« ZurückWeiter »
rent downwards; they are more than a foot asunder, and there is a channel worn between them by the gushing of the water. The Arabs still reverence this rock, and stuff shrubs into the holes, that when any of their camels are sick they may eat of it and recover. Two of the holes at this time were filled with reed for this purpose, and they believed it to be endowed with a peculiar virtue. The rock is of a beautiful granite, and is about five yards long, five in height, and four yards wide. This narrow valley soon opened into a plain, capable of containing a large number of people, where they probably stood, as well as around the rock, and in the valley, to receive the water that poured down. It is difficult to take that passage in Scripture literally, which says that the water from the rock followed them in their journeyings, when it is considered that from the nature of the country, their course was afterwards over rocky and rugged places and tracts of sand: to have carried that water over stony ascents and along dry and desert paths, which absorb all moisture, would have been an infinitely greater miracle than the bringing it at first out of the rock, or reproducing it in different parts of their journeys. Perhaps the passage may be intended to convey the latter meaning.
The two servants had been left behind in the convent, as Michel had been taken ill with a fever, and we were not aware that our Arab guides were disposed to act so treacherous a part.--We had left the spot about an hour; it was after sunset, and we were not very far from the convent, and were congratulating ourselves on being soon in our luxurious little cells, and enjoying a good supper after our fatigues, when we perceived some camels and dismounted Arabs standing at a small distance on the left; they had waited for us in this spot, and now called loudly to us to stop. We disregarded this, and walked on, when a Shieik advanced, and seized Mr. C. who shook him off: a young Arab, being enraged at this, drew his pistol, and presenting it, was about to fire, when another chief seized his arm; and in a moment we found ourselves surrounded and in the power of these Bedouins, who were twelve in number, among whom were three Sheiks; they were all armed with matchlock guns and sabres. Our effects and arms were in the convent, and we had nothing with us worth taking. They had arrived from their camp, some days distant, to demand a contribution of provisions from the monastery, which was refused by the fathers, the demand being so large, and they declared they could not comply with it without permission from the superior convent at Cairo. The Arabs being enraged, and aware of our being abroad, resolved to seize on, and detain us till a ransom was paid, or their demands complied with. In the confusion of the capture, and the noise of so many speaking at once, we hardly knew what they would be at ; it was vain to tell them we were Ingleise, and at peace with them; that we were friends of the Pacha of Egypt. They lighted the matches of their musquets, and marched towards the convent, and, on approaching the garden wall, held a parley with two of the domestics on the top of it, and then proceeded beneath the high window, and, being much enraged, they were prepared for any violence. After calling loudly for some time, one of the monks reluctantly appeared at the window, and held a brief conversation with them; but it came to nothing. Had they
known any thing of an escalade, with what joy would they have stormed the convent, and put every one to the sword. We were then conducted some distance down the valley, till we arrived at the place where the night was to be passed; it was bright moonlight, and being very thinly clad, we felt the air extremely chill. Hassan, the chief, was a tall and noble-looking man, with eagle eyes, and teeth like the driven snow. He swore vehemently that he cared nothing for the Sultan of Turkey, of England, or for Mahmoud Ali; that no power should rescue us out of his hands. Beside some low and ruined walls a fire was kindled, the party soon assembled around it, and a cloak was laid on the ground behind, where the three captives were to rest. The fire was immensely large, and burnt fiercely, and threw its glare on the wild and dark features of the circle of Arabs around it, who conversed with vivid animation, and with passionate gestures. They had the civility to hand us a small cup of their coffee, a poor exchange for the good supper we had lost. If ever a day's exertion deserved a bed of down, it was the ascent of St. Catherine's; but our couch was the hard ground. I took a stone for my pillow, my companions were little better off, but we were quite exhausted with fatigue, and imagination fled in vain to our luxurious little chambers in the convent, with their soft cushions, and lamp already lighted, and the harmless monks gathering around. The cold wind awoke me in the night, the Arabs were fast asleep around the glowing embers of their fire, and, stepping cautiously over them, I got beside it, and never in my life enjoyed its warmth more. That night-scene was a fine subject for a painter: the precipices that rose close at hand, on which the moonlight rested; the sleeping figures of the Arabs round the fire beneath, and the ruined walls beside; the wild and solemn character of the scenery, fitted beyond all others to be a theatre for miracles, would have made an assemblage of objects but seldom beheld together.
