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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

Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.





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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.

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

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

                                                                                            -11- SUITE

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

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

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

                                                                                              -10- SUITE

THROUGH A SOUTHERN PROVINCE


AN ARAB STEED
AN ARAB STEED

CHAPTER IX

THROUGH A SOUTHERN PROVINCE

The full streams feed on flower of rushes,
Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot;
The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
From leaf to flower, and flower to fruit.
Atalanta in Calydon.

Even in these fugitive records of my last journey into the "Extreme West," I find it hard to turn from Marrakesh. Just as the city held me within its gates until further sojourn was impossible, so its memories crowd upon me now, and I recall with an interest I may scarcely hope to communicate the varied and compelling appeals it made to me at every hour of the day. Yet I believe, at least I hope, that most of the men and women who strive to gather for themselves some picture of the world's unfamiliar aspects will understand the fascination to which I refer, despite my failure to give it fitting expression. Sevilla in Andalusia held me in the same way when I went from Cadiz to spend a week-end there, and the three days became as many weeks, and would have become as many months or years had I been my own master—which to be sure we none of us are. The hand of the Moor is clearly to be seen in Sevilla to-day, notably in the Alcazar and the Giralda tower, fashioned by the builder of the Kutubia that stands like a stately lighthouse in the Blad al Hamra.

So, with the fascination of the city for excuse, I lingered in Marrakesh and went daily to the bazaars to make small purchases. The dealers were patient, friendly folk, and found no trouble too much, so that there was prospect of a sale at the end of it. Most of them had a collapsible set of values for their wares, but the dealer who had the best share of my Moorish or Spanish dollars was an old man in the bazaar of the brass-workers, who used to say proudly, "Behold in me thy servant, Abd el Kerim,[43] the man of one price."

The brass and copper workers had most of their metal brought to them from the Sus country, and sold their goods by weight. Woe to the dealer discovered with false scales. The gunsmiths, who seemed to do quite a big trade in flint-lock guns, worked with their feet as well as their hands, their dexterity being almost Japanese. Nearly every master had an apprentice or two, and if there are idle apprentices in the southern capital of my Lord Abd-el-Aziz, I was not fated to see one.

No phase of the city's life lacked fascination, nor was the interest abated when life and death moved side by side. A Moorish funeral wound slowly along the road in the path of a morning's ride. First came a crowd of ragged fellows on foot singing the praises of Allah, who gives one life to his servants here and an eternity of bliss in Paradise at the end of their day's work. The body of the deceased followed, wrapped in a knotted shroud and partially covered with what looked like a coloured shawl, but was, I think, the flag from a saint's shrine. Four bearers carried the open bier, and following came men of high class on mules. The contrast between the living and the dead was accentuated by the freshness of the day, the life that thronged the streets, the absence of a coffin, the weird, sonorous chaunting of the mourners. The deceased must have been a man of mark, for the crowd preceding the bier was composed largely of beggars, on their way to the cemetery, where a gift of food would be distributed. Following their master's remains came two slaves, newly manumitted, their certificates of freedom borne aloft in cleft sticks to testify before all men to the generosity of the loudly lamented. Doubtless the shroud of the dead had been sprinkled with water brought from the well Zem Zem, which is by the mosque of Mecca, and is said to have been miraculously provided for Hagar, when Ishmael, then a little boy, was like to die of thirst in the wilderness.

I watched the procession wind its way out of sight to the burial-ground by the mosque, whose mueddin would greet its arrival with the cry, "May Allah have mercy upon him." Then the dead man would be carried to the cemetery, laid on his right side looking towards Mecca, and the shroud would be untied, that there may be no awkwardness or delay upon the day of the Resurrection. And the Kadi or f'K'hay[44] would say, "O Allah, if he did good, over-estimate his goodness; and if he did evil, forget his evil deeds; and of Thy Mercy grant that he may experience Thine Acceptance; and spare him the trials and troubles of the grave.... Of Thy Mercy grant him freedom from torment until Thou send him to Paradise, O Thou Most Pitiful of the pitying.... Pardon us, and him, and all Moslems, O Lord of Creation."

A YOUNG MARRAKSHI
A YOUNG MARRAKSHI

On the three following mornings the men of the deceased's house would attend by the newly-made grave, in company with the tolba, and would distribute bread and fruit to the poor, and when their task was over and the way clear, the veiled women would bring flowers, with myrtle, willows, and young leaves of the palm, and lay them on the grave, and over these the water-carrier would empty his goat-skin. I knew that the dead man would have gone without flinching to his appointed end, not as one who fears, but rather as he who sets out joyfully to a feast prepared in his honour. His faith had kept all doubts at bay, and even if he had been an ill liver the charitable deeds wrought in his name by surviving relatives would enable him to face the two angels who descend to the grave on the night following a man's burial and sit in judgment upon his soul. This one who passed me on his last journey would tell the angels of the men who were slaves but yesterday and were now free, he would speak of the hungry who had been fed, and of the intercession of the righteous and learned. These facts and his faith, the greatest fact of all, would assuredly satisfy Munkir and Nakir.[45] Small wonder if no manner of life, however vile, stamps ill-livers in Morocco with the seal we learn to recognise in the Western world. For the Moslem death has no sting, and hell no victory. Faith, whether it be in One God, in a Trinity, in Christ, Mohammed, or Buddha, is surely the most precious of all possessions, so it be as virile and living a thing as it is in Sunset Land.

Writing of religion, I needs must set down a word in this place of the men and women who work for the Southern Morocco Mission in Marrakesh. The beauty of the city has long ceased to hold any fresh surprises for them, their labour is among the people who "walk in noonday as in the night." It is not necessary to be of their faith to admire the steadfast devotion to high ideals that keeps Mr. Nairn and his companions in Marrakesh. I do not think that they make converts in the sense that they desire, the faith of Islam suits Morocco and the Moors, and it will not suffer successful invasion, but the work of the Mission has been effective in many ways. If the few Europeans who visit the city are free to wander unchallenged, unmolested through its every street, let them thank the missionaries; if the news that men from the West are straight-dealing, honourable, and slaves to truth, has gone from the villages on the hither side of Atlas down to the far cities of the Sus, let the missionaries be praised. And if a European woman can go unveiled yet uninsulted through Marrakesh, the credit is due to the ladies of the Mission. It may be said without mental reservation that the Southern Morocco Mission accomplishes a great work, and is most successful in its apparent failure. It does not make professing Christians out of Moors, but it teaches the Moors to live finer lives within the limits of their own faith, and if they are kinder and cleaner and more honourable by reason of their intercourse with the "tabibs" and "tabibas," the world gains and Morocco is well served. When the Sultan was in difficulties towards the end of 1902, and the star of Bu Hamara was in the ascendant, Sir Arthur Nicolson, our Minister in Tangier, ordered all British subjects to leave the inland towns for the coast. As soon as the news reached the Marrakshis, the houses of the missionaries were besieged by eager crowds of Moors and Berbers, offering to defend the well-beloved tabibs against all comers, and begging them not to go away. Very reluctantly Mr. Nairn and his companions obeyed the orders sent from Tangier, but, having seen their wives and children safely housed in Djedida, they returned to their work.

FRUIT MARKET, MARRAKESH
FRUIT MARKET, MARRAKESH

The Elhara or leper quarter is just outside one of the city gates, and after some effort of will, I conquered my repugnance and rode within its gate. The place proved to be a collection of poverty-stricken hovels built in a circle, of the native tapia, which was crumbling to pieces through age and neglect. Most of the inhabitants were begging in the city, where they are at liberty to remain until the gates are closed, but there were a few left at home, and I had some difficulty in restraining the keeper of Elhara, who wished to parade the unfortunate creatures before me that I might not miss any detail of their sufferings. Leper women peeped out from corners, as Boubikir's "house" had done; little leper children played merrily enough on the dry sandy ground, a few donkeys, covered with scars and half starved, stood in the scanty shade. In a deep cleft below the outer wall women and girls, very scantily clad, were washing clothes in a pool that is reserved apparently for the use of the stricken village. I was glad to leave the place behind me, after giving the unctuous keeper a gift for the sufferers that doubtless never reached them. They tell me that no sustained attempt is made to deal medically with the disease, though many nasty concoctions are taken by a few True Believers, whose faith, I fear, has not made them whole.[46]

When it became necessary for us to leave Marrakesh the young shareef went to the city's fandaks and inquired if they held muleteers bound for Mogador. The Maalem had taken his team home along the northern road, our path lay to the south, through the province of the Son of Lions (Oulad bou Sba), and thence through Shiadma and Haha to the coast. We were fortunate in finding the men we sought without any delay. A certain kaid of the Sus country, none other than El Arbi bel Hadj ben Haida, who rules over Tiensiert, had sent six muleteers to Marrakesh to sell his oil, in what is the best southern market, and he had worked out their expenses on a scale that could hardly be expected to satisfy anybody but himself.

IN THE FANDAK
IN THE FANDAK

"From Tiensiert to Marrakesh is three days journey," he had said, and, though it is five, no man contradicted him, perhaps because five is regarded as an unfortunate number, not to be mentioned in polite or religious society. "Three days will serve to sell the oil and rest the mules," he had continued, "and three days more will bring you home." Then he gave each man three dollars for travelling money, about nine shillings English, and out of it the mules were to be fed, the charges of n'zala and fandak to be met, and if there was anything over the men might buy food for themselves. They dared not protest, for El Arbi bel Hadj ben Haida had every man's house in his keeping, and if the muleteers had failed him he would have had compensation in a manner no father of a family would care to think about. The oil was sold, and the muleteers were preparing to return to their master, when Salam offered them a price considerably in excess of what they had received for the whole journey to take us to Mogador. Needless to say they were not disposed to let the chance go by, for it would not take them two days out of their way, so I went to the fandak to see mules and men, and complete the bargain. There had been a heavy shower some days before, and the streets were more than usually miry, but in the fandak, whose owner had no marked taste for cleanliness, the accumulated dirt of all the rainy season had been stirred, with results I have no wish to record. A few donkeys in the last stages of starvation had been sent in to gather strength by resting, one at least was too far gone to eat. Even the mules of the Susi tribesmen were not in a very promising condition. It was an easy task to count their ribs, and they were badly in need of rest and a few square meals. Tied in the covered cloisters of the fandak there was some respite for them from the attack of mosquitoes, but the donkeys, being cheap and of no importance, were left to all the torments that were bound to be associated with the place.

Only one human being faced the glare of the light and trod fearlessly through the mire that lay eight or ten inches deep on the ground, and he was a madman, well-nigh as tattered and torn as the one I had angered in the Kaisariyah on the morning after my arrival in the city. This man's madness took a milder turn. He went from one donkey to another, whispering in its ear, a message of consolation I hope and believe, though I had no means of finding out. When I entered the fandak he came running up to me in a style suggestive of the gambols of a playful dog, and I was exceedingly annoyed by a thought that he might not know any difference between me and his other friends. There was no need to be uneasy, for he drew himself up to his full height, made a hissing noise in his throat, and spat fiercely at my shadow. Then he returned to the stricken donkeys, and the keeper of the fandak, coming out to welcome me, saw his more worthy visitor. Turning from me with "Marhababik" ("You are welcome") just off his lips, he ran forward and kissed the hem of the madman's djellaba.

A madman is very often an object of veneration in Morocco, for his brain is in divine keeping, while his body is on the earth. And yet the Moor is not altogether logical in his attitude to the "afflicted of Allah." While so much liberty is granted to the majority of the insane that feigned madness is quite common among criminals in the country, less fortunate men who have really become mentally afflicted, but are not recognised as insane, are kept chained to the walls of the Marstan—half hospital, half prison—that is attached to the most great mosques. I have been assured that they suffer considerably at the hands of most gaoler-doctors, whose medicine is almost invariably the stick, but I have not been able to verify the story, which is quite opposed to Moorish tradition. The mad visitor to the fandak did not disturb the conversation with the keeper and the Susi muleteers, but he turned the head of a donkey in our direction and talked eagerly to the poor animal, pointing at me with outstretched finger the while. The keeper of the fandak, kind man, made uneasy by this demonstration, signed to me quietly to stretch out my hand, with palm open, and directed to the spot where the madman stood, for only in that way could I hope to avert the evil eye.

The chief muleteer was a thin and wiry little fellow, a total stranger to the soap and water beloved of Unbelievers. He could not have been more than five feet high, and he was burnt brown. His dark outer garment of coarse native wool had the curious yellow patch on the back that all Berbers seem to favour, though none can explain its origin or purpose, and he carried his slippers in his hand, probably deeming them less capable of withstanding hard wear than his naked feet. He had no Arabic, but spoke only "Shilha," the language of the Berbers, so it took some time to make all arrangements, including the stipulation that a proper meal for all the mules was to be given under the superintendence of M'Barak. That worthy representative of Shareefian authority was having a regal time, drawing a dollar a day, together with three meals and a ration for his horse, in return for sitting at ease in the courtyard of the Tin House.

Arrangements concluded, it was time to say good-bye to Sidi Boubikir. I asked delicately to be allowed to pay rent for the use of the house, but the hospitable old man would not hear of it. "Allah forbid that I should take any money," he remarked piously. "Had you told me you were going I would have asked you to dine with me again before you started." We sat in the well-remembered room, where green tea and mint were served in a beautiful set of china-and-gold filagree cups, presented to him by the British Government nearly ten years ago. He spoke at length of the places that should be visited, including the house of his near relative, Mulai el Hadj of Tamsloht, to whom he offered to send me with letters and an escort. Moreover, he offered an escort to see us out of the city and on the road to the coast, but I judged it better to decline both offers, and, with many high-flown compliments, left him by the entrance to his great house, and groped back through the mud to put the finishing touches to packing.

The young shareef accepted a parting gift with grave dignity, and assured me of his esteem for all time and his willing service when and where I should need it. I had said good-bye to the "tabibs" and "tabibas," so nothing remained but to rearrange our goods, that nearly everything should be ready for the mules when they arrived before daybreak. Knowing that the first day's ride was a long one, some forty miles over an indifferent road and with second-rate animals, I was anxious to leave the city as soon as the gates were opened.

THE JAMA'A EFFINA
THE JAMA'A EFFINA

Right above my head the mueddin in the minaret overlooking the Tin House called the sleeping city to its earliest prayer.[47] I rose and waked the others, and we dressed by a candle-light that soon became superfluous. When the mueddin began the chant that sounded so impressive and so mournful as it was echoed from every minaret in the city, the first approach of light would have been visible in the east, and in these latitudes day comes and goes upon winged feet. Before the beds were taken to pieces and Salam had the porridge and his "marmalade" ready, with steaming coffee, for early breakfast, we heard the mules clattering down the stony street. Within half an hour the packing comedy had commenced. The Susi muleteer, who was accompanied by a boy and four men, one a slave, and all quite as frowzy, unwashed, and picturesque as himself, swore that we did not need four pack-mules but eight. Salam, his eyes flaming, and each separate hair of his beard standing on end, cursed the shameless women who gave such men as the Susi muleteer and his fellows to the kingdom of my Lord Abd-el-Aziz, threw the shwarris on the ground, rejected the ropes, and declared that with proper fittings the mules, if these were mules at all, and he had his very serious doubts about the matter, could run to Mogador in three days. Clearly Salam intended to be master from the start, and when I came to know something more about our company, the wisdom of the procedure was plain. Happily for one and all Mr. Nairn came along at this moment. It was not five o'clock, but the hope of serving us had brought him into the cold morning air, and his thorough knowledge of the Shilha tongue worked wonders. He was able to send for proper ropes at an hour when we could have found no trader to supply them, and if we reached the city gate that looks out towards the south almost as soon as the camel caravan that had waited without all night, the accomplishment was due to my kind friend who, with Mr. Alan Lennox, had done so much to make the stay in Marrakesh happily memorable.

