페이지 이미지


[ocr errors]

holes, with which it is plenti- directly from the path. It is fully bestrewn. The ground too steep and sudden for light appears on either hand a wide- to penetrate its depths, and stretched rugged plain, covered lies like a pool of ink by the with bushes but without con- wayside. Far in immeasurable spicuous landmark. There are recesses one is conscious of very few substantial trees and some sort of stir, oddly reno hedges, except an occasional sembling the noise made by row of cactus fringing the path. scene-shifters on a stage, when Such cabins and native huts the interlude has just ended, as may be dotted about pass and the curtain is about to unnoticed, their low lines bar- rise on a new act. There is no monising with the landscape, alternative course to adopt their walls and roofs smeared unless the adventure is to end with red ochre, and fashioned in nothing; SO we blunder out of the same mud as the down the precipitous slope, plain itself.

pitching blindly over rocks and

into bushes, clinging desperately We may have walked like to spiky brambles for support. . this, side by side, speaking at The headlong descent is soon rare intervals, for an hour or over. At the bottom of the more, when suddenly it is ravine are gathered in pitchevident the guides are no longer blackness a multitude of men in front. A moment ago they and animals. The murmur of were in full moonlight. Now voices and subdued clatter of they have disappeared, van- hoofs on loose stones are all ished into air. It is like one of around, whispered ejaculations those bizarre lapses which occur and sharp orders in Arabic in fairy tales, and one is inclined creating confusion in one's ears. to rub one's eyes. The little Mysteriously we are guided to bent old man was just ahead the centre of the throng, and with his two companions, wav- deft fingers out of the dark help ing his stick about and gesticu- us off with hats and European lating continually, but now he clothing, replacing them with is no longer to be seen. Moon- strange garments. Dexterously light spreads over a boundless round our heads they bind the expanse of empty country, and rozzar of the country, and throw the way lies straight and level jaleebs overour shoulders. They as far as gaze can penetrate. mount us on prancing mules We carry on, curious but uncon- carrying huge saddle - bags vinced, half expecting the van- mules and saddle - bags alike ished three will reappear. But invested with the significance of there is no clue to the mystery night and obscurity. Hardly until, abreast of the place am I balanced on my steed where they had seemed to when the cavalcade moves off, become invisible, a deep and picking its way in Indian file narrow ravine appears running along the dry river-bed with

[ocr errors]

many a cautionary “Shuayia! long since vanished behind a Shuayia !” and sharp hissed hill, and the journey continues Zid !

in formless void. When one's eyes grow familiar Forcing a way over rough with the dark, it becomes pos- country in the dark, on top of sible to distinguish the host of straw - stuffed bundles which Moors pressing close, each armed serve for saddles, without grip :1 with a rifle, moving with cir- for the knees or stirrups for i cumspection through innumer- balance, so that it is indifferent able ravines that intersect the whether one rides astride or ons plain in every direction. Past one side or the other, the a occasional hamlets, mere form- effort to maintain equilibrium: less blots of darkness, where is alone a sufficient tax on one's we barking dogs alone indicate the faculties. Such a journey leaves presence of life; through dry little disposition to inquire into river - bottoms where stones passing events. Occasional in rattle beneath hoofs, and over snatches of wild music noted interminable sky-lines. Now in the air may have originated there is no track at all. We with the genii of the place, for are pressing across the billowy all I know. Certainly far-off plain, tossed wildly about as music and spasmodic bursts of our mounts stumble into ob- rifle fire nearer to hand go stacles. The escort has adopted with us through the night to patrol formation with advance High up on a sure-footed beast, and flank guards, which main- ascending and descending sharp tain distance and direction in declivities, one is carried ona way that would astonish ward without other idea of Aldershot. Occasionally scouts direction than that the plough ahead delay to encircle a sus- is circling slowly on the left. picious object, and the main Music and the ping of bullets body automatically extends alternate in one's ears. But without orders, each man prone existence is for the time narin the firing position while an rowed to two vital factors, of investigation is made. Once retaining a seat, and keeping there is a sharp exchange of in view a ghostly white object shots away on a flank, and that dances always a little mules are hastily pulled into ahead, and represents the tura depression to await events. ban of a guide. Once or twice “What is it against the

