A Ride Across Palestine
by Anthony Trollope
Circumstances took me to the Holy Land without a companion, and
compelled me to visit Bethany, the Mount of Olives, and the Church
of the Sepulchre alone. I acknowledge myself to be a gregarious
animal, or, perhaps, rather one of those which nature has intended
to go in pairs. At any rate I dislike solitude, and especially
travelling solitude, and was, therefore, rather sad at heart as I
sat one night at Z-'s hotel, in Jerusalem, thinking over my proposed
wanderings for the next few days. Early on the following morning I
intended to start, of course on horseback, for the Dead Sea, the
banks of Jordan, Jericho, and those mountains of the wilderness
through which it is supposed that Our Saviour wandered for the forty
days when the devil tempted him. I would then return to the Holy
City, and remaining only long enough to refresh my horse and wipe
the dust from my hands and feet, I would start again for Jaffa, and
there catch a certain Austrian steamer which would take me to Egypt.
Such was my programme, and I confess that I was but ill contented
with it, seeing that I was to be alone during the time.
I had already made all my arrangements, and though I had no reason
for any doubt as to my personal security during the trip, I did not
feel altogether satisfied with them. I intended to take a French
guide, or dragoman, who had been with me for some days, and to put
myself under the peculiar guardianship of two Bedouin Arabs, who
were to accompany me as long as I should remain east of Jerusalem.
This travelling through the desert under the protection of Bedouins
was, in idea, pleasant enough; and I must here declare that I did
not at all begrudge the forty shillings which I was told by our
British consul that I must pay them for their trouble, in accordance
with the established tariff. But I did begrudge the fact of the
tariff. I would rather have fallen in with my friendly Arabs, as it
were by chance, and have rewarded their fidelity at the end of our
joint journeyings by a donation of piastres to be settled by myself,
and which, under such circumstances, would certainly have been as
agreeable to them as the stipulated sum. In the same way I dislike
having waiters put down in my bill. I find that I pay them twice
over, and thus lose money; and as they do not expect to be so
treated, I never have the advantage of their civility. The world, I
fear, is becoming too fond of tariffs.
"A tariff!" said I to the consul, feeling that the whole romance of
my expedition would be dissipated by such an arrangement. "Then
I'll go alone; I'll take a revolver with me."
"You can't do it, sir," said the consul, in a dry and somewhat angry
tone. "You have no more right to ride through that country without
paying the regular price for protection, than you have to stop in Z-
's hotel without settling the bill."
I could not contest the point, so I ordered my Bedouins for the
appointed day, exactly as I would send for a ticket-porter at home,
and determined to make the best of it. The wild unlimited sands,
the desolation of the Dead Sea, the rushing waters of Jordan, the
outlines of the mountains of Moab;those things the consular tariff
could not alter, nor deprive them of the glories of their
I had submitted, and the arrangements had been made. Joseph, my
dragoman, was to come to me with the horses and an Arab groom at
five in the morning, and we were to encounter our Bedouins outside
the gate of St. Stephen, down the hill, where the road turns, close
to the tomb of the Virgin.
I was sitting alone in the public room at the hotel, filling my
flask with brandy,for matters of primary importance I never leave
to servant, dragoman, or guide,when the waiter entered, and said
that a gentleman wished to speak with me. The gentleman had not
sent in his card or name; but any gentleman was welcome to me in my
solitude, and I requested that the gentleman might enter. In
appearance the gentleman certainly was a gentleman, for I thought
that I had never before seen a young man whose looks were more in
his favour, or whose face and gait and outward bearing seemed to
betoken better breeding. He might be some twenty or twenty-one
years of age, was slight and well made, with very black hair, which
he wore rather long, very dark long bright eyes, a straight nose,
and teeth that were perfectly white. He was dressed throughout in
grey tweed clothing, having coat, waistcoat, and trousers of the
same; and in his hand he carried a very broad-brimmed straw hat.
"Mr. Jones, I believe," he said, as he bowed to me. Jones is a good
travelling name, and, if the reader will allow me, I will call
myself Jones on the present occasion.
"Yes," I said, pausing with the brandy-bottle in one hand, and the
flask in the other. "That's my name; I'm Jones. Can I do anything
for you, sir?"
"Why, yes, you can," said he. "My name is Smith,John Smith."
"Pray sit down, Mr. Smith," I said, pointing to a chair. "Will you
do anything in this way?" and I proposed to hand the bottle to him.
"As far as I can judge from a short stay, you won't find much like
that in Jerusalem."
He declined the Cognac, however, and immediately began his story.
"I hear, Mr. Jones," said he, "that you are going to Moab to-
"Well," I replied, "I don't know whether I shall cross the water.
It's not very easy, I take it, at all times; but I shall certainly
get as far as Jordan. Can I do anything for you in those parts?"
And then he explained to me what was the object of his visit. He
was quite alone in Jerusalem, as I was myself; and was staying at H-
's hotel. He had heard that I was starting for the Dead Sea, and
had called to ask if I objected to his joining me. He had found
himself, he said, very lonely; and as he had heard that I also was
alone, he had ventured to call and make his proposition. He seemed
to be very bashful, and half ashamed of what he was doing; and when
he had done speaking he declared himself conscious that he was
intruding, and expressed a hope that I would not hesitate to say so
if his suggestion were from any cause disagreeable to me.
As a rule I am rather shy of chance travelling English friends. It
has so frequently happened to me that I have had to blush for the
acquaintances whom I have selected, that I seldom indulge in any
close intimacies of this kind. But, nevertheless, I was taken with
John Smith, in spite of his name. There was so much about him that
was pleasant, both to the eye and to the understanding! One meets
constantly with men from contact with whom one revolts without
knowing the cause of such dislike. The cut of their beard is
displeasing, or the mode in which they walk or speak. But, on the
other hand, there are men who are attractive, and I must confess
that I was attracted by John Smith at first sight. I hesitated,
however, for a minute; for there are sundry things of which it
behoves a traveller to think before he can join a companion for such
a journey as that which I was about to make. Could the young man
rise early, and remain in the saddle for ten hours together? Could
he live upon hard-boiled eggs and brandy-and-water? Could he take
his chance of a tent under which to sleep, and make himself happy
with the bare fact of being in the desert? He saw my hesitation,
and attributed it to a cause which was not present in my mind at the
moment, though the subject was one of the greatest importance when
strangers consent to join themselves together for a time, and agree
to become no strangers on the spur of the moment.
"Of course I will take half the expense," said he, absolutely
blushing as he mentioned the matter.
"As to that there will be very little. You have your own horse, of
"My dragoman and groom-boy will do for both. But you'll have to pay
forty shillings to the Arabs! There's no getting over that. The
consul won't even look after your dead body, if you get murdered,
without going through that ceremony."
Mr. Smith immediately produced his purse, which he tendered to me.
"If you will manage it all," said he, "it will make it so much the
easier, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you." This of course I
declined to do. I had no business with his purse, and explained to
him that if we went together we could settle that on our return to
Jerusalem. "But could he go through really hard work?" I asked. He
answered me with an assurance that he would and could do anything in
that way that it was possible for man to perform. As for eating and
drinking he cared nothing about it, and would undertake to be astir
at any hour of the morning that might be named. As for sleeping
accommodation, he did not care if he kept his clothes on for a week
together. He looked slight and weak; but he spoke so well, and that
without boasting, that I ultimately agreed to his proposal, and in a
few minutes he took his leave of me, promising to be at Z-'s door
with his horse at five o'clock on the following morning.
"I wish you'd allow me to leave my purse with you," he said again.
"I cannot think of it. There is no possible occasion for it," I
said again. "If there is anything to pay, I'll ask you for it when
the journey is over. That forty shillings you must fork out. It's
a law of the Medes and Persians."
"I'd better give it you at once," he said again, offering me money.
But I would not have it. It would be quite time enough for that
when the Arabs were leaving us.
"Because," he added, "strangers, I know, are sometimes suspicious
about money; and I would not, for worlds, have you think that I
would put you to expense." I assured him that I did not think so,
and then the subject was dropped.
He was, at any rate, up to his time, for when I came down on the
following morning I found him in the narrow street, the first on
horseback. Joseph, the Frenchman, was strapping on to a rough pony
our belongings, and was staring at Mr. Smith. My new friend,
unfortunately, could not speak a word of French, and therefore I had
to explain to the dragoman how it had come to pass that our party
was to be enlarged.
"But the Bedouins will expect full pay for both," said he, alarmed.
