Tancred : Or, The New Crusade, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 43.

Festivities in Canobia

GALLOPED up the winding steep of Canobia the Sheikh Said Djinblat, one of the most popular chieftains of the Druses; amiable and brave, trustworthy and soft-mannered. Four of his cousins rode after him: he came from his castle of Mooktara, which was not distant. He was in the prime of manhood, tall and lithe; enveloped in a burnous which shrouded his dark eye, his white turban, and his gold-embroidered vests; his long lance was couched in its rest, as he galloped up the winding steep of Canobia.

Came slowly, on steeds dark as night, up the winding steep of Canobia, with a company of twenty men on foot armed with muskets and handjars, the two ferocious brothers Abuneked, Nasif and Hamood. Pale is the cheek of the daughters of Maron at the fell name of Abuneked. The Abunekeds were the Druse lords of the town of Deir el Kamar, where the majority of the inhabitants were Christian. When the patriarch tried to deprive the Druses of their feudal rights, the Abunekeds attacked and sacked their own town of Deir el Kamar. The civil war being terminated, and it being agreed, in the settlement of the indemnities from the Druses to the Maronites, that all plunder still in possession of the plunderers should be restored, Nasif Abuneked said, ‘I have five hundred silver horns, and each of them I took from the head of a Christian woman. Come and fetch them.’

But all this is forgotten now; and least of all should it be remembered by the meek-looking individual who is at this moment about to ascend the winding steep of Canobia. Riding on a mule, clad in a coarse brown woollen dress, in Italy or Spain we should esteem him a simple Capuchin, but in truth he is a prelate, and a prelate of great power; Bishop Nicodemus, to wit, prime councillor of the patriarch, and chief prompter of those measures that occasioned the civil war of 1841. A single sacristan walks behind him, his only retinue, and befitting his limited resources; but the Maronite prelate is recompensed by universal respect; his vanity is perpetually gratified, and, when he appears, Sheikh and peasant are alike proud to kiss the hand which his reverence is ever prompt to extend.

Placed on a more eminent stage, and called upon to control larger circumstances, Bishop Nicodemus might have rivalled the Bishop of Autun; so fertile was he in resource, and so intuitive was his knowledge of men. As it was, he wasted his genius in mountain squabbles, and in regulating the discipline of his little church; suspending priests, interdicting monks, and inflicting public penance on the laity. He rather resembled De Retz than Talleyrand, for he was naturally turbulent and intriguing. He could under no circumstances let well alone. He was a thorough Syrian, at once subtle and imaginative. Attached to the House of Shehaab by policy, he was devoted to Fakredeen as much by sympathy as interest, and had contrived the secret mission of Archbishop Murad to Europe, which had so much perplexed M. Guizot, Lord Cowley, and Lord Aberdeen; and which finally, by the intervention of the same Bishop Nicodemus, Fakredeen had disowned.

Came caracoling up the winding steep of Canobia a troop of horsemen, showily attired, and riding steeds that danced in the sunny air. These were the princes Kais and Abdullah Shehaab, and Francis El Kazin, whom the Levantines called Caseno, and the principal members of the Young Syria party; some of them beardless Sheikhs, but all choicely mounted, and each holding on his wrist a falcon; for this was the first day of the year that they might fly. But those who cared not to seek a quarry in the partridge or the gazelle, might find the wild boar or track the panther in the spacious woods of Canobia.

And the Druse chief of the House of Djezbek, who for five hundred years had never yielded precedence to the House of Djinblat, and Sheikh Fahour Kangé, who since the civil war had never smoked a pipe with a Maronite, but who now gave the salaam of peace to the crowds of Habeishs and Dahdahes who passed by; and Butros Keramy, the nephew of the patriarch, himself a great Sheikh, who inhaled his nargileh as he rode, and who looked to the skies and puffed forth his smoke whenever he met a son of Eblis; and the House of Talhook, and the House of Abdel–Malek and a swarm of Elvasuds, and Elheires, and El Dahers, Emirs and Sheikhs on their bounding steeds, and musketeers on foot, with their light jackets and bare legs and wooden sandals, and black slaves, carrying vases and tubes; everywhere a brilliant and animated multitude, and all mounting the winding steep of Canobia.