the there is doubt about direction, sky? Oh, Mohammed!” and and for a space we are the “Shuayia ! Shuayia ! posta centre of an invisible whisperSpagnola,” this last remark, for ing throng. But the procession our special benefit, producing soon moves on again in single a due sense of anticipation. file. But nothing follows as the pro- The chirping of grasshoppers cession advances with pro- seems immeasurably loud in digious clatter. The moon has the calm African night, glow

worms lurk among the bushes, no plates, nor knives and forks, and shooting-stars are overhead, meat being simply pulled apart when the expedition off-saddles with the fingers, and eggs lifted after eight hours, having picked to the mouth on fragments of ts way for the past half-mile bread. But between each along the tops of wide stone course warm and perfumed walls that apparently separate water must be carried round, patches of cultivation. Mules and poured upon the hands of and men take odd shapes in the company into a brass bowl. the flickering matchlight, halted During the opening stages of in front of a building whose the meal conversation flags; but pitch-black silhouette is only over a fresh pot of tea Ashvisible where it shuts out the Sharif grows communicative, sky. But there is not long to announcing that we three are wait before bolts that have to make the journey together been quickly withdrawn in re- as far as Snaada, where he will sponse to knocking disclose a himself present us to Sidi white-robed Moor eager to wel- Hamdo, his kinsman and head come his guests, holding their of the Wazzani in the Riff. hands affectionately between Between sips of tea he lets fall his own while he makes in- glowing hints of the reception quiries about the journey. in store. He has the air of a

Candles gleam as he leads the gentleman who has seen the way into a low-built guest- world, and is returning to his c-chamber, apologising for the country seat and the solid . modesty of the establishment. comforts of home. His cherubic There in the soft light Ash- countenance is wreathed in Sharif-el-Arbi-el-Wazzani is also smiles as he dwells on the waiting, spread upon a carpet, amenities of family life, while and Seyyed his servant helps admitting that there are luxuto bring in our bundles. With ries to which we may be accus

hardlya moment's delay Moorish tomed that will not be found tatea appears, brewed from fresh in Snaada. Yet to personages

mint, and heaped almost to the like ourselves, satiated with Ebrim of the pot with sugar. It soft living, a spell of such

makes the most refreshing drink country existence may prove 1 imaginable as we recline to- an agreeable tonic, its effect gether on carpets, sipping from rather enhanced by certain little tumblers. Cakes follow, limitations. The ways of town op and more substantial things, a and country are compared with pa bowl of eggs cooked in oil, and tolerant familiarity, but with another of meat. Each dish, unconcealed bias in favour of

when the quality have helped home, where the food is better me themselves, is handed down to than any to be had in Tangier ; 14 the lower end of the apartment, thereupon plump fingers are by where men of the bodyguard extended in a wide sweep in

are packed tight. There are dicating boundless degree, both


as to quality and quantity. the carpet has to be gathered There is no hint in the gesture up and folded, and roped on of those privations which are to the back of a mule. Vil. presumed in Europe to follow lagers are out in force to eleven years' blockade.

