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Morocco
by S.L. Bensusan
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MOROCCO

PAINTED BY A.S. FORREST

DESCRIBED BY S.L. BENSUSAN



LONDON ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK 1904



Transcriber's Note:

The following apparent printer's errors were changed: from appearonce to appearance from everthing to everything from kindgom to kingdom from "Tuesday market. to "Tuesday market." Other inconsistencies in spelling have been left as in the original.



"As I have felt, so I have written."

EOTHEN.



Preface

It has been a pleasant task to recall the little journey set out in the following pages, but the writer can hardly escape the thought that the title of the book promises more than he has been able to perform. While the real Morocco remains a half-known land to-day, this book does not take the traveller from the highroad. The mere idler, the wayfarer to whom Morocco is no more than one of many places of pilgrimage, must needs deal modestly with his task, even though modesty be an unfashionable virtue; and the painstaking folk who pass through this world pelting one another with hard facts will find here but little to add to their store of ammunition. This appeal is of set purpose a limited one, made to the few who are content to travel for the sake of the pleasures of the road, free from the comforts that beset them at home, and free also from the popular belief that their city, religion, morals, and social laws are the best in the world. The qualifications that fit a man to make money and acquire the means for modern travel are often fatal to proper appreciation of the unfamiliar world he proposes to visit. To restore the balance of things, travel agents and other far-seeing folks have contrived to inflict upon most countries within the tourist's reach all the modern conveniences by which he lives and thrives. So soon as civilising missions and missionaries have pegged out their claims, even the desert is deemed incomplete without a modern hotel or two, fitted with electric light, monstrous tariff, and served by a crowd of debased guides. In the wake of these improvements the tourist follows, finds all the essentials of the life he left at home, and, knowing nothing of the life he came to see, has no regrets. So from Algiers, Tunis, Cairo—ay, even from Jerusalem itself, all suggestion of great history has passed, and one hears among ruins, once venerable, the globe-trotter's cry of praise. "Hail Cook," he cries, as he seizes the coupons that unveil Isis and read the riddle of the Sphinx, "those about to tour salute thee."

But of the great procession that steams past Gibraltar, heavily armed with assurance and circular tickets, few favour Morocco at all, and the most of these few go no farther than Tangier. Once there, they descend upon some modern hotel, often with no more than twenty-four hours in which to master the secrets of Sunset Land.

After dinner a few of the bolder spirits among the men take counsel of a guide, who leads them to the Moorish coffee-house by the great Mosque. There they listen to the music of ghaitah and gimbri, pay a peseta for a cup of indifferent coffee, and buy an unmusical instrument or two for many times the proper price. Thereafter they retire to their hotel to consider how fancy can best embellish the bare facts of the evening's amusement, while the True Believers of the coffee-house (debased in the eyes of all other Believers, and, somewhat, too, in fact, by reason of their contact with the Infidel) gather up the pesetas, curse the Unbeliever and his shameless relations, and praise Allah the One who, even in these degenerate days, sends them a profit.

On the following morning the tourists ride on mules or donkeys to the showplaces of Tangier, followed by scores of beggar boys. The ladies are shown over some hareem that they would enter less eagerly did they but know the exact status of the odalisques hired to meet them. One and all troop to the bazaars, where crafty men sit in receipt of custom and relieve the Nazarene of the money whose value he does not know. Lunch follows, and then the ship's siren summons the travellers away from Morocco, to speak and write with authority for all time of the country and its problems.

With these facts well in mind, it seemed best for me to let the pictures suffice for Tangier, and to choose for the text one road and one city. For if the truth be told there is little more than a single path to all the goals that the undisguised European may reach.

Morocco does not change save by compulsion, and there is no area of European influence below Tangier. Knowing one highway well you know something of all; consequently whether Fez, Mequinez, Wazzan, or Marrakesh be the objective, the travel story does not vary greatly. But to-day, Marrakusha-al-Hamra, Red Marrakesh, is the most African of all cities in Morocco, and seemed therefore best suited to the purpose of this book. Moreover, at the time when this journey was made, Bu Hamara was holding the approaches to Fez, and neither Mequinez nor Wazzan was in a mood to receive strangers.

So it falls out that the record of some two or three hundred miles of inland travel is all that awaits the reader here. In time to come, when Morocco has been purged of its offences of simplicity and primitiveness, the tourist shall accomplish in forty-eight hours the journey that demanded more than a month of last year's spring. For Sunset Land has no railway lines, nor can it boast—beyond the narrow limits of Tangier—telegraphs, telephones, electric light, modern hotels, or any of the other delights upon which the pampered traveller depends. It is as a primeval forest in the hour before the dawn. When the sun of France penetrates pacifically to all its hidden places, the forest will wake to a new life. Strange birds of bright plumage, called in Europe gens d'armes, will displace the storks upon the battlements of its ancient towns, the commis voyageur will appear where wild boar and hyaena now travel in comparative peace, the wild cat (felis Throgmortonensis) will arise from all mineralised districts. Arab and Berber will disappear slowly from the Moroccan forest as the lions have done before them, and in the place of their douars and ksor there shall be a multitude of small towns laid out with mathematical precision, reached by rail, afflicted with modern improvements, and partly filled with Frenchmen who strive to drown in the cafe their sorrow at being so far away from home. The real Morocco is so lacking in all the conveniences that would commend it to wealthy travellers that the writer feels some apology is due for the appearance of his short story of an almost unknown country in so fine a setting. Surely a simple tale of Sunset Land was never seen in such splendid guise before, and will not be seen again until, with past redeemed and forgotten, future assured, and civilisation modernised, Morocco ceases to be what it is to-day.

S.L. BENSUSAN.

July 1904.



Contents

CHAPTER I page By Cape Spartel 3

CHAPTER II From Tangier to Djedida 21

CHAPTER III On the Moorish Road 41

CHAPTER IV To the Gates of Marrakesh 57

CHAPTER V In Red Marrakesh 77

CHAPTER VI Round about Marrakesh 101

CHAPTER VII The Slave Market at Marrakesh 121

CHAPTER VIII Green Tea and Politics 139

CHAPTER IX Through a Southern Province 159

CHAPTER X "Sons of Lions" 179

CHAPTER XI In the Argan Forest 199

CHAPTER XII To the Gate of the Picture City 217



List of Illustrations

1. In Djedida Frontispiece FACING PAGE 2. A Shepherd, Cape Spartel 2 3. The Courtyard of the Lighthouse, Cape Spartel 4 4. A Street, Tangier 6 5. In Tangier 8 6. A Street in Tangier 10 7. A Guide, Tangier 12 8. The Road to the Kasbah, Tangier 14 9. Head of a Boy from Mediunah 16 10. The Goatherd from Mediunah 18 11. Old Buildings, Tangier 20 12. Moorish House, Cape Spartel 22 13. A Patriarch 24 14. Pilgrims on a Steamer 26 15. The Hour of Sale 28 16. Evening, Magazan 30 17. Sunset off the Coast 32 18. A Veranda at Magazan 34 19. A Blacksmith's Shop 36 20. A Saint's Tomb 40 21. Near a Well in the Country 42 22. Near a Well in the Town 44 23. Moorish Woman and Child 46 24. Evening on the Plains 48 25. Travellers by Night 52 26. The R'Kass 56 27. A Traveller on the Plains 58 28. The Mid-day Halt 60 29. On Guard 64 30. A Village at Dukala 68 31. The Approach to Marrakesh 72 32. Date Palms near Marrakesh 76 33. On the Road to Marrakesh 80 34. A Minstrel 84 35. One of the City Gates 86 36. A Blind Beggar 90 37. A Wandering Minstrel 94 38. The Roofs of Marrakesh 100 39. A Gateway, Marrakesh 104 40. A Courtyard, Marrakesh 108 41. A Well in Marrakesh 112 42. A Bazaar, Marrakesh 114 43. A Brickfield, Marrakesh 116 44. A Mosque, Marrakesh 120 45. A Water Seller, Marrakesh 124 46. On the Road to the Sok el Abeed 126 47. The Slave Market 128 48. Dilals in the Slave Market 132 49. On the House-top, Marrakesh 138 50. A House Interior, Marrakesh 142 51. A Glimpse of the Atlas Mountains 146 52. A Marrakshi 150 53. Street in Marrakesh 154 54. An Arab Steed 158 55. A Young Marrakshi 162 56. Fruit Market, Marrakesh 164 57. In the Fandak 166 58. The Jama'a Effina 170 59. Evening in Camp 178 60. Preparing Supper 182 61. A Goatherd 186 62. Coming from the Mosque, Hanchen 190 63. Evening at Hanchen 198 64. On the Road to Argan Forest 202 65. The Snake Charmer 204 66. In Camp 206 67. A Countryman 208 68. Moonlight 212 69. A Moorish Girl 216 70. A Narrow Street in Mogador 218 71. Night Scene, Mogador 220 72. House Tops, Mogador 222 73. Selling Grain in Mogador 224 74. Selling Oranges 226

The Illustrations in this volume have been engraved in England by the Hentschel Colourtype Process.



