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Interview de Yigal Bin-Nun sur l'émigration des juifs du Maroc

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #JUIFS

L'émigration des juifs du Maroc interview 

  souce :http://yigbin.blogspot.com/2006/10/lemigration-des-juifs-du-maroc.html


Interview de Yigal Bin-Nun sur l'émigration des juifs du Maroc

BEL AIBA Inès, ALAMI Younes, AMAR Ali, et JAMAI Aboubaker, Le Maroc et le Mossad, Dossier, Le Journal Hebdomadaire, N°167, Casablanca, 3 au 9 juillet 2004

Au moment de l’indépendance, le Maroc comptait environ 230 000 sujets juifs sur dix millions d’habitants. Aujourd’hui, seuls 3 000 d’entre eux continuent à vivre dans le royaume. L’historien israélien d’origine marocaine Yigal Bin-Nun, chargé de cours à l’Université de Paris VIII, étudie depuis huit ans les relations secrètes entre le Maroc et Israël. C’est dans ce cadre qu’il a reconstitué les modalités de l’émigration de la communauté juive, d’abord clandestine organisée par le tout jeune Mossad, puis officialisée par ce qui fut sobrement appelé « l’accord de compromis » entre Hassan II et Israël.

Quand ont commencé les départs des juifs du Maroc ?

Depuis toujours de petits groupes sont partis en Terre Sainte et aussi à l’époque du protectorat français, clandestinement, par Oujda et l’Algérie. Certains partaient pour l’Espagne et la France, la majorité pour Israël. C’était difficile, car les Britanniques ne les laissaient pas toujours entrer, même pas les rescapés de la shoa. Beaucoup ont été refoulés au port de Haïfa et renvoyés à Chypre.

Pourquoi ces départs prématurés ? Les juifs étaient-ils en danger ?

Cela peut paraître effectivement étonnant, parce que, après l’indépendance, le Mossad lui-même avait noté l’harmonie qui régnait entre Juifs et Musulmans au Maroc et surtout l’essor économique, social et politique de la classe moyenne juive. Il ne pouvait nier la réalité. Dans plusieurs de leurs rapports du Maroc, les émissaires israéliens rendent compte d’un véritable « âge d’or » de la communauté juive et de la quantité considérable de fonctionnaires juifs dans la haute administration du nouveau pays indépendant. Cela n’exclua pas les méfiances et les craintes, même si aucune exaction anti-juive n’a été enregistrée. Les Juifs eux-mêmes ont montré leur volonté de s’intégrer encore plus au pays. Chez les intellectuels, c’était voulu, écrit, déterminé et assumé. Cependant, le Mossad ainsi que toutes les institutions juives et israéliennes étaient totalement persuadés que les Juifs couraient un grave danger et que même s’il ne s’est pas encore produit, il était inévitable qu’il se produise un jour ou l’autre. Le souvenir de certains pogroms était encore présent dans l’imaginaire juif : le tritel de Fès au début du protectorat français, les massacres d’Oujda et de Jerrada en 1948 et les tueries de Sidi Qassem (Petit Jean) en 1955. L’expulsion des Juifs d’Iraq, d’Egypte, du Yémen, de Libye et d’autre pays de la Ligue Arabe n’était pas non plus de bon augure. Après l’indépendance, les Juifs du Maroc vécurent de fait en toute sécurité. Parallèlement, les craintes et méfiances ne cessèrent d’accroître à cause des restrictions à la libre circulation, aux difficultés à obtenir un passeport, à la rupture des relations postales avec Israël, aux problèmes causés par le processus d’arabisation et à la nationalisation d’une partie des écoles de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle. C’est ce qu’on pourrait appeler « la catastrophe qui n’a jamais eu lieu ».

Comment se déroulait l’émigration clandestine ?

L’émigration des Juifs du Maroc se divise en trois phases : Qadima, Misgeret et Yakhin. Qadima porte le nom de l’Agence Juive qui s’occupait de faire partir les juifs jusqu’en 1957 et du camp de transit qui porte ce nom, et qui se trouve sur la route d’Eljadida (Mazagan), par où passaient les familles d’immigrés pour partir discrètement, malgré les interdictions de la Résidence française, vers l’Algérie et de là, vers Israël. La Misgeret, elle, vient du nom de la branche du Mossad qui s’occupait aussi bien de l’autodéfense juive que de l’émigration clandestine entre le début 1957 jusqu’en novembre 1961. Enfin, l’Opération Yakhin, qui se réfère au nom de l’une des deux colonnes à l’entrée du temple de Jérusalem, est le nom de code d’une véritable évacuation qui s’est déroulée du 28 novembre 1961 à fin 1966, avec l’accord tacite des autorités marocaines.

Comment est-on passé d’une émigration clandestine à une évacuation « officielle » ?

Dés la veille de l’indépendance, le Congrès juif mondial (CJM) demandait la liberté de circulation et l’octroi de passeports aux membres de la communauté juive, mais les autorités marocaines s’y opposèrent voulant à tout prix maintenir la communauté sur place pour des raisons économiques, sociales et politiques et aussi pour afficher un aspect libéral et progressiste au nouvel état indépendant. Parallèlement, en Israël, persistait une véritable hantise démographique ; il fallait à tout prix construire le pays, le peupler et forger une nouvelle nation avec des réfugiés venus de toute part et de cultures diverses.
On s’est vite rendu compte que l’émigration clandestine au compte goûte, ne réglait pas le problème. Le rythme des départs était trop lent, trop dangereux et trop risqué. L’alternative était de tenter de convaincre les autorités marocaines de laisser les Juifs partir, grâce à un accord avec le roi en personne.
En ce sens, des émissaires comme Jo Golan et Alexandre Easterman, du Congrès Juif Mondial, ainsi qu’André Chouraqui et Marcel Franco rencontrèrent à plusieurs reprises, chaque deux à trois mois, des représentants du Palais ainsi que des partis de l’Istiqlal et du PDI (Parti Démocratique pour l’indépendance), pour traiter avec eux l’égalité des droits pour la communauté juive et surtout le droit à la libre circulation. Ils rencontrèrent ainsi de nombreux amis personnels qu’il avait connus durant leurs études à Paris, parce que le CJM les avait soutenus dans leur lutte pour l’indépendance, entre autres, Mohamed Laghzaoui, chef des services de sécurité, le Président de l’Assemblée consultative Mehdi Ben Barka, les ministres Abderahim Bouabid, Driss Mhamdi et Mahjoubi Aherdan et les Premiers ministres Mbark Bekkay, Ahmed Balafrej et Abdallah Ibrahim.
C’est ainsi que Easterman rencontra Moulay Hassan après que le Prince héritier délégua en avril 1960 le diplomate Bensalem Guessous au ministre israélien Golda Meir pour tâter le terrain concernant l’avenir de la communauté juive au Maroc et les problèmes de l’émigration. Easterman se présenta au prince Moulay Hassan comme membre de la direction du CJM, mais en fait le Prince savait qu’il était aussi un délégué non-officiel du Ministère des Affaires étrangères israélien.

Quand cette rencontre a-t-elle eu lieu ?

C’est le 1er août 1960 que la rencontre entre Easterman et Moulay Hassan s ‘est effectuée à Rabat. Elle a lieu tard dans la nuit, chez un ami de Moulay Hassan. Le prince héritier avait posé comme condition préalable la discrétion absolue sur la rencontre. La conversation s’est déroulée de manière conviviale et a duré une heure environ, pendant laquelle le prince héritier a fait remarquer, entre autres, que « si ça ne tenait qu’à lui, Israël ferait son entrée dans la Ligue Arabe ». Easterman et le prince abordèrent trois sujets : les méfiances de Moulay Hassan envers certains dirigeants de la communauté juive en rapport avec l’opposition, car il n’acceptait pas que ces derniers entretiennent des liens avec le communisme et la gauche ; les problèmes économiques et politiques du Maroc, du conflit des pays arabes avec Israël et enfin le droit des Juifs à la libre circulation.

Quelles étaient les positions de Moulay Hassan par rapport à l’émigration ?

Le prince héritier confia à Easterman les craintes qu’il avait quant au départ des Juifs. Selon lui cette vague d’émigration risquait de se transformer en une « force grégaire » qui risquait d’entraîner toute la communauté. Par ailleurs, Moulay Hassan, déjà en 1960, affirmait qu’on ne pouvait se permettre de nier l’existence de l’Etat d’Israël mais aussi qu’il fallait ménager ses « frères arabes » en lutte contre l’état juif. Il se devait aussi de jouer apparemment la carte du panarabisme et ne pas permettre officiellement aux Juifs de quitter le Maroc. Fournir de la main d’œuvre à Israël alors que les Etats arabes étaient en conflit avec lui aurait fourni à son opposition et à la Ligue Arabe un excellent argument contre son pouvoir menacé conjointement par le nassérisme et par la gauche « progressiste » pressés de renverser les régimes monarchiques et féodaux. Il a même évoqué un argument surprenant et tout à fait inédit : « Soyons réalistes », a-t-il dit à Easterman, « l’expérience nous a appris que dans le processus de développement de pays venant d’accéder à leur indépendance, la classe défavorisée de la population, désenchantée par les difficultés engendrés par l’indépendance, s’attaque d’abord aux étrangers, ensuite elle s’en prend aux minorités religieuses ». Ainsi, Hassan II avoua pour la première fois qu’il ne croyait plus à la possibilité d’intégrer la communauté juive à la société marocaine nouvelle et ne pensait pas avoir la possibilité de la défendre en cas de problème. Cet aveu princier mettait en dérision tous les fervents militants juifs partisans d’une assimilation totale des Marocains juifs dans la nouvelle société délivrée du colonialisme français et qui rêvaient d’un état laïque et progressiste où la religion ne serait qu’un problème individuel et non une religion d’état imposée par une constitution.

Qu’avait à gagner le futur Hassan II en traitant ainsi avec Israël ?

Hassan II était très lucide et s’inquiétait beaucoup de l’image de marque de son pays dans l’opinion publique mondiale. Il voulait ainsi présenter l’image d’un Maroc évolué, moderne et ouvert au progrès. Il savait aussi que par le biais de la communauté juive, d’Israël et des organismes juifs mondiaux, c’était les investissements américains et européens qu’il courtisait. À cette époque, courait un mythe sur l’influence légendaire qu’avait Israël sur l’administration américaine et sur les bienfaits des investissements qui afflueraient au Maroc grâce à eux. Bien que ce mythe soit très exagéré, Israël n’a rien fait pour le nier, bien au contraire. C’est pourquoi le prince héritier pensait agir au mieux pour le développement économique du Maroc en collaborant avec Israël. À cette époque l’état hébreu représentait pour nombre de politiciens, de manière exagérée, un miracle social, culturel et militaire qu’il était de bon ton d’admirer, tout comme aujourd’hui il est politiquement correcte d’accabler de tous les crimes.