It was just half-past six when the last pack-mule passed the gate, whose keeper said graciously, "Allah prosper the journey," and, though the sun was up, the morning was cool, with a delightfully fresh breeze from the west, where the Atlas Mountains stretched beyond range of sight in all their unexplored grandeur. They seemed very close to us in that clear atmosphere, but their foot hills lay a day's ride away, and the natives would be prompt to resent the visit of a stranger who did not come to them with the authority of a kaid or governor whose power and will to punish promptly were indisputable. With no little regret I turned, when we had been half an hour on the road, for a last look at Ibn Tachfin's city. Distance had already given it the indefinite attraction that comes when the traveller sees some city of old time in a light that suggests every charm and defines none. I realised that I had never entered an Eastern city with greater pleasure, or left one with more sincere regret, and that if time and circumstance had been my servants I would not have been so soon upon the road.

The road from Marrakesh to Mogador is as pleasant as traveller could wish, lying for a great part of the way through fertile land, but it is seldom followed, because of the two unbridged rivers N'fiss and Sheshoua. If either is in flood (and both are fed by the melting snows from the Atlas Mountains), you must camp on the banks for days together, until it shall please Allah to abate the waters. Our lucky star was in the ascendant; we reached Wad N'fiss at eleven o'clock to find its waters low and clear. On the far side of the banks we stayed to lunch by the border of a thick belt of sedge and bulrushes, a marshy place stretching over two or three acres, and glowing with the rich colour that comes to southern lands in April and in May. It recalled to me the passage in one of the stately choruses of Mr. Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon, that tells how "blossom by blossom the spring begins."

The intoxication that lies in colour and sound has ever had more fascination for me than the finest wine could bring: the colour of the vintage is more pleasing than the taste of the grape. In this forgotten corner the eye and ear were assailed and must needs surrender. Many tiny birds of the warbler family sang among the reeds, where I set up what I took to be a Numidian crane, and, just beyond the river growths, some splendid oleanders gave an effective splash of scarlet to the surrounding greens and greys. In the waters of the marsh the bullfrogs kept up a loud sustained croak, as though they were True Believers disturbed by the presence of the Infidels. The N'fiss is a fascinating river from every point of view. Though comparatively small, few Europeans have reached the source, and it passes through parts of the country where a white man's presence would be resented effectively. The spurs of the Atlas were still clearly visible on our left hand, and needless to say we had the place to ourselves. There was not so much as a tent in sight.

At last M'Barak, who had resumed his place at the head of our little company, and now realised that we had prolonged our stay beyond proper limits, mounted his horse rather ostentatiously, and the journey was resumed over level land that was very scantily covered with grass or clumps of irises. The mountains seemed to recede and the plain to spread out; neither eye nor glass revealed a village; we were apparently riding towards the edge of the plains. The muleteer and his companions strode along at a round pace, supporting themselves with sticks and singing melancholy Shilha love-songs. Their mules, recollection of their good meal of the previous evening being forgotten, dropped to a pace of something less than four miles an hour, and as the gait of our company had to be regulated by the speed of its slowest member, it is not surprising that night caught us up on the open and shut out a view of the billowy plain that seemingly held no resting-place. How I missed the little Maalem, whose tongue would have been a spur to the stumbling beasts! But as wishing would bring nothing, we dismounted and walked by the side of our animals, the kaid alone remaining in the saddle. Six o'clock became seven, and seven became eight, and then I found it sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark. Of course it was not a "deep-mouthed welcome:" it was no more than a cry of warning and defiance raised by the colony of pariah dogs that guarded Ain el Baidah, our destination.

In the darkness, that had a pleasing touch of purple colouring lent it by the stars, Ain el Baidah's headman loomed very large and imposing. "Praise to Allah that you have come and in health," he remarked, as though we were old friends. He assured me of my welcome, and said his village had a guest-house that would serve instead of the tent. Methought he protested too much, but knowing that men and mules were dead beat, and that we had a long way to go, I told Salam that the guest-house would serve, and the headman lead the way to a tapia building that would be called a very small barn, or a large fowl-house, in England. A tiny clay lamp, in which a cotton wick consumed some mutton fat, revealed a corner of the darkness and the dirt, and when our own lamps banished the one, they left the other very clearly to be seen. But we were too tired to utter a complaint. I saw the mules brought within the zariba, helped to set up my camp bed, took the cartridges out of my shot gun, and, telling Salam to say when supper was ready, fell asleep at once. Eighteen busy hours had passed since the mueddin called to "feyer" from the minaret above the Tin House, but my long-sought rest was destined to be brief.

FOOTNOTES:

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

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

                                                                                                            -9- SUITE
A GLIMPSE OF THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS

"When the days of the Grand Wazeer were fulfilled," the Hadj continued gravely, "his enemies came into power. His brother the War Minister and his brother the Chamberlain died suddenly, and he followed them within the week. No wise man sought too particularly to know the cause of their death. Christians came to the Court Elevated by Allah, and said to my Lord Abd-el-Aziz, 'Be as the Sultans of the West.' And they brought him their abominations, the wheeled things that fall if left alone, but support a man who mounts them, as I suppose, in the name of Shaitan; the picture boxes that multiply images of True Believers and, being as the work of painters,[34] are wisely forbidden by the Far Seeing Book; carriages drawn by invisible djinoon, who scream and struggle in their fiery prison but must stay and work, small sprites that dance and sing.[35] The Christians knew that my Lord was but a young man, and so they brought these things, and Abd-el-Aziz gave them of the country's riches, and conversed with them familiarly, as though they had been of the house of a Grand Shareef. But in the far east of the Moghreb the French closed the oases of Tuat and Tidikelt without rebuke, and burnt Ksor and destroyed the Faithful with guns containing green devils,[36] and said, 'We do all this that we may venture abroad without fear of robbers.' Then my Lord sent the War Minister, the kaid Maheddi el Menebhi, to London, and he saw your Sultan face to face. And your Sultan's wazeers said to him, 'Tell the Lord of the Moghreb to rule as we rule, to gather his taxes peaceably and without force, to open his ports, to feed his prisoners, to follow the wisdom of the West. If he will do this, assuredly his kingdom shall never be moved.' Thereafter your Sultan's great men welcomed the kaid yet more kindly, and showed him all that Allah the One had given them in his mercy, their palaces, their workplaces, their devil ships that move without sails over the face of the waters, and their unveiled women who pass without shame before the faces of men. And though the kaid said nothing, he remembered all these things.

"When he returned, and by the aid of your own Bashador in Tanjah prevailed over the enemies who had set snares in his path while he fared abroad, he stood up before my Lord and told him all he had seen. Thereupon my Lord Abd-el-Aziz sought to change that which had gone before, to make a new land as quickly as the father of the red legs[37] builds a new nest, or the boar of the Atlas whom the hunter has disturbed finds a new lair. And the land grew confused. It was no more the Moghreb, but it assuredly was not as the lands of the West.

"In the beginning of the season of change the French were angry. 'All men shall pay an equal tax throughout my land,' said the King of the Age, and the Bashador of the French said, 'Our protected subjects shall not yield even a handful of green corn to the gatherer.' Now when the people saw that the tax-gatherers did not travel as they were wont to travel, armed and ready to kill, they hardened their hearts and said, 'We will pay no taxes at all, for these men cannot overcome us.' So the tribute was not yielded, and the French Bashador said to the Sultan, 'Thou seest that these people will not pay, but we out of our abundant wealth will give all the money that is needed. Only sign these writings that set forth our right to the money that is brought by Nazarenes to the seaports, and everything will be well.'

"So the Sultan set his seal upon all that was brought before him, and the French sent gold to his treasury and more French traders came to his Court, and my Lord gave them the money that had come to him from their country, for more of the foolish and wicked things they brought. Then he left Marrakesh and went to Fez; and the Rogui, Bu Hamara,[38] rose up and waged war against him."

The Hadj sighed deeply, and paused while fresh tea was brought by a coal-black woman slave, whose colour was accentuated by the scarlet rida upon her head, and the broad silver anklets about her feet. When she had retired and we were left alone once more, my host continued:—

"You know what happened after. My Lord Abd-el-Aziz made no headway against the Rogui, who is surely assisted by devils of the air and by the devils of France. North and south, east and west, the Moors flocked to him, for they said, 'The Sultan has become a Christian.' And to-day my Lord has no more money, and no strength to fight the Infidel, and the French come forward, and the land is troubled everywhere. But this is clearly the decree of Allah the All Wise, and if it is written that the days of the Filali Shareefs are numbered, even my Lord will not avoid his fate."

I said nothing, for I had seen the latter part of Morocco's history working itself out, and knew that the improved relations between Great Britain and France had their foundation in the change of front that kept our Foreign Office from doing for Morocco what it has done for other states divided against themselves, and what it had promised Morocco, without words, very clearly. Then, again, it was obvious to me, though I could not hope to explain it to my host, that the Moor, having served his time, had to go under before the wave of Western civilisation. Morocco has held out longer than any other kingdom of Africa, not by reason of its own strength, but because the rulers of Europe could not afford to see the Mediterranean balance of power seriously disturbed. Just as Mulai Ismail praised Allah publicly two centuries ago for giving him strength to drive out the Infidel, when the British voluntarily relinquished their hold upon Tangier, so successive Moorish Sultans have thought that they have held Morocco for the Moors by their own power. And yet, in very sober truth, Morocco has been no more than one of the pawns in the diplomatic game these many years past.

We who know and love the country, finding in its patriarchal simplicity so much that contrasts favourably with the hopeless vulgarity of our own civilisation, must recognise in justice the great gulf lying between a country's aspect in the eyes of the traveller and in the mind of the politician.

A MARRAKSHI
A MARRAKSHI

Before we parted, the Hadj, prefacing his remark with renewed assurance of his personal esteem, told me that the country's error had been its admission of strangers. Poor man, his large simple mind could not realise that no power his master held could have kept them out. He told me on another occasion that the great wazeers who had opposed the Sultan's reforms were influenced by fear, lest Western ideas should alter the status of their womenkind. They had heard from all their envoys to Europe how great a measure of liberty is accorded to women, and were prepared to rebel against any reform that might lead to compulsory alteration of the system under which women live—too often as slaves and playthings—in Morocco. My friend's summary of his country's recent history is by no means complete, and, if he could revise it here would doubtless have far more interest. But it seemed advisable to get the Moorish point of view, and, having secured the curious elusive thing, to record it as nearly as might be.

Sidi Boubikir seldom discussed politics. "I am in the South and the trouble is in the North," said he. "Alhamdolillah,[39] I am all for my Lord Abd-el-Aziz. In the reign of his grandfather I made money, when my Lord his father ruled—upon him the Peace—I made money, and now to-day I make money. Shall I listen then to Pretenders and other evil men? The Sultan may have half my fortune."

I did not suggest what I knew to be true, that the Sultan would have been more than delighted to take him at his word, for I remembered the incident of the lampmaker's wager. A considerable knowledge of Moghrebbin Arabic, in combination with hypnotic skill of a high order, would have been required to draw from Boubikir his real opinions of the outlook. Not for nothing was he appointed British political agent in South Morocco. The sphinx is not more inscrutable.

One night his son came to the Dar al Kasdir and brought me an invitation from Sidi Boubikir to dine with him on the following afternoon. Arrived before the gate of his palace at the time appointed, two o'clock, we found the old diplomat waiting to welcome us. He wore a fine linen djellaba of dazzling whiteness, and carried a scarlet geranium in his hand. "You are welcome," he said gravely, and led the way through a long corridor, crying aloud as he went, "Make way, make way," for we were entering the house itself, and it is not seemly that a Moorish woman, whether she be wife or concubine, should look upon a stranger's face. Yet some few lights of the hareem were not disposed to be extinguished altogether by considerations of etiquette, and passed hurriedly along, as though bent upon avoiding us and uncertain of our exact direction. The women-servants satisfied their curiosity openly until my host suddenly commented upon the questionable moral status of their mothers, and then they made haste to disappear, only to return a moment later and peep round corners and doorways, and giggle and scream—as if they had been Europeans of the same class.

Sidi Boubikir passed from room to room of his great establishment and showed some of its treasures. There were great piles of carpets and vast quantities of furniture that must have looked out at one time in their history upon the crowds that throng the Tottenham Court Road; I saw chairs, sofas, bedsteads, clocks, and sideboards, all of English make. Brought on camels through Dukala and R'hamna to Marrakesh, they were left to fill up the countless rooms without care or arrangement, though their owner's house must hold more than fifty women, without counting servants. Probably when they were not quarrelling or dying their finger nails, or painting their faces after a fashion that is far from pleasing to European eyes, the ladies of the hareem passed their days lying on cushions, playing the gimbri[40] or eating sweetmeats.

In one room on the ground-floor there was a great collection of mechanical toys. Sidi Boubikir explained that the French Commercial Attaché had brought a large number to the Sultan's palace, and that my Lord Abd-el-Aziz had rejected the ones before us. With the curious childish simplicity that is found so often among the Moors of high position, Boubikir insisted upon winding up the clock-work apparatus of nearly all the toys. Then one doll danced, another played a drum, a third went through gymnastic exercises, and the toy orchestra played the Marseillaise, while from every adjacent room veiled figures stole out cautiously, as though this room in a Moorish house were a stage and the shrouded visitors were the chorus entering mysteriously from unexpected places. The old man's merriment was very real and hearty, so genuine, in fact, that he did not notice how his women-folk were intruding until the last note sounded. Then he turned round and the swathed figures disappeared suddenly as ghosts at cockcrow.

Though it was clear that Sidi Boubikir seldom saw half the rooms through which we hurried, the passion for building, that seizes all rich Moors, held him fast. He was adding wing after wing to his vast premises, and would doubtless order more furniture from London to fill the new rooms. No Moor knows when it is time to call a halt and deem his house complete, and so the country is full of palaces begun by men who fell from power or died leaving the work unfinished. The Grand Wazeer Ba Ahmad left a palace nearly as big as the Dar el Makhzan itself, and since he died the storks that build upon the flat roofs have been its only occupants. So it is with the gardens, whose many beauties he did not live to enjoy. I rode past them one morning, noted all manner of fruit trees blossoming, heard birds singing in their branches, and saw young storks fishing in the little pools that the rains of winter had left. But there was not one gardener there to tend the ground once so highly cultivated, and I was assured that the terror of the wazeer's name kept even the hungry beggars from the fruit in harvest time.