BY CAPE SPARTEL



CHAPTER I

BY CAPE SPARTEL

Over the meadows that blossom and wither Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song, Only the sun and the rain come hither All year long.

The Deserted Garden.

Before us the Atlantic rolls to the verge of the "tideless, dolorous inland sea." In the little bay lying between Morocco's solitary lighthouse and the famous Caves of Spartel, the waters shine in colours that recall in turn the emerald, the sapphire, and the opal. There is just enough breeze to raise a fine spray as the baby waves reach the rocks, and to fill the sails of one or two tiny vessels speeding toward the coast of Spain. There is just enough sun to warm the water in the pools to a point that makes bathing the most desirable mid-day pastime, and over land and sea a solemn sense of peace is brooding. From where the tents are set no other human habitation is in sight. A great spur of rock, with the green and scarlet of cactus sprawling over it at will, shuts off lighthouse and telegraph station, while the towering hills above hide the village of Mediunah, whence our supplies are brought each day at dawn and sun-setting.

Two fishermen, clinging to the steep side of the rock, cast their lines into the water. They are from the hills, and as far removed from our twentieth century as their prototypes who were fishing in the sparkling blue not so very far away when, the world being young, Theocritus passed and gave them immortality. In the valley to the right, the atmosphere of the Sicilian Idylls is preserved by two half-clad goatherds who have brought their flock to pasture from hillside Mediunah, in whose pens they are kept safe from thieves at night. As though he were a reincarnation of Daphnis or Menalcas, one of the brown-skinned boys leans over a little promontory and plays a tuneless ghaitah, while his companion, a younger lad, gives his eyes to the flock and his ears to the music. The last rains of this favoured land's brief winter have passed; beyond the plateau the sun has called flowers to life in every nook and cranny. Soon the light will grow too strong and blinding, the flowers will fade beneath it, the shepherds will seek the shade, but in these glad March days there is no suggestion of the intolerable heat to come.



On the plot of level ground that Nature herself has set in position for a camp, the tents are pitched. Two hold the impedimenta of travel; in the third Salam and his assistant work in leisurely fashion, as befits the time and place. Tangier lies no more than twelve miles away, over a road that must be deemed uncommonly good for Morocco, but I have chosen to live in camp for a week or two in this remote place, in preparation for a journey to the southern country. At first the tents were the cynosure of native eyes. Mediunah came down from its fastness among the hilltops to investigate discreetly from secure corners, prepared for flight so soon as occasion demanded it, if not before. Happily Salam's keen glance pierced the cover of the advance-guard and reassured one and all. Confidence established, the village agreed after much solemn debate to supply eggs, chickens, milk, and vegetables at prices doubtless in excess of those prevailing in the country markets, but quite low enough for Europeans.

This little corner of the world, close to the meeting of the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, epitomises in its own quiet fashion the story of the land's decay. Now it is a place of wild bees and wilder birds, of flowers and bushes that live fragrant untended lives, seen by few and appreciated by none. It is a spot so far removed from human care that I have seen, a few yards from the tents, fresh tracks made by the wild boar as he has rooted o' nights; and once, as I sat looking out over the water when the rest of the camp was asleep, a dark shadow passed, not fifty yards distant, going head to wind up the hill, and I knew it for "tusker" wending his way to the village gardens, where the maize was green.

Yet the district has not always been solitary. Where now the tents are pitched, there was an orange grove in the days when Mulai Abd er Rahman ruled at Fez and Marrakesh, and then Mediunah boasted quite a thriving connection with the coasts of Portugal and Spain. The little bay wherein one is accustomed to swim or plash about at noonday, then sheltered furtive sailing-boats from the sleepy eyes of Moorish authority, and a profitable smuggling connection was maintained with the Spanish villages between Algeciras and Tarifa Point. Beyond the rocky caverns, where patient countrymen still quarry for millstones, a bare coast-line leads to the spot where legend places the Gardens of the Hesperides; indeed, the millstone quarries are said to be the original Caves of Hercules, and the golden fruit the hero won flourished, we are assured, not far away. Small wonder then that the place has an indefinable quality of enchantment that even the twentieth century cannot quite efface.



Life in camp is exquisitely simple. We rise with the sun. If in the raw morning hours a donkey brays, the men are very much perturbed, for they know that the poor beast has seen a djin. They will remain ill-at-ease until, somewhere in the heights where Mediunah is preparing for another day, a cock crows. This is a satisfactory omen, atoning for the donkey's performance. A cock only crows when he sees an angel, and, if there are angels abroad, the ill intentions of the djinoon will be upset. When I was travelling in the country some few years ago, it chanced one night that the heavens were full of shooting stars. My camp attendants ceased work at once. Satan and all his host were assailing Paradise, they said, and we were spectators of heaven's artillery making counter-attack upon the djinoon.[1] The wandering meteors passed, the fixed stars shone out with such a splendour as we may not hope to see in these western islands, and the followers of the great Camel Driver gave thanks and praise to His Master Allah, who had conquered the powers of darkness once again.

While I enjoy a morning stroll over the hills, or a plunge in the sea, Salam, squatting at the edge of the cooking tent behind two small charcoal fires, prepares the breakfast. He has the true wayfarer's gift that enables a man to cook his food in defiance of wind or weather. Some wisps of straw and charcoal are arranged in a little hole scooped out of the ground, a match is struck, the bellows are called into play, and the fire is an accomplished fact. The kettle sings as cheerfully as the cicadas in the tree tops, eggs are made into what Salam calls a "marmalade," in spite of my oft-repeated assurance that he means omelette, porridge is cooked and served with new milk that has been carefully strained and boiled. For bread we have the flat brown loaves of Mediunah, and they are better than they look—ill-made indeed, but vastly more nutritious than the pretty emasculated products of our modern bakeries.

Bargain and sale are concluded before the morning walk is over. The village folk send a deputation carrying baskets of eggs and charcoal, with earthen jars of milk or butter, fresh vegetables, and live chickens. I stayed one morning to watch the procedure.

The eldest of the party, a woman who seems to be eighty and is probably still on the sunny side of fifty, comes slowly forward to where Salam sits aloof, dignified and difficult to approach. He has been watching her out of one corner of an eye, but feigns to be quite unconscious of her presence. He and she know that we want supplies and must have them from the village, but the facts of the case have nothing to do with the conventions of trading in Sunset Land.

"The Peace of the Prophet on all True Believers. I have brought food from Mediunah," says the elderly advance-guard, by way of opening the campaign.

"Allah is indeed merciful, O my Aunt," responds Salam with lofty irrelevance. Then follows a prolonged pause, somewhat trying, I apprehend, to Aunt, and struggling with a yawn Salam says at length, "I will see what you would sell."

She beckons the others, and they lay their goods at our steward's feet. Salam turns his head away meanwhile, and looks out across the Atlantic as though anxious to assure himself about the state of agriculture in Spain. At last he wheels about, and with a rapid glance full of contempt surveys the village produce. He has a cheapening eye.

"How much?" he asks sternly.



Item by item the old dame prices the goods. The little group of young married women, with babies tied in a bundle behind them, or half-naked children clinging to their loin-cloths, nods approval. But Salam's face is a study. In place of contemptuous indifference there is now rising anger, terrible to behold. His brows are knitted, his eyes flame, his beard seems to bristle with rage. The tale of prices is hardly told before, with a series of rapid movements, he has tied every bundle up, and is thrusting the good things back into the hands of their owners. His vocabulary is strained to its fullest extent; he stands up, and with outspread hands denounces Mediunah and all its ways. The men of the village are cowards; the women have no shame. Their parents were outcasts. They have no fear of the Prophet who bade True Believers deal fairly with the stranger within their gates. In a year at most, perhaps sooner, "Our Master the Sultan" will assuredly be among these people who shame Al Moghreb,[2] he will eat them up, dogs will make merry among their graves, and their souls will go down to the pit. In short, everything is too dear.

Only the little children are frightened by this outburst, which is no more than a prelude to bargaining. The women extol and Salam decries the goods on offer; both praise Allah. Salam assures them that the country of the "Ingliz" would be ruined if its inhabitants had to pay the prices they ask for such goods as they have to sell. He will see his master starve by inches, he will urge him to return to Tangier and eat there at a fair price, before he will agree to sacrifices hitherto unheard of in Sunset Land. This bargaining proceeds for a quarter of an hour without intermission, and by then the natives have brought their prices down and Salam has brought his up. Finally the money is paid in Spanish pesetas or Moorish quarters, and carefully examined by the simple folk, who retire to their ancestral hills, once more praising Allah who sends custom. Salam, his task accomplished, complains that the villagers have robbed us shamefully, but a faint twinkle in his eye suggests that he means less than he says.

