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Title: Morocco - Its People and Places
Author: De Amicis, Edmondo
Language: English
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Morocco, Its People and Places

By

Edmondo De Amicis
Translated by C. Rollin-Tilton


New York
G. P. Butnam's Sons
27 & 29 West 23d Street

1882

[Illustration: General View of Tangiers.]



                               CONTENTS.


     CHAPTER                                                  PAGE
        I TANGIERS                                               1
       II HAD-EL-GARBIA                                         70
      III TLETA DE REISSANA                                    101
       IV ALKAZAR-EL-KEBIR                                     114
        V BEN-AUDA                                             126
       VI KARIA-EL-ABBASSI                                     138
      VII BENI-HASSAN                                          153
     VIII SIDI-HASSEM                                          167
       IX ZEGUTA                                               175
        X FROM ZEGUTA TO SAGAT                                 186
       XI FEZ                                                  192
      XII MECHINEZ                                             329
     XIII ON THE SEBÙ                                          347
      XIV ARZILLA                                              362



                             ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                              PAGE
     GENERAL VIEW OF TANGIERS                                    6
     FESTIVAL OF THE CIRCUMCISION                               24
     MAHOMET                                                    34
     MARRIAGE PROCESSION IN TANGIERS                            36
     MOORISH HUSBANDMAN                                         54
     LOADING THE CAMELS                                         66
     PEASANT WOMEN OF THE INTERIOR                              76
     THE ARAB’S MORNING PRAYER                                  78
     PEOPLE OF ALKAZAR                                         122
     THE GOVERNOR ABD-ALLA                                     138
     TAKING TEA WITH THE GOVERNOR OF KARIA-EL-ABBASSI          142
     A CENTIPEDE                                               146
     THE CAMEL CONVEYANCE                                      174
     SHOE SHOP, FEZ                                            202
     MOOR OF FEZ                                               216
     A SAINT, FEZ                                              224
     INNER COURT OF OUR HOUSE AT FEZ                           226
     ON THE TERRACES, FEZ                                      238
     AN INTERVIEW WITH THE GRAND VIZIER                        242
     NEGRO SLAVE OF FEZ                                        284
     SLAVE OF THE SULTAN                                       310
     GATEWAY AT MECHINEZ                                       336
     PALACE OF THE GOVERNOR OF MECHINEZ                        340



                               CHAPTER I.
                               TANGIERS.


There are no two countries in the world more entirely different from
each other than the two which are separated by the Straits of Gibraltar;
and this diversity is peculiarly apparent to the traveller who
approaches Tangiers from Gibraltar, where he has left the hurried,
noisy, splendid life of a European city. At only three hours’ journey
from thence the very name of our continent seems unknown; the word
“Christian” signifies enemy; our civilization is ignored, or feared, or
derided; all things, from the very foundations of social life to its
most insignificant particulars, are changed, and every indication of the
neighborhood of Europe has disappeared. You are in an unknown country,
having no bonds of interest in it, and every thing to learn. From its
shore the European coast can still be seen, but the heart feels itself
at an immeasurable distance, as if that narrow tract of sea were an
ocean, and those blue mountains an illusion. Within three hours a
wonderful transformation has taken place around you.

The emotion, however, which one naturally feels on first setting foot on
that immense and mysterious continent, which has moved the imagination
since one’s childhood, is disturbed by the manner of disembarkation.
Just as we began to see distinctly from the vessel the first white
houses of Tangiers, a Spanish lady behind us cried out, in a voice of
alarm, “What can all those people want?” I looked, and beheld behind the
boats that were coming to take off the passengers, a crowd of
half-naked, ragged Arabs, standing up to their hips in the water, and
pointing out the ship with eager gestures, like a band of brigands
rejoicing over their approaching prey. Not knowing who they were, or
what they wanted, I descended with an anxious mind into the boat with
the other passengers. When we had come to within twenty paces of the
shore all this brick-colored crew swarmed into our boat and laid hands
upon us, vociferating in Spanish and Arabic, and making us understand
that the water being too low for us to land from the boats, we were to
be transported upon their shoulders; which information dissipated our
fears of robbery, and imposed in their stead the dread of vermin. The
ladies were borne off in triumph upon stools, and I made my entrance
into Africa upon the back of an old mulatto, with my chin resting upon
his bare skull, and the tips of my toes in the water.

The mulatto, upon reaching the shore, unloaded me into the hands of an
Arab porter, who, passing through one of the city gates, led me at a run
through a deserted alley to an inn not far off, whence I almost
immediately issued again with a guide, and proceeded to the more
frequented streets.

I was struck at once, and more forcibly than I can express, with the
aspect of the population. They all wear a kind of long white cloak of
wool or linen, with a large pointed hood standing upright on the head,
so that the city has the aspect of a vast convent of Dominican friars.
Of all this cloaked company some are moving slowly, gravely, and
silently about, as if they wished to pass unobserved; others are seated
or crouched against the walls, in front of the shops, in corners of the
houses, motionless and with fixed gaze, like the petrified populations
of their legends. The walk, the attitude, the look, all are new and
strange to me, revealing an order of sentiment and habit quite different
from our own, another manner of considering time and life. These people
do not seem to be occupied in any way, nor are they thinking of the
place they are in, or of what is going on about them. All the faces wear
a deep and dreamy expression, as if they were dominated by some fixed
idea, or thinking of far-distant times and places, or dreaming with
their eyes open. I had hardly entered the crowd when I was aware of a
peculiar odor, one quite unknown to me among Europeans; it was not
agreeable, and yet I began to inhale it with a vivid curiosity, as if it
might explain some things to me. As I went on, the crowd, which at a
distance had seemed uniform, presented many varieties. There passed
before me faces white, black, yellow, and bronze; heads ornamented with
long tresses of hair, and bare skulls as shining as metallic balls; men
as dry as mummies; horrible old men; women with the face and entire
person wrapped in formless rags; children with long braids pendant from
the crown of the otherwise bare head; faces of sultans, savages,
necromancers, anchorites, bandits; people oppressed by an immense
sadness or a mortal weariness; none smiling, but moving one behind the
other with slow and silent steps, like a procession of spectres in a
cemetery. I passed through other streets, and saw that the city
corresponded in every way to the population. It is a labyrinth of
crooked lanes, or rather corridors, bordered by little square houses of
dazzling whiteness, without windows, and with little doors through which
one person can pass with difficulty,—houses which seem made to hide in
rather than live in, with a mixed aspect of convent and prison. In many
of the streets there is nothing to be seen save the white walls and the
blue sky; here and there some small Moorish arch, some arabesque window,
some strip of red at the base of a wall, some figure of a hand painted
in black beside a door, to keep off evil influences. Almost all the
streets are encumbered with rotten vegetables, feathers, rags, bones,
and in some places dead dogs and cats, infecting the air. For long
distances you meet no one but a group of Arab boys in pointed hoods,
playing together, or chanting in nasal tones some verses from the Koran;
or a crouching beggar, a Moor riding on a mule, an overloaded ass with
bleeding back, driven by a half-naked Arab; some tailless mangy dog, or
cat of fabulous meagreness. Transient odors of garlic, fish, or burning
aloes salute you as you pass; and so you make the circuit of the city,
finding everywhere the same dazzling whiteness, the same air of mystery,
sadness, and _ennui_.

Coming out upon the only square that Tangiers can boast, which is cut by
one long street that begins at the shore and crosses the whole town, you
see a rectangular place, surrounded by shops that would be mean in the
poorest of our villages. On one side there is a fountain constantly
surrounded by blacks and Arabs drawing water in jars and gourds; on the
other side sit all day long on the ground eight or ten muffled women
selling bread. Around this square are the very modest houses of the
different Legations, which rise like palaces from the midst of the
confused multitude of Moorish huts. Here in this spot is concentrated
all the life of Tangiers,—the life of a large village. The one
tobacconist is here, the one apothecary, the one _café_,—a dirty room
with a billiard-table,—and the one solitary corner where a printed
notice may be sometimes seen. Here gather the half-naked street-boys,
the rich and idle Moorish gentlemen, Jews talking about their business,
Arab porters awaiting the arrival of the steamer, _attachés_ of the
Legations expecting the dinner-hour, travellers just arrived,
interpreters, and impostors of various kinds. The courier arriving from
Fez or Morocco with orders from the Sultan is to be met here; and the
servant coming from the post, with his hands full of journals from
London and Paris; the beauty of the harem and the wife of the minister;
the Bedouin’s camel and the lady’s lapdog; the turban and the
chimney-pot hat; and the sound of a piano from the windows of a
consulate mingles with the lamentation chant from the door of a mosque.
It is the point where the last wave of European civilization is lost in
the great dead sea of African barbarism.

From the square we went up the main street, and passing by two old
gates, came out at twilight beyond the walls of the town, and found
ourselves in an open space on the side of a hill called Soc-de-Barra, or
exterior market, because a market is held there every Sunday and
Thursday. Of all the places that I saw in Morocco this is perhaps the
one that impressed me most deeply with the character of the country. It
is a tract of bare ground rough and irregular, with the tumble-down tomb
of a saint, composed of four white walls, in the midst. Upon the top
there is a cemetery, with a few aloes and Indian figs growing here and
there; below are the turreted walls of the town. Near the gate, on the
ground, sat a group of Arab women, with heaps of green-stuff before
them; a long file of camels crouched about the saint’s tomb; farther on
were some black tents, and a circle of Arabs seated around an old man
erect in their midst, who was telling a story; horses and cows here and
there; and above, among the stones and mounds of the cemetery, other
Arabs, motionless as statues, their faces turned toward the city, their
whole person in shadow, and the points of their hoods standing out
against the golden twilight sky. A sad and silent peacefulness seemed to
brood over the scene, such as cannot be described in words, but ought
rather to be distilled into the ear drop by drop, like a solemn secret.

The guide awoke me from my reverie and re-conducted me to my inn, where
my discomfiture at finding myself among strangers was much mitigated
when I discovered that they were all Europeans and Christians, dressed
like myself. There were about twenty persons at table, men and women, of
different nationalities, presenting a fine picture of that crossing of
races and interlacing of interests which go on in that country. Here was
a Frenchman born in Algiers married to an Englishwoman from Gibraltar;
there, a Spaniard of Gibraltar married to the sister of the Portuguese
Consul; here again, an old Englishman with a daughter born in Tangiers
and a niece native of Algiers; families wandering from one continent to
the other, or sprinkled along the coast, speaking five languages, and
living partly like Arabs, partly like Europeans. All through dinner a
lively conversation went on, now in French, now in Spanish, studded with
Arabic words, upon subjects quite strange to the ordinary talk of
Europeans: such as the price of a camel; the salary of a pasha; whether
the sultan were white or mulatto; if it were true that there had been
brought to Fez twenty heads from the revolted province of Garet; when
those religious fanatics who eat a live sheep were likely to come to
Tangiers; and other things of the same kind that aroused within my soul
the greatest curiosity. Then the talk ran upon European politics, with
that odd disconnectedness that is always perceptible in the discussions
of people of different nations—those big, empty phrases which they use
in talking of the politics of distant countries, imagining absurd
alliances and impossible wars. And then came the inevitable subject of
Gibraltar—the great Gibraltar, the centre of attraction for all the
Europeans along the coast, where their sons are sent to study, where
they go to buy clothes, to order a piece of furniture, to hear an opera,
to breathe a mouthful of the air of Europe. Finally came up the subject
of the departure of the Italian embassy for Fez, and I had the pleasure
of hearing that the event was of far greater importance than I had
supposed; that it was discussed at Gibraltar, at Algeziras, Cadiz, and
Malaga, and that the caravan would be a mile long; that there were
several Italian painters with the embassy, and that perhaps there might
even be a representative of the press—at which intelligence I rose
modestly from the table, and walked away with majestic steps.

I wandered about Tangiers at a late hour that night. There was not a
single light in street or window, nor did the faintest radiance stream
through any loop-hole; the city seemed uninhabited, the white houses lay
under the starlight like tombs, and the tops of the minarets and
palm-trees stood out clear against the cloudless sky. The gates of the
city were closed, and every thing was mute and lifeless. Two or three
times my feet entangled themselves in something like a bundle of rags,
which proved to be a sleeping Arab. I trod with disgust upon bones that
cracked under my feet, and knew them for the carcase of a dog or cat; a
hooded figure glided like a spectre close to the wall; another gleamed
white for one instant at the bottom of an alley; and at a turning I
heard a sudden rush and scamper, as if I had unwittingly disturbed some
consultation. My own footstep when I moved, my own breathing when I
stood still, were the only sounds that broke the stillness. It seemed as
if all the life in Tangiers were concentrated in myself, and that if I
were to give a sudden cry it would resound from one end of the city to
the other like the blast of a trumpet. Meantime the moon rose, and shone
upon the white walls with the splendor of an electric light. In a dark
alley I met a man with a lantern, who stood aside to let me pass,
murmuring some words that I did not understand. Suddenly a loud laugh
made my blood run cold for an instant, and two young men in European
dress went by in conversation; probably two _attachés_ to the Legations.
In a corner of the great square, behind the looped-up curtain of a dark
little shop, a dim light betrayed a heap of whitish rags, from which
issued the faint tinkle of a guitar, and a thin, tremulous, lamentable
voice, that seemed brought by the wind from a great distance. I went
back to my inn, feeling like a man who finds himself transported into
some other planet.

The next morning I went to present myself to our _chargé d’affaires_,
Commendatore Stefano Scovasso. He could not accuse me of not being
punctual. On the 8th of April, at Turin, I received the invitation, with
the announcement that the caravan would leave Tangiers on the 19th. On
the morning of the 18th I was at the Legation. I did not know Signor
Scovasso personally, but I knew something about him which inspired me
with a great desire to make his acquaintance. From one of his friends
whom I had seen before leaving Turin, I had heard that he was a man
capable of riding from Tangiers to Timbuctoo without any other
companions than a pair of pistols. Another friend had blamed his
inveterate habit of risking his life to save the lives of others. When I
arrived at the Legation I found him standing at the gate in the midst of
a crowd of Arabs, all motionless, in attitudes of profound respect,
seemingly awaiting his orders. Presenting myself, and being at once made
a guest at head-quarters, I learned that our departure was deferred till
the 1st of May, because there was an English embassy at Fez, and our
horses, camels, mules, and a cavalry escort for the journey, were all to
be sent from there. A transport-ship of our military marine, the _Dora_,
then anchored at Gibraltar, had already carried to Larrace, on the
Atlantic coast, the presents which King Victor Emanuel had sent to the
Emperor of Morocco. The principal scope of our journey for the _chargé
d’affaires_ was to present credentials to the young Sultan, Muley el
Hassen, who had ascended the throne in September, 1873. No Italian
embassy had ever been at Fez, and the banner of United Italy had never
before been carried into the interior of Morocco. Consequently, the
embassy was to be received with extraordinary solemnities.

My first occupation when I found myself alone was to take observations
of the house where I was to be a guest; and truly it was well worthy of
notice. Not that the building itself was at all remarkable. White and
bare without, it had a garden in front, and an interior court, with four
columns supporting a covered gallery that ran all around the first
floor. It was like a gentleman’s house at Cadiz or Seville. But the
people and their manner of life in this house were all new to me.
Housekeeper and cook were Piedmontese; there was a Moorish woman-servant
of Tangiers, and a Negress from the Soudan with bare feet; there were
Arab waiters and grooms dressed in white shirts; consular guards in fez,
red caftan, and poignard; and all these people were in perpetual motion
all day long. At certain hours there was a coming and going of black
porters, interpreters, soldiers of the pasha, and Moors in the service
of the Legation. The court was full of boxes, camp-beds, carpets,
lanterns. Hammers and saws were in full cry, and the strange names of
Fatima, Racma, Selam, Mohammed, Abd-er-Rhaman flew from mouth to mouth.
And what a hash of languages! A Moor would bring a message in Arabic to
another Moor, who transmitted it in Spanish to the housekeeper, who
repeated it in Piedmontese to the cook, and so on. There was a constant
succession of translations, comments, mistakes, doubts, mingled with
Italian, Spanish, and Arabic exclamations. In the street, a procession
of horses and mules; before the door, a permanent group of curious
lookers-on, or poor wretches, Arabs and Jews, patient aspirants for the
protection of the Legation. From time to time came a minister or a
consul, before whom all the turbans and fezes bowed themselves. Every
moment some mysterious messenger, some unknown and strange costume, some
remarkable face, appeared. It seemed like a theatrical representation,
with the scene laid in the East.

My next thought was to take possession of some book of my host’s that
should teach me something of the country I was in, before beginning to
study costume. This country, shut in by the Mediterranean, Algeria, the
desert of Sahara, and the ocean, crossed by the great chain of the
Atlas, bathed by wide rivers, opening into immense plains, with every
variety of climate, endowed with inestimable riches in all the three
kingdoms of nature, destined by its position to be the great commercial
high-road between Europe and Central Africa, is now occupied by about
8,000,000 of inhabitants—Berbers, Moors, Arabs, Jews, Negroes, and
Europeans—sprinkled over a vaster extent of country than that of France.
The Berbers, who form the basis of the indigenous population—a savage,
turbulent, and indomitable race—live on the inaccessible mountains of
the Atlas, in almost complete independence of the imperial authority.
The Arabs, the conquering race, occupy the plains—a nomadic and pastoral
people, not entirely degenerated from their ancient haughty character.
The Moors, corrupted and crossed by Arab blood, are in great part
descended from the Moors of Spain, and, inhabiting the cities, hold in
their hands the wealth, trade, and commerce of the country. The blacks,
about 500,000, originally from the Soudan, are generally servants,
laborers, and soldiers. The Jews, almost equal in number to the blacks,
descend, for the most part, from those who were exiled from Europe in
the Middle Ages, and are oppressed, hated, degraded, and persecuted here
more than in any other country in the world. They exercise various arts
and trades, and in a thousand ways display the ingenuity, pliability,
and tenacity of their race, finding in the possession of money torn from
their oppressors a recompense for all their woes. The Europeans whom
Mussulman intolerance has, little by little, driven from the interior of
the empire toward the coast, number less than 2,000 in all Morocco, the
greater part inhabiting Tangiers, and living under the protection of the
consular flags. This heterogeneous, dispersed, and irreconcilable
population is oppressed rather than protected by a military government
that, like a monstrous leech, sucks out all the vital juices from the
State. The tribes and boroughs, or suburbs, obey their sheiks; the
cities and provinces the cadi; the greater provinces the pasha; and the
pasha obeys the Sultan—grand schereef, high priest, supreme judge,
executor of the laws emanating from himself, free to change at his
caprice money, taxes, weights and measures; master of the possessions
and lives of his subjects. Under the weight of this government, and
within the inflexible circle of the Mussulman religion, unmoved by
European influences, and full of a savage fanaticism, everything that in
other countries moves and progresses, here remains motionless or falls
into ruin.

Commerce is choked by monopolies, by prohibitions upon exports and
imports, and by the capricious mutability of the laws. Manufactures,
restricted by the bonds laid upon commerce, have remained as they were
at the time of the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, with the same
primitive tools and methods. Agriculture, loaded heavily with taxes,
hampered in exportation of produce, and only exercised from sheer
necessity, has fallen so low as no longer to merit the name. Science,
suffocated by the Koran, and contaminated by superstition, is reduced to
a few elements in the higher schools, such as were taught in the Middle
Ages. There are no printing-presses, no books, no journals, no
geographical maps; the language itself, a corruption of the Arabic, and
represented only by an imperfect and variable written character, is
becoming yearly more debased; in the general decadence the national
character is corrupted; all the ancient Mussulman civilization is
disappearing. Morocco, the last western bulwark of Islamism, once the
seat of a monarchy that ruled from the Ebro to the Soudan, and from the
Niger to the Balearic Isles, glorious with flourishing universities,
with immense libraries, with men famous for their learning, with
formidable fleets and armies, is now nothing but a small and almost
unknown state, full of wretchedness and ruin, resisting with its last
remaining strength the advance of European civilization, seated upon its
foundations still, but confronted by the reciprocal jealousies of
civilized states.

As for Tangiers, the ancient Tingis, which gave its name to Tingistanian
Mauritania, it passed successively from the hands of the Romans into
those of the Vandals, Greeks, Visigoths, Arabs, Portugese, and English,
and is now a city of about 15,000 inhabitants, considered by its sister
cities as having been “prostituted to the Christians,” although there
are no traces of the churches and monasteries founded by the Portugese,
and the Christian religion boasts there but one small chapel, hidden
away among the legations.

I made in the streets of Tangiers a few notes, in preparation for my
journey, and they are given here, because, having been written down
under the impression of the moment, they are perhaps more effective than
a more elaborate description.

I am ashamed when I pass a handsome Moor in gala dress. I compare my
ugly hat with his large muslin turban, my short jacket with his ample
white or rose-colored caftan—the meanness, in short, of my black and
gray garments with the whiteness, the amplitude, the graceful dignified
simplicity of his—and it seems to me that I look like a black beetle
beside a butterfly. I stand sometimes at my window in contemplation
before a portion of a pair of crimson drawers and a gold-colored
slipper, appearing from behind a column in the square below, and find so
much pleasure in it that I cannot cease from gazing. More than any thing
else I admire and envy the _caic_, that long piece of snow-white wool or
silk with transparent stripes which is twisted round the turban, falls
down between the shoulders, is passed round the waist, and thrown up
over one shoulder, whence it descends to the feet, softly veiling the
rich colors of the dress beneath, and at every breath of wind swelling,
quivering, floating, seeming to glow in the sun’s rays, and giving to
the whole person a vaporous and visionary aspect.

No one who has not seen it can imagine to what a point the Arab carries
the art of lying down. In corners where we should be embarrassed to
place a bag of rags or a bundle of straw, he disposes of himself as upon
a bed of down. He adapts himself to the protuberances, fills up the
cavities, spreads himself upon the wall like a bas-relief, and flattens
himself out upon the ground until he looks like a sheet spread out to
dry. He will assume the form of a ball, a cube, or a monster without
arms, legs, or head; so that the streets and squares look like
battle-fields strewn with corpses and mutilated trunks of men.

The greater part have nothing on but a simple white mantle; but what a
variety there is among them! Some wear it open, some closed, some drawn
on one side, some folded over the shoulder, some tightly wrapped, some
loosely floating, but always with an air; varied by picturesque folds,
falling in easy but severe lines, as if they were posing for an artist.
Every one of them might pass for a Roman senator. This very morning our
artist discovered a marvellous Marcus Brutus in the midst of a group of
Bedouins. But if one is not accustomed to wear it, the face is not
sufficient to ennoble the folds of the mantle. Some of us bought them
for the journey, and tried them on, and we looked like so many
convalescents wrapped in bathing-sheets.

I have not yet seen among the Arabs a hunchback, or a lame man, or a
rickety man, but many without a nose and without an eye, one or both,
and the greater part of these with the empty orbit—a sight which made me
shiver when I thought that possibly the globe had been torn out in
virtue of the _lex talionis_, which is in vigor in the empire. But there
is no ridiculous ugliness among these strange and terrible figures. The
flowing ample vesture conceals all small defects, as the common gravity
and the dark, bronzed skin conceals the difference of age. In
consequence of this one encounters at every step men of indefinable age,
of whom one cannot guess whether they are old or young; and if you judge
them old, a lightning smile reveals their youth; and if you think them
young, the hood falls back and betrays the gray locks of age.

The Jews of this country have the same features as those of our own, but
their taller stature, darker complexion, and, above all, their
picturesque attire, make them appear quite different. They wear a dress
in form very like a dressing-gown, of various colors, generally dark,
bound round the waist with a red girdle; a black cap, wide trousers that
come a little below the skirts of the coat, and yellow slippers. It is
curious to see what a number of dandies there are among them dressed in
fine stuffs, with embroidered shirts, silken sashes, and rings and
chains of gold; but they are handsome, dignified-looking men, always
excepting those who have adopted the black frock-coat and chimney-pot
hat. There are some pretty faces among the boys, but the sort of
dressing-gown in which they are wrapped is not generally becoming at
their age. It seems to me that there is no exaggeration in the reports
of the beauty of the Jewesses of Morocco, which has a character of its
own unknown in other countries. It is an opulent and splendid beauty,
with large black eyes, broad low forehead, full red lips, and statuesque
form,—a theatrical beauty that looks well from a distance, and produces
applause rather than sighs in the beholder. The Hebrew women of Tangiers
do not wear in public their rich national costume; they are dressed
almost like Europeans, but in such glaring colors—blue, carmine, sulphur
yellow, and grass-green—that they look like women wrapped in the flags
of all nations. On the Saturdays, when they are in all their glory, the
Jewish quarter presents a marked contrast to the austere solitude of the
other streets.

The little Arab boys amuse me. Even those small ones who can scarcely
walk are robed in the white mantle, and with their high-pointed hoods
they look like perambulating extinguishers. The greater part of them
have their heads shaven as bare as your hand, except a braided lock
about a foot long pendent from the crown which looks as if it were left
on purpose to hang them up by on nails, like puppets. Some few have the
lock behind one ear or over the temple, with a bit of hair cut in a
square or triangular form, the distinctive mark of the last born in the
family. In general they have pretty, pale little faces, erect, slender
bodies, and an expression of precocious intelligence. In the more
frequented parts of the city they take no notice of Europeans; in the
other parts they content themselves with looking intently at them with
an air which says, “I do not like you.” Here and there is one who would
like to be impertinent; it glitters in his eye and quivers on his lip;
but rarely does he allow it to escape, not so much out of respect for
the Nazarene as out of fear of his father, who stands in awe of the
Legations. In any case the sight of a small coin will quiet them. But it
will not do to pull their braided tails. I indulged myself once in
giving a little pluck at a small image about a foot high, and he turned
upon me in a fury, spluttering out some words which my guide told me
meant, “May God roast your grandfather, accursed Christian!”

I have at last seen two saints,—that is to say, idiots or lunatics,
because throughout all North Africa that man from whom God, in sign of
predilection, has withdrawn his reason to keep it a prisoner in heaven,
is venerated as a saint. The first one was in the main street, in front
of a shop. I saw him from a distance and stayed my steps, for I knew
that all things are allowed to saints, and had no desire to be struck on
the back of the neck with a stick, like M. Sourdeau, the French consul,
or to have the saint spit in my face, as happened to Mr. Drummond Hay.
But the interpreter who was with me assured me that there was no danger
now, for the saints of Tangiers had learned a lesson since the Legations
had made some examples, and in any case the Arabs themselves would serve
me as a shield, since they did not wish the saint to get into trouble.
So I went on and passed before the scarecrow, observing him attentively.
He was an old man, all face, very fat, with very long white hair, a
beard descending on his breast, a paper crown upon his head, a ragged
red mantle on his shoulders, and in his hand a small lance with gilded
point. He sat on the ground with crossed legs, his back against a wall,
looking at the passers-by with a discontented expression. I stopped
before him; he looked at me. “Now,” thought I, “he will throw his
lance.” But the lance remained quiet, and I was astonished at the
tranquil and intelligent look in his eyes, and a cunning smile that
seemed to gleam within them. They said, “Ah! you think I am going to
make a fool of myself by attacking you, do you?” He was certainly one of
those impostors who, having all their reason, feign madness in order to
enjoy saintly privileges. I threw him some money, which he picked up
with an air of affected indifference, and going on my way presently met
another. This was a real saint. He was a mulatto, almost entirely naked,
and less than human in visage, covered with filth from head to foot, and
so thin that he seemed a walking skeleton. He was moving slowly along,
carrying with difficulty a great white banner, which the street-boys ran
to kiss, and accompanied by another poor wretch who begged from shop to
shop, and two noisy rascals with drum and trumpet. As I passed near him
he showed me the white of his eye, and stopped. I thought he seemed to
be preparing something in his mouth, and stepped nimbly aside. “You were
right,” said the interpreter; “because if he had spat on you, the only
consolation you would have got from the Arabs would have been, 'Do not
wipe it off, fortunate Christian! Thou art blessed that the saint has
spat in thy face! Do not put away the sign of God’s benevolence!’”

This evening I have for the first time really heard Arab music. In the
perpetual repetition of the same notes, always of a melancholy cast,
there is something that gradually touches the soul. It is a kind of
monotonous lamentation that finally takes possession of the thoughts,
like the murmur of a fountain, the cricket’s chirp, and the beat of
hammers upon anvils, such as one hears in the evening when passing near
a village. I feel compelled to meditate upon it, and find out the
signification of those eternal words for ever sounding in my ears. It is
a barbaric music, full of simplicity and sweetness, that carries me back
to primitive conditions, revives my infantile memories of the Bible,
recalls to mind forgotten dreams, fills me with curiosity about
countries and peoples unknown, transports me to great distances amid
groves of strange trees, with a group of aged priests bending about a
golden idol; or in boundless plains, in solemn solitudes, behind weary
caravans of travellers that question with their eyes the burning
horizon, and with drooping heads commend themselves to God. Nothing
about me so fills me with a yearning desire to see my own country and my
people as these few notes of a weak voice and tuneless guitar.

The oddest things in the world are the Moorish shops. They are one and
all a sort of alcove about a yard high, with an opening to the street,
where the buyer stands as at a window, leaning against the wall. The
shopman is within, seated cross-legged; with a portion of his
merchandise before him, and the rest on little shelves behind. The
effect of these bearded old Moors, motionless as images in their dark
holes, is very strange. It seems themselves, and not their goods, that
are on exhibition, like the “living phenomena” of country fairs. Are
they alive, or made of wood; and where is the handle to set them in
motion? The air of solitude, weariness, and sadness, that hangs about
them is indescribable. Every shop seems a tomb, where the occupant,
already separated from the living world, silently awaits his death.

I have seen two children led in triumph after the solemn ceremony of
circumcision. One was about six, and the other five years old. They were
both seated upon a white mule, and were dressed in red, green, and
yellow garments, embroidered with gold, and covered with ribbons and
flowers, from which their little pallid faces looked forth, still
wearing an expression of terror and amazement. Before the mule, which
was gaily caparisoned and hung with garlands, went three drummers, a
piper, and a cornet-player, making all the noise they could; to the
right and left walked friends and parents, one of whom held the little
ones firm in the saddle, while others gave them sweetmeats and caresses,
and others, again, fired off guns, and leaped and shouted. If I had not
already known what it meant, I should have thought that the two poor
babies were victims being carried to the sacrifice; and yet the
spectacle was not without a certain picturesqueness.

[Illustration: Festival Of The Circumcision.]

This evening I have been present at a singular metamorphosis of Racma,
the minister’s black slave. Her companion came to call me, and conducted
me on tip-toe to a door, which she suddenly threw open, exclaiming,
“Behold Racma!” I could scarcely believe my eyes, for there stood the
negress, whom I had been accustomed to see only in her common working
dress, arrayed like the Queen of Timbuctoo, or a princess from some
unknown African realm, brought thither on the miraculous carpet of
Bisnagar. As I saw her only for a moment, I cannot say exactly how she
was dressed. There was a gleam of snowy white, a glow of purple and
crimson, and a shine of gold, under a large transparent veil, which,
together with her ebony blackness of visage, composed a whole of
barbaric magnificence and the richest harmony of color. As I drew near
to observe more closely, all the pomp and splendor vanished under the
gloomy Mohammedan sheet-like mantle, and the queen, transformed into a
spectre, glided away, leaving behind her a nauseous odor of black savage
which destroyed all my illusions.

Hearing a great outcry in the square, I looked out of my window and saw
passing by a negro, naked to the waist and seated upon an ass,
accompanied by some Arabs armed with sticks, and followed by a troop of
yelling boys. At first I thought it some frolic, and took my opera-glass
to look; but I turned away with a shudder. The white drawers of the
negro were all stained with blood that dropped from his back, and the
Arabs were soldiers who were beating him with sticks. He had stolen a
hen. “Lucky fellow,” said my informant; “it appears they will let him
off without cutting off his right hand.”

I have been seven days at Tangiers, and have not yet seen an Arab
woman’s face, I seem to be in some monstrous masquerade, where all the
women represent ghosts, wrapped in sepulchral sheets or shrouds. They
walk with long, slow steps, a little bent forward, covering their faces
with the end of a sort of linen mantle, under which they have nothing
but a long chemise with wide sleeves, bound round the waist by a cord
like a friar’s frock. Nothing of them is visible but the eyes, the hand
that covers the face, the fingers tinted with henna, and the bare feet,
the toes also tinted, in large yellow slippers. The greater part of them
display only one eye, which is dark, and a small bit of yellowish-white
forehead. Meeting a European in a narrow street, some of them cover the
whole face with a rapid, awkward movement, and shrink close to the wall;
others venture a timid glance of curiosity; and now and then one will
launch a provoking look, and drop her eyes smiling. But in general they
wear a sad, weary, and oppressed aspect. The little girls, who are not
of an age to be veiled, are pretty, with black eyes, full faces, pale
complexions, red lips, and small hands and feet. But at twenty they are
faded, at thirty old, and at fifty decrepit.

I know now who are those fair-haired men, with ill-omened visages, who
pass me sometimes in the streets, and look at me with such threatening
eyes. They are those Rifans, Berbers by race, who have no law beyond
their guns, and recognize no authority. Audacious pirates, sanguinary
bandits, eternal rebels, who inhabit the mountains of the coast of
Tetuan, on the Algerian frontier, whom neither the cannon of European
ships nor the armies of the Sultan have ever been able to dislodge; the
population, in short, of that famous Rif, where no foreigner may dare to
set his foot, unless under the protection of the saints and the sheikhs;
about whom all sorts of terrible legends are rife; and the neighboring
peoples speak vaguely of their country, as of one far distant and
unknown. They are often seen in Tangiers. They are tall and robust men,
dressed in dark mantles, bordered with various colors. Some have their
faces ornamented with yellow arabesques. All are armed with very long
guns, whose red cases they twist about their heads like turbans; and
they go in companies, speaking low, and looking about them from under
their brows, like bravoes in search of a victim. In comparison with
them, the wildest Arab seems a life-long friend.

We were at dinner in the evening, when some gunshots were heard from the
square. Everybody ran to see, and from the distance a strange spectacle
was visible. The street leading to the Soc-de-Barra was lighted up by a
number of torches carried above the heads of a crowd that surrounded a
large box or trunk, borne on the back of a horse. This enigmatical
procession went slowly onward, accompanied by melancholy music, and a
sort of nasal chant, piercing yells, the barking of dogs, and the
discharge of muskets. I speculated for a moment as to whether the box
contained a corpse, or a man condemned to death, or a monster, or some
animal destined for the sacrifice, and then turned away with a sense of
repugnance, when my friends, coming in, gave me the explanation of the
enigma. It was a wedding procession, and the bride was in the box, being
carried to her husband’s house.

A throng of Arabs, men and women, have just gone by, preceded by six old
men carrying large banners of various colors, and all together singing
in high shrill voices a sort of prayer, with woful faces and
supplicating tones. In answer to my question, I am told that they are
entreating Allah to send the grace of rain. I followed them to the
principal mosque, and not being then aware that Christians are
prohibited from entering a mosque, was about to do so, when an old Arab
suddenly flew at me, and saying in breathless accents something
equivalent to, “What would you do, unhappy wretch?” pushed me back
against the wall, with the action of one who removes a child from the
edge of a precipice. I was obliged to content myself with looking at the
outside only of the sacred edifice, not much grieved, since I had seen
the splendid and gigantic mosques of Constantinople, to be excluded from
those of Tangiers, which, with the exception of the minarets, are
without any architectural merit. Whilst I stood there, a woman behind
the fountain in the court made a gesture at me. I might record that she
blew me a kiss, but truth compels me to state that she shook her fist at
me.

I have been up to the Casba, or castle, posted upon a hill that
dominates Tangiers. It is a cluster of small buildings, encircled by old
walls, where the authorities, with some soldiers, and prisoners are
housed. We found no one but two drowsy sentinels seated before the gate,
at the end of a deserted square, and some beggars stretched on the
ground, scorched by the sun, and devoured by flies. From hence the eye
embraces the whole of Tangiers, which extends from the foot of the hill
of the Casba, and runs up the flanks of another hill. The sight is
almost dazzled by so much snowy whiteness, relieved only here and there
by the green of a fig-tree imprisoned between wall and wall. One can see
the terraces of all the houses, the minarets of the mosques, the flags
of the Legations, the battlements of the walls, the solitary beach, the
deserted bay, the mountains of the coast—a vast, silent, and splendid
spectacle, which would relieve the sting of the heaviest homesickness.
Whilst I stood in contemplation, a voice, coming from above, struck upon
my ear, acute and tremulous, and with a strange intonation. It was not
until after some minutes’ search that I discovered upon the minaret of
the mosque of the Casba, a small black spot, the _muezzin_, who was
calling the faithful to prayer, and throwing out to the four winds of
heaven the names of Allah and Mahomet. Then the melancholy silence
reigned once more.

It is a calamity to have to change money in this country. I gave a
French franc to a tobacconist, who was to give me back ten sous in
change. The ferocious Moor opened a box and began to throw out handfuls
of black, shapeless coins, until there was a heap big enough for an
ordinary porter, counted it all quickly over, and waited for me to put
it in my pocket. “Excuse me,” said I, trying to get back my franc, “I am
not strong enough to buy any thing in your shop.” However, we arranged
matters by my taking more cigars, and carrying off a pocketful of that
horrible money. It appears that it is called _flu_, and is made of
copper, worth one _centime_ apiece now, and sinking every day in value.
Morocco is inundated with it, and one need not inquire further when one
knows that the Government pays with this money, but receives nothing but
gold and silver. But every evil has its good side they say, and these
_flu_, bane of commerce as they are, have the inestimable virtue of
preserving the people of Morocco from the evil eye, thanks to the
so-called rings of Solomon, a six-pointed star engraven on one side—an
image of the real ring buried in the tomb of the great king, who, with
it, commanded the good and evil genii.

There is but one public promenade, and that is the beach, which extends
from the city to Cape Malabat, a beach covered with shells and refuse
thrown up by the sea, and having numerous large pieces of water,
difficult to guard against at high tide. Here are the Champs Elysées and
the Cascine of Tangiers. The hour for walking is the evening toward
sunset. At that time there are generally about fifty Europeans, in
groups and couples, scattered at a hundred paces’ distance from each
other, so that from the walls of the city individuals are easily
recognized. I can see from my stand-point an English lady on horseback,
accompanied by a guide; beyond, two Moors from the country; then come
the Spanish Consul and his wife, and after them a saint; then a French
nurse-maid with two children; then a number of Arab women wading through
a pool, and uncovering their knees—the better to cover their faces; and
further on, at intervals, a tall hat, a white hood, a _chignon_, and
some one who must be the secretary of the Portuguese Legation, wearing
the light trowsers that came yesterday from Gibraltar—for in this small
European colony the smallest events are public property. If it were not
disrespectful, I should say that they look like a company of condemned
criminals out for a regulation walk, or hostages held by the pirates of
a savage island, on the lookout for the vessel that is to bring their
ransom.

It is infinitely easier to find your way in London than among this
handful of houses that could all be put in one corner of Hyde Park. All
these lanes, and alleys, and little squares, where one has scarcely room
to pass, are so exactly like each other that nothing short of the
minutest observation can enable you to distinguish one from the other.
At present, I lose myself the very instant that I leave the main street
and the principal square. In one of these silent corridors, in full
daylight, two Arabs could bind and gag me, and cause me to vanish for
ever from the face of the earth, without any one, save themselves, being
the wiser. And yet a Christian can wander alone through this labyrinth,
among these barbarians, with greater security than in our cities. A few
European flags erected over a terrace, like the menacing index finger of
a hidden hand, are sufficient to obtain that which a legion of armed men
cannot obtain among us. What a difference between London and Tangiers!
But each city has its own advantages. There, there are great palaces and
underground railways, here, you can go into a crowd with your overcoat
unbuttoned.

There is not in all Tangiers either cart or carriage; you hear no clang
of bell, nor cry of itinerant vendor, nor sound of busy occupation; you
see no hasty movement of persons or of things; even Europeans, not
knowing what to do with themselves, stay for hours motionless in the
square; every thing reposes and invites to repose. I myself, who have
been here only a few days, begin to feel the influence of this soft and
somnolent existence. Getting as far as the Soc-de-Barra, I am
irresistibly impelled homeward; I read ten pages, and the book falls
from my hand; if once I let my head fall back upon the easy chair, it is
all over with me, and the very thought of care or occupation is
sufficient to fatigue me. This sky, for ever blue, and this snow-white
city form an image of unalterable peace, which, even with its monotony,
becomes, little by little, the supreme end of life to all who inhabit
this country.

[Illustration: Mahomet.]

Among the numerous figures that buzzed about the doors of the Legation,
there was a young Moor who had from the first attracted my eye; one of
the handsomest men whom I saw in Morocco; tall and slender, with dark,
melancholy eyes, and the sweetest of smiles; the face of an enamoured
Sultan, whom Danas, the malign genius of the “Arabian Nights,” might
have placed beside the Princess Badoura, instead of Prince Camaralzaman,
sure that she would have made no objection to the change. He was called
Mahomet, was eighteen years of age, and the son of a well-to-do Moor of
Tangiers, a big and honest Mussulman protected by the Italian Legation,
who, having been for some time menaced with death by the hand of an
enemy, came every day with a frightened visage to claim the protection
of the Minister. This Mahomet spoke a little Spanish, after the Moorish
fashion, with all the verbs in the infinitive, and had thereby made
acquaintance with my companions. He had been married only a few days.
His father had given him a child of fifteen for a wife, who was as
beautiful as he. But matrimony had not changed his habits; he remained,
as we say, a Moor _of the future_—that is to say, he drank wine under
the rose, smoked cigars, was tired of Tangiers, frequented the society
of Europeans, and looked forward to a voyage to Spain. In these days,
however, what drew him toward us was the desire of obtaining, through
our intervention, permission to join the caravan, to go and see Fez, the
great metropolis, his Rome, the dream of his childhood; and with this
end he expended salutations, smiles, and grasps of the hand, with a
prodigality and grace that would have seduced the entire imperial harem.
Like most young Moors of his condition, he killed time in lounging from
street to street, and from corner to corner, talking about the
Minister’s new horses, or the departure of a friend for Gibraltar, or
the arrival of a ship, or any topic that came uppermost; or else he
stood like a statue, silent and motionless, in a corner of the
market-place, with his thoughts no one knows where. With this handsome
idler are bound up my recollections of the first Moorish house in which
I put my foot, and the first Arab dinner at which I risked my palate.
His father one day invited me to dinner, thus fulfilling an old wish of
mine. Late one evening, guided by an interpreter, and accompanied by
four servants of the Legation, I found myself at an arabesque door,
which opened as if by enchantment at our approach; and crossing a white
and empty chamber, we entered the court of the house. The first
impression produced was that of a great confusion of people, a strange
light and a marvellous pomp of color. We were received by the master of
the house and his sons and relations, all crowned with large white
turbans; behind them were some hooded servants; beyond, in the dark
corners, and peeping through door-ways, the curious faces of women and
children; and despite the number of persons, a profound silence. I
thought myself in a room, until raising my eyes, I saw the stars, and
found that we were in a central court, upon either side of which opened
two long and lofty chambers without windows, each having a great arched
door-way closed only by a curtain. The external walls were white as
snow, the arches of the doors dentellated, the pavements in mosaic; here
and there a window, and a niche for slippers. The house had been
decorated for our coming; carpets covered the pavement; great
chandeliers stood on either side of the doors, with red, yellow and
green candles; on the tables were flowers and mirrors. The effect was
very strange. There was something of the air of church decorations, and
something of the ballroom and the theatre; artificial, but very pretty
and graceful, and the distribution of light and arrangement of colors
were very effective.

[Illustration: Marriage Procession in Tangiers.]

Some moments were spent in salutations and vigorous grasps of the hand,
and we were then invited to visit the bridal chamber. It was a long,
narrow, and lofty room, opening on the court. At the end, on either
side, stood the two beds, decorated with a rich, dark red stuff, with
coverlets of lace; thick carpets covered the pavement, and hangings of
red and yellow concealed the walls. Between the two beds was suspended
the wife’s wardrobe: bodices, petticoats, drawers, gowns of unknown
form, in all the colors of the rainbow, in wool, silk, and velvet,
bordered and starred with gold and silver; the trousseau of a royal
doll; a sight to turn the head of a ballet-dancer, and make a columbine
die with envy. From thence we passed into the dining-room. Here also
were carpets and hangings, flowers, tall chandeliers standing on the
floor, cushions and pillows of all colors spread against the walls, and
two gorgeous beds, for this was the nuptial chamber of the parents. The
table stood all prepared near one of the beds, contrary to the Arab
custom, which is to put the dishes on the floor and eat with the
fingers; and upon it glittered an array of bottles, charged, to remind
us, in the midst of a Moorish banquet, that Christians existed. Before
taking our places at table, we seated ourselves cross-legged on the
carpets, around the master’s secretary, who prepared tea before us, and
made us take, according to custom, three cups a-piece, excessively
sweetened, and flavored with mint; and between each cup we caressed the
shaven head and braided tail of a pretty four-year-old boy, Mahomet’s
youngest brother, who furtively counted the fingers on our hands, in
order to make sure that we had the same number as a Mussulman, and no
more. After tea we took our seats at table, and the master, being
entreated, seated himself also; and then the Arab dishes, objects of our
intense curiosity, began to circulate. I tasted the first with simple
faith. Great heaven! My first impulse was to attack the cook. All the
contractions that can be produced upon the face of a man who is suddenly
assailed by an acute colic, or who hears the news of his banker’s
failure, were, I think, visible on mine. I understood in one moment how
it was that a people who ate in that way should believe in another God,
and take other views of human life than ours. I cannot express what I
felt otherwise than by likening myself to some unhappy wretch who is
forced to satisfy his appetite upon the pomatum pots of his barber.
There were flavors of soaps, pomades, wax, dyes, cosmetics—every thing
that is least proper to be put in a human mouth. At each dish we
exchanged glances of wonder and dismay. No doubt the original material
was good enough—chickens, mutton, game, fish; large dishes of a very
fine appearance, but all swimming in most abominable sauces, and so
flavored and perfumed that it would have seemed more natural to attack
them with a comb rather than with a fork. However, we were in duty bound
to swallow something, and the only eatable thing seemed to be mutton on
a spit. Not even the famous _cùscùssù_, the national Moorish dish, which
bore a perfidious resemblance to our Milanese _risotto_, could we get
down without a pang. There was one among us who managed to taste of all;
a consolatory fact which shows that there are still great men in Italy.
At every mouthful our host humbly interrogated us by a look; and we,
opening our eyes very wide, answered in chorus, “Excellent! exquisite!”
and hastened to swallow a glass of wine to revive our drooping courage.
At a certain moment there burst out in the court-yard a gust of strange
music that made us all spring to our feet. There were three musicians
come, according to Moorish custom, to enliven the banquet: three
large-eyed Arabs, dressed in white and red; one with a theorbo, another
with a mandolin, and a third with a small drum. All three were seated on
the ground in the court-yard, near a niche where their slippers were
deposited. Little by little, our libations, the odor of the flowers, and
that of aloes burning in carved perfume-burners of Fez, and that strange
Arab music, which, by dint of repetition, takes possession of the fancy
with its mysterious lament, all overcame us with a sort of taciturn and
fantastic dreaminess, under the influence of which we felt our heads
crowned with turbans, and visions of sultanas floated before our eyes.

The dinner over, all rose and spread themselves about the room, the
court, or the vestibule, looking into every corner with childlike
curiosity. At every dark angle stood an Arab wrapped in his white mantle
like a statue. The door of the bridal chamber had been closed by a
curtain, and through the interstices a great movement of veiled heads
could be seen. Lights appeared and disappeared at the upper windows, and
low voices and the rustle of garments were heard on all sides. About and
above us fermented an invisible life, bearing witness that though within
the walls we were without the household; that beauty, love, the family
soul, had taken refuge in the penetralia; that we were the spectacle
while the house remained a mystery. At a certain moment the Minister’s
housekeeper came out of a small door, where she had been visiting the
bride, and, passing by us, murmured, “Ah, if you could see her! What a
rosebud! What a creature of paradise!” And the sad lamenting music went
on, and the perfumed aloe smoke arose, and our fancies grew more and
more active, more so than ever, when we issued forth from that air
filled with light and perfume, and plunged into a dark and solitary
alley, lighted only by one lantern, and surrounded by profoundest
silence.

One evening we received the not unexpected intelligence that the next
day the _Aissawa_ would enter the city. The _Aissawa_ are one of the
principal religious confraternities of Morocco, founded, like the
others, under the inspiration of God, by a saint called
Sidi-Mohammed-ben-Aissa, born at Mekïnez two centuries ago. His life is
a long and confused legend of miracles and fabulous events, variously
related. The _Aissawa_ propose to themselves to obtain the special
protection of heaven, praying continually, exercising certain practices
peculiar to themselves, and keeping alive in their hearts a certain
religious fever, a divine fury, which breaks out in extravagant and
ferocious manifestations. They have a great mosque at Fez, which is the
central house of the order, and from thence they spread themselves every
year over the provinces of the empire, gathering together as they go
those members of the brotherhood who are in the towns and villages.
Their rites, similar to those of the howling and whirling Dervishes of
the East, consist in a species of frantic dances, interspersed with
leaps, yells, and contortions, in the practice of which they grow ever
more furious and ferocious, until, losing the light of reason, they
crush wood and iron with their teeth, burn their flesh with glowing
coals, wound themselves with knives, swallow mud and stones, brain
animals and devour them alive and dripping with blood, and finally fall
to the ground insensible. The _Aissawa_ whom I saw at Tangiers did not
go to quite such extremities, and probably they seldom do, but they did
quite enough to leave an indelible impression on my memory.

The Belgian Minister invited us to see the spectacle from the terrace of
his house, which looked over the principal street of Tangiers, where the
_Aissawa_ generally passed on their way to their mosque. They were to
pass at ten o’clock in the morning, coming in at the Soc-de-Barra. At
nine the street was already full of people, and the tops of the houses
crowded with Arab and Jewish women in all the colors of the rainbow,
giving to the white terraces the look of great baskets of flowers. At
the given hour all eyes were turned toward the gate at the end of the
street, and in a few minutes the leaders of the procession appeared. The
street was so thronged with people that for some time nothing could be
seen but a waving mass of hooded heads, amid which shone out a few
shaven skulls. Above them floated here and there a banner; and now and
then a cry as of many voices broke forth. The crowd moved forward
slowly. Little by little a certain order and regularity in the movement
of all these heads became visible. The first formed a circle; others
beyond a double file; others again beyond another circle; then the first
in their turn broke into a double line, the second formed in a circle,
and so on. But I am not very sure of what I say, because in the eager
curiosity which possessed me to observe single figures it is possible
that the precise laws of the general movement escaped me. My first
impression as they arrived below our terrace was one of pity and horror
combined. There were two lines of men, facing each other, wrapped in
mantles and long white shirts, holding each other by the hands, arms, or
shoulders, and, with a rocking swaying motion, stepping in cadence,
throwing their heads backward and forward, and keeping up a low eager
murmur, broken by groans, and sighs, and sobs of rage and terror. Only
“The Possessed,” by Rubens, “The Dead Alive,” by Goya, and “The Dead Man
Magnetized” of Edgar Poe, could give an idea of those figures. There
were faces livid and convulsed, with eyes starting from the sockets, and
foaming mouths; faces of the fever-stricken and the epileptic; some
illuminated by an unearthly smile, some showing only the whites of their
eyes, others contracted as by atrocious spasms, or pallid and rigid,
like corpses. From time to time, making a strange gesture with their
outstretched arms, they all burst out together in a shrill and painful
cry, as of men in mortal agony; then the dance forward began again, with
its accompaniment of groans and sobs, while hoods and mantles, wide
sleeves and long disordered hair, streamed on the wind, and whirled
about them with snake-like undulations. Some rushed from one side to the
other, staggering like drunken men, or beating themselves against walls
and doors; others, as if rapt in ecstasy, moved along, stiff and rigid,
with head thrown back, eyes half closed, and arms swinging; and some,
quite exhausted, unable any longer to yell, or to keep on their feet,
were held up under the arms by their companions, and dragged along with
the crowd. The dance became every moment more frantic, and the noise
more deafening, while a nauseous smell came up from all those bodies
like the odor of a menagerie of wild beasts. Here and there a convulsed
visage turned upward toward our terrace, and a pair of staring eyes were
fixed on mine, constraining me to turn away my face. The spectacle
affected me in different ways. Now it seemed a great masquerade, and
tempted me to laugh; then it was a procession of madmen, of creatures in
the delirium of fever, of drunken wretches, or those condemned to death
and striving to deaden their own terror, and my heart swelled with
compassion; and again, the savage grandeur of the picture pleased my
artistic sense. But gradually my mind accepted the inner meaning of the
rite, and I comprehended what all of us have more or less
experienced—the spasms of the human soul under the dread pressure of the
Infinite; and unconsciously my thoughts explained the mystery: Yes; I
feel Thee, mysterious and tremendous Power; I struggle in the grasp of
the invisible hand; the sense of Thee oppresses me, I cannot contain it;
my heart is dismayed, my reason is lost, my garment of clay is rent. And
still they went by, a pallid and dishevelled mass, raising voices of
pain and supplication, and seeming in their last agony. One old man, an
image of distracted Lear, broke from the ranks, and tried to dash his
head against a wall, his companions holding him back. A youth fell head
foremost to the ground, and remained there insensible. Another, with
streaming hair and face hidden in his hands, went by with long steps,
his body bent almost to the earth, like one accursed of God. Bedouins
were among them, Berbers, blacks, mummies, giants, satyrs, cannibal
faces, faces of saints, of birds of prey, of Indian idols, furies,
fauns, devils. There were between three and four hundred, and in half an
hour they had all gone by. The last were two women (for they also belong
to the order), looking as if they had been buried alive, and had escaped
from their tomb,—two animated skeletons dressed in white, with hair
streaming over their faces, straining eyes, and mouths white with foam,
exhausted, but still moving along with the unconscious action of
machines; and between them marched a gigantic old man, like an aged
sorcerer. Dressed in a long white shirt, and stretching out two bony
arms, he placed his hands now on one head, now on the other, with a
gesture of protection, and helped them to rise when they fell. Behind
these three spectres came a throng of armed Arabs, women, beggars, and
children; and all the mass of barbarism and horrid human misery broke
into the square, and was dispersed in a few minutes about the city.

