had not watched them.

     * We are speaking, of course, of colour and effect, not of
     details that may be put in at any time.

     ** Under some conditions of the atmosphere we have obtained
     more perfect outlines of the leaves of the aloe, with their
     curiously indented edges and spear-points, _from their
     shadows_, rather than from the leaves themselves.

Thus, although we cannot continue a sketch once left off, to any
purpose, we may obtain an infinite and overwhelming variety of work in
one day, in the space of a few yards by the side of some old well or
Marabout's tomb.

We seldom returned from a day in the country, without putting up for an
hour or two at one of the numerous cafés, or caravanserai, built near
some celebrated spring, with seats, placed invitingly by the roadside,
under the shade of trees. There were generally a number of Arabs and
French soldiers collected in the middle of the day, drinking coffee,
playing at dominoes, or taking a siesta on the mats under the cool
arcades, and often some Arab musicians, who hummed and droned monotonous
airs; there were always plenty of beggars to improve the occasion, and
perhaps, a group of half-naked boys, who would get up an imitation of
the 'Beni Zouzoug Arabs,' and go through hideous contortions, inflicting
all kinds of torments on each other for a few sous.

[Illustration: 8139]

It is pleasant to put up at one of these cafés during the heat of the
day, and to be able to walk in and take our places quietly amongst the
Arabs and Moors, without any particular notice or remark; and delightful
(oh! how delightful) to yield to the combined influences of the coffee,
the hachshish, the tomtom and the heat, and fall asleep and dream--dream
that the world is standing still, that politics and Fenianism are things
of the past, and that all the people in a hurry are dead. Pleasant, and
not a little perplexing too, when waking, for the eye to rest on the
delicate outline of a little window in the wall above, which, with its
spiral columns and graceful proportions, seems the very counterpart in
miniature of some Gothic cathedral screen.

If we examine it, it is old and Moorish (these buildings date back
several hundred years), and yet so perfect is its similarity to later
work, that our ideas on orders of architecture become confused and
vague. We may not attempt to discover the cause of the similarity, or
indeed to go deeply into questions of 'style,' but we may be tempted to
explore further, and if we examine such cafés (as, for instance, those
at El Biar, or Birkadem), we shall find the walls ornamented with
Arabesques, sometimes half-concealed under whitewash, and the arcades
and conical-domed roofs and doorways covered with curious patterns.

In this way we pass the day, often lingering about one spot in most
vagrant fashion, till nightfall, when the last diligence comes crashing
in, and stops to change its wretched horses. We take our places quickly
in the _intérieur_, and are wedged in between little soft white figures
with black eyes and stained finger-nails, who stare at us with a fixed
and stony stare, all the way back to Algiers. Another day we spend in
the _Jardin d'Essai_, (the garden of acclimatisation), where we may
wander in December, amidst groves of summer flowers, and where every
variety of tree and shrub is brought together for study and comparison.
Through the kindness of the director we are enabled to make studies of
some rare and curious tropical plants; but there is a little too much
formality and an artificial atmosphere about the place, that spoils it
for sketching; although nothing can control, or render formal, the wild
strength of the gigantic aloes, or make the palm-trees grow in line.

From the 'Garden of Marengo,' just outside the western gates, we
may obtain good subjects for sketching, including both mosques and
palm-trees, such as we have indicated on our title-page; and from the
heights behind the Casbah, some beautiful distant views across the
plain of the Mitidja. Of one of these an artistic traveller thus speaks:
'Standing on a ridge of the Sahel, far beneath lies the Bay of Algiers,
from this particular point thrown into a curve so exquisite and subtle
as to be well nigh inimitable by art, the value of the curve being
enhanced by the long level line of the Mitidja plain immediately behind,
furnishing the horizontal line of repose so indispensable to calm beauty
of landscape; whilst in the background the faintly indicated serrated
summits of the Atlas chain preserve the whole picture from monotony.
The curve of shore, the horizontal bar of plain, the scarcely more than
suggested angles of the mountains, form a combination of contrasting yet
harmonising lines of infinite loveliness, which Nature would ever paint
anew for us in the fresh tints of the morning, with a brush dipped in
golden sunshine and soft filmy mist, and with a broad sweep of cool blue
shadow over the foreground.'

But our favourite rendezvous, our principal 'Champ de Mars,' was a
little Arab cemetery, about six miles from Algiers; on the heights
westward, in the direction of Sidi Ferruch, and near to a little Arab
village called the 'Bouzareah.' This spot combined a wondrous view both
of sea and land, with a foreground of beauty not easy to depict. It was
a half-deserted cemetery, with tombs of Marabout priests over which the
palm-trees waved, and little gravestones here and there surmounted
with crescents. Sheltered from the sun's rays, hidden from the sight of
passers-by, surrounded with a profusion of aloes, palms, cacti; and
an infinite variety of shrubs and flowers peeping out between the
palmettos, that spread their leaves like fans upon the ground--it
combined everything that could be desired.

Here we worked, sitting close to one of the tombs for its shade, with
the hush of the breeze, the distant sighing sound of the sea, the voices
of bees, and butterflies, the flutter of leaves, and one other sound
that intermingled with strange monotony of effect close to our ears,
which puzzled us sorely to account for at first. It turned out to be a
snore; the custodian of one of the tombs was sleeping inside with his
fathers, little dreaming of our proximity. We struck up an acquaintance
with him, after a few days of coyness on his part, and finally made him
a friend. For a few sous a day he acted as outpost for us, to keep off
Arab boys and any other intruders; and before we left, was induced to
sit and be included in a sketch. He winced a little at this, and we
confess to an inward reproach for having thus degraded him. He did not
like it, but he sat it out and had his portrait taken like any Christian
dog; he took money for his sin, and finally, by way of expiation let us
hope, drank up our palette water at the end of the day!

If there is one spot in all Algeria most dear to a Mussulman's heart,
most sacred, to a Marabout's memory, it must surely be this peaceful
garden of aloes and palms, where flowers ever grow, where the sun shines
from the moment of its rising until it sinks beneath the western sea;
where, if anywhere on this earth, the faithful will be the first to know
of the Prophet's coming, and where they will always be ready to meet
him.

But if it be dear to a Mussulman's heart, it is also dear to a
Christian's, for it has taught us more in a few weeks than we can
unlearn in years. We cannot sit here day by day without learning several
truths, more forcibly than by any teaching of our schools; taking in, as
it were, the mysteries of light and shade, and the various phases of the
atmosphere--taking them all to heart, so that they influence our work
for years to come.

How often have we, at the Uffizi, or at the Louvre, envied the power and
skill of a master, whose work we have vainly endeavoured to imitate; and
what would we not have given in those days, to achieve something that
seemed to approach, ever so little, to the power and beauty of colour,
of a Titian or a Paul Veronese. *

     * And have we not, generally, imbibed more of the trick or
     method of colour, of the master, than of his inspiration--
     more, in short, of the real than the ideal?

Is it mere heresy in art, or is it a brighter light dawning upon us
here, that seems to say, that we have learned and achieved more, in
studying the glowing limbs of an Arab child as it plays amongst these
wild palmettos--because we worked with a background of such sea and sky
as we never saw in any picture of the 'Finding of Moses;' and because in
the painting of the child, we had not perforce to learn any 'master's'
trick of colour, nor to follow conventional lines?

And do we not, amongst other things, learn to distinguish between the
true and conventional rendering of the form, colour and character, of
palm-trees, aloes and cacti?

First of the palm. Do we not soon discover how much more of beauty,
of suggested strength, of grace, lightness and variety of colour and
texture, there is in this one stem, that we vainly try to depict in
a wood engraving, than we had previously any conception of; and how
opposed to facts are the conventional methods of drawing palm-trees
(often with a straight stem and uniform leaves looking like a feather
broom on a straight stick), which we may find in almost any illustrated
book representing Eastern scenes, from Constantinople to the Sea of
Galilee.

[Illustration: 8147]

Take, for instance, as a proof of variety in colour and grandeur of
aspect, this group of palm-trees * that have stood guard over the
Maho-medan tombs for perhaps a hundred years; stained with time, and
shattered with their fierce battle with the storms that sweep over the
promontory with terrible force. ** Look at the beauty of their lines, at
the glorious colour of their young leaves, and the deep orange of those
they have shed, like the plumage of some gigantic bird; one of
their number has fallen from age, and lies crossways on the ground,
half-concealed in the long grass and shrubs, and it has lain there to
our knowledge, undisturbed for years. To paint the sun setting on these
glowing stems, and to catch the shadows of their sharp pointed leaves,
as they are traced at one period of the day on the white walls of the
tombs, is worth long waiting to be able to note down; and to hit the
right tint to depict such shadows truly, is an exciting triumph to us.

     * The palm-stem we have sketched is of a different variety
     and less formal in character than those generally seen in
     the East; nevertheless, there is endless variety in the
     forms and leaves of any one of them, if we judge from
     photographs.