Un accord a-t-il été finalement trouvé ?

C’est un an après cette rencontre que ce que l’on appelle « l’accord de compromis » a été conclu. L’année 1961 est une année charnière dans l’histoire du Maroc et de sa communauté. En janvier, la conférence de Casablanca réunit les chefs d’Etats africains. C’est à cette occasion que Nasser visite le Maroc et que les rares exactions à l’encontre des Juifs sont commises. Il semble que les gardes du corps du raïs égyptien, indignés de voir une communauté juive aussi florissante aient incité les policiers marocains, à procéder à des arrestations aléatoires au cours desquelles des Juifs ont été malmenés à Casablanca.
Deux autres évènements bouleversèrent l’histoire de la communauté juive et déterminèrent son avenir dans ce pays. La nuit du 8 au 9 janvier, un vieux rafiot destiné à faire sortir des Juifs de la côte d’Alhucema, le Pisces (en hébreu baptisé Egoz), fit naufrage avec à son bord 44 immigrants, ce qui a remis en cause les opérations clandestines qui mettaient en danger des vies humaines. Un mois plus tard, pour commémorer l’événement, Alex Gatmon, le chef du Mossad au Maroc, fait distribuer des tracts qui entraînèrent une série d’arrestations à Fès et à Meknès. Les tracts accusaient les autorités marocaines, tout en disculpant le Palais, d’avoir causé, au moins indirectement, le naufrage d’émigrants juifs en route vers Israël. Gatmon voulait faire croire que ces tracts étaient une émanation spontanée de la communauté juive, indignée par les évènements. Après ces deux échecs de la part du Mossad, car c’était effectivement sa responsabilité qui était en cause, le réseau clandestin fut démantelé par la police marocaine en très peu de temps, les volontaires juifs locaux arrêtés et le reste du prendre la fuite précipitamment.

Comment les Israéliens ont-ils cherché à sauver la situation ?

De mai à août 1961, le gouvernement israélien poursuit les tentatives de pourparlers, car il était enfin arrivé à la conclusion que seuls des accords diplomatiques permettraient une évacuation de la communauté et surtout celle des petits villages de l’Atlas et du Tafilalt.
On établit alors un inventaire de personnalités juives pouvant servir d’intermédiaires dans une mission très délicate puisqu’il s’agissait de proposer une indemnisation financière. Après avoir rejeter les services précédents de Jo Golan et d’André Chouraqui, on s’adressa à de nouveaux intermédiaires : Isaac Cohen Olivar (communément nommé Zazac) et à Sam Bénazeraf qui acceptèrent de négocier le sujet respectivement avec le prince et cousin du roi Moulay Ali Alaoui et avec le ministre du PDI Abdelqader Ben Jelloun. Sachant le roi très friand d’argent, les Israéliens proposèrent d’indemniser le Maroc et de le dédommager de l’atteinte à son économie que causerait le départ des Juifs. Les négociateurs marocains proposèrent comme première étape le départ de 50 000 Juifs contre 250 dollars par personne pour « frais de sortie » et une avance de 500 000 dollars. Quand la demande arriva au gouvernement israélien, elle rencontra beaucoup de méfiance. Les Israéliens craignaient qu’on leur tendait un piège. Ils exigèrent de rencontrer Hassan II pour se persuader qu’il était bien au courant de l’affaire et que l’argent irait bien là où il devait aller. Ils demandèrent à Raphaël Spanien de l’organisation humanitaire HIAS de s’entretenir avec Hassan II et de s’assurer de son implication. Une fois les vérifications faites, le Mossad réussi à convaincre le gouvernement israélien, l’Agence Juive et le Bonds de fournir l’argent nécessaire à la réalisation du projet.
Les Israéliens attendaient le jour J comme la naissance d’un enfant. C’est ainsi que le premier passeport collectif, accordé à une famille de pâtissiers de Casablanca, a vu le jour le 28 novembre 1961, juste après l’accord de compromis, accord jamais signé, mais auquel il est fait allusion dans bon nombre de documents.

Comment êtes-vous donc arrivé à reconstituer les faits ?

Par les archives de l’HIAS, par des rapports et de nombreuses correspondances non classifiés du Mossad que j’ai trouvés aux Archives Nationales en Israël et aussi par des témoignages de personnes ayant pris une part active à ces évènements. Tout ce qui touche les détails de l’élaboration de l’accord par l’entremise de Cohen Olivar et Benazeraf et de la « commission » touchée par les autorités marocaine est encore placé sous scellés en Israël.


Comment s’est déroulée l’émigration après l’accord ?

Plusieurs conditions préalables ont été exigées par les Marocains : d’abord que les départs ne soient pas effectués par un organisme israélien ; c’est donc l’HIAS qui a été désignée. Ensuite que les départs soient discrets. Ils se sont donc effectués lorsque le Maroc dormait. La nuit, l’aéroport et le port de Casablanca étaient pratiquement sous contrôle israélien… De nombreux rapports du Mossad relatent des relations harmonieuses entre les fonctionnaires marocains et les Israéliens camouflés, relations d’amitié et de compréhension, devenues parfois très affectives. Autre condition : qu’il n’y ait pas de sélection parmi ceux qui voulaient partir. Il était hors de question que seuls les hommes en état de travailler partent avec leur famille, parce que telle était la politique d’Israël auparavant. Il faut se souvenir de ce qu’était la situation d’Israël à cette époque : la récession économique sévissait dans le pays, le taux de mortalité était très élevé dans les camps de transit, les maabarot, et la nourriture était rationnée. C’était la politique de la sélection souvent vécue de manière traumatisante. C’est pourquoi les Marocains ont insisté que des familles entières partent sans distinction, et ne pas laisser aux Maroc les cas sociaux qui ne pouvaient pas subvenir à leurs besoins.

Qu’est-il advenu de l’argent touché par les autorités marocaines ?

Je n’en sais rien. Beaucoup de rumeurs courent à ce sujet, mais je préfère m’abstenir et ne pas faire de suppositions.

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LIVRE:M. Simon BENSIMHON, vient de publier son livre "Pages Oubliées" qui retrace l'histoire de la caumunauté juive d'El Jadida (Mazagan).

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Bibliographie

voilà un nouveau livre sur les juifs de mazagan (
Pages Oubliées", nouveau livre sur l'histoire de la communauté juive de Mazagan
M. Simon BENSIMHON, vient de publier son livre "Pages Oubliées" qui retrace l'histoire de la caumunauté juive d'El Jadida (Mazagan).
D'après l'auteur, "cet ouvrage est illustré de photographies d'époque, parfois inédites, et retrace ce que fut la vie quotidienne de cette communauté"
Le prix du livre est de 19 euros (22 euros incluant les frais d'envoi).
Pour commander le livre télécharger la lettre de M. Simon BENSIMHON et le bon de commande.

Strasbourg, le 7 décembre 2005
Madame, Monsieur et Chers Amis,
Je viens de terminer la rédaction d’un livre retraçant l’histoire de la communauté juive d’El
Jadida (ex Mazagan), portant le titre « Pages Oubliées ».
Cet ouvrage, abondamment illustré de photographies d’époque, parfois inédites, retrace
pour vous ce que fut la vie quotidienne de cette communauté, aujourd’hui éteinte. Il se
veut le témoignage du passé de notre ville, depuis l’installation des Juifs dans la cité
jusqu’à nos jours….
J’ai essayé de dégager la spécificité de cette communauté dans les domaines religieux,
intellectuel, commercial, sportif jusqu’à l’indépendance du Maroc.
Aujourd’hui la communauté juive a disparu … et il me semble bon que les générations
n’oublient pas.
Je vous souhaite une bonne lecture, et pour ceux qui reconnaîtront des membres de leur
famille ou des amis, un voyage agréable vers des souvenirs inoubliables.
Simon BENSIMHON
-��--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Bon à découper et à renvoyer à Jacques Malier – 13 rue du docteur Decorse 94410 Saint-Maurice)
Le livre est disponible au prix de 19 € (22€ incluant les frais d’envoi).
Pour passer commande, veuillez découper le bon de commande ci-dessous et le
renvoyer avec votre règlement à Jacques Malier – 13 rue du docteur Decorse 94410
Saint-Maurice (France)
BON DE COMMANDE
Nom : ___________ Prénom : ___________
Adresse : ____________________________________________________
Nombre d’exemplaires _ * 22 = __€
(Règlement par chèque bancaire au nom de Jacques Malier)
Simon Bensimhon
5, rue de Bruges
67000 Strasbourg

Fichiers:
pages_oubliees des juifs mazaganais.jpg
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Bonne anneé 2009 AVEC DES IMAGES SUR ELJADIDA

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Album photos

1rose03.gif
sofitel_royal_golf_jadida1.jpg

bd des far et park spenni mazagan.gif



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Sidi bouzid- SALAM4.jpg



place mohamed5 et bd hansali après expansion.jpg

pergola-du-parc-de-la-plage mohamed5 mazagan.jpg


plade brudo-hansali mazagan.jpg

jetee.jpg

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carte postale Jerusalem Mazagan.jpg
un petit coup de passé: 1903. C'est une carte postale (recto et verso) adressée de mon arrière grand mère maternelle (Sol Cohen) à son frère Pinhas, qui étaient donc les oncles de ma mère. Tous vivaient à Mazagan à cette époque avant d'aller vivre à Casa.
Re: Mazagan El jadida : photos de la ville, histoire
Auteur: Dalben (IP enregistrée)
Date: 29 October 2005, 22:57
SOURCE.. http://dafina.net/forums/read.php?52,80209,page=8

;voilà une photo de club nautique au port d'eljadida +une vue sur l'ancienne cité portugaise
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haut.gif



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Immeuble en 1919 reduite.jpg

parc spinni aprés restaration2.jpg


centre culturel d\'eljadida pret de college dokali.jpg

camp réquiston mazagan.jpg
voilà une de plus ancienne photo au début coloniale de mazagan d'un camp tout du grnad phare de laville.



