POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Transcriber's note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article.
OUR VISIT TO THE DESERT.
One of the most interesting and amusing episodes in our many Mediterranean and North African wanderings was a visit to the Sahara. Although we penetrated but a short distance into the Great Desert, we were there introduced to aspects of Nature and to phases of life wholly new and strange to us.
We had been spending the winter in Algiers, and were unwilling to return to Europe without seeing something more of the African continent. When, therefore, the sunny winter gave place to still more sunny spring, we set out upon our travels—first, eastward by sea to Philippeville, and then southward to the desert.
The French colony of Algeria, as every one knows, stretches along the African coast from Morocco to Tunis, and from the Mediterranean southward to the desert. It is divided into three provinces—Oran, Algiers and Constantine, the central one being the most important and that from which the whole country takes its name. From either of these provinces it is possible to penetrate inland to the Sahara, but this is done most easily from the eastern settlement, Constantine. We therefore made choice of this route, and on a bright morning early in April started from Algiers for Philippeville. The voyage along the coast affords some glimpses of fine scenery. The Bay of Bougie especially, surrounded as it is by lofty mountains, part of the Atlas range, is extremely picturesque. As the steamers, however, only remain a few hours at each of the stopping-places, there is scarcely time fully to enjoy the varied and charming views. It seemed to us as if a vast diorama had passed before us, leaving on the mind not an indelible picture, but a mere shadowy outline of headlands and bays, rocky promontories and sunny sloping shores. With the exception of the port of Algiers, there is, properly speaking, no harbor on this part of the African coast: there are only open roadsteads, where, exposed to the full roll of the sea, vessels ride uncomfortably at anchor. The journey is in consequence rather trying: nevertheless, we had not long reached terra firma before we acknowledged ourselves amply compensated for the fatigues and little unpleasant accompaniments of the sea-voyage.
Philippeville offers to the traveller no great attractions. Its situation is pretty, and it possesses some Roman remains, the examination of which may occupy pleasantly and profitably enough the unavoidable interval between the landing and the start for the South. After resting but one night, we set out for Constantine, the capital of the province of that name. There is nothing whatever of interest between the sea and the city—nothing till you arrive within sight of Constantine itself. Then, indeed, when from the plain below you get your first view of the town, perched like an eagle's nest upon its rocky height, you can at once realize the appropriateness of its singular name—"the City in the Air." It is so high above you it seems midway between earth and heaven. Its situation is indeed unique and most strangely picturesque. Security must have been the chief motive for the selection of such a site, and certainly few cities present more formidable barriers to the advance of a foe. The plateau of rock upon which the town is built forms a kind of peninsula, inaccessible on all sides except one, and there the ascent is long and steep, as we found to our cost each time we descended to the level of the valley. This plateau is joined to the rest of the table-land as by an isthmus: at all other points it is surrounded by a profound chasm, through which flows the river Roumel—a chasm so deep and narrow that it is only when quite near it you become aware of its existence. For the sake of internal safety a wall has been built round the top of the precipice, and at certain points you may look over this parapet, sheer down some ten or twelve hundred feet, into an abyss fit only to be the habitation of the owls, bats, and birds of prey which frequent its solitudes. There seems no resting-place for any wingless creature: thus the strange birds which haunt the wild recesses of the rocks do so in perfect security, and their varied cries, along with the roar of the water, are the only sounds that issue from below. The mysterious gloom is indescribable, and the look down into the depths fills one with awe; and yet this singular view is obtained from the very town itself, from the courts and windows of the houses.
If, however, you would see this wonderful gorge to perfection, you must go down into it and find your way to the little path which skirts the stream along a portion of its course. First, descend to the foot of the rock, where the river rushes out of the ravine with a mighty leap, forming a cascade some four hundred feet in height, and you are at once overwhelmed by the grandeur of the scene, and all the poetry in your nature is stirred. From this point you may proceed for some distance along the water-side above the fall. Below you roars the foaming cataract, thundering downward and filling the whole air with its white spray. Above, on either side, are lofty, precipitous rocks, the crests of which are crowned by buildings. This is the town as seen from beneath. No wonder it is called "the City in the Air."
As you advance the chasm narrows. You must walk with caution, stepping lightly from rock to rock, till presently you come in sight of a lofty arch, which, spanning the river from side to side, forms a gigantic natural bridge joining the opposite sides of the gorge. Nothing in Nature ever moved me more than the first view of that magnificent arch. With something of the proportions of a cathedral roof it rises above you in massive grandeur, showing beyond, through the opening, a line of sky, and then another cavern-like arch. We could not penetrate farther, and no daylight issued from this second opening. It looked like the mysterious entrance into an underground world, the portal of Hades, and in the excitement produced by the novelty of the scene our surprise could scarcely have been increased had some of the shades from the realms of darkness glided out from amid the gloom, or if Charon's boat had appeared to row us over the ferry. Overhead the hawks and eagles circled round, and with hoarse cries appeared to express their anger at the intrusion of man into these wilds sacred to them. Altogether, the scene is full of strange, awe-inspiring beauty. In the Alps and elsewhere we have, perhaps, beheld grander scenery, but never more impressive.
The town of Constantine has not much to commend it as a place of residence. It is neither clean nor well built, while sights and smells the reverse of agreeable are constantly distressing the optic and olfactory nerves. And yet there are perhaps few places where an artist could find more charming subjects for his pencil—curious bits of architecture mingling with Nature in its most beautiful and grandest aspects, fine touches of brilliant color, and quaint winding streets and bazaars,—everywhere the picturesque. Filth and confusion, indeed, but still it is the very confusion that an artist loves.
The people are a mixture of French, Arabs and Jews. Of the first nothing need be said: they are the same everywhere. The second are similar in type to the Arabs and Moors of the capital; but the last, the Jews, do not at all resemble the specimens of the favored race we have been accustomed to meet with in Europe. They are mostly handsome, many of them fair, the women being particularly gay and picturesque in costume, wearing, when in gala-dress, bright-colored, gold-bespangled scarfs hanging over their heads and shoulders. Altogether, we thought it the brightest and most graceful female attire we had ever seen. But the most charming of all are the children. We saw groups of a perfectly ideal beauty playing upon the doorsteps and dust-heaps—little rosy-cheeked, fair or auburn-haired things, a striking contrast to the sallow Arab races. In thus seeing that fair and auburn hair is not at all uncommon among the Jews of the East, we for the first time understood why the old masters gave to Christ the complexion generally found in their paintings. Certainly, the Jewish children of Constantine would make most lovely studies for the genre painter, and we all regretted that we could not carry away with us some enduring souvenir of that which had charmed us so much.
But, however picturesque the country, and however interesting the town and people, we cannot always linger here. Our destination is the desert. Thus, therefore, after a few days spent in alternate wonder and admiration, we once again set out on our southward course, resolved to indemnify ourselves on our return journey by making a longer stay amidst the beautiful and extremely singular scenery of the Roumel.
Our next resting-place was Batna, a small French town situated on the elevated ground—nearly four thousand feet above the level of the sea—between the Mediterranean and the Sahara. We had to make the journey thither by diligence and by night, and we were surprised to find how cold an African night can be even in April. There was a hard frost, and just before entering Batna we passed under an aqueduct from which hung down a fringe of enormous icicles. The following day, on the still higher ground at the celebrated cedar forest, which forms an interesting excursion from Batna, we found deep snow. During the day the sun shone out bright and powerful, but the nights continued to hold the forest frost-bound.
At Batna we met with a party of gentlemen, one of whom we had known slightly in Algiers; and they, like ourselves, were bound for Biskra. This complicated matters, as it was understood that the accommodation at the oasis was of a somewhat scanty description. They were three, and we were four—altogether, a party of six gentlemen and one lady. We telegraphed from Batna to ascertain whether or not we could all get rooms. Our despair may be imagined when we received the answer: one of the little hotels was closed, and the other could only offer us two rooms. Two rooms for seven people! What was to be done? We could not—or rather would not—retrace our steps at this stage, and thus give up the very object of our journey; so we resolved to go on at all risks and take our chance.
The evening before we started on our somewhat adventurous journey, as we sat chatting round the fire, I could not help giving vent to my feelings. The desert! Was it possible? I felt myself on the eve of something momentous. It was an event in my life, a something never to be forgotten. A smile played upon the faces of my companions, and next day, when, utterly worn and weary, I could with difficulty take an interest in anything around me, they were very ready to banter me about "the event in my life."
It was not without serious misgivings that we took our places in the great lumbering vehicle which travels twice a week between Batna and the oasis. Nothing but a heavy, strongly-built conveyance could stand the jolting of such a journey; and in order to accomplish it at all within the day it is necessary to start between two and three o'clock in the morning. Now, if there is one thing more than another likely to damp one's enthusiasm, it is turning out at such an untimely hour. We all felt this as we wended our way through the cold, dark streets to the diligence-office; and as we were trundled down the steep hill leading out of the town, bumping from side to side, it was some time before we could recover our spirits or stir up again an excitement worthy of the occasion.
On the route between Batna and El Kantra—"the Mouth of the Desert"—there is little of interest. It is a weary journey, over roads either badly made or not made at all, through a bare, barren, bleak, uncultivated country. One wonders, in passing through such an inhospitable region, at finding so many remains of the Roman occupation. What could have induced such a people to penetrate so far into the wilds of Africa? There is no evidence of the land ever having been more productive or more attractive than it is at present; and yet at Lambessa, a few miles from Batna, you find the ruins of a once great and magnificent Roman city, while even as far south as Biskra itself there are still to be seen relics of this great conquering nation of antiquity.