STREET IN MARRAKESH
STREET IN MARRAKESH

The home and its appointments duly exhibited, Sidi Boubikir led the way to a diwan in a well-cushioned room that opened on to the garden. He clapped his hands and a small regiment of women-servants, black and for the most part uncomely, arrived to prepare dinner. One brought a ewer, another a basin, a third a towel, and water was poured out over our hands. Then a large earthenware bowl encased in strong basketwork was brought by a fourth servant, and a tray of flat loaves of fine wheat by a fifth, and we broke bread and said the "Bismillah,"[41] which stands for grace. The bowl was uncovered and revealed a savoury stew of chicken with sweet lemon and olives, a very pleasing sight to all who appreciate Eastern cooking. The use of knives being a crime against the Faith, and the use of forks and spoons unknown, we plunged the fingers of the right hand into the bowl and sought what pleased us best, using the bread from time to time to deal with the sauce of the stew. It was really a delicious dish, and when later in the afternoon I asked my host for the recipe he said he would give it to me if I would fill the bowl with Bank of England notes. I had to explain that, in my ignorance of the full resources of Moorish cooking, I had not come out with sufficient money.

So soon as the charm of the first bowl palled, it was taken away and others followed in quick succession, various meats and eggs being served with olives and spices and the delicate vegetables that come to Southern Morocco in early spring. It was a relief to come to the end of our duties and, our hands washed once more, to digest the meal with the aid of green tea flavoured with mint. Strong drink being forbidden to the True Believer, water only was served with the dinner, and as it was brought direct from the Tensift River, and was of rich red colour, there was no temptation to touch it. Sidi Boubikir was in excellent spirits, and told many stories of his earlier days, of his dealings with Bashadors, his quarrel with the great kaid Ben Daoud, the siege of the city by certain Illegitimate men—enemies of Allah and the Sultan—his journey to Gibraltar, and how he met one of the Rothschilds there and tried to do business with him. He spoke of his investments in consols and the poor return they brought him, and many other matters of equal moment.

It was not easy to realise that the man who spoke so brightly and lightly about trivial affairs had one of the keenest intellects in the country, that he had the secret history of its political intrigues at his fingers' ends, that he was the trusted agent of the British Government, and lived and throve surrounded by enemies. As far as was consistent with courtesy I tried to direct his reminiscences towards politics, but he kept to purely personal matters, and included in them a story of his attempt to bribe a British Minister,[42] to whom, upon the occasion of the arrival of a British Mission in Marrakesh, he went leading two mules laden with silver. "And when I came to him," said the old man, "I said, 'By Allah's grace I am rich, so I have brought you some share of my wealth.' But he would not even count the bags. He called with a loud voice for his wife, and cried to her, 'See now what this son of shame would do to me. He would give me his miserable money.' And then in very great anger he drove me from his presence and bade me never come near him again bearing a gift. What shall be said of a man like that, to whom Allah had given the wisdom to become a Bashador and the foolishness to reject a present? Two mules, remember, and each one with as many bags of Spanish dollars as it could carry. Truly the ways of your Bashadors are past belief." I agreed heartily with Sidi Boubikir; a day's discourse had not made clear any other aspect of the case.

FOOTNOTES:

[27] "In Paradise are rivers of incorruptible water; and rivers of milk, the taste whereof changes not; and rivers of wine, pleasant unto those who drink; and rivers of clarified honey; and in Paradise the faithful shall have all kinds of fruits, and pardon from their God."—Al Koran; Sura 47, "Mohammed."

[28] The late Sir John Drummond Hay, whose name is honourably remembered to this day throughout the Moghreb.

[29] When a Sultan appears in public on a white horse, it is for sign that he is pleased; a black horse, on the other hand, is ominous to them that understand.

[30] Literally "Learned Ones," a theological cabinet, the number of whose members is known to no man, the weight of whose decisions is felt throughout Morocco.

[31] 1873-94.

[32] Hareem.

[33] One of the titles of a Sultan. The "Lofty Portal" ("Sublime Porte") and the "Sublime Presence" are among the others.

[34] Mohammed said: "Every painter is in Hell Fire, and Allah will appoint a person at the day of Resurrection to punish him for every picture he shall have drawn, and he shall be punished in Hell. So, if ye must make pictures, make them of trees and things without souls."

[35] The reader will recognise the Hadj's reference to bicycles, cameras, motor-cars, and other mechanical toys.

[36] Melinite shells.

[37] The stork.

[38] Literally, "Father of the she-ass," the Pretender who conducted a successful campaign against the Sultan in 1902 and 1903, and is still an active enemy of the Filali dynasty.

[39] "The Praise to Allah."

[40] A Moorish lute.

[41] Literally, "In the name of God."

[42] The late Sir William Kirby Green.


THROUGH A SOUTHERN PROVINCE

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

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

                                                                                                     -8-  SUITE
A WATER-SELLER, MARRAKESH

Within their sheds the slaves are huddled together. They will not face the light until the market opens. I catch a glimpse of bright colouring now and again, as some woman or child moves in the dim recesses of the retreats, but there is no suggestion of the number or quality of the penned.

Two storks sail leisurely from their nest on the saint's tomb, and a little company of white ospreys passes over the burning market-place with such a wild, free flight, that the contrast between the birds and the human beings forces itself upon me. Now, however, there is no time for such thoughts; the crowd at the entrance parts to the right and left, to admit twelve grave men wearing white turbans and spotless djellabas. They are the dilals, in whose hands is the conduct of the sale.

Slowly and impressively these men advance in a line almost to the centre of the slave market, within two or three yards of the arcade, where the wealthy buyers sit expectant. Then the head auctioneer lifts up his voice, and prays, with downcast eyes and outspread hands. He recites the glory of Allah, the One, who made the heaven above and the earth beneath, the sea and all that is therein; his brethren and the buyers say Amen. He thanks Allah for his mercy to men in sending Mohammed the Prophet, who gave the world the True Belief, and he curses Shaitan, who wages war against Allah and his children. Then he calls upon Sidi bel Abbas, patron saint of Marrakesh, friend of buyers and sellers, who praised Allah so assiduously in days remote, and asks the saint to bless the market and all who buy and sell therein, granting them prosperity and length of days. And to these prayers, uttered with an intensity of devotion quite Mohammedan, all the listeners say Amen. Only to Unbelievers like myself,—to men who have never known, or knowing, have rejected Islam,—is there aught repellent in the approaching business; and Unbelievers may well pass unnoticed. In life the man who has the True Faith despises them; in death they become children of the Fire. Is it not so set down?

Throughout this strange ceremony of prayer I seem to see the bull-ring again, and in place of the dilals the cuadrillas of the Matadors coming out to salute, before the alguazils open the gates of the toril and the slaying begins. The dramatic intensity of either scene connects for me this slave market in Marrakesh with the plaza de toros in the shadow of the Giralda tower in Sevilla. Strange to remember now and here, that the man who built the Kutubia tower for this thousand-year-old-city of Yusuf ben Tachfin, gave the Giralda to Andalusia.

Prayers are over—the last Amen is said. The dilals separate, each one going to the pens he presides over, and calling upon their tenants to come forth. These selling men move with a dignity that is quite Eastern, and speak in calm and impressive tones. They lack the frenzied energy of their brethren who traffic in the bazaars.

ON THE ROAD TO THE SÔK EL ABEED
ON THE ROAD TO THE SÔK EL ABEED

Obedient to the summons, the slaves face the light, the sheds yield up their freight, and there are a few noisy moments, bewildering to the novice, in which the auctioneers place their goods in line, rearrange dresses, give children to the charge of adults, sort out men and women according to their age and value, and prepare for the promenade. The slaves will march round and round the circle of the buyers, led by the auctioneers, who will proclaim the latest bid and hand over any one of their charges to an intending purchaser, that he may make his examination before raising the price. In the procession now forming for the first parade, five, if not six, of the seven ages set out by the melancholy Jaques are represented. There are men and women who can no longer walk upright, however the dilal may insist; there are others of middle age, with years of active service before them; there are young men full of vigour and youth, fit for the fields, and young women, moving for once unveiled yet unrebuked, who will pass at once to the hareem. And there are children of every age, from babies who will be sold with their mothers to girls and boys upon the threshold of manhood and womanhood. All are dressed in bright colours and displayed to the best advantage, that the hearts of bidders may be moved and their purses opened widely.

"It will be a fine sale," says my neighbour, a handsome middle-aged Moor from one of the Atlas villages, who had chosen his place before I reached the market. "There must be well nigh forty slaves, and this is good, seeing that the Elevated Court is at Fez. It is because our Master—Allah send him more victories!—has been pleased to 'visit' Sidi Abdeslam, and send him to the prison of Mequinez. All the wealth he has extorted has been taken away from him by our Master, and he will see no more light. Twenty or more of these women are of his house."

Now each dilal has his people sorted out, and the procession begins. Followed by their bargains the dilals march round and round the market, and I understand why the dust was laid before the procession commenced.

Most of the slaves are absolutely free from emotion of any sort: they move round as stolidly as the blind-folded horses that work the water-wheels in gardens beyond the town, or the corn mills within its gates. I think the sensitive ones—and there are a few—must come from the household of the unfortunate Sidi Abdeslam, who was reputed to be a good master. Small wonder if the younger women shrink, and if the black visage seems to take on a tint of ashen grey, when a buyer, whose face is an open defiance of the ten commandments, calls upon the dilal to halt, and, picking one out as though she had been one of a flock of sheep, handles her as a butcher would, examining teeth and muscles, and questioning her and the dilal very closely about past history and present health. And yet the European observer must beware lest he read into incidents of this kind something that neither buyer nor seller would recognise. Novelty may create an emotion that facts and custom cannot justify.

THE SLAVE MARKET
THE SLAVE MARKET

"Ah, Tsamanni," says my gossip from the Atlas to the big dilal who led the prayers, and is in special charge of the children for sale, "I will speak to this one," and Tsamanni pushes a tiny little girl into his arms. The child kisses the speaker's hand. Not at all unkindly the Moor takes his critical survey, and Tsamanni enlarges upon her merits.

"She does not come from the town at all," he says glibly, "but from Timbuctoo. It is more difficult than ever to get children from there. The accursed Nazarenes have taken the town, and the slave market droops. But this one is desirable: she understands needlework, she will be a companion for your house, and thirty-five dollars is the last price bid."

"One more dollar, Tsamanni. She is not ill-favoured, but she is poor and thin. Nevertheless say one dollar more," says the Moor.

"The praise to Allah, who made the world," says the dilal piously, and hurries round the ring, saying that the price of the child is now thirty-six dollars, and calling upon the buyers to go higher.

I learn that the dilal's commission is two and a half per cent on the purchase price, and there is a Government tax of five per cent. Slaves are sold under a warranty, and are returned if they are not properly described by the auctioneer. Bids must not be advanced by less than a Moorish dollar (about three shillings) at a time, and when a sale is concluded a deposit must be paid at once, and the balance on or shortly after the following day. Thin slaves will not fetch as much money as fat ones, for corpulence is regarded as the outward and visible sign of health as well as wealth by the Moor.

"I have a son of my house," says the Moor from the Atlas, with a burst of confidence quite surprising. "He is my only one, and must have a playfellow, so I am here to buy. In these days it is not easy to get what one wants. Everywhere the French. The caravans come no longer from Tuat—because of the French. From Timbuctoo it is the same thing. Surely Allah will burn these people in a fire of more than ordinary heat—a furnace that shall never cool. Ah, listen to the prices," The little girl's market-value has gone to forty-four dollars—say seven pounds ten shillings in English money at the current rate of exchange. It has risen two dollars at a time, and Tsamanni cannot quite cover his satisfaction. One girl, aged fourteen, has been sold for no less than ninety dollars after spirited bidding from two country kaids; another, two years older, has gone for seventy-six.

"There is no moderation in all this," says the Atlas Moor, angrily. "But prices will rise until our Lord the Sultan ceases to listen to the Nazarenes, and purges the land. Because of their Bashadors we can no longer have the markets at the towns on the coasts. If we do have one there, it must be held secretly, and a slave must be carried in the darkness from house to house. This is shameful for an unconquered people."

I am only faintly conscious of my companion's talk and action, as he bids for child after child, never going beyond forty dollars. Interest centres in the diminishing crowd of slaves who still follow the dilals round the market in monotonous procession.

The attractive women and strong men have been sold, and have realised good prices. The old people are in little or no demand; but the auctioneers will persist until closing time. Up and down tramp the people nobody wants, burdens to themselves and their owners, the useless, or nearly useless men and women whose lives have been slavery for so long as they can remember. Even the water-carrier from the Sus country, who has been jingling his bright bowls together since the market opened, is moved to compassion, for while two old women are standing behind their dilal, who is talking to a client about their reserve price, I see him give them a free draught from his goat-skin water-barrel, and this kind action seems to do something to freshen the place, just as the mint and the roses of the gardeners freshen the alleys near the Kaisariyah in the heart of the city. To me, this journey round and round the market seems to be the saddest of the slaves' lives—worse than their pilgrimage across the deserts of the Wad Nun, or the Draa, in the days when they were carried captive from their homes, packed in panniers upon mules, forced to travel by night, and half starved. For then at least they were valued and had their lives before them, now they are counted as little more than the broken-down mules and donkeys left to rot by the roadside. And yet this, of course, is a purely Western opinion, and must be discounted accordingly.

It is fair to say that auctioneers and buyers treat the slaves in a manner that is not unkind. They handle them just as though they were animals with a market value that ill-treatment will diminish, and a few of the women are brazen, shameless creatures—obviously, and perhaps not unwisely, determined to do the best they can for themselves in any surroundings. These women are the first to find purchasers. The unsold adults and little children seem painfully tired; some of the latter can hardly keep pace with the auctioneer, until he takes them by the hand and leads them along with him. Moors, as a people, are wonderfully kind to children.

The procedure never varies. As a client beckons and points out a slave, the one selected is pushed forward for inspection, the history is briefly told, and if the bidding is raised the auctioneer, thanking Allah, who sends good prices, hurries on his way to find one who will bid a little more. On approaching an intending purchaser the slave seizes and kisses his hand, then releases it and stands still, generally indifferent to the rest of the proceedings.

DILALS IN THE SLAVE MARKET
DILALS IN THE SLAVE MARKET

"It is well for the slaves," says the Atlas Moor, rather bitterly, for the fifth and last girl child has gone up beyond his limit. "In the Mellah or the Madinah you can get labour for nothing, now the Sultan is in Fez. There is hunger in many a house, and it is hard for a free man to find food. But slaves are well fed. In times of famine and war free men die; slaves are in comfort. Why then do the Nazarenes talk of freeing slaves, as though they were prisoners, and seek to put barriers against the market, until at last the prices become foolish? Has not the Prophet said, 'He who behaveth ill to his slave shall not enter into Paradise'? Does that not suffice believing people? Clearly it was written, that my little Mohammed, my first born, my only one, shall have no playmate this day. No, Tsamanni: I will bid no more. Have I such store of dollars that I can buy a child for its weight in silver?"

The crowd is thinning now. Less than ten slaves remain to be sold, and I do not like to think how many times they must have tramped round the market. Men and women—bold, brazen, merry, indifferent—have passed to their several masters; all the children have gone; the remaining oldsters move round and round, their shuffling gait, downcast eyes, and melancholy looks in pitiful contrast to the bright clothes in which they are dressed for the sale, in order that their own rags may not prejudice purchasers.

Once again the storks from the saint's tomb pass over the market in large wide flight, as though to tell the story of the joy of freedom. It is the time of the evening promenade. The sun is setting rapidly and the sale is nearly at an end.