     ** We had prepared a drawing of these palm-trees in
     sunlight; but perhaps Mr. Severn's view of them in a storm,
     will be thought more characteristic.

Second of the aloe; and here we make as great a discovery as with the
palm. Have we not been taught (in paintings) from our youth up, that the
aloe puts forth its blue riband-like leaves in uniform fashion, like
so many starched pennants, which painters often express with one or two
strokes of the brush; and are we not told by botanists that it flowers
but once in a hundred years?

Look at that aloe hedgerow a little distance from us that stretches
across the country, like a long blue rippling wave on a calm sea, and
which, as we approach it, seems thrown up fantastically and irregularly
by breakers to a height of six or eight feet, and which (like the
sea), on a nearer view changes its opaque cold blue tint, to a rich
transparent green and gold. Approach them closely, walk under their
colossal leaves, avoid their sharp spear-points and touch their soft
pulpy stems. What wonderful variety there is in their forms, what
transparent beauty of colour, what eccentric shadows they cast upon each
other, and with what a grand spiral sweep some of the young shoots rear
upwards! So tender and pliable are they, that in some positions a child
might snap their leaves, and yet so wonderful is the distribution of
strength, that they would resist at spear-point the approach of a lion,
and almost turn a charge of cavalry. If we snap off the point of one of
the leaves it is a needle, and a thread clings to it which we may
peel off down the stem a yard long--needle and thread--nature-pointed,
nature-threaded! Should not artists see these things? Should not poets
read of them?

Here we are inclined to ask, if the aloe flowers but once in a hundred
years, how is it that everywhere in Algeria, we see plants of all ages
with their long flowering stems, some ten or twelve feet high? Have they
combined this year to flower, or are botanists at fault?

Of the cactus, which also grows in wild profusion, we could say almost
as much as of the palms and aloes, but it might seem like repetition.
Suffice it, that our studies of their separate leaves were the minutest
and most rewarding labour we achieved, and that until we had painted the
cactus and the palmetto growing together, we had never understood the
meaning of 'tropical vegetation.'

[Illustration: 0151]

Many other subjects we obtain at the Bouzareah; simple perhaps, and
apparently not worth recording, but of immense value to a student of
Nature. Is it nothing, for instance, for a painter to have springing up
before him in this clear atmosphere, delicate stems of grass, six feet
high, falling over in spray of golden leaves against a background of
blue sea; darting upward, sheer, bright, and transparent from a
bank covered with the prickly pear, that looks by contrast, like the
rock-work from which a fountain springs? Is it nothing to see amongst
all this wondrous overgrowth of gigantic leaves, and amongst the tender
creepers and the flowers, the curious knotted and twisted stem of the
vine, trailing serpent-like on the ground, its surface worn smooth with
time? Is it nothing for an artist to learn practically, what 'white
heat' means?

It is well worth coming to North Africa in winter, if only to see the
flowers, but of these we cannot trust ourselves to speak--they _must_ be
seen and painted.

It is difficult to tear ourselves away from this spot, and especially
tempting to dwell upon these details, because they have seldom been
treated of before; but perhaps the question may occur to some--are
such subjects as we have depicted worth painting, or, indeed, of any
prolonged or separate study? Let us endeavour to answer it by another
question. Are the waves worth painting, by themselves? Has it not
occurred to one or two artists (not to many, we admit) that the waves of
the sea have never yet been adequately painted; and have never had their
due, so to speak, because it has always been considered necessary to
introduce something else into the composition, be it only a rope, a
spar, or a deserted ship? Has it not been discovered (though only of
late years) that there is scope for imagination and poetry, and all the
elements of a great and enthralling picture, in the drawing of waves
alone; and should there not be, if nobly treated, interest enough in
a group of colossal vegetation in a brilliant atmosphere, without the
usual conventional adjuncts of figures and buildings?

So far, whilst sketching at the Bouzareah, we have spoken only of the
foreground; but we have been all the time in the presence of the most
wonderful panorama of sea and land, and have watched so many changing
aspects from these heights, that we might fill a chapter in describing
them alone.

The view northward over the Mediterranean, westward towards Sidi
Ferruch, southward across the plains to the Atlas, eastward towards
Algiers and the mountains of Kabylia beyond; each point so distant from
the other that, according to the wind or time of day, it partook of
quite distinct aspects, fill up so many pictures in our mind's eye
that a book might be written, called 'The Bouzareah,' as seen under the
different phases of sunshine and storm.

It has often been objected to these Eastern scenes, that they have 'no
atmosphere,' and no gradation of middle distance; that there is not
enough repose about them, that they lack mystery and are altogether
wanting in the poetry of cloudland.