But to return to El Kantra. Here we found a little hotel kept by French people, and here the diligence stopped for breakfast. It was about ten o'clock, and what a change! The heat was broiling, and the dry, arid rocks told of an approach to the desert. In effect, the Pass of El Kantra is the entrance to what is called "the Little Desert;" hence its name, "Mouth of the Desert."
At this point the valley seems completely shut in by a mountainous barrier of rugged rock. On advancing, however, a few steps farther, the great jagged rocks, which appeared a compact mass, divide, and, like the transformation-scene in a pantomime, the oasis of El Kantra, which is situated immediately south of the pass, lies before you. The opening is so narrow that it affords but room for the road and the stream, which is crossed by a bridge of Roman construction, restored by the late emperor Napoleon. It is therefore only when close upon it, when actually within the pass, that you become aware of the singularly beautiful scene beyond.[A]
On each side the great mountain-masses rise, picturesque, even fantastic, in outline. The heights are inaccessible to any foot but those of the goat and goatherd. We were astonished at seeing a troop of goats wending their way upward, for to our eyes there seemed not even the remotest trace of vegetation upon the rocks; and indeed the poor things looked as if with them existence were truly "a struggle," out of which little could be gained by natural selection.
Hungry as we were on arriving at El Kantra after our long ride, we could scarcely take time to breakfast, but hurried on in advance of the diligence to get our first view of the mysterious land beyond the mountain-range. The stream which here descends from the hills to the plain causes the desert, if not "to blossom like a rose," to become at this point a rich and beautiful oasis. Here, for the first time, we saw the date-palm in full luxuriance. In the neighborhood of Algiers there are many fine trees, but the fruit never thoroughly ripens there.
For upward of a mile after passing through the mountain-gorge we skirted the oasis. It is surrounded by a mud-built wall, and half hidden among the palms we could discern the mud-built cottages and mosque belonging to the Arab village. On the other side of our route we observed a forest of upright stones, rough and unhewn. This was the last resting-place of the people of the desert, and a sad and lonely sight an Arab burial-place is, dreary even amid the utter desolation around.
Now and then as we advanced we met troops of camels with their owners going north ward to the Tell, or cultivated lands, carrying with them their wives and other goods and chattels. Or, again, we would come upon the huge bleached carcass of one of those all-important beasts of burden, which had fallen on one of its weary journeys and left its bones to whiten upon the sand. Or we would see in the distance a hyena or jackal prowling about in search of more recent dead.
Everything was so novel and strange to us that for a long time pleasure and excitement prevented our yielding to, or even feeling, fatigue. As, however, the day advanced and the heat became more and more intolerable, as the glare blinded us and the dust half smothered us, again our spirits sank and the pleasure of "this event in life" assumed a doubtful hue. Even when the spirit is willing the flesh is weak, and we were beginning to feel thoroughly worn out when the diligence pulled up on the top of the range of hills which divides the Little Desert from the Sahara proper.
At last we beheld it—the Great Desert! "The sea! how like the sea!" we all exclaimed; and indeed there it lay like a vast expanse of calm ocean. The slopes of the hills upon which we stood appeared like the shore, and those distant black-gray spots surrounded by a seeming blue, so wonderfully like islands in the ocean, were the oases of the Ziban, encircled by the great sea of sand, the desert. It is a view never to be forgotten—such light! such color! such calm loveliness!
Fatigue, discomfort, difficulties, all alike were forgotten; self seemed lost in the magic of the scene; and it was with straining eyes and beating hearts that we rattled down the declivity to Biskra, the largest, richest and most important of this group of oases. But here again our troubles commenced. This journey seemed fated to be, like the journey of life itself, a series of ups and downs, calculated to fully exercise all our strength and philosophy. It was no joke to find ourselves in the desert, after a drive of fifteen hours, without a resting-place for our wearied bodies or a dinner to restore our failing strength and spirits. One hotel, we found, was indeed shut up, and in the other they had only two close, wretched-looking rooms to offer us—one with two, and one with three, beds. We were very reluctant to accept these; and, after all, how could seven persons, a lady and six gentlemen, be thus accommodated? Mr. M—— and I determined to lay siege to the closed hotel and try if we could not find an "open sesame" to unclose its portals.
Monsieur and Madame Bourguignon, the landlord and landlady, were the sole occupants of the hotel. It was impossible, they said: they dared not admit us, as in consequence of a quarrel with the authorities their license had been taken from them. At last our importunity triumphed. On appealing to their humanity in our most pathetic and touching French, they said if we could get a written permission from the commandant-superieur for them to open their hotel, they would do the best they could for us. We had no resource but to beat up the officer's quarters, which, under the conduct of an Arab guide, we soon reached. The servant who answered our summons said, "Monsieur le Commandant was at dinner." Politeness, however, was at this stage of the proceedings out of the question; so we coolly replied that he must leave his dinner and come to speak with a lady. We were not long kept waiting, and were most kindly and pleasantly received, the commandant giving us at once a note to M. Bourguignon requesting him, as a personal favor, to do all he could to make us comfortable, adding, with true French politeness, that he only regretted that in his bachelor quarters he had not himself accommodation to offer us.
Thus, one more of our troubles was happily ended, and in a wonderfully short space of time we found ourselves refreshing exhausted Nature with an excellent dinner, waited upon by our jolly landlord, who constantly assured us that we should be very comfortable, "car on mange tres bien a Biskra."
It is only on becoming acquainted with scenes and people which we have been in the habit of picturing to ourselves that we realize how feeble a power is the imagination. We found here everything so different from the creations of our fancy. My idea of an oasis, for example, had been a clump of trees, a spring of water and a little verdure. Here we found one several miles in length, and with sixty thousand palm trees, a considerable population, a market and a fort. Biskra is, however, the largest and finest of the group of oases which stud this part of the desert. It is the place of residence of the caid and the chief seat of Arab commerce.
By the time we had dined it was already too dark to commence explorations. It was only the next morning, when we rose refreshed and rested, that we began to take in the various details of the new and singular life to which we were being introduced.
First, as to our hotel. It consisted of a row of small, self-contained houses forming two sides of a square. One of these little dwellings was the dining-room, another the kitchen, and the others respectively the guests' sleeping-chambers, a separate house being allotted to each. In the centre of the square there was a charming garden, where roses, sweet-peas and most of our summer flowers were blooming in full luxuriance. Then, in the early season, when the springs give out their fertilizing moisture and the sun has not yet attained its full scorching power, the garden is one mass of beauty and blossom: later in the year everything becomes parched and dried up, scarcely a blade remaining. In the middle of the garden there was a bower overgrown with creepers and shaded by a thick matting. This formed our saloon and reception-room, and here we took our coffee, the gentlemen smoked their cigars and we chatted over our adventures and prospects. Our rooms, or little houses, all opened on the garden; and never can we forget the charm of unclosing our door in the early morning. What a flood of light and freshness and fragrance rushed in upon us while we dressed and prepared for the business of the day! Our apartment had a bare stone floor, its furniture consisted of two beds, two chairs and a deal table—nothing could have been more simple—yet this little nest in the desert appeared to us about the nearest imaginable approach to an earthly paradise. How we congratulated ourselves upon having had the courage to leave the dingy rooms at the other hotel to our travelling companions, and to force an entrance into this sweet spot! Our hosts, too, seemed delighted and most happy at having guests in their house once more.
Every morning we rose at five, took tea in our arbor before six, and then sallied out to explore and photograph till ten, when we returned to breakfast. Then we retired either to our own apartments, or, if not too hot, to the shade of the garden, and did the dolce far niente till the sun had passed the zenith and had begun to sink in the west. Then, again, on foot or donkey-back, we visited the different parts of the oasis, returning in time for a six-o'clock dinner; after which, the room usually becoming insufferably hot, we once more sought our open-air drawing-room and took our evening coffee by the light of the stars.
Mere existence in such an atmosphere is bliss. One does not seem to breathe, as at home, machine-like, just what is necessary for the maintenance of life, but, exhilarated with the pureness and freshness, one drinks in long breaths of pleasure. It would be difficult to give an idea of the charm of our morning and evening rambles—the delicious shade, the beautiful light and shadow, the sweet wafts of warm aromatic fragrance, the refreshing murmur of the numberless runlets of water—everything so calm, so full of dreamy beauty.
What the Nile is to Egypt, the stream which flows here is to Biskra. By considerable labor it has been made to meander among the palms in numerous tiny canals, thus by an elaborate system of irrigation causing the barren soil of the desert to become fertile and bring forth fruit. Everywhere the little runlets are led round the very roots of the trees, for the palm, it is said, loves to have its head in the fire and its feet in the water. Here and there even a few cereals are extracted from the unwilling soil. At the time of our visit, in April, it was harvest-time, and the husbandman was busy gathering in his little store. The date-harvest, which constitutes the chief wealth of the district, does not take place till October.
Besides the town proper and the fort, there is at Biskra a negro village, while scattered throughout the oasis there are numerous mud-built mosques and cottages, which contrast charmingly with the tropical vegetation and add greatly to the picturesque beauty of the scene. In addition to these abodes of the settled population, there are also groups of real black Arab tents, which form the habitations of the more nomadic races. These are here to-day and away to-morrow, carrying all their possessions with them. The troops of Arabs we had met en route belonged to these wandering tribes, and were going to the Tell country for summer pasturage. While we were at Biskra there was a wedding in one of these dingy black tents, and a very queer place it seemed to us to bring a bride to; nevertheless, she was conducted thither in triumph, riding upon a mule, while the Arabs in front of the tent fired feu-de-joie amid the most noisy demonstrations of welcome and rejoicing.
