NOTES IN NORTH AFRICA:
BEING A GUIDE TO THE SPORTSMAN AND TOURIST IN ALGERIA AND TUNISIA.
BY W. G. WINDHAM, ESQ.
NEW EDITION, WITH COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS.
LONDON: WARD AND LOCK, 158 FLEET STREET. 1862.
LONDON: PETTER AND GALPIN, BELLE SAUVAGE PRINTING WORKS, LUDGATE HILL, E.C.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
Two great faults have been found with my first edition. The first was, that I had offended many people by personal allusions. To this, I reply, that offence was very far from my mind; and to those offended (if any there be), I say, consider the expressions unsaid. For the rest, they are omitted in this edition. The second alleged defect is, that, while I call my book, to a certain extent, sporting, so little allusion is made to sport. I grant there is some reason in this, and accordingly I have added matter which I think will be useful to future sporting tourists. I would, however, not advise the man who seeks sport alone and solely to go to Algeria, as I am sure he will be disappointed, as I most decidedly was. With regard to the illustrations, I have taken the greatest pains that they may faithfully represent, not only the particular localities alluded to, but also give a fair idea of the country and climate of these latitudes.
W. G. WINDHAM.
Hull, April, 1861.
TO FACE PAGE
FRONTISPIECE: MY TWO SERVANTS—ANGELO AND NERO 1
SHOOTING HYENAS ON THE PURPLE MOUNTAINS NEAR EL GREESHE 20
SHOOTING WILD DUCKS NEAR AIN MOKRA, PROVINCE OF CONSTANTINE, ALGERIA 44
HOG-SHOOTING ON THE BANKS OF THE OUED EL AHWENA, IN TUNISIA 60
THE VOYAGE OUT:—Paris in 1860—Notre Dame—Our Hotel—Nero and the Groom—The Steamer for Algeria—Gallic Peculiarities—Life on Board 7
DESCRIPTION OF ALGIERS:—Arrival in Algeria—Murray's Guide-books, and their Amenities—Disembarkation in the Port of Algiers—Our Fellow-travellers—Algiers and its Inhabitants—The Dey's Palace—Cause of the French Invasion 13
LIFE IN ALGIERS:—Algerian Society—A Soiree at General Martinprez's—The Sirocco—My Maltese Companion—The Theatre—General Youssouf and his Career 19
"UP THE COUNTRY:"—Departure from Algiers—Blidah—The Zouave Officers and their Companions—Government Establishment of Horses—Joseph, the Horse-dealer—To Arbah—The Caravanserai—Journey towards Oued-el-Massin 25
FURTHER EXPERIENCES:—Abd-el-Kader (but not the Emir)—Difficult Road—Perils of the Way—Prospect of Sport—The First Boar—The Chasseurs d'Afrique—Mine Hostess of the "Scorpion"—Teniet 30
FURTHER PROGRESS—RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES:—Cold Weather—Milianah—Vezoul—The Aubergiste—El Afroun—The Rhamazan—Dancing Dervishes 36
BONA AND ITS VICINITY:—Passage to Bona—State of Affairs on Board—Bona—The Lake Metitza—Ain Mokra—Wild Duck Shooting on the Lake 41
ON TO TUNIS:—Algeria in General—The Arabs and their Conquerors—Antagonism between the Two Races—Social Condition of the Arabs—The Oasis Steamer—Arrival at Tunis 46
MARSA:—Angelo's Horsemanship—The Bey's Palace at Marsa—The Arabs and their Love of Tobacco—The Friendly Moor at Camatte 52
ABOUT BOAR SHOOTING:—Sleeman—the Oued el Ahwena—Its Scenery, and its Dangers—Beauty of the Landscape on its Banks 55
SPORTING EXPERIENCES:—El Greesh—Shooting Hyenas—An Expedition with the Arabs—The Caid and his Family—Another Wild Boar 59
TUNIS AND ITS GOVERNMENT:—Picturesque Situation of Tunis—The Horse Market—Effects of Race—The Bazaars—Mohamed Medea—The Bardo—The Bey of Tunis—His Mode of administering Justice—Prince Puckler Muskau's Account of his Interview 62
THE RUINS OF CARTHAGE:—Reflections on Ancient Carthage—Hannibal and his Career—An Arab Domicile—Picturesque Appearance of the Ruins 69
THE RUINS AGAIN:—Great Extent of the Ancient City Marsa, on the Sea-shore—Carthaginian Catacombs near Camatte—Quail Shooting—Trait of Honesty in the Arabs—The Arab Character—Anecdotes concerning them 76
HOME:—My Fellow-passenger, the Sportsman—Passage from Tunis to Malta in a Sailing Vessel—Disagreeables of the Passage—Home Overland—Conclusion 83
NOTES FOR THE SPORTSMAN OR TOURIST IN NORTH AFRICA 88
NOTES IN NORTH AFRICA.
THE VOYAGE OUT.
Paris in 1860.—Notre Dame.—Our Hotel.—Nero and the Groom.—The Steamer for Algeria.—Gallic Peculiarities.—Life on Board.
In medias res. I will not stop to describe my journey to Paris, via Folkestone, nor to chronicle the glasses of pale ale—valedictory libations to perfide Albion, quaffed at the Pavilion—nor to portray the sea-sickness of "mossoo," nor the withering indignation of the British female when her wardrobe was searched. Briefly, kind reader, be pleased to understand that we arrived in safety—guns, rifles, "and all"—at the Hotel du Louvre, in Paris, at about eleven o'clock on a certain day in February, 1860.
The next day was Sunday, and I went to hear vespers at Notre Dame. How I love the old gothic cathedrals, that seem to remove one at once from this work-day world—the fanes wherein the very air seems redolent of devotion, and peopled with phantoms of the past! 'Spite of all disparagement, there is something grand and solemn about them. After service, I ascended one of the towers to the gallery immortalised by Victor Hugo's wonderful romance. The day was declining, and sunset had already commenced. The galleries were crowded with students and respectable operatives and bourgeois, with their wives and children. Every face was bathed in the purple light of the departing sun, and many eyes lifted up in silent meditation.
I was aroused from the reverie into which the contemplation of this glorious sight had thrown me, by hearing a female voice exclaim, "How beautiful is Nature—how magnificent!" I turned, and saw two ladies, evidently mother and daughter, of sufficiently pleasing appearance. It was from the elder that the exclamation had come, which brought me back from my dream to this nether world. Conquering the shyness which appears to be the Englishman's birthright, I made some remark on the beauties of sunset. Like the earth, we revolved round the sun; but, unlike that planet, we quickly diverged into other orbits. I dimly remember that we talked of Angola cats, Dresden china, Turkish chibouques, maccaroni, and Lord Byron, with whose poems this lady seemed sufficiently familiar. I improved the occasion, as the right thing to do, when talking with ladies about Byron, to find fault with his impiety, his blasphemous scepticism, his cutting sarcasm, and the unhappy frivolity which defaces the works of the man, who, with all his faults, was undoubtedly the greatest poet the nineteenth century has yet produced.
A pleasant walk along the quays brought me back to my hotel, in the courtyard of which establishment I found an admiring circle of idlers surrounding my English groom, who had just arrived with my dog Nero; or rather Nero, who seemed by far the most popular character of the two, had just arrived with him; and both appeared to know about as much French one as the other, and to make themselves equally understood or misunderstood. That evening, my friend and travelling companion, B—— and I dined at Dotesio's, in the Rue Castiglione, where we had an excellent dinner, washed down by more excellent wine. The next day found us at Marseilles, at the Hotel D'Orient, concerning which hostelry I have merely to place on record the fact, that B—— was mulcted in the sum of five francs for the matutinal cold tub in which it was his custom to indulge.
The steamer which was to convey us to Algeria was well fitted up in every way. We were the only Englishmen on board. The fore part of the deck was crowded with Zouaves and French soldiers of various denominations, with whom Nero soon made himself perfectly at home, though the exclamation of a Zouave on his first appearance seemed to forbode but an indifferent reception for the four-footed intruder. "Cre nom d'un chien" cried the shaven, fez-capped warrior, "mais je ne t'aimerais pas pour mon camarade du lit!"
Breakfast was served in French fashion on board at ten o'clock, and dinner at five. With one or two exceptions, the company consisted of French commercial travellers, and they were split up into the usual hostile factions of north against south. North, of course, commenced the conversation with Paris, Paris, and again PAR-RRI; the southerners every now and then throwing in a doubt of the universal superiority of the metropolis over the known world. One disputant stood out for Marseilles, another broke a lance for Bordeaux, and the war of words waxed so fierce that I began to tremble for the consequences. One young man in company had been some time at Bordeaux, and had much to say thereon; but all his remarks were on one subject—the theatre. On its beauty, its luxury, and its actresses, he held forth at unwearied but wearisome length.
While this conversation was going on, the inner man was by no means neglected. Stewed pullets, potatoes, salad, and etceteras, disappeared with marvellous celerity. The cheer was by no means bad, though decidedly Provencal, as I remarked to my next neighbour, a dark-looking Marsellais; which observation, by the way, brought down upon me the anger of the Gods, as impersonated by a large, fat, dirty Calaisien, sitting opposite. He was a big man, this champion, and, according to Cervantes, should, by consequence, have been a good-natured one. Giving himself a sounding blow on the chest for emphasis, he declared the Calaisiens to be an infinitely more moral people than the Marseillais—and washed down his own dictum with an enormous glass of biere blanche. I am rather fond of going to sleep after dinner; so I secured my nap on cheap terms, by feigning an interest in the Picard virtues, and accordingly enjoyed a profound rest, disturbed only at intervals by a monotonous and expostulatory "allons donc!" thrown in by another dissentient southerner. He was an enormously fat man, the new disputant, and wore a mass of very greasy hair, hanging down over his shoulders. His flannel shirt, an exceedingly dingy specimen of British manufacture, did duty for a waistcoat also; but he was decore, though it was very doubtful to what order the medal on his breast may have belonged.
