"SONS OF LIONS" AND OTHER TRUE BELIEVERS
EVENING IN CAMP
"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.
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. 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.
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
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 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
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. 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.
IN THE ARGAN FOREST
EVENING AT HANCHEN
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.
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 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
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.
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
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, 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
TO THE GATE OF THE PICTURE CITY
A MOORISH GIRL
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
the leaves that it stirs not yet, in the mute bright air,
In the stress of the sun?
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 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
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