Breakfast over, I seek a hillside cave where there is a double gift of shade and a wonderful view, content to watch the pageantry of the morning hours and dream of hard work. Only the goatherds and their charges suggest that the district is inhabited, unless some vessel passing on its way to or from the southern coast can be seen communicating with the signal station round the bend of the rocks. There a kindly old Scot lives, with his Spanish wife and little children, in comparative isolation, from the beginning to the end of the year.

"I've almost forgotten my own tongue," he said to me one evening when he came down to the camp to smoke the pipe of peace and tell of the fur and feather that pass in winter time. It was on a day when a great flight of wild geese had been seen winging its way to the unknown South, and the procession had fired the sporting instinct in one of us at least.



Mid-day, or a little later, finds Salam in charge of a light meal, and, that discussed, one may idle in the shade until the sun is well on the way to the West. Then books and papers are laid aside. We set out for a tramp, or saddle the horses and ride for an hour or so in the direction of the mountain, an unexplored Riviera of bewildering and varied loveliness. The way lies through an avenue of cork trees, past which the great hills slope seaward, clothed with evergreen oak and heath, and a species of sundew, with here and there yellow broom, gum cistus, and an unfamiliar plant with blue flowers. Trees and shrubs fight for light and air, the fittest survive and thrive, sheltering little birds from the keen-eyed, quivering hawks above them. The road makes me think of what the French Mediterranean littoral must have been before it was dotted over with countless vulgar villas, covered with trees and shrubs that are not indigenous to the soil, and tortured into trim gardens that might have strayed from a prosperous suburb of London or Paris. Save a few charcoal burners, or stray women bent almost double beneath the load of wood they have gathered for some village on the hills, we see nobody. These evening rides are made into a country as deserted as the plateau that holds the camp, for the mountain houses of wealthy residents are half a dozen miles nearer Tangier.[3]

On other evenings the road chosen lies in the direction of the Caves of Hercules, where the samphire grows neglected, and wild ferns thrive in unexpected places. I remember once scaring noisy seabirds from what seemed to be a corpse, and how angrily the gorged, reluctant creatures rose from what proved to be the body of a stranded porpoise, that tainted the air for fifty yards around. On another evening a storm broke suddenly. Somewhere in the centre rose a sand column that seemed to tell, in its brief moment of existence, the secret of the origin of the djinoon that roam at will through Eastern legendary lore.

It is always necessary to keep a careful eye upon the sun during these excursions past the caves. The light fails with the rapidity associated with all the African countries, tropical and semi-tropical alike. A sudden sinking, as though the sun had fallen over the edge of the world, a brief after-glow, a change from gold to violet, and violet to grey, a chill in the air, and the night has fallen. Then there is a hurried scamper across sand, over rocks and past boulders, before the path that stretches in a faint fading line becomes wholly obliterated. In such a place as this one might wander for hours within a quarter of a mile of camp, and then only find the road by lucky accident, particularly if the senses have been blunted by very long residence in the heart of European civilisation.



I think that dinner brings the most enjoyable hour of the day. Work is over, the sights of sea and shore have been enjoyed, we have taken exercise in plenty. Salam and his helpers having dined, the kitchen tent becomes the scene of an animated conversation that one hears without understanding. Two or three old headmen, finding their way in the dark like cats, have come down from Mediunah to chat with Salam and the town Moor. The social instinct pervades Morocco. On the plains of R'hamna, where fandaks are unknown and even the n'zalas[4] are few and far between; in the fertile lands of Dukala, Shiadma, and Haha; in M'touga, on whose broad plains the finest Arab horses are reared and thrive,—I have found this instinct predominant. As soon as the evening meal is over, the headmen of the nearest village come to the edge of the tent, remove their slippers, praise God, and ask for news of the world without. It may be that they are going to rob the strangers in the price of food for mules and horses, or even over the tent supplies. It may be that they would cut the throats of all foreign wayfarers quite cheerfully, if the job could be accomplished without fear of reprisals. It is certain that they despise them for Unbelievers, i.e. Christians or Jews, condemned to the pit; but in spite of all considerations they must have news of the outer world.

When the moon comes out and the Great Bear constellation is shining above our heads as though its sole duty in heaven were to light the camp, there is a strong temptation to ramble. I am always sure that I can find the track, or that Salam will be within hail should it be lost. How quickly the tents pass out of sight. The path to the hills lies by way of little pools where the frogs have a croaking chorus that Aristophanes might have envied. On the approach of strange footsteps they hurry off the flat rocks by the pool, and one hears a musical plash as they reach water. Very soon the silence is resumed, and presently becomes so oppressive that it is a relief to turn again and see our modest lights twinkling as though in welcome.

It is hopeless to wait for wild boar now. One or two pariah dogs, hailing from nowhere, have been attracted to the camp, Salam has given them the waste food, and they have installed themselves as our protectors, whether out of a feeling of gratitude or in hope of favours to come I cannot tell, but probably from a mixture of wise motives. They are alert, savage beasts, of a hopelessly mixed breed, but no wild boar will come rooting near the camp now, nor will any thief, however light-footed, yield to the temptation our tents afford.



We have but one visitor after the last curtain has been drawn, a strange bird with a harsh yet melancholy note, that reminds me of the night-jar of the fen lands in our own country. The hills make a semicircle round the camp, and the visitor seems to arrive at the corner nearest Spartel about one o'clock in the morning. It cries persistently awhile, and then flies to the middle of the semicircle, just at the back of the tents, where the note is very weird and distinct. Finally it goes to the other horn of the crescent and resumes the call—this time, happily, a much more subdued affair. What is it? Why does it come to complain to the silence night after night? One of the men says it is a djin, and wants to go back to Tangier, but Salam, whose loyalty outweighs his fears, declares that even though it be indeed a devil and eager to devour us, it cannot come within the charmed range of my revolver. Hence its regret, expressed so unpleasantly. I have had to confess to Salam that I have no proof that he is wrong.

Now and again in the afternoon the tribesmen call to one another from the hill tops. They possess an extraordinary power of carrying their voices over a space that no European could span. I wonder whether the real secret of the powers ascribed to the half-civilised tribes of Africa has its origin in this gift. Certain it is that news passes from village to village across the hills, and that no courier can keep pace with it. In this way rumours of great events travel from one end of the Dark Continent to the other, and if the tales told me of the passage of news from South to North Africa during the recent war were not so extravagant as they seem at first hearing, I would set them down here, well assured that they would startle if they could not convince. In the south of Morocco, during the latter days of my journey, men spoke with quiet conviction of the doings of Sultan and Pretender in the North, just as though Morocco possessed a train or telegraph service, or a native newspaper. It does not seem unreasonable that, while the deserts and great rolling plains have extended men's vision to a point quite outside the comprehension of Europe, other senses may be at least equally stimulated by a life we Europeans shall: never know intimately. Perhaps the fear of believing too readily makes us unduly sceptical, and inclined to forget that our philosophy cannot compass one of the many mysteries that lie at our door.

If any proof were required that Morocco in all its internal disputes is strictly tribal, our safe residence here would supply one. On the other side of Tangier, over in the direction of Tetuan, the tribes are out and the roads are impassable. Europeans are forbidden to ride by way of Angera to Tetuan. Even a Minister, the representative of a great European Power, was warned by old Hadj Mohammed Torres, the resident Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that the Moorish Administration would not hold itself responsible for his safety if he persisted in his intention to go hunting among the hills. And here we remain unmolested day after day, while the headmen of the Mediunah tribe discuss with perfect tranquillity the future of the Pretender's rebellion, or allude cheerfully to the time when, the Jehad (Holy War) being proclaimed, the Moslems will be permitted to cut the throats of all the Unbelievers who trouble the Moghreb. In the fatalism of our neighbours lies our safety. If Allah so wills, never a Nazarene will escape the more painful road to eternal fire; if it is written otherwise, Nazarene torment will be posthumous. They do not know, nor, in times when the land is preparing for early harvest, do they greatly care, what or when the end may be. Your wise Moor waits to gather in his corn and see it safely hoarded in the clay-lined and covered pits called mat'moras. That work over, he is ready and willing, nay, he is even anxious, to fight, and if no cause of quarrel is to be found he will make one.



Every year or two a party of travellers settles on this plateau, says the headman of Mediunah. From him I hear of a fellow writer from England who was camped here six years ago.[5] Travellers stay sometimes for three or four days, sometimes for as many weeks, and he has been told by men who have come many miles from distant markets, that the Nazarenes are to be found here and there throughout the Moroccan highlands towards the close of the season of the winter rains. Clearly their own land is not a very desirable abiding place, or they have sinned against the law, or their Sultan has confiscated their worldly goods, remarks the headman. My suggestion that other causes than these may have been at work, yields no more than an assertion that all things are possible, if Allah wills them. It is his polite method of expressing reluctance to believe everything he is told.