Within the town there are several streets, some large open places, and a covered market-hall, where a brisk trade is daily carried on, large quantities of dates, small quantities of grain, cutlery—knives and daggers with roughly-hewn wooden sheaths—primitive musical instruments, embroidered leather caps, straps, tobacco-pouches, etc., being exposed in the various stalls. Altogether, a singular medley, and quite unlike any European market.
The wild music of the tom-tom, a primitive Arab drum, seemed to us never to cease at Biskra. At night, when we retired to rest, it was drumming in our ears, and in the morning, when we awoke, its monotonous tones still floated on the air. At all hours of the day and night the cafes are frequented by pleasure-seekers. Hence the incessant drumming, as the music of the tom-tom seems to be an indispensable adjunct to Arab enjoyment.
Once or twice we made a round of the cafes, and very grim and solemn the entertainment appeared to us. In one, for example, which was crowded with tall grave men calmly puffing at their pipes and sipping their coffee, we found a danseuse performing—a tall female figure, who glided and swayed about in the mazes of a strange dance, while the musician sat cross-legged in a corner of the room playing the inevitable tom-tom. This Arab danseuse was as unlike our performers of the ballet as she well could be. Her clothing was a loose flowing drapery, which fell from her shoulders to her heels, while instead of agility of motion or sprightliness there was nothing but a dreamy gliding, a kind of somnambulistic movement, apparently without plan or purpose, but not without a certain grace. In another cafe two children were pulling each other about in a less graceful and equally meaningless dance; while in a third we found a professional story-teller holding forth in earnest tones to a group gathered closely round him. From the looks of the spectators it was impossible to say whether or not they took pleasure in the various performances. During the time we remained we beheld not a movement of applause: not a smile relaxed the grave, stolid features; there was but a calm gazing and a quiet puffing of smoke from mouth and nostrils.
A day or two after our arrival we deemed it our duty to call upon the commandant to thank him for his politeness, and to tell him how well satisfied we were with our quarters at the Hotel Bourguignon. Seated with him we found the great man of the district, the caid, making a morning call. It was our first introduction to a real Arab gentleman, and we regretted exceedingly that we could not converse with him in his own language, the more especially as he was a travelled man. He had been to Paris, had been received at the Tuileries by the emperor Napoleon, and had made the grand Mohammedan pilgrimage to Mecca. But as a conversation with Arabs, conducted as ours was through the medium of a French interpreter, is necessarily restricted, we had little opportunity of judging whether or not the mind of the caid corresponded with his handsome exterior.
On my mentioning that I had a great desire to try a camel-ride, the caid volunteered to send camels for our party, and to see that mine was properly caparisoned for the comfort and accommodation of a lady; and also to send his son to attend to my safety. Of course we accepted his polite offer, and the afternoon of the same day was fixed for the expedition. Never can we forget the sight which presented itself to our astonished eyes when we went to our hotel-door at the appointed hour. There was the lady's camel, with a howdah on its back hung with curtains of damask and gold. There were the camels for the gentlemen, each led by its swarthy driver, while alongside a young Arab gentleman careered upon a white charger with crimson and gold saddle and trappings, followed by a mounted attendant almost equally magnificent. To crown the whole, or at least give it state, there were some two or three hundred Arab spectators. Only once before had such a scene been witnessed in Biskra, when some years previously the wife of a French general had visited the oasis.
It was not without considerable difficulty that we got started. The camels are made to kneel, and thus it is easy enough to mount, but then begins the ordeal. While the huge beast raises itself on its double-jointed limbs you undergo a series of painful jerks which nothing but the most undaunted courage enables you to endure. Determination, however, overcomes all difficulties, and at last our cortege was en route. The mounted attendant acted as outrider to clear the way, while he of the milk-white steed, the caid's son, rode gallantly by my side.
I could have fancied myself a queen of Sheba or some Eastern houri screened by silken curtains from the vulgar gaze. What extravagances my imagination in its pride might have led me into it is impossible to say, but for the bodily discomfort. The camel is called the "ship of the desert," but surely no ship ever pitched and rolled so unmercifully. The howdah too, which was loosely slung upon the creature's back, only added to the naturally uncomfortable motion. In fact, this cage-like erection was only kept in its place by ropes attached to it which were held by two men who walked one on each side. As the thing swung one way, the man opposite pulled it back, and vice versa, altogether regardless of my feelings in the matter.
We have since found out, by experience in Egypt, that these camels were of what may be called the cart-horse breed, and there is about as much difference in riding such a one and a properly-trained dromedary as there is between a dray-horse and a thoroughbred. Thus, if we were proud of our exaltation, we paid dearly for our pride, and when we returned from our excursion it was with a feeling of every limb being out of joint. It was days before we had completely recovered from the effects of this our first and, as I devoutly hoped, our last camel-ride. From this time forward the caid's son, who spoke French tolerably well, paid us almost daily visits, and although he had never been beyond the bounds of the desert, we have never met with more pleasing, gentlemanly manners than those of this young Arab.
One afternoon he invited me to pay a visit to the ladies of his family. These poor creatures are never allowed to go out except into their high-walled garden, and no male eyes but those of near relatives are ever allowed to gaze upon them. They do not even take their meals with their husbands and sons, this being contrary to Arab ideas of propriety. Thus, while they have no outdoor life, they have no indoor social life either. There is nothing for them but to be drudges and mothers, to bear and to bring up children. It is therefore not surprising that the first question Arab women ask is, "Have you any children?" or that they should entertain the profoundest pity for those of their sisterhood who are not thus blessed. To them motherhood is the one thing worth living for: all else is denied to them by the barbarous customs of their country.
In the course of our travels we have met with one educated Arab lady, and, singular to say, both she and her husband objected to educating their daughters. Probably she felt that in the life to which she was by Arab custom condemned education did not add to her own happiness—that it was fitted, indeed, only to raise aspirations and desires which could never be realized.
The house of the caid was clean and airy, and characterized by a certain barbaric taste. There were arms suspended upon the walls, Persian rugs laid upon the floors and divans placed around the rooms. The large garden was pleasant, being beautifully shaded by palms and orange and lemon trees. In it there was a summer-house, where it was the custom of the gentlemen of the family to dine and take their coffee. Everywhere there was an air of wealth and comfort, but yet to an English eye there was a want of neatness and trimness in all the arrangements, both of house and garden.
I saw only one of the ladies, the wife of the caid, the last survivor out of some five or six. She was elderly and not beautiful, her dress gay rather than tasteful, and upon the whole less rich than I expected, considering the immense wealth of her husband. We were assured he possessed four thousand camels, besides boundless wealth in date-palms, etc. Through my young Arab friend, who acted as interpreter, she told me I was welcome, and then as soon as we were seated she began an examination of my dress and ornaments. She seemed, indeed, in mind a perfect child, incapable of taking an interest in anything higher than dress and trinkets. To her, the great world without was a complete blank, a sealed book: the field of her observations was bounded by the four walls of her own abode, while books and society were alike forbidden. Certainly, if the fruit of the tree of knowledge be evil, then Arab women should be virtuous indeed, from them it is so well guarded. Taking my cue from my hostess, and supposing it Arab politeness, I also made an inspection of her dress, and especially of her earrings, which had at once attracted my attention on account of their great size. They were gold hoops of from two to three inches in diameter, thick and heavy, and set with a mass of stones and pearls. It seemed marvellous how any human ears could support such pendants. In effect, I found that they did not do so. The earrings were only sham, for in reality they were fixed to her head-dress, and were only so arranged as to appear suspended from the ears.
As a contrast to this visit, Madame Bourguignon asked me if I should like to see an Arab menage of the humbler order. The family to whose house she conducted me were neighbors and proteges of hers. From the outside, this house, like most Arab houses, presented a dead wall broken only by a doorway. Through this we entered into an unpaved court, where the family was assembled. The owner or master of the establishment was squatted upon the dry sandy ground, with three or four young children sprawling round him, while his four wives were occupied with their respective duties. Two were suckling babies, one was weaving a kind of coarse striped material in a primitive loom, while the fourth was apparently attending to the business of housekeeping. In addition to these, there were several older children playing among the sand: the grown-up members of the family were out, I was informed, begging, working, or perhaps stealing, as they might happen to find opportunity.
The man was not bad-looking, and one or two of the children were almost pretty, notwithstanding the dirt and swarms of flies that half concealed their features; but the women! Well, most men would have thought one such wife enough. I certainly marvelled at any one choosing four, and also that a man in such circumstances should be able to support so many. On expressing my surprise to Madame Bourguignon, she exclaimed, "He does not support them: it is they who support him." Thus the smaller a man's means and the greater his wants the more wives he needs.
We had ample proof that these wretched women are often treated as little better than beasts of burden. Nearer the "Mouth of the Desert" we saw troops of women carrying enormous burdens of sticks upon their backs, which they had collected somewhere north of the mountains, while their lords and masters strutted along unencumbered at their sides, acting the part of slave-drivers. Even among the wealthy Arabs it is common for the wives to be employed in the most menial household work; and Madame Bourguignon assured me that had I been behind the scenes I should probably have found some of the ladies of the caid's family thus engaged.