Another fine spectacle that we had at Tangiers was that of the festival
of the birth of Mahomet; and it made the greater impression upon me that
I saw it unexpectedly. Returning from a walk on the sea-shore, I heard
some shots in the direction of the Soc-de-Barra. I turned my steps in
that direction, and at first found it difficult to recognize the place.
The Soc-de-Barra was transfigured. From the walls of the city up to the
summit of the hill swarmed a crowd of white-robed Arabs, all in the
highest state of animation. There might have been about three thousand
persons, but so scattered and grouped that they appeared innumerable. It
was a most singular optical illusion. On all the heights around, as upon
so many balconies, were groups seated in Oriental fashion, motionless,
and turned toward the lower part of the Soc, where the crowd—divided
into two portions—left a large space free for the evolutions of a
company of cavalry, who, ranged in a line, galloped about, discharging
their long guns in the air. On the other side an immense circle of Arab
men and women were looking on at the games of ball-players, fencers,
serpent-charmers, dancers, singers and musicians, and soldiers. Upon the
top of the hill, under a conical tent open in front, could be discerned
the enormous white turban of the Vice-Governor of Tangiers, who presided
at the festival, seated on the ground in the midst of a circle of Moors.
From above could be seen in the crowd the soldiers of the Legations,
dressed in their showy red caftans, a few tall hats, and European
parasols, and one or two artists, sketch-book in hand, while Tangiers
and the sea formed a background to the whole. The discharge of musketry,
the yells of the cavalry, the tinkle of the water-sellers’ bells, the
joyful cries of the women, the noise of pipes, horns, and drums, made up
a fitting accompaniment to the strange and savage spectacle, bathed in
the burning noon-day light.

My curiosity impelled me to look everywhere at once, but a sudden scream
of admiration from a group of women made me turn to the horsemen. There
were twelve of them, all of tall stature, with pointed red caps, white
mantles, and blue, orange, and red caftans, and among them was a youth,
dressed with feminine elegance, the son of the Governor of Rif. They
drew up in a line against the wall of the city, with faces toward the
open country. The son of the Governor, in the middle, raised his hand,
and all started in full career. At first there was a slight hesitation
and confusion, but in a moment the twelve horsemen formed but one solid
serried line, and skimmed over the ground like a twelve-headed and
many-colored monster devouring the way.

Nailed to their saddles, with heads erect, and white mantles streaming
in the wind of their career, they lifted their guns above their heads,
and, pressing them against their shoulders, discharged them all
together, with a yell of triumph, and then vanished in a cloud of smoke
and dust. A few moments after they came back slowly and in disorder—the
horses covered with foam and blood, their riders bearing themselves
proudly, and then they began again. At every new discharge, the Arab
women, like ladies at a tourney, saluted them with a peculiar cry, that
is a rapid repetition of the monosyllable _Jù_ (or in English _yù_) like
a sort of joyous trill.

We went to look at the ball-players. About fifteen Arab boys and
men—some of the latter with white beards—some with sabres, some with
guns slung across their shoulders, were tossing a leathern ball about as
big as an orange. One would take it, let it fall, and send it into the
air with a blow of his foot; all the others rushed to catch it before it
fell. The one who caught it repeated the action of the first; and so the
group of players, always following the ball, were in constant movement
from one point to another. The curious part of it was that there was not
a word, nor a cry, nor a smile among them. Old men and boys, all were
equally serious and intent upon the game, as upon some necessary labor,
and only their panting breath and the sound of their feet could be
heard.

At a few paces farther on, within another circle of spectators, some
negroes were dancing to the sound of a pipe and a small conical drum,
beaten with a stick in the shape of a half moon. There were eight of
them—big, black, and shining like ebony, with nothing on them but a long
white shirt, bound round the waist by a thick green cord. Seven of them
held each other’s hand in a ring, while the eighth was in the middle,
and all danced together, or rather accompanied the music, without moving
from their places, but with a certain indescribable movement of the
hips, and that satyr-like grin, that expression of stupid beatitude and
bestial voluptuousness, which is peculiar to the black race. Whilst I
stood looking on at this scene, two boys, about ten years of age, among
the spectators, gave me a taste of the ferocity of Arab blood. They
suddenly—and for some unknown reason—fell upon each other, and clinging
together like a couple of young tigers, bit, clawed, and scratched, with
a fury that was horrible to see. Two strong men had as much as they
could do to separate them, and they were borne off all bloody and torn,
and struggling to attack each other again.

The fencers made me laugh. They were four, fencing in couples, with
sticks. The extravagance and awkwardness of this performance are not to
be described, In other cities in Morocco I afterward saw the same thing,
so it is evidently the native _school_ of fencing. The leaps,
contortions, attitudes, and waving of arms, were beyond words, and all
done with a self-satisfied air that was enough to make one fall upon
them with their own sticks and send them flying. The Arab spectators,
however, stood about with open mouths, and frequently glanced at me, as
if to enjoy my wonder and admiration, while I, willing to content them,
affected to be much delighted. Then some of them drew aside that I might
see them better, and I presently found myself surrounded and pressed on
all sides by the Arabs, and was able to satisfy in full my desire to
study the race in all its more intimate peculiarities. A soldier of the
Italian Legation, seeing me in these straits, and thinking me an
involuntary prisoner, came to my rescue, rather against my will, with
fist and elbows.

The circle of the story-teller was the most interesting, though the
smallest of all. I arrived just at the moment when he had finished the
usual inaugural prayer, and was beginning his narrative. He was a man of
about fifty, almost black, with a jet-black beard and gleaming eyes,
wearing, like all of his profession in Morocco, an ample white robe,
bound round the waist with a camel’s-hair girdle, giving him the
majestic air of an antique priest. He spoke in a high voice, and slowly,
standing erect within the circle of listeners, while two musicians with
drum and hautboy kept up a low accompaniment. I could not understand a
word, but his face, voice, and gestures, were so expressive that I
managed to gather something of the meaning of his story. He seemed to be
relating a tale of a journey. Now he imitated the action of a tired
horse, and pointed to a distant and immense horizon; then he seemed to
seek about for a drop of water, and his arms and head dropped as if in
complete exhaustion. Suddenly he discovers something at a distance,
appears uncertain, believes, and doubts the evidence of his senses—again
believes, is re-animated, hastens his flagging steps, arrives, gives
thanks to Heaven, and throws himself on the earth with a long breath of
satisfaction, smiling with pleasure in the shade of a delightful oasis.
The audience meanwhile stood without breath or motion, suspended on the
lips of the orator, and reflecting in their faces his every word and
gesture. The ingenuousness and freshness of feeling that are hidden
under their hard and savage exterior became plainly visible. As the
story-teller became more fervent in his narrative, and raised his voice,
the two musicians blew and beat with increasing fury, and the listeners
drew closer together in the intensity of their interest, until, finally,
the whole culminated in one grand burst; the musicians threw their
instruments into the air, and the crowd dispersed, and gave place to
another circle.

There were three performers who had drawn a large audience about them.
One played on a sort of bagpipes, another on a tambourine with bells,
and the third on an extraordinary instrument compounded of a clarionet
and two horns, which gave forth most discordant sounds. All three men
were bandy-legged, tall, and with backs bent into a curve. Wrapped in a
few rags, they stood side by side close together as if they had been
bound one to the other, and, playing an air which they had probably
played for fifty years or more, they marched around the square. Their
movement was peculiar—something between walking and dancing,—and their
gestures so extraordinary, made as they were with mechanical regularity
and all together, that I imagine them to have expressed some idea
founded in some characteristic peculiarity of the Arab people. Those
three, streaming with heat from every pore, played and marched about for
more than an hour in the fashion I have described, with unalterable
gravity, while a hundred or so of lookers-on stood, with the sun in
their eyes, giving no outward sign either of pleasure or of weariness.

The noisiest circle was that of the soldiers. There were twelve, old and
young, some with white caftans, some in shirts only, one with a fez,
another in a hood, and all armed with flint muskets as long as lances,
into which they put the powder loose, like all their fellows in Morocco,
where the cartridge is not in use. An old man directed the manœuvres.
They ranged themselves in two rows of six each, facing one another. At a
signal, all changed places with each other, running and putting one knee
to the ground. Then one of them struck up, in a shrill falsetto voice, a
sort of chant, full of trills and warblings, which lasted a few minutes,
and was listened to in perfect silence. Then suddenly they all bounded
to their feet in a circle, and with an immense leap and a shout of joy,
fired off their guns muzzle downward. The rapidity, the fury, and
something madly festive and diabolically cheerful in the performance,
are not to be described. Among the spectators near me was a little Arab
girl about ten years old, not yet veiled, one of the prettiest little
faces I saw in Tangiers, of a delicate pale bronze in color, who, with
her large blue eyes full of wonder, gazed at a spectacle much more
marvellous to her than that of the soldiers’ dance: she saw me take off
my gloves, which Arab boys believe to be a sort of second skin that
Christians have on their hands, and can remove at pleasure without
inconvenience or pain.

I hesitated about going to see the serpent-charmers, but curiosity
overcame repugnance. These so-called magicians belong to the
confraternity of the Aissawa, and pretend to have received from their
patron, Ben Aissa, the privilege of enduring uninjured the bite of the
most venomous beasts. Many travellers, in fact, most worthy of belief,
assert that they have seen these men bitten severely, until the blood
flowed, by serpents that a moment before had shown the fatal effect of
their venom upon some animal. The Aissawa whom I saw gave a horrible but
bloodless spectacle. He was a little fellow, muscular, with a cadaverous
and stern countenance, the air of a Merovingian king, and dressed in a
sort of blue shirt that came down to his heels. When I drew near he was
engaged in jumping grotesquely about a goat-skin spread on the ground,
upon which was a sack containing the serpents; and as he jumped he sang,
to the accompaniment of a flute, a melancholy song that was perhaps an
invocation to his saint. The song finished, he chattered and
gesticulated for some time, trying to get some money thrown to him, and
then kneeling down before the goat-skin, he thrust his arm into the sack
and drew out a long greenish snake, extremely lively, and carried it
round, handling it very carefully, for the spectators to see. This done,
he began to twist it about in all directions, and generally use it as if
it had been a rope. He seized it by the neck, he suspended it by the
tail, he bound it round his head like a fillet, he hid it in his bosom,
he made it pass through the holes in the edge of a tambourine, he threw
it on the ground and set his foot upon, it, he stuck it under his arm.
The horrible beast erected its head, darted out its tongue, twisted
itself about with those flexible, odious, abject movements that seem the
expression of perfidious baseness; and all the rage that burned in its
body seemed to shoot in sparkles from its small eyes; but I could not
see that it ever once attempted to bite the hand that held it. After
this, the Aissawa seized the serpent by the neck, and fixed a small bit
of iron in its mouth, so as to keep it open and display the fangs to the
spectators; and then taking its tail between his teeth, he proceeded to
bite it, while the beast went through violent contortions; and I left
the place in horror and disgust.

At that moment our _chargé d’affaires_ appeared in the Soc. The
Vice-Governor beheld him from the hill, ran to meet him, and conducted
him under the tent, where all the members of the future caravan, myself
included, speedily assembled. Then came soldiers and musicians, and an
immense semi-circle of Arabs formed itself in front of the tent, the men
in front, the gentle sex in groups behind; and then began a wild concert
of songs, dances, yells, and gunshots, which lasted for more than an
hour, in the midst of dense clouds of smoke, the sounds of barbaric
music, the enthusiastic shouts of the women and children, the paternal
satisfaction of the Vice-Governor, and our great amusement. Before it
was over, the _chargé d’affaires_ put some coins into the hand of an
Arab soldier, to be given to the director of the spectacle, and the
soldier presently returning, delivered the following odd form of thanks,
translated into Spanish:—“The Italian Ambassador has done a good action;
may Allah bless every hair of his beard!”

The strange festival lasted until sunset. Three water-sellers were
sufficient to satisfy the needs of all that crowd, exposed all day to
the rays of the sun of Africa. One _marengo_ was perhaps the utmost of
the sum that circulated in that concourse of people. Their only
pleasures were to see and hear. There was no love-making, no
drunkenness, no knife-play,—nothing in common with the holidays of
civilization.

[Illustration: Moorish Husbandman.]

The country about Tangiers is not less curious to see than the city.
Around the walls extends a girdle of gardens, belonging for the most
part to the ministers and consuls, and rather neglected, but rich in
luxuriant vegetation. There may be seen long files of aloes, like
gigantic lances bound up in sheaves of enormous curved dagger blades,
for such is the shape of their leaves. The points, with the fibre
attached, are used by the Arabs to sew up wounds. There is the Indian
fig—in the Moorish tongue, _kermus del Inde_—very tall, with leaves an
inch in thickness, and growing so thickly as to obstruct the paths; the
common fig, under whose shadow ten tents could be erected; oaks,
acacias, oleanders, and shrubs of every sort, that interlace their
branches with those of the highest trees, and with the ivy, the vine,
the cane, and the thorn, form a tangled mass of verdure under which
ditch and footpath are entirely concealed. In some places one has to
grope one’s way, and pass from one enclosure to another through thick,
thorny hedges, over prostrate fences, in the midst of grass and flowers
as high as one’s waist, and no living creature to be seen. A small white
house, and a well, with a wheel by means of which the water is sent
flowing through little trenches dug for the purpose, are the only
objects which indicate the presence of poverty and labor. Sometimes, if
the captain of the staff, who was a clever guide, had not been with me,
I should have lost my way in the midst of that wild vegetation; and we
often had to call out, as in a labyrinth, to prevent our losing each
other. It was a pleasure to me to swim amid the greenery, opening the
way with hands and feet, with the joyous excitement of a savage returned
from slavery to his native forest.

Beyond this girdle of gardens there are no trees, or houses, or hedges,
or any indication of boundaries; there are only hills, green valleys,
and undulating plains, with an occasional herd of cattle pasturing and
without any visible herdsman, or a horse turned loose. Once only did I
see any tilling of the ground. An Arab was driving an ass and a goat,
harnessed to a very small plough, of a strange shape, such as might have
been in use four thousand years ago, and which turned up a scarcely
visible furrow in the stony, weedy earth. I have been assured that it is
not unusual to see a donkey and a woman ploughing in company, and this
will give an idea of the state of agriculture in Morocco. The only
attempt at manuring is to burn the straw left after the grain is
gathered; and the only care taken not to exhaust the earth, is to leave
it every third year to grow grass for pasture, after having grown grain,
and buckwheat or maize, in the two preceding years. In spite of this,
however, the ground becomes impoverished after a few years, and then the
husbandman leaves it, and seeks another field, returning, after a time,
to the old one; and so but a very small part of the arable land is under
cultivation at one time, whereas if it were even badly cultivated, it
would return a hundred-fold the seed thrown in it.

The prettiest excursion we made was that to Cape Spartel, the
_Ampelusium_ of the ancients, which forms the north-western extremity of
the African continent, a mountain of gray stone, about three hundred
mètres in height, rising abruptly from the sea, and opening underneath
into vast caverns, the larger of which were consecrated to Hercules:
_Specus Herculi sacer_. Upon the summit of this mountain stands the
famous lighthouse erected a few years ago, and maintained by
contributions from most of the European States. We climbed to the top of
the tower, where the great lantern sends its beneficent rays to a
distance of five-and-twenty miles. From thence the eye embraces two seas
and two continents. There can be seen the last waters of the
Mediterranean and the horizon of the Atlantic—the sea of darkness,
_Bar-el-Dolma_, as the Arabs call it—beating at the foot of the rock;
the Spanish coast, from Cape Trafalgar to Cape Algesiras; the African
coast, from the Mediterranean to the mountains of Ceuta, the _septem
fratres_ of the Romans; and far in the distance, faintly outlined, the
enormous rock of Gibraltar—eternal sentinel of that port of the old
continent, mysterious terminus of the antique world, become the “_Favola
vila ai naviganti industri_.”

In this expedition we encountered but few persons, for the most part
Arabs on foot, who passed almost without looking at us, and sometimes a
Moor on horseback, some personage important either for his wealth or his
office, accompanied by a troop of armed followers, who looked
contemptuously at us as they passed. The women muffled their faces even
more carefully than in the city, some muttering, and others turning
their backs abruptly upon us. Here and there an Arab would stop before
us, look fixedly at us, murmur a few words that sounded as if he were
asking a favor, and then go on his way without looking back. At first we
did not understand, but it was explained that they were asking us to
pray to God for some favor for them. It seems that there is a
superstition much in vogue among the Arabs, that the prayers of a
Mussulman being very grateful to God, He generally delays granting what
they ask for, in order that He may prolong the pleasure of hearing the
prayer; whilst the prayer of an infidel dog, like a Hebrew or a
Christian, is so hateful to Him, that He grants it at once, _ipso
facto_, in order to be rid of it. The only friendly faces we saw were
those of some Jewish boys who were scampering about on donkeys, and who
threw us a cheerful “_Buenos dias, Caballeros!_” as they galloped by.

In spite, however, of the new and varied character of our life at
Tangiers, we were all impatience to leave it, in order to get back in
the month of June, before the great heats began. The _chargé d’affaires_
had sent a messenger to Fez to announce that the embassy was ready; but
ten days at least must pass before he could return. Private notices
informed us that the escort was on its way, others that it had not yet
started. Uncertain and contradictory rumors prevailed, as if the
longed-for Fez were distant two thousand miles from the coast, instead
of about one hundred and forty miles; and this, from one point of view,
was rather agreeable, because our fifteen days’ journey thus assumed in
our fancy the proportions of a long and adventurous voyage, and Fez
seemed mysteriously attractive. The strange things, too, which were
related by those who had been there with former embassies, about the
city, its people, and the dangers of the expedition, all combined to
excite our expectations. They told how they had been surrounded by
thousands of horsemen, who saluted them with a tempest of shots, so near
as almost to scorch their skins and blind them, and that they could hear
the balls whistle by their ears; that in all probability some of us
Italians would be shot in the head by mistake by some ball directed
against the white cross in our flag, which would no doubt seem an insult
to Mahomet in Arab eyes. They talked of scorpions, serpents, tarantulas,
of clouds of grasshoppers and locusts, of spiders and toads of gigantic
size that were found on the road and under the tents. They described in
dismal colors the entrance of the embassy into Fez, in the midst of a
hostile crowd, through tortuous, dark streets, encumbered with ruins and
the carcases of animals; they prophesied a mountain of trouble for us
during our stay at Fez—mortal languors, furious dysenteries and
rheumatisms, musquitoes of monstrous size and ferocity compared with
which those of our country were agreeable companions, and, finally,
homesickness; apropos of which, they told us of a young Belgian painter
who had gone to Fez with the embassy from Brussels, and who, after a
week’s stay, was seized with such a desperate melancholy, that the
ambassador was obliged to send him back to Tangiers by forced marches,
that he might not see him die under his eyes; and it was true. But all
this only increased our impatience to be off, and our delight can easily
be imagined when Signor Soloman Affalo, the second dragoman of the
Legation, one day presented himself at the door of the dining-room, and
announced, in a sonorous voice—“The escort from Fez has arrived.”

With it came horses, mules, camels, grooms, tents, the route laid down
for us by the Sultan, and his permission to start at once. Some days,
however, had to be allowed for men and beasts to take a little rest.

The animals were sheltered at the Casba. The next day we went to see
them. There were forty-five horses, including those of the escort, about
twenty mules for the saddle, and more than fifty for baggage, to which
were afterward added others hired at Tangiers; the horses small and
light, like all Morocco horses, and the mules robust; the saddles and
packs covered with scarlet cloth; the stirrups formed of a large plate
of iron bent upward at the two sides, so as to support and enclose the
whole foot, and serving also as spurs, as well as defences. The poor
beasts were almost all lying down, exhausted more from hunger than from
fatigue, a large part of their food having, according to custom, found
its way, in the shape of coin, into the pockets of the drivers. Some of
the soldiers of the escort were there, who came about us, and made us
understand by signs and words that the journey had been a very fatiguing
one, with much suffering from heat and thirst, but that, thanks to
Allah, they had arrived safe and sound. They were blacks and mulattoes,
wrapped in their white capotes, tall, powerful men, with bold features,
sharp white teeth, and flashing eyes, that made us consider whether it
would not be well to have a second escort placed between them and
ourselves in case of necessity. Whilst my companions conversed in
gestures, I sought among the mules one with a mild expression of
generosity and gentleness in its eyes, and found it in a white mule with
a crupper adorned with arabesques. To this creature I decided to confide
my life and fortunes, and from that moment until our return the hope of
Italian literature in Morocco was bound to her saddle.

From the Casba we proceeded to the Soc-de-Barra, where the principal
tents had been placed. It was a great pleasure to us to see these canvas
houses where we were to sleep for thirty nights in the midst of unknown
solitudes, and see and hear so many strange things: one of us preparing
his geographical maps, another his official report, another his book, a
fourth his picture; forming altogether a small Italy in pilgrimage
across the empire of the Schariffs. The tents were of a cylindrical
conical form, some large enough to contain about twenty persons, all
very high, and made of double canvas bordered with blue, and ornamented
on the top with a large metal ball. Most of them belonged to the Sultan;
and who knows how often the beauties of the seraglio had slept under
them on their journeys from Fez to Meckinez and Morocco! In one corner
of the encampment was a group of foot-soldiers of the escort, and in
front of them a personage unknown, who was awaiting the arrival of the
Minister. He was a man of about thirty-five, of a dignified appearance,
a mulatto, and corpulent, with a great white turban, a blue capote, red
drawers, and a sabre in a leathern sheath with a hilt of
rhinoceros-horn. The Minister, arriving in a few moments, presented this
gentleman to us as the commandant of the escort, a general of the
imperial army, by name Hamed Ben Kasen Buhamei, who was to accompany us
to and from Fez back to Tangiers, and whose head answered to the Sultan
for the safety of ours. He shook hands with us with much grace and ease
of manner, and his visage and air reassured me completely with regard to
the eyes and teeth of the soldiers whom I had seen at the Casba. He was
not handsome, but his countenance expressed mildness and intelligence.
He must know how to read, write, and cipher—be, in fact, one of the most
cultured generals in the army—since he had been chosen by the Minister
of War for this delicate mission. The distribution of tents was now made
in his presence. One was assigned to painting; among the largest, after
that of the ambassador, was the one taken possession of by the commander
of the frigate, the captain of the staff, the vice-consul, and myself,
which afterward became the noisiest tent in the encampment. Another very
large one was set aside as a dining-room; and then came those of the
doctor, the interpreters, cooks, servants, and soldiers of the Legation.
The commander of the escort and his soldiers had their tents apart.
Other tents were to be added on the day of departure. In short, I
foresaw that we should have a beautiful encampment, and already felt
within me the beginnings of descriptive frenzy.

On the following day the _chargé d’affaires_ went with the commander of
the frigate and the captain to pay a visit to the representative of the
imperial Government, Sidi-Bargas, who exercises what may be called the
office of Minister of Foreign Affairs in Tangiers. I begged permission
to accompany them, being very curious to see a Minister of Foreign
Affairs who, if his salary has not been increased within the last twenty
years (which is not probable), receives from his Government the sum of
seventy-five francs, or fifteen dollars, a month, which includes the
fund for the expenses of representation; a magnificent stipend,
nevertheless, compared with that of the governors, who receive only
fifty francs. And it is not to be said that their charge is a sinecure,
and may be entrusted to the first comer. The famous Sultan
Abd-er-Rahman, for instance, who reigned from 1822 to 1859, could find
no man so well adapted for it as one Sidi-Mohammed el Khatïb, merchant
in coffee and sugar, who continued while he was Minister to traffic
regularly between Tangiers and Gibraltar. The instructions which this
Minister received from his Government, although very simple, are such as
to embarrass the most subtle of European diplomatists. A French consul
has set them down for us with much precision—viz., to respond to all
demands of the consuls with promises; to defer to the very latest moment
the fulfilment of these promises; to gain time; to raise difficulties of
every kind against complaint; to act in such a way that the complainants
will get tired, and desist; to yield, if threatened, as little as
possible; if cannon are introduced, to yield, but not until the latest
moment. But it must be acknowledged that after the war with Spain, and
especially under the reign of Muley-el-Hassan, things have very much
changed.

We went up to the Casba where the Minister lives; a line of soldiers
kept guard before the door. We crossed a garden and entered a spacious
hall, where the Minister and the Governor of Tangiers came to meet us.
At the bottom of the hall was a recess or alcove, with a sofa and some
chairs; in one corner, a modest bed; under the bed, a coffee-service;
the walls white and bare; the floor covered with matting. We seated
ourselves in the alcove.

The two personages before us formed an admirable contrast. One,
Sidi-Bargas, the Minister, was a handsome old man, with a white beard
and a clear complexion, eyes of extraordinary vivacity, and a large
smiling mouth, displaying two rows of ivory-white teeth; a countenance
which revealed the finesse and marvellous flexibility demanded of him by
the very nature of his office. His eye-glasses and snuff-box, together
with certain ceremonious airs of head and hands, gave him something of
the look of a European diplomatist. Plainly a man accustomed to deal
with Christians; superior, perhaps, to many of the prejudices and
superstitions of his people; a Mussulman of large views; a Moor
varnished with civilization. The other, the Caid Misfiui, seemed the
incarnation of Morocco. He was about fifty years of age, with black
beard and bronze complexion, muscular, sombre, and taciturn; a face that
looked as if it had never smiled. He held his head down, his eyes fixed
on the ground, his brow bent; his expression was one of strong
repugnance. Both men wore large muslin turbans and long ample robes of
transparent stuff.

The _chargé d’affaires_ presented to these two personages, through the
interpreter, the commandant of the frigate and the captain. They were
two officials, and their introduction required no comment. But when I
was presented, a few words of explanation as to the office I filled was
necessary; and the _chargé d’affaires_ expressed himself in rather
hyperbolical terms. Sidi-Bargas stood a moment silent, and then said a
few words to the interpreter, who translated—

“His Excellency demands why you have such ability with your hand. Your
lordship wears it covered; your lordship will please remove your glove
that the hand may be seen.”

The compliment was so new to me that I was at a loss for a reply.

“It is not necessary,” observed the _chargé d’affaires_, “because the
faculty resides in his mind, and not in his hand.”

One would have thought this settled the question; but when a Moor gets
hold of a metaphor, he does not leave it so easily.

“True,” replied his Excellency, through the interpreter; “but the hand
being the instrument is also the symbol of the faculties of the mind.”

The discussion was prolonged for a few minutes. “It is a gift of Allah,”
finally concluded Sidi-Bargas.

[Illustration: Loading The Camels.]

The conversation continued for some time, and the journey was discussed.
There was a long citation of names of governors, of provinces, of
rivers, valleys, mountains, and plains, that we should find upon our
route; names that resounded in my ear as so many promises of adventure,
and set my fancy to work. What was the Red Mountain? What should we find
on the banks of Pearl River? What sort of a man could that Governor be
who was called “Son of the Mare?” Our _chargé_ made numerous inquiries
as to distances, water, and shade. Sidi-Bargas had it all at the points
of his fingers, and in this direction was certainly greatly beyond
Visconti Venosta, who could not for his life have given information to a
foreign ambassador as to how many springs of water and how many groups
of trees there were between Rome and Naples. Finally, he wished us a
pleasant journey, with the following formula: “May peace be in your
path!” and accompanying the ambassador to the entrance, shook hands with
us all with an air of great cordiality. The Caid Misfiui, always mute,
put out the tips of his fingers, without raising his eyes. “My
hand—yes,” I thought, as I gave it, “but not my head!”

“Start on Monday!” called out Sidi-Bargas, as we took leave.

The ambassador asked why Monday rather than Sunday. “Because it is a day
of good omen,” he answered, with gravity; and with another deep
salutation, he left us.

I learned later that Caid-Misfiui is accounted a man of great learning
among the Moors: he was tutor to the reigning Sultan, and is, as his
face shows, a fanatical Mussulman. Sidi-Bargas enjoys the more amiable
reputation of being a very fine chess-player.

Three days before our departure the street before the Legation was
thronged with curious lookers-on. Ten tall camels, which were to carry
to Fez, in advance of us, a part of our provision of wine, came one
after the other, kneeled down to receive their load, and departed with
their guard of soldiers and servants. Within the house all was bustle,
and the servants who had come from Fez were added to those already on
the spot. Provisions arrived at every hour in the day. It was feared, at
one moment, that we should not be able to get off on the appointed day.
But on the Sunday evening, 3d of May, every thing was ready, including
the lofty mast of an immense tricolored flag which was to float in the
midst of our encampment; and in the night the baggage mules were loaded
so that they should start early on Monday morning, several hours before
us, and arrive in the evening in time to have every thing ready for us
at the encampment.

I shall always remember with a pleasant emotion those last moments
passed in the court of the Legation just before our departure. We were
all there. An old friend of the _chargé d’affaires_ had arrived the
evening before to join us, Signor Patot, formerly Minister from Spain to
Tangiers, and also Signor Morteo, a Genoese, and consular agent for
Italy to Mazagan. There was the doctor of the caravan, Miguerez, a
native of Algiers; a rich Moor, Mohammed Ducali, an Italian subject, who
accompanied the embassy in the quality of writer; the second dragoman of
the Legation, Solomon Affalo; two Italian sailors, one orderly to
Commander Cassone, and the other belonging to the _Dora_; the soldiers
of the Legation in holiday dress; cooks, workmen, and servants, all
persons unknown to me, whom two months of life in common in the interior
of Morocco were to render familiar to me, and whom I prepared myself to
study from that moment, one by one, and to make move and speak in a book
that I had in my head. Every one of them had some peculiarity of dress,
which gave the whole a singularly picturesque appearance. There were
plumed caps, white mantles, gaiters, veils, wallets, and blankets of
every color. There were enough pistols, barometers, quadrants, albums,
and field-glasses to have set up a bazaar. We might have been setting
off on an expedition to the Cape of Good Hope, and every one of us was
quivering with impatience, curiosity, and pleasant anticipation. To
crown all, the weather was exquisite, and a delightful sea-breeze was
blowing. Mahomet was with Italy.

At five o’clock exactly the ambassador mounted his horse, and the flags
on the terrace of the Legation rose in salute. Preoccupied as I was with
my white mule, and in all the confusion and uproar of departure I
remember but little of the crowd that encumbered the street, the
handsome Jewish women peering from their terraces, and an Arab boy, who
exclaimed with a strange accent, as we issued from the gate of the
Soc-de-Barra, “_Italia!_”

At the Soc we were joined by the representatives of the other Legations,
who were to accompany us, according to custom, a few miles beyond
Tangiers; and we took the road to Fez, a numerous and noisy cavalcade,
before which waved the green folds of the banner of the Prophet.



                              CHAPTER II.
                             HAD-EL-GARBIA.


A throng of ministers, consuls, dragomans, secretaries, clerks, a great
international embassy, representing six monarchies and two republics,
and composed for the most part of people who had been all over the
world. Among others, there was the Spanish consul, dressed in the
graceful costume of the province of Mercia, with a poignard in his
girdle; the gigantic figure of the United States consul, once a colonel
in a cavalry regiment, towering a whole head above the rest of the
troop, and riding a beautiful Arab horse with Mexican saddle and
accoutrements; the dragoman of the Legation of France, an athletic man,
mounted upon an enormous white horse, with which he presented, in
certain points of view, the image of a centaur; English, Andalusians,
and Germans were there, and as every one spoke in his own tongue,
mingled with laughter, the humming of songs, and the neighing of beasts,
the effect may be imagined. Before us rode the banner-bearer, followed
by two soldiers of the Italian Legation; behind came the escort, led by
the mulatto general, with his rifle erect, one end resting on the
saddle; on either side a crowd of Arabs on foot. All this motley
company, gilded by the rays of the setting sun, presented a spectacle so
splendidly picturesque that each one of us wore an air of complacency at
the thought that we formed part of the picture.

Little by little, those who had accompanied us from Tangiers took their
leave and turned back; only America and Spain remained with us. The road
so far was not bad; my mule seemed the most docile of mules; what
remained for me to desire? But there is no perfect felicity on this
earth. The captain drew near and gave me a most unpleasing piece of
news. The vice-consul, Paolo Grande, our tent companion, was a
somnambulist. The captain himself had met him the night before on the
stairs of the Legation, wrapped in a sheet, with a lamp in one hand and
a pistol in the other. The servants, being questioned, confirmed the
tale. To sleep with him in the same tent was dangerous. The captain
entreated me, as I was more intimate with the vice-consul than he, to
induce him to give up his arms for the night. I promised to do my best
“I leave it in your hands,” said he, as he turned away, “and I speak in
the name of the commandant also.” “Here’s a fine business!” thought I,
as I went in search of the vice-consul. He came to meet me. With one
cautious question and another I succeeded in discovering that he carried
with him a small arsenal, what with fire-arms and cutting weapons,
comprising an ugly Moorish poignard that seemed expressly made for
cutting a hole in my own person. After turning it over in my mind, I
decided to wait until the hour for going to bed arrived, and for the
rest of the way the teasing thought pursued me.

We were moving now in a great curve over an undulating country, green
and solitary. The road, if road it could be called, was formed of a
large number of parallel paths crossing each other here and there,
winding through stones and bushes, and sunken, like the beds of streams.
A few palms and aloes showed their dark outlines upon the golden sky,
which, above our heads, began to glitter with stars. No person was to be
seen far or near. Once we heard some gunshots: it was a group of Arabs
on the top of a hill, saluting the ambassador. After three hours’
travelling it was dark night, and we began to wish for the encampment.
Hunger in some and fatigue in others made us silent. Nothing was heard
but the horses’ feet and the panting breath of the servants running
beside us. Suddenly there was a shout from the caid. On a height to the
right lights were glittering, and we hailed with a unanimous shout our
first encampment.

I cannot express the pleasure I felt in dismounting among the tents. Had
it not been for my dignity as the representative of Italian literature,
I think I should have indulged in a sort of jig. It was a little city,
illuminated, and full of noise and people. Kitchen fires blazed on every
side. Servants, soldiers, cooks, sailors, went to and fro, exchanging
questions in all the tongues of the Tower of Babel. The tents were
arranged in a large circle, with the Italian banner in the midst. Behind
the tents were ranged the horses and mules. The escort had its own small
encampment apart. Every thing was in military order. I recognized at
once my own habitation, and ran to take possession. There were four
camp-beds, mats and carpets, lanterns, candlesticks, small tables,
folding chairs, washbasins striped with the Italian colors, and a great
Indian fan. It was a princely establishment, in which one might
willingly spend a year. Our tent was placed between those of the
ambassador and the artists.

One hour after our arrival we were seated at dinner in the tent
consecrated to Lucullus. I think that was the merriest dinner that ever
took place within the confines of Morocco since the foundation of Fez.
We were sixteen, comprising the American consul with his two sons, and
the Spanish consul, with two _attachés_ from the Legation. The Italian
_cuisine_ carried off a solemn victory. It was the first time, I
believe, that in that desolate country the fumes of macaroni with gravy
and _risotto alla Milanese_ ever rose to the nostrils of Allah. The fat
French cook, come from Tangiers for that night only, was clamorously
called before the footlights. Toasts went off one after the other in
Italian, in Spanish, in verse, in prose, in music. The Spanish consul, a
handsome Castilian of the antique stamp, large-bearded,
broad-shouldered, and deep-hearted, declaimed, with one hand on his
dagger-hilt, the dialogue of Don Juan Tenorio with Don Luis Mendia, in
Zorilla’s famous drama. There were discussions upon the Eastern
Question, upon the eyes of Arab women, upon the Carlist war, upon the
immortality of the soul, and upon the properties of the terrible _cobra
di capello_—the aspic of Cleopatra—which the charlatans of Morocco allow
to bite them with impunity. Some one, in the midst of the clamor of
conversation, whispered in my ear that he would be grateful to me for
life, if I would mention in my future book on Morocco, that he had
killed a lion. I seized the occasion to request my fellow-guests to give
me each a note as to the particular ferocious beast which he had
conquered. The Spanish consul, out of gratitude, improvised a verse in
honor of my mule, and all singing it to a tune from the “Italiana in
Algieri,” we issued forth, and sought our different sleeping-places.

The encampment was immersed in profound slumber. In front of the tent of
the ambassador, who had retired before us, watched the faithful Selam,
first soldier of the Legation. In the distance paced like a shadow,
among the tents, the form of the caid of the escort. The sky was all
sparkling with stars. What a blessed night, if I had not had that thorn
inserted in my pillow!

I had no sooner entered my tent than the captain repeated his advice,
and I determined to attack the subject after we should be in bed. It was
unavoidable, but it was very unpleasant. The vice-consul might take it
badly, and I should be very sorry. He was so agreeable a companion. Like
a true Sicilian, full of fire, he talked of the most insignificant
things with the accent and style of an inspired preacher. He made use of
the most terrible adjectives—immense, divine, and so on—on the slightest
occasion. His quietest and least expressive gesture was to shake his
hands wildly above his head. To see him discuss any question, with his
eyes flying out of his head, and his aquiline nose that seemed to defy
the world, was to judge him an irascible and imperious man, whereas he
was in reality the kindest and gentlest person conceivable.

“Come, courage!” whispered the captain when we were all in bed.

“Signor Grande,” I began, “are you in the habit of getting up in the
night?”

He seemed much astonished at my question. “No,” he answered; “and I
should be very sorry to think that any one had such a habit.”

“That’s queer,” I thought. “Then,” said I, “you recognize that it is a
dangerous habit?”

He looked at me. “Excuse me,” he said, after a moment’s silence; “I
don’t suppose you mean to joke on such a subject?”

“Excuse _me_,” I answered; “I have not the least intention of joking. It
is not my custom to jest on serious subjects.”

“Serious indeed; and it will be for you to guard against the
consequences.”

“Well, this is fine! Do you imagine that I shall go and sleep in the
middle of the camp?”

“Of the two it seems to me that you should go, rather than I.”

“That is an impertinence!” cried I, sitting up in bed with a jump.

“Oh, a new idea!” shouted the vice-consul, bouncing up in his turn; “an
impertinence, not to risk being murdered!”

A shout of laughter from the other two broke up the discussion, and
before they spoke we understood that we had been the victims of a joke.
They had told him that I was in the habit of wandering about in the
night wrapped in a sheet, and with a pistol in my hand.

[Illustration: Peasant Women of the Interior.]

The night passed without disturbance, and I awoke at dawn. The camp was
still immersed in slumber; only among the tents of the escort a few
persons were in motion. The sky in the east was of a brilliant
rose-color. I went out among the tents, and stood in contemplation
before the spectacle that lay in front of me.

The camp was placed on the side of a hill covered with grass, aloes, the
prickly pear, and some flowering shrubs. Near the ambassador’s tent rose
a tall palm-tree, gracefully inclined toward the east. In front of the
hill extended an immense plain, undulating and covered with verdure,
closed in the distance by a chain of dark-green mountains, behind which
appeared other blue heights almost lost in the limpid sky. In all that
space there was no house, nor curl of smoke, nor tent, nor cattle, to be
seen. It was like an immense garden where no living thing was admitted.
A fresh and perfumed breeze rustled the branches of the palm, and made
the only sound that broke the silence. Suddenly, as I turned I beheld
ten dilated eyes fixed on mine. Five Arabs were seated upon a mass of
rock at a few steps from me—laborers from the country, come in in the
night to see the encampment. They seemed sculptured out of the rock on
which they sat. They looked at me without winking, without the least
sign of curiosity, or sympathy, or embarrassment, or malevolence; the
whole five motionless and impassive, their faces half hidden in their
hoods, like personifications of the solitude and silence of the fields.
I put one hand in my pocket, and the ten eyes followed it; I took out a
cigar, and the ten eyes fixed themselves upon it; they followed every
motion that I made. Little by little I discovered other figures farther
off, seated in the grass two by two and three by three, motionless and
hooded, and, like the first, with their eyes fixed on me. They seemed to
have risen from the earth, dead men with their eyes open, appearances
rather than real persons, which would vanish under the first beams of
the sun. A long and tremulous cry, coming from that part of the camp
where the escort lay, disturbed me from my contemplation of these
beings. A Mussulman soldier was announcing to his fellows the first of
the five canonical hours of prayer which every Mussulman must follow.
Some soldiers came out of the tents, spread their mantles on the earth,
and knelt down upon them, their faces toward the east. Three times they
rubbed their hands, arms, head, and feet with a handful of earth, and
then began to recite their prayers in a low voice, kneeling, rising to
their feet, prostrating themselves face downward, lifting their open
hands to a level with their ears, and crouching on their heels. Soon the
commander of the escort issued from his tent, and was followed by his
servants, then the cooks. In a few minutes the greater part of the
population of the camp was afoot. The sun, scarcely above the horizon,
was scorching.

[Illustration: The Arab’s Morning Prayer.]

When I went back to my tent, I made the acquaintance of several odd
personages to whom I shall have frequently to allude.

The first to appear was one of the Italian sailors, orderly to the
captain of the frigate, a Sicilian, born at Porto Empedocle, Ranni by
name,—a young fellow of twenty-five, very tall, and of herculean build
and strength,—good-tempered, grave as a magistrate, and endowed with the
singular virtue of never being astonished at any thing, except perhaps
the astonishment of others. For him, Porto Empedocle, Gibraltar, Africa,
China, the moon itself, had he been in it, were all the same.

“What do you think of this way of living?” asked the captain, while
Ranni helped him to dress.

“What am I to say?” was the response.

“Why the journey, the new country, all this confusion—do they make no
impression upon you?”

He was silent a moment, and then answered ingenuously, “No impression at
all.”

“But the encampment—that at least is new to you.”

“Oh no, Signor Commandant.”

“When did you ever see one before?”

“I saw this one last evening.”

The commandant looked at him, repressing his irritation. Then he said,
“Well, last evening—what impression did it make then?”

“Well,” answered the sailor with candor, “the same impression, you know,
that it made this morning.”

The commandant hung his head with an air of resignation.

Soon after there entered another not less curious personage. He was an
Arab from Tangiers, who was in the vice-consul’s service for the time of
the journey. His name was Ciua; but his master called him Civo, for
greater facility of pronunciation. He was a large and tall young fellow,
rather given to practical joking, but good-natured and willing—a big
ingenuous boy, who laughed and hid his face when you looked at him. He
had no other garment than a long, wide, white shirt, without a girdle,
which floated about him when he walked, and gave him a ridiculous
resemblance to a cherub. He knew about thirty Spanish words, and with
these he managed to make himself understood, when constrained to speak;
but he usually preferred to converse in pantomime. To look at him, you
would judge him to be about five-and-twenty; but it is easy to make a
mistake in an Arab’s age. I asked him how old he was. He covered his
face with one hand, thought a moment, and answered, “_Cuando guerra
España—año y medio._” In the time of the war with Spain, which was in
1860, he was a year and a half old, consequently, he was then seventeen.

The third personage was the ambassador’s cook, who brought us our
coffee—an unadulterated Piedmontese from Turin, who had dropped from the
clouds one day into Tangiers, and had not yet recovered his wits. The
poor man was never tired of exclaiming, “What a country! What a
country!”

I asked him if before leaving Turin they had not told him what sort of a
place Morocco was. He answered, yes, they had told him, “Take care;
Tangiers is not Turin.” And he had thought “_Pazienza!_ it will be like
Genoa or Alexandria”; and instead he had found himself in the midst of
savages. And they had given him two Arab assistants who could not
understand a word he said. And then to make a two months’ journey
through the _deserts of Egypt_! He knew he should never get back alive.

“But at any rate,” I said, “you will have something to tell when you get
back to Turin.”

“Ah!” he answered, turning away with an air of profound depression,
“what can I tell about a country where one cannot find a single leaf of
salad?”

Breakfast over, the ambassador gave the order to break up the
encampment. During that long operation, in which not less than one
hundred persons were concerned, I noticed a singular trait of Arab
character—the insatiable passion for command. There was no need of any
indication to recognize at once in that crowd of figures the head
muleteer, the head porter, the head tent-servant, the chief of the
soldiers of the Legation. Each of these was invested with an authority,
and he made it felt and heard, with hand and voice and eye, with or
without occasion, and with all the strength of his soul and body. Those
who had no authority resorted to all sorts of pretexts for giving
orders, and seeming to be something a little above their fellows. The
most ragged wretch among them gave himself imperious airs. The simplest
operation, such as tying a cord or lifting a box, provoked an exchange
of thundering yells, lightning glances, and gestures worthy of an angry
sultan. Even Civo, the modest Civo, domineered over two country Arabs
who allowed themselves to glance at his master’s trunks from a distance.

At ten in the morning, under a burning sun, the long caravan began
slowly to descend into the plain. The Spanish consul and his two
companions had been left behind; of foreigners none remained with us now
but the American consul and his two sons.

From the place where we had passed the night, called in Arabic
Ain-Dalia, which signifies fountain of wine, because of the vines that
once were there, we were to go that day to Had-el-Garbia, beyond the
mountains that shut in the plain.

For more than an hour we journeyed over a gently undulating plain, among
fields of barley and millet, through winding paths, forming at their
crossings many little islets of grass and flowers. We met no one, and no
figure was visible in the fields. Only once we encountered a long file
of camels led by two Bedouin Arabs, who muttered, as they passed, the
common salutation: “Peace be on your way.”

I felt a great pity for the Arab servants who accompanied us on foot,
loaded with umbrellas, field-glasses, albums, clocks, and a thousand
objects of name and use unknown to them; constrained to follow our mules
with rapid step, suffocated by dust, scorched by the sum half-fed,
half-clothed, subject to every one, possessing nothing in the world but
a ragged shirt and a pair of slippers; running afoot from Fez to
Tangiers, only to go back again; and then, perhaps, to follow some other
caravan from Fez to Morocco, and so to go on throughout their lives,
without other recompense than just not to die of hunger, and to repose
their bones under a tent at night! I thought as I looked at them of
Goethe’s “Pyramid of Existence.” There was among them a boy of thirteen
or fourteen years old, a mulatto, handsome and slender, who constantly
fixed on us his large dark eyes full of a pensive curiosity, seeking to
speak confusedly of many things, and dumbly demanding sympathy. He was a
foundling, the fruit of no one knew what strange amours, who, beginning
this fatiguing life in the Italian Embassy, would probably never cease
until he should fall dying in some ditch. Another, an old man all skin
and bones, ran with his head down, his eyes closed, and his hands
clenched, with a sort of desperate resignation. Some talked and laughed
as they panted on. Suddenly one darted from the ranks, passed before us,
and disappeared. Ten minutes afterward we found him seated under a
fig-tree. He had done a half mile at top speed, in order to gain upon
the caravan and enjoy five minutes’ rest and shade.

Meantime we arrived at the foot of a small mountain, called in Arabic
the Red Mountain, because of the color of its earth; steep, rocky, and
still bristling on its lower part with the remains of a felled wood.
This climb had been announced to us at Tangiers as the most difficult
part of our road. “Mule,” said I to my beast, “I desire you to remember
my contract with my editor,” and I pushed forward in a bold and reckless
manner. The path rose winding among great stones that seemed to have
been placed there on purpose to bring me to grief by some personal
enemy; at every doubtful movement of my mule I felt a whole chapter of
my future book fly away out of my head,—twice the poor beast came down
on her knees, and launched my soul upon the confines of a better
world,—but at last we reached the summit, safe and sound, where to my
amazement I found myself in the presence of the two painters, who had
gone on ahead in order to see the caravan climbing up. The spectacle was
well worth the fatigue of the rapid ascent.

The caravan stretched back for more than a mile from the side of the
mountain into the plain. First came the principal members of the
Embassy, among whom shone conspicuous the plumed hat of the ambassador
and the white turban of Mohammed Ducali, and on either side came a troop
of servants on foot and on horseback, picturesquely scattered among the
rocks and shrubs of the ascent. Behind these, in couples and groups of
three or four, wrapped in their white and blue mantles, and bending
above their scarlet saddles, the horsemen of the Moorish escort looked
like a long procession of maskers; and behind them came the endless file
of mules and horses carrying trunks, furniture, tents, and provisions,
flanked by soldiers and servants, the last of whom appeared like white
and red points among the green of the fields. This many-colored and
glittering procession animated the solitary valley, and presented the
strangest and gayest spectacle that can be imagined. If at that moment I
had had the power to strike it motionless, so that I could contemplate
it at my leisure, I think I could not have resisted the temptation. As I
turned to resume my road, I saw the Atlantic Ocean lying as blue and
tranquil as a lake at a few miles’ distance. There was but one ship in
view, sailing near the coast, and toward the strait. The commandant,
observing her with his glass, discovered her to be Italian. What would
we not have given to have been seen and recognized by her!

From the Red Mountain we descended into another lovely valley, carpeted
with red, white, and lilac flowers. There was not a house, nor tent, nor
human being, to be seen. The ambassador deciding to halt here, we
dismounted and sat down under the shade of some trees, while the
baggage-train went on.

Around us, at the distance of a few steps, the servants were grouped,
each holding a horse or mule. The artists drew forth their sketch-books,
but it was of no use. Scarcely did one of the vagabonds perceive that he
was an object of observation than he hid himself behind a tree, or drew
his hood over his face. Three of them, one after the other, got up and
went grumbling off, to sit down about fifty paces further on, dragging
their quadrupeds with them. They did not even wish the animals to be
sketched. In vain the vexed artists prayed, and coaxed, and offered
money; it was all useless waste of breath. They made signs of no with
their hands, pointing to the sky and smiling cunningly, as if to say,
“We are not such fools as you think us.” Not even the mulatto boy, or
the Legation soldiers, who were familiar with Europeans, and knew the
two artists, would permit their persons to be profaned by a Christian
pencil. The Koran, as we know, prohibits the representation of the human
figure, as well as that of animals, as a beginning of and temptation to
idolatry. One of the soldiers was asked, through the interpreter, why he
would not consent to stand and have his portrait taken. “Because,” he
answered, “in the figure which he will make the artist cannot put a
soul. What is the purpose of his work then? God alone can create living
beings, and it is a sacrilege to pretend to imitate them.” The mulatto
boy answered, laughing, “Have my portrait taken! Yes, when I am asleep:
then it does not matter, and I am not in fault; but never, if I know it,
shall it be done.”

Then Signor Biseo began to draw one who was asleep. All the others,
grouped about, stood turning their eyes, now on the painter, now on
their sleeping companion. Presently the latter awoke, looked about him,
made a gesture of displeasure, and went off grumbling, amid the laughter
of his fellows, who seemed to be saying, “You are done for now.”

After an hour more on the road, we saw the white tents of the
encampment, and a troop of horsemen, sprung from we knew not where, came
toward us, yelling, and firing off their guns. At about ten paces off
they stopped, their chief shook hands with the ambassador, and his men
joined our escort. They proved to be soldiers of a species of _landwehr_
belonging to the place where our camp was pitched, and forming part of
the army of Morocco. Some had turbans, some a red handkerchief bound
round the head, and all wore the white caftan.

The encampment was placed this time upon a barren spot; in the distance
on one side was a chain of blue mountains, on the other verdant hills.
At about half a mile from the tents were two groups of huts built of
stubble, and half hidden among prickly-pear bushes.

We had hardly seated ourselves in the tent when a soldier came running,
and planting himself before the ambassador, said, joyfully, “The
_muna_.” “Let them come in,” said the ambassador, rising. We all rose to
our feet.

A long file of Arabs, accompanied by the chief of the escort, the
soldiers of the Legation, and servants, crossed the encampment, and,
ranging themselves before our tent, deposited at the feet of the
ambassador a great quantity of coal, eggs, sugar, butter, candles,
bread, three dozen of hens, and eight sheep.

This tribute was the _mona_ or _muna_. Besides the heavy tax they pay in
money, the inhabitants of the country are obliged to furnish all
official personages, the soldiers of the Sultan, and all envoys passing
by, with a certain quantity of provisions. The Government fixes the
quantity, but the local authorities demand whatever they please, without
reference to the quantity received, although it may be more than is
required, and it is always a small portion of that which has been
extorted the month before, or will be extorted in the following month
after the presentation.

An old man, who appeared to be the head of the deputation, addressed,
through the interpreter, some obsequious words to the ambassador. The
others, who were all poor peasants clothed in rags, looked at us, our
tents, and their tribute—the fruit of their labor lying at our feet—with
an air of mingled astonishment and depression which betrayed a profound
resignation.

A division having been quickly made of the things, between the
ambassador’s larder and that of the escort, muleteers, and soldiers,
Signor Morteo, who had that morning been named Intendant-General of the
camp, rewarded the old Arab, who made a sign to his companions, and all
silently departed as they had come.

Then began, what was to take place every day from that time forth, a
great squabbling among the servants, muleteers, and soldiers, over the
sharing of the _muna_. It was a most amusing scene. Two or three of them
went up and down with measured steps, carrying each a sheep in his arms,
invoking Allah and the ambassador; others yelled out their discontent
and enforced their reasoning by beating the ground with their fists;
Civo fluttered about in his long white shirt with the profound
conviction that he was very terrible; the sheep baa-d, the hens ran here
and there, the dogs yelped. Suddenly up-rose the ambassador, and all was
still.

The only one who continued to grumble was Selam.

Selam was a great personage. In reality there were two of the Legation
soldiers who bore that name, both belonging to the special service of
the ambassador; but, as when we say Napoleon we mean the first of that
name, so when we said Selam we meant one, and one only.

He was a handsome young fellow, tall and slender, and full of
cleverness. He understood every thing at a glance, did every thing with
all his might, walked in a series of leaps, spoke with a look, and was
in motion from morning until night. Everybody came to him, about the
baggage, the tents, the kitchen, the horses, and he had an answer for
all. He spoke Spanish badly and knew a few words of Italian, but could
have made himself understood in Arabic, so speaking and picturesque was
his pantomime. To indicate a hill, he made the gesture of a fiery
colonel pointing out to his men a battery that is to be assaulted. To
reprove a servant, he fell upon him as if he were about to annihilate
him. He always reminded me of Salvini in “Othello,” or “Oromanes.” In
whatever attitude he presented himself, whether pouring water on the
ambassador’s spine, or galloping by on his chestnut horse, nailed to his
saddle, he was always the same bold, graceful, and elegant figure. The
two painters were never tired of looking at him. He wore a scarlet
caftan and blue drawers, and was easily distinguished from one end of
the camp to another. His name was in every mouth all over the
encampment. When he was angry he was a savage; when he laughed, a child.
_Il Signor Ministro_ was for ever in his mouth and in his heart, for he
placed him after Allah and the Prophet. Ten guns levelled at his breast
would not have paled his cheek, and an undeserved rebuke from the
ambassador made him cry. He was about five-and-twenty.

When he had done grumbling, he came near me and began opening a box. As
he stooped, his fez fell off and I saw a large blood-mark on his head.
In answer to my question, he said that he had been wounded by a loaf of
sugar. “I threw it up in the air,” he said, with gravity, “and it came
down on my head.” I looked amazed, and he explained—“I do it,” he said,
“to harden my head. The first time I fell down insensible, but now it
only draws a little blood. A time will come when it will not break the
skin. All the Arabs do it. My father broke bricks as thick as two
fingers on his head as easily as I would break a loaf of bread. A true
Arab,” he concluded, with a haughty air, striking his head a blow with
his fist, “should have a head of iron.”

The encampment that evening presented a very different aspect from that
of the preceding days. Everybody had fallen into their own habits of
passing the time. The artists had erected their easels and were hard at
work in front of their tent. The captain had gone to observe the ground,
the vice-consul to collect insects, the ex-Spanish minister to shoot
partridges; the ambassador and the commandant were playing chess in the
dining-tent; the servants were playing leap-frog; the soldiers of the
escort conversed sitting in a circle; of the rest some walked about,
some read, some wrote; one would have thought we had been there a month.
If I had had a small printing-press I could have found it in my heart to
edit a newspaper.