From time to time, when we are taking our meals in the open air, I see the shepherd boys staring at us from a respectful distance. To them we must seem no better than savages. In the first place, we sit on chairs and not on the ground. We cut our bread, which, as every True Believer knows, is a wicked act and defies Providence, since bread is from Allah and may be broken with the hand but never touched with a knife. Then we do not know how to eat with our fingers, but use knives and forks and spoons that, after mere washing, are common property. We do not have water poured out over our fingers before the meal begins,—the preliminary wash in the tent is invisible and does not count,—and we do not say "Bismillah" before we start eating. We are just heathens, they must say to themselves. Our daily bathing seems to puzzle them greatly. I do not notice that little Larbi or his brother Kasem ever tempt the sea to wash or drown them. Yet they look healthy enough, and are full of dignity. You may offer them fruit or sweetmeats or anything tempting that may be on the table, and they will refuse it. I fancy they regard the invitation to partake of Nazarene's food as a piece of impertinence, only excusable because Nazarenes are mad.

The days slip away from the plateau below Mediunah. March has yielded place to April. To-morrow the pack-mules will be here at sunrise. In the afternoon, when the cool hours approach, camp will be struck, and we shall ride down the avenue of cork trees for the last time on the way to "Tanjah of the Nazarenes," whence, at the week end, the boat will carry us to some Atlantic port, there to begin a longer journey.



FOOTNOTES:

[1] "Moreover, we have decked the lower heaven with lamps, and have made them for pelting the devils."—Al Koran; Sura, "The Kingdom."

[2] "The Far West", the native name for Morocco.

[3] One of the most charming of these houses is "Aidonia," belonging to Mr. Ion Perdicaris. He was seized there by the brigand Rais Uli in May last.

[4] Shelters provided by the Government for travellers.

[5] A.J. Dawson, whose novels dealing with Morocco are full of rare charm and distinction.



FROM TANGIER TO DJEDIDA



CHAPTER II

FROM TANGIER TO DJEDIDA

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

* * * * *

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.

The Canterbury Tales.

We have rounded the north-west corner of Africa, exchanged farewell signals with our friend on Lloyd's station,—who must now return to his Spanish and Arabic or live a silent life,—and I have taken a last look through field-glasses at the plateau that held our little camp. Since then we have raced the light for a glimpse of El Araish, where the Gardens of the Hesperides were set by people of old time. The sun was too swift in its decline; one caught little more than an outline of the white city, with the minarets of its mosques that seemed to pierce the sky, and flags flying in the breeze on the flat roofs of its Consuls' houses. The river Lekkus showed up whitely on the eastern side, a rising wind having whipped its waters into foam, and driven the light coasting vessels out to sea. So much I saw from the good ship Zweena's upper deck, and then evening fell, as though to hide from me the secret of the gardens where the Golden Apples grew.

Alas, that modern knowledge should have destroyed all faith in old legend! The fabled fruits of the Hesperides turn to oranges in the hands of our wise men, the death-dealing dragon becomes Wad Lekkus itself, so ready even to-day to snarl and roar at the bidding of the wind that comes up out of the south-west, and the dusky maidens of surpassing loveliness are no more than simple Berber girls, who, whilst doubtless dusky, and possibly maidenly as ever, have not inherited much of the storied beauty of their forbears. In spite of this modern perversion of the old tale I find that the oranges of the dining-table have a quite rare charm for me to-night,—such an attraction as they have had hitherto only when I have picked them in the gardens of Andalusia, or in the groves that perfume the ancient town of Jaffa at the far eastern end of the Mediterranean. Now I have one more impression to cherish, and the scent of a blossoming orange tree will recall for me El Araish as I saw it at the moment when the shroud of evening made the mosques and the kasbah of Mulai al Yazeed melt, with the great white spaces between them, into a blurred pearly mass without salient feature.



You shall still enjoy the sense of being in touch with past times and forgotten people, if you will walk the deck of a ship late at night. Your fellow-passengers are abed, the watch, if watch there be, is invisible, the steady throbbing movement of the screw resolves itself into a pleasing rhythmic melody. So far as the senses can tell, the world is your closet, a silent pleasaunce for your waking dreams. The coast-line has no lights, nor is any other vessel passing over the waters within range of eye or glass. The hosts of heaven beam down upon a silent universe in which you are the only waking soul. On a sudden eight bells rings out sharply from the forecastle head, and you spring back from your world of fancy as hurriedly as Cinderella returned to her rags when long-shore midnight chimed. The officer of the middle watch and a hand for the wheel come aft to relieve their companions, the illusion has passed, and you go below to turn in, feeling uncomfortably sure that your pretty thoughts will appear foolish and commonplace enough when regarded in the matter-of-fact light of the coming day.

Dar el Baida, most Moorish of seaports, received us in the early morning. The wind had fallen, and the heavy surf-boats of the port could land us easily. We went on shore past the water-gate and the custom-house that stands on the site of the stores erected by the society of the Gremios Majores when Charles V. ruled Spain. Dar el Baida seemed to have straggled over as much ground as Tangier, but the ground itself was flat and full of refuse. The streets were muddy and unpaved, cobble stones strove ineffectually to disguise drains, and one felt that the sea breezes alone stood between the city and some such virulent epidemic as that which smote Tangier less than ten years ago. But withal there was a certain picturesque quality about Dar el Baida that atoned for more obvious faults, and the market-place afforded a picture as Eastern in its main features as the tired Western eye could seek. Camel caravans had come in from the interior for the Monday market. They had tramped from the villages of the Zair and the Beni Hassan tribes, bringing ripe barley for sale, though the spring months had not yet passed. From places near at hand the husbandmen had brought all the vegetables that flourish after the March rains,—peas and beans and lettuces; pumpkins, carrots and turnips, and the tender leaves of the date-palm. The first fruits of the year and the dried roses of a forgotten season were sold by weight, and charcoal was set in tiny piles at prices within the reach of the poorest customers.

Wealthy merchants had brought their horses within the shadow of the sok's[6] high walls and loosened the many-clothed saddles. Slaves walked behind their masters or trafficked on their behalf. The snake-charmer, the story-teller, the beggar, the water-carrier, the incense seller, whose task in life is to fumigate True Believers, all who go to make the typical Moorish crowd, were to be seen indolently plying their trade. But inquiries for mules, horses, and servants for the inland journey met with no ready response. Dar el Baida, I was assured, had nothing to offer; Djedida, lower down along the coast, might serve, or Saffi, if Allah should send weather of a sort that would permit the boat to land.



As it happened, Djedida was the steamer's next port of call, so we made haste to return to her hospitable decks. I carried with me a vivid impression of Dar el Baida, of the market-place with its varied goods, and yet more varied people, the white Arabs, the darker Berbers, the black slaves from the Soudan and the Draa. Noticeable in the market were the sweet stores, where every man sat behind his goods armed with a feather brush, and waged ceaseless war with the flies, while a corner of his eye was kept for small boys, who were well nigh as dangerous. I remember the gardens, one particularly well. It belongs to the French Consul, and has bananas growing on the trees that face the road; from beyond the hedge one caught delightful glimpses of colour and faint breaths of exquisite perfume.

I remember, too, the covered shed containing the mill that grinds the flour for the town, and the curious little bakehouse to which Dar el Baida takes its flat loaves, giving the master of the establishment one loaf in ten by way of payment. I recall the sale of horses, at which a fine raking mare with her foal at foot fetched fifty-four dollars in Moorish silver, a sum less than nine English pounds.

And I seem to see, even now as I write, the Spanish woman with cruel painted face, sitting at the open casement of an old house near the Spanish church, thrumming her guitar, and beneath her, by the roadside, a beggar clad, like the patriarch of old, in a garment of many colours, that made his black face seem blacker than any I have seen in Africa. Then Dar el Baida sinks behind the water-port gate, the strong Moorish rowers bend to their oars, their boat laps through the dark-blue water, and we are back aboard the ship again, in another atmosphere, another world. Passengers are talking as it might be they had just returned from their first visit to a Zoological Garden. Most of them have seen no more than the dirt and ugliness—their vision noted no other aspect—of the old-world port. The life that has not altered for centuries, the things that make it worth living to all the folk we leave behind,—these are matters in which casual visitors to Morocco have no concern. They resent suggestion that the affairs of "niggers" can call for serious consideration, far less for appreciation or interest of any sort.

Happily Djedida is not far away. At daybreak we are securely anchored before the town whose possession by the Portuguese is recorded to this hour by the fine fortifications and walls round the port. We slip over the smooth water in haste, that we may land before the sun is too high in the heavens. It is not without a thrill of pleasure that I hear the ship's shrill summons and see the rest of the passengers returning.