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cite portugisa mazagan.jpg23.jpg
UNE PHOTO DU JARDIN MOHAMED5(ex:lyauty) en face de la plage
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JARDIN MOHAMED5.gif

citymap mazagan.gif


Histoire port mazagan.gif






une tres vielle carte postale de la place gallieni

Copie de mazagan place gallieni.jpg


ben
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Bibliographie d’El Jadida

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Bibliographie

Mazagao la ville qui traversa l'Atlantique.
Du Maroc a l'Amazonie 1769-1783. Chez Aubier.
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Mazagao la ville qui traversa l'Atlantique. Aubin 2005.
Fichiers:
Mazagao Back cover.JPG

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LIVRE:The Project Gutenberg EBook of Morocco, by S.L. Bensusan

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Album photos

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LIVRE:The Project Gutenberg EBook of Morocco, by S.L. Bensusan

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Album photos

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LIVRE:The Project Gutenberg EBook of Morocco, by S.L. Bensusan

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Histoire et socièté

                                                                         -13-SUITE

The hunter came back silently as he had gone.

SELLING ORANGES
SELLING ORANGES

"All's well," he said as he remounted; "he is a fine fellow, and has his lair most comfortably placed. And you should have come with me, but your creaking English gaiters would have disturbed him, while my soft native ones let me go within thirty or forty yards of his new home in safety." My companion was wearing the Moorish gaiters of the sort his trackers used—things made of palmetto. When they follow on foot the trackers wear leather aprons too, in order to deaden the sound made by their passage through the resisting undergrowth.

Then we rode back by another route, down paths that only an Arab horse could have hoped to negotiate, through densely wooded forest tracks that shut out the sun, but allowed its brightness to filter through a leafy sieve and work a pattern of dappled light and shadow on the grass, for our delectation. Most of the way had been made familiar in pursuit of some wild boar that would not stand and fight but hurried into the wildest and most difficult part of the forest, charging through every bush, however thick and thorny, in vain endeavour to shake off the pitiless pack. For my companion no corner of the forest lacked memories, some recent, some remote, but all concerned with the familiar trial of skill in which the boar had at last yielded up his pleasant life.

We came quite suddenly upon the stream and past a riot of green bamboo and rushes, saw the kaid's house, more than ever gaunt and dishevelled by daylight, with the shining water in front, the wild garden beyond, and on the other bank the Susi muleteers sitting with the black slave in pleasant contemplation of the work Salam had done. Kaid M'Barak dozed on one of the boxes, nursing his beloved gun, while the horse equally dear to him stood quietly by, enjoying the lush grasses. Salam and the tracker were not far away, a rendezvous was appointed for the hunt, and Pepe Ratto, followed by his men, cantered off, leaving me to a delightful spell of rest, while Salam persuaded the muleteers to load the animals for the last few miles of the road between us and Mogador.

Then, not without regret, I followed the pack-mules out of the valley, along the track leading to a broad path that has been worn by the feet of countless nomads, travelling with their flocks and herds, from the heat and drought of the extreme south to the markets that receive the trade of the country, or making haste from the turbulent north to escape the heavy hand of the oppressor.

It was not pleasant to ride away from the forest, to see the great open spaces increasing and the trees yielding slowly but surely to the dwarf bushes that are the most significant feature of the southern country, outside the woodland and oases. I thought of the seaport town we were so soon to see—a place where the civilisation we had dispensed with happily enough for some weeks past would be forced into evidence once more, where the wild countrymen among whom we had lived at our ease would be seen only on market days, and the native Moors would have assimilated just enough of the European life and thought to make them uninteresting, somewhat vicious, and wholly ill-content.

The forest was left behind, the land grew bare, and from a hill-top I saw the Atlantic some five or six miles away, a desert of sand stretching between. We were soon on these sands—light, shifting, and intensely hot—a Sahara in miniature save for the presence of the fragrant broom in brief patches here and there. It was difficult riding, and reduced the pace of the pack-mules to something under three miles an hour. As we ploughed across the sand I saw Suera itself, the Picture City of Sidi M'godol, a saint of more than ordinary repute, who gave the city the name by which it is known to Europe. Suera or Mogador is built on a little tongue of land, and threatens sea and sandhills with imposing fortifications that are quite worthless from a soldier's point of view. Though the sight of a town brought regretful recollection that the time of journeying was over, Mogador, it must be confessed, did much to atone for the inevitable. It looked like a mirage city that the sand and sun had combined to call into brief existence—Moorish from end to end, dazzling white in the strong sun of early summer, and offering some suggestion of social life in the flags that were fluttering from the roof-tops of Consuls' houses. A prosperous city, one would have thought, the emporium for the desert trade with Europe, and indeed it was all this for many years. Now it has fallen from its high commercial estate; French enterprise has cut into and diverted the caravan routes, seeking to turn all the desert traffic to Dakkar, the new Bizerta in Senegal, or to the Algerian coast.

Salam and M'Barak praised Sidi M'godol, whose zowia lay plainly to be seen below the Marrakesh gate; the Susi muleteers, the boy, and the slave renewed their Shilha songs, thinking doubtless of the store of dollars awaiting them; but I could not conquer my regrets, though I was properly obliged to Sidi M'godol for bringing me in safety to his long home. Just before us a caravan from the South was pushing its way to the gates. The ungainly camels, seeing a resting-place before them, had plucked up their spirits and were shuffling along at a pace their drivers could hardly have enforced on the previous day. We caught them up, and the leaders explained that they were coming in from Tindouf in the Draa country, a place unexplored as yet by Europeans. They had suffered badly from lack of water on the way, and confirmed the news that the Bedouins had brought, of a drought unparalleled in the memory of living man. Sociable fellows all, full of contentment, pluck, and endurance, they lightened the last hour upon a tedious road.

At length we reached the strip of herbage that divides the desert from the town, a vegetable garden big enough to supply the needs of the Picture City, and full of artichokes, asparagus, egg plants, sage, and thyme. The patient labour of many generations had gone to reclaim this little patch from the surrounding waste.

We passed the graveyard of the Protestants and Catholics, a retired place that pleaded eloquently in its peacefulness for the last long rest that awaits all mortal travellers. Much care had made it less a cemetery than a garden, and it literally glowed and blazed with flowers—roses, geraniums, verbena, and nasturtiums being most in evidence. A kindly priest of the order of St. Francis invited us to rest, and enjoy the colour and fragrance of his lovingly-tended oasis. And while we rested, he talked briefly of his work in the town, and asked me of our journey. The place reminded me strongly of a garden belonging to another Brotherhood of the Roman Catholic Church, and set at Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, where, a few years ago, I saw the monks labouring among their flowers, with results no less happy than I found here.

After a brief rest we rode along the beach towards the city gate. Just outside, the camels had come to a halt and some town traders had gathered round the Bedouins to inquire the price of the goods brought from the interior, in anticipation of the morrow's market. Under the frowning archway of the water-port, where True Believers of the official class sit in receipt of custom, I felt the town's cobbled road under foot, and the breath of the trade-winds blowing in from the Atlantic. Then I knew that Sunset Land was behind me, my journey at an end.

FOOTNOTES:

[53] Mogador, called by the Moors "Suera," i.e. "The Picture."


THE END

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LIVRE:The Project Gutenberg EBook of Morocco, by S.L. Bensusan

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Histoire et socièté

                                                                                       -12- SUITE
Yes, sir," he replied simply. "If I wait for bird to fly may be I miss him, an' waste cartridge."
A NARROW STREET IN MOGADOR
A NARROW STREET IN MOGADOR

This argument was, of course, unanswerable. He would follow birds slowly and deliberately, taking advantage of wind and cover, patient in pursuit and deadly in aim. Our points of view were different. I shot for sport, and he, and all Moors, for the bag. In this I felt he was my superior. But, barring storks, all creatures were game that came within Salam's range.

No Moor will harm a stork. Even Moorish children, whose taste for destruction and slaughter is as highly developed as any European's, will pick up a young stork that has fallen from its nest and return it to the mother bird if they can. Storks sit at peace among the women of the hareem who come for their afternoon airing to the flat roof-tops of Moorish houses. Moorish lovers in the streets below tell the story of their hopes and fears to the favoured bird, who, when he is chattering with his mandibles, is doing what he can to convey the message. Every True Believer knows that the stork was once a Sultan, or a Grand Wazeer at least, who, being vain and irreligious, laughed in the beards of the old men of his city on a sacred day when they came to pay their respects to him. By so doing he roused the wrath of Allah, who changed him suddenly to his present form. But in spite of misdeeds, the Moors love the stately bird, and there are hospitals for storks in Fez and Marrakesh, where men whose sanctity surpasses their ignorance are paid to minister to the wants of the sick or injured among them. Many a time Salam, in pursuit of birds, has passed within a few-yards of the father of the red legs or his children, but it has never occurred to him to do them harm. Strange fact, but undeniable, that in great cities of the East, where Muslims and Christians dwell, the storks will go to the quarter occupied by True Believers, and leave the other districts severely alone. I have been assured by Moors that the first of these birds having been a Muslim, the storks recognise the True Faith, and wish to testify to their preference for it. It is hard to persuade a Moor to catch a stork or take an egg from the nest, though in pursuit of other birds and beasts he is a stranger to compunction in any form.

One of the trackers gave me his horse, and Pepe Ratto led the way down the stream for a short distance and then into thick scrub that seemed to be part of wild life's natural sanctuary, so quiet it lay, so dense and undisturbed. After the first five minutes I was conscious of the forest in an aspect hitherto unknown to me; I was aware that only a man who knew the place intimately could venture to make a path through untrodden growths that were left in peace from year to year. It was no haphazard way, though bushes required careful watching, the double-thorned lotus being too common for comfort.

A NIGHT SCENE, MOGADOR
A NIGHT SCENE, MOGADOR

My companion's eye, trained to the observation of the woodlands in every aspect, noted the stories told by the bushes, the gravel, and the sand with a rapidity that was amazing. Twenty-five years of tireless hunting have given Pepe Ratto an instinct that seems to supplement the ordinary human gifts of sight and hearing. Our forefathers, who hunted for their living, must have had this gift so developed, and while lying dormant in Europeans, whose range of sports is compassed by the life of cities and limited game preserves, it persists among the men who devote the best years of their life to pitting their intelligence against that of the brute creation. The odds are of course very much in favour of the human being, but we may not realise readily the extreme cunning of hunted animals. The keen sportsman, who rode by my side pointing out the track of boar or porcupine, showing where animals had been feeding, and judging how recently they had passed by difference in the marks too faint for my eyes to see, confessed that he had spent months on the track of a single animal, baffled over and over again, but getting back to his quarry because he had with him the mark of the feet as copied when he tracked it for the first time.