The weather was exquisite; we dined with the tent open, and during
dinner the horsemen of Had-el-Garbia shouted, and fired off their guns,
while the sun went down in splendor.

Opposite to me at table sat Mohammed Ducali. For the first time I was
able to observe him attentively. He was a true type of the wealthy
Moor—supple, elegant, and obsequious; I say wealthy, because he
possessed, it was said, more than thirty houses at Tangiers, although at
that time his affairs were supposed to be in some confusion. He might
have been about forty years of age, was tall of stature, with regular
features, fair, and bearded; he wore a small turban, twisted in a _caic_
of the finest of the fabrics of Fez, which fell down over a purple
embroidered caftan; he smiled to show his teeth, spoke Spanish in a
feminine voice, and had the languid air of a young lover. In former days
he had been a merchant; had been in Italy, in Spain, London, and Paris,
and had returned to Morocco with some ideas of European customs. He
drank wine, smoked cigarettes, wore stockings, read romances, and
related his gallant adventures. The principal reason for his going to
Fez was a debt owed him by the Government, which he hoped to get paid
through the good offices of the ambassador. He had brought with him his
own tent, servants, and mules. His glance gave one to understand that he
would have brought his wives also had that been possible, but upon my
hazarding a question in that direction he modestly dropped his eyes, and
made no reply.

After dinner I satisfied a desire which I had nourished ever since
leaving Tangiers, and went out to see the camp at night. I waited until
every one had entered his tent, wrapped myself in a white mantle, and
went out. The sky was studded with stars; the lights were all out,
except the lantern that was attached to the flag-staff; a profound
silence reigned throughout the camp. Very quietly, and avoiding a
stumble over the tent-cords, I moved to the left, and had not made ten
steps when an unexpected sound stopped me short. Some one appeared to be
tuning a guitar, in a closed tent that I had never visited, and which
stood about thirty paces outside of the circle of the camp. I approached
and listened. The guitar accompanied a soft and very sweet voice singing
an Arab ditty full of melancholy. Could there be a woman in this
mysterious tent? It was closed on every side, so I lay down on my face
and tried to peep underneath. Almost at the same moment a soft voice
beside me said, “_Quien es?_” (Who is there?) “Allah protect me!” I
thought, “there _is_ a woman here.” I answered, aloud, “An inquisitive
person,” with the most pathetic voice I could assume at the moment. A
laugh responded, and a male voice said in Spanish, “Bravo! Come in and
take a cup of tea!” It was the voice of Mohammed Ducali. He opened a
little door, and I found myself within the tent, which was hung with
some rich flowered stuff, ornamented with small arched windows, lighted
by a Moorish lantern, and perfumed in a way to do honor to the fairest
odalisque of the Sultan’s harem. And there, luxuriously stretched upon a
Persian carpet, with his head on a rich cushion, lay a young Arab
servant lad, of gentle and pensive aspect, with a guitar in his hands.
In the middle of the tent there was a tea-service, and on one side
smoked a perfume-burner. I explained to Ducali how I came to be so near
his tent, took a cup of tea, listened to an air sung by the Arab
musician, and taking my leave, resumed my wanderings. Avoiding another
tent where more of Ducali’s servants were sleeping, I turned toward that
of the ambassador.

Before the door lay Selam, stretched on his blue mantle, with his sabre
by his side. “If I wake him, and he does not recognize me at once,” I
thought, “it is all over with me! Let me be prudent.” I advanced on
tip-toe, and peeped into the tent. It was divided in the middle by a
rich curtain; on one side was the reception-room, with a table covered
with a cloth, and writing materials, and a few gilded chairs. On the
other side slept the ambassador and his friend, the ex-minister from
Spain. I thought I would leave my card on the table, and advanced a
step, when a low growl arrested me. It was Diana, the ambassador’s dog.
Almost at the same moment the master’s voice called out, “Who’s that?”

“An assassin!” answered I.

He knew my voice, and called out, “Strike!” I explained the motive of my
visit, at which he laughed, and giving me his hand in the darkness,
wished me success in my undertaking. Coming out I stumbled over
something which proved to be a tortoise, and as I struck a match to
examine him, I discovered a monstrous toad sitting looking at me. For a
moment I thought I would give up my enterprise, but curiosity overcoming
disgust, I went on.

I reached the tent of the intendant. As I bent down to listen, a tall,
white figure rose between me and the door, and said in sepulchral
accents, “He sleeps.” I started back as at the apparition of a phantom,
but recovered myself immediately. It was an Arab servant of Morteo’s,
who had been with him for several years, and spoke a little Italian, and
who, in spite of my white hood, had recognized me instantly. Like Selam,
he had been stretched before the door of his master’s tent, with his
sabre by his side. I wished him good-night, and went on my way.

In the next tent were the doctor and Solomon the dragoman. An acute odor
of drugs pervaded the neighborhood, and there was a light inside. The
doctor was seated at his table, reading; the dragoman was asleep, This
physician, young, highly cultivated, and of very gentleman-like manners
and appearance, had a very singular peculiarity. Born in Algeria of
French parents, he had lived many years in Italy, and had married a
Spanish wife. Not only did he speak the languages of the three countries
with equal facility, but he partook of the characteristics of the three
nations, loved all three countries alike, and was, in short, a sort of
Latin three in one, who was equally at home in Rome, in Madrid, and in
Paris. He was, besides, gifted with a most delicate and acute sense of
the ridiculous; so that, without speaking, with one furtive glance, or
slight movement of the lip, he could throw into relief the ridiculous
side of a person or thing in a way to make one burst with laughter. At
the sight of me, he guessed at once the reason of my presence, offered
me a glass of wine, and raising his arm, whispered, “Success to your
expedition!” “With the aid of Allah!” I rejoined, and left him to his
reading.

Passing before the empty dinner-tent, I turned to the left, came out of
the circle of the encampment, walked between two long rows of sleeping
horses, and found myself among the tents of the escort. Listening, I
could hear the breathing of the soldiers as they slept. Guns, sabres,
saddles, shoulder-belts, poniards, were scattered about before the
tents, together with the banner of Mahomet. I looked abroad, across the
country; not a soul was visible. Only the two groups of cabins appeared
like black and formless blots.

I turned back, passed between the American consul’s tent and that of his
servants, both close-shut and silent, crossed a little space of ground
where the kitchen had been planted, and stepping over a barricade of
pots and saucepans, reached the little tent of the cook. With him were
the two Arabs who served him as scullions. All was black within; I put
in my head and called, “_Gioanin!_”

The poor fellow, afflicted by the non-success of an omelet, and perhaps
worried by the neighborhood of his two “savages,” was not asleep. “Is
that you?” he asked. “It is I.”

He was silent a moment, and then turning restlessly on his bed
exclaimed, “_Ah, che pais!_” (Ah, what a country!)

“Courage!” I said; “think that in ten days we shall be before the walls
of the great city of Fez.”

He muttered some confused words in which I could only distinguish the
name of his native city in Italy, and, respecting his grief, I silently
withdrew.

In the adjoining tent were the two sailors—Ranni, the commandant’s
orderly, and Luigi, from the _Dora_, a Neapolitan, and such a kind,
pleasant, handy young fellow, that in two days he had gained the
good-will of all. They had a light, and were busy eating something.
Lending an ear, I could hear some portions of their dialogue, which was
very curious. Luigi inquired for whom were intended the crayon sketches
which the two artists made in their albums. “Why, for the king, of
course,” said Ranni. “What, without any color, like that?” demanded the
other. “Oh no! when they get back to Italy, first they will color them,
and then they will send them.” “Who knows how much the king will pay for
them!” “Oh, a great deal, of course! Perhaps as much as a _scudo_ (five
francs) a leaf. Kings think nothing of money.”

Once more I left the circle of the encampment, and wandered for a minute
or two among long rows of horses and mules, among which I recognized
with emotion the white companion of my journey, apparently sunk in
profound contemplation; and I next found myself before the tent of M.
Vincent, a Frenchman residing at Tangiers, one of those mysterious
personages who have been all over the world, speak all tongues, and
understand all trades—cook, merchant, hunter, interpreter, reader of
ancient inscriptions,—and who, having, with his own tent and horse,
attached himself to the Italian Embassy in the capacity of high director
of the kitchen, was now going to Fez to sell to the Government French
uniforms bought in Algeria.

I looked in at him through a crack. He was seated on a box, in a
meditative attitude, with a great pipe in his mouth, by the light of a
small candle stuck in a bottle. But what a strange figure! He reminded
me of those old alchemists in the Dutch pictures, musing in their
studies, their faces illuminated by the fire of an alembic. Meagre,
bent, and bony, he looked as if every episode of his life had been
written in the wrinkles of his visage and in the angles of his form. Who
knows what he was thinking about? What memories of adventurous journeys,
strange meetings, mad undertakings, and odd personages were mingling in
his head? Perhaps, after all, he was only thinking of the price of a
pair of _Turco_ breeches, or about his scanty provision of tobacco. Just
as I was going to speak he blew out his light with a puff, and vanished
into the darkness like a magician.

A few paces further on were the tents of the commandant of the escort,
that of his first officer, and that of the chief of the horsemen of
Had-el-Garbia. I was in the act of looking into one of these when a
light step came behind me, and a hand of steel closed upon my arm. I
turned, and found myself face to face with the mulatto general. He
withdrew his hand at once, and with a laugh, said, in a tone of apology,
“_Salamu alikum! salimu alikum!_” (Peace be with you!) He had taken me
for a thief. We shook hands in token of amity, and I went on.

In a few moments I saw before me what appeared to be a hooded figure
seated on the ground with musket in hand, and concluded that this must
be a sentinel. About fifty paces further on, there was another, and then
a third; a chain of them all around the encampment. I learned later that
this vigilance was from no fear of violence, but simply to guard the
tents from thieves, who abound there, and are extremely clever at their
trade, having much practice among the tribes who live in tents.
Fortunately the frankness of my movements aroused no suspicion, and I
was allowed to finish my excursion.

I passed by Malek and Saladin, the envoy’s two fiery steeds, stumbled
over another tortoise, and stopped before the tent of the footmen. They
were lying on a little straw, one upon the top of the other, and
sleeping so profoundly that they seemed like a heap of corpses. The boy
with the great black eyes lay with half his body outside of the tent,
and I narrowly missed stepping on his face. I felt so sorry for him
that, wishing to give him a little comfort in the morning when he should
wake, I placed a piece of money in his hand that lay open on the grass,
palm upward, as if begging charity from the spirits of the night.

A murmur of merry voices drew me away to a neighboring tent, where were
the soldiers and servants of the Embassy; they appeared to be eating and
drinking. I perceived the odor of kif, and recognized the voices of
Selam the Second, Abd-el-Rhaman, and others; it was an Arab orgie in
full swing. The poor fellows had well earned a little diversion after
the fatigues of the day, and I passed on without disturbing their
merriment by my presence. In a few moments I reached the artists’ tent,
which completed the circle of the encampment, and my nocturnal excursion
was over.



                              CHAPTER III.
                           TLETA DE REISSANA.


The next morning we started before sunrise in a thick wet fog, which
chilled us to the bone and hid us from each other. The horsemen of the
escort had their cowls over their heads, and their guns slung across
their shoulders. We were all wrapped in cloaks and mantles; it seemed
like autumn in the Low Countries. In front of me I could discern nothing
distinctly save the white turban and blue cloak of the Caid; all the
others were confused shadows lost in the gray mist. We went onward in
silence over the rough ground covered with dwarf palms, broom and wild
plums, and fennel, in groups compact or scattered according to the
crossing or forking of the road. The sun, appearing in the horizon,
gilded our left side a moment, and again vanished. The mist presently
grew thinner, and we could catch glimpses of the country. It was a
succession of green valleys, into which we descended and came up again
almost unconsciously, so gradual were the slopes. The banks were covered
with the aloe and the wild olive. The olive which grows prodigiously
here is left almost everywhere in its wild state, and the inhabitants
use the fruit of the _argan_ for light and food. We saw no signs of
habitation, neither houses nor tents. We seemed to be travelling through
a virgin country. From valley to valley, from solitude to solitude,
after about three hours’ journeying we finally reached a point where the
larger trees and wider paths, and a few scattered cattle here and there,
gave token of an inhabited place. One after the other our mounted escort
spurred their horses and galloped away over a height, others darted off
in another direction, the rest arranged themselves in close order.
Presently we found ourselves in front of the opening of a gorge formed
by low hills, upon which stood some huts. A few ragged Arabs of both
sexes looked curiously at us from behind the hedge. As we rode into the
gorge the sun shone out, and, turning an abrupt angle, we found
ourselves in front of a wonderful spectacle.

Three hundred horsemen, dressed in all the colors of the rainbow, and
scattered in a sort of grand disorder, came toward us at full speed,
with their muskets held aloft, as if they were rushing to the assault.
It was the escort from the province of Laracce, preceded by the governor
and his officials, coming to relieve the escort of Had-el-Garbia, which
was to leave us on the confines of the province of Tangiers, a point
that we had now reached.

The governor of Laracce, a dignified old man with a great white beard,
stopped the advance of his horsemen with a sign of his hand, saluted the
envoy, and then, turning to the troop, who seemed boiling over with
impatience, made a vigorous gesture as if to say, “Break loose!” Then
began one of the most splendid _lab-el-baroda_ (or powder-plays) that
could be desired.

They charged in couples, by tens, one by one, in the bottom of the
valley, on the hills, in front and at the sides of the caravan, forward
and backward, firing and yelling without cessation. In a few minutes the
valley was as full of the smoke and smell of powder as a battle-field.
On every side horses pranced, arms glittered, mantles floated, and red,
yellow, green, blue, and orange caftans mingled with the shine of sabres
and poniards. One by one they darted by, like winged phantoms, old and
young, men of colossal proportions, strange and terrible figures, erect
in their stirrups, with heads thrown back, hair streaming in the wind,
and muskets held aloft; and each as he discharged his piece gave a
savage cry, which the interpreter translated for us:—“Have a care!” “Oh,
my mother!” “In the name of God!” “I kill thee!” “Thou art dead!” “I am
avenged!” Some dedicated the shot to a special purpose or person: “To my
master!” “To my horse!” “To my dead!” “To my sweetheart!” They fired up
and down, and behind, bending and twisting as though they had been tied
to the saddle. Here and there one would lose his turban or his mantle,
and he would turn in full career and pick it up with the point of his
musket. Some threw their guns up in the air and caught them as they
fell. Their looks and gestures were like those of men mad with drink,
and risking their lives in a sort of joyful fury. Most of the horses
dripped blood from their bellies, and the feet and stirrups, and
extremities of the mantles of the riders, were all bloody. Some faces in
that multitude impressed themselves upon my memory from the first. Among
others, a young man with a Cyclopean head and an immense pair of
shoulders, dressed in a rose-colored caftan, and who emitted a
succession of roars like those of a wounded lion; a lad of fifteen,
handsome, bareheaded, and all in white, who passed three times, crying,
“My God! my God!” a long, bony old man, with a most ill-omened visage,
who flew by with half-shut eyes and a satanic grin upon his face, as if
he carried the plague behind him; a black, all eyes and teeth, with a
monstrous scar across his forehead, who writhed furiously about in his
saddle, as if to free himself from the clutch of some invisible hand.

In this fashion they accompanied the march of the caravan, ascending and
descending the heights, forming groups, dissolving and re-forming, with
every combination of color, till they seemed like the fluttering of a
myriad of banners.

At a short distance from the end of the gorge the ambassador stopped,
and we all dismounted to enjoy a little repose and refreshment under the
shade of a group of olive-trees, but the escort from Laracce continued
to exercise before us. The baggage-train went on toward the spot
selected for the camp.

We had reached the _Cuba_ of Sidi-Liamani.

In Morocco they give the name of _Cuba_ (or cupola) to a small square
chapel, with a low dome, in which a saint lies buried. These _Cube_,
very frequent in the southern part of the empire, placed in general near
a spring and a palm-tree, and visible by their snowy whiteness from a
great distance, serve as guides to the traveller, are visited by the
faithful, and are for the most part in charge of a descendant of the
saint, heir to his sanctity, who inhabits a hut close by, and lives by
the alms of pious pilgrims. The _Cuba_ of Sidi-Liamani was posted upon a
little eminence at a few paces distant from us. Some Arabs were seated
before the door. Behind them protruded the head of a decrepit old
man—the saint—who looked at us with stupid wonder.

In a few minutes our kitchen fires were lighted, and we were
breakfasting; while an empty sardine box, thrown away by the cook, and
picked up by the Arabs, was carried to the _Cuba_ for examination, and
made the object of a long and animated discussion. Meantime, the
_lab-el-baroda_ being over, the horsemen had dismounted, and were
scattered all about the valley; some of them were resting, some
pasturing their horses, while others, seated in their saddles, remained
to keep watch as sentinels upon the heights.

As I walked about with the captain, I then for the first time observed
the horses of Morocco. They are all small, so much so, that upon my
return to Europe, after having become accustomed to them, even
middle-sized horses seemed at first enormous to me. They have brilliant
eyes, the forehead a little flattened, very wide nostrils, the
cheek-bone very prominent, the whole head beautiful; the shin-bone and
tibia slightly curved, which gives a peculiar elasticity of movement;
the crupper very sloping, rendering them more able to gallop than to
trot, indeed, I do not remember ever to have seen a horse trot in
Morocco. Seen in repose or merely walking past, even the finest of them
make no show; but put to a gallop, they are quite changed, and become
superb. Although they have much less food, and are more heavily
caparisoned than ours, they bear fatigue much better. Also the manner of
riding is different. The stirrups are very short, and the reins very
long. The rider sits with his knees almost at a right angle, and the
saddle, extremely high before and behind, holds him in a way that makes
it almost impossible for him to be thrown. The horsemen wear heelless
boots of yellow leather. Most of them have no spurs, but use instead of
them the angle of the stirrup; some wear a small iron point in the shape
of a dagger, fastened to the heel by a metal band and chain. Wonderful
things are told of the great love of an Arab for his horse, the animal
of the Prophet’s predilection; he is said to consider him as a sacred
being; that every morning at sunrise he places his hand upon his steed’s
head, and murmurs _Bismillah!_ (in the name of God), and then kisses the
hand, which has been sanctified by the touch; and that he is prodigal of
cares and caresses. It may be all true. But as far as I could see, the
Arab’s great affection for his horse did not prevent him from lacerating
his sides in a quite unnecessary way, or from leaving him in the sun
when he could have put him in the shade, or from taking him a long
distance to drink, with his legs hobbled, or from exposing him a dozen
times a day to the danger of breaking his limbs, out of pure mischief,
or, finally, from neglecting his trappings in a way that would put him
in prison for six months if he belonged to a European cavalry regiment.

The heat being very great we remained some hours at our resting-place,
but no one could sleep by reason of the insects. It was the first
warning of the great battle that was to be waged, growing hotter every
day, until the end of the journey. Hardly had we stretched ourselves
upon the ground when we were assaulted, stung, and tormented on every
side, as if we had chosen a bed of nettles. Caterpillars, spiders,
monstrous ants, hornets, and grasshoppers, big, impudent, and
determined, swarmed about us. The commandant, who had taken upon himself
to raise our spirits by always exaggerating the perils of the way, now
assured us that these creatures might be considered microscopic compared
with the insects that we should encounter at Fez and later in the
summer; and he declared that so little would be left of us upon our
return to Italy that our best friends would not know us. The cook
listened to these remarks with a forced smile, and became pensive. Close
by there was a monstrous spider’s web, spread over some bushes like a
sheet hung out to dry. The commandant exclaimed that every thing in that
country was gigantic, formidable, miraculous! and insisted that the
spider which had made that web _must_ be as large as a horse. But we
could not discover him. The only ones of us who slept were the Arabs,
curled up in the burning sun with a procession of creeping things
marching over them. The two artists tried to sketch, surrounded by a
cloud of ferocious flies, which drew from Ussi a whole rich litany of
Florentine oaths.

The heat becoming less, the escort from Had-el-Garbia, the American
Consul, and the Vice-Governor of Tangiers, took leave of the ambassador
and turned back, while we pursued our way, accompanied by the three
hundred horsemen from Laracce.

Vast undulating plains, covered here with corn and there with barley,
further on with yellow stubble or with grass and flowers; here a few
black tents and the tomb of a saint; now and then a palm-tree; from mile
to mile three or four horsemen coming to join our escort; an immense
solitude, a sky of perfect purity, a burning sun: such are the notes I
find in my note-book as to the march of May 5th.

The encampment was at Tleta de Reissana. We found the tents pitched as
usual in a circle, in a deep and shell-shaped gorge so overgrown with
tall grass and flowers that they almost impeded our steps. It seemed
like a great garden. Beds and boxes in the tents were almost hidden by
tall flowers of every form and color. Close to the tent of the two
painters rose two enormous aloes in blossom.

The Italian Consular Agent from Laracce met us here. He was Signor G——,
an old Genoese merchant, who had lived for forty years on the Atlantic
coast, jealously preserving the accent of his native town; and toward
evening arrived, from no one knew where, an Arab who wished to consult
the doctor of the Embassy.

He was a poor old man, lame and bent; Signor Miguerez, who spoke Arabic,
questioned him about his ailments, and searched in the portable medicine
chest for a remedy. Not finding the right one, he sent for Mohammed
Ducali, and made him write down a prescription in Arabic, by means of
which the sick man was to be treated when he got back to his family and
friends. It was a medicine much in use among the Arabs. Whilst Ducali
wrote, the old man muttered prayers; and when it was ready, the paper
was handed to him.

Instantly, before there was time to say one word, he crammed it into his
mouth with both hands. The doctor called out: “No! no! spit it out! spit
it out!” But it was of no use. The poor old fellow chewed the paper with
the avidity of a starving creature, swallowed it, thanked the doctor,
and turned to go away. They had all the pains in the world to persuade
him that the virtue of the medicine did not reside in the paper, and
that another prescription must be written.

The incident cannot surprise any one who knows what the science of
medicine is in Morocco. It is almost exclusively exercised by quacks,
necromancers, and “saints.” Some juices of herbs, blood-letting,
sarsaparilla for certain diseases, the dry skin of a serpent or
chameleon for intermittent fevers, a hot iron for wounds, certain verses
from the Koran written upon the medicine bottles, or on bits of paper
worn round the sick man’s neck; these are the principal remedies. The
study of anatomy being forbidden by their religion, it is easy to
imagine to what a pass surgery is reduced. Amputation is held in
abhorrence. The few Arabs who are within reach of the aid of European
surgeons would prefer to die in atrocious spasms rather than submit to
the cut that would save their lives. It follows that though cases of
injury to a limb are frequent in Morocco, especially from the explosion
of fire-arms, there are very few mutilated persons; and those few are
for the most part poor wretches whose hands have been cut off by the
executioner with a dull knife, and the hemorrhage stopped by the
application of boiling pitch. These violent remedies, however,
especially the red-hot iron, sometimes obtain admirable effects; and
they apply them themselves brutally, boldly, without any aid. Either by
reason of small nervous sensibility, or from their souls having been
hardened in a fatalistic faith, they resist the most horrible pain with
tremendous force of will. They go through the operation of cupping with
an earthen pot and enough fire to roast the spine; they open boils with
their daggers, driving them in at the risk of cutting an artery; and
they will apply fire to an open wound on their own arm, blowing away the
smoke of the frizzling flesh without a groan. The maladies that are most
prevalent are fevers, ophthalmia, scald-head, elephantiasis, and dropsy;
but the most common of all is syphilis, handed down from generation to
generation, altered and reproduced in strange and horrid forms, with
which whole tribes are infected, and of which a large proportion die;
and the mortality would no doubt be even greater but for their extreme
sobriety in eating, to which both their poverty and the exigencies of
the climate compel them. European physicians there are none excepting in
the cities of the coast; in Fez itself there are none, unless some
renegade quack who has fled from Algeria or the Spanish garrisons may be
counted such. When the Emperor, or a Minister, or a rich Moor falls ill,
he sends for a European doctor from the coast. But this is never done
except in cases of extremity, and they hide their infirmities for years,
so that when the physician does arrive, it is often only to see his
patient die. They have great faith in the skill of European doctors; the
sight of the drugs, the chemical preparations, the surgical instruments,
give them an immense idea of the power of science; they promise
themselves prodigies, following the first prescriptions with the
docility and cheerfulness of people quite certain of a prompt cure. But
if the cure is not immediate, they lose all faith, and go back to their
quacks.

The evening passed without any event worth noting, beyond the discovery
of a monstrous scorpion of preternatural blackness on the pillow of my
bed. I was seized with a momentary terror, and carefully threw the light
upon him as I approached with cautious steps; whereupon I was able to
read upon his back the following reassuring inscription: “_Ceasar Biseo
made it—May 5th, 1875._”

At dawn in the morning we left for the city of Alkazar. The weather was
dark. The gorgeous colors of the soldiers of our escort shone out with
marvellous force against the gray sky and the dark green of the country.
Hamed Ben Kasen Buhamei planted himself upon a height above the road and
looked complacently down upon the brilliant cavalcade as they filed by
in close order, silent, grave, with eyes fixed upon the horizon, like
the advance guard of an army on the morning of a battle. For some time
we rode among olive-trees and high bushes; then we entered a vast plain
all covered with flowers, violet and yellow, where the escort scattered
to go through the _lab-el-barode_. It would be impossible to convey an
idea of the strange beauty of the spectacle upon that flowery plain,
under the threatening sky. I can scarcely believe that they had any rule
by which they grouped themselves and dissolved again to form new
combinations, but that morning I fancied it. One would have sworn that
their movements were directed by a ballet-master. In the midst of a
group of blue mantles there would appear, as if sent on purpose, one in
a white cloak; and a company of white caftans surrounded a figure in
brilliant rose-color, looking as if made by the stroke of an artist’s
brush. Harmonious colors followed, met, and mingled for the space of a
moment, and then dissolved to form new harmonies. The three hundred
seemed multiplied into an army; they were everywhere wheeling and
swooping like a flock of birds; and the two painters were driven to
despair by them.

“Ah, _canaglie_!”—exclaimed one,—“if I only had you in my clutch at
Florence!”



                              CHAPTER IV.
                           ALKAZAR-EL-KEBIR.


At a certain point the ambassador made a sign to the caid, and the
escort came to a stand, while we, accompanied by a few soldiers, went a
short distance beyond to visit the ruins of a bridge. The place was
worthy of the silent respect with which we stood and viewed the little
that remained of what was once a bridge. Three hundred years ago, on the
fourth of August, over those flowery fields, fifty cannon and forty
thousand horsemen thundered and charged under the command of one of the
greatest captains of Africa, and the youngest, the most adventurous, the
most unfortunate of European monarchs. On the shores of that river were
put to death—by the implacable scimitars of Arabs, Turks, and
Berbers—the flower of the Portuguese nobility, courtiers, bishops,
Spanish soldiers, and soldiers of William of Orange, Italian, German,
and French adventurers. Six thousand Christians fell that day. We stood
upon the field of that terrible battle of Alkazar, which spread
consternation throughout Europe, and sent a shout of joy from Fez to
Constantinople. Over that bridge passed at that time the road to
Alkazar. Near it was the camp of Muley Moluk, Sultan of Morocco. Muley
Moluk came from Alkazar, the King of Portugal from Arzilla. The battle
was fought upon that plain, and along the shores of the river. Beyond
the ruins of the bridge there was not a stone or a sign to record it.
From which side had the cavalry of the Duke of Riveiro made its first
victorious charge? Where had Muley Ahmed fought the brother of the
Sultan, the future conqueror of the Soudan, a captain suspected of
cowardice in the morning, a victorious monarch in the evening? At what
point on the river was drowned Mohammed the Black, the dis-crowned
fratricide and provoker of the war? At what angle of the field had King
Sebastian received those death-wounds that killed with him the
independence of Portugal and the last hopes of Camoens? And where stood
the litter of Sultan Moluk when he expired among his officers, with his
finger on his lip? Whilst these thoughts were passing through our minds,
the escort stood afar off, motionless on that famous field, like a
handful of Muley Ahmed’s cavalry brought to life by the noise of our
passage. And yet very likely not one among those soldiers knew that this
had been the battlefield of three kings, the glory of their ancestors;
and when we resumed our march, they glanced about with curious eyes, as
if seeking among the grass and flowers for the reason of our halt.

We crossed the Mkhacem and the Uarrur, two small affluents of the Kus,
or Lukkos, the _Lixos_ of the ancients, which from the mountains of the
Rif where it is born, throws itself into the Atlantic at Laracce; and
continued our way toward Alkazar over a succession of arid hills,
meeting only an occasional camel with his driver.

At last, we thought as we rode along, we shall arrive at a city! It was
three days since we had seen a house, and every one felt a wish to get
away for a day from the monotony of desert life. Besides, Alkazar was
the first of the towns of the interior that we should reach, and our
curiosity was very lively. The escort fell into order as we approached
the place. We almost unconsciously ranged ourselves in two ranks, with
the ambassador in front flanked by his two interpreters. The weather had
cleared up, and a cheerful impatience animated the whole caravan.

Suddenly, from the top of a hill, we saw in the plain below, surrounded
by gardens, the city of Alkazar, crowned with towers, minarets, and
palms, and at the same moment there burst forth the cracking of musketry
and the sound of a most infernal din of music.

It was the governor coming to meet us with his staff, a company of
foot-soldiers, and a band of music. In a few minutes we met.

Ah! He who has not seen the Alkazar band, with its ten pipers, and
horn-players, old men of a hundred years and boys of ten, all mounted on
donkeys about as large as dogs, ragged and half naked, with their shaven
heads, their satyr-like gestures, their mummy faces, has not seen, I
think, the most sadly comic spectacle that can be witnessed under the
wide sky.

Whilst the aged governor was giving welcome to our chief, the soldiers
fired their muskets in the air, and the band continued to play. We
advanced to within half a mile of the city, to an arid field where the
tents were to be pitched.

The band accompanied us, still playing. The dinner tent was pitched and
made ready, and we entered it while the escort fired their muskets.

Meanwhile the band, ranged before the tent, continued to blow with
increasing ferocity, but a supplicating gesture from the ambassador
silenced it at last. Then we assisted at a curious scene.

Almost at the same moment there presented themselves to the ambassador,
one on the right and the other on the left, a black man and an Arab. The
black, handsomely dressed in a white turban and a blue caftan, deposited
at his feet a jar of milk, a basket of oranges, and a dish of _cùcùssù_;
the Arab, poorly attired in the usual burnouse, placed before him a
sheep. This done, the two darted lightning glances at each other. They
were two mortal enemies. The ambassador, who knew them and expected
them, called the interpreter, sat down, and began to question them.

They had come to ask for justice. The black was a sort of factor or
steward of the old Grand Scherif Bacali, one of the most powerful
personages at the court of Fez, proprietor of much land in the
neighborhood of Alkazar. The Arab was a countryman. Their dispute had
been going on for some time. The black, strong in the protection of his
master, had several times imprisoned and fined the Arab, accusing him,
and supporting his accusation with many proofs, of having stolen horses,
cattle, and goods. The Arab, who insisted that he was innocent, finding
no one willing to take up his defence against his persecutor, had
abandoned his village one fine day, and going to Tangiers, had there
enquired who among the foreign ambassadors was most just and generous.
Being told that it was the Minister from Italy, he had cut the throat of
a sheep before the gate of the Legation, asking in this sacred form, to
which no refusal was possible, for protection and justice. The
ambassador had listened to his story, had intervened through the agent
at Laracce, and had called upon the authorities at Alkazar to see to it;
but his own distance, the intrigues of the black, and the weakness of
the authorities, had all combined to put the poor Arab in a worse
condition than at first; and he was indeed again accused and subjected
to new persecutions. Now the presence of the ambassador was to undo the
knot. Both individuals were admitted to tell each his own story; the
interpreters rapidly translating.

Nothing more dramatic can be imagined than the contrast between the
figures and the language of the two men.

The Arab, a man of about thirty years of age, of a sickly and suffering
aspect, spoke with irresistible fervor, trembling, shivering, invoking
God, striking the earth with his fists, covering his face with his hands
with a gesture of despair, fulminating at his enemy with glances that no
words can describe. He declared that the other had suborned witnesses,
intimidated the authorities, that he had imprisoned him, the speaker,
solely to extort money, that he had cast many others into prison in
order to possess their wives, that he had sworn his death, that he was
the scourge of the country, an accursed of God, an infamous being; and,
as he spoke, he showed the marks of the fetters upon his naked limbs,
and his voice was choked with anguish. The black, whose every feature
confirmed one, at least, of these accusations, listened without looking,
answered quietly, smiled slightly with the edge of his lip, impassive
and sinister as a statue of Perfidy.

The discussion had lasted for some time, and seemed yet far from a
conclusion, when the ambassador cut it short by a decision that was
received favorably by both parties. He called Selim, who appeared upon
the instant with his great black eyes shining, and ordered him to mount
his horse and gallop to the Arab’s village, distant an hour and a half
from Alkazar, and there gather from the inhabitants information
concerning the persons and the facts. The black thought:—“They are
afraid of me; they will either be silent, or speak in my favor.” The
Arab thought, and he was quite right, that interrogated by a soldier of
the embassy, they would have courage to speak the truth.

Selim darted off like an arrow; the two disputants vanished and were
seen no more. We heard afterward that the village people had all
testified in favor of the Arab, and that the black had been condemned,
through the intervention of the ambassador, to restore to his victim the
money he had extorted from him.

Meantime the tents had been pitched, the usual poor wretches had brought
the usual _muna_, and a few of the inhabitants of the city had come into
the encampment.

As soon as it began to grow cooler, we proceeded toward Alkazar on foot,
preceded, flanked, and followed by an armed force.

We saw from a distance, in passing, a singular edifice, between the camp
and the town, all arches and cupolas, with a court in the midst, like a
cemetery. It proved to be one of those _zania_, now fallen into disuse,
which, when Moorish civilization flourished, contained a library, a
school of letters and sciences, a hospital for the poor, an inn for
travellers, besides a mosque and a sepulchral chapel; they belonged, and
belong still in general, to the religious orders.

[Illustration: People Of Alkazar.]

We approached the gates of the city. It is surrounded by old
battlemented walls; near the gate by which we entered were some tombs of
saints surmounted by green domes. Hearing a great noise over our heads
we looked up, and found it proceeded from some large storks, erect upon
the roofs of the houses, which were clattering their bills together, as
if to give warning of our coming. We entered a street; the women rushed
into their houses; the children took to flight. The houses are small,
unplastered, without windows, and divided by dark and dirty alleys. The
streets look like the beds of torrents. At some of the corners lie
entire carcases of donkeys and dogs. We trudge through the dirt, among
great stones, and deep holes, stumbling and jumping. The inhabitants
begin to gather upon our track, looking at us with amazement. The
soldiers make way for us with their fists and the butts of their
muskets, with a zeal which the ambassador hastens to restrain. A throng
of people now follow and precede us. When one of us turns suddenly
round, all stop, some run away, and others hide themselves. Here and
there a woman slams her door in our faces, and a child utters a yell of
terror. The women look like bundles of dirty rags; the children are in
general quite naked; boys of ten or twelve have nothing on but a shirt
tied round the waist with a cord. Little by little the people about us
grow bolder. They look curiously at our trousers and boots. Some boys
venture to touch the skirts of our coats. The general expression of the
faces is far from benevolent. A woman, in full flight, throws some words
at the ambassador which the interpreter translates:—“God confound thy
race!” A young man cries out:—“God grant us a good day of victory over
these!” We reach a small square, so steep and stony that we can with
difficulty climb it, and pass a line of horrible old women almost
completely naked, seated on the ground, with bread and other matters
before them which they appear to be selling. In the streets through
which we pass there is at every hundred paces a great arched door, which
is closed at night. The houses are everywhere naked, cracked, gloomy. We
enter a bazaar, roofed with canes and branches of trees that are falling
down on every side. The shops are mere niches; the shopmen, wax figures;
the merchandise, rubbish offered in joke and hopeless of a purchaser. In
every corner are crouched sad, sleepy, stupid-looking figures; children
with scald-heads; old women with no semblance of humanity. We seem to be
wandering in the halls of a hospital. The air is full of aromatic odors.
Not a voice is heard. The crowd accompanies us in spectral silence. We
come out of the bazaar. We meet Moors on horseback, camels with their
burthens, a fury who shakes her fist at the ambassador, an old saint
crowned with a laurel wreath, who laughs in our faces. At a certain
point we began to see men dressed in black, with long hair, their heads
covered with a blue handkerchief, who looked smilingly at us, and made
humble salutations. One of these, a ceremonious old gentleman, presently
came forward and invited the ambassador to visit the _Mellà_, or Jews’
quarter, called by the Arabs by that insulting name, which signifies
accursed ground. The ambassador accepting, we passed under a vaulted
door or gateway, and engaged in a labyrinth of alleys more hideous, more
wretched, and more fetid than those of the Arab city, between houses
that seemed mere dens, across small squares like stable-yards, from
which could be seen courts like sewers; and from every side of this
dirt-heap emerged beautiful women and girls, smiling and
murmuring:—_Buenos dias!_—_Buenos dias!_ In some places we were obliged
to stop our noses and pick our way on the tips of our toes. The
ambassador was indignant. “How is it possible,” said he to the old Jew,
“that you can live in such filth?”

“It is the custom of the country,” he replied.

“The custom of the country! It is shameful! And you ask the protection
of the Legations, talk of civilization, call the Moors savages! You, who
live worse than they, and have the face to pride yourselves upon it!”
The Hebrew hung his head and smiled, as if he thought:—“What strange
ideas!”

As we came out of the Mellà the crowd again surrounded us. The
vice-consul patted a child on the head, and there were signs of
astonishment; a favorable murmur arose; the soldiers were obliged to
drive back the boys who crowded in upon us. We went with quickened pace
up a deserted street, leaving the crowd gradually behind us, and coming
outside the walls into a road bordered by enormous cactus and tall palm
trees, felt with a long breath of relief that we were free of the city
and its people.

Such is the city of Alkazar, commonly called Alkazar-el-Kebir, which
signifies—the great Palace. Tradition says that it was founded in the
twelfth century by that Abou-Yussuf Yacoub-el-Mansur, of the dynasty of
the Almoadi, who conquered Alonzo IX of Castile at the battle of
Alarcos, and who built the famous tower of the _Giralda_ at Seville. It
is related that one evening he lost his way while hunting, and that a
fisherman sheltered him in his hut. The Caliph in gratitude built for
him on the same spot a great palace with some other houses, around which
clustered gradually the city. It was once a flourishing and populous
place; now it has about five thousand inhabitants, between Moors and
Jews, and is very poor, although it draws some advantages from being on
the road of the caravans that traverse the empire from north to south.

Passing near one of the gates we saw an Arab boy of about twelve years
old walking stiffly and with difficulty, with his legs wide apart in the
most awkward attitude. Other boys were following him. When he came near
we saw that he had a great bar of iron about a foot in length fixed
between his legs by two rings around his ankles. He was a lean and dirty
lad, with an ill-favored countenance. The ambassador questioned him
through the interpreter:

“Who put that bar upon you?”

“My father,” answered the boy, boldly.

“For what reason?”

“Because I will not learn to read.”

We did not believe him, but a town Arab who was present confirmed what
he had said.

“Have you worn it long?”

“Three years,” he answered, smiling bitterly.

We thought it all a lie. But the Arab again confirmed it, adding that
the boy slept with the bar upon him, and that all Alkazar knew him. Then
the ambassador, moved with compassion, made him a little speech,
exhorting him to study, to get rid of that shame and torture, and not to
dishonor his family; and when the interpreter had repeated it, he was
asked what his answer was.

“My answer is this,” replied the boy, “that I will wear the iron all my
life, but that I will never learn to read, and that I will die before I
yield.”

The ambassador looked fixedly at him, but he sustained his glance with
unflinching eye.

“Gentlemen,” said the ambassador, turning to us, “our mission is over.”
We returned to the camp, and the boy with his iron bar re-entered the
city.

“A few years more,” said a soldier, “and there will be another head over
the Alkazar gate.”



                               CHAPTER V.
                               BEN-AUDA.


The next morning, at sunrise, we forded the river Kus, on the right bank
of which the city of Alkazar is situated, and again advanced over an
undulating, flowery, solitary country, whose confines stretched beyond
our sight. The escort was scattered in a number of detached groups,
looking like so many little _cortéges_ of a Sultan. The artists galloped
here and there, sketch-book in hand, sketching horses and riders. The
rest of the members of the embassy talked of the invasion of the Goths,
of commerce, of scorpions, of philosophy, eagerly listened to by the
mounted servants who came behind. Civo lent particular attention to a
philosophic discussion; Hamed listened to his master, who was telling
about a wild-boar hunt, in which he had risked his life. This Hamed was,
after Selim, the most notable personage in the whole category of
servants, soldiers, and grooms. He was an Arab of about thirty years
old, very tall, bronzed, muscular, strong as a bull; but he had also a
beardless face, the softest dark eyes, a voice, a smile, a grace in all
his movements, which made the most marked contrast with his powerful
person. He wore a white turban, a blue jacket, and Zouave trousers;
spoke Spanish, knew how to do every thing, and pleased everybody, so
that the vain-glorious Selim was jealous of him. The others also were
all more or less handsome young fellows, attentive, and full of
obsequious solicitude. When one of us looked back, he encountered their
big eyes asking whether he needed any thing. “What a pity,” thought I,
“that we should not be attacked by a band of robbers, so that we might
see all these nimble fellows put to the proof!”

We had ridden about two hours when we began to meet people. The first
was a black horseman, who held in his hand one of those little sticks
with an inscription in Arabic, called _herrez_, which the monks give to
travellers to preserve them from robbers and illness. Then came some
ragged old women bearing great bundles of wood upon their shoulders. Oh,
power of fanaticism! Bent as they were, tired, breathless, they still
found strength to launch a curse at us. One murmured, “God curse these
infidels!” Another, “God keep us from the evil spirit!” About an hour
later we met a courier, a poor lean Arab, bearing letters in a leathern
bag slung about his neck. He stopped to say that he came from Fez, and
was going to Tangiers. The ambassador gave him a letter for Tangiers,
and he hastened on his way.

Such, and no other, is the postal service of Morocco, and nothing can be
more wretched than the lives of these couriers. They eat nothing on
their journey but a little bread and a few figs; they stop only at night
for a few hours to sleep, with a cord tied to the foot, to which they
set fire before going to sleep, and which wakens them within a certain
time; they travel whole days without seeing a tree or a drop of water;
they cross forests infested with wild boar, climb mountains inaccessible
to mules, swim rivers, sometimes walk, sometimes run, sometimes roll
down declivities, or climb ascents on feet and hands, under the August
sun, under the drenching autumn rains, under the burning desert wind,
taking four days from Tangiers to Fez, a week from Tangiers to Morocco,
from one extremity of the empire to the other, alone, barefooted,
half-naked; and when they have reached their journey’s end, they go
back! And this they do for a few francs.

At about half-way from Alkazar to our destination the road began to
ascend very gradually until we reached a height from whence we saw
another immense plain covered with vast tracts of yellow, red, and white
flowers, looking like stretches of snow, striped with gold and crimson.
Over this plain there came galloping to meet us some two hundred
horsemen, with muskets resting on their saddle, led by a figure all in
white, which Mohammed Ducali recognized and announced in a loud voice to
be the governor of Ben-Auda.

We had reached the confines of the province of Seffian, called also
Ben-Auda, from the family name of the governor, which signifies _son of
a mare_; a name which had taken my fancy before leaving Tangiers.

We descended into the plain, and the two hundred of Seffian having drawn
up in a line with the three hundred of Laracce, the governor Ben-Auda
presented himself to our chief.

If I live to be a hundred years old I shall never forget that
countenance. He was a lean old man, with savage eyes, a forked nose,[1]
a lipless mouth cut in the form of a semicircle turned downward.
Arrogance, superstition, Venus, _kif_, idleness, and satiety were
written upon his visage. A big turban covered his forehead and ears. A
curved dagger hung from his girdle.

Footnote 1:

  _Naso forcuto_, a favorite expression with the author.

The ambassador dismissed the commander of the escort from Laracce, who
at once withdrew with his horsemen at a gallop; and we went on with the
new escort, and the usual accompaniment of charging and firing.

Their faces were blacker, their robes more gaudy, their horses finer,
their yells more extraordinary, their charges and manœuvres more wildly
impetuous than any we had yet seen. The further we advanced, the more
apparent became the local color of all things.

In all that multitude twelve horsemen, dressed with unusual elegance and
mounted on beautiful horses, were conspicuous, even in the eyes of the
Arabs. Five of them were colossal young men, who appeared to be
brothers; all had pale bronzed faces and great black brilliant eyes
under enormous turbans, These five were the sons, and the other seven,
nephews of the governor Ben-Auda.

The firing and charging went on for about an hour, at which time we
reached a garden belonging to the governor, where we dismounted to rest
and refresh ourselves.

It was a grove of orange and lemon trees, planted in parallel rows, and
so thickly as to form an intricate green roof, under which one enjoyed
the coolness, shade, and perfume of paradise.

The governor dismounted with us, and presented his sons,—five as
handsome, dignified, and amiable faces as are often to be seen. One
after the other pressed our hands, with a slight bow, casting down his
eyes with an air of boyish shyness.

We were all presently seated in the garden, upon a beautiful carpet from
Rabat, where we were served with breakfast. The governor of Ben-Auda sat
upon a mat at twenty paces from us, and also breakfasted, waited upon by
his slaves. Then ensued a curious exchange of courtesies between him and
the ambassador. First, Ben-Auda sent a vase of milk as an offering: the
ambassador returned it with a beefsteak. The milk was followed by
butter, the beefsteak by an omelet; the butter by a sweet dish, the
omelet by a box of sardines; the whole accompanied by a thousand coldly
ceremonious gestures—hands clasped upon the breast, and eyes turned up
to heaven with a comical expression of gastronomic enthusiasm. The sweet
dish, by the way, was a species of tart made of honey, eggs, butter, and
sugar, of which the Arabs are extremely fond, and about which they have
an odd superstition—that if while the woman is cooking it a man should
happen to enter the room, the tart goes wrong, and even if it could be
eaten it would not be prudent to do so. “And wine?” some one asked;
“should we not offer him some wine?” There was some discussion. It was
asserted that governor Ben-Auda was in secret devoted to the bottle; but
how could he drink in the presence of his soldiers? It was decided not
to send any. To me, however, it seemed that he cast very soft glances at
the bottles, much softer than those with which he favored us. During the
whole time that he sat there on his mat, except when he was giving
thanks for gifts, he maintained a frowning expression of pride and anger
that made me wish to have under my orders our forty companies of
_bersaglieri_,[2] that I might parade them under his nose.

Footnote 2:

  _Bersaglieri_, Italian riflemen.

Mohammed Ducali meantime was relating to me a notable episode in the
history of Ben-Auda, in which family the government of Seffian has been
for ages. The people of this province are brave and turbulent; and they
are said to have given proof of their valor in the late war with Spain,
when, at the battle of Vad-Ras, in March, 1861, Sidi Absalam
Ben-Abd-el-Krim Ben-Auda, then governor of the whole province of Garb,
was killed. To this Absalam succeeded his eldest son, Sidi Abd-el-Krim.
He was a violent and dissipated man, who despoiled his people by
taxation and tormented them with a capricious ferocity. One day he
intimated to one Gileli Ruqui that he desired a large sum of money. The
man excused himself on the plea of poverty. He was loaded with chains
and cast into prison, The family and friends of the prisoner sold all
they had and brought the desired sum to Sidi Abd-el-Krim. Gileli came
out of prison, and having assembled all his friends, they took a solemn
oath to kill the governor. His house was situated at about two hours’
ride from the garden where we were. The conspirators attacked it in the
night in force. They killed the sentinels, broke into the hall,
strangled and poniarded Sidi Abd-el-Krim, his wives, children, servants,
and slaves; sacked and burned the house, and then threw themselves into
the open country, raising the cry of revolt. The relatives and partisans
of Ben-Auda gathered themselves together and marched against the rebels;
the rebels dispersed them, and rebellion broke out all over the Garb.
Then the Sultan sent an army; the revolt, after a furious resistance,
was put down, and the heads of the leaders hung from the gates of Fez
and Morocco; the land of the _Benimalek_ was divided from the province;
the house of Ben-Auda was rebuilt; and Sidi-Mohammed Ben-Auda, brother
of the murdered man, and guest of the Italian embassy, assumed the
government of the land of his fathers. It was a passing victory of
desperation over tyranny, followed by a harder tyranny than before; in
these words may be summed up the history of every province of the
empire, and, perhaps, at that very moment there was a predestined Gileli
Ruqui for Sidi-Mohammed Ben-Auda.

Before sunset we reached our encampment, which was not very far off, on
a solitary plain, at the foot of a small eminence on which was a _Cuba_
flanked by a palm tree.

The ambassador had hardly arrived, when the _mona_ was brought and
deposited as usual before his tent, in the presence of the intendant,
the caid, the soldiers, and servants. Whilst they were busy making the
division, I saw, as I raised my eyes toward the _Cuba_, a man of tall
stature and strange aspect coming down with long strides toward the
encampment. There was no doubt about it: here was the hermit, the saint,
coming to make a disturbance. I said not a word, but waited. He skirted
the camp on the outside so as to appear suddenly before the ambassador’s
tent. He moved on the tips of his toes; a sepulchral figure, covered
with black rags, disgusting to behold. All at once he broke into a run,
dashed into the midst of us; and, recognizing our chief by his dress,
rushed upon him with the howl of one possessed. But he had scarcely time
to howl. With lightning rapidity the caid seized him by the throat, and
dragged him furiously into the midst of the soldiery, who in a second
had him out of the camp, stifling his roars with a mantle. The
interpreter translated his invectives as follows: “Let us exterminate
all these accursed Christian dogs, who go to the Sultan and do what they
please, while we are dying with hunger!”

A little after the presentation of the customary _mona_, there arrived
at the camp about fifty Arabs and blacks, bearing in single file great
round boxes, with high conical covers of straw, and containing eggs,
chickens, tarts, sweets, roast meats, _cùscùssù_, salads, etc., enough
to satisfy an entire tribe. It was a second _mona_, spontaneously
offered to the ambassador by Sidi-Mohammed Ben-Auda, perhaps to do away
with the effect of his threatening visage in the morning.

That personage himself presently appeared on horseback, accompanied by
his five sons and a crowd of servants. The ambassador received them in
his tent, and conversed with them through the interpreters. He asked one
of his sons if he had ever heard of Italy. The young man answered that
he had heard it mentioned several times. One of them asked whether
England or Italy was farthest from Morocco; how many cannons we had,
what was the name of our chief city, and how the king was dressed. As
they spoke, they all examined curiously our neckties and our
watch-chains. The ambassador then asked the governor some questions
about the extent and population of his province. Either he knew nothing,
or did not choose to tell; any how, it was not possible to get any
information out of him. I remember he said that the exact number of the
population could not be known. “But about what number?” was asked. Not
even about the number could be known. Then he questioned us again. “How
did we like the city of Alkazar? Should we like to stay in Morocco? Why
had we not brought our wives?” They drank tea with us, and after many
salutations and genuflexions, remounted their horses, and spurred away,
or rather disappeared; for as there was not a village or a house within
eyeshot, all those who came and went made the effect of people who had
risen out of the ground, or vanished into thin air.

This, like every other day, closed with a splendid sunset, and a noisy,
merry dinner. But the night was one of the most disturbed that we had
had throughout the journey; perhaps because it was necessary in the land
of Seffian that the ambassador should be more carefully guarded than in
other places, the night sentinels kept each other awake by singing,
every quarter of an hour, a verse from the Koran. One intoned the words,
and all the others responded in chorus, in loud voices, accompanied by
the neighing of steeds and the barking of dogs. We had hardly dropped
asleep when we were aroused again, and could not succeed in closing an
eye. By way of addition, a little after midnight, in one of the
intervals of silence, a wild, harsh voice arose out in the fields, and
never ceased until dawn. Sometimes it approached, then seemed to recede,
then approached again very near, taking a tone of menace, or lamenting,
despairing, and bursting out now and then in piercing cries or yells of
laughter that chilled one’s bones. It was the saint wandering about the
confines of the camp, and calling down God’s malediction on our heads.
In the morning when we issued forth from our tents, there he was erect,
like a spectre in front of his solitary _Cuba_, bathed in the first rose
tints of dawn, and pouring out curses in a harsh voice, waving his
skeleton arms above his head.

I went in search of the cook to see what he thought of this awful
personage. But I found him so busy making coffee for an impatient crowd
who were all attacking him at once, that I had not the heart to torment
him. Some were talking Arabic, Ranni spoke Sicilian, the _Calefato_
Neapolitan, Hamed Spanish, and M. Vincent French.

“_Ma_, I can’t understand a word you say, gallows-birds that you are!”
screamed the cook in despair.

“_Ma_, this is Babylon! Let me breathe! Do you want to see me die? _Oh
che pais, mi povr’om!_ Oh, what a country for a poor man to be in! They
all talk together, and no one understands the other!”

When he had recovered his breath a little, I pointed out the howling
saint, and asked him, “Well, what do you think of that piece of
impudence?”

He raised his eyes to the _Cuba_, looked steadily at the saint for a few
moments, and then with a gesture of profound contempt answered in
Piedmontese accent, “_Guardo e passi!_”[3] and withdrew with dignity
into his tent.

Footnote 3:

  “_Non ragionam di lor, ma guarda e passa._”—_Dante._



                              CHAPTER VI.
                           KARIA-EL-ABBASSI.


We struck our camp and moved on in the usual order, amid the cries and
musket-shots of the escort, arriving in two hours’ time at a small
watercourse which marked the confines of Seffian. Here we were met by a
large company of horsemen, led by the governor of the province which
extends from Seffian to the large river Sebù. The escort from Ben-Auda
turned and disappeared; we forded the stream, and were instantly
surrounded by the new-comers.

[Illustration: The Governor Abd-Alla.]

Bu-Bekr-Ben-el-Abbassi, an elegant and graceful personage, pressed
warmly the hand of our chief, saluted amicably Ducali, his former school
companion, and welcomed the rest with a dignified and graceful gesture.
We rode on, and for some time not one of us could take our eyes off the
new-comer. He was the most interesting of all the governors we had seen.
Of middle height, and slender figure, dark, with soft penetrating eyes,
aquiline nose, and a full black beard, through which, when he smiled,
gleamed two rows of beautiful teeth. He was wrapped in a fine snow-white
mantle, with the hood drawn over his turban, and mounted on a jet-black
horse with sky-blue housings. He looked like a generous, beloved, and
happy man. Either my fancy misled me, or the aspect of the two hundred
horsemen from Karia-el-Abbassi reflected the benignity of the governor.
They appeared to me to have the open and contented expression of men who
had for years enjoyed the miraculous grace of a humane government.

This appearance, together with the huts, that began to be more frequent
in the country, and the serene weather, refreshed by a perfumed breeze,
gave me for a time the delusion that the province was an oasis of
prosperity and peace in the midst of the miserable empire of the
Scherifs.