Men in that class, and especially Orientals, always think that every
arrangement of life, let it be made in what way it will, is made
with the intention of saving some expense, or cheating somebody out
of some money. They do not understand that men can have any other
object, and are ever on their guard lest the saving should be made
at their cost, or lest they should be the victims of the fraud.
"All right," said I.
"I shall be responsible, Monsieur," said the dragoman, piteously.
"It shall be all right," said I, again. "If that does not satisfy
you, you may remain behind."
"If Monsieur says it is all right, of course it is so;" and then he
completed his strapping. We took blankets with us, of which I had
to borrow two out of the hotel for my friend Smith, a small hamper
of provisions, a sack containing forage for the horses, and a large
empty jar, so that we might supply ourselves with water when leaving
the neighbourhood of wells for any considerable time.
"I ought to have brought these things for myself," said Smith, quite
unhappy at finding that he had thrown on me the necessity of
catering for him. But I laughed at him, saying that it was nothing;
he should do as much for me another time. I am prepared to own that
I do not willingly rush up-stairs and load myself with blankets out
of strange rooms for men whom I do not know; nor, as a rule, do I
make all the Smiths of the world free of my canteen. But, with
reference to this fellow I did feel more than ordinarily good-
natured and unselfish. There was something in the tone of his voice
which was satisfactory; and I should really have felt vexed had
anything occurred at the last moment to prevent his going with me.
Let it be a rule with every man to carry an English saddle with him
when travelling in the East. Of what material is formed the nether
man of a Turk I have never been informed, but I am sure that it is
not flesh and blood. No flesh and blood,simply flesh and blood,
could withstand the wear and tear of a Turkish saddle. This being
the case, and the consequences being well known to me, I was grieved
to find that Smith was not properly provided. He was seated on one
of those hard, red, high-pointed machines, in which the shovels
intended to act as stirrups are attached in such a manner, and hang
at such an angle, as to be absolutely destructive to the leg of a
Christian. There is no part of the Christian body with which the
Turkish saddle comes in contact that does not become more or less
macerated. I have sat in one for days, but I left it a flayed man;
and, therefore, I was sorry for Smith.
I explained this to him, taking hold of his leg by the calf to show
how the leather would chafe him; but it seemed to me that he did not
quite like my interference. "Never mind," said he, twitching his
leg away, "I have ridden in this way before."
"Then you must have suffered the very mischief?"
"Only a little, and I shall be used to it now. You will not hear me
"By heavens, you might have heard me complain a mile off when I came
to the end of a journey I once took. I roared like a bull when I
began to cool. Joseph, could you not get a European saddle for Mr.
Smith?" But Joseph did not seem to like Mr. Smith, and declared
such a thing to be impossible. No European in Jerusalem would think
of lending so precious an article, except to a very dear friend.
Joseph himself was on an English saddle, and I made up my mind that
after the first stage, we would bribe him to make an exchange. And
then we started.
The Bedouins were not with us, but we were to meet them, as I have
said before, outside St. Stephen's gate. "And if they are not
there," said Joseph, "we shall be sure to come across them on the
"Not there!" said I. "How about the consul's tariff, if they don't
keep their part of the engagement?" But Joseph explained to me that
their part of the engagement really amounted to this,that we
should ride into their country without molestation, provided that
such and such payments were made.
It was the period of Easter, and Jerusalem was full of pilgrims.
Even at that early hour of the morning we could hardly make our way
through the narrow streets. It must be understood that there is no
accommodation in the town for the fourteen or fifteen thousand
strangers who flock to the Holy Sepulchre at this period of the
year. Many of them sleep out in the open air, lying on low benches
which run along the outside walls of the houses, or even on the
ground, wrapped in their thick hoods and cloaks. Slumberers such as
these are easily disturbed, nor are they detained long at their
toilets. They shake themselves like dogs, and growl and stretch
themselves, and then they are ready for the day.
We rode out of the town in a long file. First went the groom-boy; I
forget his proper Syrian appellation, but we used to call him
Mucherry, that sound being in some sort like the name. Then
followed the horse with the forage and blankets, and next to him my
friend Smith in the Turkish saddle. I was behind him, and Joseph
brought up the rear. We moved slowly down the Via Dolorosa, noting
the spot at which our Saviour is said to have fallen while bearing
his cross; we passed by Pilate's house, and paused at the gate of
the Temple,the gate which once was beautiful,looking down into
the hole of the pool in which the maimed and halt were healed
whenever the waters moved. What names they are! And yet there at
Jerusalem they are bandied to and fro with as little reverence as
are the fanciful appellations given by guides to rocks and stones
and little lakes in all countries overrun by tourists.
"For those who would still fain believe,let them stay at home,"
said my friend Smith.
"For those who cannot divide the wheat from the chaff, let THEM stay
at home," I answered. And then we rode out through St. Stephen's
gate, having the mountain of the men of Galilee directly before us,
and the Mount of Olives a little to our right, and the Valley of
Jehoshaphat lying between us and it. "Of course you know all these
places now?" said Smith. I answered that I did know them well.
"And was it not better for you when you knew them only in Holy
Writ?" he asked.
"No, by Jove," said I. "The mountains stand where they ever stood.
The same valleys are still green with the morning dew, and the
water-courses are unchanged. The children of Mahomet may build
their tawdry temple on the threshing-floor which David bought that
there might stand the Lord's house. Man may undo what man did, even
though the doer was Solomon. But here we have God's handiwork and
His own evidences."
At the bottom of the steep descent from the city gate we came to the
tomb of the Virgin; and by special agreement made with Joseph we
left our horses here for a few moments, in order that we might
descend into the subterranean chapel under the tomb, in which mass
was at this moment being said. There is something awful in that
chapel, when, as at the present moment, it is crowded with Eastern
worshippers from the very altar up to the top of the dark steps by
which the descent is made. It must be remembered that Eastern
worshippers are not like the churchgoers of London, or even of Rome
or Cologne. They are wild men of various nations and races,
Maronites from Lebanon Roumelians, Candiotes, Copts from Upper
Egypt, Russians from the Crimea, Armenians and Abyssinians. They
savour strongly of Oriental life and of Oriental dirt. They are
clad in skins or hairy cloaks with huge hoods. Their heads are
shaved, and their faces covered with short, grisly, fierce beards.
They are silent mostly, looking out of their eyes ferociously, as
though murder were in their thoughts, and rapine. But they never
slouch, or cringe in their bodies, or shuffle in their gait. Dirty,
fierce-looking, uncouth, repellent as they are, there is always
about them a something of personal dignity which is not compatible
with an Englishman's ordinary hat and pantaloons.
As we were about to descend, preparing to make our way through the
crowd, Smith took hold of my arm. "That will never do, my dear
fellow," said I, "the job will be tough enough for a single file,
but we should never cut our way two and two. I'm broad-shouldered
and will go first." So I did, and gradually we worked our way into
the body of the chapel. How is it that Englishmen can push
themselves anywhere? These men were fierce-looking, and had murder
and rapine, as I have said, almost in their eyes. One would have
supposed that they were not lambs or doves, capable of being thrust
here or there without anger on their part; and they, too, were all
anxious to descend and approach the altar. Yet we did win our way
through them, and apparently no man was angry with us. I doubt,
after all, whether a ferocious eye and a strong smell and dirt are
so efficacious in creating awe and obedience in others, as an open
brow and traces of soap and water. I know this, at least,that a
dirty Maronite would make very little progress, if he attempted to
shove his way unfairly through a crowd of Englishmen at the door of
a London theatre. We did shove unfairly, and we did make progress,
till we found ourselves in the centre of the dense crowd collected
in the body of the chapel.
Having got so far, our next object was to get out again. The place
was dark, mysterious, and full of strange odours; but darkness,
mystery, and strange odours soon lose their charms when men have
much work before them. Joseph had made a point of being allowed to
attend mass before the altar of the Virgin, but a very few minutes
sufficed for his prayers. So we again turned round and pushed our
way back again, Smith still following in my wake. The men who had
let us pass once let us pass again without opposition or show of
anger. To them the occasion was very holy. They were stretching
out their hands in every direction, with long tapers, in order that
they might obtain a spark of the sacred fire which was burning on
one of the altars. As we made our way out we passed many who, with
dumb motions, begged us to assist them in their object. And we did
assist them, getting lights for their tapers, handing them to and
fro, and using the authority with which we seemed to be invested.
But Smith, I observed, was much more courteous in this way to the
women than to the men, as I did not forget to remind him when we
were afterwards on our road together.