Our captain merits a word of description. He was a short, red-faced individual, of such ineffable seediness, as regarded costume, that I should never have suspected his station but for the fact that he sported a gold band "bien usite" round his cap, and sat at the head of the table. For the credit of French politeness be it, however, added, he was a perfect gentleman in his behaviour throughout the voyage. There was also a young French naval officer, whom I afterwards got to know much better in Algeria. He, too, like all the Legitimists, was a most finished gentleman, and spoke English well—a common accomplishment among the officers of the French navy. Though quite a young fellow, he had been in the Russian and Chinese wars, and imparted some very amusing and instructive intelligence on both these subjects.
As the noise and the intimacy at the table increased, and the punch and cognac had already "chased" the wine, I adjourned with B—— and the French sailor to the after-deck, and, in company with two young Dutch travellers, smoked our Havanas in a climate that was already African in its heat, while Majorca and Minorca faded away in the distance, and the pale moon rose silently over the quiet sea.
DESCRIPTION OF ALGIERS.
Arrival in Algeria.—Murray's Guide-books, and their Amenities.—Disembarkation in the Port of Algiers.—Our Fellow-travellers.—Algiers and its Inhabitants.—The Dey's Palace.—Cause of the French Invasion.
Next morning, at eight o'clock, came the waiter with the intelligence—"Nous sommes dans la baie d'Alger, monsieur, a une heure de la ville." My desire to see Algiers was vehement indeed; but scarcely less strong was the craving of the inner man for bread and coffee. With the nectar of Arabia, however, the inspiration of the Orient seemed to percolate my veins; but when a fragrant glass of cognac crowned the meal, the aroma of the East enveloped me, the delicious strains of Bulbul rang in my ears, the Calaisien and the Marseillais, sitting stolidly before me, became straightway transformed into camels, the stewardess into a houri, and the noses of the passengers were as masques in my enraptured sight.
But the book at my side was not the Koran, though it might have been, for the strange farrago it contained.
It was a celebrated traveller's manual in the English language, and in red binding. The king of the Cannibal Islands has not in his library a more absurd volume than this manual; for in its pages pathetic bagmen give vent to their ludicrous ebullitions concerning the Alhambra, or the Rhine, or any foreign lion you please to name; and young boys just escaped from school dish up their first impressions of the Continent in a style as savoury as the flavour of a Spanish olla podrida. And yet, ascend the Rhine, go to Venice or to St. Petersburg, and ten to one for the chance, that when you meet an Englishman he will have that eternal manual clutched in his British grasp.
Oh, my dear and well-beloved countrymen, what creatures of fashion and precedent we all are, from high to low! What one does, the rest must do; and in the self-same manner. I verily believe, if the late Albert Smith had left it on record that, in ascending Mont Blanc, he planted his foot in a certain hole in the snow, every one of his successors in that glorious undertaking would have paid their guides an extra dollar for indicating to them the identical cavity, that they might go and do likewise. Thank goodness, Algeria is as yet encumbered by no manual or "Hand-book," as our modern Germanised phraseology elects to call the egregious productions; so shall we travellers be at liberty to follow our own noses, to go exactly where we like, and to do what we please, even to dressing like Arabs, should the whim seize us. Moreover, we may do in Rome as Rome does, and enjoy a French breakfast washed down with good wine in lieu of bad tea, without having ourselves or our proceedings stigmatised as "shocking," as would undoubtedly be our lot at Paris, or Brussels, or Berlin.
Behold us, then, in happy hour, ready to disembark in Algiers, with the children of the desert thronging on board to act as porters. Their appearance pleases me much, as they come forward, with their tall, striking figures, dark eyes, and distinguished mien. "Perfect gentlemen, these," said I to myself; but beneath the outside crust little remains that can be called gratifying. These men are like the apple of Sodom; at least, so I thought on landing, after a long squabble with them respecting the passage money, carried on in bad Italian and French. A nearer acquaintance with them may, perhaps, modify my views on this subject.
"Well, it has been a pleasant time on board the packet," is my parting reflection as I step ashore; nor shall I lightly forget the captain, so different in his politeness and urbanity from the sea-bear with whom I sailed in the North Sea; nor the honest Hamburgher, who appeared to have an equally beloved wife in every land and in every place we came to; nor the would-be dandy, who lit cigars innumerable, and invariably flung them overboard after the first puff; nor the priests, who seemed to possess the gift of invisibility, so rarely did they show themselves; nor the hundred thousand events and personages that flash upon our path for a moment on our journey through life, and then linger in the memory only as the dim phantoms of a dream that has passed away.
Algiers, seen from the sea, presents the appearance of a vast triangular cone, situated on the slope of a mountain. Like all the inhabitants of Northern Africa, the Algerians were at an early period Christians, and it was only after several battles that the Mahometan religion was finally established all over the coast of Barbary. Before the French occupation, the Algerian ladies, like the females in all Mussulmen countries, were kept in the strictest seclusion. The wife of a rich Moor never left her home except to go to the baths, and even that expedition was undertaken only at night. When it became absolutely necessary that ladies should go abroad in daylight, their faces were covered, and the whole figure so concealed by a redundancy of wrappings, that a stranger would be puzzled to find out what the moving bundles were. The luxury of the bath is greatly used by them. There are public as well as private baths. They consist of three apartments. The first is a large hall, for dressing and undressing; in the second, the visitors perspire; and the third is for bathing proper, or otherwise, as tastes and opinions somewhat differ. After the bath, those of the male sex repair to the first room for lemonade or coffee, or for a pipe. The modern Mahometan ladies of Algiers have almost abandoned this seclusion. They are seen gadding about everywhere, and are reported as being by no means particular or difficult in their conquests. French ideas and morals have percolated them considerably. Excessive obesity is regarded among Mahometans as the perfection of beauty; so that, instead of using powders and other nostrums to reduce themselves, like some of my friends at home, they devour seeds and couscous, the national dish, especially employed for fattening people. Some young ladies are crammed to such a degree that they die under the operation.
On a fine, hot day in February, 1860, I mounted the conical hill on which Algiers is built. The weather was magnificent. The sun of Africa already made his approach felt, and the mountains in the far horizon stood out like bas-reliefs against the azure sky. Here stood the palace of the Dey before the French occupation. The building is now called the casbah, and used as a large barrack; outside are the Moorish houses, and the chief part of the Moorish population.
The cause of quarrel between France and Algeria, which resulted in the conquest of the country by the Gallic legions was as follows:—The Dey, a pasha of the old Turkish school, was, it appears, a potentate of extravagant disposition, and owed the French Government a considerable sum of money. The creditors, being in a hurry for their cash, dunned the Dey incessantly, through the agency of their consul. Unaccustomed to the eagerness of French importunity, the Dey, on one unlucky occasion, made a gesture of impatience with his fan, as a man might do with his riding-whip, if his tailor became too pressing for the settlement of his account. It proved an expensive gesture, however; for within a few weeks it brought 10,000 French soldiers to the shores of the Dey, and cost him his entire realm. The bulk of the Mauresque and Turkish population quitted Algeria with their families on the arrival of the French. Those who remain are the poorer classes, and now live, if report speaks true, in an immoral state. These events took place in the reign of that peaceful monarch, Louis Philippe.
LIFE IN ALGIERS.
Algerian Society.—A Soiree at General Martinprez's.—The Sirocco.—My Maltese Companion.—The Theatre.—General Youssouf and Career.
I have described Algiers as being built on the side of a mountain. The city possesses a commodious and safe harbour, where flutter the colours of every nation, from the red flag of the Swede to the Spaniard's yellow ensign. Economy of space being a primary consideration in the laying out of the city, the houses have been built very high, and the streets made very narrow, so that there is no room for carriages. The Consul has a very fine Mauresque house in the old Turkish quarter, where he invited me to dinner and a soiree the day after my arrival; and the next day I was invited to the reception of the Governor, General Martinprez.
The General received me and my companions most graciously, and, after keeping me in conversation for about five minutes, introduced me to his lady, a very pleasing person. My friend A—— and I were then introduced to two or three other fashionable ladies of Algiers; and, engrossed in conversation with these; we strangers were unconscious of a general movement of the gentlemen towards the farther end of the room, as a preliminary to the amateur concert. I was quite ignorant of this Algerian regulation, by which the gentlemen and ladies are separated as effectually as in a Lutheran church (a fashion, by-the-bye, we appear to be adopting). Accordingly, on looking up, I observed, to my infinite chagrin, that I was the "observed of all observers," and probably was set down as a bete Anglais, who knew no better. The extensive crinoline of the ladies effectually prevented a retreat in any direction, and I was unpleasantly conscious of the suppressed titter the fair ones tried to conceal behind their fans. I endeavoured to summon up all the resources of my London phlegm, to support me in this ridiculous position; but, unfortunately, I possess very little of that desirable quality. The fair one with whom I was conversing evidently felt for the unpleasantness of my situation, and very good-naturedly kept me talking till the end of the first piece, when I succeeded in making my escape.