We passed through a village composed of two rows of camel-skin tents,
held together with canes and sticks; every tent having a tiny enclosure
surrounded by a cactus hedge. Beyond the tents cows and horses were
feeding; in front, upon our road, were some groups of half-naked
children come to look at us; ragged men and women peeped at us over the
hedges. No one shook his fist at us, no one cursed us. Hardly had we
passed the village when they all came out of their huts, and we beheld a
crowd of some hundreds of black, hideous, famine-stricken wretches, who
might have risen from some graveyard. Some ran behind us for a while;
others vanished among the irregularities of the ground.

The configuration of the country through which we were passing gave rise
to a wonderful variety of picturesque effects as the escort and caravan
proceeded. It was a succession of deep valleys, parallel to each other,
formed by great earth waves, and all covered with flowers like a garden.
Passing from one valley to another we would lose sight of the escort for
a moment; then on the top of the height behind us would appear, first
the muzzles of the muskets, then fezes and turbans, then faces, and
finally the figures of men and horses, rising apparently out of the
earth. Looking back from a height we could see the two hundred scattered
along the valley amid the smoke and re-echoing noises of their shots,
and far along behind, the servants, soldiers, horses, and mules,
appearing for an instant, and then plunging into the depths and lost to
sight. Seen in that way the caravan appeared interminable, and presented
the grandiose aspect of an expeditionary army or an emigrating people.

Karia-el-Abbassi was made up of the governor’s house and a group of huts
shaded by a few fig and wild olive trees. We accepted the governor’s
invitation to rest at his house, and the caravan went on to the spot
selected for the camp.

Crossing two or three courts, enclosed between bare white walls, we
entered a garden, upon which opened the principal gate of the mansion; a
little white house, windowless, and silent as a convent. A few mulatto
slaves showed us into a small ground-floor room, also white, with no
aperture except the door by which we entered, and another little door in
a corner. There were two alcoves, three white mattresses on the mosaic
floor, and some embroidered cushions. It was the first time we had been
within four walls since our departure from Tangiers; we stretched
ourselves voluptuously in the alcoves, and awaited with curiosity the
continuation of the spectacle.

The governor came in wrapped in a snowy _caic_ that reached from his
turban to his feet. He threw off his yellow slippers, and sat down
barefooted on the mattress between Ducali and the ambassador. Slaves
brought jars of milk and plates of sweetmeats, and Ben-el-Abbassi
himself made the tea, and poured it out into beautiful little cups of
Chinese porcelain, which his favorite servant, a young mulatto with his
face tattooed in arabesque, carried round. The grace and dignity of our
host in all that he did are not to be described, and seemed amazing in a
man who was probably very ignorant, who governed a few thousands of
tented Arabs, and never in all his life perhaps had seen fifty civilized
persons. In the most aristocratic _salon_ in Europe not the least fault
could have been found in his manners. His dress was fresh, neat, and
fragrant as that of an odalisque just come from the bath. As he moved,
his _caic_ showed beneath gleams of the splendid and varied colors of
his costume, inspiring in the spectator an ardent wish to tear off the
veil and see what was hidden under it. He spoke in quiet tones and
without the slightest appearance of curiosity, as if he had seen us the
day before. He had never been out of Morocco, and said that he should
like much to see our railways and our great palaces; and he knew that
there were in Italy three cities which were called Genoa, Rome, and
Venice. As he conversed, the little door opened behind him, and the head
of a pretty little mulatto girl was thrust out, which rolled around two
large astonished and startled eyes, and vanished. She was the governor’s
daughter by a black woman. He was aware of the apparition, and smiled.
There followed a long interval of silence. In the middle of the chamber
rose the fumes of burning aloes from the perfume burners; before the
door stood a group of curious slaves; behind the slaves were palm trees;
and over all smiled the clear blue sky of Africa. It all seemed so
unreal that I found myself thinking of my little room in Turin, and of
its sometime occupant, as of another person.

On our way to the encampment, which was about half a mile from the
governor’s house, upon a high plain covered with dry grass, we for the
first time felt the scorching power of the sun. It was only the 8th of
May; and we were not a hundred miles from the Mediterranean coast, and
we had yet to cross the great plain of the Sebù.

[Illustration: Taking Tea With The Governor Of Karia-El-Abbassi.]

Notwithstanding the heat our camp was enlivened toward evening by an
unusual concourse of people. On one side a long row of Arabs seated on
the ground, watched the manœuvres of the cavalry escort; on the other,
some were playing ball; a little farther on a group of women huddled in
their coarse _caics_ observed us with gestures of astonishment, and a
throng of children ran about everywhere. The population seemed really
less savage than those we had left behind.

Biseo and I went to look at the ball-players, who immediately left off,
but after some consulting glances resumed their game. There were fifteen
or twenty of them, tall fellows, big and athletic, with nothing on but
shirts bound round the waist, and a kind of mantle made of coarse and
dirty stuff, wound round the body like a _caic_. Their play was
different from that at Tangiers. One struck the ball into the air with
his foot; all the others rushed to catch it as it fell, leaping up into
the air as if they were about to fly; and the one who caught it struck
it up again in his turn. Often in the mêlée, one would fall, and others
falling over him, and others again on them, the whole would roll about
together kicking and screaming, and with small regard for modesty. More
than one thus turned upside down displayed a curved dagger at his
girdle, or a little purse hung from his neck, containing probably some
verses from the Koran as a charm against illness. Once the ball fell at
my feet, and I seized it, placed it on my open palm, made some
necromantic gestures over it, and launched it into the air. For a few
moments not one of the players dared to touch it. They came near it,
looked at it, touched it with a foot timidly; and it was not until they
saw me laugh and make signs that it was a joke, that they ventured to
pick it up and go on with their play.

Meantime nearly all the boys who were running about had gathered around
us. There might have been fifty of them, and all the clothing they
possessed among them would not have brought ten-pence at the ragshop.
Some were very handsome, some had scald-heads, most of them were
coffee-colored, and the rest had a greenish-yellow tint as if they were
plastered over with some vegetable substance. A few had tails like the
Chinese. At first they stood about ten paces off, looking suspiciously
at us and exchanging observations in whispers. Then seeing that we did
nothing hostile, they came a little nearer and began to get upon tiptoe,
and bend themselves about in order to see us on every side, as we do in
looking at statues. We stood immovable. One of them touched my shoe with
the tip of his finger, and snatched it away as if it had burnt him;
another smelled at my sleeve. We were surrounded, and smelt all sorts of
exotic odors; we felt as if they were plotting something. “Come,” said
Biseo, “it is time to free ourselves; I have an infallible method”; and
he pulled out sketch-book and pencil, and made as if he were about to
copy one of their faces. In a moment they were all gone, like a flight
of birds.

A little later some women approached. “Wonderful!” said we. “It is to be
hoped that they are not coming to give us a dagger-thrust, in the name
of Mahomet!” But they were only poor sick people, who had scarcely
strength to walk, or hold up their arms to cover their faces; among them
there was a young girl whose groans moved our compassion, and who showed
only one blue eye full of tears. We understood that they were seeking
the doctor, and pointed out his tent. One, helping her words with
gestures, asked if there would be any thing to pay. We said no, and they
tottered toward the doctor’s quarters. We followed to assist at the
consultation. “What do you feel?” asked Signor Miguerez, in Arabic, of
the first one. “A great pain here,” pointing to her shoulder, “I must
see it,” said the physician; “take off your mantle a moment.” The woman
did not move. This is the great point! Not one of them, not even a woman
of ninety will let herself be seen, and all pretend that the doctor can
divine what is the matter. “Come, will you or will you not unveil
yourself?” said Miguerez. No reply. “Well, let me hear the others,” and
he questioned them, while the first withdrew, sadly enough. The others
had no need to unveil, and the doctor distributed pills and potions, and
sent them away “with God.” Poor creatures! Not one of them was more than
thirty years old, and already youth was over for them, and with its
departure had come the fatigue, brutal treatment, and contempt, which
make an Arab woman’s old age horrible; instruments for man’s pleasure up
to twenty, beasts of burthen until death.

[Illustration: A Centipede.]

The dinner was made gay by a visit from Ben-el-Abbassi, and the night
was disturbed by a frightful invasion of insects. Already during the
heat of the day I had foreseen the coming terrors in the unusual buzzing
and swarming which was apparent among the grass. The ants were making
long black lines, beetles were in bunches, and grasshoppers as thick as
flies; and with them a great number of other insects unseen until now,
which did not inspire me with confidence. Captain de Boccard, the
professor of entomology, named them for me. There, among others, was the
_Cicindela campestris_, a living trap, which closes the opening of its
den with its own large head, and drops down into the depths the
incautious insects that pass over it; there was the _Pheropsophus
Africanus_, which darts at its pursuing enemy a puff of corrosive vapor
from its tail; the _Meloe majalis_, dragging along its enormous
dropsical belly swollen with grass and eggs; the _Carabus rugosus_, the
_Pimelia scabrosa_, the _Cetonia opaca_, the _Cossyphus Hoffmannseghi_,
animated leaf, of which Victor Hugo gives a fanciful description enough
to chill one’s blood. And a great number of big lizards, enormous
spiders, centipedes six inches long, crickets as big as my thumb, and
green bugs as big as pennies, that came and went as if they were
preparing by common accord some warlike expedition. As if these were not
enough, I had scarcely seated myself at table and stretched out my hand
to take my glass, when there appeared over the edge of it the head of a
monstrous locust, which instead of flying away at my threatening
gesture, continued to look at me with the utmost impudence. And finally,
by way of climax, Hamed appeared with the face of one who has escaped a
great danger, and laid before us, stuck in a cleft stick, nothing less
than a tarantula, a _Lycosa tarantula_, the terrible spider, that
“_cuando pica á un hombre_, when it stings a man,” said he, “Allah help
him! The unfortunate one begins to laugh and cry, and sing and dance,
and nothing but good music, very good music! the music of the Sultan’s
band, can save him.” The reader can imagine with what courage I went to
my bed. Nevertheless my three companions and I had been in bed for some
little time, the lights were out, and silence prevailed, when suddenly
the commandant sprang into a sitting position, and cried out:—“I am
populated!” (_Io mi sento popolato!_) Then we too began to feel
something. For a time there were furtive touches, timid punctures,
ticklings and slight provocations of explorers and advanced sentinels
that were not worthy of notice. But soon the big patrols began to
arrive, and a vigorous offensive resistance became necessary. The
struggle was ferocious. The more we fought the hotter grew the attack.
They came from the head, from the foot, and dropped from the curtains of
the bed. They seemed to be carrying on the assault under the direction
of some great insect of genius. It was evidently a religious war.
Briefly, we could resist no longer. “Lights!” roared the vice-consul. We
all jumped out of bed, lighted our candles, and prepared for strategy.
The common soldiers were slaughtered on the spot; the leaders, the big
bugs, first classified by the captain, and sentenced by the commandant,
were roasted by the vice-consul, and I composed a funeral eulogium in
prose and verse which will be published after my death. In a few minutes
the ground was strewn with wings and claws, legs and heads; the
survivors dispersed, and we, weary of carnage, reciprocally named each
other knights of various orders, and retired once more to bed.

The following morning at sunrise Governor Ben-el-Abbassi presented
himself to escort us to the confines of his province. We descended from
the high table-land on which our tents were pitched, and saw spread
before our eyes the immense horizon of the plain of the Sebù.

This river, one of the largest in the Magreb, descends from the western
flank of the mountain chain that stretches from the upper Atlas toward
the Straits of Gibraltar, and in a course of about two hundred and forty
kilomètres, swelled by many affluents, goes in a vast curve to throw
itself into the Atlantic Ocean, near Mehedia, where the accumulation of
sand, common to the mouths of all the rivers of Morocco on that side,
prevents the entrance of vessels, and produces great inundations at
certain seasons. The valley of the Sebù, which embraces at its
commencement all the space lying between the two cities of Laracce and
Salé, and touches at its upper extremity the high basin of the Muluia
(the great river which marks the eastern boundary of Morocco), opens to
Europeans, by the shore and by Teza, the way to the city of Fez;
comprising, besides Fez, the large city of Mechinez, the third capital;
which gathers to itself, it may be said, all the political life of the
empire, and is the principal seat of the wealth and power of the Scher.
The Sebù, it may be noted, marks in the north the confines which the
Sultan never oversteps, except in case of war, the three cities, Fez,
Morocco, and Mechinez, lying south of the river. In these three cities
he sojourns alternately. There is also the double city of Salé-Rabatt,
through which he passes in going from Fez to Morocco. He takes this road
in order not to have to cross the mountains that shut in the valley of
the Sebù to the south, their slopes being inhabited by the Zairi, a
mixed Berber race, who have the reputation of being, with Benimitir, the
most turbulent and indomitable of the tribes of those mountains.

The Sebù reminded me of the Tiber in the Roman Campagna. At the point
where we struck it, it is about a hundred yards in width, of a muddy
color, turbulent and rapid, shut in between two high arid banks, which
are almost vertical, and at whose feet extend two zones of miry ground.

Two antediluvian barks, rowed by eight or ten Arabs, approached the
shore. These boats alone, if there were nothing else, would suffice to
show what Morocco is. For hundreds of years sultans, pashas, caravans,
and embassies, have crossed the river on such hulks as these, with their
feet in mud and water, sometimes in danger of drowning; and when the
hulks—as often happens—are full of holes, caravan and embassy, sultan
and pasha, wait on the shore while the boatmen stop the holes with mud
or something else, sometimes for several hours in rain or scorching sun;
and for hundreds of years horses, mules, and camels, for want of a piece
of plank a couple of yards long, run the risk of breaking their legs,
and do break them, in jumping from the shore into the boats; and no one
has ever conceived the idea of constructing a bridge of boats, and no
one has ever thought of bringing down a piece of plank two yards long;
and if any one reproves them for these things, they look at him with an
air of stupefaction as if he had suggested a prodigy.

In many places they cross the rivers upon rafts made of cane, and their
armies cross on floating bridges made of skins blown up with air and
covered with earth and branches.

We dismounted, and went down a steep pathway to the river, when we
Italians crossed in the first boat, and then looked on from the opposite
shore at the passage of the caravan. What a picture it was! In the
middle of the river came a great boat filled with the Moors and camels
of a caravan of merchandise, and a little beyond, another bringing the
horses and men of the escort from Fez, from the midst of which floated
the banner of the Prophet, and shone the black visage and snowy turban
of the caid. On the opposite shore, in the midst of a great confusion of
horses, mules, servants, and baggage, which encumbered the bank for a
long distance, appeared the white and gracious figure of the governor
Ben-el-Abbassi, seated upon a rising ground, his officers grouped behind
him, and his fine horse with its sky-blue trappings standing near. Upon
the top of the bank, which rose like the wall of a fortress, and upon
which sat a long row of country Arabs with dangling legs, were ranged
the two hundred horsemen of the governor, who, seen thus against the
blue background of the sky, looked like giants. Some black servants, as
naked as they were born, were plunging and re-plunging into the river,
screaming and shouting. A few Arabs, according to Moorish custom, washed
their rags, bobbing up and down over them like so many puppets; and some
crossed the river swimming. Above our heads passed flights of storks;
far away on the shore rose the smoke from a group of Bedouin tents; the
boatmen chanted in chorus a prayer to the Prophet for the good result of
the enterprise; the water sent up golden sparkles in the sun, and Selam,
standing at a little distance in his famous caftan, made in the midst of
this barbaric and festive picture the most harmonious red point that
could be imagined by a painter.

The passage occupied several hours, and as each party reached the shore,
it resumed its march with the caravan.

When the last horse had crossed, Governor Ben-el-Abbassi mounted and
joined his soldiers in the heights opposite. The ambassador and his
suite all raised their hands in salute. The escort of Karia-el-Abbassi
answered with a storm of musket-shots, and vanished; but for a moment or
two the fine white figure of the governor was visible amid the smoke,
with his arm stretched toward us in token of amity and farewell.

Accompanied only by our Fez escort, we now entered upon the sadly famous
territory of the Beni-Hassan.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                              BENI-HASSAN.


For more than an hour we travelled through fields of barley, from which
showed here and there a black tent, the head of a camel, or a cloud of
smoke. In the paths we traversed, scorpions, lizards, and snakes were
numerous. Our saddles were so heated by the sun that we could scarcely
hold our hands upon them. The light blinded our eyes, the dust choked
us, and every thing around was still as death. The plain which stretched
before us like an ocean seemed awful to me, as if the caravan were
doomed to go on forever. But at the same time my curiosity to see the
proud Beni-Hassan, of whom I had heard so much, kept up my drooping
spirits. “What kind of people are they?” I asked of the interpreter.
“Thieves and murderers,” answered he; “faces from the other world; the
worst crew in Morocco.” And I scanned the horizon with anxiety.

The faces from another world were not long in coming. We saw in advance
a great cloud of dust, and in a few minutes were surrounded by a throng
of three hundred mounted savages, in green, yellow, white, violet, and
scarlet, ragged, dishevelled, and panting, as if they had just come out
of a fray. In the midst of the thick dust they raised, we could discern
their governor, a long-haired, black-bearded giant, who, followed by two
hoary vice-governors, all armed with muskets, approached the ambassador,
pressed his hand, and then disappeared. Immediately the usual charging,
firing, and yelling began. They seemed frantic. They fired between the
legs of our mules, over our heads, and close to our shoulders. Seen from
a distance they must have looked like a band of assassins assailing us.
There were formidable old men, with long white beards, all skin and
bone, but looking as if they might live for centuries; and young men
with long locks of black hair flying like manes. Many had their chests,
arms, and legs bare, turbans in tatters, and red rags twisted round the
head; _caics_ torn, saddles broken, bridles made of cord, old sabres and
poniards of strange forms. And such faces! “It is absurd,” said the
commandant, “to suppose that these people will be capable of the
self-sacrifice of not killing us.” Every one of those faces told a story
of blood. They looked at us, as they passed, out of the corner of their
eyes, as if to hide the expression of their glance. One hundred came on
the right, one hundred on the left, one hundred behind us, stretched out
in open order. This guard on the flank was new to us; but we were not
long in perceiving its necessity. As we advanced, the tents became more
frequent in the open country, so that we finally passed through real
villages surrounded by cactus and aloe hedges. From all these tents came
Arabs running, dressed in a single garment or shirt, in groups, on foot,
on horseback, on the cruppers of donkeys—two, and sometimes three on the
same animal; women with children hung to their shoulders, old men
supported by boys, all breathless, wild to see us, and perhaps not to
see us only. Gradually a veritable people had gathered about us. Then
the soldiers of the escort began to disperse them. They darted among
them at a gallop, here and there and everywhere, yelling, striking,
overturning beast and rider, and raising a tempest of cries and curses.
But the scattered groups formed again, and continued to accompany us at
a run. Through the smoke and powder, broken by the lightning of the
shots, we saw over those vast fields, in the distance, tents, horses,
camels, droves of cattle, groups of aloes, columns of smoke, crowds of
people turned toward us, motionless, in an attitude of amazement. We had
at last reached an inhabited land! It did exist then, and was not a
fable, this blessed population of Morocco! After an hour’s rapid riding
we were again in the solitude of the country, with no one save our
escort, and soon came to our camp, which was pitched upon the bank of
the Sebù a thick chain of sentinels, on foot and armed with muskets,
being extended all around the encampment. The country then was really
dangerous! If I had been able to doubt it, I should have been more than
persuaded by what I afterward heard.

The Beni-Hassi are the most turbulent, the most audacious, the most
quarrelsome, and the most thievish tribe in all the valley of the Sebù.
Their last performance was a sanguinary revolt which broke out in the
summer of 1873 (when the reigning Sultan came to the throne), which
began with the sack of the governor’s house, and the carrying off of his
women. Theft is their principal profession. They gather together in
bands, armed and mounted, and make raids beyond the Sebù, or in other
neighboring lands, stealing all that they can drag or carry off, and
killing, by way of precaution, all persons whom they encounter. They
have their chiefs, their statutes, discipline, and rights recognized, in
a certain sense, even by the government, which sometimes makes use of
them to get back stolen property. They rob in the way of forced imposts.
The people who are despoiled by them, instead of losing their time in
seeking their property, protect what is left to them by paying a certain
stipulated sum to the chief of the robbers. As for the boys especially,
it is admitted as a most natural thing that they should all steal. If
they get a ball in the back, or a skull fractured by a stone, so much
the worse for them; no one will be robbed if he can help it; and there
is no rose without its thorn. Their fathers say ingenuously—a boy of
eight years old makes little, one of twelve much more, one of sixteen a
great deal. Every thief has his own peculiar branch of the profession:
there is the corn thief, the cattle thief, the horse thief, the
merchandise thief, the thief of the _duar_ (or Arab encampment), the
street thief. In the streets they assault particularly the Jews, who are
forbidden to carry arms. But the commonest kind of larceny is that at
the expense of the _duar_. In this they are incomparable artists, not
only among the Beni-Hassan, but all over Morocco. In stealing on
horseback the great art consists in the lightning-like rapidity with
which they act; they pass, seize, and disappear before any one can
recognize them. They rob also on foot, and in a masterly manner. They
creep into the _duar_ naked, because dogs will not bark at a naked man;
they soap themselves all over so as to be able to slip out of the hands
of any one who might seize them; and carry a branch in their arms, so
that horses, taking them for bushes, may not be frightened. Horses are
the most coveted prey. They seize them round the neck, stretch their
legs under the belly, and away like an arrow. Their audacity is
incredible. There is no encampment of a caravan, be it that of a pasha
or ambassador, where they will not penetrate in spite of the strictest
watch. They glide upon the ground like snakes, covered with grass, with
straw, with leaves, dressed in sheepskin, disguised as beggars, as
madmen, as saints, as soldiers. They will risk their lives for a
chicken, and go ten miles for a dollar. They will even steal a bag of
money from under the head of a sleeping man. And that very night, in
spite of the chain of sentinels, they stole a sheep that was tied to the
cook’s bed, who, when he discovered his loss the next morning, stood
half an hour motionless, with folded arms, before the door of his tent,
his eyes fixed upon the horizon, exclaiming ever and anon: “Ah! holy
Madonna! what a country!—what a country!—what a country!”

I have spoken of the _duar_: Morocco cannot be understood without a
description of them, and with what I saw, and what Signor Morteo, who
has lived twenty years among them, told me, I can venture to describe
them.

The _duar_ is in general made up of ten, fifteen, or twenty families,
who are related to each other, and each family has a tent. The tents are
disposed in two parallel rows, distant from each other about thirty
paces, forming thus a sort of square open at both ends. The tents are
almost all of equal size, and consist of one great piece of black or
chocolate-brown stuff, woven of the fibre of the dwarf palm, and of
camels’ and goats’ hair which is sustained by two poles or thick canes
upholding a cross-piece of wood. Their shape is still that of the
habitations of Jugurtha’s Numidians, which Sallust compares to a boat
with its keel in the air. In the winter and autumn the cloth is
stretched to the ground and securely fastened by cords and pegs, so that
wind and water cannot enter. In summer, a large aperture is left all
round for the circulation of air, protected by a little hedge of reeds,
canes, and dried brambles. By these means the tents are cooler in
summer, and better closed against the rain and wind than even the
Moorish houses in the cities, which have neither doors nor windows. The
greatest height of a tent is two metres and a half, the greatest length
ten metres; those that exceed these measurements belong to some opulent
sheik, and are rare. A reed partition divides the tent into two parts,
in one of which the father and mother sleep, while the other is occupied
by the children and the rest of the family.

One or two straw mats; a gaily painted and arabesqued wooden chest for
clothes; a little round mirror from Trieste or Venice; a high tripod
made of cane, which is covered with a _caic_, under which they wash
themselves; two large stones for grinding grain; a weavers loom, such as
was in use in Abraham’s time; a rusty tin lamp, a few earthen jars, a
goat-skin or two, a plate or two, a distaff, a saddle, a musket, a
poniard, comprise the furniture of such a tent. In a corner there is
generally a hen with her brood of chickens; in front of the tent door,
an oven composed of two bricks; on one side a little kitchen garden
beyond, two or three round pits lined with stones and cement, in which
they keep their corn.

In almost all the great _duars_ there is a tent appropriated to the
school-master, who receives from the community five francs a month and
his food. All the little boys are sent to him to recite a hundred
thousand times the same verses from the Koran, and to write them, when
they know them by heart, upon a wooden tablet. The greater part of them
leave school before they know how to read, to go and work for their
parents, forgetting in a short time the little they have learned. The
few who have the will and power to study, continue until twenty years of
age, after which they go to some city to complete their studies, and
become _taleb_, which signifies notary or scrivener, and is equivalent
to being a priest, because among the Mahometans the civil and religious
law is identical. Life in the _duar_ is of the utmost simplicity.
Everybody rises at dawn; they say their prayers, feed the cows, make the
butter, and drink the buttermilk that remains. For drinking vessels they
make use of shells and _patelle_ which they buy from the people of the
coast. Then the men go to labor in the fields and do not return until
evening. The women fetch wood and water, grind the corn, weave the
coarse stuffs of their own and their husbands’ dress, twist cords for
the tents out of the fibre of the dwarf palm, send food to their
husbands, and prepare the _cùscùssù_ for the evening meal. The
_cùscùssù_ is a mixture of beans, squash, onions, and other green stuff;
sometimes it is sweetened, peppered, and flavored with the juice of
meat; on feast days it is eaten with meat. When the men come home there
is supper, and in general bed at sundown. Sometimes after supper an old
man will tell a story in the midst of a circle of listeners. During the
night the _duar_ remains immersed in silence and darkness; here and
there a family will keep a small lamp burning before the tent to serve
as a guide to wandering travelers. The dress of the men and women
consists of a cotton shirt, a mantle, and a coarse _caic_. The mantles
and _caics_ are only washed two or three times a year, on the occasion
of solemn festivals, and in consequence they are generally of the same
color as the wearer’s skin and often blacker. The cleanliness of the
body is better cared for, since without the ablutions prescribed by the
Koran, no one can pray. The women for the most part wash all over every
morning, hiding themselves under the tripod covered by a _caic_. But
working as they do, and sleeping as they sleep, they are always dirty
more or less, even although, for a wonder, they make use of soap. In
their leisure hours many play at cards, and when not playing, one great
amusement of the men is to lie on the ground and play with their
children; for whom, however, they care less when they get older. Many of
these children of the _duar_ arrive at the age of ten or fourteen years
without ever having seen a house, and it is curious to hear an account
of their behavior when taken into the service of Moors or Europeans in
the cities; how they feel the walls, stamp on the floors, and with what
intense emotion they look out of a window, or run down a staircase. The
principal event in these wandering villages is a marriage. The parents
and friends of the bride, with a great noise of firing of muskets and
shouting, bring her seated on a camel to the husband’s _duar_. She is
wrapped in a white or blue mantle, perfumed, with her nails tinted with
henna and her eyebrows blackened with burnt cork, and is generally
fattened for the occasion by the use of an herb called _ebba_, much in
vogue among young girls. The husband’s _duar_ meantime has invited the
neighboring _duars_ to the festival, and from a hundred to two hundred
men, mounted and armed, respond to the invitation. The bride dismounts
from her camel before the door of her husband’s tent, and seated on a
seat decorated with flowers and fringes, looks on at the festival;
whilst the men go through the _powder play_, the women and girls,
disposed in a circle before her, dance to the music of a fife and drum,
around a cloth spread upon the ground, into which every guest in passing
throws a coin for the newly married pair, and a sort of crier announces
the amount of the offering in a loud voice, with good wishes for the
donor. Toward evening, the dancing and firing over, every one sits down
on the ground, and great dishes of _cûscûssù_, roast chickens, sheep on
the spit, tea, sweetmeats, and fruits are carried round; the supper
being prolonged up to midnight. The next day, the bride, dressed in
white, with a red scarf bound over her mouth and a hood upon her head,
goes, accompanied by her friends and relations, to the neighboring
_duars_ to collect more money. This done, the husband goes back to his
labor, the wife to hers, and love takes to flight. When any one dies,
the dances are repeated. The relations nearest to the defunct record his
virtues; the rest, crowd about him, dance with gestures and attitudes of
grief, cover themselves with dust, tear their hair, and scratch their
faces. After which they wash the corpse, wrap it in a piece of new
cloth, carry it on a bier to the cemetery, and bury it, lying on the
right side, with its face turned to the east. These are their customs
and usages, as one may say, patent to all the world; but who knows their
more private doings? Who can follow the clue by which life in a _duar_
is ordered? Who can say how first love speaks, how slander is
disseminated, in what strange forms, by what strange accidents,
adultery, jealousy, envy are produced; what virtues shine, what
sacrifices are consummated, what abominable and perverted passions are
rife under the shadow of those tents? Who can trace the origin of their
monstrous superstitions? Who can clear up the odd mingling of Pagan and
Christian traditions in their religious rites; the sign of the cross
made on the skin, the vague belief in satyrs where forked elm trees are
found, the image carried in triumph at the budding of the grain, the
name of Mary invoked for the help of women in childbirth, the circular
dances resembling those of the worshippers of the sun? One thing only is
certain and manifest: their poverty. They live on the scant produce of
ill-cultivated ground, borne down by heavy and often changing taxes,
collected by the sheik or head of the _duar_, elected by themselves, but
directly under the orders of the governor of the province. They pay the
governor, in money or produce, the tenth part of the harvest, and one
franc a head for cattle. One hundred francs a year is paid for every
tract of land corresponding to the labor of a yoke of oxen. The Sultan,
at the principal festivals of the year, exacts a “present” equivalent to
five francs per tent. They pay money or furnish provisions at the order
of the governors whenever the Sultan, or a pasha, or an ambassador, or a
body of soldiers passes by.

Besides this, any one who has money is exposed to the extortions of the
governor, veiled or excused by no pretext whatever, but practised with
insolence and violence. To be esteemed rich is a misfortune. Whoever has
a small sum laid by, buries it, spends in secret, feigns poverty and
hunger. No one accepts a blackened coin in payment, even when he knows
it to be good, because it may look as if it had been buried in the
ground, and cause the suspicion of hidden treasure. When a rich man
dies, the heirs, in order to avoid ruin, offer a present to the
governor. Presents are offered to secure justice, to prevent
persecution, to avoid being reduced to die of hunger. And when at last
hunger has them by the throat and despair blinds them, they strike their
tents, seize their muskets, and raise the signal of revolt. What happens
then? The Sultan unchains three thousand mounted fiends and sows death
throughout the rebellious district. His soldiers cut off heads, lift
cattle, carry off women, burn grain fields, reduce the land to a desert
and strew it with ashes slaked in blood, and then return to announce the
extinction of the rebellion. If the rebellion extends, and the armies
and arts of the government are vain, what advantage do the rebels gain
beyond a few short days of warlike liberty, bought by thousands of
lives? They can elect another Sultan, and provoke a dynastic war between
province and province, behind which lurks a worse despotism than before;
and so it goes on from century to century.

On the morning of the tenth the caravan resumed its march, escorted by
the three hundred of Beni-Hassan and their chief Abd-Allah—_servant of
God_.

All that morning we travelled over a plain covered with fields of
barley, wheat, and buck-wheat, interspersed with large tracts of wild
fennel and flowers, and dotted with groups of trees and black tents,
which last resembled in the distance those heaps of charcoal that are
seen on the Tuscan _maremma_. We met more cattle, horses, camels, and
Arabs than on the preceding days. Far away in front extended a mountain
chain of a most delicate gray tint, and in the middle distance glimmered
two white _cube_—the first illuminated by the sun, the second hardly
visible. They were the tombs of the saints Sidi-Ghedar and Sidi-Hassem,
between which lie the confines of the land of Beni-Hassan. Our camp was
to be pitched near the latter.

Some time, however, before arriving at that point, Governor
Sidi-Abd-Allah, who from the moment of our departure had seemed anxious
and thoughtful, drew near to the ambassador, and signified his wish to
speak. Mohammed Ducali came up quickly. “The ambassador from Italy will
pardon me,” said the haughty chief, “if I venture to ask permission to
turn back with my men.”

The ambassador demanded why.

“Because,” answered Sidi-Abd-Allah, contracting his black brows, “my own
house is not secure.”

Is that all? thought we. Only two miles away too! What an agreeable
existence must be that of a governor of Beni-Hassan!

The ambassador consented; the chief took his hand, and pressed it to his
breast with an energetic expression of gratitude. This done, he turned
his horse, and in a few minutes the many-colored, ragged, and terrible
crew was nothing but a cloud of dust upon the horizon.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                              SIDI-HASSEM.


The province we were about to enter was a kind of colony divided into
farms among a large number of soldiers’ families, in each of which
military service is obligatory for all the sons; thus, every boy is born
a soldier, serves, as he can, from his very infancy, and receives a
fixed pay before he is able to handle a musket. These military families
are also exempt from taxes, and their property is inalienable as long as
male descendants exist. They thus constitute a regular militia,
disciplined and faithful, by means of which the government can _devour_,
according to the popular expression, any rebellious province, without
fear that the tool will fly off the handle. They may be called a militia
of collectors of revenue, paying the government more than they cost, for
in Morocco the army is a servant of the finances, and the principal tool
of the administrative machine is the sword.

We had scarcely passed the boundaries of Beni-Hassan when we saw in the
distance a troop of horsemen galloping toward us, preceded by a great
banner. Contrary to custom, they were spread out in two long lines, one
behind the other, with their officers in front.

At about twenty paces off they stopped abruptly. Their commandant, a big
old man with a white beard, a benevolent aspect, and a lofty turban,
came forward and took the Ambassadors hand, saying, “You are welcome!
you are welcome!” And then to us, “Welcome! welcome! welcome!”

We resumed our march. The new horsemen, were very different from the
Beni-Hassan. They had clean garments and shining arms; almost all wore
yellow boots embroidered with red; their sabres had handles of
rhinoceros hide, their mantles were blue, their caftans white, with
green girdles. Many of them were old—those petrified old men for whom
eternity seems to have begun; some were very young—two in particular not
more than ten years old, handsome and full of life, looking at us with a
smiling air, as though they were thinking, “Come, you are not such
scarecrows as we had expected to see.” There was one black old man of
such tall stature that if he had taken his feet out of the stirrups they
would have touched the ground. One of the officers wore stockings.

In about half an hour we met another company with a red banner,
commanded by an old _caid_, who joined themselves to the first; and from
time to time other groups of four, eight, fifteen horsemen, each with
its banner, who came to swell our escort. When all had arrived, the
usual firing and charging went on.

It was evident that they were regular soldiers; they manœuvred with more
regularity and order than any we had seen. They had a new play. One
would dart forward at full speed, another behind him, _ventre à terre_.
Suddenly the first would rise in his stirrups, turn and fire right into
the chest of his pursuer, who at the same instant discharged his musket
into the first one’s side; so that had they been firing with ball both
would have fallen dead at the same moment. The horse of one who was
flying in full career fell, and threw his rider to such a distance that
we thought he must be killed. But in a moment he was up and in the
saddle, and rushing about with more fury than ever. Each one had his
cry. “Take care!—take care! Bear witness all! It is I! Here comes death!
Place for the barber!” (he was the soldiers’ barber). And one shouted,
to the manifest amusement of his companions, “_Alla mia depinta!_” The
interpreters explained that he meant, “To my lady, who is as beautiful
as a picture,” odd enough for one of a people who have portraiture in
horror, and who cannot even have a clear idea of it. The two little lads
fired and shouted together, “Place for the brothers!” pointing their
muskets downward, and bending to the saddle-bow.

In this manner we arrived near the _cuba_ of Sidi-Hassem, where our camp
was to be pitched.

Poor Hamed Ben-Kasen Buhammei! Until now I have but glanced at him; but
remembering how I saw him that morning, he, general of the armies of the
Scherif, helping to plant the supports of the Ambassador’s tent, I feel
the need of expressing my admiration and gratitude toward him. What a
good fellow of a general! From the moment of our departure he had not
bastinadoed soldier or servant; had never shown ill temper; always the
first to rise, and the last to go to bed; never had allowed to
transpire, even to the most prying eye, that his stipend of forty francs
a month might seem a trifle scanty; had not a particle of self-conceit;
helped us to mount, saw that our saddles were secure, gave a passing
blow with his stick to our restive mules; was always ready for every
thing and everybody; rested, crouched like a humble mule-driver near our
tents; smiled when we smiled; offered us _cùscùssù_; sprang to his feet
at a sign from the Ambassador, like a puppet on wires; prayed, like a
good Mussulman, five times a day; counted the eggs of the _muna_,
presided at the killing of sheep, looked over the artists’ sketch-books
without blenching; was, in short, _the_ man of all others whom his
Imperial Majesty should have chosen for that mission among all the crew
of barefooted generals. Hamed Ben-Kasen often related with pride that
his father had been a general in the war with Spain, and sometimes spoke
of his sons who were with their mother at Mechinez, his native city. “It
is three months,” he would say, with a sigh, “since I have seen them.”

That day, after having witnessed the presentation of the _muna_, when
there was a monstrous dish of _cùscùssù_ that took five men to carry it,
we took refuge, as usual, in our tents, to endure, also as usual, the
forty degrees centigrade which lasted from noon until four o’clock,
during which time the camp was immersed in profound silence. At four
life woke again. The artists took their brushes, the doctor received the
sick, one went to bathe, another to fire at a mark, another to hunt,
another to walk, another to visit a friend in his tent, to see the
escort charge, to visit the cook in his struggle with Africa, to go to
the nearest _duar_, and thus, every one at dinner-time had something to
tell, and conversation burst forth like a firework.

At sunset I went with the commandant to see the escort at their usual
exercises, in a vast field near the camp. There we found about a hundred
Arabs sitting in a row along the edge of a ditch looking on. As soon as
they discovered us they rose and came in groups to follow us. We
pretended not to see them. For a few minutes not one of them spoke; then
one said something that set the others laughing. Then another, and a
third spoke, and everybody laughed as before. They were evidently
laughing at us, and we were not long in discovering that their laughter
corresponded with our movements and the inflections of our voices. It
was the most natural thing in the world; to them we were ridiculous. We
were curious to know what they were saying, and as one of the
interpreters was passing, made a secret sign for him to come and
translate, which he did.

Presently one made an observation which was received with a burst of
laughter. “He says,” said Morteo, “that he does not know what the skirts
of your coats are for, unless to hide your tails.” Again, “He says that
the parting up the back of your head is the road where certain insects
make the _lab-el-baroda_.” A third speech, and a third shout of
laughter. “He says that these Christians are strange creatures; that in
their ambition to seem tall they put vases on their heads and two props
under their heels.”

At this point a dog from the camp came and lay down at our feet. There
was a remark and a loud yell of laughter. “This is rather too much!”
said Morteo; “he says that a dog has come to lie down with the other
dogs. I will teach them——” As he spoke, he turned abruptly to the Arabs
and said something in a tone of menace. It was like a flash of
lightning. In one instant they had all vanished.

Poor fellows, let us be just! they were not so far wrong after all! Ten
times a day, while they skirmished about us on their superb horses, we
remarked to each other: “Yes, we are civilized, we are the
representatives of a great nation, we have more science in our heads, we
ten men, than exists in the whole empire of the Scherifs; but planted on
our mules, dressed in these clothes, with these hats, in these colors,
among them, goodness knows, we are hideous!” And it was true. The least
among those ragged figures on horseback was more noble, more dignified,
handsomer, more worthy of a lady’s glance, than all the dandies of
Europe in a bunch.

At table that evening there was another curious little scene. The two
oldest of the caids of the escort came in and sat down, one on each side
of the Ambassador. He asked them whether they had ever heard of Italy.
Both together, eagerly making the sign of “no” with the hand, replied,
in the tone of those who wish to dissipate a suspicion, “Never! never!”
The Ambassador, with the patience of a master, gave them some
geographical and political information respecting our mysterious
country. They listened with wide-open eyes and gaping mouths, like
children.

“And how many people live in your country?” one asked.

“Twenty-five millions,” answered the Ambassador.

They gave a sign of astonishment. “And Morocco,” asked the other, “how
many millions has it?”

“Four,” replied the Ambassador, feeling his ground.

“Only four!” they exclaimed ingenuously, looking at each other.
Evidently these two brave generals knew no more about Morocco than they
did about Italy; and perhaps as little about their own province in
Morocco.

Signor Morteo showed them a photograph of his wife, saying, “Allow me to
present my wife.”

They looked and looked at it with much complacency, and then asked in
one voice, “And the others?” Either they did not know, or had forgotten,
that we unhappy Christians are limited to one.

That night there was no possibility of sleep. The hens clucked, the dogs
barked, the sheep bleated, the horses neighed, the sentinels sang, the
water-sellers tinkled their bells, the soldiers quarrelled over the
_muna_, the servants tumbled over the tent cords; the camp was like a
market-place. But we had only four more days to travel, and—a magic word
of consolation—Fez!

[Illustration: The Camel Conveyance.]



                              CHAPTER IX.
                                ZEGUTA.


We started for Zeguta at an early hour in the morning, cheered by the
thought that that day we should see the mountains of Fez. A light
autumnal breeze was blowing, and a slight mist veiled the prospect. A
throng of Arabs muffled in their mantles looked on as we left the camp;
the soldiers of the escort kept together in a compact body; the children
of the _duar_ watched us with sleepy eyes over the hedges and from the
tents. But soon the sun shone out, the horsemen scattered, the air
resounded with shots and yells, every thing became full of color, light,
and animation, and immediately, as happens in that country, to the chill
of autumn succeeded the ardent heat of summer.

Among my notes of that morning I find one which says, laconically,
“Locusts.” I remember to have noticed a distant field which appeared to
be moving, and perceived that the appearance was produced by a vast
number of green grasshoppers which were advancing toward us in great
jumps. Selim, who was riding at my side, gave me an admirably
picturesque description of the invasion of these formidable insects, and
I remember it word for word; but I cannot render the effect of his
gesture, voice, and look, which were more expressive than his words. “It
is a terrible thing, sir! They come from there (pointing toward the
south). A black cloud. You can hear the noise from afar off. They
advance and advance, and they have their Sultan, the Sultan Jeraad, who
guides them. They cover roads and fields, houses, _duars_, and woods.
The cloud grows and grows, and comes and comes and comes, and eats and
eats and eats, passes rivers, passes walls, passes fires; destroys
grass, flowers, leaves, fruit, grain, bark of trees, and goes and goes.
Nothing stays it, neither the tribe with fire, nor the Sultan with all
his army, nor all the people of Morocco gathered together. Heaps of
locusts dead; forward the living locusts! Ten die, a hundred are born! A
hundred die, a thousand are born! Roads covered, gardens covered,
sea-shore covered; all green, all in motion, alive, dead, smell, plague,
famine, the 'curse of heaven!’” So indeed it is. The horrid smell that
emanates from myriads of dead locusts sometimes produces contagious
fevers, and, to cite one example, the terrible pestilence that
depopulated in 1799 the cities and country of Barbary broke out after
one of their invasions. When the advanced guard of their devastating
army appears, the Arabs go to meet it in squads of four or five hundred
with sticks and fire; but they succeed only in turning it a little from
its road, and it often happens that one tribe turning it aside toward
the territory of another, war against the locusts is suddenly turned
into civil war. The only force that can liberate the country from this
scourge is a favorable wind which drives them into the sea, where they
are drowned, and are thrown afterward in heaps upon the coast; and the
only comfort the inhabitants can take when the favorable wind is
wanting, is to eat their enemies, which they do, before they have
deposited their eggs, boiled, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and
vinegar. They have the flavor of shrimps, and as many as four hundred
can be eaten in a day.

At about two miles from the camp we rejoined a part of the caravan that
was carrying to Fez the presents from Victor Emanuel.[4] There were
camels in pairs, one behind the other, with two long poles suspended
from the crupper, on which the cases were carried. Some Arabs on foot,
and mounted soldiers, accompanied them. At the head of the caravan was a
cart drawn by two bullocks; the first cart we saw in Morocco! It was
made at Laracce on purpose, after the pattern, I believe, of the first
vehicle that ever appeared on the earth—a heavy deformed body, upon two
wheels all of one piece, without spokes; the strangest and most
ridiculous affair that can be imagined. But to the natives, the most of
whom had never seen a cart, it was a wonder. They came from all sides to
see it, pointed it out to one another, followed and preceded it, and
talked about it with excited gestures. Meantime our mules, unused to
such an object, gave signs of surprise, and planting themselves on their
four legs refused to pass it. Selim himself regarded it with
complacency, as if he said to himself, “It was made in our country.” And
he was excusable, since in all Morocco there exist about as many carts
as pianofortes, which latter, if I may believe the assertion of the
French Consul, are about a dozen; and also it seems that there is in
that country a national antipathy against every kind of vehicle. The
authorities of Tangiers, for example, prohibited Prince Frederic of
Hesse Darmstadt, who was in that city in 1839, from going out in a
carriage. The Prince wrote to the Sultan, offering to pave the principal
street at his own expense, if he would permit what the authorities
denied him. “I permit it,” answered the Sultan, “and willingly; but on
one condition, that the carriage shall be without wheels; because, being
protector of the faithful, I cannot expose my subjects to be crushed by
a Christian.” And the prince, in order to make the thing ridiculous,
availed himself of the permission with the conditions, and there are
still at Tangiers persons who remember having seen him going about the
city in a carriage without wheels, suspended between two mules.

Footnote 4:

  The then king of Italy. Died in 1878.

We arrived at last at those blessed hills which we had been looking
forward to for three days with impatient longing. After a long climb we
entered a narrow gorge, called in Arabic Ben-Tinca, where we were
obliged to pass one by one, and came out upon a beautiful flowery
valley, quite solitary, where the escort scattered gaily, filling the
air with songs and cries of joy.

At the bottom of the valley we met another escort from the territory of
the military colonies, which took the place of the former one.

They were about one hundred horsemen, some very old and some very young,
black, and hairy; some were mounted on stupendous horses, caparisoned
with great pomp. The caid, Abu-Ben-Gileli, was a robust old man, of
severe aspect and reserved manners.

At a certain moment the Ambassador and the captain, accompanied by Hamed
Ben-Kasen and a few soldiers, left the caravan to ascend a mountain
called Selfat, a few miles distant; the rest of us continued on the
regular route.

A short time after their departure there came toward us an Arab boy of
sixteen or eighteen years of age, and almost naked, driving before him
with a stick two unwilling oxen.

The caid, Abu-Ben-Gileli, stopped his horse, and called him. We learned
afterward that this boy was to attach his oxen to the cart that we had
seen, and was several hours behind his time.

The poor lad, all trembling, presented himself before the caid. The
latter asked some questions, to which the boy replied, stammering, and
pale as a corpse.

Then the caid turned toward the soldiers, and said, coldly, “Fifty
_bastonate_.”

Three robust men sprang from their horses. The poor young fellow,
without a word, without even lifting his eyes to the face of his judge,
threw himself face downward on the ground, according to the custom, with
arms and legs stretched out.

It all happened in a moment. The stick was yet in the air, when the
Commandant and others had sprung forward, and declared that the brutal
punishment could not be permitted. The caid bowed his head. The lad rose
from the ground, pale and convulsed, looking with an expression of
astonishment and terror from his preservers to the caid.

“Go,” said the interpreter; “you are free!”

“Oh!” he cried, with an indescribable accent, and vanished. We resumed
our march. I have seen a man killed, but never have I experienced so
profound a feeling of horror as that which assailed me at the sight of
that half-naked boy stretched on the ground to receive his fifty blows
with a stick. And after the horror, my blood rushed to my face with
indignation against the caid, the Sultan, Morocco, and barbarism. But it
is true that second thoughts are best. After a moment, I thought—and we,
how many years is it since we abolished the stick? How many since it was
in use in Austria, in Prussia, and in others of the European States?
This reflection calmed my anger, and left me only a sentiment of
bitterness. If any one wants to know in what fashion the bastinado is
carried on in Morocco, it is enough to say that sometimes, the operation
over, the victim is carried to the cemetery.

From thence to Zeguta the caravan passed from hill to hill, from valley
to valley, through fields of grain and barley, and verdant plains
surrounded by aloes, cactus, wild olive, dwarf oaks, arbutus, myrtle,
and other flowering shrubs. We saw no living soul nor any tents. The
country was solitary, silent, and all overgrown, like an enchanted
garden. Coming to a rising ground we saw the blue summits of the
mountains of Fez suddenly appearing, as if they had thrust up their
heads to look at us; and at the hottest time in the day we reached
Zeguta.

It proved to be one of the most beautiful of the places we had yet seen.
The tents were pitched on the slope of a hill in a large rocky cavity,
in the form of an amphitheatre, around the sides of which the accidents
of the ground and the passage of men and animals had formed something
resembling rows of seats or steps, which at that time were swarming with
Arabs seated in a semicircle as if looking on at a spectacle. In front a
broad valley of shell-like form opened with all its lovely variety of
color, according to the cultivation, in squares of green, yellow, red,
violet, and white, like a great chess-board made of silk and velvet.
With the glass could be seen, on the more distant hills, here a string
of tents, there a white _cuba_ among the aloe plants; beyond, a camel, a
crouching Arab, cattle, a group of women—a life so still and scattered
that it threw into relief the profound peacefulness of the scene better
than complete solitude could have done. And over all this beauty was
spread a white and burning sky that dazzled the eyes and obliged one to
stand with drooping head.

But I remember the encampment at Zeguta less for its beauty than for an
experiment we made there with the famous _kif_.

Kif, for those who do not know it, is the leaf of a kind of hemp, called
_hashish_, known all over the East for its intoxicating quality. It is
much in use in Morocco, and it may be said that all those Moors and
Arabs who are met in the streets of the cities, dragging themselves
about, and looking with a dull, stupefied expression, like men who have
just had a blow on the head, are victims of this deleterious drug. The
greater part of them smoke it, mixed with a little tobacco, in small
clay pipes; others eat it in the form of a sweetmeat called _madjun_,
made of butter, honey, nutmeg, and cloves. The effects of it are most
curious. Doctor Miguerez, who had tried it, often told me about it,
saying, among other things, that he had been seized with a fit of
irresistible laughter, and that he imagined himself to be lifted from
the ground, so that passing under a lofty archway, he had stooped his
head for fear of striking it. Stimulated by curiosity, I had more than
once asked him to give me a dose of _madjun_—a little, not enough to
make me lose my wits, but enough to let me experience at least one or
two of the wonders that he related. The good doctor at first excused
himself, declaring that it was better to try it at Fez; but he yielded
at last to my entreaties, and the experiment was made at Zeguta, where,
much against his will, he finally presented me with the wished-for
morsel on a small plate. We were at table, and, if I am not mistaken,
the two artists shared it with me, but I do not remember how it affected
them. It was a soft paste of a violet color, and smelt like pomatum. For
about half an hour, from the soup to the fruit, I felt nothing, and
chaffed the doctor for his timidity. But he only said, “Wait a bit!” and
smiled. Presently I was conscious of a feeling of great hilarity, and
knew that I was talking very quickly. Then I laughed at every thing that
others said, or that I said myself; every word seemed to me the purest
wit and humor; I laughed at the servants, at my companions, at the
figures on the plates, at the forms of the bottles, at the color of the
cheese I was eating. Suddenly I was aware that my wits were wandering,
and I tried to fix my thoughts upon something serious. I thought of the
boy who was to have been bastinadoed in the morning. Poor boy! I was
moved with compassion. I should have liked to take him to Italy, educate
him, give him a career. I loved him like a son. And the caid, too,
Abu-Ben-Gileli, poor old man! I loved the caid like a father. And the
soldiers of the escort!—all good fellows, ready to defend me, to risk
their lives for me. I loved them like brothers. I loved the Algerines
also, and why not? I thought; are they not of the same race?—and what a
race! We are all brothers; we ought to love each other; and I threw my
arms round the neck of the doctor, who was laughing. From this delight I
suddenly fell into a deep and vague melancholy. I remembered the persons
whom I had offended, the pain I had inflicted on those who loved me, and
was oppressed by poignant remorse and regret; I seemed to hear voices in
my ears speaking in tones of loving reproach; I repented, I asked
pardon, I furtively wiped away big tears that were in my eyes. Then
there rose in my mind a crowd of strange and contrasted images that
vanished as quickly as they came; forgotten friends of my childhood,
words of a dialect unused for twenty years, faces of women, my old
regiment, William the Silent, Paris, my publisher Barbera, a beaver hat
that I had when I was a boy, the Acropolis at Athens, the bill of an
innkeeper at Seville, and a thousand other absurdities. I remember
confusedly the amused looks of my companions at table. From time to time
I closed my eyes, and opened them again, unconscious of the passage of
time, and ignorant whether I had slept or not. My thoughts sparkled and
went out like fire-flies, intricate and inextricable. At one moment I
saw Ussi with his face lengthened like a reflection in a convex mirror;
the vice-consul, with his visage a foot in breadth; all the others
attenuated, swollen, contorted, like fantastic caricatures, making the
most impossible grimaces; and I laughed, and wagged my head, and
dreamed, and thought that they were all crazy, that we were in another
world, that what I saw was not true, that I was ill, that I could not
understand what had happened, that I did not know where I was. Then all
was darkness and silence. When I came to myself I was in my tent,
stretched on the bed, and the doctor, standing beside me with a candle
in his hand, was saying, with a smile, “It is over; but let it be the
last, as it was the first.”



                               CHAPTER X.
                         FROM ZEGUTA TO SAGAT.


Whilst I was running here and there in search of my mule—which, I do not
know how or why, was at last found among the baggage—the members of the
embassy departed. I still had time to come up with them, but in leaving
the camp and going down a rocky path, my mule stumbled, the saddle
slipped, and literature, as represented in my person, was precipitated
to the ground. It took half an hour to set matters straight again, and
meantime, adieu to the embassy! I had to make the journey alone,
followed afar off by a limping servitor, who could hardly arrive in
time, in case of an assault, to see me breathe my last breath. May the
will of Allah be done! The country is deserted, and the sky cloudy. From
time to time I can see, on the summit of distant heights, a gay
cavalcade, among which I recognize the Ambassador’s white horse, and
Selim’s red caftan; and then I do not feel so much alone; but the
cavalcade vanishes, and solitude once more oppresses my heart. In an
hour’s time I rejoin the rear-guard of twelve horsemen, led by old
Abu-Ben-Gileli, the caid, who gives me a terrible glance that I feel all
down my spine. I smile with humility and pass on. Coming out of the
lovely valley on which our encampment looked, I enter another spacious
valley, flanked by steep hills clothed with aloe and olive, forming two
great green walls to the right and left of a broad straight road, closed
at the end by a curtain of blue mountains. I meet a few Arabs, who stop
and look amazed at seeing me without an escort. Will they attack me, or
no? One goes to a tree, and hastily tearing off a branch, runs toward me
with it. It has come! I stop my mule and grasp my pistol. He laughs, and
hands me the branch, explaining that it is to beat my lazy mule with. At
that moment two soldiers of the escort come galloping to meet me; my
hour is not yet come. The two soldiers place themselves one on either
side, and drive forward my quadruped with blows from the butts of their
muskets, saying: _Embasceador! Embasceador!_ The Ambassador has sent
them back to see what has become of me. They deserve a reward. I stop
and offer them a small bottle of wine which I take from my pocket. They
say neither yes nor no, but look smiling at each other, and then sign to
me that they have never drunk wine. “Try it,” I say with a gesture. One
takes the bottle, pours a few drops in the palm of his hand, licks it
up, and remains thoughtful for a moment. The other does the same. Then
they laugh, look at each other, and make signs that it is good. “Drink,
then.” One empties half the bottle at a gulp; the other finishes it;
then they each place a hand on their stomach, and turn up their eyes to
heaven. We resume our road. We meet Arabs, men, women, and children, who
all look at me with surprise. One of them says something, which is
answered by the soldiers with an emphatic negative. He said, “Here is a
Christian who has been robbing the Ambassador.”