But to return to the house. The open court into which we entered, and where we found the family assembled, was evidently their living-room during the day. Four small apartments opened out of it. First, the kitchen, the whole furnishing of which consisted of a few fire-bricks, one or two vessels for cooking and a skin for holding water. The other three apartments were respectively the sleeping-room of the master of the house, that of the women and that of the elder children; and, literally, the only furniture of these was a piece of boarding covered with matting. There was no bedding, no bed-clothing, no attempt at comfort of any kind. It is certainly not an expensive matter to set up house at Biskra, the climate of the desert making one independent of everything except a shade from the sun and a little food to sustain life. From the court a stair led up to the flat roof which covered in the four apartments, and this upper story formed the receptacle for all the filth of the family. The scene was disgusting in the extreme. In any other climate it must have bred a pestilence. Here, no doubt, this dire result is prevented by the extreme dryness of the atmosphere. After this visit I quite appreciated our good landlady's horror of the Arabs. "You see now," said she, "how it is I cannot bear even to buy fowls fed by such people."
During the time we remained at Biskra we only twice made excursions beyond the limits of the oasis—once to some hot sulphur springs a few miles out in the desert—springs of such wonderful efficacy in all rheumatic affections that were they in Europe they would speedily make the fortune of any watering-place. Here they are little known: however, a bath has been formed and roofed in, and our gentlemen enjoyed a dip in the warm water after their ride across the desert. From this bath one of them dated the cure of a severe pain in the leg which had caused him much inconvenience during the journey. Our other excursion was to the neighboring oasis of Sidi Okba, the ecclesiastical, as Biskra is the commercial, capital of the Ziban. Judging by appearances, one would say that commerce must be a much more thriving thing than religion, for Sidi Okba is in every way inferior to Biskra. The people are more squalid, the houses more wretched: the very mosque itself is in a dirty, tumble-down condition. Here we found no Arabs who could speak French; and at one time, having lost our way among the palms, we were very much at a loss to know what to do. For some time we tried in vain to catch a glimpse of the mosque, thinking that it, beacon-like, would guide us back to the town. Equally in vain we interrogated all the Arabs we met in all the languages at our command, and it was only at last, inspired by desperation, that we hit upon the expedient of signs. Assuming the attitude of prayer, we called out, "Allah! Allah!" An Arab at once answered "Marabout! marabout!" and then we remembered that this was the name for mosque, and nodded, "Yes, marabout." He seemed delighted at having understood us at last, and soon led us to the mosque, from whence we knew our way to the place where we had left our luncheon. We had crossed the desert in the early morning, and were obliged to seek a resting-place in the shade during the hot hours of the day. This we found in a house belonging to a son of the caid of Biskra. There we ate the luncheon we had brought with us, and then we reclined upon the Persian carpets and rested till the hour arrived when we could safely undertake the return journey.
The day after our visit to Sidi Okba was our last at Biskra. We bade adieu to it with regret, and we shall always remember the time spent in this oasis of Sahara as among the white days in our calendar.
[A] [For the use of the wood-cut presenting a view of the oasis of El Kantra we are indebted to the kindness of Mr. John Murray of Albemarle street, London.—ED.]
The topographically inclined among biblical commentators might select a great many more unlikely spots for the Garden of Eden than Kashmir. The four rivers are there—the Indus, the Jhelam, the Chenab and the Ravi. Their banks present the widest possible variety of rock, soil, vegetation and animal life. The palm and pomegranate are at home in the valleys, and the dwarf willow and birch are frozen out a long way below the summits of the mountains. The tiger and the ptarmigan are, measured vertically, close neighbors, a mile or two apart, within easy calling distance. Man is equally multiform. All his races are assembled save the African. His extremes in physiognomy, dress, government and religion are brought into close communion. Character, in this cosmopolitan district, gives place to eclecticism. Its features and its occupants represent the whole world, and might readily refurnish it were all the rest of its surface laid desolate.
Curiously enough, the idea of a garden has always associated itself with Kashmir. Eastern poets and historians speak of it as a garden collectively, and lavish their most brilliant powers of description on the gardens which make it up in detail—the gardens of the terraced hills, the gardens of the broad alluvial plain, and the floating gardens of the lakes Wular and Dal. These last, more fortunate than those of Babylon and Nineveh, have maintained their existence to our day, the aquatic cultivator rowing among his parterres and gathering his melons over the gunwale. Fertility has never failed. The permanence in beauty and productiveness designed for Eden has here been sustained by the harmoniously-acting forces of Nature, and Adam might, for all that the explorers tell us to the contrary, have lived in Kashmir after his primitive fashion till now. He would, however, have been compelled in some degree to modify his taste in regard to clothing, unless he confined himself the year through to the valley, ninety miles by twenty, which strictly bears the name. A winter suit would have been indispensable to his excursions among the bordering mountains, which swell from an elevation of ten thousand feet above tide to twenty-two, and even, on the extreme limits of the region now officially named Kashmir, to twenty-eight thousand. As to antiquity, time is, like everything else, on a grand scale in Kashmir. Her earliest dynasty, the Pandu, runs far into the life of the first father, having come to an end twenty-five hundred years before Christ, after a duration of thirteen hundred years, if we are to believe Baron Huegel, an archaeologist of the good old German type, who is daunted by no figures, and who simply "reminds the reader," as he would of what he had for dinner yesterday, of the stunning chronology here cited. To the epoch of that primeval dynasty the baron assigns the building of the great temple of Martand, the ruins of which delight all travellers and excite to the use of such epithets as "wonderful" and "glorious" the impassive Wilson. He declares that they are quite superior to anything architectural around them, and "might yet vie with the finest remains of Greek and Roman architecture." The temple stands solitary on a stretch of table-land four hundred feet above the valley and ten leagues east of the capital. Tradition avers, partly on the strength of several ancient beaches still distinctly marked, that the whole valley was under water when the temple was built, and that it originally stood upon the immediate shore. This generally unreliable guide even goes into details and grows statistical, mentioning the year 266 B.C.as the epoch of the sudden shrinking of the waters to what—or nearly what, for desiccation is said to be still going on—is seen of them now. This becomes less incredible in the light of the extraordinary oscillations of level in the streams and lakes with which the present inhabitants are familiar. In 1858 the Indus rose, at a point below its exit from the mountains, one hundred and sixty feet in twenty-four hours, its rise in the narrow defiles above having been of course greater. A single pool, temporarily formed on the slopes of the mighty Nanga Parbat by the melting of the snow in 1850, was a mile and a half long by half a mile wide and three hundred feet deep—just so much devastation "cocked and primed."
The modern state of Kashmir dates from 1846, when the Sikh empire, of which it was a part, was overthrown by the British. Golab Singh, who had made himself useful to the Indian government, was placed over it as maharajah, with a show of independence, but real subordination. He fixed his capital at Jummoo, in the extreme south of his dominions and within easy reach of Lahore. The name Jummoo is given by the natives to his whole territory, although the province of that name is, so far as geographical extent goes, a mere fragment of it. The provinces of Jummoo and Kashmir, immediately north of it, comprise together about a third of the aggregate of sixty-eight thousand square miles. Their share of the population is infinitely greater in proportion. Out of a total, in 1873, of 1,534,972 souls, the province of Jummoo contained 861,075—44,000 of them in the city of that name, the political metropolis. The government of Kashmir had 491,846, including 136,000 in the city of Srinagar. The district of Punch, which boasts a rajah of its own, tributary to the maharajah, had 77,566, and the outlying governments, as they are termed, of Gilgit in the extreme north-east, Baltistan in the north, and Ladakh, or Little Tibet, in the east, 104,485 together. In the province of Kashmir the Mohammedans are in the large majority of six to one. In that of Jummoo, on the contrary, the excess is slightly in favor of the Hindus—a circumstance which accounts for the sovereign's choice of a capital, he being a Hindu and showing in his political acts a preference for his co-religionists and a corresponding distrust of his Moslem subjects. In Ladakh, Budha is supreme, his worshippers numbering 20,254 to 260 followers of Islam and 107 adherents of the Vedas—hardly one to the square mile of all religions.
The different creeds get on very comfortably side by side, the mosque and the idol temple decorating the same street, and the praying-machines of the Lamas grinding out perpetual bliss without let or hinderance from those who believe in another way of reaching the ear of the Unknowable. This Utopian scene of universal toleration has not failed to attract the representatives of our own faith. The Moravians have long had an establishment on the south-eastern mountains, and we read of the conversion of the descendants of the last rajah of Kishtwar by an American missionary—of what sect is not stated.
Generally speaking, the lines of race coincide but vaguely with those of creed. The Hindus and Mohammedans are both of Aryan race, and Mohammedan converts are found among the Mongolian—or rather Turanian—worshippers of Budh. The latter process would have made more headway but for the influence of the reigning dynasty, which discourages it on system. The change implied in this proselytism is greater in respect of some social practices than in the abstract principles of religious belief. The polyandry of the Tibetans is in direct contrast with the polygamy of the Moslems, and is far more strictly maintained. It is favored by the circumstance that, contrary to what usually obtains in old countries, the males in this region considerably outnumber the females; yet, while that disproportion exists throughout the provinces, polyandry is confined to the Tibetans. Their wretched lands, verging on the line of perpetual snow, devoid of fuel, and in many places unable to ripen grain, keep them poor; and they assign as a justification for the practice the necessity of repressing population and retaining property undivided. One mistress of the house and three or four masters, who are almost always brothers, is their unique remedy for the hardships of their lot, so lowly and yet (topographically) so elevated. Among their Mohammedan and Hindu compatriots the "twin barbarism" of a plurality of wives appears to be confined in practice to a few of the powerful and wealthy. Until within the last few years its repulsive features were wont to be brought into more hideous relief by the cruel custom of suttee, or widow-burning. It is only within half a generation past that British interference has succeeded in putting a stop to these horrible immolations. When, in 1843, Suchet Singh, uncle of the present maharajah, Ranbir Singh, died, his home harem of a hundred and fifty wives were burned with his body at Ramnagar, and the same execution was inflicted on his branch establishment of twenty-five at Jummoo. Seven years after the beginning of British sway the thirty-two widows of a cousin of the maharajah were burned. This scene was witnessed by Mr. Drew, an English engineer of eminence who was for ten years employed in surveying and exploring the new state, and from whose narrative many of the facts given in this article are drawn. Upon another occasion he saw the forcible sacrifice of a single widow. The poor woman, shrieking fearfully, sprang from the funeral pile as the flames surrounded her, but was instantly seized and thrown back into it by the "scandalized" priests.