"No boar has four feet absolutely identical with those of another boar," he said, "so when once you have the prints the animal must leave the forest altogether and get off to the Atlas, or you will find him in the end. He may double repeatedly on his own tracks, he may join a herd and travel with them for days into the thick scrub, where the dogs are badly torn in following him, but he can never get away, and the hunter following his tracks learns to realise in the frenzied changes and manoeuvres of the beast pursued, its consciousness of his pursuit." In these matters the trained and confirmed hunter's heart grows cold as the physiologist's, while his senses wax more and more acute, and near to the level of those of his prey.

That is but a small part of the hunter's lore. As his eyes and ears develop a power beyond the reach of dwellers of cities with stunted sight and spoiled hearing, he grows conscious of the great forest laws that rule the life of birds and beasts—laws yet unwritten in any language. He finds all living things pursuing their destiny by the light of customs that appeal as strongly to them as ours to us, and learns to know that the order and dignity of the lower forms of life are not less remarkable in their way than the phenomena associated with our own.

To me, the whirring of a covey of sand-grouse or partridges could express little more than the swift passage of birds to a place of security. To the man who grew almost as a part of the forest, the movement was something well defined, clearly initiated, and the first step in a sequence that he could trace without hesitation. One part of the forest might be the same as another to the casual rider, or might at best vary in its purely picturesque quality. To the long trained eye, on the other hand, it was a place that would or would not be the haunt of certain beasts or birds at certain hours of the day, by reason of its aspect with regard to the sun, its soil, cover, proximity to the river or other source of water supply, its freedom from certain winds and accessibility to others, its distance from any of the tracks that led to the country beyond the forest and were frequented at certain seasons of the year. The trained hunter reads all this as in a book, but the most of us can do no more than recognise the writing when it has been pointed out to us.

HOUSE-TOPS, MOGADOR
HOUSE-TOPS, MOGADOR

So it happened that my morning ride with the hardy hunter, whose achievements bulk next to those of the late Sir John Drummond Hay in the history of Moorish sport, had an interest that did not depend altogether upon the wild forest paths through which he led the way. He told me how at daybreak the pack of cross-bred hounds came from garden, copse, and woodland, racing to the steps of the Palm Tree House, and giving tongue lustily, as though they knew there was sport afoot. One or two grizzled huntsmen who had followed every track in the Argan Forest were waiting in the patio for his final instructions, and he told them of hoof prints that had revealed to his practised eye a "solitaire" boar of more than ordinary size. He had tracked it for more than three hours on the previous day, past the valley where our tents were set, and knew now where the lair was chosen.

"He has been lying under an argan tree, one standing well away from the rest at a point where the stream turns sharply, about a mile from the old kasbah in the wood, and he has moved now to make a new lair. I have made a note of his feet in my book; he had been wallowing less than twenty-four hours before when I found him. To-morrow, when we hunt the beast I hope to track to-day, the pack will follow in charge of the huntsmen. They will be taken through the wood all the way, for it is necessary to avoid villages and cattle pasture when you have more than a score of savage dogs that have not been fed since three o'clock on the previous afternoon. They are by no means averse from helping themselves to a sheep or a goat at such times."

We had ridden in single file through a part where the lotus, now a tree instead of a bush, snatched at us on either side, and the air was fragrant with broom, syringa, and lavender. Behind us the path closed and was hidden; before us it was too thick to see more than a few yards ahead. Here and there some bird would scold and slip away, with a flutter of feathers and a quiver of the leaves through which it fled; while ever present, though never in sight, the cuckoo followed us the whole day long. Suddenly and abruptly the path ended by the side of a stream where great oleanders spread their scarlet blossoms to the light, and kingfishers darted across the pools that had held tiny fish in waters left by the rainy season. When we pushed our horses to the brink the bushes on either hand showered down their blossoms as though to greet the first visitors to the rivulet's bank. Involuntarily we drew rein by the water's edge, acknowledging the splendour of the scene with a tribute of silence. If you have been in the Western Highlands of Scotland, and along the Levantine Riviera, and can imagine a combination of the most fascinating aspects of both districts, you have but to add to them the charm of silence and complete seclusion, the sense of virgin soil, and the joy of a perfect day in early summer, and then some faint picture of the scene may present itself. It remains with me always, and the mere mention of the Argan Forest brings it back.

Pepe Ratto soon recovered himself.

SELLING GRAIN IN MOGADOR
SELLING GRAIN IN MOGADOR

"Yes," he said, in reply to my unspoken thoughts, "one seldom sees country like this anywhere else. But the boar went this way."

So saying, the hunter uppermost again, he wheeled round, and we followed the stream quite slowly while he looked on either hand for signs of the large tusker. "We must find where he has settled," he continued. "Now the weather is getting so warm he will move to some place that is sandy and moist, within reach of the puddles he has chosen to wallow in. And he won't go far from this part, because the maize is not yet ripe."

"Do they grow maize in this province?" I asked.

"Yes," replied the hunter. "I give the farmers the seed and they plant it, for a boar is as fond of green maize as a fox is of chickens." He paused and showed me the marks of a herd that had come to the water within the past two days to drink and wallow. While I could see the marks of many feet, he could tell me all about the herd, the approximate numbers, the ages, and the direction they were taking. Several times we dismounted, and he examined the banks very carefully until, at the fourth or fifth attempt, tracks that were certainly larger than any we had seen revealed the long-sought tusker.

We went through the wood, the hunter bending over a trail lying too faint on the green carpet of the forest for me to follow. We moved over difficult ground, often under the blaze of the African sun, and, intent upon the pursuit, noted neither the heat nor the flight of time. For some two miles of the dense scrub, the boar had gone steadily enough until the ground opened into a clearing, where the soil was sandy and vegetation correspondingly light. Here at last the track moved in a circle.

"See," said the hunter, a suspicion of enthusiasm in his tone, "he has been circling; that means he is looking for a lair. Stay here, if you will, with the horses while I follow him home." And in a minute he was out of sight.

I waited patiently enough for what seemed a long time, trying to catch the undersong that thrilled through the forest, "the horns of elf-land faintly blowing," the hum such as bees at home make when late May sees the chestnut trees in flower. Here the song was a veritable psalm of life, in which every tree, bird, bush, and insect had its own part to play. It might have been a primeval forest; even the horses were grazing quietly, as though their spirits had succumbed to the solemn influences around us. The great god Pan himself could not have been far away, and I felt that he might have shown himself—that it was fitting indeed for him to appear in such a place and at such a season.

The hunter came back silently as he had gone.

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LIVRE:The Project Gutenberg EBook of Morocco, by S.L. Bensusan

1 Janvier 2009 , Rédigé par saladin Publié dans #Histoire et socièté

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FOOTNOTES:

[43] Literally, "Slave of the Merciful."

[44] Priest attached to the Mosque.

[45] The Angels of Judgment.

[46] So many lepers come from the Argan Forest provinces of Haha and Shiadma that leprosy is believed by many Moors to result from the free use of Argan oil. There is no proper foundation for this belief.

[47] This is the most important of the five supplications. The Sura of Al Koran called "The Night Journey" says, "To the prayer of daybreak the Angels themselves bear witness."


"SONS OF LIONS" AND OTHER TRUE BELIEVERS


EVENING IN CAMP
EVENING IN CAMP

CHAPTER X

"SONS OF LIONS" AND OTHER TRUE BELIEVERS

Falstaff—"Four rogues in buckram let drive at me."
King Henry IV., Act II. Scene 4.

By the time Salam had roused me from a dream in which I was being torn limb from limb in a Roman amphitheatre, whose terraced seats held countless Moors all hugely enjoying my dismemberment, I realised that a night in that guest-house would be impossible. The place was already over-populated.

A brief meal was taken in the open, and we sat with our feet thrust to the edge of the nearest charcoal fire, for the night was cold. Our animals, tethered and watered, stood anxiously waiting for the barley the chief muleteer had gone to buy. Supper over, I sat on a chair in the open, and disposed myself for sleep as well as the conditions permitted. Round me, on the bare ground, the men and the boy from the Sus lay wrapped in their haiks—the dead could not have slept more soundly than they. The two fires were glimmering very faintly now, M'Barak was stretching a blanket for himself, while Salam collected the tin plates and dishes, his last task before retiring. Somewhere in the far outer darkness I heard the wail of a hyæna, and a light cold breeze sighed over the plain. Half asleep and half awake I saw the village headman approaching from out the darkness; a big bag of barley was on his shoulder, and he was followed closely by the muleteer. They came into the little circle of the fast falling light; I was nodding drowsily toward unconsciousness, and wondering, with a vague resentment that exhausted all my remaining capacity to think, why the headman should be speaking so loudly. Suddenly, I saw the muleteer go to earth as if he had been pole-axed, and in that instant I was wide awake and on my feet. So was Salam.

The headman delivered himself of a few incisive rasping sentences. The muleteer rose slowly and wiped a little blood from his face.

Salam explained: his capacity for fathoming a crisis was ever remarkable. "Headman he charge three dollars for barley and he don't worth more than one. Muleteer he speaks for that, and headman 'e knock him down."

"Ask him how he dares interfere with our people," I said. "Tell him his kaid shall hear of it."

The headman replied haughtily to Salam's questions and strode away. "He say," said Salam, beginning to get angry, "Pay first and talk afterwards—to Allah, if you will. He say he wait long time for man like muleteer an' cut 'im throat. What he's bin done that be nothing. What he's goin' to do, that all Moors is goin' to see. He come back soon, sir."

Then Salam slipped noiselessly into the guest-house and fetched my repeating shot gun, from which I had previously drawn all cartridges. He sat down outside with the weapon across his knees, and the bruised muleteer safely behind him. I coaxed the charcoal to a further effort and returned to my chair, wondering whether trouble that had been so long in coming had arrived at last. Some five minutes later we heard a sound of approaching footsteps, and I could not help noting how Salam brightened. He was spoiling for a fight. I watched dim figures coming into the area of light, they took shape and showed Ain al Baidah's chief and two of his men—tall, sturdy fellows, armed with thick sticks. Seeing Salam sitting with gun levelled full on them they came to a sudden halt, and listened while he told them, in a voice that shook and sometimes broke with rage, their character, their characteristics, the moral standing of their parents and grandparents, the probable fate of their sons, and the certain and shameful destiny of their daughters. He invited them, with finger on trigger, to advance one step and meet the death that should enable him to give their ill-favoured bodies one by one to the pariahs and the hawks, before he proceeded to sack Ain al Baidah and overcome single-handed the whole of its fighting men. And, absurd though his rodomontade may sound to Europeans, who read it in cold print, it was a vastly different matter there in the dark of the Plain, when Salam stood, believing he held a loaded gun in his hand, and allowed his fierce temper rein. The headman and his two attendants slunk off like whipped curs, and we proceeded to feed our animals, replenish both fires, and sleep with one eye open.