But there are clouds. We have seen, for the last few mornings (looking
through the arched windows of the great aloe-leaves) little companies of
small white clouds, casting clearly-defined shadows across the distant
sea, and breaking up the horizon line with their soft white folds,=

```'They come like shadows, so depart.'=

--reappearing and disappearing by some mysterious law, but seldom
culminating in rain.

Yes, there are clouds. Look this time far away towards the horizon line
across the bay, and watch that rolling sea which looks like foam, that
rises higher and higher as we watch it, darkening the sky, and soon
enveloping us in a kin of sea fog, through which the sun gleams dimly
red, whilst the white walls of the tombs appear cold and grey against a
leaden sky. See it all pass away again across the plain of the Mitidja,
and disappear in the shadows of the lesser Atlas. There is a hush in the
breeze and all is bright again, but a storm is coming.

[Illustration: 0157]

Take shelter, if you have courage, _inside_ one of the Marabouts' tombs
(there is plenty of space), whilst a tempest rages that should wake the
dead before Mahomet's coming. Sit and wait in there, perhaps an hour,
whilst one or two strong gusts of wind pass over, and then all is still
again; and so dark that we can see nothing inside but the light of a
pipe in one corner. We get impatient, thinking that it is passing off.

But it comes at last. It breaks over the tombs, and tears through the
plantation, with a tremendous surging sound, putting to flight the Arabs
on guard, who wrap their bournouses about them and hurry off to the
village, with the cry of 'Allah il Allah;' leaving the care of the tombs
to the palms, that have stood guard over them so long. Oh, how they
fight and struggle in the wind! how they creak, and moan, and strike
against one another, like human creatures in the thick of battle!
How they rally side by side, and wrestle with the wind--crashing down
suddenly against the walls of the tomb, and scattering their leaves over
us; then rallying again, and fighting the storm with human energy and
persistence!

It is a fearful sight--the rain falling in masses, but nearly
horizontally, and with such density that we can see but a few yards from
our place of shelter--and it is a fearful sound, to hear the palm-trees
shriek in the wind.

There was one part of the scene we could not describe, one which no
other than Dante's pen, or Doré's pencil, could give any idea of; we
could not depict the confused muttering sound and grinding clatter (if
we may call it so), that the battered and wounded aloes made amongst
themselves, like maimed and dying combatants trodden under foot. Many
scenes in nature have been compared to a battle-field; we have seen
sheaves of corn blown about by the wind, looking like the tents of a
routed host; but this scene was beyond parallel--the hideous contortion,
the melancholy aspect of destruction, the disfigured limbs in hopeless
wreck, the weird and ghastly forms that writhed and groaned aloud, as
the storm made havoc with them.

And they made havoc with each other. What would the reader say, if
he saw the wounds inflicted by some of the young leaves on the parent
stems--how they pierce and transfix, and sometimes _saw_ into each
other, with their sharp serrated edges, as they sway backwards and
forwards in the wind. He would say perhaps that no sea monster or
devil-fish, could seem more horrible, and we wish him no wilder vision
than to be near them at night, when disturbed by the wind.

We have scarcely alluded to the palmetto-leaves and branches that filled
the air, to the sound of rushing water, to the distant roar of the sea,
nor to many other aspects of the storm. It lasted, not much more than
an hour, but the water covered the floor of our little temple before
the rain subsided, and the ground a few feet off where we had sat, was
completely under water. Everything was steaming with vapour, but the
land was refreshed, and the dark earth was richer than we had seen it
for months--there would be no dust in Algiers until to-morrow.

[Illustration: 0163]



CHAPTER VII. BLIDAH--MEDEAH--THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS.

[Illustration: 9165]

HE Atlas Mountains, of which we have spoken so often, are almost
separated from the hills of the Sahel on which the town of Algiers is
built, by the broad plain of the Mitidja, averaging between twenty and
thirty miles across; and at the inland extremity of this plain, nestling
close under the shadow of the lesser Atlas, is situated the town of
Blidah, half Arab, half French, with its little population of European
colonists and traders; its orange-groves and its orange-merchants, who
here pass their monotonous, semi-successful lives--varied by occasional
earthquakes and Arab _émeutes_.

It was not particularly to see Blidah, but because it was on the high
road to the Atlas Mountains, and to Medeah, a strongly fortified town
situated 2900 feet above the sea-level--approached by a military road
cut through the celebrated gorge of 'La Chiffa'--that two of our party
left Algiers on horseback, on the 14th of December, on a sketching
expedition.

We made other interesting tours at different times; but it will be
sufficient for our purpose to speak of two expeditions--the one to
Medeah; the other, to the celebrated 'Fort Napoléon,' on the Kabyle
Hills.

It seems to say something for the peculiarly invigorating character
of the climate that, at an average temperature of 70° Fahrenheit, our
little horses did their thirty or forty miles a day, laden with our
well-stored saddle-bags and sketching paraphernalia; and it speaks
volumes for the security with which travellers can move about from town
to town, that we were merely by chance provided with firearms, and that
we started without any guide or escort. *

     * At the time we speak of, journeys into the interior were
     much less frequent than they are now; when there is a
     railway to Blidah, and a diligence to the Fort Napoléon.

We pass through the eastern gate before sunrise, and winding up the
hills behind Mustapha Supérieure (keeping to the road) we begin to
descend on the southern side and have the broad plain of the Mitidja
before us, just as the day is breaking. As we come down towards the
plain, we pass several farms of the French colonists; and here and
there, a tobacco plantation where both Arabs and French are employed.
At Birkadem, which is in the midst of a farming district, we halt to
breakfast, and run considerable risk of getting into a controversy
on French colonization, with some friendly and pleasant, but rather
desponding agriculturists.

But, happily for ourselves and for our readers, we do not attempt to
master the subject, and with a sketch of the little Moorish café with
its marble columns and arcades, we continue our journey; over a wide
waste--half moorland, half desert--passing at intervals little oases
of cultivation, with houses, shrubs and gardens surrounding. Straight
before us, apparently only a few miles off, but in reality twenty,
stretches the chain of the lesser Atlas; the dark shadows here and
there, pointing out the approaches to a higher range beyond.

At the foot of the mountains we can distinctly see with our glasses,
the white Moorish houses and villas that are built near Blidah, and the
thick clusters of trees that shelter them. Our way across the plain for
the next two or three hours is rather solitary, and although we keep up
a steady pace, we seem to get no nearer to our destination. We pass a
number of Arabs leading camels, and overtake a troop of twenty or thirty
donkeys, laden with goods and ridden by their owners (who sit upon the
top of their piles), shambling along almost as fast as a horse can trot.
They beat us hollow before noon, because they never stop, and reach
Bouffarik, the midday resting-place, long before us.

At Bouffarik we are again amongst the colonists, and hear the peculiar
French dialect of Provence and Languedoc, with occasional snatches of
German and Maltese. We rest until about two hours of sunset, and become
thoroughly imbued with the idea that we must be again in the south
of France; so completely have the French realised, in the midst of
an African plain, the dull uniformity of a poor French town, with its
'place,' its one street of cobble-stones, and its two rows of trees.
Here we can obtain bad coffee, just as we can in France, and read the
'Moniteur' but four days old. It is altogether French, and when the
white Arab mare belonging to one of our party turns restive at starting
again, and proceeds through the village on its hind legs; it is just
in time to remind us that it was here that Horace Vernet worked, and
painted those rampant white steeds that we know so well, in the centre
of his battle pictures. The war horse, (with the light upon him) was
more to Horace Vernet perhaps, than the glory of the whole plain of the
Mitidja; but how he could have lived in Algeria so long, and have been
so little influenced by the scene around him, it is hard to tell.

It is tempting (indeed it is almost impossible to avoid) at Bouffarik,
going a little into the question of colonization, and speaking from
personal observation, of the progress made during the last few years.
But as English people care little or nothing for the prospects of
Algeria, we will merely remark _en passant_, that the insurmountable
evil of Algeria being too near the home country, seems to blight its
prospects even here, and that the want of confidence displayed by
private capitalists retards all progress. Nearly all the capital
employed by the colonists at Bouffarik and Blidah has been raised by a
paternal government; but, notwithstanding help from the home country,
the tide of wealth neither flows nor ebbs, with great rapidity.

At Bouffarik we see the Arabs calmly settled under French rule, and
learning the arts of peace; taking to husbandry and steam ploughs, and
otherwise progressing in a scientific and peaceful direction. We see
them in the evening, sitting by their cottages with their half-naked
children, looking prosperous and happy enough, and hear them droning to
them in that monotonous 'singsong' that is so irritating to the ear.

There is a musician at the door of our hostelry now, who is as great a
nuisance as any Italian organ grinder in Mayfair; he taps on a little
piece of stretched parchment, and howls without ceasing. It is given to
the inhabitants of some countries, who have what is commonly called 'no
ear for music' to hum and to drone in more sensitive ears to the point
of distraction, and it seems to be the special attribute of the Arab to
fill the air with monotonous sounds; when he is on a journey or resting
from it, it is the same--he hums and moans like a creature in torment.
In contact with Europeans we perhaps see him at his worst; for however
orderly and useful a member of society he may be, however neat and
clean, there is something cringing and artificial in him at the best.
But we must hasten on to Blidah.

Again we cross a wide plain, again do we overtake and are overtaken by,
the tribe of donkeys; and just as the sun goes down we enter the city
gates together, dismounting in the principal square, which is filled
with idlers, chiefly French soldiers and poor Arabs who have learned to
beg. We had chosen the time for this journey when the moon was nearly
full, and our first near view of the town was by moonlight. Nothing can
be conceived more beautiful than Blidah by night, with its little