The guide-book and the locomotive have marked this romantic land for their own, but their progress is far from complete. The advance of the latter, indeed, has probably reached its limit, some twenty leagues outside the extreme south-western corner. The former is still fain to depend largely on Bernier, the Frenchman who visited Kashmir two centuries ago in the train of the Mogul emperor Aurengzebe. Bernier kept his eyes open, and left not only a good account of the manners and life of the Great Mogul and his court, but a fair itinerary. His description of Srinagar and its vicinity still holds good, and modern books point us to the pass of the Pir Panjal so disastrous to the imperial ladies. The foremost of fifteen elephants, each carrying four women, took fright in a narrow part of the so-called road and backed the rest over a precipice. Only three or four of the odalisques were killed by the fall, but not one elephant was saved. Bernier passed the scene of the accident two days after, and saw some of the animals still alive, but able only to trumpet mournfully for assistance.
North of Jummoo the highest type of road accommodates no longer an elephant, but at most a hill-pony. In the vale of Srinagar the chief thoroughfares are sluggish rivers, lakes and canals, navigated by a remarkably sturdy race of boatmen. The chief line of traffic to that valley, the heart of Kashmir proper, from Jummoo, is hardly practicable for horses. In its length of a hundred and seventy-seven miles it crosses two ridges, each nine thousand feet above the sea, with a hollow between five thousand feet deep. The starting-point, or southern end of the path, is fifteen hundred feet above tide, and the valley of Srinagar from fifty-two hundred to sixty-five hundred. These are all trifling elevations compared to those of the Himaliya on the south-east and the Karakoram chain, to which England has pushed the maharajah's boundary, on the north; but they will do very well for Western tourists to "cut their teeth on," especially as they are interspersed with minor hills of every grade of height and surface. The varied assortment of climates also supports the idea of a general training-ground for travellers. Bernier thought the first summit he crossed, coming from the south, "the dreadful rim of the world," but the descent of it plumped him, "as if by enchantment, into the centre of France." In sheltered places with a southern exposure the tropics reappear, but the vegetation of the foothills and middle mountains is said to be, but for the deodara cedar (Pinus excelsa) and a few other trees, European in character. The resemblance of the undergrowth is less marked, and still less that of the inhabitants, the costume of the mountaineers, notably the tribe named Gaddis, reasserting Asia. These Oriental Swiss are as hardy as their Western analogues, thanks to a continual struggle for existence against Nature and a tolerably frequent one against man. Against the latter foe they are at present guaranteed by the quiet of English rule, but the avalanche and the torrent remain unquelled.
The famous vale is an emerald with a rough setting—a jewel always much sought after, and which would have been carried away long ago had it been portable. But its mightiest and most fortunate possessors were fain to come to it by a long and painful path over crags and snows, and to pass away, one after the other, and leave it in undimmed brightness, clasped tightly as ever in its frame of rocks. At the beginning of the fourteenth century its ruler was a Hindu rani, who stabbed herself rather than marry her traitorous and usurping vizier. Then came the sway of a Moslem dynasty, two of whose members stand out prominently by reason of opposite traits. One earned the name of the Image-breaker by his wanton destruction of the ancient architecture and sculpture. The balance oscillated toward the good when, in the fifteenth century, Zein-ul-Abdin introduced the Tibetan goat and the weavers of Turkestan, and originated the manufacture of the famous shawls. In 1588 the country was surrendered to the emperor Akbar, who, with the most noted of his descendants, Jehangir, Shah Jehan and Aurengzebe, made it their favorite summer-retreat and lavished upon it an expenditure the fruits of which are yet conspicuous. The Afghans, from beyond the north-west mountains, seized it in 1752, and were dispossessed by Ranjit Singh in 1819, who thus restored the supremacy of the ancient religion after more than four centuries of Moslem rule. The repose now enjoyed by it under the almost entirely unseen but distinctly felt influence of the English promises to reproduce something like the palmy days of the Moguls in the matter of improvement and embellishment, with a security to life and property under fixed and just laws quite unknown in their time.
A visitor familiar with all the scenic features of the happy valley would almost have us believe that artificial decoration has exhausted itself, and that the art now in demand is simply the art of letting Nature and antiquity alone:
"The valley of Kashmir, properly so called, remains, as in the seventeenth century, the largest and the most beautiful bit of landscape-gardening in the world, a park thirty leagues by ten or twelve. Everything in it seems planned with supernatural ingenuity to delight the eye—fields, orchards, dwellings, rivers and lakes sprinkled with green and flowery islets and ploughed by boats of varied form and size navigated by hanjis (boatmen) whose intelligent countenances, sculpturesque figures and graceful costumes harmonize admirably with the enchanting scenery; innumerable brooks and canals curving capriciously among lawns and rice-meadows and glittering in the sun like ribbons shot with silver."
This portrait leaves out the temples and villas, ancient and modern, the terraces and pavilions edged with the lotus and overhung with vines and plane trees, the Shalmiar Bagh, or Garden of Delight, and the Mishat Bagh, or Garden of Pleasure, where wine-loving Jehangir and his beautiful consort Nur Jahan, the Light of the World, luxuriated in the summers of long ago. This potentate declared that he would rather lose all the rest of his vast and affluent empire than Kashmir. It furnished a place of refreshing retreat for his energies and his conscience, the load of the latter being fully up to the average of an Eastern despot's. By these lulling waters and under this embowering verdure he could shut out from the sight and memory such spectacles as that to which he had treated his rebellious son Khosrou—a long row of seven hundred of the latter's accomplices seated in solemn gravity, but not returning his salute as he was led along, for the sufficient if not immediately perceptible reason that they sat upon thorns, each upon one thorn a foot or so long, of iron. We may suppose the father of Frederick the Great to have had in mind this passage of Oriental life when he forced the prince to witness the execution of his young friend Katte.
Wilson's preference is for the Garden of Pleasure, notwithstanding the elegance of that of Delight. It looks out upon Lake Dal, the Golden Island in front:
"Ten terraces, bounded by magnificent trees and with a stream of water falling over them, lead up to the latticed pavilion at the end of this garden. Between the double stories of this pavilion the stream flows through a marble—or at least a limestone—tank, and the structure is shaded by great chunar trees, while through a vista of their splendid foliage we look down the terraces and water-courses upon the lake below."
A fit dreaming-place this for the lotus-eating monarch of a lotus-eating people. The lake is so full of the lotus and other water-lilies that more than sixty thousand tons of the edible nuts are gathered each year and ground into flour, the root besides serving as a popular esculent. What is an object of devotion with the Tibetans of the higher Himaliyas a few days' journey distant, as formerly with the Egyptians, is to the Kashmiris an article of food and trade. They might draw from the waters, which cover a very small part of the fertile valley, fish enough to support, with the nelumbium nuts, nearly the whole of the present population; but then they are lotus-eaters, and as such improvident and indolent by all rules of poetry and legend.
Srinagar has been likened to Venice. Standing a mile higher in the world, water-communication is its dependence for movement of persons and things almost as exclusively as with the Queen of the Adriatic. For once, the lean, dry Oriental has his fill of water. Moisture prevails in excess. The characteristic flat roof of his house gives place to one with slope enough to shed any shower or number of showers; and that soon becomes clad with a spontaneous growth of plants. The surplus rainfall, however, is not so great as it would be were not the stormy south-west monsoons cut off by the mountains. The English, water-dogs by nature, and last from the blazing plains of the Panjab, do not complain of dampness. One of them, indeed, declares that "the air is exceedingly dry, notwithstanding the immense amount of water in the valley and the frequent showers of rain."
Srinagar—as the city known for four centuries as Kashmir was anciently and is again named under Hindu rule—is a little disappointing in the material employed for most of its structures. Stone is not wanting, but the deodar timber is more abundant, being floated down cheaply from the mountains, where it forms immense forests, the carefully preserved hunting-ground of the Mogul emperors. A Frenchman dubs it a city of chalets, and recommends the architects of Paris to seek there the most charming models for kiosks, verandas, turrets, cupolas, etc. The humblest suburban and rural abodes he pronounces full of the picturesque. They appear to be much in the Swiss style, so natural to an alpine region. They, too, are mostly of wood, except on the high slopes, where that material is scarce or wholly absent, and on the frontiers, where each hut is a little rock-fort.
Even the piers of the bridges over the Jhelam are, above the water at least, formed of large logs, which overlap each other and approach with their ends the middle of each span after the semblance of an arch. Parasitic plants, and even considerable trees, take root in their crevices and disguise the structure in an even more bizarre way than the mediaeval buildings did Old London Bridge. There are seven of these bridges within the city, about three hundred feet long, and between them on either hand the houses overhang the water at the expense of all visible shore, sometimes striding out upon stilt-like piles, their multiform gables "fantastically set" with a total disregard of uniformity and extent of facade that would have been the death of Baron Haussmann or the builder of a Philadelphia block. Nevertheless, there is a pervading tone and style which would identify a Kashmiri villa transplanted into Christendom.