The great court of the castle was crowded with men and horses, and fifty mouths at once were drinking at the central basin; the arcades were full of Sheikhs, smoking and squatted on their carpets, which in general they had spread in this locality in preference to the more formal saloons, whose splendid divans rather embarrassed them; though even these chambers were well attended, the guests principally seated on the marble floors covered with their small bright carpets. The domain immediately around the castle was also crowded with human beings. The moment anyone arrived, his steed was stabled or picketed; his attendants spread his carpet, sought food for him, which was promptly furnished, with coffee and sherbets, and occasionally wine; and when he had sufficiently refreshed himself, he lighted his nargileh.

Everywhere there was a murmur, but no uproar; a stir, but no tumult. And what was most remarkable amid these spears and sabres, these muskets, handjars, and poniards, was the sweet and perpetually recurring Syrian salutation of ‘Peace.’

Fakredeen, moving about in an immense turban, of the most national and unreformed style, and covered with costly shawls and arms flaming with jewels, recognised and welcomed everyone. He accosted Druse and Maronite with equal cordiality, talked much with Said Djinblat, whom he specially wished to gain, and lent one of his choicest steeds to the Djezbek, that he might not be offended. The Talhook and the Abdel–Malek could not be jealous of the Habeish and the Eldadah. He kissed the hand of Bishop Nicodemus, but then he sent his own nargileh to the Emir Ahmet Raslan, who was Caimacam of the Druses.

In this strange and splendid scene, Tancred, dressed in a velvet shooting-jacket built in St. James’ Street and a wide-awake which had been purchased at Bellamont market, and leaning on a rifle which was the masterpiece of Purday, was not perhaps the least interesting personage. The Emirs and Sheikhs, notwithstanding the powers of dissimulation for which the Orientals are renowned, their habits of self-restraint, and their rooted principle never to seem surprised about anything, have a weakness in respect to arms. After eyeing Tancred for a considerable time with imperturbable countenances, Francis El Kazin sent to Fakredeen to know whether the English prince would favour them by shooting an eagle. This broke the ice, and Fakredeen came, and soon the rifle was in the hands of Francis El Kazin. Sheikh Said Djinblat, who would have died rather than have noticed the rifle in the hands of Tancred, could not resist examining it when in the possession of a brother Sheikh. Kais Shehaab, several Habeishes and Elda-dahs gathered round; exclamations of wonder and admiration arose; sundry asseverations that God was great followed.

Freeman and Trueman, who were at hand, were summoned to show their lord’s double-barrelled gun, and his pistols with hair-triggers. This they did, with that stupid composure and dogged conceit which distinguish English servants in situations which must elicit from all other persons some ebullition of feeling.

Exchanging between themselves glances of contempt at the lords of Lebanon, who were ignorant of what everybody knows, they exhibited the arms without the slightest interest or anxiety to make the Sheikhs comprehend them; till Tancred, mortified at their brutality, himself interfered, and, having already no inconsiderable knowledge of the language of the country, though, from his reserve, Fakredeen little suspected the extent of his acquirements, explained felicitously to his companions the process of the arms; and then taking his rifle, and stepping out upon the terrace, he levelled his piece at a heron which was soaring at a distance of upwards of one hundred yards, and brought the bird down amid the applause both of Maronite and Druse.

‘He is sent here, I understand,’ said Butros Keramy, ‘to ascertain for the Queen of the English whether the country is in favour of the Shehaabs. Could you believe it, but I was told yesterday at Deir el Kamar, that the English consul has persuaded the Queen that even the patriarch was against the Shehaabs?’

‘Is it possible?’ said Rafael Farah, a Maronite of the House of Eldadah. ‘It must be the Druses who circulate these enormous falsehoods.’

‘Hush!’ said Young Syria, in the shape of Francis El Kazin, ‘there is no longer Maronite or Druse: we are all Syrians, we are brothers.’