white domes and towers, and the mountains looming indistinctly in the
background. In the Moorish quarter, the tower of the principal Mosque
stands out clearly defined in the moonlight, whilst all around
it cluster the little flat-roofed houses, set in masses of dark
foliage--the olives and the date-trees, and the sharp-pointed spires of
the cypresses, just tinged with a silver light.

So peaceful, so beautiful does it look at night, so complete the
repose with which we have always associated Blidah, that it is a rude
disenchantment to learn that but a few years ago, this city was upheaved
and tossed about, like the waves of the sea. In 1825, eight or nine
thousand people perished from an earthquake; and in 1866, a lady who was
staying at our hotel, thus wrote home to her friends: *

     * 'Last Winter in Algeria,'  by Mrs. H. Lloyd Evans.

     'I was roused from sleep by a sound as of some one beating
     the floor above, and the walls on every side. It increased
     rapidly in violence, till the whole house shook and rocked
     and seemed giving way beneath our feet. I saw the wall in
     the corner of the room split open, and immediately
     afterwards masses of plaster fell from the ceiling and
     walls, bringing clouds of dust and a darkness as of night.

     'On the _Place_ it was a fearful scene, people came tearing
     down the neighbouring streets, women and children ran
     aimlessly hither and thither, shrieking wildly, men uttering
     hoarse sounds of terror, whilst the ground heaved and
     trembled beneath our feet, and we gazed at the surrounding
     houses in expectant horror; it seemed as if they must fall
     like a pack of cards. The young trees rocked and swayed, the
     flagstaff waved backwards and forwards--the wind moaning,
     the rain pouring down, whilst above all rose, ever and anon,
     the sound of cavalry trumpets and the rolling of the drum,
     calling on the troops to quit their tottering barracks.

     'The Arabs alone stalked about unmoved, shrugging their
     shoulders and muttering "It is destiny!"'

The air is delightful at Blidah, and the little country houses, with
their groves of orange-trees, their gardens and vineyards, have been
pointed out by travellers, as some of the most desirable spots on earth.
The extract above may tend to qualify the longings of some people; but
we think we might 'take our chance' at Blidah, as the Neapolitans do
near Vesuvius--there are so many compensations.

Early in the morning we are again on our way, and as we leave the
western gate, the donkeys, with their dirty drivers, scramble out with
us and again play the game of the tortoise and the hare.

The gorge of La Chiffa is one of the principal approaches to the
mountains, through which a military road is cut to Medeah. The first
part is wild and rocky, the road passing between almost perpendicular
cliffs, carried sometimes by masonry over a chasm at a height of several
thousand feet. We ride for miles through a valley of most solitary
grandeur, with no sounds but the rushing of the torrent and the
occasional cries of monkeys. We pass by one celebrated waterfall called
'Ruisseau des Singes,' and are otherwise reminded of the presence of
monkeys, by their pelting us with large stones, which they dislodge from
their hiding-places above our heads.

We are at times so shut in by the rocks, that we can scarcely discover
any outlet, but after a few hours' ascent, we come suddenly upon quite
a different scene. What is it that delights the eye and that thrills
us with pleasurable emotions, calling up memories of green lanes and
England, pastoral?'Tis the plash of water, and the trickling, tinkling
play of a running stream, winding and winding down to the swollen
torrent that we crossed just now.

Here under the shadow and shelter of the mountains--refreshed by rains
that they in the plains know not of, and where the heat of a midday sun
can scarcely approach--we find a cottage, a little farm, green pastures,
cattle grazing, trees, flowers and children; the stream flowing through
all, bright, deep, and sparkling, with green banks, bullrushes and lilies
of the valley of the Atlas. A few poor emigrants have settled down in
this corner of the world, as quietly, and we may add as securely, as if
a sandy plain did not divide them from everything kindred and civilized.

We make our midday halt under the shade of chesnut-trees, and
sketch; one great defect of our drawings being, that they are far too
pastoral--they would not be admitted by judges, to represent Africa at
all! Nothing in this land of strong contrasts could equal the change
from Nature, untilled, unfruitful, stern and forbidding; to this little
farm-house, as it might be in Wales, surrounded by trees and watered by
a sparkling stream.

Continuing our journey up the gorge, walking, riding, clambering, and
resting, by turns, we do not reach Medeah until after dark. During the
last few miles our horses are troublesome, and will not be persuaded
to pass close to any rock or brushwood, being evidently nervous of some
sudden attack, or surprise; and so we creep along silently and in single
file, trusting chiefly to our horses to keep to the path.

At last the long-looked-for lights of Medeah appear, and in a quarter
of an hour afterwards we are inside the fortifications; and with a
'_Voyageurs, monsieur_' to the sentinel at the gate, we pass under the
dark arches of a Roman aqueduct--casting a deep shadow over the town as
the moon shines out, now obscured again by a passing cloud--like some
solemn dissolving view of Roman power, or phantom monument of the past.

At Medeah, we find everything much the same as at Blidah; a little
rougher and poorer perhaps, but the same mixture of French and Moorish
buildings. Fine old mosques, courtyards after the style of the Alhambra,
and carved doorways of very early date; but brick fortifications, young
French soldiers, _estaminéts_, and a 'Place' with half-dead trees, are
more prominent features; and here, at a height of nearly 3000 feet above
the sea, set deep in the heart of the Atlas, civilization may again
be seen, doing its work--the Arabs indulging in absinthe freely, and
playing at cards with their conquerors.

The beautiful mountain scenery south of Medeah led us to spend some time
in sketching and in exploring the country. In spite of its wildness and
solitariness we could wander about with perfect security, within a day
or two's journey of the French outposts. The crisp keen air at this
altitude tempted us on and on, through the most deserted region that can
be imagined. The mountain-ranges to the south were like an undulating
sea, divided from us by lesser hills and little plains, with here and
there valleys, green and cultivated; but the prevailing character of the
scenery was rocky and barren. The great beauty was in the clouds that
passed over at intervals, spreading a grateful shade, and casting
wonderful shadows on the rocks. The rain would fall heavily through them
sometimes for three or four minutes, like summer showers, and the little
dried-up torrent beds would trickle for a while; the Arabs would collect
a few drops, and then all would be gone--the clouds, the rivulets, and
every sign of moisture on the ground--and the mountains would stand out
sharp and clear against the sky, with that curious pinky hue, so well
portrayed in the background of Lewis's picture of 'A camp on Mount
Sinai.' Here we could pitch our tent in the deepest solitude, and
romance as much as we pleased without fear of interruption. The only
variation to the almost death-like silence that prevailed, would be
the distant cry of a jackal, which disturbed us for a moment, or the
moaning of the wind in some far-off valley, for the air seemed never
still on these heights. A stray monkey or two, would come and furtively
peep at our proceedings, but would be off again in an instant, and there
were no birds; indeed, since we left Blidah we had scarcely heard their
voices. The few Arab tribes that cultivated the valleys, seldom came
near us; so that we sometimes heard no voices but our own, from morning
till night.

One day proved an exception. We had been making a drawing of the
prospect due south, in order to get the effect of the sun's rays upon a
sandy plateau that stretched between us and the next range of mountains:
it was little more than a study of colour and effect, for there was
not much to break the monotony of the subject--a sand-plain bounded
by barren rocks. We had nearly finished our work, when two dark specks
appeared suddenly on the sky-line, and quickly descending the rocks,
began to cross the plain towards us. With our telescope, we soon made
out that they were horsemen at full gallop, and we could tell this, not
by the figures themselves, but by the long shadows that the afternoon
sun cast from them upon the plain. In a few minutes they rode up to
our tent. They were not, as our porters had insisted, some Arabs on a
reconnoitering expedition, but two American gentlemen on hired horses
from Algiers, who were scampering about the country without any guide
or escort. They had come from Milianah that day, they would be at Blidah
to-morrow, and at Algiers the next day, in time to 'catch the boat for
Europe!'

There was an end to all romance about desert scenes and being 'alone
with Nature we could not get rid of the western world, we were tourists
and nothing more.

But it was pleasant to hear the English language spoken, and delightful
to record that these gentlemen neither bragged of their exploits nor
favoured us with what are called 'Americanisms.' In short, we are able
to speak of our interview (they came back with us as far as Medeah)
without repeating any of those bits of smart conversation, that seem
inseparable from the record of such rencontres. These gentlemen had
taken a glance at a great deal, in four or five days, and had been
(perhaps it did not much matter) once or twice, into a little danger;
they had seen the cedar forests, the 'Fort Napoléon,' and the principal
sights, and were now on their way home. They had, however, done one
thing, in which they evidently felt unmixed satisfaction, though they
did not express it in so many words--they had been rather _farther_ into
the interior, than any of their countrymen.

Before leaving the mountains, we should answer a question that we have
been asked repeatedly, 'What of the African lion, so celebrated by Jules
Gérard?' We answer, that we did not penetrate far enough for 'sport,'
of this kind; indeed we scarcely ever heard of any lions. Once only
our horses stopped and trembled violently, and would not pass a thicket
without a long detour; and once (only once) we heard the lion's roar,
not far off. It is a sound that carries a dread with it not soon
forgotten, and the solemnity of which, when echoed from the mountains,
it is not easy to describe. Perhaps the only person who was ever
flippant in speaking of lions, was Gordon Cumming, but then he used
to go amongst them (according to his own account), single-handed, to
'select specimens' before firing!

But in the solitude of these mountain wanderings, we have had
opportunities of seeing one phase of Arab life that we had really come
out to see, and which was alone worth the journey.

We had started early one morning from Blidah, but not so early, that in
deference to the wishes of some of our companions, we had first attended
service in a chapel, dedicated to 'Our Lady of Succour.' We went into
the little building, which, like some rare exotic, was flourishing