witness the departure, and some It is a mark of goodwill to time must elapse before we all pass the night with one's guests, get clear of our admirers, the and perhaps also a safeguard escort numbering nearly fifty against treachery. So the Kayed men. Once free, it is a jovial remains long in friendly inter- band that advances into the course, never dreaming that valleys, singing to enliven the anybody could be tired in a march, and hailing the rustic country where they march all population with shouts from day and talk most of the one hill to another. Our host night. When finally every sub- rides with us for nearly two ject

exhausted, and hours, only withdrawing at the candles flicker in their sockets, boundary of his tribal territory. our host rolls up his jaleeb The air is wonderfully fresh, for a pillow, and declares his and as the cavalcade proceeds intention to sleep with his over the hills in morning sundear friends on their carpet, shine, El Arbi declares there is instead of retiring to his private no place like the Jabala, where apartment. As the light wanes, a man may live free from care soldiers finish cleaning their and even grow fat, though he rifles, and put clips of cart- only possess his jaleeb and a ridges in the chargers before serviceable gun. There can placing them on the floor close never have been a more joyous at hand, ready to be snatched pilgrimage, or detachment of up in emergency. They are troops on whom responsibility handing round a final pipe of sat more lightly ; but when at kieff over the charcoal brazier times the trek lies through a

we dispose ourselves for defile or under the shoulder of sleep, all four side by side, with a mountain, flank guards are Seyyed like a faithful dog at detached to go bounding up our feet.

the precipices on either hand, The morning is far advanced while the main body halts to before arrangements for the let them take their line. Asresumption of the journey are cending each height an advance complete. New guides are wait- party pushes well ahead over ing with fresh mounts, and the the brow, and occasionally sigKayed himself superintends the nais back some suspicious cirdeparture. El Arbi must cumstance. Then comes a lull occupy his carpet to the last in the conversation and rapid moment, resplendent in pale taking of cover. The click of grey jaleeb and blue - em- rifle-bolts in one's ear as chambroidered waistcoat, taking bers are filled is the only indicasnuff at intervals, until finally tion of life on an empty hill



side, and in a few moments party pulls up childishly to even the goats have forgotten hear echoes rebounding from our existence. But as it hap- distant hills. All this time pens to-day, these are all false ascents are growing stiffer, and alarms.

valleys more tortuous. Every hour carries us deeper The sun looks joyfully down into a country growing continu- from heaven. Approaching a ally more rugged, until the mountain torrent, men time comes to call a halt for to throw themselves at full lunch, a meal which has to length on overhanging ledges, be bolted, for Seyyed announces and drink the pure water in at the outset that the escort is gulps. Women working in the already waiting to conduct us fields cover themselves hastily to the headquarters of Sidi el on the appearance of the cavalArbi of the Beni Hassan. There cade, and laugh behind striped is no time to waste if we are not haika. Goats go bounding up to be shot in the dusk by his the hills at our approach. You sentries. So a forced march is can almost hear the stamping made, and there is still day- of Pan among the rocks. light to spare when we approach On the third day, surmountthe fastness of the sons of ing a ridge, a new panorama Hassan, perched at the head of of savage country is exposed, a ravine. The chief being away, and miles away in the valley his people furnish such a night's a great white road lies extended entertainment as leaves little like a snake, its sinuous coils inclination for an early start, reappearing again and again, when bowls of buttermilk are while all the surrounding hills brought to refresh us next bristle with capiemento. This is morning before the departure. the famous track the Spaniards Moving out, the party spreads have made, and their waggons fan-wise over the hill, and it pass along it every day. There is like the opening of a saga is only one other road to equal as they go singing their songs it in the Riff, also built by and discharging rifles into the Spanish hands, though they be air. A grey-bearded man is the hands of prisoners merely laughing hilariously for no ap- anxious to alleviate their lot. parent cause as he breasts the Every detail of a transport hill, with buttermilk still on column that advances from the his beard. Another offers me direction of Tetuan is visible figs. While at the head of all through El Arbi’s glasses : an a barefooted youth leaps from officer riding fearlessly ahead ; crag to crag, brandishing a rifle motor-drivers lolling in their with the trigger at full cock. seats ; horsemen pressing close

Once at least every available about the lorries. The garrifirearm is discharged in a grand sons of the capiemento keep salvo, merely for the pleasure watch over the road, but benoise gives ; and the whole yond and above the hills on

« 이전계속 »