Remounting our horses we rode slowly up the winding ascent of the
Mount of Olives, turning round at the brow of the hill to look back
over Jerusalem. Sometimes I think that of all spots in the world
this one should be the spot most cherished in the memory of
Christians. It was there that He stood when He wept over the city.
So much we do know, though we are ignorant, and ever shall be so, of
the site of His cross and of the tomb. And then we descended on the
eastern side of the hill, passing through Bethany, the town of
Lazarus and his sisters, and turned our faces steadily towards the
mountains of Moab.
Hitherto we had met no Bedouins, and I interrogated my dragoman
about them more than once; but he always told me that it did not
signify; we should meet them, he said, before any danger could
arise. "As for danger," said I, "I think more of this than I do of
the Arabs," and I put my hand on my revolver. "But as they agreed
to be here, here they ought to be. Don't you carry a revolver,
Smith said that he never had done so, but that he would take the
charge of mine if I liked. To this, however, I demurred. "I never
part with my pistol to any one," I said, rather drily. But he
explained that he only intended to signify that if there were danger
to be encountered, he would be glad to encounter it; and I fully
believed him. "We shan't have much fighting," I replied; "but if
there be any, the tool will come readiest to the hand of its master.
But if you mean to remain here long I would advise you to get one.
These Orientals are a people with whom appearances go a long way,
and, as a rule, fear and respect mean the same thing with them. A
pistol hanging over your loins is no great trouble to you, and looks
as though you could bite. Many a dog goes through the world well by
merely showing his teeth."
And then my companion began to talk of himself. "He did not," he
said, "mean to remain in Syria very long."
"Nor I either," said I. "I have done with this part of the world
for the present, and shall take the next steamer from Jaffa for
Alexandria. I shall only have one night in Jerusalem on my return."
After this he remained silent for a few moments and then declared
that that also had been his intention. He was almost ashamed to say
so, however, because it looked as though he had resolved to hook
himself on to me. So he answered, expressing almost regret at the
"Don't let that trouble you," said I; "I shall be delighted to have
your company. When you know me better, as I hope you will do, you
will find that if such were not the case I should tell you so as
frankly. I shall remain in Cairo some little time; so that beyond
our arrival in Egypt, I can answer for nothing."
He said that he expected letters at Alexandria which would govern
his future movements. I thought he seemed sad as he said so, and
imagined, from his manner, that he did not expect very happy
tidings. Indeed I had made up my mind that he was by no means free
from care or sorrow. He had not the air of a man who could say of
himself that he was "totus teres atque rotundus." But I had no wish
to inquire, and the matter would have dropped had he not himself
added"I fear that I shall meet acquaintances in Egypt whom it will
give me no pleasure to see."
"Then," said I, "if I were you, I would go to Constantinople
instead;indeed, anywhere rather than fall among friends who are
not friendly. And the nearer the friend is, the more one feels that
sort of thing. To my way of thinking, there is nothing on earth so
pleasant as a pleasant wife; but then, what is there so damnable as
one that is unpleasant?"
"Are you a married man?" he inquired. All his questions were put in
a low tone of voice which seemed to give to them an air of special
interest, and made one almost feel that they were asked with some
special view to one's individual welfare. Now the fact is, that I
am a married man with a family; but I am not much given to talk to
strangers about my domestic concerns, and, therefore, though I had
no particular object in view, I denied my obligations in this
respect. "No," said I; "I have not come to that promotion yet. I
am too frequently on the move to write myself down as
"Then you know nothing about that pleasantness of which you spoke
"Nor of the unpleasantness, thank God; my personal experiences are
all to come,as also are yours, I presume?"
It was possible that he had hampered himself with some woman, and
that she was to meet him at Alexandria. Poor fellow! thought I.
But his unhappiness was not of that kind. "No," said he; "I am not
married; I am all alone in the world."
"Then I certainly would not allow myself to be troubled by
It was now four hours since we had left Jerusalem, and we had
arrived at the place at which it was proposed that we should
breakfast. There was a large well there, and shade afforded by a
rock under which the water sprung; and the Arabs had constructed a
tank out of which the horses could drink, so that the place was
ordinarily known as the first stage out of Jerusalem.
Smith had said not a word about his saddle, or complained in any way
of discomfort, so that I had in truth forgotten the subject. Other
matters had continually presented themselves, and I had never even
asked him how he had fared. I now jumped from my horse, but I
perceived at once that he was unable to do so. He smiled faintly,
as his eye caught mine, but I knew that he wanted assistance. "Ah,"
said I, "that confounded Turkish saddle has already galled your
skin. I see how it is; I shall have to doctor you with a little
brandy,externally applied, my friend." But I lent him my
shoulder, and with that assistance he got down, very gently and
We ate our breakfast with a good will; bread and cold fowl and
brandy-and-water, with a hard-boiled egg by way of a final delicacy;
and then I began to bargain with Joseph for the loan of his English
saddle. I saw that Smith could not get through the journey with
that monstrous Turkish affair, and that he would go on without
complaining till he fainted or came to some other signal grief. But
the Frenchman, seeing the plight in which we were, was disposed to
drive a very hard bargain. He wanted forty shillings, the price of
a pair of live Bedouins, for the accommodation, and declared that,
even then, he should make the sacrifice only out of consideration to
"Very well," said I. "I'm tolerably tough myself; and I'll change
with the gentleman. The chances are that I shall not be in a very
liberal humour when I reach Jaffa with stiff limbs and a sore skin.
I have a very good memory, Joseph."
"I'll take thirty shillings, Mr. Jones; though I shall have to groan
all the way like a condemned devil."
I struck a bargain with him at last for five-and-twenty, and set him
to work to make the necessary change on the horses. "It will be
just the same thing to him," I said to Smith. "I find that he is as
much used to one as to the other."
"But how much money are you to pay him?" he asked. "Oh, nothing," I
replied. "Give him a few piastres when you part with him at Jaffa."
I do not know why I should have felt thus inclined to pay money out
of my pocket for this Smith,a man whom I had only seen for the
first time on the preceding evening, and whose temperament was so
essentially different from my own; but so I did. I would have done
almost anything in reason for his comfort; and yet he was a
melancholy fellow, with good inward pluck as I believed, but without
that outward show of dash and hardihood which I confess I love to
see. "Pray tell him that I'll pay him for it," said he. "We'll
make that all right," I answered; and then we remounted,not
without some difficulty on his part. "You should have let me rub in
that brandy," I said. "You can't conceive how efficaciously I would
have done it." But he made me no answer.
At noon we met a caravan of pilgrims coming up from Jordan. There
might be some three or four hundred, but the number seemed to be
treble that, from the loose and straggling line in which they
journeyed. It was a very singular sight, as they moved slowly along
the narrow path through the sand, coming out of a defile among the
hills, which was perhaps a quarter of a mile in front of us, passing
us as we stood still by the wayside, and then winding again out of
sight on the track over which we had come. Some rode on camels,a
whole family, in many cases, being perched on the same animal. I
observed a very old man and a very old woman slung in panniers over
a camel's back,not such panniers as might be befitting such a
purpose, but square baskets, so that the heads and heels of each of
the old couple hung out of the rear and front. "Surely the journey
will be their death," I said to Joseph. "Yes it will," he replied,
quite coolly; "but what matter how soon they die now that they have
bathed in Jordan?" Very many rode on donkeys; two, generally, on
each donkey; others, who had command of money, on horses; but the
greater number walked, toiling painfully from Jerusalem to Jericho
on the first day, sleeping there in tents and going to bathe on the
second day, and then returning from Jericho to Jerusalem on the
third. The pilgrimage is made throughout in accordance with fixed
rules, and there is a tariff for the tent accommodation at Jericho,-
-so much per head per night, including the use of hot water.
Standing there, close by the wayside, we could see not only the
garments and faces of these strange people, but we could watch their
gestures and form some opinion of what was going on within their
thoughts. They were much quieter,tamer, as it were,than
Englishmen would be under such circumstances. Those who were
carried seemed to sit on their beasts in passive tranquillity,
neither enjoying nor suffering anything. Their object had been to
wash in Jordan,to do that once in their lives;and they had
washed in Jordan. The benefit expected was not to be immediately
spiritual. No earnest prayerfulness was considered necessary after
the ceremony. To these members of the Greek Christian Church it had
been handed down from father to son that washing in Jordan once
during life was efficacious towards salvation. And therefore the
journey had been made at terrible cost and terrible risk; for these
people had come from afar, and were from their habits but little
capable of long journeys. Many die under the toil; but this matters
not if they do not die before they have reached Jordan. Some few
there are, undoubtedly, more ecstatic in this great deed of their
religion. One man I especially noticed on this day. He had bound
himself to make the pilgrimage from Jerusalem to the river with one
foot bare. He was of a better class, and was even nobly dressed, as
though it were a part of his vow to show to all men that he did this
deed, wealthy and great though he was. He was a fine man, perhaps
thirty years of age, with a well-grown beard descending on his
breast, and at his girdle he carried a brace of pistols.