How I inwardly abused the opera they were performing! It was called "Le Diable;" and to me it appeared as though the fiend in question had no tail—or rather, no end—to that appendage, so long did the time seem. Far be it from me to despise the arts; I admire them in every shape, except in the compound form of speech: exempli gratia, art-union, art-school, &c. Why, in the name of common sense, can we not talk English instead of German, and say school of arts, union of arts, &c.? I suppose we shall soon go a step farther in imitation of our Germanic neighbours, and call poetry by the appellation of poet-art. In the last century, it seemed likely, as Johnson said, that we should babble a dialect of France; in this, there is more danger of our talking a Teutonic jargon. Let us stick to the middle course—for our language is essentially half way between the German and the French, the Teutonic and Romance tongues, and any attempt to approximate too much to either extreme is simply preposterous.
The next day we had the sirocco; and, to quote the expression with which I once heard a popular preacher commence a sermon, it was "d——d hot." Start not, ladies of Belgravia, for the preacher in question belonged not to the Anglican communion; he held forth to mere vulgar audiences, at least, in a remote locality. Thrice he repeated the expression (which I will not), and then improved the occasion by describing a place hotter than the crowded chapel in which he was officiating, in the month of July. He was evidently in his element. He was especially hot against those modern spirits, who are not such faithful believers in the burning flames of the lower regions, and even begin to imagine they may have cooled down, if they have not been quite extinguished. "And if"—he cried, in his ardour—"if they were on the point of being extinguished, I would with my own breath rekindle the expiring flame!" And his voice, which sounded like a gale of wind, and his face, red as a furnace, and his enormous fists fiercely clenched, made it appear to the congregation, for the moment, that this terrifying assertion was no exaggeration. But to return to the sirocco.
In spite, or rather by reason of the heat, I went for a stroll on the sea-shore with Nero, that we might cool our wearied limbs in the azure wave of the Mediterranean. We had been walking along the shore for about a mile, when about twenty Arab dogs rushed out most ferociously at Nero, and would, I believe, have torn him to pieces, but for the large hunting-whip with which I managed to keep them at bay. There was with me a young Maltese boy, of Irish parentage—a most amusing character this urchin was. He wanted me to take him into the interior as my interpreter. "Take me wid you, sir," was his eloquent appeal; "give me pound a month, sir; tell Arabs you brother of Queen Victoria, sir; Arabs great fools, sir; know no better, sir;" but I was proof against the voice of the charmer.
In returning, I met General Martinprez on horseback, and saluted; of course, he returned my greeting most graciously. But I was not a little amused, and could hardly help laughing, when the young Hiberno-Maltese tatterdemalion took off his dirty cap with a flourish to the General, simultaneously with my salute, as if he had been my confidential friend, taking a promenade with me.
That evening I went to the theatre. The piece performed was "Les Femmes Terribles"—and a terribly Gallic flavour there was diffused over the whole performance—a kind of haut gout, for which we stolid islanders have, happily, no relish.
General Youssouf was at the theatre this evening. He is rather a fine-looking man, and not too stout. His is a curious history. Originally a Christian slave at Tunis, supposed to be the son of Italian parents, he received the name of Youssouf (Joseph) from his Mussulman masters at Tunis, where he was employed in the Bey's palace. Of fine stature and handsome appearance, the Christian slave soon attracted the notice of the Bey's daughter, an honour to which he was not insensible. The Bey was soon informed of what was going on, and Joseph would have been caged, if not racked, had not some kind friend apprised him of the discovery, and of his own consequent danger. A French man-of-war happened to be in the harbour at La Goeletta, off Tunis, and young Youssouf, then about twenty years of age, managed to effect his escape on board. The Franks, of course, gladly received him as an escaped Christian slave. The Bey sent to demand him back; but the French commander gave him politely to understand that he would see the Bey experiencing the reverse of the joys of Paradise before he would comply with such a request. The vessel set sail next day for Algiers, where the Gallic occupation had just commenced. Young Youssouf—who, in addition to his knowledge of French and Italian, could, of course, speak Arabic perfectly—was here landed, and became interpreter to a foot regiment. Quick and clever, he was soon promoted, till he attained an officer's rank. He is now a general in the service. Entertaining—perhaps naturally—a mortal hatred of the Arabs, he has generally been selected to enforce those stern acts of reprisal against the native population, which, though perhaps justified by necessity, still bear the impress of great severity, and are unpalatable to officers of French birth and education. These measures he has always carried out with strict fidelity and unrelenting harshness. He was the centre of attraction this evening—every battery of eyes was turned upon him. He had fought a duel with the editor of a newspaper, only that morning, for abusing him or his wife, and had succeeded in running the journalist through the shoulder.
The next few days I was engaged in making purchases, chiefly of shot and necessary travelling articles, for the interior. I was swimming my dog in the water of the port, according to my daily custom, when I stumbled on my servant, Angelo, whom I determined to take with me into the interior. Besides English, which he spoke very well, he could talk Arabic quite fluently, and I found him very useful.
"UP THE COUNTRY."
Departure from Algiers.—Blidah.—The Zouave Officers and their Companions.—Government Establishment of Horses.—Joseph, the Horse-dealer.—To Arbah.—The Caravanserai.—Journey towards Oued-el-Massin.
On Thursday, March 8th, after seeing A—— start, by diligence, with innumerable bags of cheviotine (deer-shot), I and Angelo left Algiers with my newly-purchased horses, and, passing through some very pretty country, stopped at the first village, where De Warn, a French officer, came up on horseback, with his groom. He admired my horses very much, and announced his destination to be the Maison Carree, where he was going to shoot quails, a friend of his having bagged forty there in one afternoon. It came on to rain very hard as we passed through the plain of the Medidja, and arrived at Bouffaseh, where there is a column raised to the memory of twenty-three men killed there during the war. We galloped in to Blidah, the rain pouring down on us. At dinner, I met A—— in a cafe, with Count L'Esparre and three or four officers of the 1st Regiment of Zouaves. They were a very pleasant set of fellows, but did not appear to admire their remote quarters at Blidah by any means. The heat, during the height of summer, they informed me, was terrific, and the private soldiers are not allowed to quit their quarters between 10 A.M. and 5 P.M. during the four hottest months of the year. We drank unlimited punch to the "Alliance," and, on returning to the hotel, after a mutual exchange of good wishes, we found familiar faces—belonging to the Dutchmen who had travelled with us from Marseilles to Algiers.
I went with Count L'Esparre to see the Government establishment of horses. There were some very fine creatures of Arab breed; also some Persian horses which had been presented by the Shah of Persia. We then started on horseback for Medea, and on my way passed the "Grotto of Monkeys," but none of the animals from which the grotto takes its name met my inquiring gaze. The Rocher Pourri, which I also passed on my way, had just acquired an additional but a lugubrious celebrity, an Arab having killed a Frenchman there the day before. We rode on to Medea through a rattling snow-storm, and arrived properly powdered at the Hotel du Gastronome, where they made us comfortable enough. Medea is built in a very elevated situation, among the mountains, and must be a very cold place.
On the next day, Saturday, it was still snowing hard. A—— had to provide himself with a horse, and we were afterwards both engaged, with Angelo, my Maltese servant, looking for mules to carry our baggage to Teniet. At the hotel, there was a very celebrated picture by Horace Vernet, for which one of the Dutchmen offered a thousand francs, but the offer was declined by Madame Gerard. In my opinion, the picture was far from being a masterpiece.
Rising early on Sunday, I was immediately pounced upon by a set of Arabs, who had engaged to take our luggage, and to whom we had paid a deposit in advance. They now refused to take our luggage at five francs per day, the sum agreed upon, unless we retained their valuable services all the time we remained at Teniet, which, of course, we never contemplated doing. I demanded back the deposit, but they would not give it up. On going to the Bureau Arabe, we found it closed, and the Commandant de Ville, to whom some officers recommended us to apply, was gone to Blidah, so there was nothing for it but to invoke the aid of Joseph, a French horse-dealer, who engaged to take our effects on two mules to Teniet at seven and a half francs per mule per day, we paying the return journey. After all, we could not manage to get off until one o'clock in the day. Joseph accompanied us as far as Lodi, to indicate the route to the caravanserai of Arbah, where we were to stay for the night. The good horse-dealer insisted on our taking two or three petits verres on the road. A terrible fellow he was for "nips," that Joseph.
The road to Arbah lay across a very barren, desert, mountainous country, with splendid views over the whole Atlas range, as far as Mostaganem, now covered with snow. We passed one or two Arab villages, and had great difficulty in finding our way, on account of the number of roads that branched off right and left. On the journey we passed a very fine house belonging to a rich Arab chief. We were sorely tempted to turn in here, but refrained, and arriving at the caravanserai at about seven o'clock, found a party of French officers just sitting down to dinner. They very politely invited us to join them.
The caravanserai is a Government establishment. In form it resembles a large farm yard, entirely walled in and crenellated. It has stalls for horses, and good accommodation for European travellers. A large fair is held here every Wednesday, chiefly for the sale of native horses. We had a long and interesting talk with the officers, and then retired to bed, but not to sleep, for our baggage had not arrived, and the bitter cold kept us in a state of enforced watchfulness.