Two isolated hills overlooking the city, and visible afar off to the weary wayfarer, are crowned and flanked with fortifications and temples of one or the other religion. The list of the latter edifices included, in Bernier's time, a Hindu pagoda claimed by the inhabitants to have been built by Solomon, but it has now disappeared as completely as his better-authenticated effort at Jerusalem. In return, as compensation, a Mohammedan mosque has given place to a modern fort. The march of improvement or of change shows itself in a yet more modern array of cottages erected for the accommodation of English visitors. Here these gentry hide themselves in an absolute forest of fruit trees of the kinds familiar at home—apple, apricot, cherry, etc. The lovers of the apricot may be interested to learn that it is par excellence the fruit of this soi-disant Eden, this glittering attic-window upon the Roof of the World, and of all the slopes thereof up to the white-tiled roof-tree. It flourishes up to ten thousand feet, only the stone-pine, of all edibles, going higher; and dried apricots are a leading staple among the hillmen, as dates are with the Arabs.
Upon the bazaars the English architect has laid his heavy hand, and villas and shops like those of the Thames promise to mark the artistic renaissance of Kashmir. The pleasure-houses of the emperors before mentioned have so far escaped him, although it is to be feared he will soon have the repairing of them. Their principal charms, the turf, the great trees and the cascades, were never more beautiful, and have rather gained by the softness with which age has enriched them. The trees have been steadily growing under all flags and cults, swelling in pride and strength as they looked contemptuously and calmly down on the storms of human passion. They need no repairs, and their style, nobody knows how much older than Thebes or Dendera, will endure no modification.
The level surface of this alluvion is illustrated by the very slight descent of the Jhelam. From Ismailabad, near the head of the valley, and fifty-four hundred feet above the level of the sea, the fall to Srinagar, thirty miles, is seventy-five feet; and from the capital to Lake Wular, twenty-four miles below, only fifty-five feet—declivities in marked contrast with the fall of two thousand eight hundred feet in eighty miles from the edge of the plateau at Baramula to the plain of the Panjab. Besides the ancient beaches which indicate the origin of this upland meadow, there are traceable other and more recent evidences of a change of level in the waters, pointing to an elevation, as the former do to subsidence. In the Manas-Bal, the smallest but deepest of the Kashmirian lakes, submerged ruins, alleged to be those of a temple, are clearly visible. At another point, fifteen miles below Srinagar, ruins and fragments of pottery have been exhumed at a great depth. One of these oscillations appears to be now, or to have been within two centuries, in progress. Lake Wular has grown shallower, its present average depth being forty feet.
Man, among these enormous mountains, presents not less notably than inanimate Nature a singular compound of change and solidity, of the catastrophic and the secular. The little state of Kashmir, overrun from time immemorial, in peace or war, by hordes of many races and tongues, preserves a language and a physiognomy of its own. About forty per cent. of the words in Kashmiri are Persian, twenty-five Sanscrit, fifteen Hindusthani, ten Arabic and fifteen Mongol. Its letters resemble those of the Sanscrit, and are apparently the originals of the Tibetan characters. They are not much used, the literary capabilities of the Kashmiris remaining to be developed. Travellers say the men, especially the upper classes who have maintained the purity of their blood, are the finest, physically, to be found in the Himaliya. They are stout, well-built, and pleasing in countenance, resembling Europeans, except in having a darker complexion. They are more acute and intelligent than the Sikhs and than the Dogras or Hindus of Jummoo, their present superiors politically. They are industrious, manufacturing besides shawls other stuffs and much fancy-work in wood. The beauty of the women is as much remarked upon now as in the old days, and the late Mr. Moore cannot be accused of overstepping poetic license on that point.
The higher classes of the Kashmiris having held more firmly to their religion during Mohammedan sway, most of the non-Moslem inhabitants are Brahmans, and they live chiefly in the city. Unlike their co-religionists of the province of Jummoo, many of whose high-caste men cultivate the soil, the Kashmiri Brahmans contemn manual occupations. They are largely employed in the offices of the state. The lowest occupations are left to a class of pariahs called Batals, who are considered by some to represent a wholly distinct race, a remnant of the aborigines who were dispossessed by the first Aryan settlers. As it is easier to procure photographs of individuals belonging to this degraded class than of those above them, an unjust impression of the physical traits of the Kashmiris is apt to reach the Western World. The dancing-girls are Batals, and are pronounced by those who know very unfavorable specimens of the Kashmiri fair. The Mohammedan women are always veiled.
But ethnic science, whether based on linguistic, physical, social or religious distinctions, is in a very unsatisfactory condition. Surprising yet illusory resemblances are constantly cropping up in the most unexpected ways and places. Wilson was struck with the Gaelic traits of the Mongolian Budhists who inhabit the mountains of Zanskar, south-east of the valley. "The sound of their language, the brooches which fasten their plaids, the varieties of tartan which their woollen clothes present, and even the features of the people (which are of an Aryan rather than a Tartar type), strongly reminded me of the Scotch Highlanders." He had the support, too, of one of those imaginative savants who delight in Welsh, Erse and Gaelic philology, who insisted "that the names of innumerable places in Tibet and Tartary are identical with the local names of the Gaelic language." Add to this the fact that a corps of the maharajah's army is uniformed in an almost critically exact reproduction of "the garb of old Gaul," and the argument is a good deal more complete than many on more practically momentous points which have done service for centuries and are still accepted. We have the Gauls of Galatia, Galatz, Galicia, Gallia proper and Gaeldoch (or Caledonia), forming a continuous chain of Gallic settlements from the Himaliya to the Ultima Thule. And now the circuit is complete. The current sets back from the West. The slogan, heard so tellingly at Lucknow, is swelling up the glaciers of the Asiatic fatherland to save it from the Scythians! Monkbarns lived too soon.
The Mohammedans of Baltistan, on the opposite (or northern) side of Kashmir, again surprise us by speaking a Tartar tongue. We are not told that they are Scotch, endowed though they undoubtedly are with some of the canny and thrifty characteristics of the dwellers ayont the Tweed. They are inveterate tradesmen, and carry their small wares, including hill-ponies, all through the mountains. Let us drop in upon them, if such an expression be applicable to a climb of the most tremendous description. It takes us up the steps of the steepest and loftiest slope of the amphitheatre which forms the maharajah's dominions. First, however, we begin by a gentle and pleasant descent down the Jhelam to Lake Wular. Then begins the trouble. We turn northward, and find ourselves at the end of the first stage four thousand feet above the valley, on the brink of an artificial sheet of water surrounded by dense evergreen woods. Next day we rise 2000 feet higher, and redescend 6500 feet to the banks of the Kischanganga, the chief affluent of the Jhelam, running mostly parallel to the course of the latter stream. Then we undulate—if so soft a term be applicable to a route so sharply, abruptly and irregularly serrate—along the spurs which border the river, now in the forest and now on a bleak plateau where careful irrigation avails to grow nothing less hardy than millet, peas and buckwheat. In crossing to the valley, or rather trench, of the upper Indus, we have the choice of two passes, one 13,060 and the other 13,500 feet above tide. Having selected the least of these two evils, we swoop nearly six thousand feet down upon the village of Astor and a new language, the Dard. The temptation to stop and study either is small. If we are insatiate of climbing or find the heat at Astor—only 7853 feet above the sea—oppressive, we have the ice-cone of Nanga Parbat, 26,629 feet high, within ten miles to the west. We are within unpleasantly easy reach of the western and north-western frontier now; for the opposite slope of Nanga Parbat and the ridge to which it belongs is held by the independent Mohammedan tribes of Yaghistan, born marauders since the beginning of tradition. They have a republican form of government, one of the fierce democracies numbering only seven houses. Life, liberty and the pursuit of other people's property is a motto they act up to with a persistency and consistency highly disagreeable to their neighbors over the hill. The latter have, in self-defence, evinced a tendency to adopt the same rule of action, and to steal from their friends by way of reimbursement for what is stolen by their enemies—a disposition which is discouraged by the maintenance of a considerable garrison at Astor.
The valley of Gilgit, continuous with that of Astor, inasmuch as the two abut upon the Indus at nearly the same point, one falling and the other rising, is the core of a tongue of territory projecting north-west into the heart of Yaghistan, and nearly dividing that turbulent region into two parts. The British in attaching this corner to Kashmir rather strained established boundaries in their own favor, and will doubtless continue the process till all Yaghistan is absorbed and the great Karakoram range becomes the frontier from the Afghan territory to that of Chinese Tibet.
At the town of Gilgit we have a reproduction in little of the valley of Srinagar. Its level is somewhat lower, and, though farther north by two degrees, it ripens such southern fruits as the pomegranate, etc. Its attractions will not, however, have full sway so long as the peace of the region remains precarious. The last attack from Yaghistan was signally repulsed in 1866. The practice of going armed is still general, and travellers need an escort. Some of the villages resemble the casemates, mines and covered-ways of a fortress. The people are of the same family and religion with those over the border, their foes, although perhaps less hated by them than their nominal compatriots the Kashmiris and Dogras. The Dards are an active and proud people, fond of independence, with features distinctly Caucasian.