We saw some white villages on the top of the rising ground that bordered
the valley; _cube_, palms, fruit-trees, flowering oleanders, and rose
gardens were visible; the country was brilliantly green, and began to
show here and there traces of division into farms. At last we entered a
narrow, rocky gorge, and issuing thence found ourselves at the camp. We
are upon the banks of the Miches, an affluent of the Sebù, near a little
bridge built of masonry, and in a semicircle of rocky hills. The gray
sky, like a leaden roof, sends down a pale dull light; the thermometer
marks forty degrees centigrade; we are constrained to remain seven hours
motionless in our tents. The air is heavy and burning. No sound is heard
but the grasshopper’s chirp and Ducali’s guitar. A profound ennui broods
over the entire encampment. But toward evening there is a change. A
light shower refreshes the air; a shaft of rays, darting like a stream
of electric light through the opening of the gorge, gilds one half the
camp; couriers arrive from Tangiers and Fez, and Arabs from the
villages. Two thirds of the caravan are in the river; and the dinner is
enlivened by the apparition of a new personage, come from the great city
of the Scherifs; the Moor Schellah, another of the protégés of the
Legation who has a suit pending with the Sultan’s government; the most
voluminous turban, the most rotund visage, the most comfortable and
unctuous of fat Moors that we have seen between this and Tangiers. The
next morning at dawn we resumed our march without other escort than the
forty soldiers commanded by Hamed Ben-Kasen. A revolt had broken out in
the confines of Algiers, and all the cavalry in Fez had been sent
against the rebels. “We shall see many heads hanging over the gates of
Fez,” said Ducali. After two hours’ journey among the broom-clad hills,
we came out upon the vast table-land of Fez, encircled by mountains and
hills, golden with grain, sprinkled with large _duar_, watered by the
river of the Azure Fountain, which empties into the Miches, and by the
Pearl river, affluent of the Sebù, which divides into two parts the
sacred city of the empire. Flocks of cranes, wild geese, doves,
pheasants, and heron, flew over it, and the luxuriant vegetation, full
of smiling peace and light, made it like one vast garden. We encamped on
the bank of the Azure Fountain river. The day flew by with lightning
speed, what with visiting, hunting, the _duar_, Jews coming from Fez to
relate the great preparations that were being made, and messengers from
the court bringing the Sultan’s salutations. Arabs came, fording the
river in families, first the camel, then the men, then the women with
their children on their backs, then the boys and girls, then the dogs
swimming. Caravans passed, crowds of curious lookers-on appeared; the
sunset was exquisite, and the night more luminous than our eyes had ever
beheld. In the morning at daybreak we were again on the march. We
re-entered the hilly region, turned to descend into the plain, and
threaded a winding road between two banks that hid the horizon.

A sonorous voice cried out “Behold Fez!” Everybody stopped. Straight
before us, at a few miles’ distance, at the foot of the mountains, lay a
forest of towers, minarets, and palms, veiled by a light mist. A joyful
shout of “Here we are!” broke from every lip, in Italian, in Spanish, in
French, Arabic, Genoese, Sicilian, and Neapolitan; and to the first
brief silence of astonishment succeeded a buzz of conversation. We
encamped for the last time at the foot of Mount Tagat on the shore of
the Pearl river, at about one hour and a half from Fez.

Here throughout the day there was a coming and going and a bustle that
made it seem like the general head-quarters of an army in time of war.
Messengers from the Sultan, from the prime minister, from the grand
chamberlain, from the governor, officers, major-domos, merchants,
relatives of the Moors of the caravan, all well-dressed people, neat,
ceremonious, surrounded by the air of a court and a metropolis, speaking
with grave voices and dignified gesture, and telling of the formidable
army, the immense crowd, the delicious palace that awaited us. Our
entrance into Fez was fixed for eight o’clock the next morning. At
daydawn we were all afoot. There was great use of razors, brushes,
combs, and curry-combs, and an excitement of spirits that made up for
all the tedium of the journey. The Ambassador put on his gilded cap;
Hamed Ben-Kasen his dress sabre, Selim his red caftan, Civo a green
handkerchief on his head, a sign of high solemnity; the servants came
out in white mantles; the soldiers’ arms shone in the sun; the Italians
put on the best they had in their trunks. We were about a hundred in
all, and it may be affirmed that Italy never had an embassy more oddly
composed, more gorgeous in color, more joyously impatient, or more
eagerly expected than this one. The weather is splendid, the horses
prance, robes float out in the morning breeze, every face is animated,
every eye is fixed upon the Ambassador, who counts the minutes on his
watch. It is eight o’clock—a sign—every one is in the saddle—and we
advance with hearts beating high in expectation.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                                  FEZ.


We had not advanced half a mile toward the city when we were surrounded
by a throng of Moors and Arabs come from Fez and from the country round,
on foot and on horseback, on mules and on donkeys, two and two like the
ancient Numidians, so eager to see us that the soldiers of our escort
are obliged to make use of the butt end of their muskets to keep them
from pressing upon us. The ground being low, the city, whose castellated
walls we had seen from the camp, remains for some time hidden. Then all
at once it reappears, and between us and the walls we can see an immense
white and crimson mass, like a myriad of lilies and roses trembling in
the breeze. The city vanishes again, and again appears, but much nearer
this time; and between us and it, the people, the army, the court, and a
pomp and splendor and oddity that are beyond my powers of description.

A company of officers on horseback came galloping to meet us, and
dividing in the middle, pass to the rear and join themselves to our
escort. Behind them comes a troop of horsemen splendidly attired and
mounted on superb horses, preceded by a Moor of tall stature, with a
white turban and a rose-colored caftan. He is the grand chamberlain,
Hadji Mohammed Ben-Aissa, accompanied by his suite, who, having welcomed
the Ambassador in the Sultan’s name, joins the escort.

We advance between two rows of infantry soldiers, who with difficulty
keep back the crowd. What soldiers they are! There are old men and
mature men, and boys of fifteen, twelve, and even nine years of age,
dressed in scarlet, with bare legs and yellow slippers, ranged along in
single file without regard to height, with their captains in front. Each
one presents in his own fashion his rusty musket and his crooked
bayonet. Some stand with one foot foremost, some with legs apart, some
with their heads on their shoulders, some with their chins on their
breasts. Some have put their red jackets on their heads to shelter them
from the sun. Here and there is a tambourine, a trumpet, five or six
banners, one beside the other—red, yellow, green, orange,—carried as
crosses are carried in a procession. There seems to be no division into
squadrons or companies. They look like paper soldiers stuck up in a row
by boys. There are blacks, mulattoes, whites, and faces of an
indefinable color; men of gigantic stature beside boys who are scarcely
old enough to hold a gun; bent old men with long white beards, leaning
on their neighbors; savage faces, making the effect, in that uniform, of
dressed-up monkeys. They all look at us with open eyes and mouth, and
their line stretches farther than we can see.

A second troop of horsemen advances on the left. It is the old governor,
Gilali Ben-Amù, followed by eighteen chiefs of inferior degree and by
the flower of the aristocracy of Fez, all dressed in white from head to
foot, like a company of priests—austere visages, black beards, silken
caics, gilded housings. Saluting us, they circle round, and join our
cortege.

We go forward, still between two lines of soldiers, behind whom presses
a white and hooded crowd who devour us with their eyes. They are always
the same soldiers, for the most part boys, wearing the fez, with red
jackets and bare legs. They have blue, white, or green drawers. Some are
in their shirt sleeves; some hold their muskets on their shoulder, some
rest them on the ground; some press forward, some hang back. The
officers are dressed according to their fancy—zouaves, Turcos, Greeks,
Albanians, Turks—with arabesque embroidery of gold and silver, with
scimitars, swords, curved poniards, horse pistols. Some wear the boots
of a groom, and some yellow boots without heels; some are all in
crimson, some all in white; some in green, and looking like masquerade
devils. Here and there among them may be seen a European face, looking
at us sadly and with sympathy. As many as ten banners are ranged in a
row together. The trumpets sound as we pass. A woman’s arm protrudes
itself between the soldiers’ heads, and threatens us with clenched fist.
The walls of the city seem to recede before us, and the two lines of
soldiers to extend interminably.

Another troop of cavaliers, more splendid than the first, comes to meet
us. It is the aged Minister of War, Sid-Abd-Alla Ben-Hamed, black,
mounted on a white horse with sky-blue trappings; and with him are the
military governors of provinces, the commandant of the garrison, and a
numerous staff of officers crowned with snowy turbans, and wearing
caftans of every known color.

It is now more than half an hour that we have been proceeding between
the two lines of soldiers, and some one has counted more than four
thousand. On one side is drawn out the cavalry; on the other a nameless
and heterogeneous mass of men and boys, dressed in divers uniforms, or
rather fragments of uniforms, some with arms and some without, cloaked
and uncloaked, with uncovered heads, or heads bound with a shapeless
rag, shirtless for the most part; faces from the desert, from the coast,
from the mountains; shaven heads, and heads ornamented with long braids;
giants and dwarfs—people gathered from heaven knows where, to make a
show and inspire terror. And behind them on the rising ground that
borders the way, an innumerable throng of veiled women, screaming and
gesticulating, in wonder, anger, or pleasure, and holding up their
children to see us.

We approach the walls at a point where there is a venerable gate crowned
with battlements. A band bursts into music, and at the same moment all
the drums and trumpets rend the air with a mighty crash. Then our ranks
are broken up, and there is a general rush and confusion of magistrates,
courtiers, ministers, generals, officials, and slaves; our escort is
scattered, our servants dispersed, and we ourselves divided from each
other. There is a torrent of turbans and horses rolling and twisting
about us with irresistible impetus; a confusion of colors, a
phantasmagoria of faces, a noise of harsh voices, a grandeur and
savagery that at once delight and bewilder. Passing in at the gate, we
expect to see the houses of the city, but are still between castellated
walls and towers; to the left is a tomb, or _cuba_, with a green dome
shaded by two palms; people about the cuba, upon the walls, everywhere.
We pass another gate, and find ourselves at last in a street with houses
on each side.

My memory here becomes confused, for I had as much as I could do to save
my neck, going as we were over great stones, in the midst of a crowd of
plunging horses; it would have been all up with any one who had fallen.
We passed, I remember, through some deserted streets bordered by tall
houses, suffocated by dust, and deafened by the noise of the horses’
hoofs; and in about half an hour, after threading a labyrinth of steep
and narrow alleys, where we were obliged to go in single file, we
reached a little door, where some scarlet soldiers presented arms, and
we entered our own house. It was a delicious sensation.

The house was a princely mansion in the purely Moorish style, with a
small garden shaded by parallel rows of orange and lemon trees. From the
garden you entered the interior court by a low door, and thence into a
corridor large enough only for one person to pass. Around the court were
twelve white pilasters, joined by as many arches of a horse-shoe form,
which supported an arched gallery furnished with a wooden balustrade.
The pavement of the court, gallery, and chambers was one splendid mosaic
of little squares of enamel of brilliant colors; the arches were painted
in arabesque; the balustrade carved in delicate open work; the whole
building designed with a grace and harmony worthy of the architects of
the Alhambra. In the middle of the court there was a fountain; and
another one, with three jets of water, was in a carved and ornamented
niche in the wall. A large Moorish lantern depended from every arch. One
wing of the edifice extended along one side of the garden, and had a
graceful façade of three arches, painted in arabesque, in front of which
a third fountain sparkled. There were other little courts, and
corridors, and chambers, and the innumerable recesses of an Oriental
house. Some iron beds, without sheets or coverlets, a few clocks, one
mirror in the court, two chairs and a table for the Ambassador, and half
a dozen basins and jugs, completed the furniture of the house. In the
principal rooms the walls were hung with gold-embroidered carpets, and
some white mattresses lay on the floors, and, except in the Ambassador’s
room, there was neither chair, nor table, nor wardrobe. We had to send
to the camp for some furniture. But, by way of compensation, there was
everywhere coolness, shade, the gurgle of water, fragrance, and
something deliciously soft and voluptuous in the lines of the building,
in the air, in the light. The whole edifice was encircled by a lofty
wall, and surrounded by a labyrinth of deserted alleys.

We had scarcely arrived in the court-yard when there began a coming and
going of ministers and other high personages, each one of whom had a few
minutes’ conversation with the Ambassador. The Minister of Finance was
the one who attracted my attention most. He was a Moor of about fifty
years of age, of a severe aspect, beardless, and dressed all in white,
with an immense turban. An interpreter told me that he was very clever,
and adduced as proof of the same, that he one day had brought to him one
of those little arithmetical machines, and both he and the machine had
done the same sum in the same time, and with the same results. It was
worth while to see the expression of sacred respect with which Selim,
Ali, Civo, and the rest, regarded those personages, who, after the
Sultan, represented in their eyes the highest grade of science, power,
and glory which could be attained on this earth.

Those visits over, we took possession of our abode. The two painters,
the doctor, and myself occupied the rooms looking on the garden; the
rest, those opening on the court. Interpreters, cooks, sailors,
servants, soldiers, all found their place, and in a few hours the aspect
of the house was changed.

The first to go out and visit the city were Ussi and Biseo, the two
artists; and then the commandant and the captain. I preferred to wait
until the following morning. They went out in couples, each encircled,
like malefactors, by an infantry guard armed with muskets and sticks.
After an hour they returned, covered with dust, and all dripping from
the heat; and their first words were, “Great city—great crowd—immense
mosques—naked saints—curses—sticks—wonderful things!” But Ussi had had
the most interesting adventure. In one of the most frequented streets,
in spite of the soldiers, a girl of fifteen or thereabouts had sprung
upon his shoulders like a fury, and had inflicted a vigorous pummeling,
crying out, “Accursed Christians! There is not a corner in Morocco where
they do not push themselves!” Such was the first welcome given to
Italian art within the walls of Fez.

Late in the night I made a tour through the house. On all the
landing-places of the stairs, before the chamber doors, in the garden,
were soldiers lying wrapped in their mantles, and sound asleep. Before
the little door of the court-yard, the faithful Hamed Ben-Kasen, with
his sabre by his side, snored in the open air. The dim light of the
lanterns, touching the mosaic pavements here and there, made them look
as if set with pearls, and gave an air of mysterious splendor to the
place. The sky was thickly set with stars, and a light breeze moved the
branches of the orange trees in the garden. The murmur of the Pearl
River could be distinctly heard; the gurgle of the fountains, the
ticking of the clocks, and now and then the shrill voices of the
sentinels answering one another at the outer doors of the palace with
their chanted prayer.

In the morning we went out, four or five of us together, accompanied by
an interpreter, and escorted by ten foot-soldiers, one of whom wore
buttons with the effigy of Queen Victoria—for many of these red coats
are bought at Gibraltar from soldiers of the English army. Two of these
placed themselves in front, two behind, and three on each side of us—the
first armed with muskets, the others with sticks and knotted cords. They
were such a rascally-looking set, that when I think of them I bless the
ship that brought me back to Europe.

The interpreter asked what we wished to see. “All Fez” was the answer.

[Illustration: Shoe Shop, Fez.]

We directed our steps first toward the centre of the city. Here I ought
to exclaim, “_Chi mi darà la voce e le parole!_”[5] How shall I express
the wonder, the pity, the sadness that overcame me at that grand and
dismal spectacle? The first impression is that of an immense city fallen
into decrepitude and slowly decaying. Tall houses, which seemed formed
of houses piled one upon the other, all falling to pieces, cracked from
roof to base, propped up on every side, with no opening save some
loophole in the shape of a cross; long stretches of street, flanked by
two high bare walls like the walls of a fortress; streets running up
hill and down, encumbered with stones and the ruins of fallen buildings,
twisting and turning at every thirty paces; every now and then a long
covered passage, dark as a cellar, where you have to feel your way;
blind alleys, recesses, dens full of bones, dead animals, and heaps of
putrid matter—the whole steeped in a dim and melancholy twilight. In
some places the ground is so broken, the dust so thick, the smell so
horrible, the flies are so numerous, that we have to stop to take
breath. In half an hour we have made so many turns that if our road
could be drawn it would form an arabesque as intricate as any in the
Alhambra. Here and there we hear the noise of a mill, a murmur of water,
the click of a weaver’s loom, a chanting of nasal voices, which we are
told come from a school of children; but we see nothing and no one
anywhere. We approach the centre of the city; people become more
numerous; the men stop to let us pass, and stare astonished; the women
turn back, or hide themselves; the children scream and run; the larger
boys growl and shake their fists at a distance, mindful of the soldiers
and their sticks. We see fountains richly ornamented with mosaics,
arabesque doors, arched courts, some few remains of Arab architecture in
decay. Every moment we find ourselves in darkness, entering one of the
many covered passages. We come to one of the principal streets, about
six feet wide, and full of people, who crowd about us. The soldiers
shout, and push, and strike in vain, and at last make a sort of bulwark
of their bodies by forming a circle around us and clasping hands, face
outward. There are a thousand eyes upon us; we can scarcely breathe in
the press and heat, and move slowly on, stopping every moment to give
passage to a Moor on horseback, or a veiled lady on a camel, or an ass
with a load of bleeding sheep’s heads. To the right and left are crowded
bazaars; inn court-yards encumbered with merchandise; doors of mosques,
through which we catch glimpses of arcades in perspective, and figures
prostrate in prayer. All along the street there is nothing to be seen
but silent forms in white hoods, moving like spectres. The air is
impregnated with an acute and mingled odor of aloes, spices, incense,
and kif; we seem to be walking in an immense drug-shop. Groups of boys
go by with scarred and scabby heads; horrible old women, perfectly bald
and with naked breasts, making their way by dint of furious imprecations
against us; naked, or almost naked, madmen, crowned with flowers and
feathers, bearing a branch in their hands, laughing and singing and
cutting capers before the soldiers, who drive them away with blows.
Turning into another street, we meet a saint, an enormously fat old
fellow, as naked as he was born, leaning upon a lance bound with strips
of red cloth. He squints at us, and mutters something as we pass.
Further on come four soldiers dragging along some poor unfortunate, all
bleeding and torn, who has been taken in the act of thieving; and after
them come a troop of boys calling out, “Cut off his hand! cut off his
hand!” Next come two men carrying an uncovered bier, upon which is
stretched a corpse, dry as a mummy, wrapped in a white linen sack tied
round the neck, waist, and knees. I ask myself where I am, and whether I
am awake or asleep, and whether Fez and Paris are in the same planet! We
go into the bazaar. The crowd is everywhere. The shops, as in Tangiers,
are mere dens opened in the wall. The money-changers are seated on the
ground, with heaps of black coin before them. We cross, jostled by the
crowd, the cloth-bazaar, that of slippers, that of earthenware, that of
metal ornaments, which all together form a labyrinth of alleys roofed
with canes and branches of trees. Passing through a vegetable market,
thronged with women who lift their arms and scream curses at us, we come
out into the centre of the city. There it is the same experience as
before, and we finally get out at a gate, and take a turn outside the
walls.

Footnote 5:

  “Oh, for a voice and words!”

The city stands in the form of a monstrous figure of eight between two
hills, upon which still tower the ruins of two ancient fortifications.
Beyond the hills there is a chain of mountains. The Pearl River divides
the town in two—modern Fez on the left bank, ancient Fez on the
right—and a girdle of old castellated walls and towers, dark and falling
into ruin, binds the whole together. From the heights the eye takes in
the whole city—a myriad of white, flat-roofed houses, among which rise
tall minarets ornamented with mosaics, gigantic palm-trees, tufts of
verdure, green domes, and castellated towers. The grandeur of the
ancient city can be divined from what is left, though it is but a
skeleton. Near the gates, and upon the hills for a long distance, the
country is covered with monuments and ruins, tombs and houses of saints,
arches of aqueducts, sepulchres, _zanie_, and foundations that seem like
the remains of a city destroyed by cannon and devoured by flames.
Between the wall and the highest of the two hills that flank the city it
is all one garden, a thick and intricate grove of mulberry-trees,
olives, palms, fruit-trees, and tall poplars, clothed with ivy and
grape-vines; little streams run through it, fountains gush and sparkle,
and canals intersect it between high green banks. The opposite bank is
crowned with aloes twice the height of a man. Along the walls are great
fissures and deep ditches filled with vegetation, rude remains of
bastions and broken towers,—a grand and severe disorder of ruin and
greenery, recalling the more picturesque parts of the walls of
Constantinople. We passed by the Gate of Ghisa, the Iron Gate, the Gate
of the _Padre delle Cuoia_, the New Gate, the Burned Gate, the Gate that
Opens, the Gate of Lions, the Gate of Sidi Busida, the Gate of the
Father of Utility, and re-entered new Fez by the Gate of the Niche of
Butter. Here are large gardens, vast open spaces, large squares,
surrounded by battlemented walls, beyond which can be seen other squares
and other walls, arched gate-ways and towers, and beautiful prospects of
hills and mountains. Some of the doors are very lofty, and are covered
with iron plates studded with large nails. Approaching the Pearl River,
we come upon the decaying carcase of a horse, lying in the middle of the
street. Along the wall about a hundred Arabs are washing and jumping
upon the linen piled upon the shore. We meet patrols of soldiers,
personages of the court on horseback, small caravans of camels, groups
of women from the country with their children tied on their backs, who
cover their faces at our approach. And at last we see some faces that
smile upon us. We enter the Mella, the Hebrew quarter,—truly a triumphal
entrance. They run to their windows and terraces, down into the street,
calling to one another. The men, with long hair covered by a
handkerchief tied under the chin like women, bow with ceremonious
smiles. The women, comely and plump, dressed in red and green garments
embroidered and braided with gold, wish us _buenos dias_, and say a
thousand charming things with their brilliant dark eyes. Some of the
children come and kiss our hands. To escape from this ovation, and from
the filth of the streets, we take a cross street, and passing through
the Jewish cemetery, get back at last to the palace of the embassy,
tired out and with bewildered minds.

“O Fez!” says an Arabian historian, “all the beauty of the earth is
concentrated in thee!” He adds that Fez has always been the seat of
wisdom, science, peace, and religion; the mother and the queen of all
the cities of the Magreb; that its inhabitants have a finer and deeper
intelligence than that of the other inhabitants of Morocco; that all
that is in it and around it is blessed of God, even to the waters of the
Pearl River, which cure the stone, soften the skin, perfume the clothes,
destroy insects, render sweeter (if drunk fasting) the pleasures of the
senses, and contain precious stones of inestimable value. Not less
poetically is related by the Arabian writers the story of the foundation
of Fez. When the Abassidi, toward the end of the eighth century, were
divided into two factions, one of the princes of the vanquished faction,
Edris-ebn-Abdallah, took refuge in the Magreb, a short distance from the
place where Fez now stands; and here he lived in solitude, in prayer and
meditation, until, by reason of his illustrious origin, as well as
because of his holy life, having acquired great fame among the Berbers
of that region, they elected him their chief. Gradually, by his arms,
and by his high authority as a descendant of Ali and Fatima, he extended
his sovereignty over a large extent of country, converting by force to
Islamism idolaters, Christians, and Hebrews; and reached such a height
of power that the Caliph of the East, Haroun-el-Reschid, jealous of his
fame, caused him to be poisoned by a pretended physician, in order to
destroy with him his growing empire. But the Berbers gave solemn
sepulture to Edris, and recognized as Caliph his posthumous son,
Edris-ebn-Edris, who ascended the throne at twelve years of age,
consolidated and extended his father’s work, and may be said to have
been the true founder of the empire of Morocco, which remained until the
end of the tenth century in the hands of his dynasty. It was this same
Edris who laid the foundation of Fez, on the 3d of February of the year
808, “in a valley placed between two high hills covered with rich
groves, and irrigated by a thousand streams, on the right bank of the
River of Pearls.”

Tradition explains in several ways the origin of the name. In digging
for the foundations, they found in the earth a great hatchet (called in
Arabic _Fez_), which weighed sixty pounds, and this gave its name to the
city.

Edris himself, says another legend, worked at the foundations among his
laborers, who, in gratitude, offered him a hatchet made of gold and
silver; and he chose to perpetuate, in the name of the city, the memory
of their homage. According to another account, the secretary of Edris
had asked one day of his lord what name he meant to give the city. “The
name,” answered the prince, “of the first person we shall meet.” A man
passed by, who, being questioned, said his name was Farés; but he
stammered and pronounced it Fez. Another account says that there was an
ancient city called _Zef_, on the Pearl River, which existed eighteen
hundred years, and was destroyed before Islam shone upon the world; and
Edris imposed upon his metropolis the name of the old city reversed.
However it may be, the new city grew rapidly, and already at the
beginning of the tenth century rivalled Bagdad in splendor; held within
its walls the mosque of El-Caruin and that of Edris, still existant, one
the largest and the other the most venerated in Africa; and was called
the Mecca of the West. Toward the middle of the eleventh century Gregory
IX established there a bishopric. Under the dynasty of the Almoadi it
had thirty suburbs, eight hundred mosques, ninety thousand houses, ten
thousand shops, eighty-six gates, vast hospitals, magnificent baths, a
great and rich library of precious manuscripts in Greek and Latin; also
schools of philosophy, of physics, of astronomy, and languages, to which
came all the learned and lettered men of Europe and the Levant. It was
called the Athens of Africa, and was at one time the seat of a perpetual
fair, into which flowed the products of three continents; and European
commerce had there its bazaar and its inns; and there—between Moors,
Arabs, Berbers, Jews, Negroes, Turks, Christians, and renegades—five
hundred thousand people lived and prospered. And now, what a change!
Almost all traces of gardens have vanished; the greater part of the
mosques are in ruins; of the great library, only a few worm-eaten
volumes remain; the schools are dead; commerce languishes; its edifices
are falling into ruin; and the population is reduced to less than a
fifth of the former number. Fez is no more than an enormous carcase of a
metropolis abandoned in the midst of the vast cemetery called Morocco.

Our greatest desire, after our first walk about Fez, was to visit the
two famous mosques of El-Caruin and Muley-Edris; but as Christians are
not permitted to put a foot in them, we were obliged to content
ourselves with what we could see from the street: the Mosaic doors, the
arched courts, the long low aisles, divided by a forest of columns, and
lighted by a dim, mysterious light. It must not be imagined, however,
that these mosques are now what they were in the time of their fame;
since, already in the fifteenth century, the celebrated historian
Abd-er-Rhaman-ebn-Kaldun, describing that of El-Caruin (may God exalt it
more and more, as he says), speaks of various ornaments that were no
longer in existence in his time. The first foundations of this enormous
mosque were laid on the first Saturday of Ramadan, in the year 859 of
Jesus Christ, at the expense of a pious woman of Kairuan. It was at the
beginning a small mosque of four naves; but, little by little,
governors, emirs, and sultans embellished and enlarged it. Upon the
point of the minaret built by the Imaum Ahmed ben Aby-Beker glittered a
golden ball studded with pearls and precious stones, on which was
represented the sword of Edris-ebn-Edris, the founder of Fez. On the
interior walls were suspended talismans which protected the mosque
against rats, scorpions, and serpents, The Mirab, or niche turned toward
Mecca, was so splendid that the Imaum had it painted white, that it
might no longer distract the faithful from their prayers. There was a
pulpit of ebony, inlaid with ivory and gems. There were two hundred and
seventy columns, forming sixteen naves of twenty-one arches in each,
fifteen great doors of entrance for the men, and two small ones for the
women, and seventeen hundred hanging lamps, which, in the season of
Ramadan, consumed three quintals and a half of oil. All which
particulars the historian Kaldun relates with exclamations of wonder and
delight, adding that the mosque could contain twenty-two thousand and
seven hundred persons, and that the court alone had in its pavement
fifty-two thousand bricks. “Glory to Allah, Lord of the world, immensely
merciful, and king of the day of the last judgment!”

Expecting that the Sultan would fix a day for the solemn reception of
the embassy, we took several turns about the city, in one of which I had
an entirely new sensation. We were approaching the Burned Gate,
_Bab-el-Maroc_, to re-enter the city, when the vice-consul made an
exclamation—“Two heads!” Lifting my eyes far enough along the wall to
see two long streams of blood, my courage failed me to see more. But I
was told that the two heads were suspended by the hair over the gate;
one appeared to be that of a boy of not more than fifteen, and the other
a man of twenty-five or thirty; both Moors. We learned afterward that
they were heads of rebels from the confines of Algeria, which had been
brought to Fez the day before; but the fresh blood made it probable that
they had been cut off in the city, perhaps before that very gate.
However that may be, we were informed on this same occasion that heads
of rebels are always brought and presented to the Sultan; after which
the imperial soldiers catch the first Jew whom they happen to encounter,
and make him take out the brain, fill the skull with tow and salt, and
hang it over one of the city gates. It is removed from one gate to
another, and from one town to another, until it is destroyed. It does
not appear, however, that this was done with the two heads of
Bab-el-Maroc, for a day or two after, asking an Arab servant what had
become of them, he answered with a gesture, “Buried,” and then hastened
to add, by way of consolation, “But there are plenty more coming.”

Two days before the solemn reception, we were invited to breakfast by
Sid-Moussa.

Sid-Moussa has no title; he is simply called Sid-Moussa; he was born a
slave, and emancipated by the Sultan, who can to-morrow despoil him of
all his property, cast him into prison, or hang his head over the gate
of Fez, without being called to account for it. But he is the minister
of ministers, the soul of the government, the mind which embraces and
moves all things all over the empire, and, after the Sultan, the most
famous man in Morocco. Our curiosity may be imagined, therefore, on the
morning when, surrounded as usual by an armed guard, accompanied by the
caid and interpreters, and followed by a tail of people, we went to his
house in new Fez.

We were received at the door by a crowd of Arabs and blacks, and entered
a garden enclosed by high walls, at the end of which, under a little
portico, stood Sid-Moussa, dressed all in white, and surrounded by his
officials.

The famous minister gave both hands with much heartiness to the
Ambassador, bowed smilingly to us, and preceded us into a small room on
the ground-floor, where we sat down.

What a strange figure! A man of about sixty, a dark mulatto, of middle
height, with an immense oblong head, two fiery eyes of a most astute
expression, a great flat nose, a monstrous mouth, two rows of big teeth,
and an immeasurable chin; yet in spite of these hideous features, an
affable smile, an expression of benignity, and voice and manners of the
utmost courtesy. But there are no people more deceptive in their aspect
than the Moors. Not into the soul, but into the brain of that man would
I have liked to peep! Certainly I should have found no great erudition.
Perhaps no more than a few pages of the Koran, some periods of the
imperial history, some vague geographical notions of the first States of
Europe, some idea of astronomy, some rules of arithmetic. But instead,
what profound knowledge of the human heart, what quickness of
perception, what subtlety of craft, what intricate plottings and
contrivings far from our own habits of mind, what curious secrets of
government, and who knows what strange medley of memories of loves, and
sufferings, and intrigues, and vicissitudes! The chamber, for a Moorish
room, was sumptuously furnished, for it contained a small sofa, a table,
a mirror, and a few chairs. The walls were hung with red and green
carpets, the ceiling painted, the pavement in mosaic. Nothing
extraordinary, however, for the house of a rich personage like
Sid-Moussa.

After an exchange of the usual compliments, we were conducted into the
dining-room, which was on the other side of the garden.

Sid-Moussa, according to custom, did not come with us. The dining-room
was hung, like the other, with red and green carpets. In one corner was
an armoire, with its two old bunches of artificial flowers under glass
shades; and near it one of those little mirrors with a frame painted
with flowers that are found in every village inn. On the table there
were about twenty dishes containing big white sugar-plums in the form of
balls and carobs; the silver and china very elegant; numerous bottles of
water; and not a drop of wine. We seated ourselves, and were served at
once. Twenty-eight dishes, without counting the sweets! Twenty-eight
enormous dishes, every one of which would have been enough for twenty
people, of all forms, odors, and flavors; monstrous pieces of mutton on
the spit, chickens (with pomatum), game (with cold cream), fish (with
cosmetics), livers, puddings, vegetables, eggs, salads, all with the
same dreadful combinations suggestive of the barber’s shop; sweet-meats,
every mouthful of which was enough to purge a man of any crime he had
ever committed; and with all this, large glasses of water, into which we
squeezed lemons that we had brought in our pockets; then a cup of tea
sweetened to syrup; and finally an irruption of servants, who deluged
the table, the walls, and ourselves with rose-water. Such was the
breakfast of Sid-Moussa.

When we rose from table, there entered an official to announce to the
Ambassador that Sid-Moussa was at prayers, and that as soon as he had
finished he would have great pleasure in conferring with him.
Immediately after there came in a tottering old man, supported between
two Moors, who seized the Ambassador’s hands and pressed them with great
energy, exclaiming with emotion, “Welcome! welcome! Welcome to the
Ambassador of the King of Italy! Welcome among us! It is a great day for
us!”

He was the grand Scherif Bacalì, one of the most powerful personages of
the court, and one of the richest proprietors of the empire, confidant
of the Sultan, possessor of many wives, and a two years’ invalid from
dyspepsia. We were told that he relieved the ennui of his lord with
witty words and comic action; a thing which would certainly never have
been guessed from his ferocious face and impetuous gesture. After him
appeared the two sons of Sid-Moussa, one of whom made his obeisance and
vanished immediately; the other was an extremely handsome young man of
twenty-five, private secretary to the Sultan: with the face of a woman,
and two large brown eyes of indescribable softness; gay, graceful, and
nervous, continually pulling with his hand at the folds of his ample
orange-colored caftan.

Bacalì and the Ambassador having gone out, we remained, with some
officials seated on the floor, and the Sultan’s secretary on a chair, in
honor of us.

He immediately began a conversation through Mohammed Ducali. Fixing his
eyes on Ussi, he asked who he was.

“It is Signor Ussi,” answered Ducali; “a distinguished painter.”

“Does he paint with the machine?” asked the young man. He meant the
photographic instrument.

“No, Signore,” replied the interpreter; “he paints with his hand.”

He seemed to say to himself, “What a pity!” and remained a moment
thoughtful. Then he said, “I asked, because with the machine the work is
more precise.”

The commandant begged Ducali to ask him whereabouts in Fez was the
fountain called Ghalù, after a robber whom Edris, the founder of the
city, had caused to be nailed to a tree near by. The young secretary was
excessively astonished that the commandant should know this particular
story, and asked how he came to know it.

“I read it in Kaldun’s history,” answered the commandant.

“In Kaldun’s history!” exclaimed the other. “Have you read Kaldun? Then
you understand Arabic? And where did you find Kaldun’s history?”

The commandant replied that the book was to be found in all our cities;
that it was perfectly well known in Europe, and that it had been
translated into English, French, and German.

[Illustration: Moor Of Fez.]

“Really!” exclaimed the ingenuous young fellow. “You have all read it!
and you know all these things! I never should have imagined it!”

Gradually the conversation became general, the officials also joining in
it, and we heard some singular things. The English Ambassador had
presented to the Sultan two telegraphic machines, and had taught some of
the court people how to use them; and they were used, not publicly,
because the sight of those mysterious wires in the city would cause
disturbance, but in the interior of the palace; and words could not
express the astonishment they excited. Not, however, to the point that
we might suppose, because, from what they had first heard, they all,
including the Sultan, had conceived a much more wonderful idea of it;
for they believed that the transmission of the thought was not effected
by means of letters and words, but at once, instantaneously, so that a
touch was sufficient to express and transmit any speech. They
recognized, however, that the instrument was ingenious and might be very
useful in our countries where there were many people and much traffic,
and where every thing had to be done in a hurry. All of which signified
in plain words: what should we do with a telegraph? And to what would
the policy of our government be reduced if to the demands of the
representatives of European States we were obliged to reply at once and
in few words, and renounce the great excuse of delays, and the eternal
pretext of lost letters, thanks to which we can protract for two months,
questions that could be answered in two days? We learned also, or rather
we were given to understand, that the Sultan is a man of a mild
disposition and a kind heart, who lives austerely, who loves one woman
only, who eats without a fork, like all his subjects, and seated on the
floor, but with the dishes placed upon a little gilded table about a
foot high; that before coming to the throne he drilled with the
soldiers, and was one of the most active among them; that he likes to
work, and often does himself what ought to be done by his servants, even
to packing his own things when he goes away; and that the people love
him, but also fear him, because they know that should a great revolt
break out, he would be the first to spring on horseback and draw his
sabre against the rebels.

But with what grace they told us all these things! with what smiles and
elegant gestures! What a pity not to be able to understand their
language, all color and imagery, and read and search at will in the
ingenuous ignorance of their minds!

In about two hours’ time the Ambassador came back, with Sid-Moussa, the
grand Scherif, and the officials; and there was such an interchange of
hand-pressings, and smiles, and bows, and salutations, that we seemed to
be engaged in some dance of ceremony; and finally we departed between
two long rows of astonished servants. As we went out we saw at a large
grated window on the ground-floor about ten faces of women, black,
white, and mulatto, all be-jewelled and be-diademed; who, beholding us,
instantly vanished with a great noise of flapping slippers and trailing
skirts.

From the first day of our journey, the Sultan, Muley-el-Hassan, was, as
may be imagined, the principal object of our curiosity. It was, then, a
festival for us all when at last the Ambassador announced the reception
for the following morning. I never in my life unfolded my dress-coat, or
touched the spring of my _gibus_, with more profound complacency than on
this occasion.

This great curiosity was produced, in part, by the history of his
dynasty. There was the wish to look in the face of one of that terrible
family of the Scherifs Fileli, to whom history assigns pre-eminence in
fanaticism, ferocity, and crime, over all the dynasties that have ever
reigned in Morocco. At the beginning of the seventeenth century some
inhabitants of Tafilet, a province of the empire on the confines of the
desert, the Scherifs of which take the name of Fileli, brought from
Mecca into their country a Scherif named Ali, a native of Jambo, and a
descendant of Mahomet, by Hassen, the second son of Ali and Fatima. The
climate of the province of Tafilet, a little after his arrival, resumed
a mildness that it had for some time lost; dates grew in great
abundance; the merit was attributed to Ali; Ali was elected king under
the name of Muley-Scherif; his descendants gradually, by their arms,
extended the kingdom of their ancestor; they took possession of Morocco
and Fez, drove out the dynasty of the Saadini Scherifs, and have reigned
up to our day over the whole country comprised between the Muluia, the
desert, and the sea. Sidi-Mohammed, son of Muley-Scherif, reigned with
wise clemency; but after him the throne was steeped in blood. El Reschid
governed by terror, usurped the office of executioner, and lacerated
with his own hands the breasts of women, in order to force them to
reveal the hiding-places of their husbands’ treasure. Muley-Ismail, the
luxurious prince, the lover of eight thousand women, and father of
twelve hundred sons, the founder of the famous corps of black guards,
the gallant Sultan who asked in marriage of Louis XIV the daughter of
the Duchess de la Vallière, and stuck ten thousand heads over the
battlements of Morocco and Fez. Muley Ahmed el Dehebi, avaricious and a
debauchee, stole the jewels of his father’s women, stupefied himself
with wine, pulled out the teeth of his own wives, and cut off the head
of a slave who had pressed the tobacco too much down into his pipe.
Muley-Abdallah, vanquished by the Berbers, cut the throats of the
inhabitants of Mechinez to satisfy his rage, aided the executioner in
decapitating the officers of his brave but vanquished army, and invented
the horrible torture of cooking a man alive inside a disembowelled bull,
that the two might putrify together. The best of the race appears to
have been Sidi-Mohammed, his son who surrounded himself with renegade
Christians, tried to live at peace, and brought Morocco nearer to
Europe. Then came Muley-Yezid, a cruel and violent fanatic, who, in
order to pay his soldiers, gave them leave to sack and pillage the
Hebrew quarters in all the cities of the empire; Muley-Hescham, who,
after a reign of a few days, went into sanctuary to die; Muley-Soliman,
who destroyed piracy, and made a show of friendship to Europe, but with
artful cunning separated Morocco from all civilized states, and caused
to be brought to the foot of his throne the heads of all renegade Jews
from whom had escaped a word of regret for their forced abjuration;
Abd-er-Raman, the conqueror of Isly, who built up conspirators alive
into the walls of Fez; and, finally, Sidi-Mohammed, the victor of
Tetuan, who, in order to inculcate respect and devotion in his people,
sent the heads of his enemies to the _duars_ and cities, stuck upon his
soldiers’ muskets. Nor are these the worst calamities that afflicted the
empire under the fatal dynasty of the Fileli. There are wars with Spain,
Portugal, Holland, England, France, and the Turks of Algiers; ferocious
insurrections of Berbers, disastrous expeditions into the Soudan,
revolts of fanatical tribes, mutinies of the black guard, persecutions
of the Christians; furious wars of succession between father and son,
uncle and nephew, brother and brother; the empire by turns dismembered
and rejoined; sultans five times discrowned and five times reinstated;
unnatural vengeance of princes of the same blood, jealousies and horrid
crimes and monstrous suffering, and precipitate decline into antique
barbarism; and at all times one principle is triumphant: that not being
able to admit European civilization unless upon the ruins of the entire
political and religious edifice of the Prophet, ignorance is the best
bulwark of the empire, and barbarism an element necessary to its life.

With these recollections surrounding him, the Sultan became an object of
special interest, and we were impatient to appear before him.

At eight o’clock in the morning, the Ambassador, the vice-consul, Signor
Morteo, the commandant, and the captain, dressed in their best uniforms,
were assembled in the court-yard, with a throng of soldiers, among whom
the caid appeared in great pomp. We—that is to say, the two artists, the
doctor, and myself, all four appeared in dress-coats, _gibus_ hats, and
white cravats—dared not issue from our rooms in the fear that our
strange costume, perhaps never before seen in Fez, might draw upon us
the laughter of the public. “You go first.”—“No, you.”—“No, you,”—thus
for a quarter of an hour, one trying to push the other out at the door.
Finally, after a sage observation from the doctor that union made
strength, we all came out together in a group, with our heads down and
hats pulled over our eyes. Our appearance in the court-yard produced
amazement among the soldiers and servants of the palace, some of whom
hid themselves behind the pillars to laugh at their ease. But it was
another thing in the city. We mounted our horses, and proceeded toward
the gate of the _Nicchia del Burro_, with a company of the red division
of infantry leading the way, followed by all the soldiers of the
Legation, and flanked by officials, interpreters, masters of ceremony,
and horsemen of the escort of Ben-Kasen-Buhammei. It was a fine
spectacle, that mingling of tall hats and white turbans, diplomatic
uniforms and red caftans, gold-mounted swords and barbaric sabres,
yellow gloves and black hands, gilded pantaloons and bare legs; and the
figure that we four made, in evening dress, mounted on mules, upon
scarlet saddles as high as thrones, covered with dust and perspiration,
may be left to the imagination. The streets were full of people; at our
appearance they all stopped and formed into two lines. They looked at
the plumed hat of the Ambassador, the gold cord of the captain, the
medals of the commandant, and gave no sign of wonder; but when we four
passed by, who were the last, there was an opening of eyes and an
exhilaration of countenance that was truly trying. Mohammed-Ducali rode
near us, and we begged him to translate for us some of the observations
which he caught in passing. A Moor standing with a number of others said
something to which the rest seemed to assent. Ducali laughed, and told
us they took us for executioners. Some—perhaps because black is odious
to the Moors—looked at us almost with anger and disdain; others shook
their heads with a look of commiseration.

“Signori,” said the doctor, “if we do not make ourselves respected it is
our own fault. We have arms; let us use them. I will set the example.”

Thus speaking, he took off his _gibus_ hat, shut down the spring, and
passing before a group of smiling Moors, suddenly sprung it at them. The
wonder and agitation of them at the sight cannot be expressed. Three or
four sprang backward, and threw a glance of profound suspicion upon the
diabolical hat. The artists and I, encouraged by the example, imitated
him; and thus, by dint of our _gibus_, we arrived, respected and feared,
at the city walls.

Outside the gate of the _Nicchia del Burro_ were ranged two rows of
infantry soldiers, in great part boys, who presented arms in their usual
fashion, one after the other, and when we had passed, put their uniforms
over their heads to shelter them from the sun. We crossed the Pearl
River by a small bridge, and found ourselves in the place destined for
the reception, where we all dismounted.

It was a vast square, closed on three sides by high battlemented walls
with large towers. On the fourth side ran the River of Pearls. In the
corner furthest from us opened a narrow road bordered by white walls,
which led to the gardens and houses of the Sultan, completely concealed
by bastions.

[Illustration: A Saint. Fez.]

The square when we arrived presented an admirable _coup-d’œil_ In the
middle a throng of generals, masters of ceremonies, magistrates, nobles,
officials, and slaves, Arab and black, all dressed in white, were
divided into two great ranks, opposite each other, and distant about
thirty paces. Behind one of these ranks, toward the river, were disposed
in files all the Sultan’s horses, large and beautiful creatures, with
trappings of velvet embroidered with gold; each one held by an armed
groom. At the end of the files of horses stood a small gilded carriage,
which the Queen of England had given to the Sultan, who always displays
it at every reception. Behind the horses, and behind the other rank of
court personages, were drawn up in interminable lines the imperial
guard, dressed in white.

All around the square, at the foot of the wall and along the river bank,
three thousand foot-soldiers looked like four long lines of flaming red;
and on the other bank of the river was an immense crowd of people all in
white. In the middle of the place were arranged the cases containing the
presents from the King of Italy—a portrait of the king himself, mirrors,
pictures in mosaic, candelabra, and arm-chairs.

We placed ourselves near to the two ranks of personages, so as to form
with them a square open toward that part of the place where the Sultan
was to come. Behind us were the cases; behind the cases, all the
soldiers of the embassy. On one side Mohammed Ducali, the commandant of
the escort, Solomon Affalo, and the sailors in uniform.

A master of ceremonies, with a very crabbed expression of countenance,
and armed with a knotty stick, placed us in two rows,—in front, the
commandant, the captain, and the vice-consul; behind, the doctor, the
two painters, and myself. The Ambassador stood five or six paces in
advance of us, with Signor Morteo, who was to interpret.

At one moment we seven advanced a few paces unconsciously. The master of
ceremonies before mentioned made us all go back, and pointed out with
his stick the exact place where we were to remain. This proceeding made
a great impression on us, the more that we fancied we saw the gleam of
an astute smile in his eye. At the same moment a great buzz and murmur
arose from above. We looked up, and saw at a certain height beyond the
bastions four or five windows, closed with green curtains, behind which
a quantity of heads seemed to be in movement. They were women’s
heads—the buzz came from them; the windows belonged to a kind of
balcony, which communicated by a long corridor with the Sultan’s harem;
and the master of ceremonies had made us stand in that position by
express order of the Sultan himself, who had promised his ladies that
they should see the Christians. What a pity that we were not near enough
to hear their observations upon our high hats and our swallow-tailed
coats!

[Illustration: Inner Court Of Our House At Fez.]

The sun was burning hot; a profound silence reigned in the vast square;
every eye was turned toward the same point. We waited for about ten
minutes. Suddenly a shiver seemed to run through the soldiers; there was
a burst of music, the trumpets sounded; the court personages bowed
profoundly; the guards, grooms, and soldiers put one knee to the ground;
and from every mouth came one prolonged and thundering shout—“God
protect the Sultan!”

He was on horseback, followed by a throng of courtiers on foot, one of
whom held over his head an immense parasol. At a few paces from the
Ambassador he stopped his horse, a portion of his suite closed the
square, the rest grouped themselves about him.

The master of ceremonies with the knotty stick shouted in a loud
voice:—“The Ambassador from Italy!”

The Ambassador, accompanied by his interpreter, advanced with uncovered
head. The Sultan said in Arabic, “Welcome! welcome! welcome!” Then he
asked if he had had a good journey, and if he were content with the
service of the escort, and with the reception of the governors. But of
all this we heard nothing. We were fascinated. The Sultan, whom our
imagination had represented to us under the aspect of a cruel and savage
despot, was the handsomest and most charming young fellow that had ever
excited the fancy of an _odalisque_. He is tall and slender, with large
soft eyes, a fine aquiline nose, and his dark visage is of a perfect
oval, encircled by a short black beard; a noble face, full of sadness
and gentleness. A mantle of snowy whiteness fell from his head to his
feet; his turban was covered by a tall hood; his feet were bare, except
for yellow slippers; his horse was large and white, with trappings of
green and gold, and golden stirrups. All this whiteness and amplitude of
his garments gave him a priestly air, which, with a certain majestic
grace and affability, corresponded admirably with the expression of his
face. The parasol, sign of command, which a courtier held a little
inclined behind him—a great round parasol, three metres in height, lined
with blue silk embroidered with gold, and covered on the outside with
amaranth, topped by a great golden ball, added to the dignity of his
appearance. His graceful action, his smiling and pensive expression, his
low voice, sweet and monotonous as the murmur of a stream; his whole
person and manners had something ingenuous and feminine, and at the same
time solemn, that inspired irresistible sympathy and profound respect.
He looked about thirty-two or thirty-three years of age.

“I am rejoiced,” he said, “that the King of Italy has sent an Ambassador
to draw more tightly the bands of our ancient friendship. The House of
Savoy has never made war on Morocco. I love the House of Savoy, and have
followed with pleasure and admiration the events which have succeeded
each other under its auspices in Italy. In the time of ancient Rome
Italy was the most powerful country in the world. Then it was divided
into seven states. My ancestors were friendly to all the seven states.
And I, now that all are reunited into one, have concentrated upon it all
the friendship that my ancestors had for the seven.”

He spoke these words slowly, with pauses, as if he had studied them
first, and was trying to remember them.

Among other things the Ambassador told him that the King of Italy had
sent him his portrait.

“It is a precious gift,” he replied, “and I will have it placed in the
room where I sleep, opposite a mirror, so that it shall be the first
object on which my eyes fall when I wake; and so every morning I shall
see the image of the King of Italy reflected, and will think of him.” A
little while afterward, he added: “I am content, and I hope that you
will stay long in Fez, and that it will be a pleasant memory when you
shall have returned to your beautiful country.”

While he spoke he kept his eyes fixed almost constantly upon his horse’s
head. At times he seemed about to smile; but immediately bent his brows
and resumed the gravity proper to the Imperial countenance. He was
curious—it was evident—to see what sort of beings were these seven
ranged at ten paces from his horse; but not wishing to look directly at
us, he turned his eyes little by little, and then with one rapid glance
took in the whole seven together, and at that moment there was in his
eye a certain indefinable expression of childish amusement, that made a
pleasant contrast with the majesty of his person. The numerous suite
that were gathered behind and about him appeared to be petrified. All
eyes were fixed upon him; not a breath could be heard, and nothing was
seen but immovable faces and attitudes of profound veneration. Two Moors
with trembling hands drove away the flies from his feet; another from
time to time passed his hand over the skirt of his white mantle as if to
purify it from contact with the air; a fourth, with an action of sacred
respect, caressed the crupper of the horse; the one who held the parasol
stood with downcast eyes, motionless as a statue, almost as if he were
confused and bewildered by the solemnity of his office. All things about
him expressed his enormous power,—the immense distance that separated
him from everybody, a measureless submission, a fanatic devotion, a
savage, passionate affection that seemed to offer its blood for proof.
He seemed not a monarch, but a god.

The Ambassador presented his credentials, and then introduced the
commandant, the captain, and the vice-consul, who advanced one after the
other, and stood for a moment bowing low. The Sultan looked with
particular attention at the commandant’s decorations.

“The physician”—then said the Ambassador, pointing us out—“and three
_scienzati_” (men of science).

My eyes encountered the eyes of the god, and all the periods, already
conceived, of this description confounded themselves in my mind.

The Sultan asked with curiosity which was the physician. “He to the
right,” answered the interpreter.

He looked attentively at the doctor. Then accompanying his words with a
graceful wave of his right hand, he said, “Peace be with you! Peace be
with you! Peace be with you!” and turned his horse.

The band burst out, the trumpets sounded, the courtiers bent to the
ground, guards, soldiers, and servants knelt on one knee, and once more
the loud and prolonged shout arose:—“God protect our Sultan!”

The Sultan gone, the two ranks of high personages met and mingled, and
there came toward us Sid-Moussa, with his sons, his officers, the
Minister of War, the Minister of Finance, the Grand Scherif Bacali, the
Grand Master of Ceremonies, all the great ones of the court, smiling,
talking, and waving their hands in sign of festivity. A little later,
Sid-Moussa having invited the Ambassador to rest in a garden of the
Sultan’s, we mounted, crossed the square to the mysterious little road,
and entered the august precincts of the Imperial residence.

Alleys bordered by high walls, small squares, courts, ruined houses and
houses in course of construction, arched doors, corridors, little
gardens, little mosques, a labyrinth to make one lose one’s way, and
everywhere busy workmen, lines of servants, armed sentinels, and some
faces of slave women behind the grated windows or at the openings in the
doors: this was all. Not a single handsome edifice, nor any thing,
beyond the guard, to indicate the residence of the sovereign. We entered
a vast uncultivated garden, with shaded walks crossing each other at
right angles, and shut in by high walls like the garden of a convent,
and from thence, after a short rest, returned home, spreading by the
way—the doctor, the painters, and myself—hilarity with our swallow-tails
and terror with our _gibus_.

All that day we talked of nothing but the Sultan. We were all in love
with him. Ussi tried a hundred times to sketch his face, and threw away
his pencil in despair. We proclaimed him the handsomest and the most
amiable of Mohammedan monarchs; and in order that the proclamation might
be truly a national one, we sought the suffrages of the cook and the two
sailors.

The cook, from whom all the spectacles seen between Tangiers and Fez had
never drawn any thing but a smile of commiseration, showed himself
generous to the Sultan:—

“He is a fine man—there is no doubt about that—a handsome man; but he
ought to travel, _where he can get some instruction_.”

This naturally meant Turin. Luigi, the sailor, though a Neapolitan, was
more laconic. Being asked what he had remarked in the Sultan, he thought
a moment and answered, smiling, “I remarked that in this country even
the kings do not wear stockings.”

The most comical of all was Ranni. “How did the Sultan strike you?”
asked the commandant.

“It struck me,” he answered, frankly and with perfect gravity, “that he
was afraid.”

“Afraid!” exclaimed the commandant. “Of whom?”

“Of us. Did you not see how pale he grew, and he spoke as if he had lost
his breath?”

“You are crazy! Do you think that he, in the midst of his army, and
surrounded by his guard, could be afraid of us?”

“It seemed so to me,” said Ranni, imperturbably.

The commandant looked fixedly at him, and then took his head in both
hands, like a profoundly discouraged man.