"Forty-one dollars—forty-one," cries the dilal at whose heels the one young and pretty woman who has not found a buyer limps painfully. She is from the Western Soudan, and her big eyes have a look that reminds me of the hare that was run down by the hounds a few yards from me on the marshes at home in the coursing season.

"Why is the price so low?" I ask.

"She is sick," said the Moor coolly: "she cannot work—perhaps she will not live. Who will give more in such a case? She is of kaid Abdeslam's household, though he bought her a few weeks before his fall, and she must be sold. But the dilal can give no warranty, for nobody knows her sickness. She is one of the slaves who are bought by the dealers for the rock salt of El Djouf."

Happily the woman seems too dull or too ill to feel her own position. She moves as though in a dream—a dream undisturbed, for the buyers have almost ceased to regard her. Finally she is sold for forty-three dollars to a very old and infirm man.

"No slaves, no slaves," says the Atlas Moor impatiently: "and in the town they are slow to raise them." I want an explanation of this strange complaint.

"What do you mean when you say they are slow to raise them," I ask.

"In Marrakesh now," he explains, "dealers buy the healthiest slaves they can find, and raise as many children by them as is possible. Then, so soon as the children are old enough to sell, they are sold, and when the mothers grow old and have no more children, they too are sold, but they do not fetch much then."

This statement takes all words from me, but my informant sees nothing startling in the case, and continues gravely: "From six years old they are sold to be companions, and from twelve they go to the hareems. Prices are good—too high indeed; fifty-four dollars I must have paid this afternoon to purchase one, and when Mulai Mohammed reigned the price would have been twenty, or less, and for that one would have bought fat slaves. Where there is one caravan now, there were ten of old times."

Only three slaves now, and they must go back to their masters to be sent to the market on another day, for the sun is below the horizon, the market almost empty, and the guards will be gathering at the city gates. Two dilals make a last despairing promenade, while their companions are busy recording prices and other details in connection with the afternoon's business. The purchased slaves, the auctioneer's gaudy clothing changed for their own, are being taken to the houses of their masters. We who live within the city walls must hasten now, for the time of gate-closing is upon us, and one may not stay outside.

It has been a great day. Many rich men have attended personally, or by their agents, to compete for the best favoured women of the household of the fallen kaid, and prices in one or two special cases ran beyond forty pounds (English money), so brisk was the bidding.

Outside the market-place a country Moor of the middle class is in charge of four young boy slaves, and is telling a friend what he paid for them. I learn that their price averaged eleven pounds apiece in English currency—two hundred and eighty dollars altogether in Moorish money, that they were all bred in Marrakesh by a dealer who keeps a large establishment of slaves, as one in England might keep a stud farm, and sells the children as they grow up. The purchaser of the quartette is going to take them to the North. He will pass the coming night in a fandak, and leave as soon after daybreak as the gates are opened. Some ten days' travel on foot will bring him to a certain city, where his merchandise should fetch four hundred dollars. The lads do not seem to be disturbed by the sale, or by thoughts of their future, and the dealer himself seems to be as near an approach to a commercial traveller as I have seen in Morocco. To him the whole transaction is on a par with selling eggs or fruit, and while he does not resent my interest, he does not pretend to understand it.

From the minaret that overlooks the mosque the mueddin calls for the evening prayer; from the side of the Kutubia Tower and the minaret of Sidi bel Abbas, as from all the lesser mosques, the cry is taken up. Lepers pass out of the city on their way to Elhara; beggars shuffle off to their dens; storks standing on the flat house-tops survey the familiar scene gravely but with interest. Doubtless the dilals and all who sent their slaves to the market to be sold this afternoon will respond to the mueddins' summons with grateful hearts, and Sidi bel Abbas, patron saint of Red Marrakesh, will hardly go unthanked.


GREEN TEA AND POLITICS


ON THE HOUSE-TOP, MARRAKESH
ON THE HOUSE-TOP, MARRAKESH

CHAPTER VIII

GREEN TEA AND POLITICS

Whither resorting from the vernal Heat
Shall Old Acquaintance Old Acquaintance greet,
Under the Branch that leans above the Wall
To shed his Blossom over head and feet.
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

He was a grave personable Moor of middle age, and full of the dignity that would seem to be the birthright of his race. His official position gave him a certain knowledge of political developments without affecting his serene outlook upon life. Whether he sat outside the Kasbah of his native town and administered the law according to his lights, or, summoned to the capital, rode attended so far as the Dar el Makhzan, there to take his part in a council of the Sultan's advisers, or whether, removed for a time from cares of office, he rested at ease among his cushions as he was doing now, this Moorish gentleman's placid and unruffled features would lead the Western observer to suppose that he was a very simple person with no sort of interest in affairs. I had occasion to know him, however, for a statesman, after the Moorish fashion—a keen if resigned observer of the tragic-comedy of his country's politics, and a pious man withal, who had visited Mecca in the month that is called Shawall, and had cast stones on the hill of Arafat, as the custom is among True Believers. Some years had passed since our first meeting, when I was the bearer of a letter of introduction written by a high official in the intricate Arabic character. It began: "Praise be to God! The blessing of Allah on our Lord Mohammed, and his peace upon Friends and Followers." Irrelevant perhaps all this, but the letter had opened the portals of his house to me, and had let loose for my benefit thoughts not lightly to be expressed.

Now we sat side by side on cushions in his patio, partly shaded by a rose tree that climbed over trellis-work and rioted in bud and blossom. We drank green tea flavoured with mint from tiny glasses that were floridly embossed in gilt. Beyond the patio there was a glimpse of garden ablaze with colour; we could hear slaves singing by the great Persian water-wheel, and the cooing of doves from the shaded heart of trees that screened a granary.

"Since Mulai el Hasan died," said the Hadj quietly, "since that Prince of Believers went to his Pavilion in Paradise, set among rivers in an orchard of never-failing fruit, as is explained in the Most Perspicuous Book,[27] troubles have swept over this land, even as El Jerad, the locust, comes upon it before the west wind has risen to blow him out to sea."

He mused awhile, as though the music of the garden pleased him.

"Even before the time of my Lord el Hasan," he went on, "there had been troubles enough. I can remember the war with Spain, though I was but a boy. My father was among those who fell at Wad Ras on the way to Tanjah of the Nazarenes. But then your country would not permit these Spanish dogs to steal our land, and even lent the money to satisfy and keep them away. This was a kindly deed, and Mulai Mohammed, our Victorious Master, opened his heart to your Bashador[28] and took him to his innermost councils. And I can remember that great Bashador of yours when he came to this city and was received in the square by the Augdal gardens. Our Master the Sultan came before him on a white horse[29] to speak gracious words under the M'dhal, that shades the ruling House.

"A strong man was our Master the Sultan, and he listened carefully to all your Bashador said, still knowing in his heart that this country is not as the land of the Nazarenes, and could not be made like it in haste. His wazeers feared change, the Ulema[30] opposed it so far as they dared, and that you know is very far, and nothing could be done rapidly after the fashion of the West. My Lord understood this well.

"Then that King of the Age and Prince of True Believers fulfilled his destiny and died, and my Lord el Hasan, who was in the South, reigned in his stead.[31] And the troubles that now cover the land began to grow and spread."

He sipped his tea with grave pleasure. Two female slaves were peering at the Infidel through the branches of a lemon tree, just beyond the patio, but when their master dropped his voice the heads disappeared suddenly, as though his words had kept them in place. In the depths of the garden close, Oom el Hasan, the nightingale, awoke and trilled softly. We listened awhile to hear the notes "ring like a golden jewel down a golden stair."

A HOUSE INTERIOR, MARRAKESH
A HOUSE INTERIOR, MARRAKESH

"My Lord el Hasan," continued the Hadj, "was ever on horseback; with him the powder was always speaking. First Fez rejected him, and he carried fire and sword to that rebellious city. Then Er-Riff refused to pay tribute and he enforced it—Allah make his kingdom eternal. Then this ungrateful city rebelled against his rule and the army came south and fed the spikes of the city gate with the heads of the unfaithful. Before he had rested, Fez was insolent once again, and on the road north our Master, the Ever Victorious, was (so to say, as the irreligious see it) defeated by the Illegitimate men from Ghaita, rebels against Allah, all, and his house[32] was carried away. There were more campaigns in the North and in the South, and the Shareefian army ate up the land, so that there was a famine more fatal than war. After that came more fighting, and again more fighting. My lord sought soldiers from your people and from the French, and he went south to the Sus and smote the rebellious kaids from Tarudant to High. So it fell out that my Lord was never at peace with his servants, but the country went on as before, with fighting in the north and the south and the east and the west. The devil ships of the Nazarene nations came again and again to the bay of Tanjah to see if the Prince of the Faithful were indeed dead, as rumour so often stated. But he was strong, my Lord el Hasan, and not easy to kill. In the time of a brief sickness that visited him the French took the oases of Tuat, which belongs to the country just so surely as does this our Marrakesh. They have been from times remote a place of resting for the camels, like Tindouf in the Sus. But our Master recovered his lordship with his health, and the French went back from our land. After that my Lord el Hasan went to Tafilalt over the Atlas, never sparing himself. And when he returned to this city, weary and very sick, at the head of an army that lacked even food and clothing, the Spaniards were at the gates of Er-Riff once more, and the tribes were out like a fire of thorns over the northern roads. But because the span allotted him by destiny was fulfilled, and also because he was worn out and would not rest, my Lord Hasan died near Tadla; and Ba Ahmad, his chief wazeer, hid his death from the soldiers until his son Abd-el-Aziz was proclaimed."

There was a pause here, as though my host were overwhelmed with reflections and was hard driven to give sequence to his narrative. "Our present Lord was young," he continued at last thoughtfully; "he was a very young man, and so Ba Ahmad spoke for him and acted for him, and threw into prison all who might have stood before his face. Also, as was natural, he piled up great stores of gold, and took to his hareem the women he desired, and oppressed the poor and the rich, so that many men cursed him privately. But for all that Ba Ahmad was a wise man and very strong. He saw the might of the French in the East, and of the Bashadors who pollute Tanjah in the North; he remembered the ships that came to the waters in the West, and he knew that the men of these ships want to seize all the foreign lands, until at last they rule the earth even as they rule the sea. Against all the wise men of the Nazarenes who dwell in Tanjah the wazeer fought in the name of the Exalted of God,[33] so that no one of them could settle on this land to take it for himself and break into the bowels of the earth. To be sure, in Wazzan and far in the Eastern country the accursed French grew in strength and in influence, for they gave protection, robbing the Sultan of his subjects. But they took little land, they sent few to Court, the country was ours until the wazeer had fulfilled his destiny and died. Allah pardon him, for he was a man, and ruled this country, as his Master before him, with a rod of very steel."

"But," I objected, "you told me formerly that while he lived no man's life or treasure was safe, that he extorted money from all, that he ground the faces of the rich and the poor, that when he died in this city, the Marrakshis said 'A dog is dead.' How now can you find words to praise him?"

"The people cry out," explained the Hadj calmly; "they complain, but they obey. In the Moghreb it is for the people to be ruled as it is for the rulers to govern. Shall the hammers cease to strike because the anvil cries out? Truly the prisons of my Lord Abd-el-Aziz were full while Ba Ahmad ruled, but all who remained outside obeyed the law. No man can avoid his fate, even my Lord el Hasan, a fighter all the days of his life, loved peace and hated war. But his destiny was appointed with his birth, and he, the peaceful one, drove men yoked neck and neck to fight for him, even a whole tribe of the rebellious, as these eyes have seen. While Ba Ahmad ruled from Marrakesh all the Moghreb trembled, but the roads were safe, as in the days of Mulai Ismail,—may God have pardoned him,—the land knew quiet seasons of sowing and reaping, the expeditions were but few, and it is better for a country like ours that many should suffer than that none should be at rest."

I remained silent, conscious that I could not hope to see life through my host's medium. It was as though we looked at his garden through glasses of different colour. And perhaps neither of us saw the real truth of the problem underlying what we are pleased to call the Moorish Question.

A GLIMPSE OF THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
A GLIMPSE OF THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS

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

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

                                                                                 
                                                                                                 
                                                                                               -7- SUITE
atures—quite childlike in many of their peculiarities.
A BAZAAR, MARRAKESH
A BAZAAR, MARRAKESH

The desert caravan trade is not what it was since the French occupied Timbuctoo and closed the oases of Tuat; but I saw some caravans arrive from the interior—one of them from the sandy region where Mons. Lebaudy has set up his kingdom. How happy men and beasts seemed to be. I never saw camels looking so contented: the customary sneer had passed from their faces—or accumulated dust had blotted it out. On the day when the market is held in the open place beyond the Bab al Khamees, there is another big gathering within the city walls by the Jamáa Effina. Here acrobats and snake-charmers and story-tellers ply their trade, and never fail to find an audience. The acrobats come from Tarudant and another large city of the Sus that is not marked in the British War Office Map of Morocco dated 1889! Occasionally one of these clever tumblers finds his way to London, and is seen at the music halls there.

I remember calling on one Hadj Abdullah when I was in the North, and to my surprise he told me he spoke English, French, German, Spanish, Turkish, Moghrebbin Arabic, and Shilha. "I know London well," he said; "I have an engagement to bring my troupe of acrobats to the Canterbury and the Oxford. I am a member of a Masonic Lodge in Camberwell." Commonplace enough all this, but when you have ridden out of town to a little Moorish house on the hillside overlooking the Mediterranean, and are drinking green tea flavoured with mint, on a diwan that must be used with crossed legs, you hardly expect the discussion to be turned to London music-halls.

Snake-charmers make a strong appeal to the untutored Moorish crowd. Black cobras and spotted leffa snakes from the Sus are used for the performance. When the charmer allows the snakes to dart at him or even to bite, the onlookers put their hands to their foreheads and praise Sidi ben Aissa, a saint who lived in Mequinez when Mulai Ismail ruled, a pious magician whose power stands even to-day between snake-charmers and sudden death. The musician who accompanies the chief performer, and collects the floos offered by spectators, works his companion into a condition of frenzy until he does not seem to feel the teeth of the snakes; but as people who should be well informed declare that the poison bags are always removed before the snakes are used for exhibition, it is hard for the mere Unbeliever to render to Sidi ben Aissa the exact amount of credit that may be due to him.

A BRICKFIELD, MARRAKESH
A BRICKFIELD, MARRAKESH

The story-teller, whose legends are to be found in the "Thousand Nights and a Night," is generally a merry rogue with ready wit. His tales are told with a wealth of detail that would place them upon the index expurgatorius of the Western world, but men, women, and children crowd round to hear them, and if his tale lacks the ingredients most desired they do not hesitate to tell him so, whereupon he will respond at once to his critics, and add love or war in accordance with their instructions. One has heard of something like this in the serial market at home. His reward is scanty, like that of his fellow-workers, the acrobat and the snake charmer, but he has quite a professional manner, and stops at the most exciting points in his narrative for his companion to make a tour of the circle to collect fees. The quality of the adventures he retails is settled always by the price paid for them.

It is a strange sight, and unpleasant to the European, who believes that his morality, like his faith, is the only genuine article, to see young girls with antimony on their eyelids and henna on their nails, listening to stories that only the late Sir Richard Burton dared to render literally into the English tongue. While these children are young and impressionable they are allowed to run wild, but from the day when they become self-conscious they are strictly secluded.