alone, surrounded by the most discordant elements--situated hard by
a mosque and close to some noisy Arab dwellings. Service was being
performed in the usual manner, the priests were bowing before a tinsel
cross, and praying (in a language of their own) to a coloured print of
'Our Lady,' in a gilt frame. There were the customary chauntings,
the swinging of censers, the creaking of chairs, the interchanging of
glances, and the paying of sous. Sins were confessed through a hole in
the wall, and holy water was administered to the faithful, with a brush.
Everything was conducted with perfect decorum, and was (as it seemed
to an eyewitness) the most materialistic expression of devotion it were
possible to devise.

Before the evening of the same day, we make a halt amongst the
mountains. A few yards from us we see in the evening light a promontory;
upon it some figures, motionless, and nearly the same colour as the
rocks--Arabs watching the setting sun. The twilight has faded so rapidly
into darkness, that we have soon to put by our work, and can see no
objects, distinctly, excepting this promontory; on which the sun still
shines through some unseen valley, and lights up the figures as they
kneel in prayer. The solemnity of the scene could hardly be conveyed
to the mind of the reader in words, its picturesqueness we should
altogether fail to do justice to; but its beauty and suggestiveness, set
us upon a train of thought, which, in connection with the ceremony of
the morning, we may be pardoned for dwelling upon in a few words.

It was not the first nor the last time, that we had witnessed the Arabs
at prayer, and had studied with a painter's eye their attitudes of
devotion, the religious fervour in their faces, and their perfect
_abandon_. The charm of the scene was in its primitive aspect, and in
the absence of all the accessories, which Europeans are taught from
their youth up, to connect in some way, with every act of public
worship; and who could help being struck by the sight of all this
earnestness--at these heartfelt prayers? What does the Arab see, in this
mystery of beauty, in its daily recurring 'splendour and decline? Shall
we say that the rising and the setting of the sun behind the hills, may
not (to the rude souls of men who have learned their all from Nature),
point out the entrance of that Paradise, which their simple faith has
taught them, they shall one day enter and possess?

If it were possible in these days, when religious art assumes the most
fantastic forms, to create ever so slight a re-action against a school
which has perhaps held its own too long--if it were not heresy to
set forth as the noblest aim for a painter, that he should depict
the deepest emotion, the simplest faith, the most heartfelt devotion,
without the accessories of purple and fine linen, without marble columns
or gilded shrines, without furniture, without Madonnas and without
paste--then we might point confidently to the picture before us to aid
our words.

What if the heaven prayed for, and the prophet worshipped, seem to a
Christian unorthodox and worse--there is sincerity here, there is faith,
devotion, ecstasy, adoration. What more, indeed, does the painter hope
for--what does he seek; and what more has he ever found in the noblest
work of Christian art?

If he lack enthusiasm, still, before a scene so strange, let him think
for a moment what manner of worship this, of the Arabs is; and contrast
their system with that of the Vatican. The religion of the Arabs is a
very striking thing, and its position and influence on their lives might
put many professing Christians to the blush. An honest, earnest faith
is theirs, be it right or wrong. If we examine it at all, we find it
something more than a silly superstition; we find that it has been 'a
firm belief and hope amongst twelve millions of men in Arabia alone,
holding its place in their hearts for more than twelve hundred years.'
It is a religion of Duty, an acting up to certain fixed principles
and defined laws of life, untrammelled by many ceremonies, unshaken by
doubts; a following out to the letter, the written law, as laid down for
them by Mahomet, as the rule and principle of their lives.

If the whole system of the Mahommedan faith breaks down (as we admit it
does) on examination, it does not affect our position, viz.:--that we
have here an exhibition of religious fervour which seldom reaches to
fanaticism, and is essentially sincere. Regarding the scene from a
purely artistic point of view, we can imagine no more fitting subject
for a painter, than this group of Arabs at their devotions--Nature their
temple, its altar the setting sun, their faces towards Mecca, their
hearts towards the Prophet, their every attitude breathing devotion and
faith.

Setting aside all questions of orthodoxy, regarding for our particular
purpose both civilised and uncivilised worshippers under their general
religious aspect--how would it 'strike that stranger' who, descending
from another planet, wondered why, if men's Duty was so clearly placed
before them, they did not follow it--how would he view the two great
phases of religious worship? Whose religion would seem most inspiring,
whose temple most fitting, whose altar most glorious, whose religion
the most free from question; the modern and enlightened, intrenched in
orthodoxy and enthroned in state; or the benighted and un-regenerate,
but earnest, nature-loving and always sincere?

We shall have perhaps (if we make a serious study of these subjects and
put our heart into the work), to unlearn something that we have been
taught, about the steady painting of Madonnas and angels, in our
schools; but, if we do no more than make one or two sketches of such
scenes as the above, we shall have added to our store of knowledge in a
rough and ready way; and have familiarised ourselves with the sight of
what,--though barbaric--is noble and true.

[Illustration: 0191]

[Illustration: 0193]



CHAPTER VIII. KAB YLIA--THE FORT NAPOLÉON.

[Illustration: 9193]

T was almost impossible to take up a newspaper in Algiers, or to
converse for five minutes in a café, or at the club, without the
'question Kabyle' cropping up in some paragraph or conversation. Every
day there came contradictory news about the war, that it would really
be over to-morrow or the next day, or the next week. It had lasted with
more or less activity for thirty years, but now at last the smouldering
embers seemed to be dying out.

The Djurjura mountains stretching eastward into Kabylia, which we
knew so well in their peaceful aspect, with the sun shining upon their
snow-clad summits from morning till night, were still the theatre of
war. In the heart of the mountains, about sixty miles from Algiers,
and at a height of nearly 3000 feet above the sea, the French army was
busily engaged in building a fortress, in order to keep the Kabyles
at bay and give protection to the colonists; and whilst this work was
progressing with wonderful rapidity, the outposts of the army were
carrying on a guerilla warfare with the unsubdued tribes. Their camps
were pitched on the various heights, and the sound of the morning
_réveille_ was generally succeeded by the 'ping' of the rifle from
some concealed Kabyles, and by a quick return volley from the French
outposts.

We went to the Fort Napoleon at the invitation of some French officers,
who, when they wrote to us, imagined (as all French people had imagined
a hundred times before) that the war was over, and that it would be
a good opportunity to visit the camp and the fort, in process of
construction. * Two easy days' journey on horseback, halting for the
night at a caravanserai called Les Issers, brought us to Tiziouzou, a
small town and military depot on the borders of Kabylia, at the foot of
the mountains, and but a few miles from the fort. At Les Issers we slept
upon the ground, each man by the side of his own horse, as there was
neither stabling nor sleeping accommodation to be had in the inn, which
was crowded before we arrived, with troops and war _matériel_. To reach
this, our first night's halting-place, we had had some rough riding,
ending by fording in the evening, a rapid river which rose above the
saddle-girths and nearly upset our active little horses. The night was
starlight, and we lay down about fifty together, with fires burning in a
circle round us, to prevent any surprise.

     * General Randon laid the first stone of the Fort Napoléon
     in June, 1857. This fort, which occupies an area of more
     than twenty acres, and is built on most irregular ground,
     was built in a few months.

The route from Les Issers to Tiziouzou was crowded with baggage-waggons
sticking in the mud, and with immense droves of camels and donkeys,
on their way to the fort. The late rains had almost obliterated the
military road (which was said to extend all the way from Algiers to
the Fort Napoléon), and in some places it was turned into a river. The
greater part of our route had been wild and uncultivated, but as we
came near to Tiziouzou and approached the mountains, every valley was
luxuriant with vegetation, fig-trees and olives grew in abundance, the
former of enormous size. But nearly every inhabitant was French, and we,
who had come to sketch and to see the Kabyles, were as yet disappointed
at finding none but French soldiers, European camp-followers, and
camel-drivers, on the way; and when we arrived at Tiziouzou, we were so
shut in by mountains on all sides, that even the heights of Beni-Raten
were concealed from view. It was fortunate that we obtained the shelter
of a little inn on the night of our arrival, for the rain fell steadily
in sheets of water, until our wooden house was soaked through, and stood
like an island in the midst of a lake.

We sent our horses back to Algiers, and carrying our own knapsacks, set
off in the early morning to walk up to the fort. A lively cantinière
(attached to a regiment of Zouaves camped near Tiziouzou) walked with
us and led the way, past one or two half-deserted Kabyle villages, by a
short cut to the camp. The military road by which the artillery had been
brought up was about fifteen miles, but by taking the steeper paths, we
must have reduced the distance by more than half. At one point of the
way the bare mountain side was so steep and slippery with the late rain,
that it was almost impossible to ascend it, but some Arabs, with an eye
to business worthy of the western world, had stationed themselves here
with their camels to drag up pedestrians; a camel's tail was let for two
sous and was in great request. The latter part of the ascent was through
forests, and groves of olive and cork trees, looking cool and grey
amongst the mass of rich vegetation, through which we had sometimes to
cut a path.

It was a wild walk, but our merry little cantinière was so active and
entertaining that we, encumbered with knapsacks, had enough to do to
keep up with her, and indeed to comprehend the rapid little French
histories that she favoured us with. Every now and then we heard through
the trees the strains of 'Partant pour la Syrie,' or the rattle of a
regimental drum, and came suddenly upon working parties on the road,
which the army boasts was made practicable in three months.

After about four hours' clambering, we again emerge upon the road, near
the summit, and in a few minutes more, come in sight of the fort and the
pretty white tents of the camps on the surrounding hills. Here we must
pause a few minutes, to give a picture of the state of things at the