But never in my life had I seen bodily pain so plainly written in a
man's face. The sweat was falling from his brow, and his eyes were
strained and bloodshot with agony. He had no stick, his vow, I
presume, debarring him from such assistance, and he limped along,
putting to the ground the heel of the unprotected foot. I could see
it, and it was a mass of blood, and sores, and broken skin. An
Irish girl would walk from Jerusalem to Jericho without shoes, and
be not a penny the worse for it. This poor fellow clearly suffered
so much that I was almost inclined to think that in the performance
of his penance he had done something to aggravate his pain. Those
around him paid no attention to him, and the dragoman seemed to
think nothing of the affair whatever. "Those fools of Greeks do not
understand the Christian religion," he said, being himself a Latin
or Roman Catholic.
At the tail of the line we encountered two Bedouins, who were in
charge of the caravan, and Joseph at once addressed them. The men
were mounted, one on a very sorry-looking jade, but the other on a
good stout Arab barb. They had guns slung behind their backs,
coloured handkerchiefs on their heads, and they wore the striped
bernouse. The parley went on for about ten minutes, during which
the procession of pilgrims wound out of sight; and it ended in our
being accompanied by the two Arabs, who thus left their greater
charge to take care of itself back to the city. I understood
afterwards that they had endeavoured to persuade Joseph that we
might just as well go on alone, merely satisfying the demand of the
tariff. But he had pointed out that I was a particular man, and
that under such circumstances the final settlement might be
doubtful. So they turned and accompanied us; but, as a matter of
fact, we should have been as well without them.
The sun was beginning to fall in the heavens when we reached the
actual margin of the Dead Sea. We had seen the glitter of its still
waters for a long time previously, shining under the sun as though
it were not real. We have often heard, and some of us have seen,
how effects of light and shade together will produce so vivid an
appearance of water where there is no water, as to deceive the most
experienced. But the reverse was the case here. There was the
lake, and there it had been before our eyes for the last two hours;
and yet it looked, then and now, as though it were an image of a
lake, and not real water. I had long since made up my mind to bathe
in it, feeling well convinced that I could do so without harm to
myself, and I had been endeavouring to persuade Smith to accompany
me; but he positively refused. He would bathe, he said, neither in
the Dead Sea nor in the river Jordan. He did not like bathing, and
preferred to do his washing in his own room. Of course I had
nothing further to say, and begged that, under these circumstances,
he would take charge of my purse and pistols while I was in the
water. This he agreed to do; but even in this he was strange and
almost uncivil. I was to bathe from the farthest point of a little
island, into which there was a rough causeway from the land made of
stones and broken pieces of wood, and I exhorted him to go with me
thither; but he insisted on remaining with his horse on the mainland
at some little distance from the island. He did not feel inclined
to go down to the water's edge, he said.
I confess that at this moment I almost suspected that he was going
to play me foul, and I hesitated. He saw in an instant what was
passing through my mind. "You had better take your pistol and money
with you; they will be quite safe on your clothes." But to have
kept the things now would have shown suspicion too plainly, and as I
could not bring myself to do that, I gave them up. I have sometimes
thought that I was a fool to do so.
I went away by myself to the end of the island, and then I did
bathe. It is impossible to conceive anything more desolate than the
appearance of the place. The land shelves very gradually away to
the water, and the whole margin, to the breadth of some twenty or
thirty feet, is strewn with the debris of rushes, bits of timber,
and old white withered reeds. Whence these bits of timber have come
it seems difficult to say. The appearance is as though the water
had receded and left them there. I have heard it said that there is
no vegetation near the Dead Sea; but such is not the case, for these
rushes do grow on the bank. I found it difficult enough to get into
the water, for the ground shelves down very slowly, and is rough
with stones and large pieces of half-rotten wood; moreover, when I
was in nearly up to my hips the water knocked me down; indeed, it
did so when I had gone as far as my knees, but I recovered myself;
and by perseverance did proceed somewhat farther. It must not be
imagined that this knocking down was effected by the movement of the
water. There is no such movement. Everything is perfectly still,
and the fluid seems hardly to be displaced by the entrance of the
body; but the effect is that one's feet are tripped up, and that one
falls prostrate on to the surface. The water is so strong and
buoyant, that, when above a few feet in depth has to be encountered,
the strength and weight of the bather are not sufficient to keep
down his feet and legs. I then essayed to swim; but I could not do
this in the ordinary way, as I was unable to keep enough of my body
below the surface; so that my head and face seemed to be propelled
down upon it.
I turned round and floated, but the glare of the sun was so powerful
that I could not remain long in that position. However, I had
bathed in the Dead Sea, and was so far satisfied.
Anything more abominable to the palate than this water, if it be
water, I never had inside my mouth. I expected it to be extremely
salt, and no doubt, if it were analysed, such would be the result;
but there is a flavour in it which kills the salt. No attempt can
be made at describing this taste. It may be imagined that I did not
drink heartily, merely taking up a drop or two with my tongue from
the palm of my hand; but it seemed to me as though I had been
drenched with it. Even brandy would not relieve me from it. And
then my whole body was in a mess, and I felt as though I had been
rubbed with pitch. Looking at my limbs, I saw no sign on them of
the fluid. They seemed to dry from this as they usually do from any
other water; but still the feeling remained. However, I was to ride
from hence to a spot on the banks of Jordan, which I should reach in
an hour, and at which I would wash; so I clothed myself, and
prepared for my departure.
Seated in my position in the island I was unable to see what was
going on among the remainder of the party, and therefore could not
tell whether my pistols and money was safe. I dressed, therefore,
rather hurriedly, and on getting again to the shore, found that Mr.
John Smith had not levanted. He was seated on his horse at some
distance from Joseph and the Arabs, and had no appearance of being
in league with those, no doubt, worthy guides. I certainly had
suspected a ruse, and now was angry with myself that I had done so;
and yet, in London, one would not trust one's money to a stranger
whom one had met twenty-four hours since in a coffee-room! Why,
then, do it with a stranger whom one chanced to meet in a desert?
"Thanks," I said, as he handed me my belongings. "I wish I could
have induced you to come in also. The Dead Sea is now at your
elbow, and, therefore, you think nothing of it; but in ten or
fifteen years' time, you would be glad to be able to tell your
children that you had bathed in it."
"I shall never have any children to care for such tidings," he
The river Jordan, for some miles above the point at which it joins
the Dead Sea, runs through very steep banks,banks which are almost
precipitous,and is, as it were, guarded by the thick trees and
bushes which grow upon its sides. This is so much the case, that
one may ride, as we did, for a considerable distance along the
margin, and not be able even to approach the water. I had a fancy
for bathing in some spot of my own selection, instead of going to
the open shore frequented by all the pilgrims; but I was baffled in
this. When I did force my way down to the river side, I found that
the water ran so rapidly, and that the bushes and boughs of trees
grew so far over and into the stream, as to make it impossible for
me to bathe. I could not have got in without my clothes, and having
got in, I could not have got out again. I was, therefore obliged to
put up with the open muddy shore to which the bathers descend, and
at which we may presume that Joshua passed when he came over as one
of the twelve spies to spy out the land. And even here I could not
go full into the stream as I would fain have done, lest I should be
carried down, and so have assisted to whiten the shores of the Dead
Sea with my bones. As to getting over to the Moabitish side of the
river, that was plainly impossible; and, indeed, it seemed to be the
prevailing opinion that the passage of the river was not practicable
without going up as far as Samaria. And yet we know that there, or
thereabouts, the Israelites did cross it.
I jumped from my horse the moment I got to the place, and once more
gave my purse and pistols to my friend. "You are going to bathe
again?" he said. "Certainly," said I; "you don't suppose that I
would come to Jordan and not wash there, even if I were not foul
with the foulness of the Dead Sea!" "You'll kill yourself, in your
present state of heat;" he said, remonstrating just as one's mother
or wife might do. But even had it been my mother or wife I could
not have attended to such remonstrance then; and before he had done
looking at me with those big eyes of his, my coat and waistcoat and
cravat were on the ground, and I was at work at my braces; whereupon
he turned from me slowly, and strolled away into the wood. On this
occasion I had no base fears about my money.