Continuing our exploration of the upper benches of the amphitheatre, we turn to the right and skirt the upper Indus, which runs for several hundred miles from south-east to north-west close along the southern foot of the Karakoram, or rather upon a "hip" of the Roof of the World. Skardu, on the left bank, was an independent capital down to 1840, and its aspect is still stormy in a political as in a climatic sense. The land looks like a petrified storm, the waves of granite and slate dotted sporadically with huts and microscopic bits of culture. Only in a few of the deep valleys is Nature less inhospitable. The glaciers descend to an altitude of 13,500 feet, with an upward extent of twenty-five miles or more; cultivation, after a fashion, existing at their lower edge, and grass growing for a season of six or eight weeks much farther up. The Baltoro glacier leads up to a stupendous peak, the second in height of all known elevations, but not yet dignified with a name, being only labelled in the Indian Survey "K. 2." Its height is 28,265 feet, or 687 less than Gaurisankar, the giant of mountains, a peak in the Eastern Himaliya. The summits next to K.2 are from 25,000 to 27,000 feet. Among them lies the pass of Mustagh, 18,300 feet above tide, up to 1863 a high-road between India and Yarkand, practicable for but a few weeks of summer. The brief interval left by the snow the brigands have extinguished.
After the abandonment of this pass, that of Karakoram, forty leagues east of it, became the principal route to Central Asia. The elevation is exactly the same. Of the five hundred and fifteen miles, divided into thirty-five marches, between Leh and Yarkand, a hundred and fifty traverse ice, naked rocks and precipices, wholly devoid of grass or fuel. Still farther east, in the extreme north-eastern angle of Ladakh and the Kashmiri states, a third route to Turkestan has been opened. It is longer than the others, but is practicable for near half the year, and can be traversed by horses and two-humped camels instead of yaks and ponies, as at the western crossings. On three stages only are wood and grass absent. It ascends from the south over a plateau marked by salt or brackish lakes. It is difficult to say which of the three contestant empires, Russia, China and England, has easiest or least impracticable access to the coveted core of Asia.
If the handful of Little Tibetans occupy the gallery of the Kashmiri theatre, there are wells in it which go down to the level of the dress-circle. These lower levels have traits of culture—trees, grass, whitewashed brick or stone dwellings, and nunneries and religious monuments on the roadside and sometimes arching the road. All, high and low in rank and topography, are deeply pious, and devote the greater part of their waking hours to muttering a supplicatory formula of six syllables, so far translatable by Christians only to the extent of its meaning something about the Deity and the lotus.
The trip from New York to Jummoo is about as long in point of time as to California twenty-five years ago. As many years hence the survivors of us may be getting up Thanksgiving or Christmas reunions at the old homestead of the Aryan family. It will never be a hackneyed spot. It stands too much on end. Steep mountains are never hackneyed: Cook's Personally Conducted will never permeate Kashmir.
EDWARD C. BRUCE.
SHORT RECKONINGS MAKE LONG FRIENDS.
It was the first of March, and a wild wind was hurrying fragments of white cloud across the blue. Percival had taken his breakfast in snatches, performing on his bell meanwhile. Emma had not brought his boots, and would not so much as come to be told that he wanted them. At last, despairing, he went out on the landing and shouted his request to her as she shuffled on some errand below. Turning to go back, he met Miss Lisle, who had just come down the stairs behind him.
They stood for a moment exchanging trivial remarks. To them came a stout, fresh-colored, peculiarly innocent-looking old man, who went by with a beaming smile and a slight bow.
"That's Mr. Fordham," said Judith: "I don't think I ever saw him so close before."
"No: one hardly meets him from one week's end to another. He is unusually late this morning."
"He looks a very quiet, steady—Really, one might take him for rather a nice old man."
Percival stared blankly at her, and then began to laugh: "Well, Miss Lisle, I never heard a reputation blighted so completely by a complimentary sentence before."
Judith blushed a little: "But he isn't very nice, is he?"
"I don't know about nice. I should say he was as steady and harmless an old fellow as ever lived. What do you mean?"
"Well," Judith hesitated, "of course one has no business to judge any one without really knowing; but his staying out so late at night—"
"'So late at night?'" Percival repeated.
"I suppose he has a latch-key generally. But one or two nights I am sure Miss Bryant sat up to let him in. I heard them whispering: at least, I heard her. I don't think that girl could even whisper quietly."
"But there must be some mistake. Fordham comes in quite early, and very often he doesn't go out at all in the evening."
"He goes out later," said Judith.
"Indeed, no. I could time all his movements. His room is next to mine, and the wall is not so thick as I could wish. He snores sometimes."
"But—" she persisted, looking scared and white, yet what was Fordham to her?—"but I have heard him over and over again, Mr. Thorne. I can't be mistaken."
Percival was disconcerted too. He looked at the carpet, at his slippered feet—at anything but her face: "You have heard some one, I suppose: I don't know who comes in late. Not poor old Fordham." He heard Emma on the stairs, and hurried to meet her. Coming back with his boots in his hand, he found Judith standing exactly as he had left her.
"I'm sure I beg Mr. Fordham's pardon," she said with a smile. "One does make curious mistakes, certainly. That nice-looking old man!" And nodding farewell to young Thorne, she went away.
He did not see her again for two days, though he watched anxiously for her. Bertie came in and out, and was much as usual. On the third evening, as Percival was going up stairs, she called after him: "Mr. Thorne."
He turned eagerly.
"You lent Bertie some money a day or two since?"
Something in her voice or her look made Percival sure that Lisle had borrowed and spent it without her knowledge, and that it was a trouble to her. After all, what did it matter? He would sell his watch and pay Mrs. Bryant. He could not deny Bertie's debt, since she had found it out, but he could make light of it. So he nodded: "Yes, by the the way, I believe I did: he hadn't his purse or something." This in a tone of airy indifference.
"Tell me how much it was, please, and I'll pay it back." Then he saw that her purse was open in her hand.
"Oh, it doesn't matter," Percival said: "don't pay me off in such a quick, business-like way, Miss Lisle. I'm not the milkman, nor yet the washing. Bertie will settle with me one of these days."
"Please tell me, Mr. Thorne. I mean to pay it: I must."
"Well, I'll ask him about it, then."
"You know," with a look of reproach and pleading.
Percival could not deceive her, she looked so sorrowfully resolute. He met the glance of her gray eyes. "Two pounds," he said; and was certain that she was relieved at the answer.
"Bertie wasn't sure it wasn't two pounds ten."
"On my honor, no. He asked me for a couple of sovereigns, and I took it literally."
"If you say so, I am sure. I didn't doubt you: I only told you that you might understand why I asked." She put the money, a sovereign and two halves, into his unwilling hand. Then he understood her relief, for, looking down into the little sealskin purse, he saw that there was no more gold in it. The last ten shillings must have been counted out in silver, and he was not quite sure it would not have ended in a threepenny piece and some halfpence.
"Now I am going to ask a favor," she said. "Don't lend Bertie any more, please. He has been used to spend just what he liked, and he doesn't think, poor boy! And it is only wasted. Don't let him have any more."
"But, Miss Lisle," said Percival, "if your brother asks me do you mean that I am to say 'No'?"
"Please, if you would. He mustn't be extravagant: we can't afford it. He can't pay you back, and if I lost any of my work—Mrs. Barton's lessons, for instance—I couldn't either."
"You work to pay me!" exclaimed Percival aghast: "I won't hear of such a thing. Miss Lisle, you mustn't! It's between Bertie and myself, and I shouldn't be ruined if he didn't pay me till his ship comes home one of these days. Take it back, please, and he and I will arrange it."
She shook her head: "No: my brother's debts are mine."
"Ah!" said Percival, with a swift, eloquent glance. "Then let me be your creditor a little longer: I hardly know what it feels like, yet."
"Since when has your ship come home, Mr. Thorne, that you can afford to be so generous?"
The blood mounted to his forehead at her question, but he answered quickly: "My ship has not come home. Perhaps if it had I should not dare to ask you to let me help you. I feel as if our poverty made us all nearer together."
"It is not every one who would say so in your place," Judith replied. "I am your debtor for those words. But we Lisles have wronged you too much already: you shouldn't try to make the load heavier."
"Wronged me?" he faltered.
"Did you think I did not know? My father had your money and ruined you: deny it if you can! I suspected it, and lately I have been sure. Oh, if Bertie and I could pay you back! But meanwhile he shall not borrow from you and waste your earnings on his silly whims. If you lend him any more you may try to hide it from me, but I shall find it out, and I will pay it—every farthing. I will find some way, if I have to sit up every night for a week and work my fingers to the bone."
"God forbid!" said Percival. "He shall have no more from me. But be generous, and promise me that if you should want help, such as my poverty can give, you will forget old times and come to me."
"No, I won't promise that. I will remember them and come." She caught his hand, pressed it one moment in her own, flung it from her and escaped.
"Judith!" he called after her, but she was gone.
Percival went into his own room. The money had come just in time, for his landlady's weekly account was lying on the table. He looked at the three coins with lingering tenderness, and after a moment's hesitation he took one of them and vowed that he would never part with it. Yet in the midst of his ardent resolution he smiled rather bitterly to think that it was not the sovereign, but one of the halves, he meant to keep for ever. Poverty had taught him many lessons, and among them how to combine economy and sentiment. "If she had given me the ten shillings' worth of silver, I suppose I should have saved the threepenny bit!" he said to himself as he locked his little remembrance in his desk.
A couple of days later, as he was walking home with Bertie, they passed three or four men who were sauntering idly along, and Thorne felt sure that his companion received and returned a silent glance of recognition. He glanced over his shoulder at them, and disliked their look exceedingly. "Do you know who those fellows were we passed just now?" he said.