Before breakfast, next day, I walked out on a tour of inspection through the neighbourhood. The caravanserai is situated almost in the desert; and very cold and barren are its surroundings. During breakfast, we were rejoiced by the arrival of our baggage, and at once started for Ouad-el-Massin. There is a very grand sensation of solitude and silence in riding through these vast plains. The weather was still tremendously cold and rainy. I managed to shoot two partridges as we came along.
A chapter of accidents now began. My Maltese servant had been mistaken concerning the capacity of our mules; for they broke down, and we were obliged to leave them behind. Then my horse, an exceedingly vicious brute, nearly succeeded in appropriating a piece of Angelo's shoulder, as the latter stooped to tighten the girths. I found afterwards that my steed had a very bad character all over the country; his ill fame, however, was slightly redeemed by the fact that he was a good goer. Then we missed our way among the mountains, and with difficulty succeeded, just as it was getting dark, in reaching a small house at Guebla, kept by a Frenchman. The proprietor received us very hospitably, and gave us all the accommodation he could: it was of rather a limited character, inasmuch as we all slept together in the small room where we dined and breakfasted. Our host informed us that there were a great number of lions in the neighbourhood. He had himself been surprised by one, just after dusk, on the road from Milianca, and offered to induce the Caid of the adjoining tribe to get up a battue on our return. He also spoke of the great number of wild boars in a way that would make a hunter's heart leap within him. We retired to rest, and, sheltered for the nonce from the searching cold, I slept as only a weary traveller can.
Abd-el-Kader (but not the Emir).—Difficult Road.—Perils of the Way.—Prospect of Sport.—The First Boar.—The Chasseurs d'Afrique.—Mine Hostess of the "Scorpion."—Teniet.
In the hope of obtaining some reliable information as to hunting prospects, I had in the Caid's lieutenant a fine-looking fellow, rejoicing in the famous name of Abd-el-Kader, though he was no relation to the renowned chief. He gave a long description of the capture of a boar, that had been wounded by some Arabs; how he caught the brute by the hoofs, gagged it, and brought it home alive. Mr. ——, he also informed us, had been surprised, about a month before, by a lion, as he was returning at dusk from Milianah. There were many lions in the vicinity, he added; and promised that his friend the Caid should treat us to a lion-hunt on our return, if we came back this way.
Then we started, Abd-el-Kader accompanying us to show us a short way over the mountains to the caravanserai of Oued-el-Massin, where we were to pass the night, and expected to find our luggage. We were prepared to find the river very high, and our anticipations were not deceived. Abd-el-Kader admonished me to wait on the bank while he went in to try if there was any getting through. He returned and asked if my horse was good, and if I was willing to follow him. On receiving my affirmative answer, he told me to fix my eyes on the opposite shore, and, above all things, to abstain from looking at the water, which was tearing along at a tremendous rate; if I neglected his instructions, I should infallibly be carried away and drowned. I started, and, by dint of spurring, managed to get across, though my horse plunged up to his shoulder, and at one moment I thought I was a "gone coon." Abd-el-Kader, the undaunted, then went back once more for the second horse, which he dragged across in due time by the bridle. Then he pointed out to us the road over the mountain to Oued-el-Massin; nor did he think it derogatory to his dignity to accept a reward for the trouble he had taken on our behalf.
In spite of the valiant lieutenant's directions, the road was a very difficult one to find. After wandering about in the forest through a number of out-of-the-way paths, we managed at last to stumble on an Arab house or two, where the promise of a supply of powder prevailed with an Arab, and he piloted us down to the caravanserai, where we arrived at about six P.M., wet to the skin, and weary with a most fatiguing day's march. We found our luggage had preceded us by about half an hour; so we had a change of clothes, and sat down gleefully to a capital dinner in very comfortable quarters. These caravanserais are a famous institution. They are built by the French Government for the convenience of travellers, and are very well organised. Each one is under the superintendence of a Frenchman, and has one part devoted to Europeans and another to Arabs. We had an excellent sitting-room and bed-room to ourselves, and, as may be supposed, were exceedingly comfortable.
Wednesday, the 14th of March, was ushered in by a pouring rain; and we received the agreeable intelligence that the river between this and our next station was perfectly impassable; so we made up our minds to stay where we were. There was some consolation in the thought that Joseph, the exceedingly keen horse-dealer at Medea, will not be entitled to charge extra for the delay to his mules, he having bound himself, by solemn covenant, to deliver the baggage safely at Teniet for a certain stipulated sum.
After breakfast I walked into the forest which surrounds the caravanserai on all sides, and shot two or three brace of red-legged partridges and a woodcock. I saw the traces of several wild boars; they were evidently quite recent; also a wretched porcupine the Arabs had killed.
In the course of the day the Arabs brought in a boar which they had killed in the morning. They threw the entrails outside the house, and, during the night, quite an army of jackals came down to devour them. It was so dark that we could not get a shot at these African scavengers, though I sallied out once or twice after them.
It rained all night, so that going on was out of the question, from the swollen state of the river; so I walked off before breakfast, with Angelo, to an Arab village, about a mile and a half distant, to inquire about boars. The promise of some powder brought out the inhabitants; and, after a little banter and chaffing, they agreed to meet me after breakfast, and to show me one of those animals. So I returned to the caravanserai to breakfast, and then, with my friend, rode back to the Arab huts. We left our horses at the village, and proceeded to climb a horribly steep hill in company with some of the natives, to whom I had promised tobacco-money, on condition of being brought face to face with a boar. After some tremendously steep climbing, we came upon a number of recent tracks, one of which B—— followed with his Arab, while I remained in another gorge. Presently I heard a shot fired, about a mile off; and, on returning to where the horses were tethered, I found that B—— and his Arab had succeeded in discovering a boar. The Arab had fired at the brute at twenty paces, but missed his aim. It was now past five o'clock, so we returned to the caravanserai to dinner. Some Chasseurs d'Afrique had arrived in the interim. Their captain joined us in our room, and promised us an escort for the morrow. He was from Boulogne-sur-Mer, and spoke English pretty well. He told us we should have to start at six in the morning to cross the river.
Accordingly, next morning the Frenchman set out at six o'clock with his troops and traps, leaving a dragoon behind as an escort for us, but with the important qualification that the man might only stay one hour behind the rest, as he must be present on the arrival of the troop at Teniet. "Et maintenant," quoth this bold warrior, "je vais me servir d'un peu de votre tabac, s'il vous plait, car je vois que votre blague est bien garni;" and, filling his pipe, he vanished, with a polite "Au revoir, messieurs!"
Feeling too tired to rise at seven for the sake of escort, especially as we had not a very long journey before us, I remained comfortably for breakfast, and B—— started alone. After a good meal, I set out with Angelo, and we forced our way through a densely-wooded country, till we came upon the obstacle which had lost us two days—the river Klebah. This stream we managed with some difficulty to cross; a Frenchman, who emerged from the auberge on the other side, assisting us, by his advice, as to the best spot to choose for our passage. B—— and the trooper had just finished breakfast in the auberge, and departed. The landlady of the "Scorpion," a very chatty and amusing personage, insisted upon it that I was a German. She favoured me with a sporting anecdote, setting forth how she had killed three rabbits during an expedition to pick some rose laurier on the hills. As the bunnies popped their noses out of their holes, she had managed to pop them off with the branches. As this was the only house to be met with on that day's journey, I halted there for half an hour. Mine hostess related how an "English milord" had stayed there for six months with his wife, in a tent, without even a servant—"Qu'ils sont droles ces Anglais!" was the landlady's final comment; and it was not for me to contradict the oft-repeated sentiment.
Through a mountainous and most barren country, amid a pelting snow-storm, we wended onwards to Teniet. In my way from El Massin to the "Scorpion," I might almost have knocked over several partridges with my whip, so close did they come; but here there were none to be seen, nor was there any cover that might shelter them. At a miserable auberge called "les Cedres," I found B——.
The fort at Teniet is a fine edifice, in a commanding position. I went up and left my letter of introduction for Captain Camatte, who gave us very small hope of sport. He did not seem very keen on the subject, and advised us to try some other place, offering to give us recommendations, &c. I returned to a most miserable room, where we could hardly sit, so much were we annoyed by the smoke from the fire; we could scarcely decide which was hardest to bear, the smoke within, or the cold without. With a hearty laugh at the absurdity of coming to such a place as Teniet in search of game, and with a determination to set out on our return the next day, we betook ourselves to an early bed.
FURTHER PROGRESS.—RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES.
Cold Weather.—Milianah.—Vezoul.—The Aubergiste.—El Afroun.—The Rhamazan.—Dancing Dervishes.
In order to avoid the trouble of carrying our ammunition back with us, we sold the greater portion of it. The snow lay four or five inches deep in the road; we sent to the commandant to procure us mules and other necessaries, and set out, with a snow-storm beating down upon us, and the cold as sharp as it well could be. At the "Scorpion" we refreshed ourselves with coffee, and then re-crossed the river, which was scarcely fordable; we got to El Massin about six o'clock; the brigadier told us he had shot a hyena. Some capital wild boar they gave us for dinner, seemed to be an earnest of our return to sporting latitudes. At half-past seven next morning, we emerged from the caravanserai. The weather seemed at last, after a long season of inclemency, to have set in for heat. "Le temps s'est remis a neuf," observed Mr. Ball; and it had changed with a vengeance, so far as the temperature was concerned. Terribly hot we found it, marching across the Milianah plain. We crossed the Djelish in a bac, or flying bridge, and reached Afreville about ten o'clock. Leaving B—— and Angelo to proceed to Medea, I went on to Milianah, where I arrived at about twelve o'clock. While waiting there for my baggage, I noticed some Arab boys playing at a game closely resembling hockey. Milianah is a very strong fort, with a splendid view over the Atlas mountains and the plain of the Djelish. I stopped at the Cat or Du-chat stables, appropriately kept by Mr. Duchat-el, and found that it was too late to stop at any place on the road to Blidah.