And then I did bathe,very uncomfortably. The shore was muddy with
the feet of the pilgrims, and the river so rapid that I hardly dared
to get beyond the mud. I did manage to take a plunge in, head-
foremost, but I was forced to wade out through the dirt and slush,
so that I found it difficult to make my feet and legs clean enough
for my shoes and stockings; and then, moreover, the flies plagued me
most unmercifully. I should have thought that the filthy flavour
from the Dead Sea would have saved me from that nuisance; but the
mosquitoes thereabouts are probably used to it. Finding this
process of bathing to be so difficult, I inquired as to the practice
of the pilgrims. I found that with them, bathing in Jordan has come
to be much the same as baptism has with us. It does not mean
immersion. No doubt they do take off their shoes and stockings; but
they do not strip, and go bodily into the water.
As soon as I was dressed I found that Smith was again at my side
with purse and pistols. We then went up a little above the wood,
and sat down together on the long sandy grass. It was now quite
evening, so that the short Syrian twilight had commenced, and the
sun was no longer hot in the heavens. It would be night as we rode
on to the tents at Jericho; but there was no difficulty as to the
way, and therefore we did not hurry the horses, who were feeding on
the grass. We sat down together on a spot from which we could see
the stream,close together, so that when I stretched myself out in
my weariness, as I did before we started, my head rested on his
legs. Ah, me! one does not take such liberties with new friends in
England. It was a place which led one on to some special thoughts.
The mountains of Moab were before us, very plain in their outline.
"Moab is my wash-pot, and over Edom will I cast out my shoe!" There
they were before us, very visible to the eye, and we began naturally
to ask questions of each other. Why was Moab the wash-pot, and Edom
thus cursed with indignity? Why had the right bank of the river
been selected for such great purposes, whereas the left was thus
condemned? Was there, at that time, any special fertility in this
land of promise which has since departed from it? We are told of a
bunch of grapes which took two men to carry it; but now there is not
a vine in the whole country side. Now-a-days the sandy plain round
Jericho is as dry and arid as are any of the valleys of Moab. The
Jordan was running beneath our feet,the Jordan in which the
leprous king had washed, though the bright rivers of his own
Damascus were so much nearer to his hand. It was but a humble
stream to which he was sent; but the spot probably was higher up,
above the Sea of Galilee, where the river is narrow. But another
also had come down to this river, perhaps to this very spot on its
shores, and submitted Himself to its waters;as to whom, perhaps,
it will be better that I should not speak much in this light story.
The Dead Sea was on our right, still glittering in the distance, and
behind us lay the plains of Jericho and the wretched collection of
huts which still bears the name of the ancient city. Beyond that,
but still seemingly within easy distance of us, were the mountains
of the wilderness. The wilderness! In truth, the spot was one
which did lead to many thoughts.
We talked of these things, as to many of which I found that my
friend was much more free in his doubts and questionings than
myself; and then our words came back to ourselves, the natural
centre of all men's-thoughts and words. "From what you say," I
said, "I gather that you have had enough of this land?"
"Quite enough," he said. "Why seek such spots as these, if they
only dispel the associations and veneration of one's childhood?"
"But with me such associations and veneration are riveted the
stronger by seeing the places, and putting my hand upon the spots.
I do not speak of that fictitious marble slab up there; but here,
among the sandhills by this river, and at the Mount of Olives over
which we passed, I do believe."
He paused a moment, and then replied: "To me it is all nothing,
absolutely nothing. But then do we not know that our thoughts are
formed, and our beliefs modelled, not on the outward signs or
intrinsic evidences of things,as would be the case were we always
rational,but by the inner workings of the mind itself? At the
present turn of my life I can believe in nothing that is gracious."
"Ah, you mean that you are unhappy. You have come to grief in some
of your doings or belongings, and therefore find that all things are
bitter to the taste. I have had my palate out of order too; but the
proper appreciation of flavours has come back to me. Bah,how
noisome was that Dead Sea water!"
"The Dead Sea waters are noisome," he said; "and I have been
drinking of them by long draughts."
"Long draughts!" I answered, thinking to console him. "Draughts
have not been long which can have been swallowed in your years.
Your disease may be acute, but it cannot yet have become chronic. A
man always thinks at the moment of each misfortune that that special
misery will last his lifetime; but God is too good for that. I do
not know what ails you; but this day twelvemonth will see you again
as sound as a roach."
We then sat silent for a while, during which I was puffing at a
cigar. Smith, among his accomplishments, did not reckon that of
smoking,which was a grief to me; for a man enjoys the tobacco
doubly when another is enjoying it with him.
"No, you do not know what ails me," he said at last, "and,
therefore, cannot judge."
"Perhaps not, my dear fellow. But my experience tells me that early
wounds are generally capable of cure; and, therefore, I surmise that
yours may be so. The heart at your time of life is not worn out,
and has strength and soundness left wherewith to throw off its
maladies. I hope it may be so with you."
"God knows. I do not mean to say that there are none more to be
pitied than I am; but at the present moment, I am notnot light-
"I wish I could ease your burden, my dear fellow."
"It is most preposterous in me thus to force myself upon you, and
then trouble you with my cares. But I had been alone so long, and I
was so weary of it!"
"By Jove, and so had I. Make no apology. And let me tell you
this,though perhaps you will not credit me,that I would sooner
laugh with a comrade than cry with him is true enough; but, if
occasion demands, I can do the latter also."
He then put out his hand to me, and I pressed it in token of my
friendship. My own hand was hot and rough with the heat and sand;
but his was soft and cool almost as a woman's. I thoroughly hate an
effeminate man; but, in spite of a certain womanly softness about
this fellow, I could not hate him. "Yes," I continued, "though
somewhat unused to the melting mood, I also sometimes give forth my
medicinal gums. I don't want to ask you any questions, and, as a
rule, I hate to be told secrets, but if I can be of any service to
you in any matter I will do my best. I don't say this with
reference to the present moment, but think of it before we part."
I looked round at him and saw that he was in tears. "I know that
you will think that I am a weak fool," he said, pressing his
handkerchief to his eyes.
"By no means. There are moments in a man's life when it becomes him
to weep like a woman; but the older he grows the more seldom those
moments come to him. As far as I can see of men, they never cry at
that which disgraces them."
"It is left for women to do that," he answered.
"Oh, women! A woman cries for everything and for nothing. It is
the sharpest arrow she has in her quiver,the best card in her
hand. When a woman cries, what can you do but give her all she asks
"Do youdislike women?"
"No, by Jove! I am never really happy unless one is near me, or
more than one. A man, as a rule, has an amount of energy within him
which he cannot turn to profit on himself alone. It is good for him
to have a woman by him that he may work for her, and thus have
exercise for his limbs and faculties. I am very fond of women. But
I always like those best who are most helpless."
We were silent again for a while, and it was during this time that I
found myself lying with my head in his lap. I had slept, but it
could have been but for a few minutes, and when I woke I found his
hand upon my brow. As I started up he said that the flies had been
annoying me, and that he had not chosen to waken me as I seemed
weary. "It has been that double bathing," I said, apologetically;
for I always feel ashamed when I am detected sleeping in the day.
"In hot weather the water does make one drowsy. By Jove, it's
getting dark; we had better have the horses."
"Stay half a moment," he said, speaking very softly, and laying his
hand upon my arm, "I will not detain you a minute."
"There is no hurry in life," I said.
"You promised me just now you would assist me."
"If it be in my power, I will."
"Before we part at Alexandria I will endeavour to tell you the story
of my troubles, and then if you can aid me" It struck me as he
paused that I had made a rash promise, but nevertheless I must stand
by it nowwith one or two provisoes. The chances were that the
young man was short of money, or else that he had got into a scrape
about a girl. In either ease I might give him some slight
assistance; but, then, it behoved me to make him understand that I
would not consent to become a participator in mischief. I was too
old to get my head willingly into a scrape, and this I must
endeavour to make him understand.
"I will, if it be in my power," I said. "I will ask no questions
now; but if your trouble be about some lady"
"It is not," said he.
"Well; so be it. Of all troubles those are the most troublesome.
If you are short of cash"
"No, I am not short of cash."