‘Then a good many of my brothers are sons of Eblis,’ said Butros Keramy. ‘I hope he is not my father.’

‘Truly, I should like to see the mountain without the Maronite nation,’ said Rafael Farah. ‘That would be a year without rain.’

‘And mighty things your Maronite nation has done!’ rejoined Francis El Kazin. ‘If there had been the Syrian nation instead of the Maronite nation, and the Druse nation, and half a dozen other nations besides, instead of being conquered by Egypt in 1832, we should have conquered Egypt ourselves long ago, and have held it for our farm. We have done mighty things truly with our Maronite nation!’

‘To hear an El Kazin speak against the Maronite nation!’ exclaimed Rafael Farah, with a look of horror; ‘a natipn that has two hundred convents!’

‘And a patriarch,’ said Butros Keramy, ‘very much respected even by the Pope of Rome.’

‘And who were disarmed like sheep,’ said Francis.

‘Not because we were beaten,’ said Butros, who was brave enough.

‘We were persuaded to that,’ said Rafael.

‘By our monks,’ said Francis; ‘the convents you are so proud of.’

‘They were deceived by sons of Eblis,’ said Butros. ‘I never gave up my arms. I have some pieces now, that, although they are not as fine as those of the English prince, could pick a son of Eblis off behind a rock, whether he be Egyptian or Druse.’

‘Hush!’ said Francis El Kazin. ‘You love our host, Butros; these are not words that will please him ——’

‘Or me, my children,’ said Bishop Nicodemus. ‘This is a great day for Syria! to find the chiefs of both nations assembled at the castle of a Shehaab. Why am I here but to preach peace and love? And Butros Keramy, my friend, my dearly beloved brother Butros, if you wish to please the patriarch, your uncle, who loves you so well, you will no longer call Druses sons of Eblis.’

‘What are we to call them?’ asked Rafael Farah, pettishly.

‘Brothers,’ replied Bishop Nicodemus; ‘misguided, but still brothers. This is not a moment for brawls, when the great Queen of the English has sent hither her own brother to witness the concord of the mountain.’

Now arose the sound of tabors, beaten without any attempt at a tune, but with unremitting monotony, then the baying of many hounds more distant. There was a bustle. Many Sheikhs slowly rose; their followers rushed about; some looked at their musket locks, some poised their pikes and spears, some unsheathed their handjars, examined their edge, and then returned them to their sheath. Those who were in the interior of the castle came crowding into the great court, which, in turn, poured forth its current of population into the table-land about the castle. Here, held by grooms, or picketed, were many steeds. The mares of the Emir Fakredeen were led about by his black slaves. Many of the Sheikhs, mounted, prepared for the pastime that awaited them.

There was to be a grand chase in the oak forest, through part of which Tancred had already travelled, and which spread over a portion of the plain and the low hilly country that encompassed it. Three parties, respectively led by the Emir Fakredeen, and the Caimacams of the two nations, were to penetrate into this forest at different and distant points, so that the sport was spread over a surface of many miles. The heads of the great houses of both nations accompanied the Emir of Canobia; their relatives and followers, by the exertions of Francis El Kazin and Young Syria, were in general so disturbed that the Maronites were under the command of the Emir Raslan, the Druse Caimacam, while the Druses followed the Emir Hai-dar. This great hunting party consisted of more than eight hundred persons, about half of whom were mounted, but all were armed; even those who held the dogs in leash were entitled to join in the sport with the same freedom as the proudest Sheikh. The three leaders having mounted and bowed gracefully to each other, the cavalcades separated and descended into the plain. The moment they reached the level country, the horsemen shouted and dispersed, galloping in all directions, and many of them throwing their spears; but, in a short time, they had collected again under their respective leaders, and the three distinct bodies, each a moving and many-coloured mass, might be observed from the castled heights, each instant diminishing in size and lustre, until they vanished at different points in the distance, and were lost amid the shades of the forest.