Throughout Marrakesh one notes a spirit of industry. If a man has work, he seems to be happy and well content. Most traders are very courteous and gentle in their dealings, and many have a sense of humour that cannot fail to please. While in the city I ordered one or two lamps from a workman who had a little shop in the Madinah. He asked for three days, and on the evening of the third day I went to fetch them, in company with Salam. The workman, who had made them himself, drew the lamps one by one from a dark corner, and Salam, who has a hawk's eye, noticed that the glass of one was slightly cracked.

"Have a care, O Father of Lamps," he said; "the Englishman will not take a cracked glass."

"What is this," cried the Lamps' Father in great anger, "who sells cracked lamps? If there is a flaw in one of mine, ask me for two dollars."

Salam held the lamp with cracked glass up against the light. "Two dollars," he said briefly. The tradesman's face fell. He put his tongue out and smote it with his open hand.

"Ah," he said mournfully, when he had admonished the unruly member, "who can set a curb upon the tongue?"[26]

FOOTNOTES:

[24] Mulai Rashed II.

[25] The royal umbrella.

[26] Cf. James iii. 8. But for a mere matter of dates, one would imagine that Luther detected the taint of Islam in James when he rejected his Epistle.


THE SLAVE MARKET AT MARRAKESH


A MOSQUE, MARRAKESH
A MOSQUE, MARRAKESH

CHAPTER VII

THE SLAVE MARKET AT MARRAKESH

As to your slaves, see that ye feed them with such food as ye eat yourselves, and clothe them with the stuff ye wear. And if they commit a fault which ye are not willing to forgive, then sell them, for they are the servants of Allah, and are not to be tormented.

Mohammed's last Address.

In the bazaars of the brass-workers and dealers in cotton goods, in the bazaars of the saddlers and of the leather-sellers,—in short, throughout the Kaisariyah, where the most important trade of Marrakesh is carried on,—the auctions of the afternoon are drawing to a close. The dilals have carried goods to and fro in a narrow path between two lines of True Believers, obtaining the best prices possible on behalf of the dignified merchants, who sit gravely in their boxlike shops beyond the reach of toil. No merchant seeks custom: he leaves the auctioneers to sell for him on commission, while he sits at ease, a stranger to elation or disappointment, in the knowledge that the success or failure of the day's market is decreed. Many articles have changed hands, but there is now a greater attraction for men with money outside the limited area of the Kaisariyah, and I think the traffic here passes before its time.

The hour of the sunset prayer is approaching. The wealthier members of the community leave many attractive bargains unpursued, and, heedless of the dilals' frenzied cries, set out for the Sok el Abeed. Wool market in the morning and afternoon, it becomes the slave market on three days of the week, in the two hours that precede the setting of the sun and the closing of the city gates; this is the rule that holds in Red Marrakesh.

I follow the business leaders through a very labyrinth of narrow, unpaved streets, roofed here and there with frayed and tattered palmetto-leaves that offer some protection, albeit a scanty one, against the blazing sun. At one of the corners where the beggars congregate and call for alms in the name of Mulai Abd el Kader Ijjilalli, I catch a glimpse of the great Kutubia tower, with pigeons circling round its glittering dome, and then the maze of streets, shutting out the view, claims me again. The path is by way of shops containing every sort of merchandise known to Moors, and of stalls of fruit and vegetables, grateful "as water-grass to herds in the June days." Past a turning in the crowded thoroughfare, where many Southern tribesmen are assembled, and heavily-laden camels compel pedestrians to go warily, the gate of the slave market looms portentous.

A crowd of penniless idlers, to whom admittance is denied, clamours outside the heavy door, while the city urchins fight for the privilege of holding the mules of wealthy Moors, who are arriving in large numbers in response to the report that the household of a great wazeer, recently disgraced, will be offered for sale. One sees portly men of the city wearing the blue cloth selhams that bespeak wealth, country Moors who boast less costly garments, but ride mules of easy pace and heavy price, and one or two high officials of the Dar el Makhzan. All classes of the wealthy are arriving rapidly, for the sale will open in a quarter of an hour.

The portals passed, unchallenged, the market stands revealed—an open space of bare, dry ground, hemmed round with tapia walls, dust-coloured, crumbling, ruinous. Something like an arcade stretches across the centre of the ground from one side to the other of the market. Roofless now and broken down, as is the outer wall itself, and the sheds, like cattle pens, that are built all round, it was doubtless an imposing structure in days of old. Behind the outer walls the town rises on every side. I see mules and donkeys feeding, apparently on the ramparts, but really in a fandak overlooking the market. The minaret of a mosque rises nobly beside the mules' feeding-ground, and beyond there is the white tomb of a saint, with swaying palm trees round it. Doubtless this zowia gives the Sok el Abeed a sanctity that no procedure within its walls can besmirch; and, to be sure, the laws of the saint's religion are not so much outraged here as in the daily life of many places more sanctified by popular opinion.

On the ground, by the side of the human cattle pens, the wealthy patrons of the market seat themselves at their ease, arrange their djellabas and selhams in leisurely fashion, and begin to chat, as though the place were the smoking-room of a club. Water-carriers—lean, half-naked men from the Sus—sprinkle the thirsty ground, that the tramp of slaves and auctioneers may not raise too much dust. Watching them as they go about their work, with the apathy born of custom and experience, I have a sudden reminder of the Spanish bull-ring, to which the slave market bears some remote resemblance. The gathering of spectators, the watering of the ground, the sense of excitement, all strengthen the impression. There are no bulls in the torils, but there are slaves in the pens. It may be that the bulls have the better time. Their sufferings in life are certainly brief, and their careless days are very long drawn out. But I would not give the impression that the spectators here are assembled for amusement, or that my view of some of their proceedings would be comprehensible to them. However I may feel, the other occupants of this place are here in the ordinary course of business, and are certainly animated by no such fierce passions as thrill through the air of a plaza de toros. I am in the East but of the West, and "never the twain shall meet."

A WATER-SELLER, MARRAKESH
A WATER-SELLER, MARRAKESH
Within their sheds the slaves are huddled together. They will not face the light until the market

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

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

                   

CHAPTER VI

ROUND ABOUT MARRAKESH

"Speaking of thee comforts me, and thinking of thee makes me glad."

Râod el Kartas.

The charm of Marrakesh comes slowly to the traveller, but it stays with him always, and colours his impressions of such other cities as may attract his wandering footsteps. So soon as he has left the plains behind on his way to the coast, the town's defects are relegated to the background of the picture his memory paints. He forgets the dirty lanes that serve for roads, the heaps of refuse at every corner, the pariah curs that howled or snapped at his horse's heels when he rode abroad, the roughness and discomfort of the accommodation, the poverty and disease that everywhere went hand in hand around him.

But he remembers and always will remember the city in its picturesque aspects. How can he forget Moorish hospitality, so lavishly exercised in patios where the hands of architect and gardener meet—those delightful gatherings of friends whose surroundings are recalled when he sees, even in the world of the West—

Groups under the dreaming garden trees,
And the full moon, and the white evening star.

He will never forget the Kutubia tower flanking the mosque of the Library, with its three glittering balls that are solid gold, if you care to believe the Moors (and who should know better!), though the European authorities declare they are but gilded copper. He will hear, across all intervening sea and lands, the sonorous voices of the three blind mueddins who call True Believers to prayer from the adjacent minarets. By the side of the tower, that is a landmark almost from R'hamna's far corner to the Atlas Mountains, Yusuf ibn Tachfin, who built Marrakesh, enjoys his long, last sleep in a grave unnoticed and unhonoured by the crowds of men from strange, far-off lands, who pass it every day. Yet, if the conqueror of Fez and troubler of Spain could rise from nine centuries of rest, he would find but little change in the city he set on the red plain in the shadow of the mountains. The walls of his creation remain: even the broken bridge over the river dates, men say, from his time, and certainly the faith and works of the people have not altered greatly. Caravans still fetch and carry from Fez in the north to Timbuctoo and the banks of the Niger, or reach the Bab-er-rubb with gold and ivory and slaves from the eastern oases, that France has almost sealed up. The saints' houses are there still, though the old have yielded to the new. Storks are privileged, as from earliest times, to build on the flat roofs of the city houses, and, therefore, are still besought by amorous natives to carry love's greeting to the women who take their airing on the house-tops in the afternoon. Berber from the highlands; black man from the Draa; wiry, lean, enduring trader from Tarudant and other cities of the Sus; patient frugal Saharowi from the sea of sand,—no one of them has altered greatly since the days of the renowned Yusuf. And who but he among the men who built great cities in days before Saxon and Norman had met at Senlac, could look to find his work so little scarred by time, or disguised by change? Twelve miles of rampart surround the city still, if we include the walls that guard the Sultan's maze garden, and seven of the many gates Ibn Tachfin knew are swung open to the dawn of each day now.

After the Library mosque, with its commanding tower and modest yet memorable tomb, the traveller remembers the Sultan's palace, white-walled, green-tiled, vast, imposing; and the lesser mosque of Sidi bel Abbas, to whom the beggars pray, for it is said of him that he knew God. The city's hospital stands beside this good man's grave. And here one pays tribute also to great Mulai Abd el Kader Ijjilalli, yet another saint whose name is very piously invoked among the poor. The mosque by the Dukala gate is worthy of note, and earns the salutation of all who come by way of R'hamna to Marrakesh. The Kaisariyah lingers in the memory, and on hot days in the plains, when shade is far to seek, one recalls a fine fountain with the legend "drink and admire," where the water-carriers fill their goat-skins and all beggars congregate during the hours of fire.

The Mellah, in which the town Jews live, is reached by way of the Olive Garden. It is the dirtiest part of Marrakesh, and, all things considered, the least interesting. The lanes that run between its high walls are full of indescribable filth; comparison with them makes the streets of Madinah and Kasbah almost clean. One result of the dirt is seen in the prevalence of a very virulent ophthalmia, from which three out of four of the Mellah's inhabitants seem to suffer, slightly or seriously. Few adults appear to take exercise, unless they are called abroad to trade, and when business is in a bad way the misery is very real indeed. A skilled workman is pleased to earn the native equivalent of fourteenpence for a day's labour, beginning at sunrise, and on this miserable pittance he can support a wife and family. Low wages and poor living, added to centuries of oppression, have made the Morocco Jew of the towns a pitiable creature; but on the hills, particularly among the Atlas villages, the People of the Book are healthy, athletic, and resourceful, able to use hands as well as head, and the trusted intermediary between Berber hillman and town Moor.

A GATEWAY, MARRAKESH
A GATEWAY, MARRAKESH

Being of the ancient race myself, I was received in several of the show-houses of the Mellah—places whose splendid interiors were not at all suggested by the squalid surroundings in which they were set. This is typical to some extent of all houses in Morocco, even in the coast towns, and greatly misleads the globe-trotter. There was a fine carving and colouring in many rooms, but the European furniture was, for the most part, wrongly used, and at best grotesquely out of place. Hygiene has not passed within the Mellah's walls, but a certain amount of Western tawdriness has. Patriarchal Jews of good stature and commanding presence had their dignity hopelessly spoilt by the big blue spotted handkerchief worn over the head and tied under the chin; Jewesses in rich apparel seemed quite content with the fineness within their houses, and indifferent to the mire of the streets.

I visited three synagogues, one in a private house. The approaches were in every case disgusting, but the synagogues themselves were well kept, very old, and decorated with rare and curious memorial lamps, kept alight for the dead through the year of mourning. The benches were of wood, with straw mats for cover; there was no place for women, and the seats themselves seemed to be set down without attempt at arrangement. The brasswork was old and fine, the scrolls of the Law were very ancient, but there was no sign of wealth, and little decoration. In the courtyard of the chief synagogue I found school-work in progress. Half a hundred intelligent youngsters were repeating the master's words, just as Mohammedan boys were doing in the Madinah, but even among these little ones ophthalmia was playing havoc, and doubtless the disease would pass from the unsound to the sound. Cleanliness would stamp out this trouble in a very little time, and preserve healthy children from infection. Unfortunately, the administration of this Mellah is exceedingly bad, and there is no reason to believe that it will improve.

When the Elevated Court is at Marrakesh the demand for work helps the Jewish quarter to thrive, but since the Sultan went to Fez the heads of the Mellah seem to be reluctant to lay out even a few shillings daily to have the place kept clean. There are no statistics to tell the price that is paid in human life for this shocking neglect of the elementary decencies, but it must be a heavy one.

Business premises seem clean enough, though the approach to them could hardly be less inviting. You enter a big courtyard, and, if wise, remain on your horse until well clear of the street. The courtyard is wide and cared for, an enlarged edition of a patio, with big store-rooms on either side and stabling or a granary. Here also is a bureau, in which the master sits in receipt of custom, and deals in green tea that has come from India via England, and white sugar in big loaves, and coffee and other merchandise. He is buyer and seller at once, now dealing with a native who wants tea, and now with an Atlas Jew who has an ouadad skin or a rug to sell; now talking Shilha, the language of the Berbers, now the Moghrebbin Arabic of the Moors, and again debased Spanish or Hebrew with his own brethren. He has a watchful eye for all the developments that the day may bring, and while attending to buyer or seller can take note of all his servants are doing at the stores, and what is going out or coming in. Your merchant of the better class has commercial relations with Manchester or Liverpool; he has visited England and France; perhaps some olive-skinned, black-eyed boy of his has been sent to an English school to get the wider views of life and faith, and return to the Mellah to shock his father with both, and to be shocked in turn by much in the home life that passed uncriticised before. These things lead to domestic tragedies at times, and yet neither son nor father is quite to blame.

The best class of Jew in the Mellah has ideas and ideals, but outside the conduct of his business he lacks initiative. He believes most firmly in the future of the Jewish race, the ultimate return to Palestine, the advent of the Messiah. Immersed in these beliefs, he does not see dirt collecting in the streets and killing little children with the diseases it engenders. Gradually the grime settles on his faith too, and he loses sight of everything save commercial ends and the observances that orthodoxy demands. His, one fears, is a quite hopeless case. The attention of philanthropy might well turn to the little ones, however. For their sake some of the material benefits of modern knowledge should be brought to Jewry in Marrakesh. Schools are excellent, but children cannot live by school learning alone.

Going from the Mellah one morning I saw a strange sight. By the entrance to the salted place there is a piece of bare ground stretching to the wall. Here sundry young Jews in black djellabas sat at their ease, their long hair curled over their ears, and black caps on their heads in place of the handkerchiefs favoured by the elders of the community. One or two women were coming from the Jewish market, their bright dresses and uncovered faces a pleasing contrast to the white robes and featureless aspect of the Moorish women. A little Moorish boy, seeing me regard them with interest, remarked solemnly, "There go those who will never look upon the face of God's prophet," and then a shareef, whose portion in Paradise was of course reserved to him by reason of his high descent, rode into the open ground from the Madinah. I regret to record the fact that the holy man was drunk, whether upon haschisch or the strong waters of the infidel, I know not, and to all outward seeming his holiness alone sufficed to keep him on the back of the spirited horse he bestrode. He went very near to upsetting a store of fresh vegetables belonging to a True Believer, and then nearly crushed an old man against the wall. He raised his voice, but not to pray, and the people round him were in sore perplexity. He was too holy to remove by force and too drunk to persuade, so the crowd, realising that he was divinely directed, raised a sudden shout. This served. The hot-blooded Barb made a rush for the arcade leading to the Madinah and carried the drunken saint with him, cursing at the top of his voice, but sticking to his unwieldy saddle in manner that was admirable and truly Moorish. If he had not been holy he would have been torn from his horse, and, in native speech, would have "eaten the stick," for drunkenness is a grave offence in orthodox Morocco.