"You are not. That's well too; for want of money is a sore trouble
also." And then I paused before I came to the point. "I do not
suspect anything bad of you, Smith. Had I done so, I should not
have spoken as I have done. And if there be nothing bad"
"There is nothing disgraceful," he said.
"That is just what I mean; and in that case I will do anything for
you that may be within my power. Now let us look for Joseph and the
mucherry-boy, for it is time that we were at Jericho."
I cannot describe at length the whole of our journey from thence to
our tents at Jericho, nor back to Jerusalem, nor even from Jerusalem
to Jaffa. At Jericho we did sleep in tents, paying so much per
night, according to the tariff. We wandered out at night, and drank
coffee with a family of Arabs in the desert, sitting in a ring round
their coffee-kettle. And we saw a Turkish soldier punished with the
bastinado,a sight which did not do me any good, and which made
Smith very sick. Indeed after the first blow he walked away.
Jericho is a remarkable spot in that pilgrim week, and I wish I had
space to describe it. But I have not, for I must hurry on, back to
Jerusalem and thence to Jaffa. I had much to tell also of those
Bedouins; how they were essentially true to us, but teased us almost
to frenzy by their continual begging. They begged for our food and
our drink, for our cigars and our gunpowder, for the clothes off our
backs, and the handkerchiefs out of our pockets. As to gunpowder I
had none to give them, for my charges were all made up in
cartridges; and I learned that the guns behind their backs were a
mere pretence, for they had not a grain of powder among them.
We slept one night in Jerusalem, and started early on the following
morning. Smith came to my hotel so that we might be ready together
for the move. We still carried with us Joseph and the mucherry-boy;
but for our Bedouins, who had duly received their forty shillings a
piece, we had no further use. On our road down to Jerusalem we had
much chat together, but only one adventure. Those pilgrims, of whom
I have spoken, journey to Jerusalem in the greatest number by the
route which we were now taking from it, and they come in long
droves, reaching Jaffa in crowds by the French and Austrian steamers
from Smyrna, Damascus, and Constantinople. As their number confers
security in that somewhat insecure country, many travellers from the
west of Europe make arrangements to travel with them. On our way
down we met the last of these caravans for the year, and we were
passing it for more than two hours. On this occasion I rode first,
and Smith was immediately behind me; but of a sudden I observed him
to wheel his horse round, and to clamber downwards among bushes and
stones towards a river that ran below us. "Hallo, Smith," I cried,
"you will destroy your horse, and yourself too." But he would not
answer me, and all I could do was to draw up in the path and wait.
My confusion was made the worse, as at that moment a long string of
pilgrims was passing by. "Good morning, sir," said an old man to me
in good English. I looked up as I answered him, and saw a grey-
haired gentleman, of very solemn and sad aspect. He might be
seventy years of age, and I could see that he was attended by three
or four servants. I shall never forget the severe and sorrowful
expression of his eyes, over which his heavy eyebrows hung low.
"Are there many English in Jerusalem?" he asked. "A good many," I
replied; "there always are at Easter." "Can you tell me anything of
any of them?" he asked. "Not a word," said I, for I knew no one;
"but our consul can." And then we bowed to each other and he passed
I got off my horse and scrambled down on foot after Smith. I found
him gathering berries and bushes as though his very soul were mad
with botany; but as I had seen nothing of this in him before, I
asked what strange freak had taken him.
"You were talking to that old man," he said.
"Well, yes, I was."
"That is the relation of whom I have spoken to you."
"The d- he is!"
"And I would avoid him, if it be possible."
I then learned that the old gentleman was his uncle. He had no
living father or mother, and he now supposed that his relative was
going to Jerusalem in quest of him. "If so," said I, "you will
undoubtedly give him leg bail, unless the Austrian boat is more than
ordinarily late. It is as much as we shall do to catch it, and you
may be half over Africa, or far gone on your way to India, before he
can be on your track again."
"I will tell you all about it at Alexandria," he replied; and then
he scrambled up again with his horse, and we went on. That night we
slept at the Armenian convent at Ramlath, or Ramath. This place is
supposed to stand on the site of Arimathea, and is marked as such in
many of the maps. The monks at this time of the year are very busy,
as the pilgrims all stay here for one night on their routes
backwards and forwards, and the place on such occasions is terribly
crowded. On the night of our visit it was nearly empty, as a
caravan had left it that morning; and thus we were indulged with
separate cells, a point on which my companion seemed to lay
On the following day, at about noon, we entered Jaffa, and put up at
an inn there which is kept by a Pole. The boat from Beyrout, which
touches at Jaffa on its way to Alexandria, was not yet in, nor even
sighted; we were therefore amply in time. "Shall we sail to-night?"
I asked of the agent. "Yes, in all probability," he replied. "If
the signal be seen before three we shall do so. If not, then not;"
and so I returned to the hotel.
Smith had involuntarily shown signs of fatigue during the journey,
but yet he had borne up well against it. I had never felt called on
to grant any extra indulgence as to time because the work was too
much for him. But now he was a good deal knocked up, and I was a
little frightened fearing that I had over-driven him under the heat
of the sun. I was alarmed lest he should have fever, and proposed
to send for the Jaffa doctor. But this he utterly refused. He
would shut himself for an hour or two in his room, he said, and by
that time he trusted the boat would be in sight. It was clear to me
that he was very anxious on the subject, fearing that his uncle
would be back upon his heels before he had started.
I ordered a serious breakfast for myself, for with me, on such
occasions, my appetite demands more immediate attention than my
limbs. I also acknowledge that I become fatigued, and can lay
myself at length during such idle days and sleep from hour to hour;
but the desire to do so never comes till I have well eaten and
drunken. A bottle of French wine, three or four cutlets of goats'
flesh, an omelet made out of the freshest eggs, and an enormous dish
of oranges, was the banquet set before me; and though I might have
found fault with it in Paris or London, I thought that it did well
enough in Jaffa. My poor friend could not join me, but had a cup of
coffee in his room. "At any rate take a little brandy in it," I
said to him, as I stood over his bed. "I could not swallow it,"
said he, looking at me with almost beseeching eyes. "Beshrew the
fellow," I said to myself as I left him, carefully closing the door,
so that the sound should not shake him; "he is little better than a
woman, and yet I have become as fond of him as though he were my
I went out at three, but up to that time the boat had not been
signalled. "And we shall not get out to-night?" "No, not to-
night," said the agent. "And what time to-morrow?" "If she comes
in this evening, you will start by daylight. But they so manage her
departure from Beyrout, that she seldom is here in the evening."
"It will be noon to-morrow then?" "Yes," the man said, "noon to-
morrow." I calculated, however, that the old gentleman could not
possibly be on our track by that time. He would not have reached
Jerusalem till late in the day on which we saw him, and it would
take him some time to obtain tidings of his nephew. But it might be
possible that messengers sent by him should reach Jaffa by four or
five on the day after his arrival. That would be this very day
which we were now wasting at Jaffa. Having thus made my
calculations, I returned to Smith to give him such consolation as it
might be in my power to afford.
He seemed to be dreadfully afflicted by all this. "He will have
traced me to Jerusalem, and then again away; and will follow me
"That is all very well," I said; "but let even a young man do the
best he can, and he will not get from Jerusalem to Jaffa in less
than twelve hours. Your uncle is not a young man, and could not
possibly do the journey under two days."
"But he will send. He will not mind what money he spends."
"And if he does send, take off your hat to his messengers, and bid
them carry your complaints back. You are not a felon whom he can
"No, he cannot arrest me; but, ah! you do not understand;" and then
he sat up on the bed, and seemed as though he were going to wring
his hands in despair.
I waited for some half hour in his room, thinking that he would tell
me this story of his. If he required that I should give him my aid
in the presence either of his uncle or of his uncle's myrmidons, I
must at any rate know what was likely to be the dispute between
them. But as he said nothing I suggested that he should stroll out
with me among the orange-groves by which the town is surrounded. In
answer to this he looked up piteously into my face as though begging
me to be merciful to him. "You are strong," said he, "and cannot
understand what it is to feel fatigue as I do." And yet he had
declared on commencing his journey that he would not be found to
complain? Nor had he complained by a single word till after that
encounter with his uncle. Nay, he had borne up well till this news
had reached us of the boat being late. I felt convinced that if the
boat were at this moment lying in the harbour all that appearance of
excessive weakness would soon vanish. What it was that he feared I
could not guess; but it was manifest to me that some great terror
almost overwhelmed him.