PREPARING SUPPER
PREPARING SUPPER

Morning came over the hills to Ain al Baidah in cold and cheerless guise. The villagers crowded round to stare at us in the familiar fashion. But there were grim looks and dark scowls among them, and, failing the truculent and determined bearing of Salam and the presence of the kaid we should have had a lively quarter of an hour. As it was, we were not ready to leave before eight o'clock, and then Salam went, money in hand, to where the thieving headman stood. The broken night's rest had not made my companion more pleased with Ain al Baidah's chief. He threw the dollars that had been demanded on to the ground before the rogue's feet, and then his left hand flew up and outward. With one swift, irresistible movement he had caught his foe by the beard, drawn down the shrinking, vicious face to within a few inches of his own, and so holding him, spoke earnestly for half a minute, of what the Prophet has said about hospitality to travellers, and the shocking fate that awaits headmen who rob those who come seeking shelter, and beat them when they complain. Ain al Baidah's chief could not but listen, and listening, he could not but shudder. So it fell out that, when Salam's harangue was finished, we left a speechless, irresolute, disgraced headman, and rode away slowly, that none might say we knew fear. If the village had any inclination to assist its chief, the sight of the blessed one's weapon, in its fierce red cloth covering, must have awed them. Some days later, in Mogador, I was told that the Ain al Baidah man is a terror to travellers and a notorious robber, but I made no complaint to our Consul. If the headman's overlord had been told to punish him, the method chosen would assuredly have been to rob every man in the douar, and if they resisted, burn their huts over their heads. It seemed better to trust that the memory of Salam will lead Ain al Baidah's chief to lessen his proud looks.

We made slow progress to Sheshoua, where the river that might have barred our road to the coast was as friendly as the N'fiss had been on the previous day. The track to its banks had been flat and uninteresting enough; what good work the winter rains had done by way of weaving a flower carpet on the plains, the summer sun had destroyed. There was a considerable depression in the plain, though we could not notice it at the slow pace forced upon us, and this accounted for the absence of water between the rivers, and for the great extent of the calcareous gravel, in which few plants could thrive. Only the zizyphus lotus, from whose branches little white snails hung like flowers, seemed to find real nourishment in the dry ground, though colocynth and wild lavender were to be seen now and again. But by the Sheshoua River the change was very sudden and grateful to the eye.

A considerable olive grove, whose grey-green leaves shone like silver in the light breeze, offered shade and shelter to a large colony of doves. There was a thriving village, with a saint's tomb for chief attraction, and solid walls to suggest that the place does not enjoy perennial tranquillity. But even though there are strangers who trouble these good folk, their home could not have looked more charmingly a haunt of peace than it did. All round the village one saw orchards of figs, apricots, and pomegranate trees; the first with the leaves untouched by the summer heat, the apricots just at the end of their blossoming, and the pomegranates still in flower. In place of the dry, hard soil that was so trying to the feet of man and beast, there were here meadows in plenty, from which the irises had only lately died. I saw the common English dandelion growing within stone's throw of a clump of feathery palms.

Tired after the vigil of the previous night and the long hours that had led up to it, we reclined at our ease under the olives, determined to spend the night at Sidi el Muktar, some fifteen or twenty miles away. From there one can hunt the great bustard, and I had hoped to do so until I saw the animals that were to take us to the coast. Neither the bustard nor the gazelle, that sometimes roams Sidi el Muktar's plains, had anything to fear from those noble creatures. The kaid alone might have pursued bird or beast, but as his gun was innocent of powder and shot there would have been nothing but exercise to seek.

After a two-hours' rest, given in one case more to sleep than lunch, we moved on towards the village of Sidi el Muktar, passing some curious flat-topped hills called by the natives Haunk Ijjimmal.[48] The oasis had ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and the road became as uninteresting as was our own crawling gait. I noticed that the Susi muleteers were travelling very sadly, that they had not among them an echo of the songs that had sounded so strangely on the previous day, and I bade Salam find the cause of the depression, and ask whether the young lad whose features had become pinched and drawn felt ill. Within a few moments the truth was out. The six men had eaten nothing save a little of the mules' barley since they left Marrakesh, and as they had been on short rations between Tiensiert and the Southern capital, their strength was beginning to give out. It was no part of my business to feed them; they had received "something in the hand" before they left the city, and could well have bought supplies for the road, but they had preferred to trust Providence, and hoped to live on a small part of the mules' barley and the daily gift of tea that had been promised. Under the circumstances, and though I had found reason to believe that they were lazy, feckless rogues enough, who really needed an iron-handed kaid to rule over them, I told Salam to pass word round that their wants would be supplied at the day's end. Then they picked up their old stride, and one by one resumed the love-songs of yesterday as we moved slowly over the plains to where, in the far distance, Sidi el Muktar stood between us and the fast setting sun, placed near to the junction of three provinces—Oulad bou Sba, through which we travelled, M'touga, famous for fleet horses, and Shiadma, where our road lay.

But we were to find no rest in the shade of Sidi el Muktar's stately zowia. The "Sons of Lions" had raided the place on the previous day, hoping to terminate alike the rule and the existence of a kaid whose hand had rested too heavily upon them. Some friend of the kaid having given him due notice of the raiders' intentions—treachery is a painfully common feature of these forays—he had been well prepared to meet these godless men. Powder had spoken, and was to speak again, for the kaid, having driven off the raiders, was going to carry war into the enemy's country, and was busy preparing to start on the morrow at daybreak. At such a time as this it had not been wise to pitch tent within sound or sight of men with the killing lust upon them. Very reluctantly we rode on for another two hours and then Ain Umast, a douar that is famous for its possession of a well of pure water, received us with nightfall. There our troubles were over, for though the place was more than commonly dirty, the inhabitants were peaceable and disposed to be friendly. A few crops were raised on the surrounding fields, and small herds of sheep and goats managed to pick up some sort of a living on the surrounding lands, but poverty reigned there, and Ain Umast is of small account by the side of Sidi el Muktar, which is the burial-place of a saint, whose miracles are still acknowledged by all the faithful who happen to have met with good luck of any sort.

A GOATHERD
A GOATHERD

Bread, butter, and eggs were brought for the muleteers, and I was greatly surprised by the cleanliness of the men. Before they broke an egg for the omelette they washed it with greatest care. They themselves stood far more in need of a washing than the eggs did, but perhaps they could not be expected to think of everything. Barley was bought, at half the price charged at Ain el Baidah, and I noticed that the cunning Susi hid some of it in the long bag they kept at the bottom of one of the shwarris. Clearly they intended to make the supply we paid for serve to take them all the way to Tiensiert. This was annoying, since one of the objects of ordering a good supply each night was to enable the long-suffering beasts to compass a better speed on the following day.

That evening there was great excitement in the douar. The elders came round our fire after supper and sought to know if it were true that the "Sons of Lions" had blotted out Sidi el Muktar, and put all its inhabitants to the sword. When we declared that the little town was still where it had stood since they were born, they appeared distinctly surprised, and gave the praise and credit to the patron saint. They said the kaid's hand was a very heavy one, that his men went to the Wednesday market and were the terror of the country folks who came to buy and sell. The absence of the Court Elevated by Allah was to be deplored, for had my Lord Abd-el-Aziz been in residence at Marrakesh some other kaid would have made him a bid for the place of the ruler of Sidi el Muktar, basing his offer upon the fact that the present governor could not keep order. A change might have been for the better—it could hardly have been for the worse. One or two of the men of Ain Umast spoke Shilha, and the Susi men, hearing the cruelties of Sidi el Muktar's ruler discussed, claimed to have a far better specimen of the genus kaid in Tiensiert. He was a man indeed, ready with fire and sword at the shortest notice; his subjects called him Father of Locusts, so thoroughly did he deal with all things that could be eaten up.

It was a curious but instructive attitude. These miserable men were quite proud to think that the tyranny of their kaid, the great El Arbi bel Hadj ben Haida, was not to be rivalled by anything Shiadma could show. They instanced his treatment of them and pointed to the young boy who was of their company. His father had been kaid in years past, but the late Grand Wazeer Ba Ahmad sold his office to El Arbi, who threw the man into prison and kept him there until he died. To show his might, El Arbi had sent the boy with them, that all men might know how the social scales of Tiensiert held the kaid on one side and the rest of the people on the other. The black slave who accompanied them had been brought up by the late kaid's father, and was devoted to the boy. In his mercy El Arbi allowed him to live with the lad and work a small farm, the harvest of which was strictly tithed by Tiensiert's chief—who took a full nine-tenths. Before the evening was over the elders of Ain Umast had acknowledged, rather regretfully I thought, that the tyrant of Sidi el Muktar must hide a diminished head before his brother of the Sus. The triumph of the grimy men from Tiensiert was then complete.

They were a sorry set of fellows enough, to outward seeming, but how shall a European judge them fairly? Stevenson says in one of his Essays, "Justice is not done to the versatility and the unplumbed childishness of man's imagination. His life from without may seem but a rude mound of mud; there will be some golden chamber at the heart of it, in which he dwells delighted; and for as dark as his pathway seems to the observer, he will have some kind of bull's-eye at his belt." So, doubtless, had I had the eyes that see below the surface, these hardy traders, the best of whose hopes and actions were hidden from me, would have been no less interesting than the Maalem or the young shareef.

In view of the disturbed state of the country I thought of having a few extra guards, but finding the two already engaged sleeping peacefully before our tent was closed, it seemed likely that a couple of sleeping men would be as useful as four. I fear they had a troubled night, for though the "Sons of Lions" did not trouble us, a short, sharp shower came with the small hours and woke the poor fellows, who asked for extra money in the morning by way of consolation for their broken rest. By five o'clock we were astir, and soon after we were on the road again, bound for the village of Hanchen, where a small Sok Thalata[49] is held. After a brief mid-day rest we reached the outskirts of the Argan Forest.

