페이지 이미지

their political differences they were not accustomed to punish the persons of opponents, in religious warfare they killed everybody. He then proposed to Colonel Pelly that he should become a Mussulman, and offered him every comfort that he could possibly desire in the Wahabee capital. He (Colonel Pelly) in reply said he was exceedingly flattered by the offer, but he was a servant of the Government, which restricted him from many things that might otherwise be agreeable to him. At the second interview there was something in his manner which impressed Colonel Pelly with the idea that he was a Freemason. His manner that day was exceedingly friendly. He entirely set aside all the ceremonies of the previous day, and entered into a long conversation, which terminated most kindly. He invited the Colonel to visit any part of the country he liked, and also to see his stud, the most perfect breed of Arabian horses in the world. At that time the horses happened to be at a place about a day and a half's journey off, but the Colonel had not time to visit them, or rather, circumstances induced him to return to the Persian Gulf. Had it not been for the ill-disposed men who surrounded the chief, he should have been glad to have explored the whole of the country, and could have given a detailed statement of the latitudes and longitudes of every important point. His minister is not a pure Arab, but the son of a Georgian slave by a negro father, and he is a man worthy of such descent. In fact, he proved exceedingly unpleasant. He stole everything he could lay his hands on. The interpreter's buttons and neckcloth were the first things he coveted ; but not content with them, he stole the Colonel's cheroots, and smoked them in his presence, and that in a country where it is death to be caught smoking tobacco. Yet in the presence of the chief this man sat with the stoicism of an old Greek. He never spoke, and if asked any question he called on the name of the Prophet and of God, and spoke in the most fanatical and solemn manner possible, declaring it was impossible to conduct the affairs of Nejed if anybody smoked, or if the Wahabee power was allowed to fall off in any degree.'

There is nothing here to remind one of Mr. Palgrave's portrait of Feysul. No intimation that he was 'stone blind, no indication that the chief' was 'sinking into a dotage well befitting a tyrant of seventy. Yet it appears that Mr. Palgrave was present at the meeting of the Royal Geographical Society at which Colonel Pelly gave the account of his visit to Riad and his interviews with the Wahaby chief, from which we have taken the above extracts, and that he had nothing to object to the statement.

He observed, amongst other things, that

"What Colonel Pelly had just said about the Court of Riadh is so exact a description, both of the Court itself, and of the persons who compose it, as to leave nothing except the certitude that, whenever the influence of the prime minister and of a few other fanatics can be brought under, we shall be enabled to know further, and to determine more accurately, every detail that remains.'

Which of these descriptions of Feysul are we to accept ? Is he really 'stone blind ?' If he be, it is surely remarkable that, even in an abridged report of Colonel Pelly's statement, there should be no allusion to the fact, more especially when regarded in connexion with what the Colonel tells us of the impression which Feysul made upon him. Was he sinking, in 1862, into 'a dotage well befitting a tyrant of seventy?' Then he must have rallied in a miraculous manner, to have been, in 1865, the man described by Colonel Pelly. Mr. Palgrave had no personal audience, it appears, of Feysul, and we do not know that he ever saw that august personage, but he remained fifty days at Riad, in frequent and even intimate intercourse, as he tells us, with one or two of Feysul's sons, with his prime minister, his minister for foreign affairs, his treasurer, his chief kadee, and other persons about the Wahaby court. Then Aboo Eysa, his most intimate friend, his guide and confidant, had, it appears, several interviews with the Wahaby sovereign while Mr. Palgrave and he were together at Riad. His means of obtaining correct information regarding Feysul were therefore at least as good and trustworthy as with reference to anything that did not come under his own observation. If he is misinformed about Feysul, as he appears to have been, how can we rely on any information obtained by him through similar channels ? Colonel Pelly's visit to Riad might have been expected to confirm such of the statements of the preceding traveller as admitted of confirmation without minute inquiry, but it overturns Mr. Palgrave's allegation that M. Lamartine romanced when he spoke of snakes as numerous in Central Arabia ; and it also overturns the allegation that Feysul is such as Mr. Palgrave represented him to be. Then Aboo Eysa's patron and our traveller's friend, the prime minister Mahboob (described as a reckless sort of youth, the son of a Georgian slave-woman, nominally by a negro father, but really a son of Feysul), who possessed the best collection of books seen at Riad, and at whose K’hāwah our traveller spent much of his time, turns out, whatever may be his origin, to be a low blackguard, a shameless hypocrite, and a thief, who stole buttons and cigars. In short, the portraits drawn of the same persons by Colonel Pelly and Mr. Palgrave have not, we must say, any striking resemblance one to another. This may be due to a variety of circumstances, but, for our own part, we prefer Colonel Pelly's.