"My idea is," said I, and I suppose that I spoke with something less
of good-nature in my tone than I had assumed for the last day or
two, "that no man should, under any circumstances, be so afraid of
another man, as to tremble at his presence,either at his presence
or his expected presence."
"Ah, now you are angry with me; now you despise me!"
"Neither the one nor the other. But if I may take the liberty of a
friend with you, I should advise you to combat this feeling of
horror. If you do not, it will unman you. After all, what can your
uncle do to you? He cannot rob you of your heart and soul. He
cannot touch your inner self."
"You do not know," he said.
"Ah but, Smith, I do know that. Whatever may be this quarrel
between you and him, you should not tremble at the thought of him;
"Unless you had done aught that should make you tremble before every
honest man." I own I had begun to have my doubts of him, and to
fear that he had absolutely disgraced himself. Even in such case
I,I individually,did not wish to be severe on him; but I should
be annoyed to find that I had opened my heart to a swindler or a
"I will tell you all to-morrow," said he; "but I have been guilty of
nothing of that sort."
In the evening he did come out, and sat with me as I smoked my
cigar. The boat, he was told, would almost undoubtedly come in by
daybreak on the following morning, and be off at nine; whereas it
was very improbable that any arrival from Jerusalem would be so
early as that. "Beside," I reminded him, "your uncle will hardly
hurry down to Jaffa, because he will have no reason to think but
what you have already started. There are no telegraphs here, you
In the evening he was still very sad, though the paroxysm of his
terror seemed to have passed away. I would not bother him, as he
had himself chosen the following morning for the telling of his
story. So I sat and smoked, and talked to him about our past
journey, and by degrees the power of speech came back to him, and I
again felt that I loved him! Yes, loved him! I have not taken many
such fancies into my head, at so short a notice; but I did love him,
as though he were a younger brother. I felt a delight in serving
him, and though I was almost old enough to be his father, I
ministered to him as though he had been an old man, or a woman.
On the following morning we were stirring at daybreak, and found
that the vessel was in sight. She would be in the roads off the
town in two hours' time, they said, and would start at eleven or
twelve. And then we walked round by the gate of the town, and
sauntered a quarter of a mile or so along the way that leads towards
Jerusalem. I could see that his eye was anxiously turned down the
road, but he said nothing. We saw no cloud of dust, and then we
returned to breakfast.
"The steamer has come to anchor," said our dirty Polish host to us
in execrable English. "And we may be off on board," said Smith.
"Not yet," he said; "they must put their cargo out first." I saw,
however, that Smith was uneasy, and I made up my mind to go off to
the vessel at once. When they should see an English portmanteau
making an offer to come up the gangway, the Austrian sailors would
not stop it. So I called for the bill, and ordered that the things
should be taken down to the wretched broken heap of rotten timber
which they called a quay. Smith had not told me his story, but no
doubt he would as soon as he was on board.
I was in the act of squabbling with the Pole over the last demand
for piastres, when we heard a noise in the gateway of the inn, and I
saw Smith's countenance become pale. It was an Englishman's voice
asking if there were any strangers there; so I went into the
courtyard, closing the door behind me, and turning the key upon the
landlord and Smith. "Smith," said I to myself, "will keep the Pole
quiet if he have any wit left."
The man who had asked the question had the air of an upper English
servant, and I thought that I recognised one of those whom I had
seen with the old gentleman on the road; but the matter was soon put
at rest by the appearance of that gentleman himself. He walked up
into the courtyard, looked hard at me from under those bushy
eyebrows, just raised his hat, and thensaid, "I believe I am
speaking to Mr. Jones."
"Yes," said I, "I am Mr. Jones. Can I have the honour of serving
There was something peculiarly unpleasant about this man's face. At
the present moment I examined it closely, and could understand the
great aversion which his nephew felt towards him. He looked like a
gentleman and like a man of talent, nor was there anything of
meanness in his face; neither was he ill-looking, in the usual
acceptation of the word; but one could see that he was solemn,
austere, and overbearing; that he would be incapable of any light
enjoyment, and unforgiving towards all offences. I took him to be a
man who, being old himself, could never remember that he had been
young, and who, therefore, hated the levities of youth. To me such
a character is specially odious; for I would fain, if it be
possible, be young even to my grave. Smith, if he were clever,
might escape from the window of the room, which opened out upon a
terrace, and still get down to the steamer. I would keep the old
man in play for some time; and, even though I lost my passage, would
be true to my friend. There lay our joint luggage at my feet in the
yard. If Smith would venture away without his portion of it, all
might yet be right.
"My name, sir, is Sir William Weston," he began. I had heard of the
name before, and knew him to be a man of wealth, and family, and
note. I took off my hat, and said that I had much honour in meeting
Sir William Weston.
"And I presume you know the object with which I am now here," he
"Not exactly," said I. "Nor do I understand how I possibly should
know it, seeing that, up to this moment, I did not even know your
name, and have heard nothing concerning either your movements or
"Sir," said he, "I have hitherto believed that I might at any rate
expect from you the truth."
"Sir," said I, "I am bold to think that you will not dare to tell
me, either now, or at any other time, that you have received, or
expect to receive, from me anything that is not true."
He then stood still, looking at me for a moment or two, and I beg to
assert that I looked as fully at him. There was, at any rate, no
cause why I should tremble before him. I was not his nephew, nor
was I responsible for his nephew's doings towards him. Two of his
servants were behind him, and on my side there stood a boy and girl
belonging to the inn. They, however, could not understand a word of
English. I saw that he was hesitating, but at last he spoke out. I
confess, now, that his words, when they were spoken, did, at the
first moment, make me tremble.
"I have to charge you," said he, "with eloping with my niece, and I
demand of you to inform me where she is. You are perfectly aware
that I am her guardian by law."
I did tremble;not that I cared much for Sir William's
guardianship, but I saw before me so terrible an embarrassment! And
then I felt so thoroughly abashed in that I had allowed myself to be
so deceived! It all came back upon me in a moment, and covered me
with a shame that even made me blush. I had travelled through the
desert with a woman for days, and had not discovered her, though she
had given me a thousand signs. All those signs I remembered now,
and I blushed pain fully. When her hand was on my forehead I still
thought that she was a man! I declare that at this moment I felt a
stronger disinclination to face my late companion than I did to
encounter her angry uncle.
"Your niece!" I said, speaking with a sheepish bewilderment which
should have convinced him at once of my innocence. She had asked
me, too, whether I was a married man, and I had denied it. How was
I to escape from such a mess of misfortunes? I declare that I began
to forget her troubles in my own.
"Yes, my niece,Miss Julia Weston. The disgrace which you have
brought upon me must be wiped out; but my first duty is to save that
unfortunate young woman from further misery."
"If it be as you say," I exclaimed, "by the honour of a gentleman"
"I care nothing for the honour of a gentleman till I see it proved.
Be good enough to inform me, sir, whether Miss Weston is in this
For a moment I hesitated; but I saw at once that I should make
myself responsible for certain mischief, of which I was at any rate
hitherto in truth innocent, if I allowed myself to become a party to
concealing a young lady. Up to this period I could at any rate
defend myself, whether my defence were believed or not believed. I
still had a hope that the charming Julia might have escaped through
the window, and a feeling that if she had done so I was not
responsible. When I turned the lock I turned it on Smith.
For a moment I hesitated, and then walked slowly across the yard and
opened the door. "Sir William," I said, as I did so, "I travelled
here with a companion dressed as a man; and I believed him to be
what he seemed till this minute."
"Sir!" said Sir William, with a look of scorn in his face which gave
me the lie in my teeth as plainly as any words could do. And then
he entered the room. The Pole was standing in one corner,
apparently amazed at what was going on, and Smith,I may as well
call her Miss Weston at once, for the baronet's statement was true,-
-was sitting on a sort of divan in the corner of the chamber hiding
her face in her hands. She had made no attempt at an escape, and a
full explanation was therefore indispensable. For myself I own that
I felt ashamed of my part in the play,ashamed even of my own
innocency. Had I been less innocent I should certainly have
contrived to appear much less guilty. Had it occurred to me on the
banks of the Jordan that Smith was a lady, I should not have
travelled with her in her gentleman's habiliments from Jerusalem to
Jaffa. Had she consented to remain under my protection, she must
have done so without a masquerade.
The uncle stood still and looked at his niece. He probably
understood how thoroughly stern and disagreeable was his own face,
and considered that he could punish the crime of his relative in no
severer way than by looking at her. In this I think he was right.
But at last there was a necessity for speaking. "Unfortunate young
woman!" he said, and then paused.