By this time it is afternoon, but the intervening hours have not been wasted. I have found the Maalem, master of a bakehouse, a short, olive-skinned, wild, and wiry little man, whose yellowed eyes and contracting pupils tell a tale of haschisch and kief that his twitching fingers confirm. But he knows the great track stretching some hundred and twenty miles into the interior up to Red Marrakesh; he is "the father and mother" of mules and horses, animals that brighten the face of man by reason of their superlative qualities, and he is prepared to undertake the charge of all matters pertaining to a journey over this roadless country. His beasts are fit to journey to Tindouf in the country of the Draa, so fine is their condition; their saddles and accoutrements would delight the Sultan's own ministers. By Allah, the inland journey will be a picnic! Quite gravely, I have professed to believe all he says, and my reservations, though many, are all mental.

In the days that precede departure—and in Morocco they are always apt to be numerous—I seek to enter into the life of Djedida. Sometimes we stroll to the custom-house, where grave and dignified Moors sit in the bare, barnlike office that opens upon the waste ground beyond the port. There they deliver my shot guns after long and dubious scrutiny of the order from the British Consulate at Tangier. They also pass certain boxes of stores upon production of a certificate testifying that they paid duty on arrival at the Diplomatic Capital. These matters, trivial enough to the Western mind, are of weight and moment here, not to be settled lightly or without much consultation.

Rotting in the stores of this same custom-house are two grand pianos and an electric omnibus. The Sultan ordered them, the country paid for them,—so much was achieved by the commercial energy of the infidel,—and native energy sufficed to land them; it was exhausted by the effort. If Mulai Abd-el-Aziz wants his dearly purchased treasure, the ordering and existence of which he has probably forgotten, he must come to Mazagan for it, I am afraid, and unless he makes haste it will not be worth much. But there are many more such shipments in other ports, not to mention the unopened and forgotten packing cases at Court.



The Basha of Djedida is a little old man, very rich indeed, and the terror of the entire Dukala province. I like to watch him as he sits day by day under the wall of the Kasbah by the side of his own palace, administering what he is pleased to call justice. Soldiers and slaves stand by to enforce his decree if need be, plaintiff and defendant lie like tombstones or advertisements of patent medicines, or telegrams from the seat of war, but no sign of an emotion lights the old man's face. He tempers justice with—let us say, diplomacy. The other afternoon a French-protected subject was charged with sheep-stealing, and I went to the trial. Salam acted as interpreter for me. The case was simple enough. The defendant had received some hundred sheep from plaintiff to feed and tend at an agreed price. From time to time he sent plaintiff the sad news of the death of certain rams, always among the finest in the flock. Plaintiff, a farmer in good circumstances, testified to the Unity of Allah and was content to pray for better luck, until news was brought to him that most of the sheep reported dead were to be seen in the Friday market fetching good prices. The news proved true, the report of their death was no more than the defendant's intelligent anticipation of events, and the action arose out of it. To be sure, the plaintiff had presented a fine sheep to the Basha, but the defendant was a French subject by protection, and the Vice-Consul of his adopted nation was there to see fair play. Under these circumstances the defendant lied with an assurance that must have helped to convince himself; his friends arrived in the full number required by the law, and testified with cheerful mendacity in their companion's favour. The Basha listened with attention while the litigants swore strange oaths and abused each other very thoroughly. Then he silenced both parties with a word, and gave judgment for the defendant. There was no appeal, though, had the defendant been an unprotected subject, the plaintiff's knife had assuredly entered into the final settlement of this little matter. But the plaintiff knew that an attack upon a French protege would lead to his own indefinite imprisonment and occasional torture, to the confiscation of his goods, and to sundry other penalties that may be left unrecorded, as they would not look well in cold print. He knew, moreover, that everything is predestined, that no man may avoid Allah's decree. These matters of faith are real, not pale abstractions, in Morocco. So he was less discontented with the decision than one of his European brethren would have been in similar case—and far more philosophic regarding it.



Quite slowly we completed our outfit for the inland journey. Heaven aid the misguided Nazarene who seeks to accomplish such matters swiftly in this land of eternal afternoon. I bought an extraordinary assortment of what our American friends call "dry-goods" in the Jewish stores, from the very business-like gentlemen in charge of them. These all wore black gaberdines, black slippers, stockings that were once white, and black skull-caps over suspiciously shining love-locks. Most of the Jewish men seemed to have had smallpox; in their speech they relied upon a very base Arabic, together with worse Spanish or quite barbarous French. Djedida having no Mellah, as the Moorish ghetto is called, they were free to trade all over the town, and for rather less than a pound sterling I bought quite an imposing collection of cutlery, plate, and dishes for use on the road. It is true, as I discovered subsequently, that the spoons and forks might be crushed out of shape with one hand, that the knives would cut nothing rougher than Danish butter, and were imported from Germany with a Sheffield mark on them to deceive the natives, and that the plates and dishes were not too good to go with the cutlery. But nothing had been bought without bargaining of a more or less exciting and interesting sort, and for the bargaining no extra charge whatever was made. The little boxlike shops, with flaps that served as shutters, were ill-adapted for private purchase; there was no room for more than the owner inside, and before we had been at one for five minutes the roadway became impassable. All the idlers and beggars in that district gathered to watch the strangers, and the Maalem was the only one who could keep them at bay. Salam would merely threaten to cuff an importunate rogue who pestered us, but the Maalem would curse him so fluently and comprehensively, and extend the anathema so far in either direction, from forgotten ancestors to unborn descendants, that no native could stand up for long against the flashing eye, the quivering forefinger, the foul and bitter tongue of him. There were times, then and later on, when the Maalem seemed to be some Moorish connection of Captain Kettle's family, and after reflecting upon my experience among hard-swearing men of many nations, seafarers, land-sharks, beach-combers and the rest, I award the Maalem pride of place. You will find him to-day in Djedida, baking his bread with the aid of the small apprentice who looks after the shop when he goes abroad, or enjoying the dreams of the haschisch eater when his work is done. He is no man's enemy, and the penalty of his shortcomings will probably fall upon no body or soul save his own. A picturesque figure, passionate yet a philosopher, patiently tolerant of blinding heat, bad roads, uncomfortable sleeping quarters and short commons, the Maalem will remain alive and real in my memory long after the kaids and wazeers and other high dignitaries of his country are no more than dimly splendid shadows, lacking altogether in individuality.

I learned to enjoy Djedida by night. Then the town was almost as silent as our camp below Mediunah had been. The ramparts left by the Portuguese and the white walls of the city itself became all of a piece, indistinct and mysterious as the darkness blended them. Late camels coming into the town to seek the security of some fandak would pad noiselessly past me; weird creatures from the under-world they seemed, on whom the ghostlike Arabs in their white djellabas were ordered to attend. Children would flit to and fro like shadows, strangely quiet, as though held in thrall even in the season of their play by the solemn aspect of the surroundings. The market-place and road to the landing-stage would be deserted, the gates of the city barred, and there was never a light to be seen save where some wealthy Moor attended by lantern-bearing slaves passed to and from his house. One night by the Kasbah the voice of a watchman broke upon the city's silence, at a time when the mueddin was at rest, and it was not incumbent upon the faithful to pray. "Be vigilant, O guardians," he cried,—"be vigilant and do not sleep." Below, by my side, on the ground, the guardians, wrapped warm in their djellabas, dreamed on, all undisturbed.

By night, too, the pariah dogs, scavengers of all Mohammedan cities, roamed at their ease and leisure through Djedida, so hungry and so free from daintiness that no garbage would be left on the morrow. Moorish houses have no windows fronting the road—decency forbids, and though there might have been ample light within, the bare walls helped to darken the pathway, and it was wise to walk warily lest one should tumble over some beggar asleep on the ground.



On nights like these and through streets not greatly different, Harun al Raschid fared abroad in Baghdad and lighted upon the wonderful folk who live for all time in the pages of the Arabian Nights. Doubtless I passed some twentieth-century descendants of the fisher-folk, the Calendars, the slaves, and the merchants who move in their wonderful pageantry along the glittering road of the "Thousand Nights and a Night,"—the type is marvellously unchanging in Al Moghreb; but, alas, they spoke, if at all, to deaf ears, and Salam was ever more anxious to see me safely home than to set out in search of adventure. By day I knew that Djedida had little of the charm associated even in this year of grace with the famous city on the Tigris, but, all over the world that proclaims the inspiration of Mohammed, the old times come back by night, and then "a thousand years are but as yesterday."

Happily we were right below the area of rebellion. In the north, round Fez and Taza, there was severe fighting, spreading thence to the Riff country. Here, people did no more than curse the Pretender in public or the Sultan in private, according to the state of their personal feelings. Communication with the south, said the Maalem, was uninterrupted; only in the north were the sons of the Illegitimate, the rebels against Allah, troubling Our Lord the Sultan. From Djedida down to the Atlas the tribes were peaceful, and would remain at rest unless Our Master should attempt to collect his taxes, in which case, without doubt, there would be trouble.