I took a walk through the town, and on the Grande Place found a number of soldiers singing a chorus very creditably, without instrumental accompaniment. They perform in this manner every Sunday. The view over the plain of the Djelish is one of the most splendid I ever beheld, not excepting that from the Alhambra itself. I was told I could easily get to Blidah in a day on horseback, from Milianah, so I determined to stay at the Hotel d'Iffly, a very comfortable place. At dinner I met Mostyn and Captain Ross, just arrived from Algiers, per diligence. Captain R——, who is in the Bengal Artillery, told me he thought the French used the natives much better than we do those of India. I differ from him. One of the French officers with whom I dined told me the only way to manage the "Indigenes" was by that vigorous measure, "un coup de fouet," and, from what I saw, I believe it to be the case.
On Monday, the 19th, I left Milianah at about half-past seven, and rode through splendid Pyreneean scenery to Vezoul, a French village. The aubergiste took me for a German, and announced that he had two German workmen staying with him, who spoke with the same accent I used. When I repudiated my Teutonic nationality, he met me with the remark: "Enfin, c'est le meme sang rouge qui coule dans nos veines, que nous soyons Anglais, Francais, ou Allemands;" to which undeniable proposition I rejoined, "Oui, c'est vrai nous sommes tous Europeens ici." I fed my horse here, and came on, over the mountains, under a very hot sun, to Bourkikah, where I entered the Medidja plain. On entering this plain, the traveller enjoys a magnificent view right onward to sea, gleaming miles away in the sunny haze. At Bourkikah, my horse was so tired, that I was obliged to take off the saddle-bags, and leave them at the "Bureau des Diligences," to be forwarded. Some French officers at the hotel assured me I should not be able to get to Blidah, and recommended me strongly to stay at El Afroun, "chez les Petits Freres," if I found my horse too tired to proceed. I rode determinedly on through the plain, but could scarcely get my horse to move by dint of whip or spur. By the time I had crossed the river into El Afroun, I found my horse so entirely knocked up, that it was clearly impossible to proceed. So, of necessity, I turned into the auberge, and had a very good dinner, enlivened by a serenade from a legion of frogs, croaking dolefully in the neighbouring marshes.
Getting away from El Afroun by six o'clock next morning, I found myself at Blidah by half-past seven. The cavalry horses were just turning out on the plains, and looked very handsome as I rode into the town. At Blidah, where I breakfasted, the sun was hot enough to burn my face in a most unequivocal manner, and to necessitate the purchase of a new hat. On arriving at Bouffanieh, I got off my horse, which by this time had fairly fallen lame, and took the diligence into Algiers. At Bouffanieh I was much amused at the proceedings of a group of Arabs, who were squatting on the ground, selling oranges. Their first customer was a drunken Frenchman, who came staggering up, and began chaffing the vendors; but they evidently got the better of him in no time, and he retired in confusion. Next came a grave, steady-looking Spaniard, who, after much bargaining, marched off with one orange. He was followed by a little girl, who very quickly got hold of three. I thought Algiers improved on a second view.
Next day I went for a ride to the Maison Carree, with De Warne and Captain Thouars, of the Euphrates. We had a most magnificent view over the plain of the Metidja. This was the first night of the Rhamazan. I visited the mosques, which have been thrown open to Europeans since the French occupation. Thence I proceeded to view a strange religious or fanatic ceremony of the Mussulmans; some Swedish naval officers were with us. The whole affair reminded me of a meeting of Jumpers, or Ranters. There are no priests to take part in it. The men stand round in a circle, reciting prayers to Allah, and calling on Mahomet, while they work their bodies violently backwards and forwards, till they lash themselves into a state of perfect frenzy. One fanatic more zealous than the rest then rushes forward, cuts himself with a knife, and stands on the sharp edge of the weapon, which is held by another. The chaunt or psalm is then renewed, and another devotee comes forward howling; snatches a portion of prickly pear, and actually devours it ravenously. Then another exceedingly zealous performer—whose face, by the way, reminded me strangely of the portraits of Disraeli in Punch—seized some red-hot coals, and held them in his mouth for a time, afterwards proceeding to swallow lighted pipes, and execute other salamandrine feats. After witnessing this spectacle of degradation for some time, we retired, somewhat disgusted at the buffooneries perpetrated in this country, as elsewhere, in the name of religion.
BONA AND ITS VICINITY.
Passage to Bona.—State of Affairs on Board.—Bona.—The Lake Metitza.—Ain Mokra.—Wild Duck Shooting on the Lake.
We bade adieu to B——, who had given us letters of recommendation to the Admiral, for a first-class cabin to Bona—a thing difficult to achieve on board the steamers here, as civilians are only allowed second-class accommodation, the state cabin being reserved for the use of naval and military officers, as the steamers on this line rank as men of war. The boat was much crowded with soldiers, sailors, and Arabs, and we had to share a most miserable berth with eight other occupants. We had arrived too late to procure cabin places, and were obliged to dine in an unsavoury den, reeking with pestilential odours. Most of the Frenchmen grumbled loudly at the miserable accommodation afforded in return for their money. Steaming along past a fine coast, we reached Dellis about eight o'clock. I got Angelo to bring me my sheepskin and cloak, and preferred sleeping on deck to passing the night in a locality which, for the horrors it contained, might have figured as a scene in Dante's "Inferno."
The gentle music of the sailors, swabbing the deck, awoke me next morning. I found we were off Bougie, a most beautifully-situated place, entirely surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Here are distinctly to be seen the ruins of the old wall supposed to have been built by the Vandals. A rather tedious day on board, but the occupation of watching the coast, which is very fine, varied the monotony of the voyage. We passed Djigelli at about twelve, and Philippeville at nine in the evening, when I retired to rest, and, the Fates be thanked, it was in a fresh cabin.
There was a Jewess on board, a rather pretty personage, who slept in the same cabin with six men, most of them French officers, with a coolness that astonished me. Her husband was in the berth opposite her; she did not appear to feel the discomforts of her position, but chatted away gaily in Arabic and French throughout the whole passage. I don't think she quitted her berth once.
At half-past six on Saturday, the 25th of March, came Angelo to announce to me that we were off Bona. This is a very strongly fortified place. We were rowed ashore by Maltese boatmen, and, amid a great crowd and bustle on the quay, landed, and went to the Hotel de France. The proprietors were very civil, and assigned us a room at the top of the house, looking out on the place. We sallied forth in quest of horses to take us to the market-place. An Arab, who spoke some very broken and dilapidated Italian, took us round the market and through the streets, shouting "Reel Ain Mokra!" Several Arabs came up and offered us their horses, but the steeds had such a forlorn look, that we declined the accommodation, and settled to start by carriage next morning.
Accordingly, on Monday, the 26th of March, we set out at five o'clock, on a most wretched morning. The vehicle was the most miserable locomotive contrivance I ever saw. Drawn by two horses, it pounded and churned along a most detestable road. We were obliged to get out several times, and in one place we stuck in the mud for twenty minutes. It was only by dint of putting our united shoulders to the wheel, that we succeeded in extricating our unhappy chariot from its stationary position. At length our eyes were gladdened by the sight of the defile which opens on the lake Metitza, where Count Z——'s property is situated. Though of Polish origin, the Count is an Englishman, and has, I believe, been an officer. Right gladly we alighted from the carriage, and, loading our guns, prevailed on some Italian fishermen to take us out in a boat for a pop at the wild ducks which we saw flying about by hundreds, bagged a few, and then returned to find that the Count's keeper had come down, under the impression that we were poachers, with a firm determination to take us into custody there and then. The production of our letter of recommendation brought him back to civility, and produced an offer to take us out shooting; Count Z—— himself was absent in London.
There is an establishment here for the manufacture of oil from putrid fish, which agreeable occupation announced itself in the shape of such an overpowering odour, that I seized a glass of cognac, and fled precipitately, taking my way towards the caravanserai of Ain Mokra. Poor old Nero, whom I had brought with me, got into a scrape here, and narrowly escaped being drowned. It appears that the putrid entrails of the fish are thrown into a kind of pond, which is thus filled with a slimy mixture resembling clay, and exhaling a most horrible odour when exposed to the sun's rays. Nero contrived, in some way or other, to slip into this delectable compound, and there he would have remained, had I not laid hold of him and pulled him out by main force. I at once had him washed and scrubbed, and even emptied some scent on him, but in vain; for days afterwards, poor Nero carried about with him a reminiscence of his odoriferous adventure, which rendered his absence most desirable to the comfort and well-being of his friends. I sallied forth about four miles from Ain Mokra, and lay in ambush for boars, but none appeared, and only shot some jackals—a very poor substitute for the nobler game I had missed.