'Fort Napoléon,' a few weeks before our arrival. We are indebted to
Lieut.-Col. Walmisley, one of our countrymen who accompanied the
expedition, for the following graphic account of a sharp action with the
Kabyles:--

'Daylight dawned upon the Kabyle hills on the morning of the 24th
June, 1857, and its light streamed over the serried ranks of the second
division, as, under the command of General MacMahon, the head of the
column marched out of the lines of Aboudid.

'Before it lay the heights of Icheriden, with its village and triple
row of barricades, behind which the men of the Beni Menguillet anxiously
watched the progress of the foe. The path of the column lay along a
mountain ridge, and it was strange to see that column of between six and
seven thousand men, advancing quietly and composedly, the birds singing
around them; the Kabyles crowning every available hillock, the hawks and
eagles slowly wheeling in large circles over their heads, and the bright
rays of the morning sun gleaming on brighter bayonets.

*****

'The Kabyle barricades remained black and silent as ever; not a bournous
was to be seen, as the 54th and the Zouaves received orders to carry the
position at the point of the bayonet. Before them lay a ridge covered
with brushwood, affording capital shelter, but at about sixty or seventy
paces from the stockades the brush had been cleared away, and now the
occasional gleam of a bayonet, the report of a musket or two fired
against the stockade, the loud ringing of the trumpets, as they gave
forth in inspiriting tones the _pas de charge_, and the wild shouting of
the men, as they pushed their way forward, told of the progress of the
attack.

'Still the same stern heavy silence reigned over the hostile village.
Was it indeed deserted, or was it the silence of despair? But now the
bugle notes became shriller and more exciting; the shots quicker and
more steady, as emerging from the bush, the attacking column rushed
forward to the attack. Sixty paces of greensward were before them: but
instantly, and as if by magic, a thousand reports broke the silence of
the dark stockades, a wild yell rose from their defenders, as the hail
of lead fell on the advancing regiments, and a long line of dead marked
the advance. The Kabyles leaning their pieces over the joints of the
trees, where they were fitted into each other, and through crevices and
loopholes, offered little or no mark themselves to the shot; whilst not
a ball of theirs missed its aim.

'But the Zouaves were not to be daunted; and leaving the ground dotted
with their dead and dying comrades, on they rushed, a wild cheer rising
from their ranks, and a volley of balls pattering a reply. Again the
line of fire burst from the dark stockade, and the advancing column
withered away. The ground was strewn with fallen forms, and the fire of
the stockade fell fast and sure. The men gave way, seeking the shelter
of the bushes; their officers dashing to the front, vainly attempting to
lead them on. It was useless--even the sturdy Zouaves refused to cross
the deadly slope, for to do so was death; on the green slope, across
which the balls hurried fast and thick, lay whole ranks of French
uniforms.

'The fire from stockade and bush raged fast and furious; well kept up
on the side of the French, more deadly on that of the Kabyles, and still
_the men would not advance_ over the uncovered space, for it was certain
death. Two thousand Kabyle marksmen lined the loopholes, and the balls
now began to whiz round the heads of the generals and their staff.'

General MacMahon, who was wounded in this engagement, at last resorted
to shells to dislodge the defenders; the result was successful, and the
whole ended in a panic.

'Fast and furious now became the flight of the Kabyles, and all was
havoc and confusion. The men of the Legion, mixed up with the Zouaves
and the 54th, dashed after the fugitives, entering the villages with
them, and bayoneting right and left with savage shouts, whilst down the
steep sides of the hills, away over the ridges to the right and to the
left, the waving bournous might be seen in flight!'

The curtain fell upon the Kabyle war soon after this action, and large
detachments of troops were at once told off to build the fort. All
around, on every promontory and hill, the little white tents were
scattered thickly, and the sound of the bugle, and the sight of the red
kepis of the soldiers, prevailed everywhere. But the war was practically
over, civilians came up from Algiers--some to see, and some to
trade--and quite a little colony sprung up. And here, on one of the
heights shown in our little sketch, we establish ourselves again--whilst
the Kabyle villages still smoulder in the distance, and revenge is deep
in the hearts of the insurgent tribes, 'one peaceful English tent'
is pitched upon the heights of Beni-Raten, and its occupants devote
themselves to the uneventful pursuit of studying mountain beauty. We
endeavour (and with some success) to ignore the military element; we
listen neither to the réveille, nor to the too frequent crack of a
rifle; our pursuits are not warlike, and, judging from the sights and
sounds that sometimes surround us, we trust they never may be.

The view from this elevation is superb,--north, south, east and west,
there is a wondrous landscape, but northward especially; where far above
the purple hills, higher than all but a few snowy peaks, there stretches
a horizontal line of blue, that seems almost in the clouds. Nothing
gives us such a sense of height and distance, as these accidental peeps
of the Mediterranean, and nothing could contrast more effectively than
the snowy peaks in sunlight, against the blue sea.

[Illustration: 0203]

All this we are able to study, in perfect security and with very little
interruption; sketching first one mountain side clothed with a mass
of verdure; another, rocky, barren, and wild; one day an olive-grove,
another a deserted Kabyle village, and so on, with an infinite variety
which would only be wearisome in detail.

And we obtain what is so valuable to an artist, and what is supposed
to be so rare in Africa--variety of atmospheric effect. It is generally
admitted (and we should be unwilling to contest the point), that English
landscape is unrivalled in this respect, and that it is only _form_ and
_colour_, that we may study with advantage in tropical climates; but
directly we ascend the mountains, we lose that still, serene atmosphere
that has been called the 'monotony of blue.'

We read often of African sun, but very seldom of African clouds and
wind. To-day we are surrounded by clouds _below_ us, which come and
gather round the mountain-peaks and remain until evening. Sometimes just
before sunset, the curtain will be lifted for a moment, and the hill
sides will be in a blaze of gold--again the clouds come round, and
do not disperse till nightfall; and when the mountains are once
more revealed, the moon is up, and they are of a silver hue--the sky
immediately above, remaining quite unclouded. The air is soft on these
half-clouded days, in spite of our height above the sea; and the showers
that fall at intervals, turn the soil in the valleys into a hotbed for
forcing hothouse plants, as we should call them in England.

The weather was nearly always fine, and we generally found a little
military tent (lent to us by one of the Staff) sufficient protection and
shelter, even on this exposed situation.

But we must not forget the winds that lived in the valleys, and came
up to where our tents were pitched--sometimes one at a time, sometimes
three or four together. Of all things that impressed us, during our stay
upon the Kabyle hills, the beauty of the clouds, the purple tints upon
the mountains, and the _wind_, will be remembered best. It is a common
phrase, to 'scatter to the four winds;' but here the four winds came
and met near our little camp, and sometimes made terrible havoc with our
belongings. They came suddenly one day, and took up a tent, and flung it
at a man and killed him; another time they came sighing gently, as if a
light breeze were all we need prepare for, and in five minutes we found
ourselves in the thick of a fight for our possessions, if not for our
lives. And with the wind there came sometimes such sheets of rain, that
turned the paths into watercourses, and carried shrubs and trees down
into the valley; all this happening whilst the sea was calm in the
distance, and the sun was shining fiercely on the plains. These were
rough days, to be expected in late autumn and early spring, but not to
be missed for a little personal discomfort, for Algeria has not been
seen without a mountain storm.

Before leaving Kabylia, we will take one or two leaves from our
note-book; just to picture to the reader (who may be more interested
in what is going on at the camp, than in the various phases of the
landscape) the rather incongruous elements of which our little society
is made up.

There has been a general movement lately, * amongst the conquered
tribes, who are beginning to re-establish themselves in their old
quarters (but under French rule), which brings together for the night
about a hundred Kabyles, with their wives and children.

     *  October, 1857.

Around the camp this evening there are groups of men and women standing,
that bring forcibly to the mind, those prints of the early patriarchs
from which we are apt to take our first and, perhaps, most vivid,
impressions of Eastern life; and we cannot wonder at French artists
attempting to illustrate Scriptural scenes from incidents in Algeria.
There are Jacob and Joseph, as one might imagine them, to the life; Ruth
in the fields, and Rachel by the well; and there is a patriarch coming
down the mountain, with a light about his head as the sun's last rays
burst upon him, that Herbert might well have seen, when he was painting
Moses with the tables of the law. The effect is accidental, but it
is perfect in an artistic sense, from the solemnity of the man, the
attitude of his crowd of followers, the grand mountain forms which are
partially lit up by gleams of sunset, and the sharp shadows cast by the
throng.

This man may have been a warrior chief, or the head of a tribe; he
was certainly the head of a large family, who pressed round him to
anticipate his wants and do him honour. His children seemed to be
everywhere about him; they were his furniture, they warmed his tent and
kept out the wind, they begged for him, prayed for him, and generally
helped him on his way. In the Koran there is a saying of similar purport
to the words 'happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them'--this
one had his quiver full of them, indeed, and whether he had ever done
much to deserve the blessing, he certainly enjoyed it to the full. *
Looked upon as a coloured statue he was, in some respects, a perfect
type of beauty, strength, and dignified repose--what we might fitly
call a 'study,' as he sat waiting, whilst the women prepared his evening
meal; but whether from a moral point of view he quite deserved all the
respect and deference that was paid to him, is another question.

     * How many a man is sheltered from the winds of the world by
     a grove of sleek relations, who surround him and keep him
     from harm; such a man has never really tried the outer
     world? and has but a second-hand experience of its troubles.

As a picture, as we said before, he was magnificent, and there was a
regal air with which he disposed the folds of his bournous, which we,
clad in the costume of advanced civilization, could not but admire