For many hours throughout this region nothing was heard but the firing of guns, the baying of hounds, the shouting of men; not a human being was visible, except some groups of women in the villages, with veils suspended on immense silver horns, like our female headgear of the middle ages. By-and-by, figures were seen stealing forth from the forest, men on foot, one or two, then larger parties; some reposed on the plain, some returned to the villages, some reascended the winding steeps of Canobia. The firing, the shouting, the baying had become more occasional. Now a wearied horseman picked his slow way over the plain; then came forth a brighter company, still bounding along. And now they issued, but slowly and in small parties, from various and opposite quarters of the woodland. A great detachment, in a certain order, were then observed to cross the plain, and approach the castle. They advanced very gradually, for most of them were on foot, and joining together, evidently carried burdens; they were preceded and followed by a guard of cavalry. Soon it might be perceived that the produce of the chase was arriving: twenty-five wild boars carried on litters of green branches; innumerable gazelles borne by their victors; transfixed by four spears, and carried by four men, a hyena.

Not very long after this caravan had reached the castle, the firing, which had died away, recommenced; the sounds were near at hand; there was a volley, and almost simultaneously there issued from various parts of the forest the great body of the hunt. They maintained no order on their return, but dispersed over the plain, blending together, galloping their steeds, throwing their lances, and occasionally firing a shot. Fakredeen and his immediate friends rode up to the Caimacam of the Druses, and they offered each other mutual congratulations on the sport of the morning. They waited for the Caimacam of the Maronites, who, however, did not long detain them; and, when he appeared, their suites joined, and, cantering off at a brisk pace, they soon mounted in company the winding steeps of Canobia.

The kitchen of Canobia was on a great scale, though simple as it was vast. It was formed for the occasion. About fifty square pits, some four feet in length, and about half as deep, had been dug on the table-land in the vicinity of the castle. At each corner of each pit was a stake, and the four supported a rustic gridiron of green wood, suspended over each pit, which was filled with charcoal, and which yielded an equal and continuous heat to the animal reposing on the gridiron: in some instances a wild boar, in others a sheep — occasionally a couple of gazelles. The sheep had been skinned, for there had been time for the operation; but the game had only been split open, cleared out, and laid on its back, with its feet tied to each of the stakes, so as to retain its position. While this roasting was going on, they filled the stomachs of the animals with lemons gashed with their daggers, and bruised pomegranates, whose fragrant juice, uniting with the bubbling fat, produced an aromatic and rosy gravy. The huntsmen were the cooks, but the greatest order was preserved; and though the Emirs and the great Sheikhs, heads of houses, retiring again to their divans, occupied themselves with their nargilehs, many a mookatadgi mixed with the servants and the slaves, and delighted in preparing this patriarchal banquet, which indeed befitted a castle and a forest. Within the walls they prepared rice, which they piled on brazen and pewter dishes, boiled gallons of coffee, and stewed the liver of the wild boars and the gazelles in the golden wine of Lebanon.

The way they dined was this. Fakredeen had his carpet spread on the marble floor of his principal saloon, and the two Caimacams, Tancred and Bishop Nicodemus, Said Djinblat, the heads of the Houses of Djezbek, Talhook, and Abdel–Malek, Hamood Abune-ked, and five Maronite chieftains of equal consideration, the Emirs of the House of Shehaab, the Habeish, and the Eldadah, were invited to sit with him. Round the chamber which opened to the air, other chieftains were invited to spread their carpets also; the centre was left clear. The rest of the Sheikhs and rhookatadgis established themselves in small parties, grouped in the same fashion, in the great court and under the arcades, taking care to leave free egress and regress to the fountain. The retainers feasted, when all was over, in the open air.

Every man found his knife in his girdle, forks were unknown. Fakredeen prided himself on his French porcelain, which the Djinblats, the Talhooks, and the Abunekeds glanced at very queerly. This European luxury was confined to his own carpet. There was, however, a considerable supply of Egyptian earthenware, and dishes of pewter and brass. The retainers, if they required a plate, found one in the large flat barley cake with which each was supplied. For the principal guests there was no want of coarse goblets of Bohemian glass; delicious water abounded in vases of porous pottery, which might be blended, if necessary, with the red or white wine of the mountain. The rice, which had been dressed with a savoury sauce, was eaten with wooden spoons by those who were supplied with these instruments; but in general the guests served themselves by handfuls.