A COURTYARD, MARRAKESH
A COURTYARD, MARRAKESH

They have a short way with offenders in Moorish cities. I remember seeing a man brought to the Kasbah of a northern town on a charge of using false measures. The case was held proven by the khalifa; the culprit was stripped to the waist, mounted on a lame donkey, and driven through the streets, while two stalwart soldiers, armed with sticks, beat him until he dropped to the ground. He was picked up more dead than alive, and thrown into prison.

There are two sorts of market in Marrakesh—the open market outside the walls, and the auction market in the Kaisariyah. The latter opens in the afternoon, by which time every little boxlike shop is tenanted by its proprietor. How he climbs into his place without upsetting his stores, and how, arrived there, he can sit for hours without cramp, are questions I have never been able to answer, though I have watched him scores of times. He comes late in the day to his shop, lets down one of the covering flaps, and takes his seat by the step inside it. The other flap has been raised and is kept up by a stick. Seated comfortably, he looks with dispassionate eye upon the gathering stream of life before him, and waits contentedly until it shall please Allah the One to send custom. Sometimes he occupies his time by reading in the Perspicuous Book; on rare occasions he will leave his little nest and make dignified way to the shop of an adool or scribe, who reads pious writings to a select company of devotees. In this way the morning passes, and in the afternoon the mart becomes crowded, country Moors riding right up to the entrance chains, and leaving their mules in the charge of slaves who have accompanied them on foot. Town buyers and country buyers, with a miscellaneous gathering of tribesmen from far-off districts, fill the bazaar, and then the merchants hand certain goods to dilals, as the auctioneers are called. The crowd divides on either side of the bazaar, leaving a narrow lane down the centre, and the dilals rush up and down with their wares,—linen, cotton and silk goods, carpets, skins or brassware, native daggers and pistols, saddles and saddle-cloths. The goods vary in every bazaar. The dilal announces the last price offered; a man who wishes to buy must raise it, and, if none will go better, he secures the bargain. A commission on all goods sold is taken at the door of the market by the municipal authorities. I notice on these afternoons the different aspects of the three classes represented in the bazaar. Shopkeepers and the officials by the gate display no interest at all in the proceedings: they might be miles from the scene, so far as their attitude is a clue. The dilals, on the other hand, are in furious earnest. They run up and down the narrow gangway proclaiming the last price at the top of their voices, thrusting the goods eagerly into the hands of possible purchasers, and always remembering the face and position of the man who made the last bid. They have a small commission on the price of everything sold, and assuredly they earn their wage. In contrast with the attitudes of both shopkeepers and auctioneers, the general public is inclined to regard the bazaar as a place of entertainment. Beggar lads, whose scanty rags constitute their sole possession, chaff the excited dilals, keeping carefully out of harm's way the while. Three-fourths of the people present are there to idle the afternoon hours, with no intention of making a purchase unless some unexpected bargain crosses their path. I notice that the dilals secure several of these doubtful purchasers by dint of fluent and eloquent appeals. When the last article has been sold and the crowd is dispersing, merchants arise, praise Allah, who in his wisdom sends good days and bad, step out of their shop, let down one flap and raise the other, lock the two with a huge key and retire to their homes.

I remember asking a Moor to explain why the Jews were so ill-treated and despised all over Morocco. The worthy man explained that the Koran declares that no True Believer might take Jew or Christian to be his friend, that the Veracious Book also assures the Faithful that Jews will be turned to pigs or monkeys for their unbelief, and that the metamorphosis will be painful. "Moreover," said the True Believer, who did not know that I was of the despised race, "do you not know that one of these cursed people tried to seize the throne in the time of the great Tafilatta?"

I pleaded ignorance.

"Do you not know the Feast of Scribes, that is held in Marrakesh and Fez?" he asked.

Again I had to make confession that, though I had heard about the Feast, I had never witnessed it.

"Only Allah is omniscient," he said by way of consolation. "Doubtless there are some small matters known to Nazarenes and withheld from us—strange though that may seem to the thoughtful.

"In the name of the Most Merciful—know that there was a ruler in Taza before Mulai Ismail—Prince of the Faithful, he who overcame in the name of God—reigned in the land. Now this ruler[24] had a Jew for wazeer. When it pleased Allah to take the Sultan and set him in the pavilion of Mother of Pearl appointed for him in Paradise, in the shadow of the Tuba tree, this Jew hid his death from the people until he could seize the throne of Taza for himself and ride out under the M'dhal.[25] Then Mulai Ismail protested to the people, and the Tolba (scribes) arranged to remove the reproach from the land. So they collected forty of their bravest men and packed them in boxes—one man in a box. They put two boxes on a mule and drove the twenty mules to the courtyard of the palace that the Jew had taken for himself. The man in charge of the mules declared he had a present for the Sultan, and the Unbeliever, whose grave was to be the meeting-place of all the dogs of Taza, gave orders that the boxes should be brought in and set before him. This was done, and the cursed Jew prepared to gloat over rich treasure. But as each box was opened a talib rose suddenly, a naked sword in his hand, and falling bravely upon the unbelieving one, cut his body to pieces, while Shaitan hurried his soul to the furnace that is seven times heated and shall never cool.

WELL IN MARRAKESH
WELL IN MARRAKESH

"Then the Father of the Faithful, the Ever Victorious," continued the True Believer, "decreed that the tolba should have a festival. And every year they meet in Marrakesh and Fez, and choose a talib who is to rule over them. The post is put up to auction; he who bids highest is Sultan for a week. He rides abroad on a fine horse or mule, under a M'dhal, as though he were indeed My Lord Abd-el-Aziz himself. Black slaves on either side brush away the flies with their white clothes, soldiers await to do his bidding, he is permitted to make a request to the true Sultan, and our Master has open ear and full hand for the tolba, who kept the Moghreb from the Unbelievers, the inheritors of the Fire, against whom Sidna Mohammed has turned his face."

I arrived in Marrakesh just too late to witness the reign of the talib, but I heard that the successful candidate had paid thirty-two dollars for the post—a trifle less than five pounds in our money, at the rate of exchange then current. This money had been divided among the tolba. The governor of Marrakesh had given the lucky king one hundred dollars in cash, thirty sheep, twenty-five cones of sugar, forty jars of butter, and several sacks of flour. This procedure is peculiar to the Southern capital. In Fez the tolba kings collect taxes in person from every householder.

The talib's petition to the Sultan had been framed on a very liberal scale. He asked for a home in Saffi, exemption from taxes, and a place in the custom-house. The Sultan had not responded to the petition when I left the city; he was closely beleaguered in Fez, and Bu Hamara was occupying Taza, the ancient city where the deed of the tolba had first instituted the quaint custom. My informant said there was little doubt but that his Shareefian majesty would grant all the requests, so the talib's investment of thirty-two dollars must be deemed highly profitable. At the same time I cannot find the story I was told confirmed by Moorish historians. No record to which I have had access tells of a Jewish king of Taza, though there was a Hebrew in high favour there in the time of Rasheed II. The details of the story told me are, as the American scribe said, probably attributable to Mr. Benjamin Trovato.

When the attractions of Kaisariyah palled, the markets beyond the walls never failed to revive interest in the city's life. The Thursday market outside the Bab al Khamees brought together a very wonderful crowd of men and goods. All the city's trade in horses, camels, and cattle was done here. The caravan traders bought or hired their camels, and there were fine animals for sale with one fore and one hind leg hobbled, to keep them from straying. The camels were always the most interesting beasts on view. For the most part their attendants were Saharowi, who could control them seemingly by voice or movement of the hand; but a camel needs no little care, particularly at feeding time, when he is apt to turn spiteful if precedence be given to an animal he does not like. They are marvellously touchy and fastidious creatures—quite childlike in many of their peculiarities.

A BAZAAR, MARRAKESH
A BAZAAR, MARRAKESH
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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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A VILLAGE AT DUKALA

I could do no more than deliver messages of consolation to the poor tribesmen, who sat in a semicircle, patient in the quivering heat. The old story of goodwill and inability had to be told again, and I never saw men more dejected. At the moment of leave-taking, however, I remembered that we had some empty mineral-water bottles and a large collection of gunmaker's circulars, that had been used as padding for a case of cartridges. So I distributed the circulars and empty bottles among the protection hunters, and they received them with wonder and delight. When I turned to take a last look round, the pages that had pictures of guns were being passed reverently from hand to hand; to outward seeming the farmers had forgotten their trouble. Thus easily may kindnesses be wrought among the truly simple of this world.

The market of Sidi B'noor is famous for its sales of slaves and horses,[15] but I remember it best by its swarm of blue rock-pigeons and sparrow-hawks, that seemed to live side by side in the walls surrounding the saint's white tomb. For reasons best known to themselves they lived without quarrelling, perhaps because the saint was a man of peace. Surely a sparrow-hawk in our island would not build his nest and live in perfect amity with pigeons. But, as is well known, the influence of the saintly endures after the flesh of the saint has returned to the dust whence it came.

The difference between Dukala and R'hamna, two adjacent provinces, is very marked. All that the first enjoys the second lacks. We left the fertile lands for great stony plains, wind-swept, bare and dry. Skeletons of camels, mules, and donkeys told their story of past sufferings, and the water supply was as scanty as the herbage upon which the R'hamna flocks fare so poorly. In place of prosperous douars, set in orchards amid rich arable land, there were Government n'zalas at long intervals in the waste, with wattled huts, and lean, hungry tribesmen, whose poverty was as plain to see as their ribs. Neither Basha nor Kaid could well grow fat now in such a place, and yet there was a time when R'hamna was a thriving province after its kind. But it had a warlike people and fierce, to whom the temptation of plundering the caravans that made their way to the Southern capital was irresistible. So the Court Elevated by Allah, taking advantage of a brief interval of peace, turned its forces loose against R'hamna early in the last decade of the nineteenth century. From end to end of its plains the powder "spoke," and the burning douars lighted the roads that their owners had plundered so often. Neither old nor young were spared, and great basketsful of human heads were sent to Red Marrakesh, to be spiked upon the wall by the J'maa Effina. When the desolation was complete from end to end of the province, the Shareefian troops were withdrawn, the few remaining folk of R'hamna were sent north and south to other provinces, the n'zalas were established in place of the forgotten douars, and the Elevated Court knew that there would be no more complaints. That was Mulai el Hassan's method of ruling—may Allah have pardoned him—and his grand wazeer's after him. It is perhaps the only method that is truly understood by the people in Morocco. R'hamna reminded me of the wildest and bleakest parts of Palestine, and when the Maalem said solemnly it was tenanted by djinoon since the insurrection, I felt he must certainly be right.

One evening we met an interesting procession. An old farmer was making his way from the jurisdiction of the local kaid. His "house" consisted of two wives and three children. A camel, whose sneering contempt for mankind was very noticeable, shuffled cumbrously beneath a very heavy load of mattresses, looms, rugs, copper kettles, sacks of corn, and other impedimenta. The wives, veiled to the eyes, rode on mules, each carrying a young child; the third child, a boy, walked by his father's side. The barley harvest had not been good in their part of the country, so after selling what he could, the old man had packed his goods on to the camel's back and was flying from the tax-gatherer. To be sure, he might meet robbers on the way to the province of M'touga, which was his destination, but they would do no more than the kaid of his own district; they might even do less. He had been many days upon the road, and was quaintly hopeful. I could not help thinking of prosperous men one meets at home, who declare, in the intervals of a costly dinner, that the Income Tax is an imposition that justifies the strongest protest, even to the point of repudiating the Government that puts it up by twopence in the pound. Had anybody been able to assure this old wanderer that his kaid or khalifa would be content with half the produce of his land, how cheerfully would he have returned to his native douar, how readily he would have—devised plans to avoid payment. A little later the track would be trodden by other families, moving, like the true Bedouins, in search of fresh pasture. It is the habit of the country to leave land to lie fallow when it has yielded a few crops.

There were days when the mirage did for the plain the work that man had neglected. It set great cities on the waste land as though for our sole benefit. I saw walls and battlements, stately mosques, cool gardens, and rivers where caravans of camels halted for rest and water. Several times we were deceived and hurried on, only to find that the wonder city, like the ignis fatuus of our own marshlands, receded as we approached and finally melted away altogether. Then the Maalem, after taking refuge with Allah from Satan the Stoned, who set false cities before the eyes of tired travellers, would revile the mules and horses for needing a mirage to urge them on the way; he would insult the fair fame of their mothers and swear that their sires were such beasts as no Believer would bestride. It is a fact that when the Maalem lashed our animals with his tongue they made haste to improve their pace, if only for a few minutes, and Salam, listening with an expression of some concern at the sad family history of the beasts—he had a stinging tongue for oaths himself—assured me that their sense of shame hurried them on. Certainly no sense of shame, or duty, or even compassion, ever moved the Maalem. By night he would repair to the kitchen tent and smoke kief or eat haschisch, but the troubles of preparing beds and supper did not worry him.

THE APPROACH TO MARRAKESH
THE APPROACH TO MARRAKESH

"Until the feast is prepared, why summon the guest," he said on a night when the worthy M'Barak, opening his lips for once, remonstrated with him. That evening the feast consisted of some soup made from meat tablets, and two chickens purchased for elevenpence the pair, of a market woman we met on the road. Yet if it was not the feast the Maalem's fancy painted it, our long hours in the open air had served to make it more pleasant than many a more elaborate meal.

We rode one morning through the valley of the Little Hills, once a place of unrest notorious by reason of several murders committed there, and deserted now by everything save a few birds of prey. There were gloomy rocks on all sides, the dry bed of a forgotten river offered us an uncomfortable and often perilous path, and we passed several cairns of small stones. The Maalem left his mule in order to pick up stones and add one to each cairn, and as he did so he cursed Satan with great fluency.[16]

It was a great relief to leave the Little Hills and emerge on to the plains of Hillreeli beyond. We had not far to go then before the view opened out, the haze in the far distance took faint shape of a city surrounded by a forest of palms on the western side, a great town with the minarets of many mosques rising from it. At this first view of Red Marrakesh, Salam, the Maalem, and M'Barak extolled Allah, who had renewed to them the sight of Yusuf ibn Tachfin's thousand-year-old city. Then they praised Sidi bel Abbas, the city's patron saint, who by reason of his love for righteous deeds stood on one leg for forty years, praying diligently all the time.

We each and all rendered praise and thanks after our separate fashions, and for me, I lit my last cigarette, careless of the future and well pleased.

FOOTNOTES:

[13] As the gnat settles he cries, "Habibi," i.e. "O my beloved." His, one fears, is but a carnal affection.

[14] I.e. Wives and children, to whom no Moor refers by name.

[15] It is said to be the largest market in the Sultan's dominions. As many as two thousand camels have been counted at one of the weekly gatherings here.

[16] The cairns are met frequently in Morocco. Some mark the place from which the traveller may obtain his first view of a near city; others are raised to show where a murder was committed. The cairns in the Little Hills are of the former kind.