At five, next morning, I went out to shoot on the lake. I got Angelo to row a boat slowly among the reeds, and soon saw hundreds of wild ducks, teals, and large white birds of whose name I am ignorant; they looked to me like flamingoes. I could only succeed in bagging a few, as they were exceedingly shy, and made off as soon as the boat approached; moreover, the rushes were not thick enough to afford us an effectual concealment. As the miasma from the lake was sufficiently powerful to threaten fever, we returned to the caravanserai, where we breakfasted, and, after shooting a few quails, returned in our carriage, at one o'clock, to Bona. My driver, who sat beside me, was a very loquacious old soldier, who had served in the campaigns against the Arabs under Baraguay d'Hilliers and Youssouf, and been present at the capture of Milianah and Medeah. The Arabs, he said, never met the French fairly en bataille rangee, but always fired from ambush at the rear-guard, and in this way killed a great number of men. He described the conduct of the Arabs to their prisoners as very merciless. They never gave quarter, and frequently mutilated their captives; the women, in this particular, being more cruel than the men. I was informed, on my return, that the party who came out last year to shoot, had only killed four lions in as many months, though they had "all appliances and means to boot," and always kept several Arabs in their pay.
ON TO TUNIS.
Algeria in general.—The Arabs and their Conquerors.—Antagonism between the Two Races.—Social Condition of the Arabs.—The Oasis steamer.—Arrival at Tunis.
On the 28th of March I left Bona in the steamer Oasis. The engine broke down shortly after leaving the port, and, as the sails were absolutely useless, we had the pleasant consciousness of drifting towards a lee shore; but in a short time the damage was luckily repaired, and we proceeded on our voyage.
The accounts I had heard of Algeria had not prepared me to find such a flourishing state of affairs as I really found to exist in the community. The colony possesses fine harbours, a magnificent soil, and a glorious climate; numerous towns, with good hotels, are springing up in the interior. It is true that many of the immigrants are not French, but the majority are of that nation; and all the inhabitants, after a few years, adopt the French manners and language. The non-Gallic population are chiefly Spaniards, Italians, Maltese, and Germans. I met only one party of English at Bona, where a community of eighteen souls have been brought over by a Mr. Vincent; they appear to thrive very well. I was told that Count Z—— intended establishing an English village near Bona.
From the general prosperity, I, of course, except the Moors and Arabs, who will never, I believe, adopt European civilisation; they seem to recoil from before it, like the wild beasts of their native deserts.
The French people certainly pointed out to me in the towns one or two Europeanised Arabs, and laughed at the idea of their ever becoming "Francais." From what I saw, the natives merely adopted the vices without the good qualities of the dominant race. If to be civilised consists in sitting in the cafes, drinking absinthe, playing cards, and speaking bad French, I certainly saw one or two most unquestionable specimens of the Arab adaptability to Gallic impressions; but, with the exception of these brilliant results, I never saw the least token of intercourse between the Moors and their conquerors; indeed, each nation may be said entirely to ignore the existence of the other. The peculiarity of Mussulman habits, with regard to women, entirely precludes all prospect of a future mixture of the two races—such an amalgamation, for instance, as occurred in our own country between the Norman-French conquerors and the conquered Saxons. So well are the French aware of this impossibility, that I have seen the question of the expediency of utterly expelling the Mussulmans from Algeria gravely discussed in the French journals.
Another method proposed was, that the young Arabs who had attained the military age of from eighteen to twenty-two years, should be transferred to France, there to pass their period of service as infantry soldiers only, that opportunities might be found, during their "soldiering years," for instructing them in agriculture, and the rudiments of civilised education. This appears to me a sufficiently feasible plan; but I suspect that the Arab converts to civilisation would, on their return to their native land, quickly relapse into their old idle, roving habits, their primitive mode of life, and their inborn hatred of the infidel, whom they now regard as an instrument sent by Providence to inflict vengeance on the true believer for his apathy, and culpable neglect of his religious duties, including the propagation of his faith by fire and sword. Still, they believe the time to be approaching when every true son of the prophet shall "hae his ain" again; and it is past the power of mortal man to shake a Mahometan's trust and reliance on Destiny.
For the rest, the French behave with the greatest toleration towards all members of the Moorish faith, who are allowed to perform every rite of their religion, and polygamy even is permitted to prevail among the Mussulman population. At Bona, a very handsome mosque is being erected on the Grand Place by the Government. Tolerant themselves, the French refuse, with perfect justice, to suffer any display of bigotry or fanaticism on the part of the Mahometans towards the Christian community; the consequence is, that the mosques and other resorts of Mahometans are all thrown open to European visitors.
My dog Nero was a most decided favourite on board the French steamer, Oasis. Everybody was caressing and patting him, from the captain to the stewardess, rather a nice young female, from Germany, who took him under her especial protection, and looked after his creature-comforts in a way that must have aroused the most lively gratitude in the canine bosom of the said Nero. Poor old dog! he seemed quite bewildered at the attention he received, not only here, but also on board the French man-of-war, the Tartar, where the French soldiers and sailors were crowding around him all day long, and overwhelming him with favours, in the shape of bits of meat, when they took their meals. A number of Arabs were sleeping about the deck. These children of the desert used to excite Nero's especial wonder. Whenever he was let loose, he was sure to be sniffing about among the prostrate figures, examining their faces and bournouses, and often waking them up with a start, to the intense delight of the French tars.
On our arrival off La Goulette, the only anchorage for ships, situated about eight miles from Tunis, by sea, and nine miles by land, we were greeted by a scene of the most tremendous confusion. All the feluccas were rowed by Arabs, and their shouting, swearing, and gesticulation exceeded all my former experiences of the kind, Stamboul not excepted. A little patience, and a good deal of backsheesh, enabled us to pass our baggage through the Douane; and we sent it on by boat to Tunis, whither we proceeded by land in a carriage, and a drizzling rain. Once on the way we stopped, at what the inhabitants term the "Carthaginian cistern," to take in some exceedingly dirty water, from a fountain of old-fashioned appearance. The carriage windows were closed on account of the rain—an arrangement which interfered a good deal with my view of the surrounding country. Twice only, before we arrived at Tunis, my companion, a Russian, opened the window—to spit! On the first of these occasions, I got a glimpse of a large heap of immense stones, which were pointed out to me as the ruins of Carthage, and a grove of olives, looking dismal exceedingly in the drizzling rain. On the second occasion, I saw the lakes, and a solitary Tunisian sentinel. This soldier was dressed much in the Turkish costume, and I should scarcely have known him from an Osmanli, but that he wore the brass plaque in the front of his scarlet fez, instead of at the top.
As we approached Tunis, we became involved in an increasing crowd of loaded asses and mules; and, amid a great deal of screeching and shouting, we made our entry into the city, and drove to the Hotel de France, where we obtained such a complete view of an old wall, that it effectually prevented us from seeing anything else. The rooms, or rather holes, assigned to us, were so miserable, that we tried the solitary opposition shop the place can boast—the Hotel de Provence—but found that here we should fare rather worse than in the Hotel de France. There was a third establishment—a tavern, rejoicing in the magniloquent title of "Hotel of the Britannic Isles"—but as this hostelry was entirely occupied by sailors and Maltese skippers, we declined to avail ourselves of the "Britannic" accommodation. There was a great crowd of rather miscellaneous company at the table-d'hote. One French female, whom, without offence to gallantry, I may be permitted to describe as the ugliest woman I met in my travels, excited my especial horror. This charming person actually amused herself, and disgusted her neighbours, by indulging, across the table, in an amusement generally associated in men's minds with the chewing of tobacco! I discovered, however, that she was only a servant maid.
Angelo's Horsemanship.—The Bey's Palace at Marsa.—The Arabs and their Love of Tobacco.—The Friendly Moor at Camatte.
On the first of April I rode to Marsa, a little town on the seashore. Angelo's horse seemed rather fresh, and my servant was evidently no Centaur. He came up to me in an olive wood, where I made a halt for about five minutes. He was holding on hard by the mane, his trousers were up to his knees, and his face was horribly pale. On my asking him why he loitered behind so, he owned, with a dismal sigh, that he was half afraid of the horse. "Afraid of the horse, sir!" was poor Angelo's lament: "Very wicked horse, sir—fell from a horse, sir—at Scutari, sir—broke three ribs, sir—and in hospital five weeks, sir!"
I told him to be of good cheer, for the horse would soon be quiet after a good gallop; and, tying the horses to some olive trees, I bade Angelo wait for me by the side of a little hillock in the plain, where I could readily find him on my return, and went away into the forest with my gun. The ground was covered with long, thick, pointed grass, very wet with the dew. I saw some quails, and shot a few; then returned to where Angelo was waiting, and galloped on to Marsa. At this place, the Bey, and the principal inhabitants of Tunis, have summer residences, to which they resort for the sake of sea-bathing. On the way, I encountered a number of Arabs, mounted on mules. The foremost shouted out to me in Arabic, as I passed, asking me to stop and give him some tobacco. I understood the word "tobacco," which seems to have nearly the same sound in all languages, and knowing this request to be often a "dodge" on the part of the Arabs, who want an opportunity to rob, if not to murder, the traveller, I pointed to Angelo, who was following, about fifty paces behind me, with my gun, and shouted out that he would find tobacco for them. They evidently understood my meaning; for they all set up a loud laugh, and my friend the tobacconist—or rather the tobacco-less—looked exceedingly "sold."