Ten men brought in a framework of oaken branches placed transversely, then covered with twigs, and over these, and concealing everything, a bed, fully an inch thick, of mulberry leaves. Upon this fragrant bier reposed a wild boar; and on each side of him reclined a gazelle. Their bodies had closed the moment their feet had been loosened from the stakes, so that the gravy was contained within them. It required a most skilful carver not to waste this precious liquid. The chamber was filled with an invigorating odour as the practised hand of Habas of Deir el Kamar proceeded to the great performance. His instruments were a silver cup, a poniard, and a handjar. Making a small aperture in the side of the animal, he adroitly introduced the cup, and proportionately baled out the gravy to a group of plates that were extended to him; then, plunging in the long poniard on which he rested, he made an incision with the keen edge and broad blade of the handjar, and sent forth slice after slice of white fat and ruby flesh.

The same ceremony was performing in the other parts of the castle. Ten of the pits had been cleared of their burden to appease the first cravings of the appetite of the hunters. The fires had been replenished, the gridirons again covered, and such a supply kept up as should not only satisfy the chieftains, but content their followers. Tancred could not refrain from contrasting the silent, business-like way in which the Shehaabs, the Talhooks, the Djinblats, and the Habeish performed the great operation that was going on, with the conversation which is considered an indispensable accompaniment of a dinner in Fran-guestan; for we must no longer presume to call Europe by its beautiful oriental name of Christendom. The Shehaabs, the Talhooks, the Djinblats, and the Habeish were sensible men, who were of opinion that if you want to talk you should not by any means eat, since from such an attempt at a united performance it generally results that you neither converse nor refresh yourself in a satisfactory manner.

There can be no question that, next to the corroding cares of Europeans, principally occasioned by their love of accumulating money which they never enjoy, the principal cause of the modern disorder of dyspepsia prevalent among them is their irrational habit of interfering with the process of digestion by torturing attempts at repartee, and racking their brain at a moment when it should be calm, to remind themselves of some anecdote so appropriate that they have forgotten it. It has been supposed that the presence of women at our banquets has occasioned this fatal and inopportune desire to shine; and an argument has been founded on this circumstance in favour of their exclusion from an incident which, on the whole, has a tendency to impair that ideal which they should always study and cherish. It may be urged that if a woman eats she may destroy her spell; and that, if she will not eat, she destroys our dinner.

Notwithstanding all this, and without giving any opinion on this latter point, it should be remembered that at dinners strictly male, where there is really no excuse for anything of the kind, where, if you are a person of ascertained position, you are invited for that position and for nothing else, and where, if you are not a person of ascertained position, the more agreeable you make yourself the more you will be hated, and the less chance you will have of being asked there again, or anywhere else, still this fatal frenzy prevails; and individuals are found who, from soup to coffee, from egg to apple, will tell anecdotes, indulge in jests, or, in a tone of levity approaching to jesting, pour forth garrulous secret history with which everyone is acquainted, and never say a single thing which is new that is not coolly invented for the occasion.

The princes of the Houses of Shehaab, Kais, and Assaad, and Abdullah, the Habeish and the Eldadah, the great Houses of the Druses, the Djinblat and the Yezbek, the Abuneked, the Talhook, and the Abdel–Malek, were not of this school. Silently, determinedly, unceasing, unsatiated, they proceeded with the great enterprise on which they had embarked. If the two nations were indeed to be united, and form a great whole under the sceptre of a Shehaab, let not this banquet pass like the hypocritical hospitality of ordinary life, where men offer what they desire not to be accepted by those who have no wish to receive. This, on the contrary, was a real repast, a thing to be remembered. Practice made the guests accustomed to the porcelain of Paris and the goblets of Prague. Many was the goodly slice of wild boar, succeeded by the rich flesh of the gazelle, of which they disposed. There were also wood-pigeons, partridges, which the falconers had brought down, and quails from the wilderness. At length they called again for rice, a custom which intimated that their appetite for meat was satisfied, and immediately Nubian slaves covered them with towels of fine linen fringed with gold, and, while they held their hands over the basin, poured sweet waters from the ewer.