He was a busy man in these days, was the Maalem. When he was not baking bread or smoking kief he was securing mules and bringing them for our inspection. To Mr. T. Spinney, son of the British Vice-Consul in Mazagan, we owed our salvation. A master of Moghrebbin Arabic, on intimate terms with the Moors, and thoroughly conversant with the road and its requirements, he stood between me and the fiery-tongued Maalem. This mule was rejected, that saddle was returned, stirrups tied with string were disqualified, the little man's claim to have all "the money in the hand" was overruled, and the Maalem, red-hot sputtering iron in my hands, was as wax in Mr. Spinney's. My good friend and host also found Kaid M'Barak,[7] the soldier, a tall, scorched, imperturbable warrior, who rode a brave horse, and carried a gun done up in a very tattered, old, flannel case tied with half a dozen pieces of string. The kaid's business was to strike terror into the hearts of evil men in return for a Moorish dollar a day, and to help with tent setting and striking, or anything else that might be required, in return for his food. He was a lean, gaunt, taciturn man, to whom twelve hours in the saddle brought no discomfort, and though he strove earnestly to rob me, it was only at the journey's end, when he had done his work faithfully and well. His gun seemed to be a constant source of danger to somebody, for he carried it at right angles to his horse across the saddle, and often on the road I would start to consciousness that the kaid was covering me with his be-frocked weapon. After a time one grew accustomed and indifferent to the danger, but when I went shooting in the Argan forest I left the blessed one in camp. He was convinced that he carried his gun in proper fashion, and that his duty was well done. And really he may have been right, for upon a day, when a hint of possible danger threatened, I learned to my amusement and relief that the valiant man carried no ammunition of any sort, and that the barrel of his gun was stuffed full of red calico.

Our inland tramp over, he took one day's rest at Mogador, then gathered the well-earned store of dollars into his belt and started off to follow the coast road back to Djedida. Perhaps by now the Basha has had his dollars, or the Sultan has summoned him to help fight Bu Hamara. In any case I like to think that his few weeks with us will rank among the pleasant times of his life, for he proved a patient, enduring man, and though silent, a not unedifying companion.

Among the strange stories I heard in Djedida while preparing for the journey was one relating to the then War Minister, Kaid Mahedi el Menebhi, some-time envoy to the Court of St. James's. In his early days Menebhi, though a member of the great Atlas Kabyle of that name, had been a poor lad running about Djedida's streets, ready and willing to earn a handful of floos[8] by hard work of any description. Then he set up in business as a mender of old shoes and became notorious, not because of his skill as a cobbler, but on account of his quick wit and clever ideas. In all Mohammedan countries a Believer may rise without any handicap on account of lowly origin, and so it fell out that the late Grand Wazeer, Ba Ahmad, during a visit to Djedida heard of the young cobbler's gifts, and straightway gave him a place in his household. Thereafter promotion was rapid and easy for Menebhi, and the lad who had loafed about the streets with the outcasts of the city became, under the Sultan, the first man in Morocco. "To-day," concluded my informant, "he has palaces and slaves and a great hareem, he is a Chief Wazeer and head of the Sultan's forces, but he still owes a merchant in Djedida some few dollars on account of leather he had bought and forgot to pay for when Ba Ahmad took him to Marrakesh."[9]



In the R'hamna country, on the way to the southern capital, we pitched our tents one night in a Government n'zala, or guarded camping-ground, one of many that are spread about the country for the safety of travellers. The price of corn, eggs, and chickens was amazingly high, and the Maalem explained that the n'zala was kept by some of the immediate family of Mahedi el Menebhi, who had put them there, presumably to make what profit they could. I looked very carefully at our greedy hosts. They were a rough unprepossessing crowd, but their wealth in sheep and goats alone was remarkable, and their stock was safe from molestation, for they were known to be relatives of the Sultan's chief minister, a man whose arm is long and hard-hitting. Since last autumn Menebhi has resigned his high office, reduced his household, manumitted many slaves, and gone on the great pilgrimage to Mecca, so it may be presumed that his relatives in the forsaken R'hamna country have lowered their prices. Yet, 'tis something to have a great wazeer for relative even though, for the time being, loss of favour has given him leisure for pious observances.

At length the evening came, when the last mule was selected, the last package made up, and nothing lay between us and the open road. Sleep was hard to woo. I woke before daylight, and was in the patio before the first animal arrived, or the sleepy porter had fumbled at the door of the warehouse where the luggage was stacked.

Morn in the white wake of the morning star Came furrowing all the orient into gold,

and gave to the tops of walls and battlements a momentary tinge of rose colour, a sight well worth the effort demanded by early rising. Sparrow-hawks and pigeons were fluttering over their nests on the deserted battlements, a stork eyed me with solemn curiosity from the minaret of a near mosque, and only the earliest wayfarers were astir. How slowly the men seemed to do their work, and how rapidly the morning wore on. Ropes and palmetto baskets refused to fit at the last moment, two mules were restive until their "father," the Maalem, very wide awake and energetic, cursed their religion, and reminded them that they were the children of asses renowned throughout the Moghreb for baseness and immorality. One animal was found at the last moment to be saddle-galled, and was rejected summarily, despite its "father's" frenzied assurances. Though I had been astir shortly before three, and at work soon after four, it was nearly seven o'clock when the last crooked way had been made straight, the last shwarri[10] balanced, and the luggage mules were moving to the Dukala gate.

The crowd of curious onlookers then gave way, some few wishing us well on the journey. I daresay there were many among them, tied by their daily toil to the town, who thought with longing of the pleasant road before us, through fertile lands where all the orchards were aflower and the peasants were gathering the ripe barley, though April had yet some days to revel in. Small boys waved their hands to us, the water-carrier carrying his tight goat-skin from the wells set his cups a-tinkling, as though by way of a God-speed, and then M'Barak touched his horse with the spur to induce the bravery of a caracole, and led us away from Djedida. I drew a long breath of pleasure and relief; we were upon the road.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] The sok is the market-place.

[7] Kaid is a complimentary title—he was a common soldier. M'Barak means "the blessed one," and is one of the names usually set apart for slaves.

[8] Base copper coins, of which a penny will purchase a score.

[9] It is fair to say that this is no more than one of many stories relating to the great Wazeer's early days. Another says that he started life as a soldier. There is no doubt that he is a man of extraordinary talent.

[10] A pannier made of palmetto.



ON THE MOORISH ROAD



CHAPTER III

ON THE MOORISH ROAD

With the brief gladness of the Palms, that tower and sway o'er seething plain, Fraught with the thoughts of rustling shade, and welling spring, and rushing rain; 'Tis their's to pass with joy and hope, whose souls shall ever thrill and fill Dreams of the Birthplace and the Tomb,— visions of Allah's Holy Hill.

The Kasidah.

We travel slowly, for the Maalem "father" of the pack-mules—guide, philosopher, and trusted companion—says that haste kills strong men, and often repeats a Moorish proverb which tells us that walking is better than running, and that of all things sitting still is best. If Salam and I, reaching a piece of level sward by the side of some orchard or arable land when the heat of the day has passed, venture to indulge in a brisk canter, the Maalem's face grows black as his eyes.

"Have a care," he said to me one evening, "for this place is peopled by djinoon, and if they are disturbed they will at least kill the horses and mules, and leave us to every robber among the hills." Doubtless the Maalem prophesied worse things than this, but I have no Arabic worth mention, and Salam, who acts as interpreter, possesses a very fair amount of tact. I own to a vulgar curiosity that urges me to see a djin if I can, so, after this warning, Salam and I go cantering every late afternoon when the Enemy, as some Moors call the sun, is moving down towards the west, and the air gets its first faint touch of evening cool. Fortunately or unfortunately, the evil spirits never appear however, unless unnoticed by me in the harmless forms of storks, stock-doves, or sparrow-hawks.



In this fertile province of the Dukala, in the little-known kingdom of the victorious Sultan, Mulai Abd-el-Aziz, there are delightful stretches of level country, and the husbandman's simplest toil suffices to bring about an abundant harvest. Unhappily a great part of the province is not in permanent cultivation at all. For miles and miles, often as far as the eye can see, the land lies fallow, never a farmhouse or village to be seen, nothing save some zowia or saint's tomb, with white dome rising within four white walls to stare undaunted at the fierce African sun, while the saint's descendants in the shelter of the house live by begging from pious visitors. Away from the fertility that marks the neighbourhood of the douars, one finds a few spare bushes, suddra, retam, or colocynth, a few lizards darting here and there, and over all a supreme silence that may be felt, even as the darkness that troubled Egypt in days of old. The main track, not to be dignified by the name of road, is always to be discerned clearly enough, at least the Maalem is never in doubt when stray paths, leading from nowhere to the back of beyond, intersect it.