This great forest is quite the distinctive feature of Southern Morocco. The argan tree, that gives a name to it, is the indigenous olive of the country, and is found only in the zone between the Tensift river and the river Sus. Argan wood is exceedingly hard and slow growing, thus differing materially from the olive, to which it seems so nearly related. The trunk divides low down, sometimes within six feet of the roots, and the branches grow horizontally. If the Moors are right, the age of the elders of the forest is to be counted in centuries, and the wood can defy the attacks of insects that make short-work of other trees. The leaves of the argan recall those of the olive, but have even a lighter silvery aspect on the underside; the fruit is like the olive, but considerably larger, and is sought after by many animals. Goats climb among the branches in search of the best nuts. Camels and cows will not pass an argan tree if given the slightest chance to linger. The animals that eat the nuts reject their kernels, and the Moors collect these in order to extract the oil, which is used in cooking, for lighting purposes, and as medicine. After extraction the pulp is eagerly accepted by cattle, so no part of the valued fruit is wasted. One of the giants of the forest, said to be four hundred years old, has before now given shade to a regiment of soldiers; I saw for myself that the circumference of its branches was more than two hundred feet.

COMING FROM THE MOSQUE, HANCHEN
COMING FROM THE MOSQUE, HANCHEN

But it must not be thought that the Argan Forest is composed entirely of these trees. The argan dominates the forest but does not account for its beauty. The r'tam is almost as plentiful, and lends far more to the wood's colour scheme, for its light branches are stirred by every breeze. Dwarf-palm is to be found on all sides, together with the arar or citrus, and the double-thorned lotus. The juniper, wild pear, and cork trees are to be met with now and again, and the ground is for the most part a sea of flowers almost unknown to me, though I could recognise wild thyme, asphodel, and lavender amid the tamarisk and myrtle undergrowth. At intervals the forest opens, showing some large douar that was built probably on the site of a well, and there industrious village folks have reclaimed the land, raised crops, and planted orchards. Olive, fig, and pomegranate seem to be the most popular trees, and corn is grown in the orchards too, possibly in order that it may have the benefit of the trees' shade. The soil that can raise corn and fruit trees together must have exceptional vitality and richness, particularly in view of the fact that it is in no way fed, and is rather scraped or scratched than truly ploughed.

The village of Hanchen, known for miles round as "Sok Thalata" by reason of its weekly gathering, might well serve to justify a halt. It straggles over a hill surrounded on all sides by the forest, it has a saint's shrine of fair size and imposing aspect, a good supply of water, and very peaceful inhabitants. At the base of the slope, some fifty yards from the broad track leading to the coast, there was an orchard of more than common beauty, even for Southern Morocco. The pomegranates, aflower above the ripening corn, had finer blossoms than any I had seen before, the fig-trees were Biblical in their glossy splendour. Mules were footsore, the Susi men were tired, the weather was perfect, time was our own for a day or two, and I was aching to take my gun down the long glades that seemed to stretch to the horizon. So we off-saddled, and pitched our tent in the shadow of a patriarchal fig-tree. Then the mules were eased of their burdens and fed liberally, Salam standing between the poor beasts and the muleteers, who would have impounded a portion of their hard-earned meal.

The heat of the afternoon was passing; I loaded my gun and started out. At first sight of the weapon some score of lads from the village—athletic, vigorous boys, ready to go anywhere and do anything—made signs that they would come and beat for me. With Salam's help I gave them proper instructions; my idea was to shoot enough of fur and feather to give the muleteers a good supper.

At the outset a sorry accident befell. A fat pigeon came sailing overhead, so well fed that it was hard to believe he was a pigeon at all. This being the sort of bird that suits hungry men, I fired and was well pleased to note the swift direct fall, and to hear the thud that tells of a clean kill. To my surprise the beaters remained where they were, none offering to pick up the bird. There were glum and serious looks on every side. I motioned one lad to go forward, and, to my amazement, he made the sign that is intended to avert the evil eye, and declared that he took refuge from me with Allah.

I sent for Salam, and, as he approached, a chorus of explanations came to him from all sides. The pigeon came from the zowia of El Hanchen. It was sacred—that is why it was so fat. This was a bad beginning, and a matter that demanded careful handling. So I sent M'Barak, representing official Morocco, to express to El Hanchen's headman my extreme sorrow and sincere regret. The blessed one was instructed to assure the village that I had no suspicion of the bird's holiness, and that it was my rule in life to respect everything that other men respected. It seemed courteous to await the kaid's return before resuming operations, and he came back in half an hour with word that the headman, while deeply regretting the incident, recognised the absence of bad intention. He asked that the sacred slain might not be eaten. I sent back word thanking him for his courteous acceptance of my explanations, and promising that the fat pigeon should receive decent burial. A small hole was dug on the sunny side of the fig-tree, and there the sacred bird was interred. I hope that the worms proved as particular as we had been.

Duty done, we went off to the woods, the beaters, now quite reassured, driving stock-doves over in quantities that left no reason to fear about the muleteers' supper. While birds were the quarry the lads worked well, but now and again a hare would start from her form, and every boy would join in the headlong, hopeless chase that ensued. It was impossible to check them, and equally impossible to shoot at the hare. While she was within gunshot the lads were close on her heels, and by the time she had distanced them or dashed into the long grasses and scrub she was out of range or out of sight. In vain I waved them back and complained when they returned panting; as soon as another hare got up they went after her in the same way, until at last, taking advantage of a wild chase that had carried them rather a longer distance than usual, I took a sharp turn and strolled away quite by myself. I heard the excited cries die away in the distance, and then for some few moments the forest silence was broken only by the rustle of the breeze through the grass, and the sudden scream of a startled jay. Doves went happily from tree to tree and I never put my gun up. I had heard a very familiar sound, and wanted to be assured that my ears were not deceived. No, I was right; I could hear the cuckoo, calling through the depth of the forest, as though it were my favourite Essex copse at home. It was pleasant, indeed, to hear the homely notes so far from any other object, even remotely, connected with England.

I strolled for an hour or more, listening to the "wandering voice," heedless of what passed me by, at peace with all the world, and resolved to shoot no more. Alas, for good intentions! Coming suddenly into a great clearing girdled by argan trees, I flushed two large birds some forty yards away. The first was missed, the second came down and proved to be a Lesser Bustard or boozerat—quite a prize. Well content, I emptied the gun to avoid temptation and walked back to the camp, where there was quite a fair bag.

"Tell the muleteers, Salam," I said, "that they may have these birds for their supper, and that I hope they will enjoy themselves."

Salam wore a rather troubled expression, I thought, as he went to the head muleteer and pointed to the spoils. Then he came back and explained to me that their dietary laws did not allow the Susi to eat anything that had not been killed by bleeding in the orthodox fashion. Had they been with me, to turn wounded birds to the East and cut their throats in the name of Allah, all would have been well, but birds shot dead were an abomination to the righteous Susi. They scorned to avail themselves of the excuse afforded by their needs.[50] So my labour had been in vain, and I did not know what to do with the spoil. But I left the slain in a little heap out of the way of insects and flies, and when we rose in the morning the unorthodox among Hanchen's inhabitants had apparently solved the problem.

FOOTNOTES:

[48] The Camel's Jaw.

[49] "Tuesday market."

[50] "I find not in that which hath been revealed to me anything forbidden unto the eater ... except it be that which dieth of itself ... or that which is profane, having been slain in the name of some other than God. But whoso shall be compelled of necessity to eat these things, not lusting nor wilfully transgressing, verily thy Lord will be gracious unto him and merciful."—Al Koran, Sura, "Cattle."


IN THE ARGAN FOREST


EVENING AT HANCHEN
EVENING AT HANCHEN

CHAPTER XI

IN THE ARGAN FOREST

Life, even at its greatest and best, may be compared to a froward child, who must be humoured and played with till he falls asleep, and then the care is over.

Goldsmith.

Early morning found the Tuesday market in full swing, and the town of Hanchen already astir in honour of the occasion. To realise the importance of the weekly gathering, it is well to remember that a market in the country here is the only substitute for the bazaar of the towns. Every douar within a ten-mile radius of Hanchen sends men and women to the Tuesday market to buy and sell. So it befell that the hillside slope, which was bare on the previous afternoon, hummed now like a hive, and was well nigh as crowded. Rough tents of goats' or camels'-hair cloth sheltered everything likely to appeal to the native mind and resources,—tea, sugar, woollen and cotton goods, pottery, sieves, padlocks, and nails being to all appearance the goods most sought after by the country Moor. Quite a brisk demand for candles prevailed; they were highly-coloured things, thick at the base and tapering to the wick. There was a good sale too for native butter, that needed careful straining before it could be eaten with comfort, and there were eggs in plenty, fetching from twopence to threepence the dozen, a high price for Morocco, and brought about by the export trade that has developed so rapidly in the last few years. For the most part the traders seemed to be Berbers or of evident Berber extraction, being darker and smaller than the Arabs, and in some cases wearing the dark woollen outer garment, with its distinctive orange-coloured mark on the back. Women and little children took no small part in the market, but were perhaps most concerned with the sale of the chickens that they brought from their homes, tied by the legs in bundles without regard to the suffering entailed. The women did rather more than a fair share of porters' work too. Very few camels were to be seen, but I noticed one group of half a dozen being carefully fed on a cloth, because, like all their supercilious breed, they were too dainty to eat from the ground. They gurgled quite angrily over the question of precedence. A little way from the tents in which hardware was exposed for sale, bread was being baked in covered pans over a charcoal fire fanned by bellows, while at the bottom of the hill a butcher had put up the rough tripod of wooden poles, from which meat is suspended. The slaughter of sheep was proceeding briskly. A very old Moor was the official slaughter-man, and he sat in the shade of a wall, a bloody knife in hand, and conversed gravely with villagers of his own age. When the butcher's assistants had brought up three or four fresh sheep and stretched them on the ground, the old man would rise to his feet with considerable effort, cut the throats that were waiting for him very cleanly and expeditiously, and return to his place in the shade, while another assistant spread clean earth over the reeking ground. Some of the sheep after being dressed were barbecued.

I saw many women and girls bent under the weight of baskets of charcoal, or firewood, or loads of hay, and some late arrivals coming in heavily burdened in this fashion were accompanied by their husband, who rode at ease on a donkey and abused them roundly because they did not go quickly enough. Mules and donkeys, with fore and hind leg hobbled, were left in one corner of the market-place, to make up in rest what they lacked in food. Needless to say that the marketing was very brisk, but I noted with some interest that very little money changed hands. Barter was more common than sale, partly because the Government had degraded its own currency until the natives were fighting shy of it, and partly because the owners of the sheep and goats were a company of true Bedouins from the extreme South. These Bedouins were the most interesting visitors to the Tuesday market, and I was delighted when one of them recognised Salam as a friend. The two had met in the days when an adventurous Scot set up in business at Cape Juby in the extreme South, where I believe his Majesty Lebaudy the First is now king.