In the meantime, Butros Keramy opened his heart to Rafael Farah.

‘I begin,’ said Butros, quaffing a cup of the Vino d’Oro, ‘to believe in nationality.’

‘It cannot be denied,’ said Rafael Farah, judiciously shaking his head, ‘that the two nations were once under the same prince. If the great powers would agree to a Shehaab, and we could sometimes meet together in the present fashion, there is no saying, prejudices might wear off.’

‘Shall it ever be said that I am of the same nation as Hamood Abuneked?’ said Butros.

‘Ah! it is very dreadful,’ said Rafael; ‘a man who has burned convents!’

‘And who has five hundred Maronite horns in his castle,’ said Butros.

‘But suppose he restores them?’ said Francis El Kazin.

‘That would make a difference,’ said Rafael Farah.

‘There can be no difference while he lives,’ said Butros.

‘I fear ’tis an affair of blood,’ said Rafael Farah.

‘Taking horns was never an affair of blood,’ said Francis El Kazin.

‘What should be an affair of blood,’ said Butros, ‘if ——’

‘But nothing else but taking horns can be proved,’ said Francis El Kazin.

‘There is a good deal in that!’ said Rafael Farah.

After confectionery which had been prepared by nuns, and strong waters which had been distilled by the hands of priors, the chieftains praised God, and rose, and took their seats on the divan, when immediately advanced a crowd of slaves, each bearing a nargileh, which they presented to the guests. Then gradually the conversation commenced. It was entirely confined to the exploits of the day, which had been rich in the heroic feats of forest huntsmen. There had been wild boars, too, as brave as their destroyers; some slight wounds, some narrow escapes. Sheikh Said Djinblat inquired of Lord Montacute whether there were hyenas in England, but was immediately answered by the lively and well-informed Kais Shehaab, who apprised him that there were only lions and unicorns. Bishop Nicodemus, who watched the current of observations, began telling hunting stories of the time of the Emir Bescheer, when that prince resided at his splendid castle of Bteddeen, near Deir el Kamar. This was to recall the days when the mountain had only one ruler, and that ruler a Shehaab, and when the Druse lords were proud to be classed among his most faithful subjects.

In the meantime smoking had commenced throughout the castle, but this did not prevent the smokers from drinking raki as well as the sober juice of Mocha. Four hundred men, armed with nargileh or chibouque, inhaling and puffing with that ardour and enjoyment which men, after a hard day’s hunting, and a repast of unusual solidity, can alone experience! Without the walls, almost as many individuals were feasting in the open air; brandishing their handjars as they cut up the huge masses of meat before them, plunging their eager hands into the enormous dishes of rice, and slaking their thirst by emptying at a draught a vase of water, which they poured aloft as the Italians would a flask of wine or oil.

‘And the most curious thing,’ said Freeman to Trueman, as they established themselves under a pine tree, with an ample portion of roast meat, and armed with their traveling knives and forks, ‘and the most curious thing is, that they say these people are Christians! Who ever heard of Christians wearing turbans?’

‘Or eating without knives and forks?’ added True-man.

‘It would astonish their weak minds in the steward’s room at Bellamont, if they could see all this, John,’ said Mr. Freeman, pensively. ‘A man who travels has very great advantages.’

‘And very great hardships too,’ said Trueman. ‘I don’t care for work, but I do like to have my meals regular.’

‘This is not bad picking, though,’ said Mr. Freeman; ‘they call it gazelle, which I suppose is the foreign for venison.’

‘If you called this venison at Bellamont,’ said Trueman, ‘they would look very queer in the steward’s room.’

‘Bellamont is Bellamont, and this place is this place, John,’ said Mr. Freeman. ‘The Hameer is a noble gentleman, every inch of him, and I am very glad my lord has got a companion of his own kidney. It is much better than monks and hermits, and low people of that sort, who are not by no means fit company for somebody I could mention, and might turn him into a papist into the bargain.’