At long intervals we pass a n'zala, a square empty space surrounded by a zariba of thorn and prickly pear. The village, a few wattled huts with conical roofs, stands by its side. Every n'zala is a Government shelter for travellers; you may pitch your tent within the four walls, and even if you remain outside and hire guards the owners of the huts are responsible for your safety, with their worldly goods, perhaps with their lives. I have tried the interior of the Moorish n'zalas, where all too frequently you must lie on unimagined filth, often almost within reach of camel-drivers and muleteers, who are so godly that they have no time to be clean, and I have concluded that the drawbacks outweigh the advantages. Now I pitch my tent on some cleaner spot, and pay guards from the village to stretch their blankets under its lee and go to sleep. If there are thieves abroad the zariba will not keep them out, and if there are no thieves a tired traveller may forget his fatigue.

On the road we meet few wayfarers, and those we encounter are full of suspicion. Now and again we pass some country kaid or khalifa out on business. As many as a dozen well-armed slaves and retainers may follow him, and, as a rule, he rides a well-fed Barb with a fine crimson saddle and many saddle cloths. Over his white djellaba is a blue selham that came probably from Manchester; his stirrups are silver or plated. He travels unarmed and seldom uses spurs—a packing needle serves as an effective substitute. When he has spurs they are simply spear-heads—sharp prongs without rowels. The presence of Unbelievers in the country of the True Faith is clearly displeasing to him, but he is nearly always diplomat enough to return my laboured greeting, though doubtless he curses me heartily enough under his breath. His road lies from village to village, his duty to watch the progress of the harvest for his overlord. Even the locusts are kinder than the country kaids. But so soon as the kaid has amassed sufficient wealth, the governor of his province, or one of the high wazeers in the Sultan's capital, will despoil him and sell his place to the highest bidder, and in the fulness of time the Sultan will send for that wazeer or governor, and treat him in similar fashion. "Mektub," it is written, and who shall avoid destiny?[11]



When the way is long and the sun hot, pack and saddle animals come together, keeping a level pace of some five miles an hour, and Salam or the Maalem beguiles the tedium of the way with song or legend. The Maalem has a song that was taught him by one of his grandfather's slaves, in the far-off days when Mulai Mohammed reigned in Red Marrakesh. In this chant, with its weird monotonous refrain, the slaves sing of their journey from the lands of the South, the terrors of the way, the lack of food and water. It is a dismal affair enough, but the Maalem likes it, and Salam, riding under a huge Tetuan hat, carrying my shot gun, in case some fresh meat should come along, and keeping watchful eye on the mules, joins lustily in the refrain. Salam has few songs of his own, and does not care to sing them, lest his importance should suffer in the native eyes, but he possesses a stock of Arabian Nights' legends, and quotes them as though they were part of Al Koran.

Now and again, in some of the waste and stony places beyond Dukala's boundaries, we come across a well, literally a well in the desert, with husbandmen gathered about it and drawing water in their goat-skin buckets, that are tied to long palmetto ropes made by the men of the neighbouring villages. The water is poured into flat, puddled troughs, and the thirsty flocks and herds drink in turn, before they march away to hunt for such scanty herbage as the land affords. The scene round these wells is wonderfully reminiscent of earliest Bible times, particularly so where the wandering Bedouins bring their flocks to water from the inhospitable territory of the Wad Nun and deserts below the Sus.

I note with pleasure the surprising dignity of the herdsmen, who make far less comment upon the appearance of the stranger in these wild places than we should make upon the appearance of a Moor or Berber in a London street.

The most unmistakable tribute to the value of the water is paid by the skeletons of camels, mules, sheep and goats that mark the road to the well. They tell the tale of animals beaten by the Enemy in their last stride. It is not easy for a European to realise the suffering these strange lands must see when the summer drought is upon the face of the earth. Perhaps they are lessened among the human sufferers by the very real fatalism that accepts evil as it accepts good, without grief and without gladness, but always with philosophic calm; at least we should call it philosophic in a European; superstitious fatalism, of course, in a Moor.



The earliest and latest hours of our daily journey are, I think, the best. When afternoon turns toward evening in the fertile lands, and the great heat begins to pass, countless larks resume their song, while from every orchard one hears the subdued murmur of doves or the mellow notes of the nightingale. Storks sweep in wide circles overhead or teach their awkward young the arts of flight, or wade solemnly in search of supper to some marsh where the bull-frogs betray their presence by croaking as loudly as they can. The decline of the sun is quite rapid—very often the afterglow lights us to our destination. It is part of the Maalem's duty to decide upon the place of our nightly sojourn, and so to regulate the time of starting, the pace, and the mid-day rest, that he may bring us to the village or n'zala in time to get the tent up before darkness has fallen. The little man is master of every turn in the road, and has only failed once—when he brought us to a large village, where the bulk of the inhabitants of outlying douars had attacked the Governor's house, with very little success, on the previous day, and were now about to be attacked in their turn by the Governor and his bodyguard. There had been much firing and more shouting, but nobody was badly hurt. Prudence demanded that the journey be resumed forthwith, and for three hours the Maalem kept his eyes upon the stars and cursed the disturbers of the land's peace. Then we reached the desired haven, and passed unscathed through the attacks of the native dogs that guarded its approaches.

The procedure when we approach a n'zala in the evening is highly interesting. Some aged headman, who has seen our little company approaching, stands by the edge of the road and declares we are welcome.[12] Salam or the Maalem responds and presents me, a traveller from the far country of the Ingliz, carrying letters to the great sheikhs of the South. The headman repeats his welcome and is closely questioned concerning the existing supplies of water, corn, milk, eggs, and poultry. These points being settled, Salam asks abouts guards. The strangers would sleep outside the n'zala: Can they have guards at a fair price? Three are promised for a payment of about sevenpence apiece, and then the headman precedes us and we turn from the main track to the place of shelter.

Instantly the village is astir. The dogs are driven off. Every wattled hut yields its quota of men, women, and children, spectral in their white djellabas and all eager to see the strangers and their equipment. The men collect in one group and talk seriously of the visit, well assured that it has some significance, probably unpleasant; the women, nervous by nature and training, do not venture far from their homes and remain veiled to the eyes. But the children—dark, picturesque, half-naked boys and girls—are nearly free from fear if not from doubt. The tattoo marks on their chins keep them safe from the evil eye; so they do not run much risk from chance encounter with a European. They approach in a constantly shifting group, no detail of the unpacking is lost to them, they are delighted with the tent and amazed at the number of articles required to furnish it, they refuse biscuits and sugar, though Salam assures them that both are good to eat, and indeed sugar is one of the few luxuries of their simple lives.



By the headman's direction our wants are supplied. The patriarch, with his long white beard and clear far-seeing eyes, receives the respect and obedience of all the village, settles all disputes, and is personally responsible to the kaid of the district for the order and safety of the n'zala. Three men come from the well, each bearing a big clay amphora of water that must be boiled before we drink it. One brings an ample measure of barley, costing about four shillings or a little more in English money, another bends under a great load of straw. Closely-veiled women carry small jars of milk and hand them to their lord, who brings them up to Salam and states the price demanded. Milk is dear throughout Morocco in the late spring and summer, for, herbage being scanty, cows are small and poor. Eggs, on the other hand, are cheap; we can buy a dozen for twopence or its equivalent in Spanish or Moorish money, and chickens cost about fivepence apiece. If Salam, M'Barak and the Maalem were travelling alone they would pay less, but a European is rarely seen, and his visit must be made memorable.

Provisions purchased, the tent up, mules and horses tethered together in full view of the tent, a great peace falls upon our little party. I am permitted to lie at full length on a horse rug and stare up at the dark, star-spangled sky; Salam has dug a little hole in the ground, made a charcoal fire, and begun to prepare soup and boil the water for coffee. The Maalem smokes kief in furtive manner, as though orthodox enough to be ashamed of the practice, while M'Barak prepares plates and dishes for the evening meal. Around, in a semicircle, some ten yards away, the men and boys of the village sit observing us solemnly. They have little to say, but their surprise and interest are expressed quite adequately by their keen unfailing regard. The afterglow passes and charcoal fires are lighted at the edge of most of the native huts, in preparation for the evening meal, for the young shepherds have come from the fields and the flocks are safely penned. In the gathering dusk the native women, passing through the smoke or by the flame of their fire, present a most weird picture, as it might be they were participating in a Witches' Sabbath. Darkness envelops all the surrounding country, hiding the road by which we came, sealing up the track we have to follow, striking a note of loneliness that is awesome without being unpleasant. With what we call civilisation hundreds of miles away, in a country where law and order are to be regarded more as names than facts, one has a great joy in mere living, intensified doubtless by long hours spent in the saddle, by occasional hard work and curtailed rest, and by the daily sight of the rising sun.