and envy. He had the advantage of us in every way, and made us feel it
acutely. He had a splendid arm, and we could see it; the fine contour,
and colour, of his head and neck were surrounded by white folds, but not
concealed. His head was not surmounted with a battered 'wide-awake,' his
neck was not bandaged as if it were wounded, his feet were not misshapen
clumps of leather, his robes--but we have no heart to go further into
detail. There is a 'well-dressed' French gentleman standing near
this figure; and there is not about him one graceful fold, one good
suggestive line, one tint of colour grateful to the eye, or one
redeeming feature in his (by contrast) hideous _tout ensemble._

These are everyday truths, but they strike us sometimes with a sort of
surprise; we have discovered no new thing in costume, and nothing worth
telling; but the sudden and humiliating contrast gives our artistic
sensibilities a shock and fills us with despair.

A little way removed there is a warrior on horseback at prayers, his
hands outstretched, his face turned towards the sun. It is as grand a
picture as the last, but it does not bear examination. He came and sat
down afterwards, to smoke, close to our tent, and we regret to say that
he was extremely dirty, and in his habits, rather cruel. There were
red drops upon the ground where his horse had stood, and his spur was a
terrible instrument to contemplate; in the enthusiasm of a noble nature
he had ridden his delicate locomotive too hard, and had, apparently,
sometimes forgotten to give it a feed. It was a beautiful, black Arab
steed, but it wanted grooming sadly; its feet were cracked and spread
from neglect, and its whole appearance betokened rough usage. Perhaps
this was an exceptional case, perhaps not; but to the scandal of those
whose romantic picture of the Arab in his tent with his children and
his steed, are amongst the most cherished associations, we are bound to
confess that we have seen as much cruelty as kindness, bestowed by the
Arabs and Kabyles, on their horses, and incline to the opinion that
they are, as a rule, anything but tender and loving to their four-footed
friends.

[Illustration: 0212]

The Kabyles came round our tents in the morning before leaving, and
the last we saw of our model patriarch, was flying before an enraged
vivandière, who pursued him down the hill with a dish-cloth. He had been
prowling about since dawn, and had forgotten the distinction between
'meum' and 'tuum.'

It has been said that there is 'no such thing as Arab embarrassment,
and no such dignity as Arab dignity;' but the Arab or the Kabyle, as
we hinted in a former chapter, appears to great disadvantage in contact
with the French, and seems to lose at once in _morale_.

Another day, there is a flutter in our little camp, for 'the mail'
has come in, in the person of an active young orderly of Zouaves,
who, leaving the bulk of his charge to come round by the road, has
anticipated the regular delivery by some hours, scaling the heights with
the agility of a cat, and appearing suddenly in our midst. If he had
sprung out of the earth he could not have startled us much more, and
if he had brought a message that all the troops were to leave Africa
to-morrow, he could scarcely have been more welcome.

And what has he brought to satisfy the crowd of anxious faces that
assemble round the hut, dignified by the decoration of a pasteboard
eagle and the inscription '_Bureau de Poste_.' It was scarcely as trying
a position for an official, as that at our own Post-office at Sebastopol
in Crimean days, although there was eagerness and crowding enough to
perplex any distributor; but it was very soon over, in five minutes
letters and papers were cast aside, and boredom had recommenced with the
majority. It was the old story--the old curse of Algeria doing its work;
the French officers are too near home to care much for 'news,' and hear
too frequently from Paris (twice a week) to attach much importance to
letters. Newspapers were the 'pièces de résistance,' but there was not
much news in '_La Presse_' and its _feuilleton_ consisted of two or
three chapters of a translation of Dickens' 'Martin Chuzzlewit'; there
was the '_Moniteur_,' with lists of promotions in the army, and the
usual announcement, that Napoleon, 'by the grace of God and the national
will,' would levy new taxes upon the people; there was a provincial
paper, containing an account of the discovery of some ruins near
Carcassonne; there was '_Le Follet_' for 'my lady _commandant_,' and a
few other papers with illustrated caricatures and conundrums.

Some of the letters were amusing, as we heard them read aloud; one was
too quaint not to mention, it was from a bootmaker in Paris to his dear,
long-lost customer on the Kabyle Hills. He 'felt that he was going to
die,' and prayed '_M'sieu le Lieutenant_' to order a good supply of
boots for fear of any sudden accident, 'no one else could make such
boots for Monsieur.' And so on, including subjects of about equal
importance, with the latest Parisian gossip, and intelligence of a new
piece at the 'Variétés.' One other letter we may mention, that came up
by the same post, to one other member of that little band, perched like
eagles on the heights; it was also unimportant and from home, and the
burden of it was this--'Broadtouch' had stretched ten feet of canvas for
a painting of one rolling wave, and 'Interstice' had studied the texture
of a nut-shell until his eyes were dim.

We finish the evening as usual with dominoes and coffee; enjoying many a
long and delightful chit-chat with our military friends. These pleasant,
genial, but rather unhappy gentlemen do not 'talk shop,' it is
tabooed in conversation, as strictly as at the 'Rag': but the stamp of
banishment is upon their faces unmistakeably, and if they do speak
of this foreign service (now that the war is nearly over), it is in
language that seems to say,--'all ye who enter here, leave Hope behind.'

[Illustration: 0219]

[Illustration: 0221]



CHAPTER IX. 'WINTER SWALLOWS.'

'_Oh que l'hirondelle est bien la type de la vraie sagesse, elle qui
a su effacer de son existence, ces longs hivers qui glacent et
engourdissent! Dès que le soleil commence à décroître, sitôt que les
plantes jaunissent et qu'aux chaudes haleines du Zéphyr succèdent les
froides rafales de l'aquilon, elle s'envole prudemment à tire d'ailes,
vers les douces régions embaumées du Midi._'

[Illustration: 9221]

E come down the hills and back to Algiers, to find the winter in full
bloom, and the 'winter swallows' in great force, In fact, so full of
bustle is the town, and so frequent is the sight of English faces, and
the sound of English voices, that it hardly seems like the place we had
left a few weeks since.

It has been said that English people love sunshine and blue sky more
than any other nation, and that the dwellers under the 'ciel nebuleuse
du nord,' will go anywhere to seek a brighter clime; and it is a fact,
the importance of which is hardly realised in England, that the African
sun is producing a crop of English residents that is growing rapidly,
and taking firm root in the soil, in spite of siroccos, in spite of
earthquakes--without a thought of colonization in the strict sense of
the word, and without, it must be added, any particular love for the
French people.

The visitors, or tourists, are increasing also, and they are naturally,
rather vulgarising our favourite places. Thus we hear of picnics at the
Bouzareah, of balls at Mustapha, of 'trips' to Blidah by railway, and of
'excursions to the gorge of La Chiffa and back' in one day.

An amusing chapter might be written upon Algiers from the traveller's
point of view, but one or two touches will suffice, to show the easy and
familiar terms, on which our countrymen and country-women invade this
stronghold of the French; once the 'city of pirates' and the terror of
Mediterranean waters.

There is the cosmopolitan traveller, who, having 'done Europe,' finds
Algiers, of course, rather 'slow,' by contrast; and there is the very
matter-of-fact traveller, who finds it all vanity, and says,--'Take
ever so copious a stock of illusions with you to the bright Orient,
and within half-an-hour after landing, you are as bankrupt as a bank
of deposit... and the end of it all is, that this city of the "Arabian
Nights" turns out to be as unromantic as Seven Dials.' There are lady
travellers, who (enjoying special advantages by reason of their sex, and
seeing much more than Englishmen of Moorish interiors) are perhaps
best fitted to write books about this country; there are proselytizing
ladies, who come with a mission, and end by getting themselves and their
friends into trouble, by distributing tracts amongst the Moors; and
there are ladies who (when their baggage is detained at one of the
ports), endeavour to break down the barriers of official routine in an
unexpected way. 'The douane did not choose to wake up and give us our
luggage,' writes one, 'it was such a lazy douane; and though I went
again and again and said pretty things to the gendarmes, it was of no
use.'

Another form of invasion is less polite, but it has been submitted
to with tolerable grace on more than one occasion. Here is the latest
instance. *

     * 'Under the Palms,' by the Hon. Lewis Wingfield. London,
     1867.

'Being anxious to obtain a sketch of one of the quaint streets of the
upper town, I wandered one morning up its dark alleys and intricate
byeways; and wishing to establish myself at a window, I knocked at a
promising door, and was answered by a mysterious voice from behind a
lattice; the door opened of itself, and I marched upstairs unmindful of
evil. In the upper court I was instantly surrounded by a troup of women,
in the picturesque private dress of the Moorish ladies, unencumbered
with veil or yashmak.

'These ladies dragged at my watch-chain, and pulled my hair, until
finding myself in such very questionable society, I beat a hasty
retreat, flying down stairs six steps at a time, slamming the doors in
the faces of the houris, and eventually reaching the street in safety,
while sundry slow Mussulmans wagged their beards and said that Christian
dogs did not often enter such places with impunity.'

It is pleasant to see with what good tempered grace, both the Moors and
the French take this modern English invasion. We settle down for the
winter here and build and plant vineyards, and make merry, in the same
romping fashion that we do in Switzerland. We write to England about it,
as if the country belonged to us, and of the climate, as if we had been
the discoverers of its charms. But it is all so cozy and genial, and so
much a matter of course, that we are apt to forget its oddity; we have
friends in England who speak of Algiers with positive delight, whose
faces brighten at the very mention of its name, and who always speak of
going there, as of 'going home.'

We have principally confined our remarks to places near Algiers,
omitting all mention of Oran and Constantine, because it is impossible
to work to much purpose if we travel about, and these places are worthy
of distinct and separate visits. The longest journey that we would
suggest to artists to make in one winter, would be to the cedar forests
of Teniet-el-Had, because the scenery is so magnificent, and the forms
of the cedars themselves, are perhaps the wildest and most wonderful to
be met with in any part of the world. Hitherto, almost the only
sketches that we have seen of this mountain forest have been by our own