The next morning, before sunrise, they were ready to depart for their camp, two or three days' journey distant. We made known to Hassan our uncertainty and apprehension of what would be their behaviour to us, when the chief lifted his right hand to Heaven, and swore by Allah, we should suffer no injury while in his power: an oath which is seldom violated by them. Being all mounted on camels, we set off; towards evening, we proceeded at a brisk trot, and entered the wilderness of Paran. The sun was setting, and we passed, at no great distance, Mount Paran: its form was most singular, yet indescribably grand; it had three sharp and pointed summits, and its side towards the wilderness was formed of perpendicular precipices of rock; between its three summits, which rose like towers, were cast the declining beams of the sun. It brought to mind the fine passage in the Prophet, "The glory of God shined from Mount Paran," &c.
The walk of the camel is not disagreeable, but the trot at which we had lately advanced, was no small inconvenience. Mr. W. who was rather unaccustomed to riding, disliked it much; he lamented our misfortune the most of any of the party; and he had reason, since his career of doing good to the people around Sinai and Tor was put a stop to, his journals and papers left in the convent, and it was uncertain how long this captivity was to last. He was an excellent young man, and
full of zeal in the prosecution of his object, but very unfit to meet with reverses of this kind, or to struggle with evils out of the path of his mission. He was our only interpreter with the Bedouins, as he had some knowledge of the Arabic language. The chief had given us reason to expect we should this night sleep under cover, and enjoy a comfortable meal, both of which we stood greatly in need of; but after travelling two or three hours after dark, and looking in vain for the light of some dwelling, we halted in the midst of the wilderness, where the sand was again to be our bed. Our supper consisted of some cake made of coarse flour and water, kneaded flat, and baked in the embers, and some coffee, without milk or sugar; however, we partook of it sociably with our captors, and then lay down to rest near some high bushes, through which the cold wind whistled shrill during the night. We set out long before sunrise next morning. The valley of Paran now became very narrow, the barriers of lofty rocks on each side approached each other closely; among them were often seen veins of various and beautiful marble. The hosts of Israel are supposed to have marched from the Red Sea to Sinai by this route. After advancing about three hours, we halted at a beautiful grove of palm-trees in the valley, in which was a spring of excellent water; some Arabs resided here, and we looked with anxiety for our breakfast. Of all modes of life upon earth, that of the Arabs possesses the fewest indulgences : they placed on a rock, a large piece of the cold cake left the night before, for our breakfast, and which being unleavened, was as heavy as lead; and the lonely grove of palms, and the sublime scenery of the wilderness, were insufficient at that moment to appease our vexation; for the pleasures of imagination, or the picturesque, would all have been instantly bartered for a good comfortable breakfast. We then proceeded, without halting, till about four o'clock, when we came to a small encampment of Arabs, who were the friends of Hassan's tribe. It was interesting to see the meeting of these friendly tribes in the desert; from their wandering habit of life, and their frequent and distant journeys, they seldom meet; but when they do, the pressing of the hand to the heart, the kiss on the cheek, the passionate exclamations and gestures of joy, prove the sincerity and fervour of their feelings. These Arabs insisted on our staying all night with them: we were very happy to hear this, as it was yet some hours ere sunset, and the journey of the day had been long enough. The camp consisted of ten tents ranged in a line; in one of these we were all accommodated. Our entertainers killed a goat for supper by way of a feast; it was boiled, as all their meat is, and served up, cut into large pieces, on dishes of wood; we had to help ourselves with our fingers; there were also thin cakes of bread, and a dish of melted butter to dip them in. This mountain-goat was eaten with great relish, and coffee was afterwards served round, with pipes. The Arabs appeared to enjoy themselves very much, and passed a long time in conversation; but as night drew on, they all dropped off one after another, and left us in possession of the tent, in common with a number of goats, who inhabited the further part. In the middle of the night, I was awoke by something moving near me, and putting out my hand, laid hold of a huge black goat, who, probably considering his territory invaded, had come to reconnoitre
VOL. XI. NO. XLVIII.