I found Marsa very prettily situated, opposite to the bay of Tunis, near the ruins of old Carthage. The Bey's palace is a handsome building. The English and French consulates are also well built. I proceeded to a small Italian locanda, to get breakfast; but the old lady, who seemed the presiding genius of the place, obstinately refused to let us have anything. "Io han niente," was her unanswerable argument. But I rather ostentatiously pulled out my watch, whose golden blink somewhat softened the old lady's mood, and caused her to remember that she might have certain eggs, and some bread, and salad, though a moment before she had been protesting that she had not even such a thing as bread in the house. Her son, a handsome young Italian, returned at this juncture, and we soon had an excellent dejeuner of sausages, salad, spinach, omelette, and cheese, with very good wine and coffee. I went down to the seaside and bathed, first burying my watch and purse in the sand; for the Arabs have a weakness for occasionally coming down under such circumstances, and stealing one's clothes.
Past a ruined temple, down an avenue into Camatte, where I got an Arab to show me the way to a house formerly occupied by an Englishman. Here, for a wonder, I met a Moor, who spoke very good French, and was very civil. He asked me how I liked Africa, and laughed cordially at my open avowal, that it was "un peu bizarre." After gathering a few delicious oranges for me in the garden, he took me into the interior of the house. I found it a most charming residence, with a deliciously cool marble reservoir in the centre, full of gold and silver fish.
I rode back by the margin of the lake, but saw only small game till I got to a large olive forest, where a jackal made his appearance. I gave chase, and, after a rattling gallop, lodged him among some cactus bushes, where I could get near enough to shoot him; and so back to Tunis.
Sleeman.—The Oued el Ahwena.—Its Scenery and its Dangers.—Beauty of the Landscape on its Banks.
I started next day with the Umbra, who was remarkable for a long scimitar, and spurs nearly as long. Each time I put my horse to a gallop, he was under the impression that I wanted to ride a race with him, and went on at full speed, till I restrained his ardour. We arrived duly at Sleeman, where the Caid had everything prepared very comfortably for us. My friends B—— and F—— arrived later, in a carriage. We had a good Arab dinner, with the national kouskous, followed by a chibouk.
There was a river about six miles off, where boars were rumoured to make their abode. I rose early next morning, and, proceeding to this stream, hid in the thicket on the banks, while the Arabs beat the bushes. After waiting a long time, I managed to "pot" a wild boar, which came rushing past me at full speed. After this, the Arabs refused to beat the bushes any more, declaring that the dogs were tired, though the real reason was that they wanted their own dinners, so I was obliged to give up the sport and return. The wild boar was dispatched as a present to the consul.
The river which we visited to-day is called the Oued el Ahwena. It runs through a rich valley, bordered on both sides by mountains which rise up gradually, and are covered to their very foot with trees of various descriptions. The plain itself is fragrant with myrtles, orange trees, and olives. The beauty of the scene amid which this river falls into the sea is beyond description. Here the water is hissing wildly among osiers and furze bushes; there it skips along like a young goat over the small pebbles; and yonder, again, it winds like a serpent among the sand hills on the sea-shore. The dark olive-trees on the bank seem to look seriously on, like a father watching the pranks of a favourite child. The large ash-trees shake and quiver, like old aunts, all in a tremble at the dangerous hops and vagaries of a lively niece; while the gay-plumaged birds of the air ring out their wild applause, and the flowers on the bankside murmur tenderly, "Oh, take us with you, dear sister!" But the joyous, sparkling river rushes on like a coquette, bounding and skipping towards its goal.
Such is the river Ahwena in the glorious month of April: fair without, like many a gay flirt, she can yet inflict wounds incurable, if not death, upon those whom her wiles entrap. Woe to the traveller or hunter who, oppressed by thirst in this burning climate, ventures to taste the sparkling water that bubbles up like champagne, invitingly at his feet! Cholera and death would be the probable result. The waters are redolent of cholera, and the banks of fever. No man may pitch his tent in safety for a single night on the banks of this death-dealing water; not even the Bedouins, who avoid the locality as if it were plague-stricken, for fever is in the very air. Strange that so fair an exterior should veil so baneful a mystery. Those bright, sweet-smelling flowers conceal snakes and reptiles whose bite is almost instantaneously fatal, and the place might be appropriately termed the Valley of Death. Among yonder fair trees lurk the treacherous panther and the slinking hyena.
Yet, in this world, amid present impressions of pleasure, we have little time to think of the danger veiled beneath the smiling outward shape. So, at least, it was with me, as I reclined on the carpet of soft grass, after slaying the boar, placidly discussing my breakfast, and enjoying the beauty of the scene around, with the azure-rippling sea about two miles off, the magnificent mountains around me, the sparkling river at my feet, and, across the bay in the far distance, the ruins of the once mighty city of Carthage, with the birds singing merrily overhead in the bright sunshine. There is exquisite pleasure in the sensation of the external world thus melting away, as it were, into a little world of our own, and when the green trees, the azure sky, the perfumed plants, all take their places in an exquisite picture of Nature's own painting. Women, perhaps, most indulge this feeling; hence they often smile with an amiable incredulity when they hear the "lords of the creation," proud of their scholastic lore, discussing and settling everything, priding themselves upon having divided all things so cleverly into subjective and objective, and boasting that they have furnished their wise heads with so many drawers (like a chemist's shop, forsooth), with reason located in one, good sense in another, understanding in a third, and so on to the end of the chapter.
El Greesh.—Shooting Hyenas.—An Expedition with the Arabs.—The Caid and his Family.—Another Wild Boar.
The next day I rode on to a place called El Greesh, about twenty miles from Sleeman. I wanted to pitch my tent at the base of the purple mountain, outside the village, where I was sure we should have got a great deal of game, as the mountains were covered with thick underwood. A——, however, and the rest were opposed to it, so I yielded, and pitched my tent in the village itself, where I soon had the entire tribe around me, examining me and my arms, my gestures, and everything, as if I was an event. After a cup of coffee, I determined to start in search of game, and, with a little backsheesh, got an Arab to accompany us to one of the neighbouring defiles, where, after waiting about an hour and a half, I managed to bag a very fine hyena. He was just sneaking out of his hole, and was about 150 yards off. On my return, the natives manifested great joy, shook my hands, made a circle round me, tapped me on the back, &c., to my chagrin. As I was tremendously fatigued, I retired to my sheepskin in my tent with great satisfaction. The natives all slept around our tents on the ground, and some of them kicked up a most infernal noise till about two in the morning, singing a sort of chorus. The following morning the whole tribe collected around our tents and watched our toilette du matin with the most intense eagerness.
The greater part of them had brought their matchlocks, as the day was to be a grand field-day, and they were all in the highest spirits, laughing, and cracking jokes to an extraordinary amount. We started about seven A.M., and I remained till eleven A.M., till which time they had not succeeded in driving anything out of cover. Here I sprained my ankle in descending a broken gully, and was obliged to return to the tent. I came back about four P.M., with only small game. After sun-down we went out a second time in ambush after hyena. A lion or panther came, a little after sunset, and frightened the horses so that they broke loose, and we returned to the tents about eleven P.M.
The next day we started early, in order to return to Sleeman. We stopped an hour on the banks of our old friend, the river Oued el Ahwenah, for luncheon, where I shot several quail and snipes, and a large bird, whose name I ignore, also a hare, the only one I saw in Tunisia. About four P.M., I reached the Caid's house; a woman, for a wonder, opened the door. As the Caid was there, I looked anywhere but at her. The next day we went out all day, after boar, to the river, with an Italian and some Arabs. I stood up to my knees in the river for about an hour in the brush-wood, when one rushed by; I fired, and he rushed forward badly damaged. The rest fired, and he was found dead a few yards off. The Italian's steed broke loose, and he left us in search of it. I broke from my corps de garde. My horse lost a shoe, and then broke loose, and I had to follow him for more than a mile. I had a kind of dumbshow conversation with the Caid's son on my return, a very fine, handsome lad, about seventeen. I hear his sister is most beautiful, and I promised to send him a present, on getting to Tunis, and he is to write to me and tell me if he receives it. After dinner the Caid came and smoked two or three pipes, drank coffee, and wished us adieu in a most gracious manner.
We had considerable difficulty in bringing home the boar, as our Arabs all deserted us on account of its being the Ramadhan; but Angelo and B—— managed to carry it back between them. I returned to Tunis next day.
TUNIS AND ITS GOVERNMENT.
Picturesque Situation of Tunis.—The Horse Market.—Effects of Race.—The Bazaars.—Mohamed Medea.—The Bardo.—The Bey of Tunis.—His Mode of administering Justice.—Prince Puckler Muskau's Account of his Interview.