countrymen and countrywomen, for French artists do not as a rule go far
from Algiers.

With a few notable exceptions, * our experience of the works of
Frenchmen in Algiers, has been anything but inspiring; we have known
these artists closetted for weeks--copying and re-copying fanciful
desert scenes, such as camels dying on sandy plains, under a sky of
the heaviest opaque blue, and with cold grey shadows upon the
ground--drawing imaginary Mauresques on impossible housetops, and in
short working more from fancy than from facts; producing, it may be,
most saleable pictures, but doing themselves and their _clientelles_,
no other good thereby. It seems ungracious to speak thus of people
from whom we invariably received civility and kindness; but the truth
remains, we found them hard at work on 'pot-boilers' for exportation,
and doing, like the photographers, a flourishing trade.

     * We shall not be accused of alluding in this category to
     such painters as the late Horace Vernêt; or to Gérome,
     Frère, and others who study here in winter time.

We should endeavour to spend most of our time in the country, if we wish
to make progress. If we stay in Algiers we shall of course be liable to
some interruptions; we shall be too comfortable and perhaps become too
luxurious. We must not dream away our time on a Turkey carpet, or on our
_terrasse_, charming though the view may be. There is too much scent of
henna, too strong a flavour of coffee and tobacco, there are, in short,
too many of the comforts of life; we had better be off to the hills,
where the air is cooler, and where we can live a free life under canvass
for a while. *

     * It may not be thought very practical to suggest much
     sketching in the open air, as the light is generally
     considered too trying, and the glare too great, for any very
     successful work in colour.

The tropical vegetation in Algeria gives continual shade and shelter,
and the style of architecture, with cool open arcades to the houses, is
admirably adapted for work; but failing the ordinary means of shelter,
much may be done under a large umbrella, or from an ordinary military
tent. In the Paris Exhibition of 1867, there were some portable, wooden
Swiss houses, that seemed constructed for sketching purposes, as they
could be taken down almost as easily as a tent, and removed from one
place to another.

A few months, spent amongst the mountains, will have a wonderfully
bracing effect on Europeans, because both the eye and the mind will
be satisfied and refreshed; although, it is a curious fact that on the
uneducated, such scenes have little, or no, influence.

We shall not easily forget 'the splendid comet of Arab civilization that
has left such a trail of light behind it,' but cannot help remarking
that neither the Arab in a state of nature, nor the Moor surrounded by
every refinement and luxury, seem to be much influenced by the grace and
beauty around them; and in this they do not stand alone, for it is, as
we said, a notable fact? that contact with what is beautiful in scenery
or in art, is of itself of little worth. *

     * To reverse the position--it is a fact, which may be proved
     bystatistics, that there is as much, if not more,
     benevolence, forbearance, and mutual help, existing amongst
     the lower classes in the 'black country,' as in any other
     part of the United Kingdom.

What shall we say of the Sicilian peasant girl, born and bred on the
heights of Taormina?

What of the Swiss girl who spends her life, knee-deep in newly-mown hay?
Does beautiful scenery seem to inspire them with noble thoughts? Does
being 'face to face with Nature,' as the phrase goes, appear to give
them refined tastes, or to elevate their ideas? Does it seem to lead
to cleanliness, to godliness, or any other virtue? The answer is almost
invariably, 'No;' they must be educated to it, and neither the present
race of Arabs nor Moors are so educated. They do not seem to appreciate
the works of their fathers, and will, probably before long, fall into
the way of dressing themselves and building dwellings, after the style
of their conquerors.

With Europeans it is just the reverse, and the most educated and refined
amongst us, are learning more and more to value, what an Eastern nation
is casting off. We submit to the fashions of our time not without
murmurs, which are sounds of hope. We put up with a hideous costume and
more hideous streets--from habit or necessity as the case may be--but
even custom will not altogether deaden the senses to a love for the
beautiful. In costume this is especially noticeable.

What is it that attracts the largest audiences to 'burlesque'
representations at our theatres? Not the buffoonery, but the spectacle.
The eye robbed of its natural food, seeks it in a number of roundabout
ways--but it seeks it. What made the American people crowd to Ristori's
performances in New York, over and over again? Not the novelty, not
alone for the sake of being able to say that they had been there; but
for the delight to the eye in contemplating forms of classic beauty,
and the delight to the ear in hearing the poetry of the most musical
language in the world, nobly spoken, although but few of the audience
could understand a word. It was a libel upon the people to suggest that
their attending these performances was affectation; it was an almost
unconscious drawing out of that natural love for the beautiful, which
is implanted somewhere, in every human breast, and which, in this case
perhaps, gave the American audience a temporary relief from smartness,
and angularity of body and mind.

[Illustration: 0233]

[Illustration: 0235]



CHAPTER X. CONCLUSION.

[Illustration: 9235]

F the foregoing sketches have seemed to some of our readers, a thought
too slight and discursive, and to be wanting in detail; it is because,
perhaps, they have reflected a little too naturally, the habit of
a painter's mind, and have followed out the principle of outdoor
sketching, which is to 'hit off' as accurately as possible, the various
points of interest that come under observation, and, in doing so,
to give _colour_ rather than detail, and to aim principally at the
rendering of atmosphere and effect.

But for this, perhaps, most readers will be thankful, and for two
reasons. First, because it is a fact, that English people as a rule,
care little or nothing for Algeria as a colony--that they never have
cared, and probably never will. Second, because, in spite of the
assertion of a late writer, that 'Algeria is a country virtually unknown
to Englishmen,' we believe that the English public has been literally
inundated with books of travel and statistics, on this subject.

It is only in its picturesque aspect, and as a winter residence for
invalids, that Algiers will ever claim much interest for English people;
and even in picturesqueness, it falls far short of other cities well
known to Englishmen. There is nothing in costume to compare with the
bazaars of Constantinople, or in architecture, to the bystreets of
Trebizond; but Algeria is much more accessible from England, and that is
our reason for selecting it. It has one special attraction, in which it
stands almost alone, viz, that here we may see the two great tides of
civilization--primitive and modern--the East and the West--meet
and mingle without limit and without confusion. There is no violent
collision and no decided fusion; but the general result is peaceful, and
we are enabled to contemplate it at leisure; and have such intimate and
quiet intercourse with the Oriental, as is nowhere else to be met with,
we believe, in the world.

In speaking thus enthusiastically of the advantages of Algeria, let
us not be supposed to undervalue the beauties of England, or its
unapproachable landscape and mountain scenery. The 'painter's camp' in
the Highlands, is no doubt, the right place for a camp, but it is not
the only right place; the spot where it was pitched is covered with snow
as we write these lines. Moreover, it is not given to everyone to be
able to _draw trees_, and it is a change and relief to many, to have
landscape work that does not depend upon their successful delineation.

In fine, for artists, Algiers seems perfect; a cheap place of residence
with few 'distractions,' without many taxes or cares; with extraordinary
opportunities for the study of Nature in her grandest aspects, and of
character, costume, and architecture of a good old type.

But what they really gain by working here is not easily written down,
nor to be explained to others; nor is it all at once discovered by
themselves. It has not been dinned into their ears by rote, or by rule,
but rather inhaled, and (if we may so express it) taken in with the
atmosphere they breathe. If they have not produced anything great or
noble, they have at least infused more light and nature into their
work, and have done something to counteract the tendency to that sickly
sentimentality and artificialism, that is the curse of modern schools.

We have been led to insist, perhaps a little too earnestly, on the good
effects of sound work on a painter's mind, by the thought of what some
of our foremost artists are doing at the present time. When painters of
the highest aim and most refined intelligence, seem tending towards a
system of mere decorative art; when Millais paints children, apparently,
to display their dress, and devotes his great powers as a colourist
almost exclusively to imitative work; when Leighton cultivates a style
of refined Platonism which is not Attic and is sometimes scarcely human;
when other painters of celebrity, that we need scarcely name spend
their lives upon the working out of effective details; when the modern
development of what is called Præ-Raphaelitism, seems to remove us
farther than ever from what should be the aim of a great painter, we may
be pardoned for insisting upon the benefits of change of air and change
of scene.

But not only to artists and amateurs--to those fortunate people whose
time and means are as as much at their own disposal as the genii of
Aladdin's lamp; to those who can get 'ordered abroad' at the season when
it is most pleasant to go; to those who live at high pressure for
half the year, and need a change--not so much perhaps, from winter's
gloom--as from the 'clouds that linger on the mind's horizon;' to all
who seek a 'new sensation,' we would say, once more--pay a visit to
the 'city of pirates,' to the 'diamond set in emeralds,' on the African
shore.



POSTSCRIPT TO SECOND EDITION.

_We have been requested by several readers to state, in a New Edition,
the readiest and cheapest method of reaching Algeria from England.

There is no quicker or cheaper way than to go through France to
Marseilles, and thence by steamer direct to Algiers. The cost of the
journey from London to Algiers varies from to £10, according to
'class.' The steamers from Marseilles leave on Tuesdays, Thursdays,
and Saturdays, at mid-day: the cheapest boats leave on Thursdays,
their first-class fare, including living, being about £3 3s. All other
information respecting this journey, can be obtained by reference to
Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide.

The best months for a visit to Algeria are from November to April.

Travellers should obtain the French 'Guide de l'Algerie,' published by
Hachette, Paris; also 'Last Winter in Algeria,' by Mrs. Evans, a most
useful book for visitors.

Hotels in Algiers:--'L Orient,' 'La Regence' 'L Europe,' &c._





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