That same evening there came to the palace, conducted by Selim, two
Moors, who, having heard marvels of our _gibus_, desired to see them. I
went and got mine and opened it under their noses. Both of them looked
into it with great curiosity, and appeared much astonished. They
probably expected to find some complicated mechanism of wheels and
springs, and seeing nothing were confirmed in the belief that exists
among the Moorish vulgar, that in all Christian objects there is
something diabolical.

“Why, there is nothing!” they exclaimed with one voice.

“But it is precisely in that,” I answered through Selim, “that the
wonder of these supernatural hats appears; that they do what they do
without any wheels or springs!”

Selim laughed, suspecting the trick, and I then tried to explain the
mechanism of the thing to them; but they seemed to understand but
little.

They asked also, as they took leave, whether Christians put such things
in their hats “for amusement.”

“And you,” I said to Selim, “what is your opinion of these
contrivances?”

“My opinion is,” he answered with haughty contempt, placing his finger
on the offending hat, “that if I had to live a hundred years in your
country, perhaps, little by little, I might adopt your manner of
dressing—your shoes, your cravats, and even the hideous colors that
please you; but that horrible black thing—ah! God is my witness, that I
would rather die!”

At this point I begin my journal at Fez, which embraces all the time
that transpired between our reception by the Sultan, and our departure
for Mechinez:—

_May 20th._

To-day the chief custodian of the palace gave me secretly the key of the
terrace, warmly recommending us to observe prudence. It appears that he
had received orders not to refuse the keys, but to give them only if
urgently asked for; and this because the terraces at Fez, as in other
cities of Morocco, belong to the women, and are considered almost as
appendages of the harem. We went up to the terrace, which is very
spacious, and completely surrounded by a wall higher than a man, having
a few loop-holes for windows. The palace being very high, and built on a
height, hundreds of white terraces could be seen from thence, as well as
the hills which surround the city, and the distant mountains; and below,
another small garden, from the midst of which rose a palm-tree so tall
as to overtop the building by almost one third of its own stature.
Looking through those loop-hole windows, we seemed to see into another
world. Upon the terraces far and near were many women, the greater part
of them, judging by their dress, in easy circumstances,—ladies, if that
title can be given to Moorish women. A few were seated upon the
parapets, some walking about, some jumping with the agility of squirrels
from one terrace to the other, hiding, re-appearing, and throwing water
in each other’s faces, laughing merrily. There were old women and young,
little girls of eight or ten, all dressed in the strangest garments, and
of the most brilliant colors. Most of them had their hair falling over
their shoulders, a red or green silk handkerchief tied round the head in
a band; a sort of caftan of different colors, with wide sleeves, bound
round the waist with a blue or crimson sash; a velvet jacket open at the
breast; wide trousers, yellow slippers, and large silver rings above the
ankle. The slaves and children had nothing on but a chemise. One only of
these ladies was near enough for us to see her features. She was a woman
of about thirty, dressed in gala dress, and standing on a terrace a
cat’s jump below our own. She was looking down into a garden, leaning
her head upon her hand. We looked at her with a glass. Heavens, what a
picture! Eyes darkened with antimony, cheeks painted red, throat painted
white, nails stained with henna: she was a perfect painter’s palette;
but handsome, despite her thirty years, with a full face, and
almond-shaped eyes, languid, and veiled by long black lashes; the nose a
little turned up; a small round mouth, as the Moorish poet says, like a
ring; and a sylph-like figure, whose soft and curving lines were shown
by the thin texture of her dress. She seemed sad. Perhaps some fourth
bride of fourteen had lately entered the harem and stolen her husband’s
caresses. From time to time she glanced at her hand, her arm, a tress of
hair that fell over her bosom, and sighed. The sound of our voices
suddenly roused her; she looked up, saw that we were observing her,
jumped over the parapet of the terrace with the dexterity of an acrobat,
and vanished. To see better, we sent for a chair, and drew lots which
should mount it first. The lot falling to me, I placed the chair against
the wall, and succeeded in raising my head and shoulders above it. It
was like the apparition of a new star in the sky of Fez, if I may be
excused the audacity of the simile. I was seen at once from the nearer
houses, the occupants of which at once took to flight, then turned to
look, and announced the event to those on the more distant terraces. In
a few minutes the news had spread from terrace to terrace over half the
city; curious eyes appeared everywhere, and I found myself in a sort of
pillory. But the beauty of the spectacle held me to my post. There were
hundreds of women and children, on the parapets, on the little towers,
on the outer staircases, all turned toward me, all in flaming colors,
from those nearer ones whose features I could discern, to those more
distant, who were mere white, green, or vermilion points to my eye; some
of the terraces were so full that they seemed like baskets of flowers;
and everywhere there was a buzz, and hurry, and gesticulation, as if
they were all looking on at some celestial phenomenon. Not to put the
entire city in commotion, I _set_, or rather descended from my chair,
and for a moment no one went up. Then Biseo rose, and he also was the
mark for thousands of eyes, when, suddenly, upon a distant terrace, all
the women turned the other way, and ran to look in the opposite
direction, and, in a moment, those on the other houses did the same. We
could not at first imagine what had happened, until the vice-consul made
a happy guess. “A great event,” he said; “the commandant and the captain
are passing through the streets of Fez”; and in fact, after a little
time, we saw the red uniforms of the escort appear upon the heights that
overlook the city, and with the glass could recognize the commandant and
captain on horseback. Another sudden turn about of the women on some of
the terraces gave notice of the passage of another Italian party; and in
about ten minutes we beheld upon the opposite hills the white Egyptian
head-dress of Ussi, and Morteo’s English hat. After this the universal
attention was once more turned to us, and we stayed a moment to enjoy
it; but upon a neighboring terrace there appeared five or six brats of
slave-girls, of about thirteen or fourteen years of age, who looked at
us and giggled in such an insolent manner, that we were constrained, in
Christian decorum, to deprive the metropolitan fair sex of our shining
presence.

[Illustration: On The Terraces, Fez.]

Yesterday we dined with the Grand Vizier, Taib Ben-Jamani, surnamed
Boascherin, which signifies, according to some, victor at the game of
ball, and according to others, father of twenty children;—Grand Vizier,
however, by courtesy only, his father having filled that office under
the late Sultan. The messenger bearing the invitation was received by
the Ambassador in our presence.

“The Grand Vizier, Taib Ben-Jamani Boascherin,” said he, with much
gravity, “prays the Ambassador of Italy and his suite to dine to-day at
his house.”

The Ambassador expressed his thanks.

“The Grand Vizier, Taib Ben-Jamani Boascherin,” he continued, with the
same gravity, “prays the Ambassador and his suite to bring with them
their knives and forks, and also their servants to wait on them at
table.”

We went toward evening, in dress-coats and white cravats, mounted, and
with an armed guard as before. I do not remember in what part of the
city the house was situated, so many were the turns and twists we made,
the ups and downs, through covered ways gloomy and sinister, holding up
the mules from slipping, and stooping our heads not to strike them
against the low damp vaults of those interminable galleries. We
dismounted in a dark passage, and entered a square court, paved in
mosaic, and surrounded by tall white pilasters, which upheld little
arches painted green and ornamented with arabesques in stucco—a strange
Moorish-Babylonian sort of architecture, both pleasing and peculiar. In
the middle of the court seven jets of water shot up from as many vases
of white marble, making a noise as of a heavy rain. All around were
little half-closed doors and double windows. At the two shorter sides
two great doors stood open, giving access to two halls. On the threshold
of one of these doors was the Grand Vizier, standing; behind him two old
Moors, relations of his; to the right and left, two wings of male and
female slaves.

After the usual salutations, the Grand Vizier seated himself upon a
divan which ran along the wall, crossed his legs, hugged to his stomach,
with both his hands, a large round cushion—his habitual and peculiar
attitude—and never moved again for the rest of the evening.

He was a man of about forty-five years of age, vigorous, and with
regular features, but with a certain false light shining in his eyes. He
wore a white turban and caftan. He spoke with much vivacity, and laughed
loud and long at his own words and those of others, throwing back his
head while he did so, and keeping his mouth open long after he had done
laughing.

On the walls hung some small pictures with inscriptions from the Koran
in gold letters; in the middle of the room there were a common wooden
table and some rustic chairs; all about lay white mattresses, on which
we threw our hats.

Sidi-Ben-Jamani began a vivacious conversation with the Ambassador,
asking if he were married, and why he did not marry. He said that if he
had been married he might have brought his wife to dinner; that the
English Ambassador had brought his daughter, and that she had been much
diverted by what she saw there; that all the ambassadors ought to marry,
expressly to conduct their wives to Fez, and dine with him; together
with other talk of the same kind, all of it interspersed with loud
laughter.

Whilst the Grand Vizier was talking, the two painters and I, seated in
the doorway, were looking out of the corners of our eyes at the slave
women, who, little by little, and encouraged by our air of benign
curiosity, had drawn near, unseen by the Grand Vizier, so that they
could almost touch us; and there they stood, looking and being looked
at, with a certain complacency. There were eight of them, fine girls of
from fifteen to twenty years of age, some mulatto, some black, with
large eyes, dilated nostrils, and full bosoms; all dressed in white,
with very broad embroidered girdles, arms and feet bare, bracelets on
their wrists, great silver rings in their ears, thick silver anklets. It
seemed as if they would not scruple very much to have their cheeks
pinched by a Christian hand. Ussi pointed out to Biseo the beautiful
foot of one of them; she noticed it, and began to examine her own foot
with much curiosity. All the others did the same, comparing their own
feet with hers. Ussi “fired off” his _gibus_ hat; they drew back, then
smiled, and came near again. The Grand Vizier’s voice, ordering the
table to be prepared, sent them flying.

The table was laid by our own soldiers. A servant of the house placed
upon it, in the middle, three thick waxen torches of different colors.
The china-ware belonged to the Grand Vizier, and there were not two
plates alike; but they were big and little, white and colored, fine and
common, plenty and to spare. The napkins also belonged to the house, and
consisted of sundry square pieces of cotton cloth, of different sizes,
unhemmed, and evidently just cut off in a hurry for the occasion.

It was night when we sat down. The Grand Vizier sat on his mattress,
hugging his cushion, and talking and laughing with his two relatives.

I will not describe the dinner, I do not wish to recall painful
memories. Enough to say that there were thirty dishes, or rather thirty
unpleasant things, without counting the smaller annoyances of the
sweets.

At the fifteenth dish, it becoming impossible to continue the struggle
without the aid of wine, the Ambassador begged Morteo to ask the Grand
Vizier if it would be displeasing to him to have some champagne sent
for.

Morteo whispered to Selam, and Selam repeated the request in the ear of
his Excellency. His Excellency made a long reply in a low voice, and we
anxiously watched his face out of the corners of our eyes. But we found
small hope there.

Selam rose with a mortified air, and repeated the answer into the ear of
the intendant, who gave us the _coup de grâce_ in the following words:

[Illustration: An Interview With The Grand Vizier.]

“The Grand Vizier says that there would be no difficulty, that he would
consent willingly, but that it would be an impropriety, and the glasses
would be soiled, and perhaps the table; and that in any case the sight,
the odor, and then the novelty of the thing”——

“I understand,” answered the Ambassador; “we will say no more about it.”

Our complexions all assumed a slight shade of green.

The dinner over, the Ambassador remained in conversation with the Grand
Vizier, and the rest of us issued forth into the rain and darkness of
the court. In the room at the other end of it, lighted by a torch, and
seated on the ground, our caid, his officers, and the secretaries of our
host were dining. At all the little windows in the walls, lighted from
within, women’s and children’s heads could be seen, their dark outlines
showing against the light. A half-open door showed a splendidly
illuminated hall, where seated, lounging in a circle, and gorgeously
arrayed, were the wives and concubines of the Grand Vizier, dimly seen
through the smoke of burning perfumes that rose from tripods at their
feet. Slave-women and servants came and went continually; there must
have been at least fifty persons moving about, but there was no sound of
voice, or step, or rustle of garment. It was like a phantasmagoria, at
which we gazed for a long time, silent, and hidden in the darkness.

As we were going away we saw, attached to a pillar in the court, a thick
leathern thong with knots in it. The interpreter asked one of the men
what it was for. “To beat us with,” he answered.

We mounted and turned our faces homeward, accompanied by a troop of the
Grand Vizier’s servants carrying lanterns. It was very dark and raining
heavily. The strange effect of that long cavalcade cannot be imagined,
with the lanterns, the crowd of armed and hooded figures, the deafening
noise of the horses’ feet, the sound of savage exclamations, in that
labyrinth of narrow streets and covered passages, in the midst of the
silence of the sleeping city. It seemed like a funeral procession
winding along under ground, or a party of soldiers advancing through
subterranean ways to surprise a fortress. Suddenly the procession
halted; there was a sepulchral silence, broken by a voice saying angrily
in Arabic, “The road is closed!” A moment after there was a great noise
of blows. The soldiers of the escort were trying to beat down with the
butts of their muskets one of the thousand gates that during the night
prevent circulation through the streets of Fez. The work took some time;
it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured in torrents; the
soldiers and servants ran about with lanterns, throwing their long
shadows on the walls; the caid, standing in his stirrups, threatened the
invisible inhabitants of the surrounding houses; and we enjoyed the fine
Rembrandt picture with infinite delight. Finally the door came down with
a great noise, and we passed on. A little before we reached our house,
under an arched passage, six foot-soldiers presented arms with one hand,
the other holding a lighted taper; and this was the last scene of the
fantastic drama, entitled, “A Dinner with the Grand Vizier.” But, no;
the last scene of all was when we, hardly in our own court-yard,
precipitated ourselves upon sardines of Nantes, and bottles of Bordeaux,
and Ussi, lifting his glass above our heads, exclaimed in solemn
accents, “To Sidi Ben-Jamani, Grand Vizier of Morocco, our most gracious
host, I, Stefano Ussi, with Christian forgiveness, consecrate this cup!”

The Sultan has received the Ambassador in private audience. The
reception-hall is as big, as bare, and as white as a prison. There are
no other ornaments but a great number of clocks of all forms and
dimensions, of which some are on the floor, ranged along the walls, and
some are huddled together on the table in the middle of the room.
Clocks, it may be remembered, are very great objects of admiration and
amusement among the Moors. The Sultan was seated cross-legged, in a
little alcove, upon a wooden platform about a yard high. He wore, at his
public reception, a white mantle, with a hood over his head; his feet
were bare, his yellow slippers in a corner, and a green cord crossed his
breast, to which a poniard was probably suspended. In this way the
emperors of Morocco have always received ambassadors. Their throne, as
Sultan Abd-er-Rhaman said, is the horse, and their pavilion the sky. The
Ambassador, having first made known his wish to Sid-Moussa, found before
the imperial platform a modest chair, upon which, at a sign from the
Sultan, he seated himself; Signor Morteo, the interpreter, remained
standing. His Majesty, Muley-el-Hassan, spoke for a long time, without
ever raising his hands from beneath his mantle, without making a
movement with his head, without altering by a single accent the habitual
monotony of his soft, deep voice. He spoke of the needs of his empire,
of commerce, of industry, of treaties; going into minute particulars,
with much order and method, and great simplicity of language. He asked
many questions, listening to the answers with great attention, and
concluded by saying, with a slight expression of sadness: “It is true;
but we are constrained to proceed slowly”—strange and admirable words on
the lips of an emperor of Morocco. Seeing that he gave no sign, even in
the intervals of silence, to break off the interview, the Ambassador
thought it his duty to rise.

“Stay yet a while,” said the Sultan, with a certain expression of
ingenuousness; “it gives me pleasure to converse with you.” When the
Ambassador took leave, bowing for the last time on the threshold of the
door, he slightly bent his head, and remained motionless, like an idol
in his deserted temple.

A company of Hebrew women have been here presenting I know not what
petition to the Ambassador. No one could shelter his hands from the
shower of their kisses. They were the wives, daughters, and relations of
two rich merchants; beautiful women, with brilliant black eyes, fair
skins, scarlet lips, and very small hands. The two mothers, already old,
had not a single white hair, and the fire of youth still burned in their
eyes. Their dress was splendid and picturesque—a handkerchief of
gorgeous colors bound about the forehead; a jacket of red cloth, trimmed
with heavy gold braid; a sort of waistcoat all of gold embroidery; a
short, narrow petticoat of green cloth, also bordered with gold; and a
sash of red or blue silk around the waist. They looked like so many
Asiatic princesses, and their splendor of attire contrasted oddly with
their servile and obsequious manners. They all spoke Spanish. It was not
until after some minutes that we observed that they had bare feet, and
carried their yellow slippers under their arms.

“Why do you not wear your shoes?” I asked of one of the old women.

“What!” she said, in astonishment. “Do you not know that we Israelites
must not wear shoes except in the Mellà, and that when we enter a
Moorish city we must go barefoot?”

Reassured by the Ambassador, they all put on their slippers. Such is the
fact. They are not absolutely obliged to go always with bare feet; but
as they must take off their shoes in passing through certain streets,
before certain mosques, near certain _cube_, it becomes the same thing
in the end. And this is not the only vexation to which they are
subjected, nor the most humiliating one. They cannot bear witness before
a judge, and must prostrate themselves on the ground before any
tribunal; they cannot possess lands or houses outside of their own
quarter; they must not raise their hands against a Mussulman, even in
self-defence, except in the case of being assaulted under their own
roof; they can only wear dark colors[6]; they must carry their dead to
the cemetery at a run; they must ask the Sultan’s leave to marry; they
must be within their own quarter at sunset; they must pay the Moorish
guard who stands sentinel at the gates of the Mellà; and they must
present rich gifts to the Sultan on the four great festivals of
Islamism, and on every occasion of birth or matrimony in the imperial
family. Their condition was still worse before the time of Sultan
Abd-er-Rhaman, who at least prevented their blood from being shed. Even
if they would, the sultans could not much ameliorate their condition,
without exposing this unfortunate people to an even worse fate than the
horrible slavery they now endure, so fanatical and ferocious is the
hatred of the Moors against them. Thus, Sultan Soliman having decreed
that they might wear their shoes, so many of them were killed in open
day in the streets of Fez that they themselves petitioned the revocation
of the decree. Nevertheless, they remain in the country, and being
willing to run the risks, they serve as intermediaries between the
commerce of Europe and that of Africa; and the government, aware of
their importance to the prosperity of the state, opposes an almost
insurmountable barrier to emigration, prohibiting the departure of any
Jewish woman from Morocco. They serve, they tremble, and grovel in the
dust; but they would not give, to acquire the dignity of men and the
liberty of citizens, the heaps of gold which they keep hidden in their
gloomy habitations.

Footnote 6:

  Apparently the women are exempt from this law.—_Trans._

There are about eight thousand of them living in Fez, divided into
synagogues, and directed by rabbis who enjoy high authority.

These poor women showed us a number of large bracelets of chased silver,
some rings set with jewels, and some gold ear-rings, which they kept
hidden in their bosoms. We asked why they concealed them.

“_Nos espantamos de los Moros._” “We are afraid of the Moors,” they
said, in a low voice, looking timidly about them. They were suspicious,
too, of the soldiers of the Legation.

Among them there were several children, dressed with the same splendor
as the women. One of them stood close to her mother, seeming more timid
than the rest. The Ambassador asked how old she was. “Twelve years old,”
the mother said.

“She will soon be married,” remarked the Ambassador.

“_Che!_” exclaimed the mother; “she is too old to marry.”

We all thought she was joking. But she repeated, almost astonished at
our incredulity, “I speak the truth; look here at this one”—and she
pointed to a smaller child. “She will be ten years old in six months,
and she has already been married one year.”

The child held down her head. We were still incredulous.

“What can I say?” continued the woman. “If you will not believe my word,
do me the honor to come to my house on Saturday, so that we may receive
you worthily, and you will see the husband and the witnesses of the
marriage.”

“And how old is the husband?” I asked.

“Ten years old, Signore.”

Seeing that we still doubted, the other women all asserted the same,
adding that it was quite rare for a girl to marry after twelve years of
age; that the greater part of them are married at ten, many at eight,
and some even at seven, to boys of about their own age; and that,
naturally, while they are so young, they live with their parents, who
continue to treat them like children, feed, clothe, and correct them,
without the least regard to their marital dignity; but they are always
together, and the wife is submissive to the husband.

To us all this seemed news from another world than ours, and we listened
with open mouths, divided between a desire to laugh, pity, and anger.

A breakfast at the house of the Minister of War.

We were received in a narrow court, enclosed by four high walls, and as
dark as a well. On one side there was a door about three feet in height,
on the other a great doorway without doors, and a bare room, with a
mattress on the floor, and some sheets of paper strung on a string and
hanging on one of the walls: the daily correspondence, I imagine, of his
Excellency.

He is called Sid-Abd-Alla Ben Hamed, is the elder brother of Sid-Moussa,
is about sixty years old, black, small, lean, infirm on his legs,
trembling and decrepit. He speaks little, shuts his eyes often, and
smiles courteously, bowing his head, which is almost concealed in an
immense turban. Nevertheless, his appearance and manners are agreeable.

After the exchange of a few words, we were invited into the dining-hall.
The Ambassador first, and then all the others one by one, stooping
almost to a right angle, passed the little low door, and came out into
another court, spacious, surrounded by an elegant arcade, and covered
with splendid and various ornaments in mosaic. It is a palace which was
presented to Sid-Abd-Alla by the Sultan. He himself gives us this
information, bowing his head and closing his eyes with an air of
religious veneration.

In one corner of the court there was a group of officials in white
turbans and robes; on the other side a troop of servants, among whom
towered a very handsome young giant, dressed all in blue, with a long
pistol at his belt. At all the little doors and windows in the four
walls heads of women and children of various shades of complexion
appeared and disappeared, and on every side was heard the voice of
infancy.

We sat down around a small table, in a little room encumbered by two
enormous beds. The Minister placed himself next to, but a little behind,
the Ambassador, and sat there all the time of the breakfast, vigorously
rubbing his bare black foot, which he had planted on his knee; so that
the ministerial toes appeared just above the edge of the table, at a few
inches from the commandant’s plate. The soldiers of the Legation waited
at table. Close to it stood the young blue giant, with his hand on his
pistol.

Sid-Abd-Alla was very polite to the Ambassador.

“I like you very much,” he said, without preamble, through the
interpreter.

The Ambassador replied that he experienced the same sentiment toward
him.

“I had scarcely seen you,” continued the Minister, “when my heart was
all yours.”

The Ambassador returned the compliment.

“The heart,” concluded Sid-Abd-Alla, “cannot be resisted; and when it
commands you to love a person, even without knowing the reason, you must
obey.”

The Ambassador gave him his hand, which be pressed to his breast.

Eighteen dishes were served. I speak not of them. Enough to say that I
hope that my partaking of them will some day be counted in my favor. By
way of variety the water was flavored with musk, the table-cloth of many
colors, and the chairs tottering on their legs. But these little
calamities, instead of putting us into an ill humor, only excited our
comic vein, so that seldom were we so full of mischievous frolic as on
that occasion. If Sid-Abd-Alla could only have heard us! But
Sid-Abd-Alla was entirely absorbed in the Ambassador. Signor Morteo
alarmed us for an instant by whispering to us that the blue giant, who
was from Tunis, might possibly understand a few words of Italian. But
observing him attentively when certain jokes were made, and seeing him
always impassible as a statue, we were reassured, and went on without
minding him. How many apt and unexpected similes did we find, and with
what clamorously comic effect, but unfortunately not to be repeated, for
those ragoûts and sauces!

The breakfast over, we all went out into the court, where the Minister
presented to the Ambassador one of the highest officers of the army. He
was the commander-in-chief of the artillery: a little old man, dry, and
bent like the letter _C_, with an enormous hooked nose and two round
eyes; the face of a bird of prey; overwhelmed, rather than covered, by
an immeasurable yellow turban of a spherical form, and dressed in a sort
of Zouave dress, all blue, with a white mantle on his shoulders. He wore
at his side a long sabre, and had a silver poniard in his belt. The
Ambassador inquired to what rank in a European army his own
corresponded. He seemed embarrassed by the question. He hesitated a
moment, and then answered, stammering, “General”; then he thought again,
and said, “No; colonel,” and was confused. He said he was a native of
Algeria. I had a suspicion that he was a renegade. Who knows by what
strange vicissitudes he has come to be colonel in Morocco?

The other officers, meantime, were breakfasting in a room opening on the
court, all sitting in a circle on the floor, with the dishes in the
midst. Seeing them eat, I understood how it was that the Moors could do
without knives and forks. The neatness and dexterity, the precision with
which they pulled chickens, mutton, game, and fish to pieces cannot be
described. With a few rapid movements of the hands, without the least
discomposure, each one took his exact portion. They seemed to have nails
as sharp as razors. They dipped their fingers in the saucers, made balls
of the _cùscùssù_, ate salad by the handful, and not a morsel or crumb
fell from the dish; and when they rose, we saw that their caftans were
immaculate. Every now and then a servant carried round a basin and a
towel; they gave themselves a wash, and then all together plunged their
paws into the next dish. No one spoke, no one raised his eyes, no one
seemed to notice that we were looking on.

What officers they were, whether of the staff, or adjutants, or chiefs
of division, or what, it is impossible to know in Morocco. The army is
the most mysterious of all their mysteries. They say, for example, that
in case of a holy war, when the Djehad law shall be proclaimed, which
calls every man under arms who is capable of bearing them, the Sultan
can raise two hundred thousand soldiers; but if they do not know even
approximately the number of the population of the empire, on what do
they base their calculations? And the standing army, who knows how large
it is? And how can any thing be known, not only of the numbers, but of
the regulations, if, except the chiefs, no one knows any thing, and
these latter either will not answer, or do not tell the truth, and
cannot make themselves understood?

Sid-Abd-Alla, the most courteous of hosts, made us write all our names
in his pocket-book, and took leave of us, pressing our hands one by one
to his heart.

At the door we were joined by the blue giant, who, looking at us with a
cunning grin, said, in good Italian, though with a Moorish accent,
“_Signori, stiano bene!_”

Our jesting talk at table flashed on our minds, and we were all struck
dumb. Finally, “Ah, dog!” cried Ussi. But the dog had already vanished.

Our every movement out-of-doors is a military expedition; we must warn
the caid, get together the escort, send for the interpreters, order
horses and mules, and an hour at least is spent in preparation.
Consequently we stay a great part of the day within. But the spectacle
there largely rewards us for our imprisonment. There is a continual
procession of red soldiers, black servants, messengers from the court,
city traders, sick Moors in search of the doctor, Jewish rabbins coming
to do homage to the Ambassador, other Jews with bunches of flowers,
couriers with letters from Tangiers, porters bringing the _muna_. In the
court are some workers in mosaic, working for Visconti Venosta; on the
terrace, masons; in the kitchens, a coming and going of cooks; in the
gardens are merchants spreading out their stuffs, and Signor Vincent his
uniforms; the doctor is swinging in a hammock slung between two trees;
the artists are painting before the door of their chamber; soldiers and
servants are jumping and shouting in the neighboring alleys; all the
fountains spout and trickle with a noise of heavy rain, and hundreds of
birds are warbling among the orange and lemon-trees. The day passes
between ball-playing and Kaldun’s history; the evening with chess, and
singing directed by the commandant, first tenor of Fez. My nights would
be better passed if it were not for the continual flitting to and fro,
like so many phantoms, of Mohammed Ducali’s black servants, who are in a
little room adjoining mine. The doctor also sleeps in my room, and
between us we have a poor wretch of an Arab servant, who makes us die
with laughter. They say that he belongs to a family who, if not rich,
are in easy circumstances, and that he joined the caravan as a servant
at Tangiers, in order to make a _pleasure trip_. We had hardly reached
Fez, the half of his pleasure trip, when for some trifling fault he
caught a beating. After that he did his service with furious zeal. He
understands nothing, not even gestures; and always looks like one
frightened to death; if we ask for the chess-board, he brings a
spittoon; and yesterday when the doctor wanted bread, he brought him a
crust that he had picked up in the garden. We may try our best to
reassure him; he is afraid of us, tries to mollify us with all sorts of
strange unnecessary services, such as changing the water in our basins
three times before we rise in the morning. Moreover, in order to do a
pleasing thing, he waits every morning erect in the middle of the room
with a cup of coffee in his hand for the doctor or me to awake, and the
first one that gives signs of life he precipitates himself upon, and
thrusts the cup under his nose with the fury of one who is administering
an antidote. Another delightful personage is the washerwoman, a big
woman with a veiled face, a green petticoat, and red trousers, who comes
to get our linen, destined, alas! to be trampled by Moors. It is
superfluous to say that they iron nothing; in all Fez there does not
exist a smoothing-iron, and we put on our linen exactly as it comes from
under the hoofs of the washermen. “Perhaps,” said some one, “there might
be an iron in the Mellà?” There might be, but the difficulty is to find
it. There is a carriage, but it belongs to the Sultan. It is said that
there is also a piano-forte; it was seen to come into the city some
years ago, but it is not known who possesses it. It is amusing also to
send to buy something in the shops. “A candle?”—“There are none,” is the
answer; “but, we will make some presently.” “A yard of ribbon?”—“It will
be ready by to-morrow evening.” “Cigars?”—“We have the tobacco, and will
have them ready in an hour.” The vice-consul spent several days looking
for an old Arabic book, and all the Moors he questioned looked at each
other and said: “A book? Who has books in Fez? There were some once; if
we are not mistaken, so and so had them; but he is dead, and we do not
know who are his heirs.” “And Arabic journals, or other journals, could
we have them?”—“One single journal, printed in Arabic in Algiers,
arrives regularly at Fez, but it is addressed to the Sultan.”

Yet, I have an idea that we are less than two hundred miles from
Gibraltar, where probably this evening they are giving _Lucia di
Lammermoor_, and that in eight days we could reach the _Loggia deì
Lanzi_ at Florence. But in spite of this conviction I feel a sentiment
of immense remoteness. It is not miles but things and people that divide
us most from our country. With what pleasure we tear off the bands of
our journals, and break open our letters! Poor letters, that fly from
the hands of the Carlists in Spain, pass through the midst of the
brigands of the Sierra-Morena, overpass the peaks of the red mountain,
swim, clasped in the hands of a Bedouin, the waters of the Kus, the
Sebù, the Mechez, and the River of the Azure Fountain, and bring us a
loving word in this land of reproaches and maledictions.

We pass many hours in watching the painters work. Ussi has made a fine
sketch of the great reception, in which the figure of the Sultan is
wonderfully well done; Biseo, an excellent painter of Oriental
architecture, is copying the façade of the small house in the garden. It
is worth while, for diversion, to hear the soldiers and shopkeepers of
Fez who come to see that picture. They come on tiptoe behind the
painter, and look over his shoulder, making a telescope of their hand,
and then they all begin to laugh, as if they had discovered something
very odd. The great oddity is that in the drawing the second arch of the
façade is smaller than the first, and the third smaller than the second.
Devoid as they are of any idea of perspective, they believe that this
inequality is an error, and they say that the walls are crooked, that
the house totters, that the door is out of place, and they are much
astonished, and go away saying the artist is a donkey. Ussi is more
esteemed, since it is known that he has been at Cairo, and that he has
painted the departure of the caravan for Mecca by the order of the
Viceroy, who paid him fifteen thousand scudi. They say, however, that
the Viceroy was mad to pay such a sum for a work on which the artist had
expended perhaps about a hundred francs for colors. A merchant asked
Morteo if Ussi could paint furniture also. But the best story is about
Biseo, who goes every morning in New Fez to paint a mosque. He goes, of
course, escorted by five or six soldiers armed with sticks. Before he
has set up his easel, he is surrounded by about three hundred people,
and the soldiers are obliged to yell furiously and make play with their
sticks to keep enough space open for him to see the mosque. At every
stroke of the brush, a blow with a stick; but they let themselves be
beaten, and do worse. Every little while a saint appears with
threatening gestures, and the soldiers keep him off. There are also some
progressive Moors, who come up with friendly aspect, look, approve, and
retire with signs of encouragement. The greater part of these
progressionists, however, admire a great deal more the structure of the
easel and the portable seat, than they do the picture. One day a
savage-looking Moor shook his fist at the painter, and then, turning to
the crowd, made a long speech with excited voice and gestures. An
interpreter explained that he was exciting the people against Biseo,
saying that that _dog_ had been sent by the king of his country to copy
the finest mosques in Fez, so that when the Christian army came to
bombard the place, they could recognize and attack them first. Yesterday
(I was present), a ragged old Moor, a good-natured old rascal, accosted
him, appearing to have a great deal to say, and, bringing out his words
with much difficulty, he exclaimed, with emotion, “France! London!
Madrid! Rome!” We were much astonished, as may be supposed, and asked
him if he knew how to speak French, Italian, or Spanish. He made signs
that he could. “Speak, then,” I said. He scratched his forehead, sighed,
stamped his foot, and again exclaimed “France! London! Madrid! Rome!”
and pointed toward the horizon. He wanted to tell us that he had seen
those countries, and perhaps that once he knew how to make himself
understood in our tongues; but he had forgotten them all. We put other
questions to him, but could draw nothing from him but those four names.
And he went away repeating “Madrid! Rome! France! London!” as long as we
could see him, and saluting us affectionately with his hand.

“We find all sorts of people here,” said Biseo, provoked; “even
originals who wish us well and like us, but not a single dog that will
let me paint him.”

It is true that up to this moment the utmost efforts of the artists in
that direction had failed. Even our faithful Selam refused.

“Are you afraid of the devil?” demanded Ussi.

“No,” he answered, with solemnity; “I am afraid of God.”

We have been up on the top of Mount Zalag—the commandant, Ussi, and
I—guided by Captain de Boccard, a charming young fellow, equally
admirable for the activity of his body, the strength of his soul, and
the acumen of his intelligence. We were accompanied by an officer of the
escort, three foot-soldiers, three cavalry soldiers, and three servants.
At the foot of the mountain, which is about an hour and a half from the
northeast of the city, we stopped to breakfast: after which the captain
stuck an apple on a stick, put a _scudo_ on the apple, and made the
soldiers and servants fire at it with his revolver. The prize was
tempting—they all fired with much care; but as it was the first time
they had ever had a revolver in their hands, everybody missed, and the
_scudo_ was given to the officer to be divided between them. It was
laughable to see the attitudes they took when taking aim. One threw his
head back, one bent forward, one put his chin quite over the trigger,
and one stood on guard as if fencing with a sabre. Accustomed as they
were to terrible attitudes not one knew how to adapt himself to the
quiet, easy position which the captain tried to teach them. A soldier
came to ask if we would give something to a country-woman who had
brought us some milk. We said, Yes, on condition that the woman came
herself to get it. She came. She was a black, deformed creature, about
thirty years of age, covered with rags, and in every way repulsive. She
came toward us slowly, covering her face with one hand; and when about
five paces from us, turned her back and extended the other hand. The
commandant was disgusted. “Be easy,” he called out; “I am not in love. I
shall not lose my head; I can still control myself. Good gracious, what
frightful modesty!”

We put some money in her hand; she picked up her milk-jug, ran off
toward her hut, and at the door smashed the profaned vessel against a
stone.

We began the ascent on foot, accompanied by a part of the escort. The
mountain is about one thousand feet above the level of the sea—steep,
rocky, and without paths. In a few minutes the captain disappeared among
the rocks; but for the commandant, Ussi, and I, it was one of the twelve
labors of Hercules. We had each an Arab at our side, who told us where
to place our feet; and at some points we were obliged to climb like
cats, clinging to bushes and grass, slipping on the rocks, stumbling,
and seizing the arms of our guides as drowning men seize a saving plank.
Here and there we see a goat, seemingly suspended above our heads, so
steep is the ascent; and the stones scarcely touched roll to the very
bottom of the mountain. With God’s help, in an hour’s time we are on the
top of the mountain, exhausted, but with whole bones. What a lovely
view! At the bottom, the city, a little white spot in the form of an
eight, surrounded by black walls, cemeteries, gardens, _cube_, towers,
and all the verdant shell that holds them; on the left, a long, shining
line, the Sebù; to the right the great plain of Fez, streaked with
silver by the Pearl River and the River of the Azure Fountain; to the
south, the blue peaks of the great Atlas chain; to the north, the
mountains of the Rif; to the east, the vast undulating plain where is
the fortress of Teza, which closes the pass between the basin of the
Sebù and that of the Mulaia; below us, great waves of ground yellow with
grain and barley, marked by innumerable paths and long files of gigantic
aloes; a grandeur of lines, a magnificence of verdure, a limpidity of
sky, a silence and peace that steeped the soul in paradise. Who would
guess that in that terrestrial paradise dwelt and dosed a decrepit
people, chained on a heap of ruins. The mountain that, seen from the
city, appeared a cone, has an elongated form, and is rocky on the top.
The captain mounted to the highest point; we three, more careful of our
lives, scattered ourselves about among the rocks below, and went out of
sight of each other. I had made but a few steps, when at the entrance of
a little gorge I met an Arab. I stopped; he stopped also, and looked
much amazed at my appearance and my being alone. He was a man of about
fifty, of a truculent aspect, and armed with a big stick. For a moment I
suspected that he might attack me and take my purse; but to my great
astonishment, instead of assailing me, he saluted me, smiled, and taking
hold of his own beard with one hand, pointed to mine with the other, and
said something, repeating it two or three times. It sounded like a
question, to which he desired an answer. Moved by curiosity, I called
for the officer of the guard, who knew a little Spanish, and begged him
to tell me what the man wanted. Who would ever have guessed it? He
wanted to pay me a compliment, and had asked me _ex abrupto_ why I did
not let my beard grow, when it would be more beautiful than his own!

The soldiers of the escort were following us all three at about twenty
paces’ distance, and as we frequently called to each other in a loud
voice, and it was the first time that they had heard our names, they
found them strange, laughing and repeating them with their Moorish
accent in the oddest way: “_Isi! Amigi!_” At a certain point the officer
said, abruptly, “_Scut!_” ( Silence!) and they all were silent. The sun
was high, the rocks were scorching; even the captain, accustomed to the
heats of Tunis felt the need of shade; we gave a last look at the peaks
of Atlas, scrambled down the mountain, and hastily getting into our
crimson saddles, took the way back to Fez, where we had an agreeable
surprise. The gate of El Ghisa, where we were to enter the city, was
closed! “Let us go in by another,” said the commandant. “They are all
closed,” answered the officer of the guard; and seeing us open our eyes,
he explained the mystery, saying that on all festivals (this was
Friday), from twelve o’clock to one, which is the hour of prayer, all
the city gates are closed, because it is a Mussulman belief that exactly
at that hour, but no one knows in what year, the Christians will take
possession of their country by a _coup de main_.

We had, then, to wait for the opening of the gates; and when at last we
got in, we were received with a flowery compliment. An old woman shook
her fist at us, and muttered something which the officer refused to
translate; but we insisting, he finally consented, with a smile, and an
assurance that she was an old fool, and her words could do us no harm.
What she said was this: “The Jews to the hook (to be boiled), the
Christians to the spit!”

The doctor has performed the operation for cataract, _coram populo_, in
the garden of the palace. There was a crowd of relations and friends,
soldiers and servants, part disposed in a circle around the patient,
part ranged in a long file from the spot where the operation was being
done to the gate of the street, where another crowd stood waiting. The
patient was an old Moor who had been quite blind for three years. At the
moment of taking his seat, he stopped as if frightened; then sat down
with a resolute air, and gave no further sign of weakness. Whilst the
doctor operated, the people stood as if petrified. The children clung to
their mothers’ gowns, and the latter embraced each other in attitudes of
terror, as if they were looking on at an execution. Not a breath could
be heard. We also, on account of the “diplomatic” importance of the
operation, were in great anxiety. All at once the patient gave a cry of
joy, and threw himself on his knees. He had seen the first ray of light.
All the people in the garden saluted the doctor with a yell, to which
another yell responded from those in the street. The soldiers
immediately made everybody, except the patient, go out from the
precincts of the palace, and in a short time the news of the marvellous
operation was all over Fez. Fortunate doctor! He had his reward that
very evening, when he was called upon to visit the harem of the Grand
Scherif Bacalì, where the loveliest ladies showed themselves to him with
uncovered faces, and in all the pomp of their splendid attire, and
talked languidly of their pains and aches....

From time to time some renegade Spaniards come to see Señor Patxot.
There are said to be about three hundred of these unfortunate men in the
empire. Most of them are Spaniards, condemned for some common crimes,
fugitives from the galleys of the coast; others, partly French
deserters, are fugitives from Algeria; and the rest are rascals from all
parts of Europe. In other times they rose to high positions in the court
and army, formed special military corps, and received large pay. But now
their condition is much changed. When they arrive, they abjure the
Christian religion, and embrace Islamism, without circumcision or other
ceremony, merely pronouncing a formula. No one cares whether they fulfil
their religious duties or not; the greater part of them never enter a
mosque, and know no form of prayer. In order to bind them to the
country, the Sultan exacts that they shall marry. He gives to whoever
wants her one of his black women; the others can marry an Arab free
woman or a Moor, and the Sultan pays the expenses of the wedding. They
must all be enrolled in the army; but they can, at the same time,
exercise a trade. They generally enter the artillery, and some belong to
the bands of music, the head of which is a Spaniard. The soldiers
receive five _sous_ a day, and the officers twenty-five to thirty; if
any one has a special talent, he can make as much as two francs a day.
Lately, for instance, they were talking of a German renegade, endowed
with a certain talent for mechanics, who had made for himself an
enviable position. This man, for some reason unknown, had fled from
Algeria in '73, and had gone to Tafilet, on the confines of the desert;
there he stayed two years, learned Arabic, and came to Fez, entered the
army, and in a few days, with some tools that he had, constructed a
revolver. The event made a noise; the revolver passed from hand to hand,
and reached the Minister of War; the Minister told the Sultan, who sent
for the soldier, encouraged him, gave him ten francs, and raised his
daily pay to forty _sous_. But such good fortune is rare. Almost all of
them live wretched lives, and their state of mind is such, that although
they are known to be stained with serious crimes, they inspire pity
rather than horror. Yesterday two presented themselves, renegades since
two years, with wives, and children born at Fez. One was thirty, the
other fifty years old, both Spaniards, fugitives from Ceuta. The younger
one did not speak. The elder said that he had been condemned to hard
labor for life for having killed a man who was beating his son to death.
He was pale, and spoke in a broken voice, tearing his handkerchief with
trembling hands.

“If they would promise to keep me only ten years in the galleys,” he
said, “I would go back. I am fifty, I should come out at sixty, and
might still live a few years in my own country. But it is the thought of
dying with the brand of the galleys upon me that frightens me. I would
go back at any rate, if I were sure of dying a free man in Spain. This
is not living, this existence that we have here. It is like being in a
desert. It is frightful. Every one despises us. Our own family is not
our own, because our children are taught to hate us. And then, we never
forget the religion in which we were born, the church where our mothers
used to take us to pray, the counsels they gave us; and those
memories—we are renegades, we are galley-slaves, it is true, but still
we are men—those memories tear our hearts!” and he wept as he spoke.

The rain which has been pouring down for three days has reduced Fez to
an indescribable and incredible condition. It is no longer a city; it is
a sewer. The streets are gutters; the crossings, lakes; the squares,
seas; the people on foot sink into the mud up to their knees; the houses
are plastered with it above the doors; men, horses, and mules look as if
they had been rolling in mud; and as for the dogs, they were at the
outset plastered in such a way that they have not a hair visible. Few
people are to be seen, and those mostly on horseback; not an umbrella,
or even a person hastening to escape the rain. Outside the quarters of
the bazaars all is depressingly dark and deserted. Water is running and
rushing everywhere, carrying with it every sort of putridity, and no
voice or other human sound breaks the monotony of its deafening noise.
It looks like a city abandoned by its inhabitants after an inundation.
After an hour’s turn I came home in a most melancholy mood, and passed
the time with my face pressed against the window-bars, watching the
dripping trees, and thinking of the poor courier, who perhaps at that
very moment was swimming a flooded river at the risk of his life
carrying in his teeth the bag that contained my letters from home.

It is said, and denied, that there has been within a few days a capital
execution before one of the gates of Fez. No head has appeared upon the
walls, however, and I prefer to think the news is false. The
description, which I once read, of an execution done at Tangiers, some
years ago, deprived me of the barbarous curiosity that I formerly had to
be present at one of these spectacles.

An Englishman, Mr. Drummond Hay, coming out one morning at one of the
gates of Tangiers, saw a company of soldiers dragging along two
prisoners with their arms bound to their sides. One was a mountaineer
from the Rif, formerly gardener to a European resident at Tangiers; the
other, a handsome young fellow, tall, and with an open and attractive
countenance.

The Englishman asked the officer in command what crime these two
unfortunate men had committed.

“The Sultan,” was the answer,—“may God prolong his days!—has ordered
their heads to be cut off because they have been engaged in contraband
trade, on the coast of the Rif, with infidel Spaniards.”

“It is a very severe punishment for such a fault,” observed the
Englishman; “and if it is to serve as a warning and example to the
inhabitants of Tangiers, why are they not allowed to be present at it?”

(The gates of the city had been closed, and Mr. Drummond Hay had caused
one to be opened for him by giving some money to the guard.)

“Do not argue with me, Nazarene!” responded the officer; “I have
received an order, and must obey.”

The decapitation was to take place in the Hebrew slaughter-house. A Moor
of vulgar and hideous aspect, dressed like a butcher, was there awaiting
the condemned. He had in his hand a small knife, about six inches long.
He was a stranger in the city, and had offered himself as executioner,
because the Mohammedan butchers of Tangiers, who usually fill that
office, had all taken refuge in a mosque.

An altercation now broke out between the soldiers and the executioner
about the reward promised for the decapitation of the two poor
creatures, who stood by and listened to the dispute over the
blood-money. The executioner insisted, declaring that he had been
promised twenty francs a head, and must have forty for the two. The
officer at last agreed, but with a very ill grace. Then the butcher
seized one of the condemned men, already half dead with terror, threw
him on the ground, kneeled on his chest, and put the knife to his
throat. The Englishman turned away his face. He heard the sounds of a
violent struggle. The executioner cried out: “Give me another knife;
mine does not cut!” Another knife was brought, and the head separated
from the body.

The soldiers cried, in a faint voice, “God prolong the life of our lord
and master!” But many of them were stupefied with terror.

Then came the other victim: the handsome and amiable-looking young man.
Again they wrangled over his blood. The officer, denying his promise,
declared he would give but twenty francs for both heads. The butcher was
forced to yield. The condemned man asked that his hands might be
unbound. Being loosed, he took his cloak and gave it to the soldier who
had unbound him, saying: “Accept this; we shall meet in a better world!”
He threw his turban to another, who had been looking at him with
compassion, and stepping to the place where lay the bloody corpse of his
companion, he said, in a clear, firm voice, “There is no God but God,
and Mahomet is His prophet!” Then taking off his belt he gave it to the
executioner, saying: “Take it; but for the love of God cut my head off
more quickly than you did my brother’s.” He stretched himself on the
earth, in the blood, and the executioner kneeled upon his chest.

“A reprieve! Stop!” cried the Englishman. A horseman came galloping
toward them. The executioner held his knife suspended.

“It is only the governor’s son,” said a soldier. “He is coming to see
the execution. Wait for him.”

So it was, indeed. A few minutes after two bleeding heads were held up
by the soldiers. Then the gates of the city were opened, and there came
forth a crowd of boys, who pursued the executioner with stones for three
miles, when he fell fainting to the ground, covered with wounds. The
next day it was known that he had been shot by a relation of one of the
victims, and buried where he fell. The authorities of Tangiers
apparently did not trouble themselves about the matter, since the
assassin came back into the city and remained unmolested.

After having been exposed three days, the heads were sent to the Sultan
in order that his Imperial Majesty might recognize the promptitude with
which his orders had been fulfilled. The soldiers who were carrying them
met on their way a courier, bearing a pardon, who had been detained by
the sudden flooding of a river.

I frequently find merchants of Fez who have been in Italy. Forty or
fifty of them go there every year, and many have Moorish or Arab agents
in our cities. They go particularly to Upper Italy, where they buy raw
silks, damasks, corals, velvets, threads, porcelain, pearls, Venice
glass, Genoa playing-cards, and Leghorn muslin. In exchange they carry
nothing but wax and wool, for trade in Morocco is much restricted; and
it may be said that stuffs, arms, hides, and earthen-ware or pottery are
their only productions which attract a European’s attention. The stuffs
are made chiefly in Fez and Morocco. There are _caics_ for women, lordly
turbans, sashes, _foulards_ of silk delicately woven with gold and
silver, generally in stripes of soft and harmonious colors, very pretty
at first sight, but unequal when examined, full of gum, and not wearing
well. The red caps, on the contrary, which take the name from Fez, are
very fine and durable, and the carpets made at Rabat, Casa Bianca,
Morocco, Sciadma, and Sciania are admirable for solidity and richness of
color. From Tetuan come in great part the damascened muskets, inlaid
with ivory and silver, carved, and set with precious stones, of light
and elegant form; and Mechinez, and Fez, and the province of Sus make
the swords and daggers which are sometimes of such admirable
workmanship.

Hides, the principal source of gain for the country, are well prepared
in various provinces, and the scarlet leather of Fez, the yellow of
Morocco, and the green of Tafilet, are still worthy of their ancient
reputation. In Fez they boast particularly of their enamelled pottery,
but it is rare to find the noble purity of form of the antique vase; and
their chief merit is a brilliancy of color, and a certain barbaric
originality of design which attract the eye but do not satisfy it. There
are also in Fez a great number of jewellers and goldsmiths, who make
some simple things in very good taste, but few, and of little variety,
because the Amalechite rite proscribes the display of precious
ornaments, as contrary to Mahometan austerity. More notable than the
jewelery is the furniture which comes from Tetuan: book-shelves,
clothes-pegs, and little polygonal tea-tables, arched, arabesqued, and
painted in many colors; copper vessels also, chased in complicated
designs and ornamented with green, red, and blue enamel; and, above all,
the mosaics of the pavements and walls, composed in exquisite taste by
clever workmen, who form the designs with marvellous precision.

There is no doubt that these people are endowed with admirable
faculties, and that their industries would increase immensely, as also
their agriculture, which was once so flourishing, if commerce could make
them live; but commerce is hampered with a thousand prohibitions,
restrictions, monopolies, excessive tariffs, continual modifications and
the non-observance of treaties; and, although the European governments
have obtained many privileges of late years, these are but small in
comparison with what might be brought about, thanks to the wealth and
geographical position of the country, under a civil government. The
principal trade is that with England, after which come France and Spain,
who give cereals, metals, sugar, tea, coffee, raw silk, woollen and
cotton cloths, and take wool, hides, fruit, leeches, gum, wax, and a
great part of the products of Central Africa. The trade which is carried
on by Fez, Taza, and Udjda (and it is not of small importance, though
less than that which the neighborhood of the two countries should
produce) comprehends, besides carpets, the cloths, belts, thick cords,
and all the parts of the Arab and Moorish dress, bracelets and anklets
of silver and gold, vases from Fez, mosaics, perfumes, incense, antimony
for the eyes, _henna_ for the nails, and all the other cosmetics used by
the fair sex of Africa. Of more importance, more ancient, and more
regular, is the commerce with the interior of Africa, for which place
every year great caravans go forth, carrying stuffs from Fez, English
cloths, Venetian glass, Italian corals, powder, arms, tobacco, sugar,
small mirrors from Germany, feathers from Holland, little boxes from the
Tyrol, hardware from England and France, and salt, which they get on
their way in the Sahara; and their journey is like a travelling fair,
where their own merchandise is exchanged for black slaves, gold dust,
ostrich feathers, white gum from Senegal, gold ornaments from Nigritia,
which are afterward sent to Europe and the East; black stuffs which are
worn on the heads of Moorish women; _bezoar_, which preserves the Arabs
from poison and illness; and many drugs which have been abandoned in
Europe, but preserve their ancient value in Africa. Here is, for Europe,
the chief importance of Morocco: it is the principal gate of Nigritia;
where, being open, the commerce of Europe and that of Central Africa
will meet. Meanwhile, civilization and barbarism contend upon the
threshold.

The Ambassador has frequent conferences with Sid-Moussa. His principal
intent is to obtain from the government of the scherifs certain
concessions in trade by which Italy shall be the gainer: more I may not
say. These conferences last more than two hours; but the conversation
turns but briefly upon the real question in discussion, because the
Minister, following a custom which seems traditional in the policy of
the government of Morocco, never comes to the point until he has
wandered over a hundred extraneous subjects, and when he is dragged to
it by force. “Let us talk a little about something entertaining,” he
says, in almost a beseeching tone. The weather, health, the water of
Fez, the properties of certain tissues, some historical anecdotes, some
proverbs, what may be the population of certain states of Europe: all
these are more agreeable subjects than the one which is the purpose of
the interview. “What do you say of Fez?” he asked one day; and being
answered that it was beautiful, he added: “And it has another merit; it
is clean!” Another day he wished to know what was the population of
Morocco. But at last, the business must come; and then there are long
phrases, hesitations, reticences, silences, a putting forth of doubts
when consent is already decided upon, a pretended denial of
condescension, a slipping through the fingers, a constant dropping of
the subject just as the knot is about to be tightened, and then the
eternal expedient “to-morrow.”

The next day, recapitulation of things said the day before, new doubts,
restrictions, recognition of equivocations, regrets for not having
understood, and for not having been understood, and exhaustion of the
interpreter charged with the duty of making things clear. And then it is
necessary to wait for the return of the couriers from Tangiers and
Tafilet, who have been sent to obtain information—information of little
consequence, but which serves to put off the solution of the question
for ten days longer. And in fine, three great obstacles to every thing:
the fanaticism of the people, the obstinacy of the Ulemas, and the
necessity of proceeding cautiously, not exciting attention, with a
slowness that looks like immobility. Under these conditions, Job himself
might be expected to cry out; but then come the warm pressures of the
hand, the sweet smiles, the demonstrations of an irresistible sympathy,
and an affection that will only end in death. The most difficult affair
is that of the big Moor Schellal, and they say that the fate of his
whole life depends upon it; consequently he is for ever at the palace,
wrapped in his ample caic, anxious, thoughtful, sometimes with tears in
his eyes, and he keeps them fixed upon the Ambassador with a
supplicating look, like that of one condemned to death and begging for
reprieve. Mohammed Ducali, on the contrary, whose sails are swelled by
favoring gales, is gay and sprightly, perfumes himself, smokes, changes
his caftan every day, and strews on all sides his soft words, and jests,
and smiles. Ah! if it were not for Italian influence, how soon those
smiles would be changed into tears of blood!

We are experiencing in these days the truth of what was told us at
Tangiers with regard to the effects of the air of Fez. Are these effects
produced by the air or by the water? or by the rascally oil; or by the
infamous butter; or by all these things together; However it may be, it
is a fact that we are all ill. Languor, loss of appetite, prostration of
strength, and heaviness of head. And with all these ill-feelings there
is a weariness, an irritability, a sort of horror, that in a few days
has changed the face of the whole house. Every one longs for departure.
We have reached that point, inevitable in all long journeys, at which
curiosity is dulled; every thing seems faded: memories of home rise up
in crowds; all the longings, kept down at first, are alive and in
tumult; and our own country is ever before our eyes. We have had enough
of turbans, and black faces, and mosques; we are tired of being stared
at by a thousand eyes; bored by this immense masquerade in white at
which we have been looking for two months. What would we not give to see
pass by, even at a distance, a European lady! to hear the sound of a
bell! to see on a wall a printed play-bill! Oh, sweetest memories!