‘That would be a bad business,’ said Trueman; ‘my lady could never abide that. It would be better that he should turn Turk.’

‘I am not sure it wouldn’t,’ said Mr. Freeman. ‘It would be in a manner more constitutional. The Sultan of Turkey may send an Ambassador to our Queen, but the Pope of Rome may not.’

‘I should not like to turn Turk,’ said Trueman, very thoughtfully.

‘I know what you are thinking of, John,’ said Mr. Freeman, in a serious tone. ‘You are thinking, if anything were to happen to either of us in this heathen land, where we should get Christian burial.’

‘Lord love you, Mr. Freeman, no, I wasn’t. I was thinking of a glass of ale.’

‘Ah!’ sighed Freeman, ‘it softens the heart to think of such things away from home, as we are. Do you know, John, there are times when I feel very queer, there are indeed. I catched myself a singing “Sweet Home” one night, among those savages in the wilderness. One wants consolation, John, sometimes, one does, indeed; and, for my part, I do miss the family prayers and the home-brewed.’

As the twilight died away, they lighted immense bonfires, as well to cheer them during their bivouac, as to deter any adventurous panther, stimulated by the savoury odours, or hyena, breathing fraternal revenge, from reconnoitring their encampment. By degrees, however, the noise of the revellers without subsided, and at length died away. Having satisfied their hunger, and smoked their chibouques, often made from the branch which they had cut since their return from hunting, with the bud still alive upon the fresh green tube, they wrapped themselves in their cloaks and sheepskins, and sunk into a deep and well-earned repose.

Within, the Sheikhs and mookatadgis gradually, by no means simultaneously, followed their example. Some, taking off their turbans and loosening their girdles, ensconced themselves under the arcades, lying on their carpets, and covered with their pelisses and cloaks; some strolled into the divaned chambers, which were open to all, and more comfortably stowed themselves upon the well-stuffed cushions; others, overcome with fatigue and their revel, were lying in deep sleep, outstretched in the open court, and picturesque in the blazing moonlight.

The hunting party was to last three days, and few intended to leave Canobia on the morrow; but it must not be supposed that the guests experienced any very unusual hardships in what the reader may consider a far from satisfactory mode of passing their night. To say nothing of the warm and benignant climate, the Easterns have not the custom of retiring or rising with the formality of the Occidental nations. They take their sleep when they require it, and meet its embrace without preparation. One cause of this difference undoubtedly is, that the Orientals do not connect the business of the toilet with that of rest. The daily bath, with its elaborate processes, is the spot where the mind ponders on the colour of a robe or the fashion of a turban; the daily bath, which is the principal incident of Oriental habits, and which can scarcely be said to exist among our own.

Fakredeen had yielded even his own chambers to his friends. Every divan in Canobia was open, excepting the rooms of Tancred. These were sacred, and the Emir had requested his friend to receive him as a guest during the festival, and apportion him one of his chambers. The head of the House of Talhook was asleep with the tube of his nargileh in his mouth; the Yezbek had unwound his turban, cast off his sandals, wrapped himself in his pelisses, and fairly turned in; Bishop Nicodemus was kneeling in a corner and kissing a silver cross; and Hamood Abu-neked had rolled himself up in a carpet, and was snoring as if he were blowing through one of the horns of the Maronites. Fakredeen shot a glance at Tancred, instantly recognised. Then, rising and giving the salaam of peace to his guests, the Emir and his English friend made their escape down a corridor, at the bottom of which was one of the few doors that could be found in the castle of Canobia. Baroni received them, on the watch lest some cruising Sheikh should appropriate their resting-place. The young-moon, almost as young and bright as it was two months before at Gaza, suffused with lustre the beautiful garden of fruit and flowers without. Under the balcony, Baroni had placed a divan with many cushions, a lamp with burning coffee, and some fresh nargilehs.

‘Thank God, we are alone!’ exclaimed Fakredeen. ‘Tell me, my Tancred, what do you think of it all?’

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19