IN RED MARRAKESH


DATE PALMS NEAR MARRAKESH
DATE PALMS NEAR MARRAKESH

CHAPTER V

IN RED MARRAKESH

Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai,
Whose portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultán after Sultán with his pomp
Abode his destined hour and went his way.
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

There are certain cities that cannot be approached for the first time by any sympathetic traveller without a sense of solemnity and reverence that is not far removed from awe. Athens, Rome, Constantinople, Damascus, and Jerusalem may be cited as examples; each in its turn has filled me with great wonder and deep joy. But all of these are to be reached nowadays by the railway, that great modern purge of sensibility. Even Jerusalem is not exempt. A single line stretches from Jaffa by the sea to the very gates of the Holy City, playing hide-and-seek among the mountains of Judæa by the way, because the Turk was too poor to tunnel a direct path.

In Morocco, on the other hand, the railway is still unknown. He who seeks any of the country's inland cities must take horse or mule, camel or donkey, or, as a last resource, be content with a staff to aid him, and walk. Whether he fare to Fez, the city of Mulai Idrees, in which, an old writer assures us, "all the beauties of the earth are united"; or to Mequinez, where great Mulai Ismail kept a stream of human blood flowing constantly from his palace that all might know he ruled; or to Red Marrakesh, which Yusuf ibn Tachfin built nine hundred years ago,—his own exertion must convoy him. There must be days and nights of scant fare and small comfort, with all those hundred and one happenings of the road that make for pleasant memories. So far as I have been able to gather in the nine years that have passed since I first visited Morocco, one road is like another road, unless you have the Moghrebbin Arabic at your command and can go off the beaten track in Moorish dress. Walter Harris, the resourceful traveller and Times correspondent, did this when he sought the oases of Tafilalt, so also, in his fashion, did R.B. Cunninghame Graham when he tried in vain to reach Tarudant, and set out the record of his failure in one of the most fascinating travel books published since Eothen.[17]

For the rank and file of us the Government roads and the harmless necessary soldier must suffice, until the Gordian knot of Morocco's future has been untied or cut. Then perhaps, as a result of French pacific penetration, flying railway trains loaded with tourists, guide-book in hand and camera at the ready, will pierce the secret places of the land, and men will speak of "doing" Morocco, as they "do" other countries in their rush across the world, seeing all the stereotyped sights and appreciating none. For the present, by Allah's grace, matters are quite otherwise.

Marrakesh unfolded its beauties to us slowly and one by one as we pushed horses and mules into a canter over the level plains of Hillreeli. Forests of date-palm took definite shape; certain mosques, those of Sidi ben Yusuf and Bab Dukala, stood out clearly before us without the aid of glasses, but the Library mosque dominated the landscape by reason of the Kutubia tower by its side. The Atlas Mountains came out of the clouds and revealed the snows that would soon melt and set every southern river aflood, and then the town began to show limits to the east and west where, at first, there was nothing but haze. One or two caravans passed us, northward bound, their leaders hoping against hope that the Pretender, the "dog-descended," as a Susi trader called him, would not stand between them and the Sultan's camp, where the profits of the journey lay. By this time we could see the old grey wall of Marrakesh more plainly, with towers here and there, ruinous as the wall itself, and storks' nests on the battlements, their red-legged inhabitants fulfilling the duty of sentries. To the right, beyond the town, the great rock of Djebel Geelez suggested infinite possibilities in days to come, when some conqueror armed with modern weapons and a pacific mission should wish to bombard the walls in the sacred cause of civilisation. Then the view was lost in the date-palm forest, through which tiny tributaries of the Tensift run babbling over the red earth, while the kingfisher or dragon-fly, "a ray of living light," flashes over the shallow water, and young storks take their first lessons in the art of looking after themselves.

When a Moor has amassed wealth he praises God, builds a palace, and plants a garden; or, is suspected, accused—despotic authority is not particular—and cast into prison! In and round Marrakesh many Moors have gained riches and some have held them. The gardens stretch for miles. There are the far-spreading Augdal plantations of the Sultans of Morocco, in part public and elsewhere so private that to intrude would be to court death. The name signifies "the Maze," and they are said to justify it. In the outer or public grounds of this vast pleasaunce the fruit is sold by auction to the merchants of the city in late spring, when blossoming time is over, and, after the sale, buyers must watch and guard the trees until harvest brings them their reward.

ON THE ROAD TO MARRAKESH
ON THE ROAD TO MARRAKESH

We rode past the low-walled gardens, where pomegranate and apricot trees were flowering, and strange birds I did not know sang in the deep shade. Doves flitted from branch to branch, bee-eaters darted about among mulberry and almond trees. There was an overpowering fragrance from the orange groves, where blossom and unplucked fruit showed side by side; the jessamine bushes were scarcely less fragrant. Spreading fig-trees called every passer to enjoy their shade, and the little rivulets, born of the Tensift's winter floods to sparkle through the spring and die in June, were fringed with willows. It was delightful to draw rein and listen to the plashing of water and the cooing of doves, while trying in vain to recognise the most exquisite among many sweet scents.

Under one of the fig-trees in a garden three Moors sat at tea. A carpet was spread, and I caught a glimpse of the copper kettle, the squat charcoal brazier tended by a slave, the quaint little coffer filled no doubt with fine green tea, the porcelain dish of cakes. It was a quite pleasing picture, at which, had courtesy permitted, I would have enjoyed more than a brief glance.

The claim of the Moors upon our sympathy and admiration is made greater by reason of their love for gardens. As a matter of fact, their devotion may be due in part to the profit yielded by the fruit, but one could afford to forget that fact for the time being, when Nature seemed to be giving praise to the Master of all seasons for the goodly gifts of the spring.

We crossed the Tensift by the bridge, one of the very few to be found in Southern Morocco. It has nearly thirty arches, all dilapidated as the city walls themselves, yet possessing their curious gift of endurance. Even the natives realise that their bridge is crumbling into uselessness, after nearly eight centuries of service, but they do no more than shrug their shoulders, as though to cast off the burden of responsibility and give it to destiny. On the outskirts of the town, where gardens end and open market-squares lead to the gates, a small group of children gathered to watch the strangers with an interest in which fear played its part. We waited now to see the baggage animals before us, and then M'Barak led the way past the mosque at the side of the Bab el Khamees and through the brass-covered doors that were brought by the Moors from Spain. Within the Khamees gate, narrow streets with windowless walls frowning on either side shut out all view, save that which lay immediately before us.

A MINSTREL
A MINSTREL

No untrained eye can follow the winding maze of streets in Marrakesh, and it is from the Moors we learn that the town, like ancient Gaul of Cæsar's Commentaries, has three well defined divisions. The Kasbah is the official quarter, where the soldiers and governing officials have their home, and the prison called Hib Misbah receives all evil-doers, and men whose luck is ill. The Madinah is the general Moorish quarter, and embraces the Kaisariyah or bazaar district, where the streets are parallel, well cleaned, thatched with palm and palmetto against the light, and barred with a chain at either end to keep the animals from entering. The Mellah (literally "salted place") is the third great division of Marrakesh, and is the Jewish quarter. In this district, or just beyond it, are a few streets that seem reserved to the descendants of Mulai Ismail's black guards, from whom our word "blackguard" should have come to us, but did not. Within these divisions streets, irregular and without a name, turn and twist in manner most bewildering, until none save old residents may hope to know their way about. Pavements are unknown, drainage is in its most dangerous infancy, the rainy season piles mud in every direction, and, as though to test the principle embodied in the homoeopathic theory, the Marrakshis heap rubbish and refuse in every street, where it decomposes until the enlightened authorities who dwell in the Kasbah think to give orders for its removal. Then certain men set out with donkeys and carry the sweepings of the gutters beyond the gates.[18] This work is taken seriously in the Madinah, but in the Mellah it is shamefully neglected, and I have ridden through whole streets in the last-named quarter searching vainly for a place clean enough to permit of dismounting. Happily, or unhappily, as you will, the inhabitants are inured from birth to a state of things that must cause the weaklings to pay heavy toll to Death, the Lord who rules even Sultans.

I had little thought to spare for such matters as we rode into Marrakesh for the first time. The spell of the city was overmastering. It is certainly the most African city in Morocco to-day, almost the last survivor of the changes that began in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and have brought the Dark Continent from end to end within the sphere of European influence. Fez and Mequinez are cities of fair men, while here on every side one recognised the influence of the Soudan and the country beyond the great desert. Not only have the wives and concubines brought from beyond the great sand sea darkened the skin of the present generation of the Marrakshis, but they have given to most if not to all a suggestion of relationship to the negro races that is not to be seen in any other Moorish city I have visited. It is not a suggestion of fanaticism or intolerance. By their action as well as their appearance one knew most of the passers for friends rather than enemies. They would gratify their curiosity at our expense as we gratified ours at theirs, convinced that all Europeans are harmless, uncivilised folk from a far land, where people smoke tobacco, drink wine, suffer their women-folk to go unveiled, and live without the True Faith.

Marrakesh, like all other inland cities of Morocco, has neither hotel nor guest-house. It boasts some large fandaks, notably that of Hadj Larbi, where the caravans from the desert send their merchandise and chief merchants, but no sane European will choose to seek shelter in a fandak in Morocco unless there is no better place available. There are clean fandaks in Sunset Land, but they are few and you must travel far to find them. I had letters to the chief civilian resident of Marrakesh, Sidi Boubikir, British Political Agent, millionaire, land-owner, financier, builder of palaces, politician, statesman, and friend of all Englishmen who are well recommended to his care. I had heard much of the clever old Moor, who was born in very poor surroundings, started life as a camel driver, and is now the wealthiest and most powerful unofficial resident in Southern Morocco, if not in all the Moghreb, so I bade M'Barak find him without delay. The first person questioned directed us to one of Boubikir's fandaks, and by its gate, in a narrow lane, where camels jostled the camp-mules until they nearly foundered in the underlying filth, we found the celebrated man sitting within the porch, on an old packing-case.

He looked up for a brief moment when the kaid dismounted and handed him my letter, and I saw a long, closely-shaven face, lighted by a pair of grey eyes that seemed much younger than the head in which they were set, and perfectly inscrutable. He read the letter, which was in Arabic, from end to end, and then gave me stately greeting.

"You are very welcome," he said. "My house and all it holds are yours."

I replied that we wanted nothing more than a modest shelter for the days of our sojourn in the city. He nodded.

"Had you advised me of your visit in time," he said, "my best house should have been prepared. Now I will send with you my steward, who has the keys of all my houses. Choose which you will have." I thanked him, the steward appeared, a stout, well-favoured man, whose djellaba was finer than his master's. Sidi Boubikir pointed to certain keys, and at a word several servants gathered about us. The old man said that he rejoiced to serve the friend of his friends, and would look forward to seeing me during our stay. Then we followed into an ill-seeming lane, now growing dark with the fall of evening.

We turned down an alley more muddy than the one just left behind, passed under an arch by a fruit stall with a covering of tattered palmetto, caught a brief glimpse of a mosque minaret, and heard the mueddin calling the Faithful to evening prayer. In the shadow of the mosque, at the corner of the high-walled lane, there was a heavy metal-studded door. The steward thrust a key into its lock, turned it, and we passed down a passage into an open patio. It was a silent place, beyond the reach of the street echoes; there were four rooms built round the patio on the ground floor, and three or four above. One side of the tower of the minaret was visible from the courtyard, but apart from that the place was nowhere overlooked. To be sure, it was very dirty, but I had an idea that the steward had brought his men out for business, not for an evening stroll, so I bade Salam assure him that this place, known to the Marrakshis as Dar al Kasdir,[19] would serve our purposes.

A thundering knock at the gate announced a visitor, one of Sidi Boubikir's elder sons, a civil, kindly-looking Moor, whose face inspired confidence. Advised of our choice he suggested we should take a stroll while the men cleaned and prepared the patio and the rooms opening upon it. Then the mules, resting for the time in his father's fandak, would bring their burdens home, and we could enjoy our well-earned rest.

ONE OF THE CITY GATES
ONE OF THE CITY GATES

We took this good counsel, and on our return an hour later, a very complete transformation had been effected. Palmetto brooms, and water brought from an adjacent well, had made the floor look clean and clear. The warmth of the air had dried everything, the pack-mules had been relieved of their load and sent back to the stable. Two little earthen braziers full of charcoal were glowing merrily under the influence of the bellows that M'Barak wielded skilfully, and two earthen jars of water with palm leaves for corks had been brought in by our host's servants. In another hour the camp beds were unpacked and made up, a rug was set on the bedroom floor, and the little table and chairs were put in the middle of the patio. From the alcove where Salam squatted behind the twin fires came the pleasant scent of supper; M'Barak, his well-beloved gun at his side, sat silent and thoughtful in another corner, and the tiny clay bowl of the Maalem's long wooden kief pipe was comfortably aglow.

There was a timid knock at the door, the soldier opened it and admitted the shareef. I do not know his name nor whence he came, but he walked up to Salam, greeted him affectionately, and offered his services while we were in the city. Twenty years old perhaps, at an outside estimate, very tall and thin and poorly clad, the shareef was not the least interesting figure I met in Marrakesh. A shareef is a saint in Morocco as in every other country of Islam, and his title implies descent from Mohammed. He may be very poor indeed, but he is more or less holy, devout men kiss the hem of his djellaba, no matter how dirty or ragged it may be, and none may curse a shareef's ancestors, for the Prophet was one of them. His youthful holiness had known Salam in Fez, and had caught sight of him by Boubikir's fandak in the early afternoon. Salam, himself a chief in his own land, though fallen on evil days then and on worse ones since, welcomed the newcomer and brought his offer to me, adding the significant information that the young shareef, who was too proud to beg, had not tasted food in the past forty-eight hours. He had then owed a meal to some Moor, who, following a well-known custom, had set a bowl of food outside his house to conciliate devils. I accepted the proffered service, and had no occasion to regret my action. The young Moor was never in the way and never out of the way, he went cheerfully on errands to all parts of the city, fetched and carried without complaint, and yet never lost the splendid dignity that seemed to justify his claim to saintship.

So we took our ease in the open patio, and the shareef's long fast was broken, and the stars came to the aid of our lanterns, and when supper was over I was well content to sit and smoke, while Salam, M'Barak, the Maalem, and the shareef sat silent round the glowing charcoal, perhaps too tired to talk. It was very pleasant to feel at home after two or three weeks under canvas below Mediunah and along the southern road.

The Maalem rose at last, somewhat unsteadily after his debauch of kief. He moved to where our provisions were stocked and took oil and bread from the store. Then he sought the corner of the wall by the doorway and poured out a little oil and scattered crumbs, repeating the performance at the far end of the patio. This duty done, he bade Salam tell me that it was a peace-offering to the souls of the departed who had inhabited this house before we came to it. I apprehend they might have resented the presence of the Infidel had they not been soothed by the Maalem's little attention. He was ever a firm believer in djinoon, and exorcised them with unfailing regularity. The abuse he heaped on Satan must have added largely to the burden of sorrows under which we are assured the fallen angel carries out his appointed work. He had been profuse in his prayers and curses when we entered the barren pathway of the Little Hills behind the plains of Hillreeli, and there were times when I had felt quite sorry for Satan. Oblation offered to the house spirits, the Maalem asked for his money, the half due at the journey's end, sober enough, despite the kief, to count the dollars carefully, and make his farewell with courteous eloquence. I parted with him with no little regret, and look forward with keen pleasure to the day when I shall summon him once again from the bakehouse of Djedida to bring his mules and guide me over the open road, perchance to some destination more remote. I think he will come willingly, and that the journey will be a happy one. The shareef drew the heavy bolt behind the Maalem, and we sought our beds.