The Saharowi was an exceedingly thin man, of wild aspect, with flowing hair and scanty beard. His skin was burnt deep brown, and he was dressed in a blue cotton garment of guinea cloth made in simplest fashion. He was the chief of a little party that had been travelling for two months with faces set toward the North. He reminded Salam of Sidi[51] Mackenzie, the Scot who ruled Cape Juby, and how the great manager, whose name was known from the fort to Tindouf, had nearly poisoned him by giving him bread to eat when he was faint with hunger. These true Bedouins live on milk and cheese, with an occasional piece of camel or goat flesh, and a rare taste of mutton. When Salam's friend came starving to Cape Juby, Sidi Mackenzie had given him bread. The hungry man ate some and at once became violently ill, his stomach could not endure such solid fare. Having no milk in the fort, they managed to keep him alive on rice-water. It would appear that the Saharowi can easily live on milk for a week, and with milk and cheese can thrive indefinitely, as indeed could most other folk, if they cared to forswear luxury and try.

ON THE ROAD TO ARGAN FOREST
ON THE ROAD TO ARGAN FOREST

The little party was travelling with some hundreds of sheep and goats, which were being tended a little way off by the children, and, large though their flocks seemed, they were in truth sadly reduced by the drought that had driven one and all to the North. The Saharowi explained to Salam that all the wandering Arabs were trekking northwards in search of land that had seen the rain; and that their path was strewn with the skeletons of animals fallen by the way. These nomads carried their wives and little ones, together with tents and household impedimenta, on the camels, and walked on foot with the grown children in charge of the flocks. The sheep they had sold to the butcher were in fair condition, and fetched from four to five shillings in English money, or the equivalent of this sum in goods, for when a Saharowi approaches civilised lands he is generally in need of some of the products of civilisation, or thinks he is, though, at need, he manages excellently well without them.

Among the miscellaneous gathering that the Tuesday market had attracted to Hanchen I noticed a small company of acrobats from the Sus, and a medicine man of fierce aspect, who sat by himself under a rough tent, muttering charms and incantations, and waiting for Allah to send victims. This wonder-worker had piercing eyes, that seemed to examine the back of your head, long matted hair and a beard to match. He wore a white djellaba and a pair of new slippers, and was probably more dangerous than any disease he aided and abetted.

For the amusement of the people who did not care for acrobatic feats and stood in no need of the primitive methods of the physician, there was a story-teller, who addressed a somewhat attenuated circle of phlegmatic listeners, and a snake-charmer who was surrounded by children. Sidi ben Aissa undoubtedly kept the snakes—spotted leffas from the Sus—from hurting his follower, but not even the saint could draw floos from poor youngsters whose total wealth would probably have failed to yield threepence to the strictest investigator. Happily for them the charmer was an artist in his way; he loved his work for its own sake, and abated no part of his performance, although the reward would hardly buy him and his assistant a meal of mutton and bread at their labour's end. The boys of Hanchen were doing brisk business in the brass cases of cartridges that had been fired on the previous day, and without a doubt the story of the wonders of a repeating gun lost nothing in the telling.

THE SNAKE-CHARMER
THE SNAKE-CHARMER

There was no interval for rest when the hours of greatest heat came round. Late arrivals who travelled in on mule- or donkey-back renewed business when it slackened, and brought fresh goods to be sold or exchanged. The "Sons of Lions" had broken up the market at Sidi el Muktar on the previous Friday before it was properly concluded, and many natives, disappointed there, had come out to Hanchen to do their business, until there seemed to be nothing in any stall that lacked buyers. Even the old man who had a heap of scrap-iron when the market opened had sold every piece of it by four o'clock, though it would have puzzled a European to find any use for such rubbish. The itinerant mender of slippers was hard at work with three young lads, and I never saw any one of the party idle. Hawks and corbies fluttered over the butcher's ground, and I noticed a vulture in the deep vault of the sky. Pariah dogs would clear every bit of refuse from the ground before another day dawned, and in their nasty fashion would serve their country, for the weather was very hot and the odours were overpowering. Flies covered all unprotected meat until it ceased to look red, and the stall of the seller of sweetmeats was a study in black and white: black when the swarms settled, and white for a brief moment when he switched them off with his feathery bamboo brush. Yet, in spite of the many difficulties under which trade was carried on, one could not help feeling that buyers and sellers alike were enjoying themselves hugely. The market did more than help them to make a living. It was at once their club, their newspaper, and their theatre, and supplied the one recreation of lives that—perhaps only to European seeming—were tedious as a twice-told tale.

Here the village folk were able to keep themselves posted in the country's contemporary history, for traders had come from all points of the compass, and had met men at other markets who, in their turn, brought news from places still more remote. Consequently you might learn in Hanchen's Tuesday market what the Sultan was doing in Fez, and how the Rogui was occupied in Er-Riff. French penetration in the far-off districts of no man's land beyond Tafilalt was well-known to these travelling market-folk; the Saharowi had spoken with the heads of a caravan that had come with slaves from Ghadames, by way of the Tuat, bound for Marrakesh. Resting by day and travelling by night, they had passed without challenge through the French lines. A visitor knowing Arabic and Shilha, and able to discount the stories properly, might have had a faithful picture of Morocco as its own people see it, had he been admitted to join the weather-worn, hardy traders who sat complacently eyeing their diminished store towards the close of day. Truth is nowhere highly esteemed in Morocco,[52] and the colouring superimposed upon most stories must have destroyed their original hue, but it served to please the Moors and Berbers who, like the men of other countries one knows, have small use for unadorned facts. Perhaps the troubles that were reported from every side of the doomed country accounted for the professional story-teller's thin audience. By the side of tales that had some connection with fact the salt of his legends lost its savour.

IN CAMP
IN CAMP

Towards evening the crowd melted away silently, as it had come. A few mules passed along the road to Mogador, the Bedouin and his company moved off in the direction of Saffi, and the greater part of the traders turned south-east to M'touga, where there was a Thursday market that could be reached in comfort. Hanchen retired within its boundaries, rich in the proceeds of the sale of fodder, which had been in great demand throughout the day. Small companies of boys roamed over the market-place, seeking to snap up any trifles that had been left behind, just as English boys will at the Crystal Palace or Alexandra Park, after a firework display. The Moorish youngsters had even less luck than their English brethren, for in Morocco, where life is simple and men need and have little, everything has its use, and a native throws nothing away. The dogs, eager to forestall the vultures, were still fighting among themselves for the offal left by the butcher, when the villagers, who had come to take a late cup of tea with Salam and M'Barak, resumed their slippers, testified to the Unity of Allah, and turned to ascend Hanchen's steep hill.

Among the stories circulated in the Tuesday market was one to the effect that a lion had come down from the Atlas, and after taking toll of the cattle belonging to the douars on its road, had been shot at the western end of the forest. This tale was told with so much circumstance that it seemed worth inquiry, and I found in Mogador that a great beast had indeed come from the hills and wrought considerable harm; but it was a leopard, not a lion. It may be doubted whether lions are to be found anywhere north of the Atlas to-day, though they were common enough in times past, and one is said to have been shot close to Tangier in the middle of last century. If they still exist it is in the farthest Atlas range, in the country of the Beni M'gild, a district that cannot be approached from the west at all, and in far lands beyond, that have been placed under observation lately by the advance-columns of the French Algerian army, which does not suffer from scruples where its neighbour's landmarks are concerned. Most of the old writers gave the title of lion or tiger to leopards, panthers, and lemurs; indeed, the error flourishes to-day.

A COUNTRYMAN
A COUNTRYMAN

On the road once again, I found myself wondering at the way in which British sportsmen have neglected the Argan Forest. If they had to reach it as we did, after long days and nights in a country that affords little attraction for sportsmen, it would be no matter for wonder that they stay away. But the outskirts of the forest can be reached from Mogador at the expense of a five-mile ride across the miniature Sahara that cuts off Sidi M'godol's city from the fertile lands, and Mogador has a weekly service of steamers coming direct from London by way of the other Moorish ports. No part of the forest is preserved, gun licenses are unknown, and the woods teem with game. Stories about the ouadad or moufflon may be disregarded, for this animal is only found in the passes of the Atlas Mountains, miles beyond the forest's boundaries. But, on the other hand, the wild boar is plentiful, while lynx, porcupine, hyæna, jackal, and hare are by no means rare. Sand-grouse and partridge thrive in large quantities. There are parts of the forest that recall the Highlands of Scotland, though the vegetation is richer than any that Scotland can show, and in these places, unknown save to a very few, the streams are full of trout, and the otter may be hunted along the banks. The small quantity and poor quality of native guns may be held to account for the continual presence of birds and beasts in a part of the world that may not fairly be deemed remote, and where, save in times of stress, a sportsman who will treat the natives with courtesy and consideration may be sure of a hearty welcome and all the assistance he deserves. Withal, no man who has once enjoyed a few days in the Argan Forest can sincerely regret Europe's neglect of it: human nature is not unselfish enough for that.

The ride through the last part of the forest was uneventful. Argan, kharob, and lotus, with the help of a few of the "arar" or gum sandarac trees, shut off the view to the right and left. Below them dwarf-palm, aloe, cactus, and sweet broom made a dense undergrowth, and where the woodland opened suddenly the ground was aflame with flowers that recalled England as clearly as the cuckoo's note. Pimpernel, convolvulus, mignonette, marigold, and pansy were English enough, and in addition to these the ox-daisies of our meadows were almost as common here. Many companies of the true Bedouins passed us on the road, heralded by great flocks of sheep and goats, the sheep pausing to eat the tops of the dwarf-palms, the goats to climb the low-lying argan trees, while their owners stayed to ask about the water supply and the state of the country beyond.

Though we might consider ourselves far removed from civilisation, these Bedouins felt that they were all too near it. The change from their desert land, with its few and far-scattered oases, to this country where there was a douar at the end of every day's journey, was like a change from the country to the town. They could not view without concern a part of the world in which men wore several garments, ate bread and vegetables, and slept under cover in a walled village, and one wild fellow, who carried a very old flint-lock musket, lamented the drought that had forced them from their homes to a place so full of men. So far as I was able to observe the matter, the Berber muleteers of El Arbi bel Hadj ben Haidah looked with great scorn upon these Bedouins, and their contempt was reciprocated. In the eyes of the Berbers these men were outcasts and "eaters of sand," and in the eyes of the Bedouins the muleteers were puling, town-bred slaves, who dared not say their right hands were their own.