Tunis is situated on the borders of a lake, or rather inlet of the sea. It is surrounded by a crenelated wall, which resembles very much that of Constantinople. Like that city, too, Tunis, from the exterior, presents a very imposing aspect; but enter the city, and the illusion vanishes; there is the same dirt, the same narrow and filthy streets, as in the Turkish capital. The dogs alone are wanting to make the comparison perfect. An ancient historian has called this place Tunis the white; but, like other whited sepulchres, it is very foul within. The horses, the really thorough-bred ones, are the finest objects in Tunis. As in the canine and human, so in every other race, blood will tell. The Arab horse, though by no means so swift for a short distance as his English cousin, has a most marvellous power of endurance. He is also extremely sure footed, and scarcely ever comes down. I weigh over thirteen stone, yet have frequently ridden the same horse forty English miles per diem, over country that would infallibly cut up your English two hundred guinea hunter. They also, so to speak, live on air. Their chief drawback is that they are, with few exceptions, stallions, and, consequently, when tethered or standing near each other, are very apt to fight most desperately, or else break loose from their tetherings, when a long and wearisome pursuit is the necessary result. It is very difficult to come across the best pur sang horses, as the Arabs are afraid of the Bey's taking a fancy to them, and taking them by force; and, consequently, they often purposely mutilate them, lest he should seize them to himself. There are also some very fine bazaars at Tunis, and the otto of roses there is especially excellent. Our Consul has a very fine, large house, and dispenses his hospitalities, &c., very generously to his compatriots. His lady is also a most amiable person. Tunis is, I hear, celebrated for the manufacture of the red cap, usually termed "fez," which is worn generally throughout Mussulman countries, and universally by the military. The Tunisian soldiers wear the plaque in front of the fez, in lieu of on the top, like the Turkish. As soon as I had selected my horse, a fine black thorough-bred Arab (whose price was four hundred francs only), I used to make excursions every day into the country, sometimes alone, sometimes attended, always armed, as the Francs of Tunis told me many stories of the dangers arising from going out in the country unarmed, among the Arabs. I think a great number of them were very much exaggerated. One of the places I was fond of riding to was Mohamed Medea, about twelve miles from Tunis, very prettily situated, where there was a very fine ruin of a Roman aqueduct, and eke a French restaurant, where a dejeuner, made more agreeable by a twelve miles' ride, was served in quite Parisian style. The reason of there being a French restaurant is this:—The present Bey, on his accession, determined to build a fresh palace at this place; and, being under a sort of douce compulsion, employs nothing but French architects and operatives, who make the hotel their head-quarters, it being about the only Christian house in the entire place. Quail abounded in this vicinity, and there were pas mal de sangliers. To escape from the ennui of the table d'hote dejeuner at Tunis, occupied by French bagmen and milliners, and served in a stuffy hole of a back kitchen, I used frequently to make Angelo put my breakfast in my sacoche (saddle-bag), consisting of a piece of cold meat and some vin du pays, and then ride out, dismount, and breakfast al fresco, or rather al bosco; sometimes I am sorry to confess to breaking the eighth commandment, as I helped myself to my dessert of oranges, from the trees near or under which I sat. The Arabs, malgre the ogre histories I had heard of murder and robbery, were always most civil, and would accept, in spite of the prophet, a glass of wine from my hands though our conversation was of course of the most limited description, unless Angelo was present to interpret. It is true I always was armed.
The Bardo is one of the lions of Tunis. It is the country residence of the Bey, and, besides the harem, contains a hall of justice and barracks. It is at Bardo that the Bey holds his court of justice, in which the cases are decided very quickly, and with great precision. The interior of the harem, according to a French traveller, who had visited it, is fitted up very gracefully. There is a magnificent jet d'eau in the marble court of the interior. The gallery running round this court on the second storey is furnished with a very artistically elaborated railing, or grating, part of which is painted green, part gilt. Behind this railing the ladies of the harem get a sly peep at those who visit his highness. The vast saloon in which the Bey receives his visitors is hung with crimson velvet, embroidered with gold, and the ceiling is also gilt and painted over in brilliant colours. From the two sides of the wall are suspended different descriptions of arms, richly manufactured; on the right, they consist of swords and poniards; on the left, of various kinds of muskets and pistols. Gold, silver, and precious stones sparkle out from these arms. Under these weapons are ranged three rows of divans, covered with a thick sort of red silk. The centre of the apartment is furnished with magnificent Persian carpets. On the lowest of the divans, the principal courtiers seat themselves, on solemn days of reception, in double file; while at the extremity, the Bey reclines on an ottoman placed crossways, and covered with white satin. In Europe, we might, with great advantage, take a wrinkle or two from this semi-barbarian prince as regards the administration of justice with expedition. The Bey of Tunis is, at one and the same time, the chief governor of the realm, the administrator of the public revenues, and the final judge of all grand cases. From his immediate authority depends the administration of the police, the imposition of taxes, the various diplomatic relations, and the superintendence of the army and navy.
We Europeans can scarcely comprehend how one man can look after so many different details, or direct them with order and precision. But in this country, mark, oh! red-tapeists, everything relating to interior administration is reduced to the greatest simplicity, and from this simplicity, freed from the complicated system of European red-tapeism and bureaucracy, results, it is to be hoped, a strict economy in public expenses, and a rapid process in the courts of justice and other Government affairs. Where a European prince would require a hundred different employes, here five or six clerks suffice. Besides the celerity and economy resulting from such a system, a third no less important advantage is derived, viz., the facility with which the Bey is able to superintend the conduct of the ministers, being so few in number, and immediately detect and punish those in whom any act of embezzlement or fraud has been detected; and punishment in this country immediately follows detection. Verily, there are advantages in autocratic as well as in constitutional dynasties!!
In the administration of justice, too, the Bey is supreme judge, from whom there is no appeal. The celerity with which causes are tried and judged, is, I am told, perfectly astounding. The case merely consists in a simple exposition of the facts, and such is the wonderful power of discernment of the merits of the case which the Bey thinks he has obtained from long habit, that it is said he rarely deliberates. The court is open to the public—even to Christians! I did not go; but Prince Puckler Muskau has left an account of his presence there. After giving a description of the room, &c., and the Bey's entry, the Prince proceeds:—"The Bey was now presented with a magnificent pipe, which was at least ten feet long. After a few puffs, the audience commenced. The civil and criminal procedure is so summary, that a great majority of cases were decided in as many minutes as they would have taken years in Europe. The subject of the causes was frequently very trivial, yet the patience of the sovereign was by no means exhausted. I thought, in general, that the pleaders were satisfied with the Bey's decision. One sees, by this, that the Bey's place is no sinecure; and I am told that few monarchs in Christian countries have so much personally to do. The Bey sits every day in the court, from eight in summer, and from nine in winter, till mid-day; and illness, or absence from town, is his only excuse for non-attendance. His other governmental duties occupy pretty well the rest of his day."
Each country has an "idea," I suppose, that its own Government is best, and perhaps it is as well it should be so. The man who travels much sees the defects and the advantages of each. Our Parliament would certainly not easily be acclimatised in Barbary, nor would a Bey exactly do to grace the British throne. What, for instance, would we think of such a proclamation as this in the London Gazette, on a king's accession? It was issued by Mustapha, the father of the present Bey, to the consuls of Christian powers:—"Glory to princes of the religion of Messiah. To the chosen by the great of the nation of Jesus, our most honoured, most longed for, most magnificent, and most powerful friend, the King of ——, we make known, friendly, the following: On Wednesday, 23rd of the month of Moharrem the sacred, of the present year 1251, at the moment when the sun illumined the horizon, the hour marked by destiny having struck for my most honoured brother, Hassein Basha, he emigrated towards the mansion of eternity," &c. &c.
THE RUINS OF CARTHAGE.
Reflections on Ancient Carthage.—Hannibal and his Career.—An Arab Domicile.—Picturesque appearance of the Ruins.
I went three times to the "Ruins," and therefore should have been lucky. I was, however, the reverse, both as to seeing anything of the ruins, and also the particular object which brought me there. I think, myself, proverbs are very deceitful, and should, like dreams, be read by contrary; some are utterly unintelligible; as, for instance—will any one tell me what this one signifies?—"Sweet words butter no parsnips." I thought parsnips (and, being fond of vegetables, I should like to know) were generally seasoned with pepper or vinegar. I am, perhaps, too stupid to comprehend it, and, like stupid people, abuse what I don't understand. Therefore, don't let any one expect a long description of how this part is Phoenician, and is supposed to be where the Carthaginian parliament was held; or their dandies and "fast" of both sexes met to polka of a night, or drink Punic punch; or a "cabinet de lecture," or club, where the Times or the Globe gave the latest telegram from Italy; as how Hannibal obtained a glorious victory over the Roman troops at Thrasymene, or that the commissariat was bad; then, perhaps, old grumblers decried the dissipation at Cannae, and the expense of the war; and ancient merchants on 'Change complained of the rising importance of the Roman navy, whose ships had just captured the large Phoenician brigantine Argo, from Sidon, laden with a valuable freight, otto of roses, and bound for Carthage—apropos of which I will remark, there is a military Rome and a mercantile Carthage in modern times. Take care we be not the Carthage; let us remember that it was from a stranded Punic vessel the Romans learnt the maritime art, in which, at last, they excelled their enemies. Hannibal appears to me always the greatest man of any age, ancient or modern—Napoleon not excepted—and perhaps the most unfortunate. His character comes to us, as his exploits, from foreign and hostile sources; for I believe there exist no Phoenician records; so that there remains a great deal of discount to take off in the way of disparagement, depreciation, &c. &c. It is as if the future Australian, standing on the ruins of a city mightier than Carthage, could obtain no account of Napoleon, but through partial and depreciatory fragments from the pages of Sir Walter Scott's life of that extraordinary meteor. Napoleon, it is true, crossed the Alps, but Hannibal traversed the Alps and Pyrenees too, and I fancy the last are the more impassable of the two. It is true I have not copied Albert Smith, or our other heroic youths, but I have climbed the Malodetta, which well becomes its appellation. Then, Napoleon had a friendly population at any rate behind him, to bring supplies, &c. Hannibal was everywhere surrounded by hostile tribes, besides having had the disadvantage of a march through enemies' countries of several hundred, if not thousand miles. I hope the living in Spain, for his sake, did not then consist of olla podrida, with a variation of garlic and acid wine.