"We had better get rid of the landlord," I said, "before we come to
any explanation." And I motioned to the man to leave the room.
This he did very unwillingly, but at last he was gone.
"I fear that it is needless to care on her account who may hear the
story of her shame," said Sir William. I looked at Miss Weston, but
she still sat hiding her face. However, if she did not defend
herself, it was necessary that I should defend both her and me.
"I do not know how far I may be at liberty to speak with reference
to the private matters of yourself or of youryour niece, Sir
William Weston. I would not willingly interfere"
"Sir," said he, "your interference has already taken place. Will
you have the goodness to explain to me what are your intentions with
regard to that lady?"
My intentions! Heaven help me! My intentions, of course, were to
leave her in her uncle's hands. Indeed, I could hardly be said to
have formed any intention since I had learned that I had been
honoured by a lady's presence. At this moment I deeply regretted
that I had thoughtlessly stated to her that I was an unmarried man.
In doing so I had had no object. But at that time "Smith" had been
quite a stranger to me, and I had not thought it necessary to
declare my own private concerns. Since that I had talked so little
of myself that the fact of my family at home had not been mentioned.
"Will you have the goodness to explain what are your intentions with
regard to that lady?" said the baronet.
"Oh, Uncle William!" exclaimed Miss Weston, now at length raising
her head from her hands.
"Hold your peace, madam," said he. "When called upon to speak, you
will find your words with difficulty enough. Sir, I am waiting for
an answer from you."
"But, uncle, he is nothing to me;the gentleman is nothing to me!"
"By the heavens above us, he shall be something, or I will know the
reason why! What! he has gone off with you; he has travelled
through the country with you, hiding you from your only natural
friend; he has been your companion for weeks"
"Six days, sir," said I.
"Sir!" said the baronet, again giving me the lie. "And now," he
continued, addressing his niece, "you tell me that he is nothing to
you. He shall give me his promise that he will make you his wife at
the consulate at Alexandria, or I will destroy him. I know who he
"If you know who I am," said I, "you must know"
But he would not listen to me. "And as for you, madam, unless he
makes me that promise" And then he paused in his threat, and,
turning round, looked me in the face. I saw that she also was
looking at me, though not openly as he did; and some flattering
devil that was at work round my heart, would have persuaded that she
also would have heard a certain answer given without dismay,would
even have received comfort in her agony from such an answer. But
the reader knows how completely that answer was out of my power.
"I have not the slightest ground for supposing," said I, "that the
lady would accede to such an arrangement,if it were possible. My
acquaintance with her has been altogether confined to. To tell
the truth, I have not been in Miss Weston's confidence, and have
only taken her for that which she has seemed to be."
"Sir!" said the baronet, again looking at me as though he would
wither me on the spot for my falsehood.
"It is true!" said Julia, getting up from her seat, and appealing
with clasped hands to her uncle"as true as Heaven."
"Madam!" said he, "do you both take me for a fool?"
"That you should take me for one," said I, "would be very natural.
The facts are as we state to you. Miss Weston,as I now learn that
she is,did me the honour of calling at my hotel, having heard"
And then it seemed to me as though I were attempting to screen
myself by telling the story against her, so I was again silent.
Never in my life had I been in a position of such extraordinary
difficulty. The duty which I owed to Julia as a woman, and to Sir
William as a guardian, and to myself as the father of a family, all
clashed with each other. I was anxious to be generous, honest, and
prudent, but it was impossible; so I made up my mind to say nothing
"Mr. Jones," said the baronet, "I have explained to you the only
arrangement which under the present circumstances I can permit to
pass without open exposure and condign punishment. That you are a
gentleman by birth, education, and position I am aware,"whereupon
I raised my hat, and then he continued: "That lady has three
hundred a year of her own"
"And attractions, personal and mental, which are worth ten times the
money," said I, and I bowed to my fair friend, who looked at me the
while with sad beseeching eyes. I confess that the mistress of my
bosom, had she known my thoughts at that one moment, might have had
cause for anger.
"Very well," continued he. "Then the proposal which I name, cannot,
I imagine, but be satisfactory. If you will make to her and to me
the only amends which it is in your power as a gentleman to afford,
I will forgive all. Tell me that you will make her your wife on
your arrival in Egypt."
I would have given anything not to have looked at Miss Weston at
this moment, but I could not help it. I did turn my face half round
to her before I answered, and then felt that I had been cruel in
doing so. "Sir William," said I, "I have at home already a wife and
family of my own."
"It is not true!" said he, retreating a step, and staring at me with
"There is something, sir," I replied, "in the unprecedented
circumstances of this meeting, and in your position with regard to
that lady, which, joined to your advanced age, will enable me to
regard that useless insult as unspoken. I am a married man. There
is the signature of my wife's last letter," and I handed him one
which I had received as I was leaving Jerusalem.
But the coarse violent contradiction which Sir William had given me
was nothing compared with the reproach conveyed in Miss Weston's
countenance. She looked at me as though all her anger were now
turned against me. And yet, methought, there was more of sorrow
than of resentment in her countenance. But what cause was there for
either? Why should I be reproached, even by her look? She did not
remember at the moment that when I answered her chance question as
to my domestic affairs, I had answered it as to a man who was a
stranger to me, and not as to a beautiful woman, with whom I was
about to pass certain days in close and intimate society. To her,
at the moment, it seemed as though I had cruelly deceived her. In
truth, the one person really deceived had been myself.
And here I must explain, on behalf of the lady, that when she first
joined me she had no other view than that of seeing the banks of the
Jordan in that guise which she had chosen to assume, in order to
escape from the solemnity and austerity of a disagreeable relative.
She had been very foolish, and that was all. I take it that she had
first left her uncle at Constantinople, but on this point I never
got certain information. Afterwards, while we were travelling
together, the idea had come upon her, that she might go on as far as
Alexandria with me. And then I know nothing further of the lady's
intentions, but I am certain that her wishes were good and pure.
Her uncle had been intolerable to her, and she had fled from him.
Such had been her offence, and no more.
"Then, sir," said the baronet, giving me back my letter, "you must
be a double-dyed villain."
"And you, sir," said I -. But here Julia Weston interrupted me.
"Uncle, you altogether wrong this gentleman," she said. "He has
been kind to me beyond my power of words to express; but, till told
by you, he knew nothing of my secret. Nor would he have known it,"
she added, looking down upon the ground. As to that latter
assertion, I was at liberty to believe as much as I pleased.
The Pole now came to the door, informing us that any who wished to
start by the packet must go on board, and therefore, as the
unreasonable old gentleman perceived, it was necessary that we
should all make our arrangements. I cannot say that they were such
as enable me to look back on them with satisfaction. He did seem
now at last to believe that I had been an unconscious agent in his
niece's stratagem, but he hardly on that account became civil to me.
"It was absolutely necessary," he said, "that he and that
unfortunate young woman," as he would call her, "should depart at
once,by this ship now going." To this proposition of course I
made no opposition. "And you, Mr. Jones," he continued, "will at
once perceive that you, as a gentleman, should allow us to proceed
on our journey without the honour of your company."
This was very dreadful, but what could I say; or, indeed, what could
I do? My most earnest desire in the matter was to save Miss Weston
from annoyance; and under existing circumstances my presence on
board could not but be a burden to her. And then, if I went,if I
did go, in opposition to the wishes of the baronet, could I trust my
own prudence? It was better for all parties that I should remain.
"Sir William," said I, after a minute's consideration, "if you will
apologise to me for the gross insults you have offered me, it shall
be as you say."
"Mr. Jones," said Sir William, "I do apologise for the words which I
used to you while I was labouring under a very natural misconception
of the circumstances." I do not know that I was much the better for
the apology, but at the moment I regarded it sufficient.
Their things were then hurried down to the strand, and I accompanied
them to the ruined quay. I took off my hat to Sir William as he was
first let down into the boat. He descended first, so that he might
receive his niece,for all Jaffa now knew that it was a lady,and
then I gave her my hand for the last time. "God bless you, Miss
Weston," I said, pressing it closely. "God bless you, Mr. Jones,"
she replied. And from that day to this I have neither spoken to her
nor seen her.
I waited a fortnight at Jaffa for the French boat, eating cutlets of
goat's flesh, and wandering among the orange groves. I certainly
look back on that fortnight as the most miserable period of my life.
I had been deceived, and had failed to discover the deceit, even
though the deceiver had perhaps wished that I should do so. For
that blindness I have never forgiven myself.