It was a brief night's rest. The voice of the mueddin, chanting the call to prayer and the Shehad,[20] roused me again, refreshed. The night was passing; even as the sonorous voice of the unseen chanted his inspiring "Allah Akbar," it was yielding place to the moments when "the Wolf-tail[21] sweeps the paling east."

I looked out of my little room that opened on to the patio. The arch of heaven was swept and garnished, and from "depths blown clear of cloud" great stars were shining whitely. The breeze of early morning stirred, penetrating our barred outer gates, and bringing a subtle fragrance from the beflowered groves that lie beyond the city. It had a freshness that demanded from one, in tones too seductive for denial, prompt action. Moreover, we had been rising before daylight for some days past in order that we might cover a respectable distance before the Enemy should begin to blaze intolerably above our heads, commanding us to seek the shade of some chance fig-tree or saint's tomb.

So I roused Salam, and together we drew the creaking bolts, bringing the kaid to his feet with a jump. There was plenty of time for explanation, because he always carried his gun, at best a harmless weapon, in the old flannel case secured by half a dozen pieces of string, with knots that defied haste. He warned us not to go out, since the djinoon were always abroad in the streets before daylight; but, seeing our minds set, he bolted the door upon us, as though to keep them from the Dar al Kasdir, and probably returned to his slumbers.

A BLIND BEGGAR
A BLIND BEGGAR

Beyond the house, in a faint glow that was already paling the stars, the African city, well-nigh a thousand years old, assumed its most mysterious aspect. The high walls on either side of the roads, innocent of casements as of glass, seemed, in the uncertain light, to be tinted with violet amid their dull grey. The silence was complete and weird. Never a cry from man or beast removed the first impression that this was a city of the dead. The entrances of the bazaars in the Kaisariyah, to which we turned, were barred and bolted, their guardians sat motionless, covered in white djellabas, that looked like shrouds. The city's seven gates were fast closed, though doubtless there were long files of camels and market men waiting patiently without. The great mansions of the wazeers and the green-tiled palace of Mulai Abd-el-Aziz—Our Victorious Master the Sultan—seemed unsubstantial as one of those cities that the mirage had set before us in the heart of the R'hamna plains. Salam, the untutored man from the far Riff country, felt the spell of the silent morning hour. It was a primitive appeal, to which he responded instantly, moving quietly by my side without a word.

"O my masters, give charity; Allah helps helpers!" A blind beggar, sitting by the gate, like Bartimæus of old, thrust his withered hand before me. Lightly though we had walked, his keen ear had known the difference in sound between the native slipper and the European boot. It had roused him from his slumbers, and he had calculated the distance so nicely that the hand, suddenly shot out, was well within reach of mine. Salam, my almoner, gave him a handful of the copper money, called floos, of which a score may be worth a penny, and he sank back in his uneasy seat with voluble thanks, not to us, but to Allah the One, who had been pleased to move us to work his will. To me no thanks were due. I was no more than Allah's unworthy medium, condemned to burn in fires seven times heated, for unbelief.

From their home on the flat house-tops two storks rose suddenly, as though to herald the dawn; the sun became visible above the city's time-worn walls, and turned their colouring from violet to gold. We heard the guards drawing the bars of the gate that is called Bab al Khamees, and knew that the daily life of Marrakesh had begun. The great birds might have given the signal that woke the town to activity.

Straightway men and beasts made their way through the narrow cobbled lanes. Sneering camels, so bulked out by their burdens that a foot-passenger must shrink against the wall to avoid a bad bruising; well-fed horses, carrying some early-rising Moor of rank on the top of seven saddle-cloths; half-starved donkeys, all sores and bruises; one encountered every variety of Moorish traffic here, and the thoroughfare, that had been deserted a moment before, was soon thronged. In addition to the Moors and Susi traders, there were many slaves, black as coal, brought in times past from the Soudan. From garden and orchard beyond the city the fruit and flowers and vegetables were being carried into their respective markets, and as they passed the air grew suddenly fragrant with a scent that was almost intoxicating. The garbage that lay strewn over the cobbles had no more power to offend, and the fresh scents added in some queer fashion of their own to the unreality of the whole scene.

To avoid the crush we turned to another quarter of the city, noting that the gates of the bazaars were opened, and that only the chains were left across the entrance. But the tiny shops, mere overgrown packing-cases, were still locked up; the merchants, who are of higher rank than the dealers in food-stuffs, seldom appear before the day is aired, and their busiest hours are in the afternoon, when the auction is held. "Custom is from Allah," they say, and, strong in this belief, they hold that time is only valuable as leisure. And, God wot, they may well be wiser herein than we are.

A demented countryman, respected as a saint by reason of his madness, a thing of rags and tatters and woefully unkempt hair, a quite wild creature, more than six feet high, and gaunt as a lightning-smitten pine, came down the deserted bazaar of the brass-workers. He carried a long staff in one hand, a bright tin bowl in the other. The sight of a European heightened his usual frenzy—

Across his sea of mind
A thought came streaming like a blazing ship
Upon a mighty wind.

I saw the sinews stand out on the bare arm that gripped the staff, and his bright eyes were soon fixed upon me. "You do not say words to him, sir," whispered Salam; "he do'n know what he do—he very holy man."

The madman spat on my shadow, and cursed profoundly, while his passion was mastering him. I noted with interest in that uncomfortable moment the clear signs of his epileptic tendencies, the twitching of the thumb that grasped the stick, the rigidity of the body, the curious working of certain facial muscles. I stood perfectly still, though my right hand involuntarily sought the pocket of my coat where my revolver lay, the use of which save in direst necessity had been a mad and wicked act; and then two peace-loving Moors, whose blue selhams of fine Manchester cloth proclaimed their wealth and station, came forward and drew the frenzied creature away, very gently and persuasively. He, poor wretch, did not know what was taking place, but moved helplessly to the door of the bazaar and then fell, his fit upon him. I hurried on. Moors are kindly, as well as respectful, to those afflicted of Allah.

We passed on our way to the Bab Dukala, the gate that opens out upon Elhara, the leper quarter. There we caught our morning view of the forest of date-palm that girdles the town. Moors say that in centuries long past Marrakesh was besieged by the men of Tafilalt, who brought dates for food, and cast the stones on the ground. The rain buried them, the Tensift nourished them, and to-day they crowd round Ibn Tachfin's ruinous city, 'their feet in water and their heads in fire.' 'Tis an agreeable legend.

A WANDERING MINSTREL
A WANDERING MINSTREL

Market men, half naked and very lean, were coming in from Tamsloht and Amsmiz, guiding their heavy-laden donkeys past the crumbling walls and the steep valley that separates Elhara from the town. Some scores of lepers had left their quarters, a few hiding terrible disfigurement under great straw hats, others quite careless of their deplorable disease. Beggars all, they were going on their daily journey to the shrine of Sidi bel Abbas, patron of the destitute, to sit there beneath the zowia's ample walls, hide their heads in their rags, and cry upon the passers to remember them for the sake of the saint who had their welfare so much at heart. And with the closing of the day they would be driven out of the city, and back into walled Elhara, to such of the mud huts as they called home. Long acquaintance with misery had made them careless of it. They shuffled along as though they were going to work, but from my shaded corner, where I could see without being seen, I noted no sign of converse between them, and every face that could be studied was stamped with the impress of unending misery.

The scene around us was exquisite. Far away one saw the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas; hawks and swallows sailed to and from Elhara's walls; doves were cooing in the orchards, bee-eaters flitted lightly amid the palms. I found myself wondering if the lepers ever thought to contrast their lives with their surroundings, and I trusted they did not. Some few, probably, had not been lepers, but criminals, who preferred the horrid liberty of Elhara to the chance of detection and the living death of the Hib Misbah. Other beggars were not really lepers, but suffered from one or other of the kindred diseases that waste Morocco. In Marrakesh the native doctors are not on any terms with skilled diagnosis, and once a man ventures into Elhara, he acquires a reputation for leprosy that serves his purpose. I remember inquiring of a Moorish doctor the treatment of a certain native's case. "Who shall arrest Allah's decree?" he began modestly. And he went on to say that the best way to treat an open wound was to put powdered sulphur upon it, and apply a light.[22] Horrible as this remedy seems, the worthy doctor believed in it, and had sent many a True Believer to—Paradise, I hope—by treating him on these lines. Meanwhile his profound confidence in himself, together with his knowledge and free use of the Koran, kept hostile criticism at bay.[23]

We turned back into the city, to see it in another aspect. The rapid rise of the sun had called the poorer workers to their daily tasks; buyers were congregating round the market stalls of the dealers in meat, bread, vegetables, and fruit. With perpetual grace to Allah for his gift of custom, the stall-keepers were parting with their wares at prices far below anything that rules even in the coast towns of the Sultan's country. The absence of my Lord Abd-el-Aziz and his court had tended to lower rates considerably. It was hard to realise that, while food cost so little, there were hundreds of men, women, and children within the city to whom one good meal a day was something almost unknown. Yet this was certainly the case.

Towering above the other buyers were the trusted slaves of the wazeers in residence—tall negroes from the far South for the most part—hideous men, whose black faces were made the more black by contrast with their white robes. They moved with a certain sense of dignity and pride through the ranks of the hungry freemen round them; clearly they were well contented with their lot—a curious commentary upon the European notions of slavery—based, to be sure, upon European methods in regard to it. The whole formed a marvellous picture, and how the pink roses, the fresh, green mint and thyme, the orange flowers and other blossoms, sweetened the narrow ways, garbage-strewn under foot and roofed overhead with dried leaves of the palm!

FOOTNOTES:

[17] "Moghreb-al-Acksa."

[18] Street cleaners are paid out of the proceeds of a tax derived from the slaughter of cattle, and the tax is known to Moorish butchers by a term signifying "floos of the throat."

[19] I.e. The Tin House.

[20] Declaration of Faith.

[21] The false dawn.

[22] The Sultan Mulaz-Abd-el-Aziz was once treated for persistent headache by a Moorish practitioner. The wise man's medicine exploded suddenly, and His Majesty had a narrow escape. I do not know whether the practitioner was equally fortunate.

[23] The doctors and magicians of Morocco have always been famous throughout the East. Nearly all the medicine men of the Thousand Nights and a Night including the uncle of Aladdin, are from the Moghreb.


ROUND ABOUT MARRAKESH


THE ROOFS OF MARRAKESH
THE ROOFS OF MARRAKESH

CHAPTER VI

ROUND ABOUT MARRAKESH

"Speaking of thee comforts me, and thinking of thee makes me glad."

Râod el Kartas.

The charm of Marrakesh comes slowly to the traveller, but it stays with him always, and colours his impressions of such other cities as may attract his wandering footsteps. So soon as he has left the plains behind on his way to the coast, the town's defects are relegated to the background of the picture his memory paints. He forgets the dirty lanes that serve for roads, the heaps of refuse at every corner, the pariah curs that howled or snapped at his horse's heels when he rode abroad, the roughness and discomfort of the accommodation, the poverty and disease that everywhere went hand in hand around him.

But he remembers and always will remember the city in its picturesque aspects. How can he forget Moorish hospitality, so lavishly exercised in patios where the hands of architect and gardener meet—those delightful gatherings of friends whose surroundings are recalled when he sees, even in the world of the West—

Groups under the dreaming garden trees,
And the full moon, and the white evening star.

He will never forget the Kutubia tower flanking the mosque of the Library, with its three glittering balls that are solid gold, if you care to believe the Moors (and who should know better!), though the European authorities declare they are but gilded copper. He will hear, across all intervening sea and lands, the sonorous voices of the three blind mueddins who call True Believers to prayer from the adjacent minarets. By the side of the tower, that is a landmark almost from R'hamna's far corner to the Atlas Mountains, Yusuf ibn Tachfin, who built Marrakesh, enjoys his long, last sleep in a grave unnoticed and unhonoured by the crowds of men from strange, far-off lands, who pass it every day. Yet, if the conqueror of Fez and troubler of Spain could rise from nine centuries of rest, he would find but little change in the city he set on the red plain in the shadow of the mountains. The walls of his creation remain: even the broken bridge over the river dates, men say, from his time, and certainly the faith and works of the people have not altered greatly. Caravans still fetch and carry from Fez in the north to Timbuctoo and the banks of the Niger, or reach the Bab-er-rubb with gold and ivory and slaves from the eastern oases, that France has almost sealed up. The saints' houses are there still, though the old have yielded to the new. Storks are privileged, as from earliest times, to build on the flat roofs of the city houses, and, therefore, are still besought by amorous natives to carry love's greeting to the women who take their airing on the house-tops in the afternoon. Berber from the highlands; black man from the Draa; wiry, lean, enduring trader from Tarudant and other cities of the Sus; patient frugal Saharowi from the sea of sand,—no one of them has altered greatly since the days of the renowned Yusuf. And who but he among the men who built great cities in days before Saxon and Norman had met at Senlac, could look to find his work so little scarred by time, or disguised by change? Twelve miles of rampart surround the city still, if we include the walls that guard the Sultan's maze garden, and seven of the many gates Ibn Tachfin knew are swung open to the dawn of each day now.

After the Library mosque, with its commanding tower and modest yet memorable tomb, the traveller remembers the Sultan's palace, white-walled, green-tiled, vast, imposing; and the lesser mosque of Sidi bel Abbas, to whom the beggars pray, for it is said of him that he knew God. The city's hospital stands beside this good man's grave. And here one pays tribute also to great Mulai Abd el Kader Ijjilalli, yet another saint whose name is very piously invoked among the poor. The mosque by the Dukala gate is worthy of note, and earns the salutation of all who come by way of R'hamna to Marrakesh. The Kaisariyah lingers in the memory, and on hot days in the plains, when shade is far to seek, one recalls a fine fountain with the legend "drink and admire," where the water-carriers fill their goat-skins and all beggars congregate during the hours of fire.

The Mellah, in which the town Jews live, is reached by way of the Olive Garden. It is the dirtiest part of Marrakesh, and, all things considered, the least interesting. The lanes that run between its high walls are full of indescribable filth; comparison with them makes the streets of Madinah and Kasbah almost clean. One result of the dirt is seen in the prevalence of a very virulent ophthalmia, from which three out of four of the Mellah's inhabitants seem to suffer, slightly or seriously. Few adults appear to take exercise, unless they are called abroad to trade, and when business is in a bad way the misery is very real indeed. A skilled workman is pleased to earn the native equivalent of fourteenpence for a day's labour, beginning at sunrise, and on this miserable pittance he can support a wife and family. Low wages and poor living, added to centuries of oppression, have made the Morocco Jew of the towns a pitiable creature; but on the hills, particularly among the Atlas villages, the People of the Book are healthy, athletic, and resourceful, able to use hands as well as head, and the trusted intermediary between Berber hillman and town Moor.

A GATEWAY, MARRAKESH
A GATEWAY, MARRAKESH
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