The evening meal is a simple affair of soup, a chicken, and some coffee to follow, and when it is over I make my way to the kitchen tent, where the men have supped, and send M'Barak with an invitation to the headman and his sons. The blessed one makes his way to the headman's hut, while Salam clears up the debris of the meal, and the Maalem, conscious that no more work will be expected of him, devotes his leisure to the combustion of hemp, openly and unashamed. With many compliments the headman arrives, and I stand up to greet and bid him welcome—an effort that makes heavy call upon my scanty store of Arabic. The visitors remove their slippers and sit at ease, while Salam makes a savoury mess of green tea, heavily sweetened and flavoured with mint. My visitors are too simply pious to smoke, and regard the Maalem with displeasure and surprise, but he is quite beyond the reach of their reproaches now. His eyes are staring glassily, his lips have a curious ashen colour, his hands are twitching—the hemp god has him by the throat. The village men turn their backs upon this degraded Believer, and return thanks to Allah the One for sending an infidel who gives them tea. Broadly speaking, it is only coast Moors, who have suffered what is to them the contamination of European influences, that smoke in Morocco.

Like the Walrus and the Carpenter, we talk of many things, Salam acting as interpreter. The interests of my guests are simple: good harvests, abundant rain, and open roads are all they desire. They have never seen the sea or even a big Moorish town, but they have heard of these things from travellers and traders who have passed their nights in the n'zala in times recent or remote, and sometimes they appeal to me to say if these tales are true. Are there great waters of which no man may drink—waters that are never at rest? Do houses with devils (? steam engines) in them go to and fro upon the face of these waters? Are there great cities so big that a man cannot walk from end to end in half a day? I testify to the truth of these things, and the headman praises Allah, who has done what seemed good to him in lands both near and far. It is, I fear, the headman's polite way of saying that Saul is among the prophets. My revolver, carefully unloaded, is passed from hand to hand, its uses and capacities are known even to these wild people, and the weapon creates more interest than the tent and all its varied equipment. Naturally enough, it turns the talk to war and slaughter, and I learn that the local kaid has an endless appetite for thieves and other children of shameless women, that guns are fired very often within his jurisdiction, and baskets full of heads have been collected after a purely local fight. All this is said with a quiet dignity, as though to remind me that I have fallen among people of some distinction, and the effect is only spoilt by the recollection that nearly every headman has the same tale to tell. Sultans, pretenders, wazeers, and high court functionaries are passed in critical review, their faults and failings noted. I cannot avoid the conclusion that the popular respect is for the strong hand—that civilised government would take long to clear itself of the imputation of cowardice. The local kaid is always a tyrant, but he is above all things a man, keen-witted, adventurous, prompt to strike, and determined to bleed his subjects white. So the men of the village, while suffering so keenly from his arbitrary methods, look with fear and wonder at their master, respect him secretly, and hope the day will come when by Allah's grace they too will be allowed to have mastery over their fellows and to punish others as they have been punished. Strength is the first and greatest of all virtues, so far as they can see, and cunning and ferocity are necessary gifts in a land where every man's hand is against his neighbour.



The last cup of green tea has been taken, the charcoal, no longer refreshed by the bellows, has ceased to glow, around us the native fires are out. The hour of repose is upon the night, and the great athletic villagers rise, resume their slippers, and pass with civil salutation to their homes. Beyond the tent our guards are sleeping soundly in their blankets; the surrounding silence is overwhelming. The grave itself could hardly be more still. Even the hobbled animals are at rest, and we enter into the enveloping silence for five or six dreamless hours.

* * * * *

The horses stir and wake me; I open the tent and call the men. Our guards rouse themselves and retire to their huts. The Maalem, no worse, to outward seeming, for the night's debauch, lights the charcoal. It is about half-past three, the darkness has past but the sun has not risen, the land seems plunged in heavy sleep, the air is damp and chill. Few pleasures attach to this early rising, but it is necessary to be on the road before six o'clock in order to make good progress before the vertical rays of the sun bid us pause and seek what shelter we can find. Two hours is not a long time in which to strike tents, prepare breakfast,—a solid affair of porridge, omelette, coffee, marmalade and biscuits,—pack everything, and load the mules. We must work with a will, or the multi-coloured pageant in the eastern sky will have passed before we are on the road again.

Early as it is we are not astir much before the village. Almost as soon as I am dressed the shepherd boys and girls are abroad, playing on their reed flutes as they drive the flocks to pasture from the pens to which they were brought at sundown. They go far afield for food if not for water, but evening must see their animals safely secured once more, for if left out overnight the nearest predatory tribesmen would carry them off. There is no security outside the village, and no village is safe from attack when there is unrest in the province. A cattle raid is a favourite form of amusement among the warlike tribes of the Moorish country, being profitable, exciting, and calculated to provoke a small fight.

A group of interested observers assembles once more, reinforced by the smallest children, who were too frightened to venture out of doors last night. Nothing disturbs the little company before we leave the camp. The headman, grave and dignified as ever, receives payment for corn, straw, chickens, milk, eggs, water, and guards, a matter of about ten shillings in English money, and a very large sum indeed for such a tiny village to receive. The last burden is fastened on the patient mules, girths and straps and belts are examined, and we pass down the incline to the main road and turn the horses' heads to the Atlas Mountains.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] "There happeneth no misfortune on the earth or to yourselves, but it is written in the Book before we created it: verily that is easy to Allah."—Al Koran; Sura, "The Tree."

[12] This courtesy is truly Eastern, and has many variants. I remember meeting two aged rabbis who were seated on stones by the roadside half a mile from the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. They rose as I approached, and said in Hebrew, "Blessed be he who cometh."



TO THE GATES OF MARRAKESH



CHAPTER IV

TO THE GATES OF MARRAKESH

In hawthorn-time the heart grows bright, The world is sweet in sound and sight, Glad thoughts and birds take flower and flight, The heather kindles toward the light, The whin is frankincense and flame.

The Tale of Balen.

If you would savour the true sense of Morocco, and enjoy glimpses of a life that belongs properly to the era of Genesis, journey through Dukala, Shiadma, or Haha in April. Rise early, fare simply, and travel far enough to appreciate whatever offers for a camping-ground, though it be no more than the grudging shadow of a wall at mid-day, or a n'zala not overclean, when from north, south, east, and west the shepherd boys and girls are herding their flocks along the homeward way. You will find the natives kind and leisured enough to take interest in your progress, and, their confidence gained, you shall gather, if you will, some knowledge of the curious, alluring point of view that belongs to fatalists. I have been struck by the dignity, the patience, and the endurance of the Moor, by whom I mean here the Arab who lives in Morocco, and not the aboriginal Berber, or the man with black blood preponderating in his veins. To the Moor all is for the best. He knows that Allah has bound the fate of each man about his neck, so he moves fearlessly and with dignity to his appointed end, conscious that his God has allotted the palace or the prison for his portion, and that fellow-men can no more than fulfil the divine decree. Here lies the secret of the bravery that, when disciplined, may yet shake the foundations of Western civilisation. How many men pass me on the road bound on missions of life or death, yet serene and placid as the mediaeval saints who stand in their niches in some cathedral at home. Let me recall a few fellow-wayfarers and pass along the roadless way in their company once again.



First and foremost stands out a khalifa, lieutenant of a great country kaid, met midmost Dukala, in a place of level barley fields new cut with the media luna. Brilliant poppies and irises stained the meadows on all sides, and orchards whose cactus hedges, planted for defence, were now aflame with blood-red flowers, became a girdle of beauty as well as strength. The khalifa rode a swiftly-ambling mule, a beast of price, his yellow slippers were ostentatiously new, and his ample girth proclaimed the wealthy man in a land where all the poor are thin. "Peace," was his salutation to M'Barak, who led the way, and when he reached us he again invoked the Peace of Allah upon Our Lord Mohammed and the Faithful of the Prophet's House, thereby and with malice aforethought excluding the infidel. Like others of his class who passed us he was but ill-pleased to see the stranger in the land; unlike the rest he did not conceal his convictions. Behind him came three black slaves, sleek, armed, proud in the pride of their lord, and with this simple retinue the khalifa was on his way to tithe the newly-harvested produce of the farmers who lived in that district. Dangerous work, I thought, to venture thus within the circle of the native douars and claim the lion's share of the hard-won produce of the husbandmen. He and his little company would be outnumbered in the proportion of thirty or forty to one, they had no military following, and yet went boldly forth to rob on the kaid's behalf. I remembered how, beyond Tangier, the men of the hills round Anjera had risen against an unpopular khalifa, had tortured him in atrocious fashion, and left him blind and hideously maimed, to be a warning to all tyrants. Doubtless our prosperous fellow-traveller knew all about it, doubtless he realised that the Sultan's authority was only nominal, but he knew that his immediate master, the Basha, still held his people in an iron grip while, above and beyond all else, he knew by the living faith that directed his every step in life, that his own fate, whether good or evil, was already assigned to him. I heard the faint echo of the greeting offered by the dogs of the great douar into which he passed, and felt well assured that the protests of the village folk, if they ventured to protest, would move him no more than the barking of those pariahs. The hawks we saw poised in the blue above our heads when small birds sang at sunsetting, were not more cheerfully devoid of sentiment than our khalifa, though it may be they had more excuse than he.

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