I have discovered among the soldiers of the guard one who has lost his
right ear, and am told that it was legally cut off, in presence of
witnesses, by another soldier whose ear the first one had mutilated some
time before. Such is the _lex talionis_ as it exists in Morocco. Not
only has any relation of a person killed the right to kill the assassin
on the same day of the week, at the same hour and place where the victim
fell, using the same weapon, and striking in the same part of the body;
but whoever has been deprived of a limb has the right to deprive his
assailant of the same limb. A fact of this nature, accompanied by very
singular circumstances, happened some years ago at Mogador, and was
related to me by a member of the French Consulate, who knew one of the
victims. An English merchant of Mogador was returning to the city on the
evening of a market-day, at the moment when the gate by which he was
entering was encumbered with a crowd of country people driving camels
and asses. Although the Englishman called out as loud as he could,
“_Bal-ak! bal-ak!_” (Make way!) an old woman was struck by his horse and
knocked down, falling with her face upon a stone. Ill fortune would have
it that in the fall she broke the two last of her front teeth. She was
stunned for an instant, and then rose convulsed with rage, and broke out
into insults and ferocious maledictions, following the Englishman to his
own door. She then went before the caid, and demanded that in virtue of
the law of talion he should order the English merchant’s two front teeth
to be broken. The caid tried to pacify her, and advised her to pardon
the injury; but she would listen to nothing, and he sent her away with a
promise that she should have justice, hoping that when her anger should
be exhausted she would herself desist from her pursuit. But, three days
having passed, the old woman came back more furious than ever, demanded
justice, and insisted that a formal sentence should be pronounced
against the Christian.

“Remember,” said she to the caid, “thou didst promise me!”

“_Che!_” responded the caid. “Dost thou take me for a Christian, that I
should be the slave of my word?”

Every day for a month the old woman, athirst for vengeance, presented
herself at the door of the citadel, and yelled, and cursed, and made
such a noise, that the caid, to be rid of her, was obliged to consent.
He sent for the merchant, explained the case, the right which the law
gave the woman, the duty imposed upon himself, and begged him to put an
end to the matter by allowing two of his teeth to be removed, any two,
although in strict justice they should be two incisors. The Englishman
refused absolutely to part with incisors, or eye-teeth, or molars; and
the caid was constrained to send the old woman packing, ordering the
guard not to let her put her foot in the Casba again.

“Very well,” said she; “since there are none but degenerate Mussulmans
here, since justice is refused to a Mussulman woman, mother of scherifs,
against an infidel dog, I will go to the Sultan, and we shall see
whether the prince of the faithful will deny the law of the Prophet.”

True to her determination, she started on her journey alone, with an
amulet in her bosom, a stick in her hand, and a bag around her neck, and
made on foot the hundred leagues which separate Mogador from the sacred
city of the empire. Arrived at Fez, she sought and obtained audience of
the Sultan, laid her case before him, and demanded the right accorded by
the Koran, the application of the law of retaliation. The Sultan
exhorted her to forgive; she insisted. All the serious difficulties
which opposed themselves to the satisfaction of her petition were laid
before her; she remained inexorable. A sum of money was offered her,
with which she could live in comfort for the rest of her days; she
refused it.

“What do I want with your money?” said she; “I am old, and accustomed to
live in poverty; what I want is the two teeth of the Christian; I want
them, I demand them in the name of the Koran; and the Sultan, prince of
the faithful, head of Islamism, father of his subjects, cannot refuse
justice to a true believer.”

Her obstinacy put the Sultan in a most embarrassing position; the law
was formal, and her right incontestable; and the ferment of the
populace, stirred up by the woman’s fanatical declamations, rendered
refusal perilous. The Sultan, who was Abd-er-Rhaman, wrote to the
English consul, asking as a favor that he would induce his countryman to
allow two of his teeth to be broken. The merchant answered the consul
that he would never consent. Then the Sultan wrote again, saying that if
he would consent he would grant him, as a recompense, any commercial
privilege that he chose to ask. This time, touched in his purse, the
merchant yielded. The old woman left Fez, blessing the name of the pious
Abd-er-Rhaman, and went back to Mogador, where, in the presence of many
people, the two teeth of the Nazarene were broken. When she saw them
fall to the ground she gave a yell of triumph, and picked them up with a
fierce joy. The merchant, thanks to the privileges that had been
accorded him, made in the two following years so handsome a fortune that
he went back to England, toothless, but happy.

[Illustration: Negro Slave Of Fez.]

The more I study these Moors, the more I am inclined to believe that the
judgment unanimously passed upon them by travellers is not far from the
truth, and that they are a race of vipers and foxes—false,
pusillanimous, cringing to the powerful, insolent to the weak, gnawed by
avarice, devoured by egotism, and burning with the basest passions of
which the human heart is capable. How could they be otherwise? The
nature of the government and the state of society permit them no manly
ambition. They traffic and bargain, but they have no knowledge of the
labor that begets fatigue of body and serenity of mind; they are
completely ignorant of any pleasure that is derived from the exercise of
the intelligence; they take no care for the education of their sons;
they have no high aims in life; therefore they give themselves up, with
all their souls, and for their whole lives, to the amassing of money;
and the time that is left to them from this pursuit they divide between
a sleepy indolence that enervates, and sensual pleasures that brutalize
them. In this life of effeminacy they naturally become vain, small,
malignant, tattling creatures; lacerating each other’s reputation with
spiteful rage; lying by habit with an incredible impudence; affecting
charitable and pious sentiments, and sacrificing a friend for a scudo;
despising knowledge, and accepting the most puerile superstitions;
bathing every day, and keeping masses of filth in the recesses of their
houses; and adding to all this a satanic pride, concealed, when
convenient, under a manner both dignified and humble, which seems the
index of an honorable mind. They deceived me in this way at first; but
now I am persuaded that the very least of them believes, in the bottom
of his heart, that he is infinitely superior to us all. The nomadic Arab
preserves at least the austere simplicity of his antique customs, and
the Berber, savage as he is, has a warlike spirit, courage, and love of
independence. Only these Moors have within them a combination of
barbarism, depravity, and pride, and are the most powerful of the
populations of the empire. From them come the merchants, the _ulemas_,
the _tholbas_, the caids, the pashas; they possess the rich palaces, the
great harems, beautiful women, and hidden treasures. They are
recognizable by their fat, their fair complexions, their cunning eyes,
their big turbans, their majestic walk, their arrogance, and their
perfumes.

We have been to take tea at the house of the Moor Schellal. We entered
by a narrow corridor into a small dark court, but beautiful—beautiful
and filthy as the filthiest house in the ghetto of Alkazar. Except the
mosaics of the pavement and pilasters, every thing was black, encrusted,
sticky with dirt. There were two little dark rooms on the ground-floor;
round the first-floor ran a light gallery, and on the top was the
parapet of the terrace. The big Moor made us sit down before the door of
his sleeping-room, gave us tea and sweetmeats, burned aloes, sprinkled
us with rose-water, and presented his children to us—two pretty boys,
who came to us white with terror, trembling like leaves under our
caresses. On the opposite side of the court there was a black slave-girl
of about fifteen, having on only a sort of chemise, which was open at
the side as far up as the hip, and confined round the waist with a
girdle, the slenderest, the most elegant, the most seductive female
creature (I attest it on the head of Ussi) that I had seen in all
Morocco. She was leaning against a pilaster with her arms crossed on her
bosom, looking at us with an air of supreme indifference. Presently
there came out of a small door another black woman, of about thirty
years of age, tall in stature, of an austere countenance, and robust
figure, straight as a palm-tree; who, as it seemed, must have been a
favorite with her master, for she advanced familiarly, whispered some
words in his ear, pulled out a small bit of straw that was stuck in his
beard, and pressed her hand upon his lips with an action at once
listless and caressing that made the Moor smile. Looking up, we saw the
gallery on the first-floor and the parapet of the terrace fringed with
women’s heads, which instantly disappeared. It was impossible for them
all to belong to that house. The visit of the Christians had no doubt
been announced in the neighborhood, and friends from other terraces had
come over to Schellal’s terrace. Just as we were gazing upward, three
ghost-like forms passed by us, their heads entirely concealed, and
vanished through the small door. They were three friends, who, not being
able to come by the terraces, had been forced to resign themselves to
enter by the door; and a moment after, their heads appeared above the
railing of the gallery. The house, in short, had been converted into a
theatre, and we were the spectacle. The veiled spectators prattled, and
with much low laughter, popped up their heads, and withdrew them again
as if they had flown away. Each one of our movements produced a slight
murmur; every time one of us raised his head there was a great tumult in
the first row of boxes. It was evident that they were much entertained,
that they were gathering material for a month’s conversation, and that
they could scarcely contain themselves for delight at finding themselves
so unexpectedly in the enjoyment of so strange and rare a spectacle! And
we complacently obliged them for about an hour—silent, however, and much
bored, an effect produced, after a time, by every Moorish house, however
courteous its hospitality.

And then, after you have admired the beautiful mosaics, the handsome
slaves, and pretty children, you look about instinctively for the person
who is the incarnation of domestic life, who represents the courtesy and
honorability of the house, who puts the seal on its hospitality, who
gives its tone to the conversations, who represents to your mind the
altar of the lares,—you seek, in short, the pearl for this shell; and
seeing no one but women who have their master’s embraces without his
affection, and children of unknown mothers, and the whole house
personified in one being only, its hospitality becomes a mere empty
ceremony; and in your host, instead of the sympathetic features of an
honored friend, you see only the aspect of a sensual and odious egotist.

There is no doubt that these people, if they do not hate us absolutely,
at least cannot endure us, and they are not without some good reasons.
Being among the descendants of the Moors of Spain, many of them still
preserve the keys of cities in Andalusia, and titles to the possession
of lands and houses in Seville and Granada, and their aversion to
Spaniards is peculiarly acrid, their fathers having been despoiled and
driven out by them. All the others nourish a general hatred to all
Christians, not only because this hatred is instilled into them in their
schools and mosques from their earliest infancy, with the purpose of
rendering any commerce with civilized races odious to them, commerce
which, scattering ignorance and superstition, would undermine the
foundations of the empire; but because they all have in the bottom of
their souls a vague suspicion of an expansive, growing, threatening
force in the states of Europe, by which, sooner or later, they will be
crushed. They hear the rising murmur of the French upon their eastern
frontier; they see the Spaniards fortified on their Mediterranean coast;
Tangiers is occupied by an advanced guard of Christians; the cities of
the west are guarded by a line of European merchants, stretching along
the Atlantic coast like a chain of sentinels; ambassadors come into the
country from different directions, apparently, to bring gifts to the
Sultan, but, in reality, as they believe, to look, and scrutinize, and
pry, and corrupt, and prepare the ground; they hear, in short, a
perpetual threat of invasion, and imagine this invasion accompanied by
all the horrors of hatred and revenge, persuaded as they are, that
Christians nourish against Moors the same sentiments which the latter
feel toward us. How can they change this aversion into sympathy when
they see us, in our tight, immodest costume, dressed in gloomy colors,
loaded with note-books, telescopes, mysterious instruments which we
direct at every thing, noting all things, measuring all things, wishing
to know all things; we, who are always laughing, and never pray; we, who
are restless, chattering, drinking, smoking, full of pretentions and
meanness, with only one wife, and never a slave in the whole country!
And they form a dark idea of Europe, as of immense congeries of
turbulent people, where there reigns a feverish life, full of ardent
ambitions, unbridled vices, audacious enterprises, and tumult, a dizzy
whirl, a confusion as of Babel, displeasing to God and man.

To-day great confusion in the palace, because of the first and unique
attempt at amorous conquest made by a Christian among the lower
personages of the Embassy. This excellent young man, upon whom, as it
would seem, the diplomatic austerity of our lives for the last forty
days had begun to weigh rather heavily, having seen, I know not whence,
a lovely Moor walking in a garden, thought (we all have our weaknesses)
that she would never be able to resist the attractions of his fine
person; and without a thought of the danger, insinuated himself through
some hole in the wall into the forbidden precincts. If, when arrived in
the presence of his nymph, he made a declaration of love, or whether he
attempted to suppress any preamble, whether the nymph lent a favorable
ear, or fled shrieking from the spot, no one knows; for in this country
all is mystery. It is known, however, that there suddenly issued from
behind the bushes four Moors armed with daggers, two of whom sprang upon
them on one side, and two on the other; and that the unfortunate young
man would either never have issued from the garden, or would have done
so with some holes in his person, if the Caid Hamed-Ben-Kasen Buhammei
had not suddenly appeared upon the scene, and with an imperious gesture
arrested the four assailants, and given the fugitive time to get back to
the palace with a whole skin. The news of the event flew about: there
was great excitement, and the culprit received a solemn admonition in
the presence of us all, while the commandant, always witty, added on his
own account a little sermon which produced a profound impression. “The
wives of others,” said he, “and more especially the wives of Mussulmans,
must be let alone; and when one is with a European Embassy in Morocco,
one must make up one’s mind not to be a man. For, in Mahometan
countries, these woman questions speedily become political questions. It
would indeed be a fine responsibility, that of an honest young fellow,
who, not having been able to resist an inconsiderate impulse, should
drag his country into a war, the consequences of which could not be
foreseen.” At this solemn discourse, the poor young man, who already saw
the Italian fleet with a hundred thousand fighting men sailing toward
Morocco because of him, showed himself so overwhelmed with the sense of
his guilt that no further castigation was considered necessary.

I should much like to know what conception these people have of their
own military power, and their own valor in war, with respect to the
power and bravery of Europeans. But I dare not question them directly on
the subject, because they are very ready to take offence, and I fear
that my questions might be mistaken for irony or brag. I have succeeded,
however, touching lightly and with caution, in picking up something. As
to the superiority of our military power they have no doubts; for, if
any doubts remained in their minds thirty years since, when they had not
yet met with any severe reverses from European armies, the wars with
France and Spain, and principally the two famous battles of Isly and
Tetuan, would have dissipated them for ever. But with regard to bravery,
it seems to me that they still think themselves much superior to
Europeans, whose victories they attribute to their artillery, to
discipline, and to what with them takes the place of strategy and
tactics, namely, craft; but not at all to their valor. It appears that
they do not consider victories gained by these means as real victories,
nobly obtained. The common people also add to these the alliance with
evil spirits, without which neither artillery nor craft would avail to
conquer the Mussulman armies. Certain it is that to the pure-blooded
Arabs and to the Berbers, who are the warlike majority in Morocco,
bravery cannot be denied, or even the recognition of it restricted to
that common and indeterminate courage which in Europe is considered,
with chivalric reciprocity, the property of all armies. For even taking
into account the nature of the ground and the secret aid of England, the
army of Morocco, scattered, badly commanded, badly armed, badly
provisioned, could not have confronted, as it did, for nearly a year,
with a tenacity unexpected in Europe, the Spanish troops, highly
disciplined, and furnished with all the newest offensive weapons, unless
they had possessed great bravery in compensation for the military power
that they lacked. We may deny the name of true courage to that
fanaticism which sends one man against ten, seeking a death that shall
open for him the gates of paradise; or to the savage fury which induces
a soldier to dash his own brains out against a rock rather than fall
into the enemy’s hands; or to the wild rage of a wounded man, who tears
the bandages from his wounds and frees himself at once from life and a
prison; or to the contempt of pain, the blind audacity, the brutal
obstinacy, that seek death without any purpose to serve; but we must
admit at least that these are elements of courage, and it is
incontestable that this people gave many such tremendous examples to
Spain. After two months of warfare the Spanish army had taken but two
prisoners, an Arab from the province of Oran, and a lunatic who had
presented himself at the outposts; and at the sanguinary battle of
Castillejos five men only, and those five wounded, fell into the hands
of the victors. Their traditional tactics are to advance _en masse_
against the enemy, to extend themselves rapidly, rush in, fire, and
retreat precipitately to reload. In great battles they dispose
themselves in half-moon shape, artillery and infantry in the centre, and
cavalry at the wings, which seeks to envelop the enemy and catch him
between two fires. The supreme head gives a general order, but every
inferior chief returns to the assault or retreats when he thinks fit,
and the army easily escapes from the control of the head. Indefatigable
horsemen, dexterous marksmen, unflinching at a defence, easily thrown
into confusion in open ground, they glide like serpents, climb like
squirrels, run like goats, pass rapidly from a bold assault to a
precipitous flight, and give an exaltation of courage that seems like
furious madness, to a confusion and disorder without name. There are
still in Morocco men who went mad with terror at the battle of Isly; and
it is known that when Marshall Bugeaud began his cannonade, Sultan
Abd-er-Rhaman cried out, “My horse! my horse!” and leaping into the
saddle fled precipitately, leaving in the camp his musicians, his
necromancers, his hunting dogs, the sacred standard, the parasol, and
his tea, which the French soldiers found still boiling hot.

I meet so many negroes in the streets of Fez that I sometimes seem to
find myself in the city of the Sôudan, and feel vaguely between me and
Europe the immensity of the desert of Sahara. From the Sôudan, in fact,
the greater part of them come—a little less than three thousand in a
year, many of whom are said to die in a short time from homesickness.
They are generally brought at the age of eight or ten years. The
merchants, before exposing them for sale, fatten them with balls of
_cùscùssù_, try to cure them, with music, of their homesickness, and
teach them a few Arabic words; which last augments their price, which is
generally thirty francs for a boy, sixty for a girl, about four hundred
for a young woman of seventeen or eighteen who is handsome, and knows
how to speak, and has not yet had a child, and fifty or sixty for an old
man. The emperor takes five per cent. on the imported material, and has
a right to the first choice. The others are sold in the markets of Fez,
Mogador, and Morocco, and separately, at auction, in the other cities.
They all, without difficulty, embrace the Mohammedan religion,
preserving, however, many of their own strange superstitions, and the
queer festivals of their native country, consisting of grotesque balls,
which last three days and three nights consecutively, accompanied by
diabolical music. They serve generally in the houses, are treated with
kindness, are for the most part freed in reward for their service, and
the way is open for them to the highest offices of state. Here, as
elsewhere, it is said that they are now feverishly industrious, now
torpidly lazy, sensual as monkeys, astute as foxes, ferocious as tigers,
but content with their condition, and in general faithful and grateful
to their masters; which, it would seem, is not the case where slavery is
harder, as at Cuba, and where the liberty that they enjoy is excessive,
as in Europe. The Arab and Moorish women refuse to accept them, and it
is rare that a negro marries another than one of his own color; but the
men, especially the Moors, not only seek them eagerly as concubines, but
marry them as frequently as white women; from which cause comes the
great number of mulattoes of all shades who are seen in the streets of
Morocco. What strange chances! The poor negro of ten years old, sold in
the confines of the Sahara for a sack of sugar and a piece of cloth,
may—and the case can be cited—discuss thirty years afterward, as
Minister of Morocco, a treaty of commerce with the English Ambassador;
and still more possibly, the black girl baby, born in a filthy den, and
exchanged in the shade of an oasis for a skin of brandy, may come to be
covered with gems, and fragrant with perfumes, and clasped in the arms
of the Sultan.

For some days, walking about Fez, there presents itself to my mind with
obstinate persistence, the image of a great American city, to which
people from all parts of the world hasten; one of those cities which
represent almost the type of that to which all new cities are slowly
conforming themselves, and whose life is, perhaps, an example of that
which, in another century, will be the life of all; a city whose image
cannot present itself to any European side by side with that of Fez,
without exciting a smile of pity, so enormous is the difference which
separates them in the road of human progress; and yet, the more I fix my
thoughts upon that city, the more I feel conscious of a doubt that
saddens me. I see those broad, straight, endless streets, with their
long perspectives of gigantic telegraph poles. “It is the hour for
closing the workshops and warehouses. Torrents of workmen, workwomen,
and children pass on foot, in omni-buses, in tramway cars, almost all
following the same direction, toward a distant quarter of the town; and
all have the same anxious, melancholy aspect, and seem worn out with
fatigue. Dense clouds of coal smoke pour from the innumerable chimneys
of the factories, descend into the streets, throw their black shadows
over the splendid shop-windows, and the gilded lettering of the signs
that cover the houses up to the roofs, and the crowd that, with bent
heads and rapid step, swinging their arms, fly silently from the places
where all day long they have labored. From time to time the sun parts
the dismal veil which industry has spread over the capital of labor; but
these sudden and fugitive beams, instead of making it more cheerful,
only illuminate the sadness of the scene. All the faces have the same
expression. Everybody is in haste to reach home in order to 'economize’
his few hours of repose, after having drawn the largest possible
advantage from the long hours of work. Every one seems to suspect a
rival in his neighbor. Every one bears the stamp of isolation. The moral
atmosphere in which these people live is not charity, it is rivalry. A
great number of families live in the hotels, a life which condemns the
wife to solitude and idleness. All day long the husband attends to his
business out of the house, coming in only at the hour for dinner, which
he swallows with the avidity of a famished man. Then he returns to his
galley. Boys, at the age of five or six years, are sent to school, they
go and come alone, and pass the rest of their time as they please, in
the enjoyment of perfect liberty. The paternal authority is almost
_nil_. The sons receive no other education than that of the common
school, arrive quickly at maturity, and from infancy are prepared for
the fatigues and struggles of the over-excited, strained, and
adventurous life which is before them. The existence of the man is
merely one long and single _campaign_, an uninterrupted succession of
combats, marches, and countermarches. The sweetness, the intimacy of the
domestic hearth have but a small part in his feverish and militant life.
Is he happy? Judging by his sad, wearied, anxious countenance, often
delicate and unhealthy, it is to be doubted. The excess of continued
work breaks down his strength, forbids him the pleasures of the
intellect, and prevents him from communing with his own soul. And the
woman suffers even more. She sees her husband but once a day, for half
an hour at most, and in the evening, when he returns tired out, and goes
to bed; and she cannot lighten the burden which he carries, nor
participate in his labors, cares, and pains, because she does not know
them; for there is no time for an interchange of thought and feeling
between the couple.”

The city is Chicago, and the writer who describes it is the Baron de
Hubner, a great admirer of America. Now my doubt is this: I do not know
which of the two cities, Fez or Chicago, to compassionate most. I feel,
however, that if I were a Moor of Fez, and a Christian should take me
into one of these great civilized cities and ask me if I did not envy
him, I should laugh in his face.

This morning Selam told me, in his own fashion, the famous history of
the bandit Arusi; one of the many tales that go about from mouth to
mouth from the sea to the desert; founded, however, on a real and recent
fact, many witnesses to which are still living.

A short time after the war with France, Sultan Abd-er-Rhaman sent an
army to punish the inhabitants of the Rif, who had burned a French
vessel. Among the various sheiks who were ordered to denounce the
culprits was one named Sid-Mohammed Abd-el-Djebar, already advanced in
years, who, being jealous of a certain Arusi, a bold and handsome youth,
placed him, though innocent, in the hands of the general, who sent him
to be incarcerated at Fez. But he only remained about a year in prison.
After his release he went to Tangiers, remained there some time, and
then suddenly disappeared, and for a while no one knew what had become
of him. But shortly after his disappearance, there were rumors all over
the province of Garb of a band of robbers and assassins which infested
the country between Rabat and Laracce. Caravans were attacked, merchants
robbed, caids maltreated, the Sultan’s soldiers poniarded; no one dared
any more to cross that part of the country, and the few who had escaped
alive from the hands of the bandits came back to the town stupefied with
terror.

Things remained in this state for a good while, and no one had been able
to discover who was the chief of the band, when a merchant from the Rif,
attacked one night by moonlight, recognized among the robbers the young
Arusi, and brought the news to Tangiers, whence it spread rapidly about
the province. Arusi was the chief. Many others recognized him. He
appeared in the _duars_ and villages, by day as well as by night,
dressed as a soldier, as a caid, as a Jew, as a Christian, as a woman,
as a _ulema_, killing, robbing, vanishing, pursued from every quarter,
but never taken, always unexpected in his approach, always under a new
disguise, capricious, fierce, and indefatigable; and he never went very
far away from the neighborhood of the citadel El Mamora; a fact which no
one could understand. The reason was this: the caid of the citadel El
Mamora was no other than the old sheik, Sid-Mohammed Abd-el-Djebar, who
had placed Arusi in the hands of the Sultan’s general.

At that very time Sid-Mohammed had just given his daughter in marriage,
a girl of marvellous beauty, named Rahmana, to the son of the pashà of
Salè, who was called Sid-Ali, The nuptial feasts were celebrated with
great pomp, in the presence of all the rich young men of the province,
who came on horseback, armed, and dressed in their best, to the citadel
El Mamora; and Sid-Ali was to conduct his bride to Salè, to his father’s
house. The cortege issued from the citadel at night. It had to pass
through a narrow defile formed by two chains of wooded hills and downs.
First went an escort of thirty horsemen; behind these, Rahmana, on a
mule, between her husband and her brother; behind her, her father, the
caid, and a crowd of relations and friends.

They entered the defile. The night was serene, the bridegroom held
Rahmana by the hand, the old caid smoothed his beard; all was cheerful
and unsuspecting.

Suddenly there burst upon the stillness of the night a formidable voice,
which cried:—

“Arusi salutes thee, O Sheik Sid-Mohammed Abd-el-Djebar!”

At the same moment, from the top of the hill, thirty muskets flashed,
and thirty shots rang out. Horses, soldiers, friends and relations fell
wounded or dead, or took to flight; and before the caid and Sid-Ali, who
were untouched, could recover from their bewilderment, a man, a fury, a
demon, Arusi himself, had seized Rahmana, placed her before him on his
horse, and fled with the speed of the wind toward the forest of Mamora.

The caid and Sid-Ali, both resolute men, instead of giving way to a vain
despair, took a solemn oath never to shave their heads until they had
been fearfully avenged. They demanded and obtained soldiers from the
Sultan, and began to give chase to Arusi, who had taken refuge with his
band in the great forest of Mamora, It was a most fatiguing warfare,
carried on by _coups de main_, ambuscades, nocturnal assaults, feints,
and ferocious combats, and went on for more than a year, driving, little
by little, the band of marauders into the centre of the forest. The
circle grew closer and closer. Many of Arusi’s men were already dead
with hunger, many had fled, many had been killed fighting. The caid and
Sid-Ali, as their vengeance seemed to draw near, became more ferocious
in its pursuit; they rested neither night nor day, they breathed only
for revenge. But of Arusi and Rahmana they could learn nothing. Some
said they were dead, some that they had fled, some that the bandit had
first killed the woman and then himself. The caid and Sid-Ali began to
despair, because the further they advanced into the forest, and the
thicker the trees, higher and more intricate became the bushes, the
vines, the brambles, and the junipers; so that the horses and dogs could
no longer force a passage through them. At last one day, when the two
were walking in the forest almost discouraged, an Arab came toward them
and said that he had seen Arusi hidden in the reeds, on the river-bank
at the extremity of the wood. The caid hastily called his men together,
and dividing them into two companies, sent one to the right and the
other to the left, toward the river. After some time, the caid was the
first to see, rising from the midst of the reeds, a phantom, a man of
tall stature and terrible aspect—Arusi. Everybody rushed toward that
point, they searched in vain, Arusi was not there. “He has crossed the
river!” shouted the caid. They threw themselves into the stream, and
gained the opposite bank. There they found some footprints, and followed
them, but after a little, they failed. Suddenly the horsemen broke into
a gallop along the river brink. At the same moment the attention of the
caid was drawn to three of his dogs, who had stopped, searching, near a
clump of reeds. Sid-Ali was the first to run to the spot, and he found
near the reeds a large ditch, at the bottom of which were some holes.
Jumping into the ditch, he introduced his musket into one of the holes,
felt it pushed back, and fired; then calling the caid and the soldiers,
they searched here and there, and found a small round aperture in the
steep bank just above the water. Arusi must have entered by that
opening. “Dig!” shouted the caid. The soldiers ran for picks and shovels
to a neighboring village, and digging, presently came upon a sort of
arch in the earth, and under it a cave.

At the bottom of the cave was Arusi, erect, motionless, pale as death.
They seized him; he made no resistance. They dragged him out; he had
lost his left eye. He was bound, carried to a tent, laid on the ground,
and as a first taste of vengeance, Sid-Ali cut off one by one all the
toes of his feet, and threw them in his face. This done, six soldiers
were set to guard him, and Sid-Ali and the caid withdrew to another
tent, there to arrange what tortures they should inflict before cutting
off his head. The discussion was prolonged; for each one tried to
propose some more painful torture, and nothing seemed horrible enough;
the evening came, and nothing was decided. The decision was put off
until the next morning, and they separated.

An hour afterward the caid and Ali were asleep, each in his tent; the
night was very dark, there was not a breath of wind, not a leaf moving;
nothing was heard but the murmur of the river, and the breathing of the
sleeping men. Suddenly a formidable voice broke the silence of the
night:—

“Arusi salutes thee, O Sheik Sid-Mohammed Abd-el-Djebar!”

The old caid sprang to his feet and heard the rapid beat of a horse’s
feet departing. He called his soldiers, who came in haste, and shouted,
“My horse! my horse!” They sought his horse, the most superb animal in
the whole of Garb; it was gone. They ran to the tent of Sid-Ali: he was
stretched to the ground, dead, with a poniard stuck in his left eye. The
caid burst into tears; the soldiers went off on the track of the
fugitive. They saw him for an instant, like a shadow; then lost him;
again saw him; but he sped like the lightning, and vanished not to be
seen again. Nevertheless they continued to follow, all the night, until
they reached a thick wood where they halted to await the dawn. When
daylight appeared they saw far off the caid’s horse approaching, tired
out and all bloody, filling the air with lamentable neighings. Thinking
that Arusi must be in the wood, they loosed the dogs and advanced sword
in hand. In a few minutes they discovered a dilapidated house
half-hidden among the trees. The dogs stopped there. The soldiers came
to the door, and levelling their muskets let them fall with a cry of
amazement. Within the four ruined walls lay the corpse of Arusi, and
beside it, a lovely woman, splendidly dressed, with her hair loose on
her shoulders, was binding up his bleeding feet, sobbing, laughing, and
murmuring words of despair and love. It was Rahmana. They took her to
her father’s house, where she remained three days without speaking one
word, and then disappeared. She was found some time afterward in the
ruined house in the wood, scratching up the earth with her hands, and
calling on Arusi. And there she stayed. “God,” said the Arabs, “had
called her reason back to Himself, and she was a saint.” Whether she is
still living or not, no one knows. She was certainly living twenty years
ago, and was seen in her hermitage by M. Narcisse Cotte, attached to the
Consulate of France at Tangiers, who told her story.

There is not now a corner of Fez that is unknown to us; and yet it seems
as if we had only arrived yesterday, so varied is the aspect of the
place, so much does every object revive in us the sense of our solitude,
so little do we become habituated to the curiosity that we create. And
this curiosity is in no wise lessened, although by this time we have
been seen over and over again by every native of Fez. Timidity, on the
other hand, is lessened, and antipathy, perhaps, a little; the children
come nearer and touch our garments, to feel what they are made of; the
women look at us with forbidding glances, but they no longer turn back
when they see us coming; curses are more rare, the soldiers do not use
their sticks so much, and the blows that Ussi received were, it is to be
hoped, the first and last blows with a fist that I shall have to report
in Italy. And although, in our walks through the city, we are followed
and preceded by a crowd, I think we could now go out alone without
danger of death. Already the people, according to the soldier’s
testimony, have given each of us a name, according to Moorish custom:
the doctor is “the man with the spectacles”; the vice-consul is “the man
with the flat nose”; the captain is “the man with the black boots”; Ussi
is “the man with the white handkerchief”; the commandant, “the man with
the short legs”; Biseo, “the man with the red hair”; Morteo, “the velvet
man,” because he is dressed in velvet; and myself, “the man with the
broken shoe,” because a pain in my foot obliged me to make a cut in my
boot. They comment much upon our doings, it appears, and say that we are
all ugly, not one accepted, not even the cook, who received this
intelligence with a laugh of scorn, and clapped his hand on a pocket in
his vest, where he had a letter from his sweetheart. And it seems to me
that they find us, or pretend to find us ridiculous, because, in the
streets, they laugh with a certain ostentation every time that one of us
slips, or hits his head against a branch of a tree, or loses his hat.
Nevertheless, and despite the variety of the landscape, this population
all of one color, and without apparent distinction of rank, this silence
broken only by an eternal rustle of slippers and mantles, these veiled
women, these blind, mute houses, this mysterious life,—all end by
producing a dreadful tedium. We must be within doors at sunset, and may
not go out again. With the daylight ceases all trade, every movement,
every sign of life; Fez is no more than a vast necropolis, where if
perchance a human voice is heard, it is the howl of a madman, or the
shriek of one who is being murdered; and he who insists upon going about
at any cost, must be accompanied by a patrol with loaded muskets, and a
company of carpenters who at every three hundred paces must knock down a
gate that stops the way. In the daytime the city supplies no news beyond
some woman found in the street with a dagger in her heart, or the
departure of a caravan, or the arrival of a governor or vice-governor of
some province who has been thrown into prison, the bastinado
administered to some dignitary, a festival in honor of some saint, or
other things of the same character brought to us in general by Mohammed
Ducali or Schellal, who are our two perambulating journals. And these
events, with what I daily see, and the singular life I lead, give me at
night such strangely intricate dreams of severed heads, and deserts, of
harems, prisons, Fez, Timbuctoo, and Turin, that when I wake in the
morning, it takes me some minutes to find out what world I am in.

How many beautiful, grotesque, horrible, absurd, and strange figures
will live in my memory for ever! My head is full of them, and when I am
alone I make them pass before me one by one, like the figures in a magic
lantern, with inexpressible pleasure. There is Sid-Buker, the mysterious
being who comes three times every day, wrapped in a great mantle, with
head down, half-closed eyes, pale as death, stealthy as a spectre, to
confer secretly with the Ambassador, and vanishes like a figure in a
phantasmagoria, without any one observing him. There is the favorite
Sid-Moussa, a handsome young mulatto, graceful as a girl, elegant as a
prince, fresh and smiling, who goes leaping up and down the stairs, and
salutes you with a sort of coquetry, bowing profoundly and extending his
hand as if he were throwing kisses. There is a soldier of the guard, a
Berber, born in the Atlas Mountains, a countenance that one cannot see
without a shudder, and who fixes upon me a cold, perfidious, immovable
glance, as if he meant to kill me; and the more I try to avoid him the
more I meet him, and he seems to divine the dread with which he inspires
me, and to take a satanic pleasure in it. There is a decrepit old woman,
whom I saw in the door of a mosque, naked as she was born, except for a
formless rag about her hips, with her head as bald as the palm of my
hand, and a body so deformed that I made an exclamation of horror, and
was disturbed for some time by the sight of her. There is the
mischievous Moorish woman, who, entering her house as we were passing
by, threw off in furious haste the _caic_ that covered her, and giving
us a glimpse of her handsome, straight, and well-made figure, and a
sparkling glance, shut the door. There is the very old shopkeeper, with
a face at once ridiculous and frightful, so bent over that when he
stands in the back of his dark niche he seems almost to touch his toes
with his chin; he keeps only one eye open, and that is hardly visible;
and every time I pass his shop, and look in at him, that eye opens large
and round, and shines with a sort of mocking smile that gives me a kind
of anxious feeling. There is the beautiful little Moorish girl of ten
years old, with her hair loose about her shoulders, dressed in a chemise
bound round the waist with a green scarf, who, in attempting to jump
from one terrace to another lower one, got caught by her chemise upon
the corner of a brick, and was held dangling; and she, knowing that she
was seen from the palace of the Embassy, and unable to get up or down,
raised the most despairing shrieks, and all the women in the house came,
shaking with laughter, to her assistance. There is the gigantic mulatto,
a madman, who, pursued by the fixed idea that the Sultan’s soldiers are
seeking him to cut his hand off, flies through the streets like some
wild thing held in chase, convulsively shaking his right arm as if it
were already mutilated, and giving the most frightful yells, which can
be heard from one end of the city to the other. There are many, many
more; but the one who rises oftenest before my memory is a negro, of
about fifty years of age, a servant of the palace, a little more than a
yard high, and a little less than a yard wide, a contented spirit, who
is always smiling and twisting his mouth toward his right ear; the most
grotesque, the most absurdly ridiculous figure that ever appeared under
the vault of heaven; and it is of no use for me to bite my fingers, and
tell myself that it is ignoble to laugh at human deformity, and shame
myself in many ways, the laugh breaks out in spite of me—there must be
in it some mysterious intention of Providence—it must break out. And—I
really cannot help it—the idea presents itself, what a capital pipe-bowl
he would make!

[Illustration: Slave Of The Sultan.]

As the day of departure draws near, the merchants come in crowds to the
palace, and buying goes on with fury. The rooms, the court, and the
gallery have taken the aspect of a bazaar. Everywhere long rows of
vases, embroidered slippers, cushions, carpets, caics. Every thing in
Fez that is most gilded, most arabesqued, most dear in price, is passed
before our eyes. And it is worth while to see how they sell, these
people, without a word, without a flitting smile, only making the sign
of yes or no with the head, and going away, having sold or not having
sold, with the same automaton faces that they brought. Above all, the
painters’ room is fine, converted into a great _bric-à-brac_ shop, full
of saddles, stirrups, guns, caftans, ragged scarfs, pottery, barbaric
ornaments, old girdles of women, come from heaven knows where, that have
perhaps felt the pressure of the Sultan’s arms, and next year will
appear in some grand picture at Naples or New York. One kind of thing
only is wanting, namely, antique objects, records of the various peoples
who have conquered and colonized Morocco; and although it is known that
such are often found underground and among the ruins, it is not possible
to get them, because every object so found has to be carried to the
authorities, and whoever finds one hides it; and the authorities,
ignorant of their value, destroy or sell as useless material the little
that finds its way to them. In this way, a few years ago, a bronze horse
and some small bronze statues, which were found in a well near the
remains of an aqueduct, were broken up and sold for old copper to a Jew
dealer in second-hand goods.

To-day I had a warm discussion with a merchant of Fez, with the
intention of finding out what opinion the Moors held of European
civilization; and for that reason I did not trouble myself to refute his
arguments, except when it was necessary to give him line. He is a
handsome man of forty, of an honest and severe countenance, who has
visited, in his commerce, the principal cities of Western Europe, and
who lived a good while at Tangiers, where he learned some Spanish. I had
exchanged a few words with him some days ago, _à propos_ of a small
piece of stuff woven of silk and gold, which he pretended to be worth
ten _marenghi_. But to-day, attacking him upon the subject of his
travels, a conversation ensued which his companions listened to with
astonishment, although they could not understand it. I asked him then
what impression the great cities of Europe had made upon him; not
expecting, however, to hear any great expression of admiration, because
I knew, as everybody knows, that of the four or five hundred merchants
of Morocco who go every year to Europe the greater part return to their
own country more stupidly fanatical than at first, when they do not
return more rascally and vicious; and that if they were all amazed at
the splendor of our cities, and at the marvels of our industries, not
one of them would be touched in the soul, moved in the mind, spurred on
to imitate, to attempt; not one persuaded of the complex inferiority of
his own country; and certainly not one, even if he experienced such
sentiments, who would be ready to express them, and still less to
diffuse them, through the fear of calling down upon himself the
accusation of being a renegade Mussulman and an enemy to his country.

“What have you to say,” I asked, “of our great cities?”

He looked fixedly at me, and answered coldly: “Large streets, fine
shops, handsome palaces, fine offices—and all clean.”

With this he appeared to think that he had said all that could be said
in our honor.

“Did you see nothing else that was handsome and good?” I asked.

He looked at me as if to inquire what I supposed he was likely to have
found.

“Is it possible” (I insisted) “that a reasonable man like yourself, who
has seen countries so wonderfully different and superior to his own,
does not speak of them at least with astonishment, at least with the
vivacity with which a boy from a _duar_ would speak of a pashà’s palace?
What does astonish you then in the world? What kind of people are you?
Who can comprehend you?”

“_Perdóne Usted_,” he answered, coldly; “in my turn I do not understand
you. When I have told you every thing in which I think you superior to
us, what do you wish more? Do you wish me to say what I do not think? I
tell you that your streets are wider than ours, your shops finer, your
palaces richer; it seems to me that I have said all. I will say one
thing more: that you know more than we do, because you have books and
read.”

I made a gesture of impatience.

“Do not be impatient, _caballero_,” he went on quietly; “you will
acknowledge that the first duty of a man, the first thing which renders
him estimable, and that in which it is of the utmost importance that a
country should be superior to other countries, is honesty; will you not?
Very well, in the matter of honesty I do not at all believe that you are
superior to us. And that is one thing.”

“Gently. Explain first what you mean by honesty.”

“Honesty in trade, _caballero_. The Moors, for example, in trade
sometimes deceive the Europeans, but you Europeans deceive us Moors much
more often.”

“The cases are rare,” I answered, for the sake of saying something.

“Cases rare!” he exclaimed, warmly. “Cases of every-day occurrence” (and
here I would like to report exactly his broken, concise, and childish
language). “Proof! Proof! I at Marseilles. I am at Marseilles. I buy
cotton. I choose the thread, thick like this. I say: this number, this
stamp, this quantity, send. I pay, I depart, arrive at Morocco, receive
cotton, open, look, same number, same stamp—thread three times smaller!
good for nothing! loss, thousands of francs! I run to Consulate—nothing.
_Otro_, another. Merchant of Fez orders blue cloth in Europe, so many
pieces, so wide, so long, agreed, paid. Receives cloth, opens, measures:
first pieces right; under, shorter; last, half a yard shorter! not good
for cloaks, merchant ruined. _Otro, otro._ Merchant of Morocco orders in
Europe, thousand yards gold galloon for officers, and sends money.
Galloon comes, cut, sewed, worn—copper! _Y otros, y otros, y otros!_”
With this he lifted his face to the sky, and then turning abruptly to
me: “More honest you?”

I repeated that these could only be exceptional cases. He made no reply.

“More religious you?” he asked then, shortly. “No!” and after a moment:
“No! Enough to go once into one of your mosques.”

“You say,” he went on, encouraged by my silence, “in your country there
are fewer _matamientos_ (murders)?” Here I should have been embarrassed
to answer. What would he have said if I had confessed that in Italy
alone there are committed three thousand homicides a year, and that
there are ninety thousand prisoners on trial and condemned?

“I do not believe it,” he said, reading my answer in my eyes. Not
feeling myself secure upon this ground, I attacked him with the usual
arguments against polygamy.

He jumped as if I had burnt him.

“Always that!” he cried, turning red to his very ears. “Always that! as
if you had one woman only! and you want to make us believe it! One wife
is really yours, but there are those of _los otros_, and those who are
_de todos y de nadie_, of everybody and nobody. Paris! London! Cafés
full, streets full, theatres full. _Verguenza!_ and you reproach the
Moors!”

So saying, he pulled the beads of his rosary through his trembling
fingers, and turned from time to time with a faint smile to make me
understand that his anger was not against me, but against Europe.

Seeing that he took this question rather too much to heart, I changed
the subject, and asked him if he did not recognize greater convenience
in our manner of living. Here he was very comic. He had his arguments
all ready.

“It is true,” he answered, with an ironical accent; “it is true. Sun?
Parasol. Rain? Umbrella. Dust? Gloves. To walk? A stick. To look? An
eye-glass. To take the air? A carriage. To sit down? Elastic cushions.
To eat? Music. A scratch? The doctor. Death? A statue: _Eh!_ how many
things you have need of! What men, _por Dios_! What children!”

In short, he would not leave me any thing. He even laughed at our
architecture.

“_Che! che!_” said he, when I talked of the comfort of our houses.
“There are three hundred of you living in one house, all a-top of one
another, and then you go up, and up, and up—and there is no air, and no
light, and no garden!”

Then I spoke of laws, of government, of liberty, and the like; and as he
was a man of intelligence, I think I succeeded, if not in making him
understand all the differences in these respects between his country and
ours, at least, in introducing some gleams of light into his mind.
Seeing that he could not meet me on this ground, he suddenly changed the
subject, and looking at me from head to foot, said, smiling, “_Mal
vestidos_” (badly dressed).

I replied that dress was of small importance, and asked him if he did
not recognize our superiority in this, that instead of sitting for hours
idly, with our legs crossed on a mattress, we employed our time in many
useful and amusing ways.

He gave me a more subtle answer than I had expected. He said that it did
not appear to him a good sign to have need of so many ways of passing
the time. Life alone, then, was for us a punishment that we could not
rest an hour doing nothing, without amusement, without wearing ourselves
out in the search for entertainment? Were we afraid of ourselves? Had we
something in us which tormented us?

“But see,” I said, “what a dull spectacle your city presents, what
solitude, what silence, what misery. You have been in Paris. Compare the
streets of Paris with the streets of Fez.”

Here he was sublime. He sprang to his feet laughing, and, more in
gesture than in words, gave a jesting description of the spectacle which
is presented by our city streets: “Come, go, run; carts here,
wheelbarrows there; a deafening noise; drunken men staggering along;
gentlemen buttoning up their coats to save their purses; at every step a
guard, who looks as if at every step he saw a thief; old people and
children who are in constant danger of being crushed by the carriages of
the rich; impudent women, and even girls, horror! who give provoking
glances, and even nudge the young men with their elbows; everybody with
a cigar in his mouth; on every side people going into shops, to eat, to
drink, to have their hair dressed, to look in mirrors, to put on gloves;
and dandies planted before the doors of the cafés to whisper in the ears
of other people’s wives who are passing; and that ridiculous manner of
saluting, and walking on the toes, and swinging and jumping about; and
then, good heavens, what womanish curiosity!” And touching this point he
grew warm, and told how one day, in an Italian city, having gone out in
his Moorish dress, in a moment there had gathered a crowd, who ran
before and behind him, shouting and laughing, and would scarcely let him
walk, so that he had to go back to his hotel and change his dress. “And
that is the way they act in your country!” he went on. “That they do so
here is not surprising, for they never see a Christian; but in your
country, where they know how we are dressed, because they have pictures
of us, and send their painters here with machines to take our portraits;
among you who know so much, do you think that such things ought to
happen?”

After which he smiled courteously, as if to say, “All this is no reason
why we should not be friends.”

Then the conversation turned upon European manufactures, railways,
telegraphs, and great works of public utility; and of these he allowed
me to talk without interruption, assenting from time to time with a nod.

When I had finished, however, he sighed and said, “After all, what are
all these things worth if we must all die?”

“Finally,” I concluded, “you would not change your condition for ours?”

He stood a moment thoughtful, and replied: “No, because you are no
longer-lived than we are, nor are you more healthy, nor better, nor more
religious, nor more contented. Leave us, then, in peace. Do not insist
that everybody should live as you do, and be happy according to your
ideas. Let us all stay in the circle where Allah has placed us. For some
good purpose Allah stretched the sea between Europe and Africa. Let us
respect His decree.”

“And do you believe,” I demanded, “that you will always remain as you
are; that little by little we shall not make you change?”

“I do not know,” he answered. “You have the strength, you will do what
you please. All that is to happen is already written. But whatever
happens Allah will not abandon His faithful people.”

With this he took my hand, pressed it to his heart, and went
majestically away.

This morning at sunrise I went to see the review which the Sultan holds
three times a week in the square where he received the Embassy.

As I went out at the gate of the Nicchia del Burro, I had a first taste
of the manœuvres of the artillery. A troop of soldiers, old,
middle-aged, and boys, all dressed in red, were running behind a small
cannon drawn by one mule. It was one of the twelve guns presented by the
Spanish government to Sultan Sid-Mohammed after the war of 1860. Every
now and then the mule slipped, or turned aside, or stopped, and the
whole band began to yell and to strike at her, dancing and giggling, as
if it was a carnival car they were conducting. In a distance of about a
hundred paces they stopped ten times. Now the little bucket fell off,
now the rammer, now something else; for every thing was hung on the
carriage. The mule zig-zagged along at her own caprice, or rather
wherever the cannon pushed her in coming down over the inequalities of
the ground; everybody gave orders which no one obeyed; the big ones
cuffed the small ones, the small ones cuffed the smaller ones, and they
all cuffed each other; and the cannon remained pretty much in the same
place. It was a scene to have thrown General La Marmora into a tertian
fever.

On the left bank of the river there were about two thousand
foot-soldiers, some lying on the ground, some standing about in groups.
In the square enclosed between the walls and the river, the artillery;
four guns were firing at a mark; behind the guns stood some soldiers,
and a tall figure in white—the Sultan. From the place where I stood,
however, I could scarcely distinguish his outline. He seemed from time
to time to speak to the artillerymen, as if he were directing them. On
the opposite side of the square, near the bridge, there was a crowd of
Moors, Arabs, and blacks, men and women, people from the city and
country-people, gentlemen and peasants, all assembled together, and
waiting, I was told, to be called one by one before the Sultan, from
whom they wished favor or justice; for the Sultan gives audience three
times a week to whosoever wishes to speak with him. Some of these poor
people had, perhaps, come from distant places to complain of the
exactions of the governor, or to beg for pardon for their relatives in
prison. There were ragged women and tottering old men; all the faces
were weary and sad, and upon them could be read both impatient desire
and dread to appear before the prince of true believers, the supreme
judge, who in a few minutes, with few words, would perhaps decide the
fate of their whole lives. I could not see that they had any thing at
their feet or in their hands, and for this reason I believe that the
reigning Sultan has discontinued the custom, which formerly existed, of
accompanying every petition with a present, which was never refused,
however small, and consisted sometimes of a pair of fowls or a dozen of
eggs. I walked about among the soldiers. The boys were divided into
companies of thirty or forty each, and were amusing themselves by
running after one another and playing a sort of leap-frog. In some of
these groups, however, the diversion consisted in a sort of pantomime,
which, when I understood its meaning, made me shudder. They were
representing the amputation of the hands, decapitation, and other kinds
of punishment, which they had doubtless often witnessed. One boy
represented the caid, another the victim, and a third the executioner;
the victim, when his hand was cut off, made believe to plunge the stump
into a vessel of pitch; another pretended to pick up the hand and throw
it to the dogs; and the spectators all laughed.

The gallows-bird faces of the greater part of these youthful soldiers
are not to be described. They were of all shades of color, from ebony
black to orange yellow; and not one of them, even among the youngest,
had preserved the ingenuous expression of childhood. All had something
hard, impudent, cynical, in their eyes, that inspired pity rather than
anger. No great perspicacity is necessary to understand that they could
not be otherwise. Of the men, the greater part of them were dozing,
stretched out on the ground; others were dancing negro dances in the
midst of a circle of spectators, and making all sorts of jokes and
grimaces; others, again, fencing with sabres, in the same way as at
Tangiers, springing about with the action of rope-dancers. The officers,
among them many renegades, who were to be recognized by their faces,
their pipes, and a certain something of superior care in their dress,
walked about apart, and when I met them, turned their eyes away. Beyond
the bridge, in a place apart, about twenty men, muffled in white
mantles, were lying on the ground, one beside the other, motionless as
statues. I drew near, and saw that they all wore heavy chains on wrist
and ankle. They were persons condemned for common offences, who were
dragged about by the army, and thus pilloried in the sight of all. As I
approached they all turned, and fixed upon me a look that made me
retreat at once.

I left the soldiers, and went to rest myself under the shade of a
palm-tree, on a rising ground, whence I could command the whole plain. I
had been there but a few minutes, when I saw an officer detach himself
from a group, and come slowly toward me, looking carelessly about him,
and humming a tune, as if to avoid notice. He was a short, stout man of
about forty, wearing a sort of Zouave dress, with a fez, and without
arms.

When I saw him near, I had a sensation of disgust. Never have I seen
outside of the assize court a more perfidious countenance. I would have
sworn to his having at least ten murders on his conscience, accompanied
by assaults on the person.

He stopped at a couple of paces from me, fixed two glassy eyes upon me,
and said, coldly, “_Bon jour, monsieur_.”

I asked him if he were a Frenchman. “Yes,” he replied. “I am from
Algiers. I have been here seven years. I am a captain in the army of
Morocco.”

Not being able to compliment him on his position, I kept silence.

“_C´est comme ça_,” he continued, speaking quickly. “I came away from
Algiers because I could not bear the sight of it any more. _J´étais
obligé de vivre dans un cercle trop étroit_” (he meant, perhaps, the
halter). “European life did not suit my tastes. I felt the need of
change.”

“And are you more contented now?” I inquired.

“Most content,” he answered, with affectation. “The country is lovely,
Muley-el-Hassan is the best of sultans, the people are kind, I am a
captain, I have a little shop, I exercise a small trade, I hunt, I fish,
I make excursions into the mountains, I enjoy complete liberty. I would
not go back to Europe, you see, for all the gold in the world.”

“Do you not wish to see your own country again? Have you forgotten even
France?”

“What is France to me!” he replied. “For me France has no existence.
Morocco is my country.” And he shrugged his shoulders.

His cynicism revolted me; I could scarcely believe it; I had the
curiosity to probe him a little more deeply.

“Since you left Algeria,” I asked, “have you had no news of events in
Europe?”

“_Pas un mot_,” he answered. “Here nobody knows any thing, and I am very
glad not to know any thing.”

“You do not know, then, that there has been a great war between France
and Prussia?”

He started. “_Qui a vaincu?_” he asked, quickly, fixing his eyes upon
me.

“Prussia,” I replied.

He made a gesture of surprise. I told him in a few words of the
disasters that had befallen France,—the invasion, the taking of Paris,
the loss of the two provinces. He listened with his head bent down and
his eyebrows knit; then he roused himself and said, with a kind of
effort, “_C´est égal_—I have no country, it is no affair of mine,” and
he bent his head again. I observed him steadily, and he saw it. “Adieu,
Monsieur,” he said, abruptly, in an altered voice, and walked quickly
away.

“All is not dead within him yet!” I thought, and was glad.

Meantime the artillery had ceased its fire, the Sultan had retired under
a white pavilion at the foot of a tower, and the soldiers began to
defile before him, unarmed, and one by one, at about twenty paces one
from the other. As there was not beside the Sultan, or in front of the
pavilion any officer to read the names, as with us, in order to certify
the existence of every soldier on the rolls (and I am told there are no
rolls in the army of Morocco), I could not understand the purpose of the
review, unless it was for the Sultan’s amusement; and I was tempted to
laugh. But, upon second thoughts, the primitive and poetic idea in the
sight of that African monarch, high-priest, an absolute prince, young,
gentle, and in all simplicity standing three hours alone in the shadow
of his tent, and three times in every week seeing his soldiers passing
before him one by one, and listening to the prayers and lamentations of
his unhappy subjects inspired me instead with a feeling of respect. And
since it was the last time that I should see him, I felt a sudden rush
of sympathy toward him as I turned away. “Farewell,” I thought,
“handsome and noble prince!” and as his gracious white figure
disappeared for ever from my eyes, I felt a sensation in my breast as
if, in that moment, it had been stamped upon my heart.