the intruders he then went and trampled over W. who was buried in a profound sleep, and the dim light from the desert scarcely allowed him to distinguish what kind of being molested him:at last, having completely broken our repose, which we could scarcely afford to lose, the goat calmly walked off to his own quarters. Our servants at this time were living safely and luxuriously in the convent. Franco was quite at home, and ate his meals in peace and good will, although, being a Catholic, he could hold little Christian fellowship with such heathens as the Greeks; however he took possession of his master's room, reposed on the cushions, and sang his German hymns with much comfort. Michel was ill of a fever, and implored Franco to take a camel and follow and attend us during our captivity; but he shrunk at the idea of being in the hands of such lawless idolaters, where his outward man would be famished, and the inner one sorely buffeted and tried. The good fathers had wept at our capture, and protested their inability to afford the smallest alleviation. During the whole of the day that followed it, the convent was assailed by a fire of musketry from a number of Arabs, which rendered it unsafe to walk in the corridor or stir out of the apartments. This affords an illustration of the memorable print kept in the convents of Sinai and Cairo, and which is given to all pilgrims to carry to their homes, and several were presented to us. In this print is a lofty and vivid representation of Mount Sinai, rising up like a huge tower, Moses is seen toiling up the steep, with a long beard and staff, and nearly arrived at the top; beneath is the convent of Mount Sinai, out of the window of which is pushed the bald head of a monk, who is engaged in relieving the wants of the wicked Arabs, who, drawing their bows, cover the sands below ; the arrows are seen flying and the loaves of bread falling at the same moment: the rock of Meribah, though some distance off, is brought in sight, and the water gushing forth. In the back-ground, although near two hundred miles off, is seen the passage of the Red Sea by the Egyptians, and Pharaoh, who leads them on, is shewn sinking in his chariot, to hasten which, Moses, who stands on the shore, has just aimed a tremendous blow at him with a cudgel. Few pilgrims, however, approach Mount Sinai now; and that intercourse with their fellow-creatures, which the resort to the convent formerly afforded the fathers, they are now almost entirely deprived of. The chief part of the day they are shut up in their cells or walking in the garden, and at evening they are to be seen seated on benches before the door of their apartments; each, when the weather is cold, with his little pot of charcoal burning before him.
WRITTEN AFTER READING THE CAPTURE OF THE ESMIRALDA BY LORD COCHRANE.
'Tis the still night hour,-hush'd lies the wide deep
There is no moon in heaven, and between the dull clouds
Gloom reigns in thick silence around and around;
Softly on they are gliding, and with them is death
They move solemn as moves a funereal band,
The arm by whose power he shall bleed?
Up, Spaniard! and see, without breeze sweeping near,
Your ensign is waving in ominous fear
Where it never shall warn you again.
Yet nearer they float to the sleeping foe,
As the pestilence marches to havock they go;
Now pull harder on through the deadly shower,
On-on to the enemy's bow!
They are there! they have forced to the lofty deck-
That smokes down his gory prow.
His own Esmiralda is Liberty's prey,
She shall never again her vain tyrant obey;
Freedom's banner above her waves
And shall wave, and shall triumph! for come is the hour
Man dares to be man, and no longer resign
To the Turk or the Spaniard his own right divine
Of resistance to tyrants and slaves!