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The Mishaps of An Arab Gentleman


The Orientals differ in many respects from the Europeans and Americans in their customs and manners, their dress, and the furniture of their houses. The dress of the men consists of a red cap, wide baggy cloth trousers, silken girdle, and a jacket. The houses in Syria are invariably built of stone, and in the south of Palestine entirely so. The floors of the rooms are paved with marble or granite. At the entrance of every room is a space of several feet square, paved with figured marble, and never carpeted, generally used as a receptacle for shoes and slippers, which the Orientals remove from their feet on entering a room. The rest of the floor is raised about half a foot higher. The Orientals sleep on the ground, i. e., on mattresses laid on carpets, or mats spread on the floor.

In an Arab family one of the members became ambitious of transforming himself into a European. This young gentleman had received an excellent education, being familiar not only with the Arab literature, but master of the ancient and modern Greek.

His first step toward the desired end was to study English and French. When he had gained a fair knowledge of these languages, he applied for the position of interpreter to the American consulate, to which he succeeded in being appointed.

His so-far satisfied ambition would no longer allow him to wear the Oriental dress, and he soon showed himself to an admiring world of natives in European costume. One day he was asked how he liked his new costume.

"Not at all," he replied. "I feel as if tied hand and foot in a tight-fitting prison."

A few weeks later he one day startled some of his European friends by asking them, with a thoughtful seriousness, whether they often tumbled out of bed.

"Tumble out of bed!" they exclaimed. "Why, of course not. How could one?"

"I would much rather find out how a person could not," was his reply.

He was asked what put such an idea into his head.

The rest is best told in his own words.

"I furnished my rooms with European furniture. Bad luck to the day I was foolish enough to do so! A few nights ago, after having locked my door and put out my light—things I never did before—I got up into the bedstead. My sensations were those of being put away on a high shelf in a dark prison. I wondered whether Europeans experienced such feelings every night. Finally I fell asleep, comforting myself that I might get used to it. How long I slept in that bed I shall never know, for when I awoke, it was to find myself in the grave. I was cramped in every limb; I felt the cold pavement under me, and icy walls round me. For clothing or covering I found nothing within reach but what at the time seemed a shroud. Where was I? What had happened? Suddenly the idea came to me that I must have fainted, been mistaken for dead, buried, and now recovered consciousness in my grave. So convinced was I, that I shouted at the top of my voice that I was not dead, and begged to be taken out of the tomb. The noise I made soon awoke the whole house, and as I had locked my door, no one could get in. I heard my mother and brothers uttering pious ejaculations to exorcise the evil spirit which they believed had got hold of me, while I trebled my frantic yells for deliverance. By vigorously shaking the door, they finally burst it open, and then I was surprised to see that I was not in my grave, but that I had tumbled out of bed, and rolled along the floor till I landed in the space by the door."

"But did you not wake with the fall?"

"No; I felt nothing till I awoke, as I believed, in my tomb, but really in the shoe receptacle; and since you all assure me that Europeans never tumble out of their beds, I resign all hopes of ever being transformed into one. I shall in the future, as I have done in the past, sleep on the ground, from which there is no danger of tumbling."