The ninth of June: the last day of the sojourn of the Italian Embassy at
Fez. All the Ambassador’s demands have been conceded, the affairs of
Ducali and Schellal arranged, visits of leave-taking made, the last
dinner of Sid-Moussa submitted to, the usual presents from the Sultan
received: a fine black horse, with an enormous green velvet saddle
embroidered with gold for the Ambassador; gilded and damascened sabres
to the officials of the Embassy; a mule to the second dragoman. The
tents and boxes were sent forward this morning, the rooms are empty, the
mules are ready, the escort awaits us at the gate of Nicchia del Burro,
my companions are walking up and down the court, expecting the signal
for departure, and I, seated for the last time upon the edge of my
imperial bed, note down in a book upon my knee my last impressions of
Fez. What are they? What is left at last at the bottom of my soul by the
spectacle of this people, this city, this state of things? If my thought
penetrates at all under the pleasing impressions of wonder and gratified
curiosity, I find a mingling of diverse sentiments, which leave my mind
uncertain. There is a feeling of pity for the decay, the debasement, the
agony of a warlike and knightly race, who left so luminous a track in
the history of science and art, and now have not even the consciousness
of their past glory. There is admiration for what remains in them of the
strong and beautiful, for the virile and gracious majesty of their
aspect, dress, demeanor, and ceremonies; for every thing that their sad
and silent life retains of its antique dignity and simplicity. There is
displeasure at the sight of so much barbarism at so short a distance
from civilization, and that this civilization should have so
disproportionate a force in rising and expanding, that in so many
centuries, and always growing on its own ground, it has been unable to
cross two hundred miles of sea. There is anger at the thought that, to
the great interest of the barbarism of this part of Africa, the
civilized states prefer their own small local and mercantile interests;
and diminishing thus in the minds of this people, by the spectacle of
their mean jealousies, their own authority and that of the civilization
which they desire to spread, render the undertaking always more
difficult and slow. Finally, there is a sentiment of vivid pleasure,
when I think that in this country another little world has been formed
in my brain, populous, animated, full of new personages who will live
forever there, whom I can evoke at will, and can converse with them, and
live again in Africa. But with this glad feeling comes another which is
sad, the inevitable sentiment that throws a shadow over all our serene
hours and drops a drop of bitterness into all our pleasures—that which
the Moorish merchant expressed when he demonstrated the vanity of the
great efforts of civilized people to study, to seek, to discover; and
then this beautiful journey seems to me only the rapid passage of a fine
scene in the spectacle of an hour, which is life; and my pencil drops
from my hand, and a dark discouragement takes possession of me. Ah! the
voice of Selam calls me! We must go, then. To return to the tent, to the
warlike manœuvres, the wide plains, the great light, the joyous and
wholesome life of the encampment. Farewell, Fez! Farewell, sadness! My
little African world is again illuminated with rose color.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                               MECHINEZ.


After twenty-four days of city life the caravan impressed me as a new
spectacle. And yet nothing was changed, except that beside Mohamed
Ducali rode the Moor, Schellal, who although his business had been
amicably settled, thought it more prudent to return to Tangiers under
the wing of the Ambassador than to remain in Fez under that of his
government. An acute observer might also have observed upon our faces,
if he were a pessimist, a certain annoyance; if an optimist, a calm
serenity, which was derived from a profound consciousness in all, that
we had left behind in the imperial capital no pining beauty, no offended
husband, no distracted family. On all our faces also shone the thought
of return—that is, on as much as could be seen of them under the
umbrellas, veils, handkerchiefs, with which most of us had concealed our
heads for shelter against the ardent sun and suffocating dust. Alas!
here was the great change. The sun of May was changed into the sun of
June, the thermometer marked forty-two degrees (centigrade) at the
moment of departure, and before us lay two hundred miles of African
soil.

To return to Tangiers we had to go to Mechinez, from thence to Laracce,
then along the shores of the sea to Arzilla, and from Arzilla to
Ain-Dalia, where we had first encamped.

We took three days to go to Mechinez, distant from Fez about fifty
kilometres.

The country did not present any marked differences to that which we had
traversed in going to Fez: always the same fields of grain and barley,
in some of which they were beginning to reap; the same black _duars_,
the same vast spaces covered with dwarf palms and lentiscus, those grand
undulations of the land, rocky hills, dry beds of torrents, solitary
palms, white tombs of saints, splendidly peaceful and infinitely sad.
But because of the neighborhood of the two great cities, we met more
people than on the way between Tangiers and Fez: caravans of camels,
droves of cattle, merchants bringing troops of beautiful horses to the
markets of Fez, saints preaching in the desert, couriers on foot and on
horseback, groups of Arabs armed with reaping-hooks, and some rich
Moorish families going to Fez with their servants and chattels. One of
these—the family of a wealthy merchant known to Ducali—formed a long
caravan. First came two servants armed with muskets; and behind them the
head of the family, a handsome man of a stern countenance, with a black
beard and a white turban, riding a richly caparisoned mule; with one
hand he held the reins, and sustained a child of two or three years old,
seated before him in the saddle; with the other he clasped the hand of a
woman completely veiled—perhaps his favorite wife—who rode behind him
astride of the mule’s crupper, and who held him round the waist as if
she meant to suffocate him, perhaps in fear of us. Other women, all with
veiled faces, came riding on other mules behind the master; armed
relations, boys, black servants; women with babies in their arms; Arab
servants with muskets on their shoulders; mules and asses laden with
mattresses, pillows, coverings, plates, and other matters; and, finally,
more servants on foot, bearing cages full of canary-birds and parrots.

The women, as they passed us, wrapped their veils more closely about
them, the merchant did not look at us, the relations gave us a timid
glance, and two of the children began to cry.

From these spectacles we were diverted on the third day by a sad event.
Poor Doctor Miguerez, attacked at our second resting-place by the
atrocious pain of sciatica, had to be transported to Mechinez in a
litter, hastily made of a hammock and two curtain-poles, and suspended
between two mules; and this depressed us all. The caravan was divided
into two parts. I cannot express how painful it became to see, as we
often did, that litter appear behind us on the top of a hill and slowly
descend into the valley, surrounded by soldiers on horseback, muleteers,
servants, and friends, all grave and silent as a funeral cortége, and
now and then stopping to bend over the sick man, and then going on,
signing to us from afar that our poor friend was growing worse. It was a
painful spectacle, but a fine one also, giving to the caravan the air of
the afflicted escort of a wounded sultan.

On the first day we encamped still in the plain of Fez; on the second,
on the right bank of the Mduma River, at about five hours from Mechinez.
Here we had a very pleasant adventure. Toward evening we all went down
to the bank of the river, about half a mile from the camp, near a large
_duar_, from which all the inhabitants came out to meet us. There was a
bridge there of masonry; one single arch, of Arab construction, and old,
but still entire and solid; and beside it the remains of another bridge,
partly embedded in the high rocky bank, and partly fallen into the bed
of the river. On the opposite shore, at about fifty paces from the
bridge, there was a dilapidated wall, some traces of foundations, and a
few big hewn stones that seemed to have once belonged to an important
building. The country all about was deserted. The ruins, we were told,
were those of an Arabian city, called Mduma, built upon the remains of
another city anterior to the Mussulman invasion. We set to work to
search among the stones for any traces of Roman construction; but we
found or recognized none, to the manifest satisfaction of the Arabs, who
doubtless believed that we were seeking, on the faith of some of our
diabolical books, some hidden treasures of the _Rumli_ (Romans), from
whom, according to them, all Christians are direct descendants.

Captain de Boccard, however, recrossing the bridge to return to the
camp, saw down in the river, on the top of an enormous fragment of
almost pyramidal form, some small square stones, which looked to him as
if they had characters engraved upon them; and the fact that they were
there, as if placed there on purpose to be seen from the bridge, made
the supposition of value. The Captain manifested his intention of going
to see what they were. Everybody advised him not to. The river banks
were very steep, the bottom encumbered with pointed rocks, scattered at
some distance from each other, the current strong and rapid, the
fragment of ruin on which the stones lay was very high, and either
impossible or very dangerous of access. But Captain de Boccard is one of
those persons who are impossible to move when once their purpose is
fixed: they will do it, or die. We had not yet done dissuading him, when
he was already down the bank, just as he was, with his horseman’s boots
and spurs. A hundred Arabs were looking on, some fringed along the river
banks, some leaning over the parapet of the bridge. As soon as they
understood what the Captain was going to do, the enterprise appeared to
them so desperate, that they began to laugh. When they saw him stop on
the edge of the water and look about as if seeking a passage, they
imagined that his courage had failed, and all burst out into insolently
sonorous laughter. “Not one of us,” one cried, in a loud voice, “has
ever succeeded in climbing up there; we shall see whether a Nazarene can
do it.”

And certainly no other of us Italians could have done it. But he who
attempted it was, as it happened, the most active personage in the
Embassy. The laughter of the Arabs gave him the final impulse. He gave a
spring, disappeared into the midst of the bushes, reappeared upon a
rock, vanished again, and so from rock to rock, springing like a cat,
clinging, and climbing, and slipping, over and over again risking a fall
into the river, or the breaking of his bones, came to the foot of the
piece of ruin, and without taking breath, clinging to every root and
every projection, he reached the top, and stood erect upon it like a
statue. We all drew a long breath, the Arabs were amazed, and Italian
honor was safe. The Captain, like a noble victor, deigned not even a
glance at his crestfallen adversaries, and as soon as he had satisfied
himself that the supposed engraved stones were nothing but fragments of
mortar that had fallen from the bridge, came down by the other side, and
with a few jumps gained the shore, where he was received with the honors
of a triumph.

The transit from Mduma to Mechinez was a succession of optical illusions
of so singular a character, that if it had not been for the suffocating
heat, we should have been immensely amused by them. At about two hours
from the encampment, we saw, vaguely gleaming afar off in a vast naked
plain, the white minarets of Mechinez, and rejoiced that we were so near
our journey’s end. But what had seemed to us a plain was in reality an
interminable succession of parallel valleys, separated by large waves of
land all of equal height, which presented the aspect of one continued
surface; so that as we went forward the city was perpetually hidden and
again revealed, as if it were peeping at us; and besides that, the
valleys being broken, rocky, and traversed only by winding and difficult
paths, our road yet to be accomplished was at least double in distance
to what it appeared to be; and it seemed as if the city withdrew as we
advanced; at every valley our hearts opened to hope, and at every hill
we despaired again, and voices weak and high were heard, and lamentable
sighs, and angry propositions to renounce any future voyage to Africa,
for whatever purpose or under whatever conditions; when suddenly, as we
came out of a grove of wild olives, the city rose before us, and all our
lamentations were lost in exclamations of wonder.

Mechinez, spread upon a long hill, surrounded by gardens, bounded by
three ranges of battlemented walls, crowned with minarets and palms, gay
and majestic, like a suburb of Constantinople, presented herself to our
eyes, with her thousand terraces drawn white against the azure of the
sky. Not a cloud of smoke issued from all that multitude of houses;
there was not a living soul to be seen, either on the terraces or before
the walls; nor was there a sound to be heard: it seemed a deserted city,
or a scene in a theatre.

The dinner tent was pitched in a bare field, at two hundred paces from
one of the fifteen gates of the city, and in a few minutes we sat down
to satisfy, as some elegant prose writer remarks, “our natural talent
for food and drink.”

We were scarcely seated, when there issued from the city gate, and
advanced toward the encampment, a company of horsemen superbly dressed
and preceded by foot-soldiers.

It was the governor of Mechinez, with his relatives and officials. At
about twenty paces off they dismounted from their horses, which were
covered with trappings in all the colors of the rainbow, and rushed
toward us shouting all together in one voice, “Welcome! welcome!
welcome!”

[Illustration: Gateway At Mechinez.]

The governor was a young man of a mild countenance, with black eyes and
blacker beard; all the others, men of forty or fifty, were tall,
bearded, dressed in white, and as neat and perfumed as if they had come
out of a box. They all pressed our hands, passing round the table with a
tripping step, and smiling graciously, and then took their places behind
the governor. One of them, seeing a bit of bread on the ground, picked
it up and put it on the table, saying something which probably meant:
“Excuse me; the Koran forbids the wasting of bread; I am doing my duty
as a good Mussulman.” The governor offered us the hospitality of his
house, which was accepted. Only the two artists and I remained in the
camp, and waited until it should be cool before going into the city.

Selam kept us company, and related to us the wonders of Mechinez.

“At Mechinez are the most beautiful women in Morocco, the finest gardens
in Africa, and the most beautiful imperial palace in the world.” Thus he
began; and in fact Mechinez does enjoy such fame in the empire. To be a
native of Mechinez is, for a woman, to be beautiful, and for a man, to
be jealous. The imperial palace, founded by Muley-Imael, which in 1703
had in it four thousand women and eight hundred and sixty-seven
children, had an extent of two miles of circuit, and was ornamented with
marble columns, brought partly from the ruins of the city of Pharaoh,
near Mechinez, and partly from Leghorn and Marseilles. There was a great
hall, or alkazar, where the most precious European tissues were sold; a
vast market, joined to the city by a road ornamented with a hundred
fountains; a park of immense olive-trees; seven large mosques; a
formidable garrison with artillery, that held the Berbers of the
mountains in check; an imperial treasure of five hundred millions of
francs; and a population of fifty thousand inhabitants, who were
considered as the most cultured and the most hospitable in the empire.

Selam described in a low voice and with mysterious gestures the place
where the treasure was kept, the amount of which no one knows; but it
must have been much decreased in the last wars, if even it is still
worthy of the name of treasure. “Within the palace,” he said, “there is
another palace all of stone, which receives the light from above, and is
surrounded by three ranges of walls. It is entered by an iron door, and
within there is another, and yet another iron door. After these three
doors there is a dark, low passage, where lights are necessary, and the
pavement, walls, and roof are all of black marble, and the air smells
like that of a sepulchre. At the end of the corridor, there is a great
hall, and in the middle of it an opening which leads to a deep
subterranean place, where three hundred negroes, four times a year,
shovel in the gold and silver money which the Sultan sends. The Sultan
looks on while this is done. The negroes are shut up for life in the
palace, and never come out until they are carried out dead. And around
the great hall there are ten earthen jars which contain the heads of ten
slaves who once tried to steal. Muley Soliman cut off all their heads as
soon as the money was in its place. And no man ever came out of that
palace alive except our lord the Sultan.”

He related these horrors without the least sign of disapproval, even
with an admiring accent, as if they were superhuman and fatal events,
which a man must not judge, nor feel any other sentiment concerning them
save one of mysterious respect.

“There was once a king of Mechinez,” he resumed, with unalterable
gravity, standing erect before our tent, with his hand on the hilt of
his sabre, “who wished to make a road from Mechinez to Morocco, bordered
by two high walls, so that even the blind could go from one place to the
other without a guide. And this perverse and cruel king had a ring by
whose power he could call all the demons to his service. And he called
them and made them work at the road. There were thousands and thousands
of them, and every one of them carried stones that a hundred men could
not have moved an inch, and those who would not work, the king had them
built up alive in the wall, and their bones can still be seen.” (They
can still be seen, indeed, but they are the bones of Christian slaves,
which are also found in the walls of Sallè and Rabat.)

“And the wall was built for the length of a day’s journey, and everybody
rejoiced, thinking that it would soon be finished. But that king was
displeasing to Allah, and Allah did not choose that the wall should be
finished. One day when he was riding along, a poor country-woman stopped
him, and said, 'Where, O audacious king, is this road to end?’ 'In
hell,’ answered the king, in a rage. 'Go down there, then!’ cried the
woman. At these words the king fell from his horse dead, the walls
crumbled away, the demons scattered the stones over the country, and the
road remains to this day unfinished forever.”

“And do you believe that all this is true, Selam?” I asked.

“Certainly,” he answered, astonished at my doubt.

“Do you believe in demons?”

“Of course I believe in them! I should like to see the time when we
would not believe in them!”

“But have you ever seen one?”

“Never! And for that reason I believe that there are no more of them on
earth, and when I hear any one say, 'Take care how you pass at night
through such or such a place, because there are demons there,’ I go at
once, and go in first myself, because I know that the demons are men,
and with a good horse between my knees, and a good musket in my hand, I
am afraid of nobody.”

“And why, in your opinion, are there no more demons now, if there were
some once?”

“Why, because the world was not always the same as it is now. I might as
well ask you why men were once taller, and the days longer than they are
now, and why beasts could talk.” And he went off shaking his head with a
compassionate air.

[Illustration: Palace Of The Governor Of Mechinez.]

On that day, as the Ambassador was dining in the city, Selam and the
others did nothing but gallop between the town and the tents, to the
great amusement of the artists and myself, because the contrast between
the majesty of their aspect and the humility of their office had never
struck us before. There, for instance, was Hamed, mounted on a superb
black horse, coming out at a gallop from the battlemented gate of
Mechinez, and darting off at full speed across the country. His tall
turban gleamed in the sun with the whiteness of snow; his large blue
mantle floated on the wind like a royal garment; his poniard glittered;
the whole of his martial and gracious figure presented the dignity of a
prince and the boldness of a warrior. What romantic fancies are excited
in the mind by the vision of that handsome Mussulman cavalier flying
like a phantom under the walls of a mediæval city! Whither goes he? To
carry off the loveliest daughter of the Pashà of Faraone; to defy the
valorous Caid of Uazzan, betrothed to the lady of his love; to pour out
his griefs into the bosom of the aged saint who has prayed for eighty
years on the top of Mount Zerhun, in the sacred _zania_ of Muley-Edris?

Nothing of the sort; he is coming back to camp to get a plate of fried
potatoes for the Ambassador.

Toward sunset the two painters and myself, mounted on mules, and
escorted by four foot-soldiers of the governor of Mechinez, set out for
the city, our guard having put away their muskets, and being armed only
with sticks and knotted cords. Before starting, however, we arranged
with them, through interpreter Hamed, that whenever we all should clap
our hands thrice, in whatever quarter of the city we might be, they were
to conduct us at once back to the encampment.

Passing two outside gates, divided by a steep ascent, we found ourselves
in the centre of the city. The first impression was one of agreeable
surprise. Mechinez, which we had fancied as more melancholy than Fez,
was, on the contrary, a gay city, full of verdure, traversed by many
winding streets, but broad, and bordered by low houses and garden walls
that allowed the tops of the beautiful hills around to be seen. On every
side there rose above the houses a minaret, a palm, a battlemented wall;
at every step a fountain or an arabesqued door appeared; there were oaks
and leafy fig-trees in the streets and squares, and everywhere air, and
light, and the odor of the fields, and a certain gentle peacefulness, as
of a princely city, fallen, but not dead. After many turns, we came out
in a vast square, opposite the monumental palace of the governor,
resplendent with many-colored mosaics of great beauty; and, at that
moment, the level rays of the setting sun striking full upon it, it
glittered like the pearl-encrusted palaces of the Oriental legends. A
few soldiers were going through the powder-play (_guioco della
polvere_); about fifty servants and guards were sitting on the ground
before the door; the piazza was deserted. It was a fine spectacle. That
illuminated façade, those horsemen, the towers, the solitude, and the
sunset formed altogether a picture so completely Moorish, breathed so
vivid an air of other times, presented in one frame so many stories, so
much poetry, so many dreams, that we stood rapt before it. From thence
the soldiers led us to see a great exterior gate of noble design,
covered from top to bottom with delicate and many-colored mosaics, which
glowed in the sun like jewels set in ivory; and the painters sketched it
in all haste before we returned to the city. Until now, the people we
met by the way had shown themselves only curious, and it seemed to us
that they even regarded us with more benevolent eyes than the population
of Fez. But suddenly, without a shadow of reason, their humor changed.
Some old women began to show us the whites of their eyes, then some boys
threw stones at our mules’ legs, and then a troop of ragamuffins began
to run beside us and behind us, making the most infernal noise. The
soldiers, meantime, were in no humor for compliments. Two placed
themselves in front and two behind us, and they began a real combat with
the rabble, striking the nearest with their sticks, throwing stones at
those far away, and chasing the most insolent. But it was all labor
thrown away. Not daring to retort with stones, the rabble began to throw
rotten oranges, bits of lemon-peel, dry sticks, and the shower became so
heavy, that it seemed to us more prudent to advise the soldiers to
desist from further provocation. But the soldiers were provoked, and
either did not or would not hear us, and continued the battle with
increasing fury. Indignant at their brutality, we warned them with
imperative gestures to desist. But the wretches thought we were
reproving them for too much mildness, and went on worse than ever. By
way of addition, two boys of ten and twelve years old now joined
us—possibly relations of the soldiers—and armed with sticks; they too
began to distribute the most desperate blows to men, women, asses,
mules, near and far, until even the soldiers themselves counselled
moderation. And at every blow they turned and looked at us, as if to ask
us to take note of their zeal in our defence; and as we were in fits of
laughter, they were encouraged and went on worse than ever. Now what
will happen? we said to each other. A scandal! A revolution! Already the
beaten ones grumbled, and some raised their hands against the boys; we
must get out of the city as soon as may be. But Biseo still hesitated,
when a stone struck my mule on the head, and a carrot alighted on the
back of Ussi’s neck. Then we decided to clap our hands as agreed upon.
But even this innocent signal provoked a tumult. The soldiers, to show
that they understood, responded by clapping their own hands; the people
in the square, thinking that they were being made game of, clapped
theirs, and the oranges and lemons continued to rain upon us, together
with curses loud and deep; and when at last we reached the gate, and
rode down toward the camp, they still yelled after us from the walls:
“Accursed be thy father! May thy race be exterminated! May God roast thy
great-grandfather!”

Thus did Mechinez receive us, and fortunate for us it was that she is
the “most hospitable city in the empire.”

On the following morning there was brought to the camp a litter for the
doctor, made in twenty-four hours by the best carpenters in Mechinez,
who would certainly have taken twenty-four days in its construction, if
the governor had not used certain arguments to which there was great
risk in being deaf. It was a heavy and badly made machine, which looked
more like a cage for the transportation of wild beasts than a litter for
a sick man; much better made, however, than any thing we could contrive;
and the workmen who completed it under our eyes were so proud of it, and
so sure of our admiration, that they trembled with emotion at their
work, and at every word from us sent flashes from their eyes. When
Morteo put the money in their hands they thanked him gravely, and went
away with a triumphant smile, which meant—“Ignorant proud ones, we have
let you see what we can do!”

Toward evening we left Mechinez, and travelled for two hours over the
loveliest country that was ever seen in his dreams by an enamored
painter. I see, I feel still the divine grace of those verdant hills,
sprinkled with rose-trees, myrtles, oleanders, flowering aloes; the
splendor of that city gilded by the sun, hiding from our sight minaret
by minaret, palm-tree by palm-tree, terrace by terrace, and the air
impregnated with inebriating perfume, and the waters reflecting the
thousand colors of the escort, and the infinite melancholy of that rosy
sky. I still see and feel all this, and know not how to describe it.



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                              ON THE SEBÙ.


It was noon of the fifth day after our departure from Fez, when, after a
five hours’ ride through a succession of deserted valleys, we passed
once more through the gorge of Beb-el-Tinca, and saw again before us the
vast plain of the Sebù inundated by a white, ardent, implacable light,
of which the memory alone makes my face glow. All, except the Ambassador
and the captain, who participated in the fabled virtue of the
salamander, that lives in fire without being burned, covered their heads
like brethren of the Misericordia, wrapped themselves in their mantles
and cloaks, and without a word, with heads down, and eyes half closed,
descended into the terrible plain, confiding in the clemency of God.
Once the voice of the commandant was heard announcing that a horse was
dead _already_. One of the baggage-horses had fallen dead. No one made
any comment. “Horses,” added the commandant, spitefully, “always die
_first_.” These words also were received in mortal silence. In about
half an hour another faint voice was heard, asking Ussi to whom he had
_bequeathed_ his picture of Bianca Cappello. Throughout the journey
these were the only words heard. The heat oppressed all. Even the
soldiers were silent. The caid, Hamed Ben-Kasen, in spite of the great
turban that shaded his visage, was dripping with sweat. Poor general!
That very morning he had shown me an attention that I shall remember all
my life. Noticing that I lagged behind, he came up, and banged my mule
with such heartfelt zeal, that in a few moments I was carried at a
gallop in front of all the others, bouncing in my saddle like an
india-rubber automaton, and reached the camp five minutes in advance of
them all, with my inside upside down, and my heart full of gratitude.

That day no one came out of his tent until the dinner hour, and the
dinner was silent, as if all were still oppressed by the heat of the
day. One event alone aroused some excitement in the camp. We were at
dessert, when we heard a sound of lamentation proceeding from the
escort’s quarters, and at the same time the noise of regular blows, as
of some one being whipped. Thinking it to be some joke of the servants
and soldiers, we took, at first, no notice of it. But suddenly the cries
become excruciating, and we heard distinctly, in an accent of
supplicating invocation, the name of the founder of Fez—“Muley-Edris!
Muley-Edris! Muley-Edris!”

We all rose at once from the table, and running to the quarter whence
the noise proceeded, arrived in time to see a sad spectacle. Two
soldiers held suspended between them, one by the shoulders, the other by
the feet, an Arab servant; a third was furiously flogging him with a
whip; a fourth held up a lantern; the rest stood round in a circle, and
the caid looked on with folded arms.

The Ambassador ordered the instant release of the victim, who went off
sobbing and crying, and asked the caid what this meant. “Oh, nothing,
nothing,” he answered; “only a little correction.” He then added that
the man was punished because he had persisted in throwing little balls
of _cùscùssù_ at his companions, a grave offence, in a Mussulman a
sacrilege, because he is commanded to respect every kind of aliment
produced by the earth as a gift of God. As he spoke, the poor caid, a
kind man at heart, did not succeed in concealing, however he might wish
to do so, the pain and pity that he felt at being forced to inflict the
castigation; and this sufficed to restore him to his place in my heart.

In the night we were awakened by a burning hot wind from the east, which
drove us panting from our tents, in search of air that we could breathe;
and at dawn we resumed our journey under a sky that announced a hotter
day than the preceding one. The heavens were covered with clouds, on one
side all on fire with the rising sun, and broken here and there by
dazzling beams of light; on the opposite side all was black, striped by
oblique streaks of rain. From this troubled sky there fell a strange
light, which seemed to have passed through a yellow veil, and tinted the
stubble fields with an angry sulphurous color that offended the eye. Far
off the wind raised and whirled about with furious rapidity immense
clouds of dust. The country was solitary, the air heavy, the horizon
hidden by a veil of leaden-colored vapor. Without ever having seen the
Sahara, I imagined that it might sometimes present that same aspect, and
was about to say so, when Ussi, who has been in Egypt, stopping
suddenly, exclaimed in wonder: “This is the desert!”

After four hours’ journey we arrived upon the bank of the Sebù, where we
were met by twenty horsemen of the Beni-Hassen, led by a handsome boy of
twelve, the son of the governor, Sid-Abdallah. They came to meet us at a
gallop, with the usual shouts and discharges of musketry.

The camp was pitched in all haste near the river, on a bare piece of
ground, full of deep gullies; and having breakfasted quickly, we
withdrew to our tents.

This was the hottest day of the journey.

I will try to give a distant idea of our torments. Let the gentle reader
prepare his or her heart to feel profound compassion. I wipe my dripping
brows, and begin.

At ten o’clock in the morning, when my two companions and I withdrew to
our tents, the thermometer marked forty-two degrees centigrade in the
shade (about 107-1/2° Fahrenheit). For about an hour the conversation
continued animated. After that we began to find a certain difficulty in
terminating our periods, and were reduced to simple propositions. Then,
as it cost too much fatigue to put subject, verb, and attribute
together, we stopped talking and tried to sleep. It was useless. The hot
beds, the flies, thirst, and restlessness, would not let us close an
eye. After much fretting and fuming, we resigned ourselves to stay
awake, and tried to cheat the weary time in some occupation. But it
could not be done. Cigars, pipes, books, maps, all dropped from our
nerveless hands. I tried to write: at the third line the page was bathed
in the perspiration that streamed from my forehead like water from a
squeezed sponge. I felt my whole body traversed by innumerable springs,
which intersected, followed, joined each other, forming confluents and
streams, running down my arms and hands, and watering the ink in the
point of my pen. In a few minutes, handkerchiefs, towels, veils, every
thing that could serve the purpose, were as wet as if they had been
dipped in a bucket. We had a barrel full of water; we tried to drink, it
was boiling. We poured it out; it had hardly touched the earth when no
trace of it could be seen. At noon the thermometer marked forty-four and
a half degrees. The tent was an oven. Every thing we touched scorched
us. I put my hand on my head, and it felt like a stove. The beds heated
us so that we could not lie down. I tried to put my foot outside the
tent, and the ground was scorching. No one spoke any more. Only now and
then was heard a languid exclamation: “It is death.” “I cannot bear
this.” “I shall go mad.” Ussi put his head out of the tent for an
instant, his eyes starting out of his head, murmured in a suffocated
voice, “I shall die,” and disappeared. Diana, the poor dog, lying down
near the commandant’s bed, panted as if she were at her last gasp.
Outside of the tent no human voice was heard, no human being was
visible, the camp seemed deserted. The horses neighed in a lamentable
manner. The doctor’s litter, standing near our tent, cracked as if it
were splitting in pieces. Suddenly we heard the voice of Selam running
by, and calling out, “One of the dogs is dead.”

“One!” answered the faint voice of the commandant, facetious to the
last.

At one o’clock the thermometer marked forty-six and a half degrees. Then
even complaints ceased. The commandant, the vice-consul, and I lay
stretched on the ground motionless, like dead bodies. In the whole camp
the Ambassador and the captain were perhaps the only Christians who
still gave signs of life. I do not remember how long this condition
lasted. I was steeped in a sort of stupor, dreaming with my eyes open,
and a thousand confused images of cool spots and frozen objects chased
each other through my brain: I was springing from a rock into a lake, I
was putting the back of my neck against the spout of a pump, I was
building a house of ice, I was devouring all the ices in Naples, and the
more I sprinkled myself with water and drank cool drinks, the hotter,
the thirstier, the wilder I became. At last the captain exclaimed in a
sepulchral voice: “Forty-seven!”[7] It was the last voice I remember to
have heard.

Footnote 7:

  About 116-1/2° Fahrenheit.

Toward evening the son of the governor of the Beni-Hassen, the boy whom
we had seen in the morning, came to visit the Ambassador in the name of
his father, who was ill. He entered the camp on horseback, accompanied
by an officer and two soldiers, who took him in their arms when he
dismounted, and advanced with solemn step toward the Ambassador,
trailing his long blue mantle like a robe, with his left hand upon the
hilt of a sabre longer than himself, and his right extended in
salutation.

In the morning, seen on horseback, he had seemed a handsome boy; and he
had indeed beautiful pensive eyes and a small pallid oval face; but on
foot, we saw that he was ricketty and deformed. From this no doubt came
his melancholy looks. In all the time he remained with us, no smile
moved his lip, his face never brightened for a moment. He looked at us
all with a profound attention, and answered the Ambassador’s questions
with short sentences, spoken in low tones. Once only a gleam of pleasure
came into his eyes; it was when the Ambassador told him that he had
admired, in the morning, his bold and graceful riding; but it was only a
gleam.

Although all our eyes were upon him, and this was probably the first
time that he had appeared in an official capacity before a European
embassy, he showed no shadow of embarrassment. He slowly drunk his tea,
ate some sweetmeats, whispered in the ear of his officer, settled two or
three times his little turban on his head, looked attentively at our
boots, and showed that he was a little bored; then, in taking leave, he
pressed the Ambassador’s hand to his breast, and returned to his horse
with the same royal gravity with which he had approached the tent.

Lifted into the saddle by his attendants, he said once more, “Peace be
with you!” and galloped off, followed by his small and hooded staff.

That same evening several sick people came to consult the doctor, who,
with the dragoman Solomon and a company of soldiers, had started a
little earlier for Tangiers, by the way of Alkazar. Among the rest came
a poor half-naked boy, lean, and with his eyes in such a state that he
could see with difficulty, while he seemed exhausted with fatigue. “What
do you want?” asked Morteo. “I seek the Christian physician,” he
answered in a trembling voice. When he heard that he was gone, he stood
a moment as if stunned, and then cried out in despair: “Am I to lose my
sight then! I have come eight miles to be cured by the Christian
physician! I must see him!” and he broke out into sobs and tears. Morteo
put some money into his hand, which he received with indifference, and
pointing out the way which the doctor had taken, told him that if he
walked quickly he might perhaps overtake him. The boy stood a moment
uncertain, looking with eyes full of tears, and then slowly limped away.

The sun went down that evening under an immense pavilion of gold and
flame color, and striking across the plains his last blood-colored
beams, set behind the straight line of the horizon like a monstrous
glowing disk that was sinking into the bowels of the earth.

And the night was almost cold!

In the morning at sunrise, we were on the left bank of the Sebù, at the
same point where we had crossed coming from Tangiers; and we had hardly
reached it before we saw appear upon the opposite bank, with his
officers and soldiers, the governor, Sid-Bekr-el-Abbassi, with the same
white vesture, and the same black horse caparisoned in sky blue, with
which he had the first time appeared.

But the passage of the river presented this time an unforeseen
difficulty.

Of the two boats on which we were to cross, one was in pieces; the other
broken in more than one place, and half sunk in the mud of the shore.
The little _duar_ inhabited by the boatmen’s families was deserted; the
river was dangerous to ford, and no other boat to be had except at a
distance of a day’s journey. How were we to cross, and what was to be
done? A soldier swam across and carried the notice to the governor, who
sent another soldier by the same road to explain. The boatmen had been
notified the night before to hold themselves in readiness for the
passage of the Ambassador and his suite, who would arrive in the
morning; but finding the boats in an unserviceable condition, and not
being capable, or not choosing to endure the fatigue of mending them,
they had fled during the night, heaven knows where, with their families
and animals, to avoid punishment by the governor. There was nothing to
be done but to try and mend the least broken of the two boats, and this
we did. The soldiers went off to get men from the neighboring _duars_,
and the work was begun under the direction of Luigi, one of the two
sailors, who on that, to him memorable occasion, gloriously sustained
the honor of the Italian marine. It was good to see how the Arabs and
Moors labored. Ten of them together, yelling and flying about, did not
do in half an hour the work that Luigi and Ranni, in military silence,
did in five minutes. Everybody gave orders, everybody criticized,
everybody got angry, everybody cut the air with imperious gestures,
until they all seemed like so many admirals, and not one of them
accomplished any thing. Meantime the governor and the caid conversed in
loud voices across the river; the soldiers careered about at a gallop
seeking the fugitives along the banks; the sumpter beasts forded the
river in a long file with water up to their necks; the workmen chanted
the praises of the Prophet, and on the opposite shore arose a great blue
tent under which the slaves of Sid-Bekr-el-Abbassi were busy in
preparing an exquisite collation of figs, sweetmeats, and tea, which we
watched through our glasses, humming the while a chorus from a
semi-serious opera, composed during our sojourn at Fez, and called “_Gl’
Italiani nel Marôcco_.”

With the aid of the Prophet, the boat was ready within two hours; Ranni
took us on his shoulders, and deposited us one by one on the prow, and
we reached the other side, with our feet up to the ankles in water, that
came in on every side, but without having been forced to swim for it; a
good fortune, of which we were not sure at our departure.

The governor, Sid-Bekr-el-Abbassi, who had heard of the praises which
the Ambassador had bestowed upon him to the Sultan, was more amiable and
fascinating to us than ever. After a little rest, we went on to
Karia-el-Abbassi, which we reached about noon, and were received and
passed the hot hours in the same white chamber in which thirty-five days
before we had seen the pretty little daughter of our host peep at us
from behind the paternal turban.

Here Sid-Bekr-el-Abbassi presented to the Ambassador, among other
people, a Moor of about fifty years of age, of a noble aspect and
agreeable manners, whom none of us, I think, have since forgotten,
because of the strange things we were told about his family. He was the
brother of one Sid-Bomedi, formerly governor of the province of Ducalla,
who languished for eight years in the dungeons of Fez. A tyrant and a
prodigal, after having bled his people, he contracted ruinous loans with
European merchants, accumulated debt upon debt, brought the wrath of God
within and without his house, was arrested and taken to Fez by order of
the Sultan, who, believing him to be the possessor of hidden treasures,
had his house pulled down and search made among the ruins and under the
foundations, and banished from the province, under pain of death, all
his family, in the fear that they, knowing the hiding-place, would get
possession of the money. But, nothing being found—perhaps because there
was nothing—and the Sultan still persisting in his belief in a treasure
which the prisoner knew and refused to reveal, the latter had never more
beheld the light of the sun, and was, perhaps, condemned to die in
prison. And the case of Sid-Bomedi is not rare among the governors of
Morocco, who, being all more or less enriched at the expense of their
people, furnish the government that wishes to get possession of their
wealth, the advantage of doing so under color of punishing a guilty man.

The governor, or the pashà upon whom the governor has set his eye, is
called in a friendly manner to Fez, or to Morocco, or perhaps arrested
suddenly in the night by a company of the imperial soldiers, who take
him by forced marches to the capital, tied on the crupper of a mule,
with his head hanging down and his face turned to the sun. As soon as he
arrives he is loaded with chains and thrown into a dungeon. If he
reveals the hiding-place of his wealth, he is sent back with honor to
his province, where in a little while, by worse exactions than before,
he can make up again that which has been taken from him. If he will not
reveal it, he is left to rot in his prison, and bastinadoed every day
until the blood comes, until, reduced to extremity, he decides to speak
rather than perish in chains. If he reveals only in part, he is
bastinadoed just the same, until he has made a clean breast of it. Some
of the more astute ones, foreseeing the catastrophe in time, turn it
aside by going in person to the court with a long caravan of camels and
mules laden with precious gifts; but in order to make these gifts, they
are obliged to spend a large part of their wealth; and it follows that
their safety is scarcely less fatal to the provinces governed by them
than if they were to return from their prison despoiled of all their
treasure. Some, also, die in prison, and under the stick make no
revelations, in order to leave all they have to their families, who know
where it is concealed; and others die because they have nothing to
reveal. But these are rare, because in Morocco it is the custom to hide
money, and it is known that the Moors are masters in the art. They talk
of treasures built up under the sill of the house-door, in the pilasters
of the court, in the stairs, in the windows; of houses demolished stone
by stone to the foundations, without the discovery of a treasure that
was really there; of slaves killed and secretly buried, after having
helped their masters to conceal it; and the vulgar mix with these
horrible and painful truths their pretty legends of spirits and
prodigies.

The governor, el-Abbassi, accompanied us toward evening as far as the
camp, which was about two hours distant from his house, in a field full
of flowers and tortoises, between the river Dà, which divides itself
just there into an infinity of canals, and a beautiful hill crowned by
the green cupola of a saint’s tomb. At a gunshot from our tents was a
large _duar_, surrounded by aloes and the Indian fig. All the
inhabitants rushed out at sight of us. Then we saw how much the governor
was beloved by his people. Old men, young men, youths and children, all
ran to him to have his hand placed upon their heads, and then went away
content, turning back to look at him with an expression of affection and
gratitude. The presence, however, of the beloved governor did not serve
to protect us from the usual bitter glances and the usual reproaches.
The women, half-hidden behind the hedges, with one hand pushed forward a
child to go and be blessed by the governor, and with the other sent his
brother to tell us that we were dogs. We saw babies about two feet high,
quite naked, and hardly able to stand, coming tottering toward us, and
showing a fist about as large as a nut, cry, “Accursed be thy father!”
and because they were afraid to come alone they made groups of seven or
eight, so compact that they might all have been carried on a tray; and
advancing with a threatening air to within ten paces of us, stammered
out their small insolence. How they amused us! One group among others
advanced against Biseo to wish that some relation or other of his might
be roasted. Biseo raised his pencil; the two first falling back upon the
others, they in their turn upon those behind, half the army presently
lay with their legs in the air. Even the governor burst out laughing.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                                ARZILLA.


After the spectacle of great cities in decadence, a moribund people, and
a lovely but melancholy landscape; after such sleep, such old age, and
such ruin, here is the work of the eternal hand, and here is immortal
youth; here is the air that revives the blood, the beauty that refreshes
the heart, the immensity in which the soul expands! Here is the ocean!
With what a thrill of delight we salute it! The unexpected apparition of
a friend or a brother could not have been dearer to our hearts than the
sight of that distant shining curve that gleamed before us like an
immense sickle, mowing down Islamism, slavery, barbarism, and bearing
our thoughts direct and free to Italy.

“_Bahr-el-Kibir!_” exclaimed some soldiers. (The great sea.) Others
said, “_Bahr-ed-Dholma!_” (The sea of darkness.) All involuntarily
hastened their steps; conversation, which had begun to languish, was
re-animated; the servants set up sacred songs; the whole caravan, in a
few minutes, assumed an air of cheer and festivity.

On the evening of June 19th we encamped at three hours’ distance from
Laracce, and the following morning entered the city, received at the
gate by the son of the governor; by twenty soldiers, without muskets or
breeches, drawn up along the road; by almost a hundred ragged boys, and
by a band composed of a tambourine and a trumpet, who came afterward to
ask for money—giving us an excruciating concert in the court of the
Italian Consular-Agent.

Upon that coast, sprinkled with dead cities—such as Salè, Azamor, Safi,
Santa Cruz—Laracce still preserves a little commercial life, which is
sufficient to cause her to be considered as one of the principal ports
of Morocco. Founded by a Berber tribe in the fifteenth century,
fortified at the end of the same century by Muley-ben-Nassar, abandoned
to Spain in 1610, retaken by Muley-Ismael in 1689, still flourishing at
the beginning of this century, with a population of about four thousand,
between Moors and Hebrews, it rises upon the incline of a hill to the
left of the mouth of the Kus, the Lixus of the ancients, which forms for
it an ample and secure port, closed, however, by a sand-bank against the
entrance of large vessels. In the port lie rotting the carcases of two
small gun-boats, the last miserable remnant of the fleet that once
carried the victorious army into Spain and alarmed European commerce.
Behind the hill there is a large grove of gigantic trees. The town has
nothing notable in it except a market-place, surrounded by a portico
sustained by small stone columns; but seen from the port, all white upon
the dark-green background of its hills, surrounded by a circle of high
battlemented walls of a dark calcareous tint, reflected in the azure
waters of the river, under that limpid sky, it presents a dignified
aspect, and despite the vividness of its colors, almost a melancholy
one, as if one felt compassion at the sight of the picturesque city
silent and alone upon that barbarous coast, by that deserted port, in
the face of that immense sea.

The camp was pitched that evening on the right bank of the Kus, and
raised early the following morning. We were to go to Arzilla, four hours
distant from Laracce. The baggage was sent on in the morning; the
Embassy left toward evening. I left with the baggage convoy, in order to
see the caravan under a new aspect; and I was glad I did, for it was a
journey full of adventure.

The laden mules, accompanied by muleteers and servants, went in groups,
at a great distance one from the other. I went on alone and rode for
nearly an hour over the hills, where I saw only one mule, driven by an
Arab servant, and carrying two sacks of straw, of which one supported
the head and the other the feet of a groom of the Ambassador’s, who had
been seized by a violent fever, and who groaned enough to move the very
stones with pity. The poor fellow lay thus across the mule, with his
head hanging down, his body bent, the sun in his eyes, and in this way
had he come all the way from Karia-el-Abbassi, and was to go to
Tangiers! And in this way are all the sick transported in Morocco who
have no money to hire a litter and two mules, and fortunate is he who
can have a bag of straw!

On the shore I was joined by the cook, Ranni, and Luigi, who did not
leave me again until we reached Arzilla.

We trotted for an hour over the sands, turning out here and there from
the direct road to avoid a marsh.

At this time the cook, who for the first time in all the journey was
able to speak freely, opened his heart to me.

Poor fellow! all the adventures we had had, all the great things we had
seen, had not freed him from a painful thought which had destroyed his
peace from the first week of his sojourn at Tangiers. And this thought
was an unsuccessful jelly made by him one day when we were dining with
the French Minister—a jelly which had given the first blow to his
reputation in the mind of the Ambassador, and whose ill success was due,
not to him, but to the bad Marsala wine. Fez, the court, Mechinez, the
Sebù, the ocean, he had seen and still saw them all through this medium
of jelly. Or rather, he had seen and saw nothing, because although his
body was in Morocco, his spirit was in Turin. I asked him to tell me his
impressions, and they were these, as nearly as I can set them down. He
could not comprehend who the beast could have been who had stamped that
country. He related his fatigues, his quarrels with his two Arab
scullions, the difficulties of preparing food in the desert, and his
immense desire to see Turin again; but he always fell back upon that
deplorable jelly at the French Minister’s. “I do not know how to cook?
Do me the favor when you are at Turin,” he said, touching my arm to
withdraw me from my contemplation of the ocean, “go and ask Count
so-and-so, Countess such a one, etc., whom I served for years and years!
Go to General Ricotti, Minister of War, who has been five years
Minister, and who can do just what he pleases; go and ask him whether or
no I can make a jelly! Do go; give me that satisfaction; it will not
take a moment when you are back in our country!” And he insisted so,
that in order to contemplate the ocean in peace, I was obliged to
promise.

Meanwhile we came up at every hundred paces or so with two or three
laden mules, soldiers on horse-back, and servants on foot; fragments of
the caravan that stretched along an hour’s journey before us. Among the
soldiers there were some from Laracce, ragged fellows, with a
handkerchief bound round their heads, and a rusty musket in their hands;
and among the servants, boys of twelve or fourteen years old, whom I had
not seen before, and who had escaped, I was told, from Mechinez and
Karia-el-Abbassi, and joined the caravan, with nothing on them but a
shirt, to seek their fortune at Tangiers, living meantime on the charity
of the soldiers.

In some of these groups there would be one telling a story, others
singing, and all seemed cheerful.

We stopped half-way, to breakfast in the shadow of a rock. And here I
saw a scene that revealed to me the nature of the people better than a
volume of psychological dissertation.

Near us there was a soldier seated on the sand, beyond him another,
further on a servant, and about fifty paces from this last another
servant, seated near a spring, with a jug between his knees. Wishing to
drink, I called to the first soldier, “_Elma!_” (water), and pointed to
the spring. The soldier answered with a courteous gesture of
acquiescence, and imperiously ordered the second soldier to go and get
some water. The latter made a gesture of obedience, and with threats and
reproaches, asked the nearest servant why he had not brought the water.
The servant in question sprang to his feet, made three hasty steps
toward the one seated near the spring, and called to him to bring water
instantly. The last, observing that I was not paying attention, did not
move. Five minutes passed, and the water did not come. I turned to the
first soldier and the same scene was enacted over again. Finally, if I
wanted water, I had to shout to the man who had the jug, who, after a
few moments for reflection, decided to get it, and brought it with about
the speed of a tortoise.

We resumed our journey. A fresh breeze blew, and a cloud covered the
sun, so that the ride was delicious; but as the tide continued to rise,
and restricted us more and more to the sandy path, upon which we
proceeded in single file, we soon found ourselves imprisoned between the
sea and the rocky heights which rose almost perpendicularly above our
heads, and obliged to go on among the stones, where the waves were
already breaking. Several times the mule came to a stand in terror, and
I found myself surrounded by water and wrapped in a cloud of spray. But
our hour, as the cook said, was not yet come; and after about a mile, we
reached a hill up which we climbed in haste, looking back “_a rimirar lo
passo_.”

With us there was an old soldier of Laracce, a little touched in the
head, who laughed constantly, but who knew the road. He made us skirt
the hill, and led us through a thick grove of dwarf oaks, cork-trees,
broom, and shrubs of various kinds; by a hundred twists and turns;
through thorns, and mud, and water, and darkness; in recesses where no
human creature appeared ever to have penetrated; and always laughing,
brought us, tired and torn, to the shore again, where we found a strip
of sand uninvaded by the waters.

Here, the caravan not having yet arrived, the beach was deserted, and we
rode for some time seeing nothing but sea and sky, and the foot of the
steep little hills which, forming so many little harbors, hid the
horizon behind us. We were going on in silence, one behind the other,
over the soft, carpet-like sand, every one of us occupied with his
thoughts miles away from Morocco, when suddenly there sprang from behind
a rock a spectre, a horrible old man, half naked, with a crown of yellow
flowers on his head,—a saint,—who began to inveigh against us, howling
like a madman, and making with both hands the gesture of scratching our
faces and tearing our beards. We stopped to look at him. He became more
ferocious. Ranni, without further ceremony, advanced to give him the
stick; but I stopped him and threw some money to the saint. The rascal
stopped, picked up the coin, looked at it all over, put it in his bosom,
and began to yell worse than before. “Ah! this time,” said Ranni, “he
shall have a good beating,” and raised his stick. But the soldier,
becoming serious in a moment, stopped him, and saying a few words to the
saint in accents of profound respect, induced him to be silent. The
horrible old wretch gave us one fulminating glance, and hid himself once
more among the rocks, where, it appears, he lives, feeding on roots,
with the sole purpose of cursing the Nazarene ships that pass on the
horizon.

We climbed the hills again, and rode for a long time through winding
paths among rocks and bushes. At some points, where the path ran along
the edge of the steep precipice, we could see far down the sea beating
upon the rocks, and a long stretch of beach, with the caravan straggling
along, and the immense horizon of the blue ocean dotted with distant
sails. The mountains where our road lay formed with their checkered tops
a vast waving plain, where there was no trace of cultivation, nor tomb,
nor cabin, nor human creature, and no sound but the distant murmur of
the sea. “What a country!” exclaimed the cook, looking about him with an
anxious glance. “I hope we may not meet with any unpleasant adventure.”
As for me, I asked myself whether there was no danger of lions. Going up
and going down, losing sight of each other, and meeting again among the
bushes, we travelled for two hours through these mountain solitudes, and
began to fear that we had missed the way, when from a height, we
suddenly discovered the towers of Arzilla, and the whole coast as far as
Cape Spartel, whose blue outline was drawn sharply against the limpid
clearness of the sky.

It was a delight for all the little caravan, but of brief duration.

As we descended toward the sea we saw far off a group of horses and men
lying down, who, as soon as they discovered us, sprang to their feet,
and to their saddles, and came toward us, spreading themselves out in
the form of a half moon, as if they intended to prevent our advance
toward the town.

“Here we are at last!” thought I; “this time we shall not escape; it is
a band,” and I made a sign for the rest to halt.

“Let the Moor be sent forward!” called out the cook. The Moorish soldier
ran on in advance.

“Give them a shot!” screamed the trembling cook.

“One moment,” said I; “before we kill them, let us see whether they mean
to kill us.”

I looked attentively at them; they advanced at a trot; there were ten of
them, some in dark colors, some in white; I could see no muskets; at
their head was an old man with a white beard; I felt reassured.

“Let us form a square!” cried the cook.

“There is no need.” The old man with the white beard had uncovered his
head, and came toward us cap in hand.

He was an Israelite. At ten paces off he stopped with his followers, who
were composed of four other Israelites and five Arab servants, and made
signs that he wished to speak to me.

“_Hable Usted_,” I replied (“Speak!”).

“I am so and so,” he said in Spanish, with a sweet voice, and bending in
an attitude of respect, “consular-agent for Italy and all the other
European states in the city of Arzilla. Have I the honor to be in the
presence of his Excellency the Italian Ambassador, returning from Fez,
on his way to Tangiers?”

I was amazed. Then I assumed a grave and courteous air, and glanced
round at my followers who were beaming with delight; and after having
tasted for an instant the honor of an official reception, I undeceived
the old Hebrew, with a sigh, and told him who I was. He seemed for a
moment displeased, but did not change his manner. He offered me his
house to rest in, and when I declined his hospitality, he would at any
rate accompany me to the spot destined for the encampment.

We all went on together, skirting the city, toward the sea-shore. Ah! if
Ussi and Biseo could only have seen me! How picturesque I must have
been, sitting on a mule, with a white scarf round my head, followed by
my staff, composed of a cook in his shirt sleeves, two sailors armed
with sticks, and a ragged Moor! O Italian Art, what hast thou not lost!

Arzilla, the Zilia of the Carthagenians, the _Julia Traducta_ of the
Romans, passed from the hands of the latter into those of the Goths, was
sacked by the English toward the middle of the tenth century, remained
for thirty years a heap of stones, was rebuilt by Abd-er-Rhaman-ben-Ali,
Caliph of Cordova, taken by the Portuguese, and retaken by Morocco, and
is now nothing but a little town of about one thousand inhabitants
between Moors and Hebrews, surrounded on the sea and land sides by high
battlemented walls, which are falling into ruin; white and quiet as a
cloister, and imprinted, like all the small Mahometan towns, with that
smiling melancholy which recalls the last look on the face of the dying
who are glad to die.

In the evening, at sunset, the Ambassador arrived, and came to the
encampment across the city; and I have still before my eyes the
spectacle of that beautiful cavalcade, full of color and life, issuing
out of a battlemented gate, advancing in picturesque disorder along the
shore, and throwing across the sands in the rosy sunset light its long
black shadows; and here, in fact, it may be said that our journey came
to an end, since the following morning we encamped at Ain-Dalia, and two
days afterward we re-entered Tangiers, where the caravan broke up in
that same little market-place where it had formed two months before.

The commandant, the captain, the two painters, and I left together for
Gibraltar. The Ambassador, the vice-consul, all the people of the
Legation accompanied us to the shore, and the farewells were very
affectionate. All were moved, even the good General Hamed-ben-Kasen,
who, pressing my hand against his mighty chest, repeated three times the
only European word he knew—“_A Dios!_”—with a voice that came from his
heart. We had scarcely put our foot upon the deck of the ship when, oh!
how distant in space and time seemed all that phantasmagoria of pashàs,
and negroes, and tents, and mosques, and battlemented towers. It was not
a country, it was an entire world that in a moment vanished from our
eyes, and a world that we should never see again. A little of Africa
accompanied us on board, however, in the two Selams, Ali, Hamed,
Abd-er-Rhaman, Civo, Morteo’s servants, and other kind young fellows
whom Mussulman superstition had not prevented from wishing well to the
Nazarenes and serving them with fidelity. And they also took leave of us
with warm demonstrations of affection and regret, Civo more than the
others, who, causing his long white shirt to float for the last time
before my eyes, threw his arms about my neck, and planted two kisses in
my ear. And when the steamer moved they saluted us still from a boat,
waving their red fezes, and shouting as long as we could see them,
“Allah be with you! Come back to Morocco! Farewell, Nazarenes! Farewell,
Italians! _A Dios! A Dios!_”



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Minor errors in punctuation and formatting have been silently corrected.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
referenced.

The following table provides information on the relatively few
typographical errors, and their resolution.

      p.  14 sh[ie/ei]ks                    Transposed.
      p.  22 rep[i/e]tition                 Corrected.
      p.  41 Posses[s]ed                    Added.
      p. 141 tat[t]ooed                     Added.
      p. 149 w[h]ere                        Added.
      p. 181 ma[k/d]e                       Corrected.
      p. 184 like[d]                        Removed.
      p. 350 pass[s]ed                      Removed.





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