Bertie looked back: "One is the brother of a man in our choir."
"Hm! I wouldn't have one of them for my brother at any price," said Percival. The matter dropped, but he could not forget it. He fancied that there was a slight change in Bertie himself—that the boy's face was keener and haggard, and there was an anxious expression in his eyes. But he owned frankly that he was not at all sure that he should have noticed anything if his suspicions had not been previously aroused.
"Come in this evening," said Bertie when they went up stairs. He leant against the door of Percival's room, and as his friend hesitated he called to his sister: "Here, Judith! tell Thorne to come and have some tea with us: they've let his fire out, and his room is as warm and cheerful as a sepulchre."
"Do you think I order other people about as I do you?" she replied.—"Will you come, Mr. Thorne? I can, at any rate, promise you a fire and a welcome."
When she met him she was quite calm, tranquil and clear-eyed. Do the ripples of the summer sea recall that distant line, the supreme effort of wind and tide some stormy night? Percival would have thought that it had been all a dream but for the little coin which that wave had flung at his feet for a remembrance. And he had called after her "Judith!" The tide had ebbed, and he did not even think of her as other than Miss Lisle. Had she heard him that evening? He would almost have hoped not, but that twilight moment seemed so far away that it must be absurd to link it with his every-day life.
Apparently, she and Bertie were on their usual footing. Did the young fellow know of that absurd mistake about old Fordham? Did Percival really detect a shade of dim apprehension on Judith Lisle's face, as if she hid an unspoken fear? As Bertie leant forward and the lamplight shone on his clearly-cut features, Percival was more than ever certain of the change in him. Could his sister fail to see it?
"Bertie," she said when they had finished their tea and were standing round the fire—"Bertie, I'm afraid you have lost one of your pupils."
He had his elbow on the chimney-piece, his hand hung loosely open, and his eyes were fixed upon the leaping flames. When Judith spoke he looked up inquiringly.
"Miss Nash—Emmeline Nash," said Judith.
Percival happened to be looking at the fire too, and he suddenly saw Bertie's fingers drawn quickly up. But the young master spoke very composedly indeed: "Emmeline Nash—why? Has anything happened?"
"No: only Mr. Nash has given in at last, and says she may go home at Easter for good.—She is older than any of the other pupils, Mr. Thorne: in fact, she is not treated as a pupil. But her father is—"
"An old fossil," said Bertie.
"Well!—interested in fossils and that sort of thing, and a widower; so there has not been much of a home for her, and he always fancied she was better at school. But school can't last for ever."
"Happiest time of one's life!" Bertie ejaculated.
"Oh! do you think so?" said Judith doubtfully.
"Not at all. But I believe it is the right thing to say."
"Stupid boy!—And as she will very soon be twenty, I really think she ought not to be kept there any longer."
"Of course Miss Nash is delighted," said Percival.
"Yes, but hardly as much so as I expected. One's castles in the air don't look quite the same when one is close to them. I am afraid, her home-life won't be very bright."
"Perhaps she will make it brighter," said Thorne. "What is she like? Is she pretty?"
"Yes," said Bertie.
Judith smiled: "One has to qualify all one's adjectives for her. She is nice-ish, pretty-ish: I doubt if she is as much as clever-ish."
"No need for her to be any more," Bertie remarked. "Didn't Miss Crawford say she would come in for a lot of money—some of her mother's—when she was one-and-twenty?"
"Yes, five or six hundred a year."
"That's why he has kept her at school, I suppose—afraid she should take up with a curate, very likely."
"Mr. Nash is very rich too, and she is an only child," said Judith, ignoring Bertie's remark. "But I think it has been hard on Emmeline."
"Well, I'm sorry she is going," said Lisle—"very sorry."
"Is she such a promising pupil?" Thorne inquired.
"She's a nice girl," said Bertie, "but a promising pupil—O Lord!" He flew to the piano, played an air in a singularly wooden manner, and then dragged it languidly, yet laboriously, up and down the keys. "Variations, you perceive." After a little more of this treatment the unfortunate melody grew very lame indeed, and finally died of exhaustion. "That's Miss Emmeline Nash," said Bertie, spinning round on the music-stool and confronting Percival.
"It is very like Emmeline's style of playing," Judith owned.
"Of course it is. Let's have something else for a change." And turning back to the piano, he began to sing. Then he called Judith to come and take her turn. She sang well, and Percival, by the fireside, noted the young fellow's evident pride in her performance, and admired the pair. (Any one else might have admired the three, for Thorne's grave, foreign-looking face was just the fitting contrast to the Lisles' fair, clear features. The morbid depression of a couple of months earlier had passed, and left him far more like the Percival of Brackenhill. Poverty surrounded the friends and dulled their lives, but as yet it was only a burden, not a blight.)
"You sing," said Bertie, looking back. "I remember you were great at some of those old songs. I'll play for you: what shall it be?"
"I'm sure I hardly know," said Percival, coming forward.
"Let's have 'Shall I, wasting in despair,'" Lisle suggested. "It has been going in my head all this morning." He played a few notes.
"No, no!" the other exclaimed hurriedly—"not that." Too well he remembered the tender devotion of more than a year before:
If she love me, this believe, I will die ere she shall grieve.
Sissy and Brackenhill rose before him—the melancholy orchard-walk, the little hands which lay in his on that November day. He felt a dull pain, yet what could he do? what could he have done? There was a terrible mistake somewhere, but he could not say where. If he had married Sissy, would it not have been there? He woke up suddenly. Young Lisle was speaking, and Judith was saying, "Let Mr. Thorne choose."
"Oh, I don't mind," said Percival. "Shall it be 'Drink to me only with thine eyes'?"
He sang it well. His voice was strong and full, and the sweet old-fashioned courtesy of compliment suited him exactly. The last word had scarcely left his lips when the door opened, and Emma showed in Mr. Clifton of St. Sylvester's.
The clergyman came forward, black-coated, smooth-shaven, with watchful glances which seemed ever looking out for that lay co-operation we hear so much of now. Lisle looked over his shoulder and sprang up to receive him. The visitor tried to get his umbrella and two or three books into the hand which already held his hat, and one little volume fell to the floor. Percival picked it up and smoothed the pages. "Mr. Thorne—Mr. Clifton," said the young organist as the book was restored to its owner. Percival bowed gravely, and Mr. Clifton did not shake hands, as he would have done if the young man's manner had been less reserved. He was lavish of such greetings. A clergyman might shake hands with any one.
"I'll not detain you long, Lisle," he said. "But I wanted to speak to you about the choir-practice to-morrow." And there ensued a little business-talk between parson and organist. Judith took up a bit of work and Percival leant against the chimney-piece. Presently Lisle went back to the piano and tried over a hymn-tune which Mr. Clifton had brought. The clergyman stood solemnly by. "I met Gordon a few minutes ago," he said. "He was with his brother and some other men of the same stamp. If he mixes himself up with that set, he must go."
"You'll miss him in the choir, Mr. Clifton," said Bertie.
"He must choose between such associates and the choir," the other replied. The words were moderate enough, but the tone was austere.
"Especially at Easter," said Bertie, still playing.
"What of that?" demanded the other. "I would rather have no choir at St. Sylvester's than have men in it whose way of life during the week made a mockery of the praises they sang on Sundays."
He spoke in a low voice, and Bertie's playing partially covered the conversation. "Perhaps, Mr. Clifton, if Gordon understood how much you disapproved—" the young organist began.
"Gordon? Gordon? it isn't only Gordon who should understand. Every one should understand my feeling on such a subject without my having to explain it. But I won't keep you any longer now: it is getting late. Remember, seven o'clock to-morrow evening." And with a polite remark or two to the others Mr. Clifton bowed himself out, with Bertie in attendance. The procession of two might have been more dignified if the organist had not made a face at Judith and Percival as he went out at the door, and if he had not danced a fantastic but noiseless dance on the landing behind the incumbent of St. Sylvester's, who was feeling feebly in the dim light for the top step of Mrs. Bryant's staircase.
"Is anything the matter with Mr. Clifton?" Judith asked when the boy came back and executed another war-dance all round the room. "He didn't seem pleased, I thought."
Bertie brought himself up with a grand flourish opposite the arm-chair, and sank into it: "Bless you, no! there's nothing the matter with him. Tumbled out of bed the wrong side this morning—that's all. He does sometimes."
"Might have got over that by this time of night, one would think," said Percival, looking at his watch.
"Hold hard! you aren't going yet?" exclaimed Bertie, bounding up.—"Here, Judith, let's have another song to take the taste of old Clifton out of our mouths. Whatever possessed him to come here to-night?"
They had two or three songs instead of one, and then Percival went off. Judith put her work away, shut up the piano and laid Bertie's music straight. He stood meanwhile with his back to the dying fire, idly chinking some money which he had taken from his waistcoat-pocket, a half-crown and two or three shillings. His brows were drawn down as if he were lost in thought. Presently, his half-crown went spinning in the air: he caught it dexterously—heads. Bertie half smiled to himself, as who should say, "Well, if Destiny will have it so, what am I that I should resist it?"
It is very well to toss up if you have already come to a decision which you cannot quite justify. Should the verdict be adverse, it is no worse than it was before, for if you have really made up your mind so trivial an accident will not stop you. It may even be your duty to show that you attach no superstitious importance to it. And, on the other hand, if chance favors you, some of your burden of responsibility is transferred to the shoulders of Fate.