Perhaps the difficulty in the way of a proper understanding was largely physical. The Berbers believe they came to Morocco from Canaan, forced out of Palestine by the movement of the Jews under Joshua. They settled in the mountains of the "Far West," and have never been absorbed or driven out by their Arab conquerors. Strong, sturdy, temperate men, devoid of imagination, and of the impulse to create or develop an artistic side to their lives, they can have nothing in common with the slenderly built, far-seeing Arab of the plains, who dreams dreams and sees visions all the days of his life. Between Salam and the Bedouins, on the other hand, good feeling came naturally. The poor travellers, whose worldly wealth was ever in their sight—a camel or two, a tent with scanty furniture, and a few goats and sheep—had all the unexplored places of the world to wander in, and all the heavens for their canopy. That is the life the Arabs love, and it had tempted Salam many hundreds of miles from his native place, the sacred city of Sheshawan, on the border of Er-Riff. The wandering instinct is never very far from any of us who have once passed east of Suez, and learned that the highest end and aim of life is not to live in a town, however large and ugly, and suffer without complaining the inevitable visits of the tax collector.

Our tent was set for the night in a valley that we reached by a path half-buried in undergrowth and known only to the head muleteer. It was a spot far removed from the beaten tracks of the travellers. In times past a great southern kaid had set his summer-house there: its skeleton, changed from grey to pink in the rosy light of sun-setting, stood before us, just across a tiny stream fringed by rushes, willows, and oleanders. When the Court Elevated by Allah left Marrakesh for the north some years ago, the sorely-tried natives had risen against their master, they had captured and plundered his house, and he had been fortunate in getting away with a whole skin. Thereafter the tribesmen had fought among themselves for the spoils of war, the division of the china and cutlery accounting for several deaths. All the land round our little camp had been a garden, a place famous for roses and jessamine, verbena and the geraniums that grow in bushes, together with countless other flowers, that make the garden of Sunset Land suggest to Moors the beauties of the paradise that is to come. Now the flowers that had been so carefully tended ran wild, the boar rooted among them, and the porcupine made a home in their shade. As evening closed in, the wreck of the great house became vague and shadowy, a thing without outline, the wraith of the home that had been. Grey owls and spectral bats sailed or fluttered from the walls. They might have been past owners or servitors who had suffered metamorphosis. The sight set me thinking of the mutual suspicions of the Bedouins and the Susi traders, the raiding of Sidi el Muktar, the other signs of tribal fighting that had been apparent on the road, the persecution of the Moor by his protected fellow-subjects,—in short, the whole failure of the administration to which the ruin that stood before me seemed to give fitting expression. This house had not stood, and, after all, I thought Morocco was but a house divided against itself.

MOONLIGHT
MOONLIGHT

In the face of all the difficulties and dangers that beset the state, the Sultan's subjects are concerned only with their own private animosities. Berber cannot unite with Moor, village still wars against village, each province is as a separate kingdom, so far as the adjacent province is concerned. As of old, the kaids are concerned only with filling their pockets; the villagers, when not fighting, are equally engrossed in saving some small portion of their earnings and taking advantage of the inability of the central Government to collect taxes. They all know that the land is in confusion, that the Europeans at the Court are intriguing against its independence. In camp and market-place men spread the news of the French advance from the East. Yet if the forces of the country could be organised,—if every official would but respond to the needs of the Government and the people unite under their masters,—Morocco might still hold Europe at bay, to the extent at least of making its subjection too costly and difficult a task for any European Government to undertake. If Morocco could but find its Abd el Kadr, the day of its partition might even yet be postponed indefinitely. But next year, or the next—who shall say?

My journey was well nigh over. I had leisure now to recall all seen and heard in the past few weeks and contrast it with the mental notes I had made on the occasion of previous visits. And the truth was forced upon me that Morocco was nearer the brink of dissolution than it had ever been—that instability was the dominant note of social and political life. I recalled my glimpses of the Arabs who live in Algeria and Tunisia, and even Egypt under European rule, and thought of the servility and dependence of the lower classes and the gross, unintelligent lives of the rest. Morocco alone had held out against Europe, aided, to be sure, by the accident of her position at the corner of the Mediterranean where no one European Power could permit another to secure permanent foothold. And with the change, all the picturesque quality of life would go from the Moghreb, and the kingdom founded by Mulai Idrees a thousand years ago would become as vulgar as Algeria itself.

There is something very solemn about the passing of a great kingdom—and Morocco has been renowned throughout Europe. It has preserved for us the essence of the life recorded in the Pentateuch; it has lived in the light of its own faith and enforced respect for its prejudices upon one and all. In days when men overrun every square mile of territory in the sacred name of progress, and the company promoter in London, Paris, or Berlin acquires wealth he cannot estimate by juggling with mineralised land he has never seen, Morocco has remained intact, and though her soil teems with evidences of mineral wealth, no man dares disturb it. There is something very fascinating about this defiance of all that the great Powers of the world hold most dear.

One could not help remembering, too, the charm and courtesy, the simple faith and chivalrous life, of the many who would be swallowed up in the relentless maw of European progress, deliberately degraded, turned literally or morally into hewers of wood and drawers of water—misunderstood, made miserable and discontented. And to serve what end? Only that the political and financial ambitions of a restless generation might be gratified—that none might be able to say, "A weak race has been allowed to follow its path in peace."

Salam disturbed my meditations.

"Everything shut up, sir," he said. "I think you have forgot: to-morrow we go early to hunt the wild boar, sir."

So I left Morocco to look after its own business and turned in.

FOOTNOTES:

[51] Sidi is a Moorish title, and means "my Lord."

[52] It is related of one Sultan that when a "Bashador" remonstrated with him for not fulfilling a contract, he replied, "Am I then a Nazarene, that I should be bound by my word?"


TO THE GATE OF THE PICTURE CITY


A MOORISH GIRL
A MOORISH GIRL

CHAPTER XII

TO THE GATE OF THE PICTURE CITY

Is it Pan's breath, fierce in the tremulous maiden-hair,
That bids fear creep as a snake through the woodlands, felt
In the leaves that it stirs not yet, in the mute bright air,
In the stress of the sun?
A Nympholept.

By the time the little camp was astir and the charcoal fires had done their duty to eggs, coffee, and porridge, Pepe Ratto, accompanied by two of his Berber trackers, rode into the valley, and dismounted on the level ground where our tent was pitched. At first sight the sportsman stood revealed in our welcome visitor. The man whose name will be handed down to future generations in the annals of Morocco's sport would attract attention anywhere. Tall, straight, sunburnt, grizzled, with keen grey eyes and an alert expression, suggesting the easy and instantaneous change from thought to action, Pepe Ratto is in every inch of him a sportsman. Knowing South Morocco as few Europeans know it, and having an acquaintance with the forest that is scarcely exceeded by either Moor or Berber, he gives as much of his life as he can spare to the pursuit of the boar, and he had ridden out with his hunters this morning from his forest home, the Palm Tree House, to meet us before we left the Argans behind, so that we might turn awhile on the track of a "solitaire" tusker.

So the mules were left to enjoy an unexpected rest while their owners enjoyed an uninterrupted breakfast, and the kaid was given ample time in which to groom his horse and prepare it and himself for sufficiently imposing entrance into the Picture City[53] that evening. Salam was instructed to pack tents and boxes at his leisure, before he took one of my sporting guns and went to pursue fur and feather in parts of the forest immediately adjacent to the camp. A straight shot and a keen sportsman, I knew that Salam would not bother about the hares that might cross his path, or birds that rose in sudden flight away from it. His is the Moorish method of shooting, and he is wont to stalk his quarry and fire before it rises. I protested once that this procedure was unsportsmanlike.

"Yes, sir," he replied simply. "If I wait for bird to fly may be I miss him, an' waste cartridge."

A NARROW STREET IN MOGADOR
A NARROW STREET IN MOGADOR

This argument was, of course, unanswerable. He would follow birds slowly and deliberately, taking advantage of wind and cover, patient in pursuit and deadly in aim. Our points of view were different. I shot for sport, and he, and all Moors, for the bag. In this I felt he was my superior. But, barring storks, all creatures were game that came within Salam's range.

No Moor will harm a stork. Even Moorish children, whose taste for destruction and slaughter is as highly developed as any European's, will pick up a young stork that has fallen from its nest and return it to the mother bird if they can. Storks sit at peace among the women of the hareem who come for their afternoon airing to the flat roof-tops of Moorish houses. Moorish lovers in the streets below tell the story of their hopes and fears to the favoured bird, who, when he is chattering with his mandibles, is doing what he can to convey the message. Every True Believer knows that the stork was once a Sultan, or a Grand Wazeer at least, who, being vain and irreligious, laughed in the beards of the old men of his city on a sacred day when they came to pay their respects to him. By so doing he roused the wrath of Allah, who changed him suddenly to his present form. But in spite of misdeeds, the Moors love the stately bird, and there are hospitals for storks in Fez and Marrakesh, where men whose sanctity surpasses their ignorance are paid to minister to the wants of the sick or injured among them. Many a time Salam, in pursuit of birds, has passed within a few-yards of the father of the red legs or his children, but it has never occurred to him to do them harm. Strange fact, but undeniable, that in great cities of the East, where Muslims and Christians dwell, the storks will go to the quarter occupied by True Believers, and leave the other districts severely alone. I have been assured by Moors that the first of these birds having been a Muslim, the storks recognise the True Faith, and wish to testify to their preference for it. It is hard to persuade a Moor to catch a stork or take an egg from the nest, though in pursuit of other birds and beasts he is a stranger to compunction in any form.

One of the trackers gave me his horse, and Pepe Ratto led the way down the stream for a short distance and then into thick scrub that seemed to be part of wild life's natural sanctuary, so quiet it lay, so dense and undisturbed. After the first five minutes I was conscious of the forest in an aspect hitherto unknown to me; I was aware that only a man who knew the place intimately could venture to make a path through untrodden growths that were left in peace from year to year. It was no haphazard way, though bushes required careful watching, the double-thorned lotus being too common for comfort.

A NIGHT SCENE, MOGADOR
A NIGHT SCENE, MOGADOR
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