Of the institutions, whatever may be their nature or form, by which the machinery of a government that rules an enormous extent of country inhabited by a turbulent population must be carried on, by what means or through what channels the impulse given at the centre is conveyed to the extremities,—what, in short, is the organization by means of which Feysul rules his vast kingdom, Mr. Palgrave gives no intelligible account of. He tells, indeed, of Wahaby spies in all quarters, Egypt, Omān, and elsewhere abroad, as well as at Riad and in the dependent districts; but how or by whom they are instructed, or how the information they transmit is turned to account for the advantage of the Wahaby government, we are left to conjecture. It can hardly be by Mahboob, the youthful, reckless, and not very trustworthy prime minister, who smokes tobacco and steals buttons. If Feysul is in his dotage, Mahboob, such as Colonel Pelly describes him, and the rest, including Abd-Allah, the heir-apparent, such as Mr. Palgrave represents them to be, how is his majesty's government carried on? This Mr. Palgrave neither explains, nor attempts to explain. He speaks of the Wahaby government as highly centralized and despotic. Of course every despotic government must be highly centralized; but the more complete the centralization the greater must be the amount of work done at the centre; and we should like to know who, of the persons described by Mr. Palgrave, does, or can be supposed capable of doing, that work. We confess that his account is to us, in this respect, altogether unintelligible. But as we know that Feysul's government is carried on, that its influence is felt everywhere in Central Arabia, and its authority obeyed ; that such as are hostile to it fear it; and that it is able to suppress revolt, and even to undertake conquests, not on land only, but, as Mr. Palgrave assures us, beyond seas, there must be some organization, some machinery, some occult governing power, which Mr. Palgrave has not only not told us of, but the existence of which seems hardly to be compatible with his account of the court, and the persons who compose it.

There is one institution, indeed, of which he gives us, more suo, a full and amusing account. The ‘Zelators,' such being the nearest word in literal translation of their Arabic designation, are twenty-two in number. “On these twenty-two Feysul conferred absolute power for the extirpation of whatever was contrary to Wahabee doctrine and practice, and to good morals in general, from the capital firstly, and then from the entire empire. No Roman censors in their palmy days had a higher range of authority, or were less fettered by all ordinary restrictions. Not only were these Zelators to denounce offenders, but they might also in their own unchallenged right inflict the penalty incurred, beat and fine at discretion, nor was any certain limit assigned to the amount of the mulct or the number of the blows.

It might be supposed that the functions of these gentlemen would be exercised only amongst the lower orders, but this would be quite a mistake. Mr. Palgrave says :

Furnished with such powers, and backed up by the whole weight of government, it may be easily supposed that the new broom swept clean, and that the first institution of the Zelators was followed by root-and-branch work. Rank itself was no protection, high birth no shelter, and private or political enmities now found themselves masters of their aim, Djeloo’wee, Feysul's own brother, was beaten with rods at the door of the king's own palace for a whiff of tobacco smoke; and his royal kinsman could not or would not interfere to save him from undergoing at fifty an ignominy barely endurable at fifteen. Soweylim, the prime minister, and predecessor of Mahboob, was on a similar pretext, but in reality (so said universal rumour) at the instigation of a competitor for his post, seized one day while on his return homeward from the castle, thrown own, and subjected to so protracted and so cruel a fustigation that he expired on the morrow. If such was the chastisement prepared for the first personages in the state, what could plebeian offenders expect ? Many were the victims, many the backs that smarted and the limbs crippled or broken. Tobacco vanished, though not in fumo, and torn silks strewed the streets or rotted on the dunghills; the mosques were crowded, and the shops deserted. In a few weeks the exemplary semblance of the outward man of the capital might have moved the admiration of the first Wahhabee himself.'— Vol. i. p. 411.

Having pondered on this formidable array of unlimited and apparently irresponsible power, backed by the whole strength of a despotic government, and on the manner in which it was exercised by fanatical Wahabys, we were surprised to find further on the following account of the only practical attempt to exercise those powers of which Mr. Palgrave speaks as of his own knowledge :

From our door the holy squadron passed to that of the Nā'ib. Here a thundering knock was at once answered by 'Alee, the younger servant, who with unsuspecting rashness flung the entrance wide open. No quarter to Persians: “Throw him down, beat him, purify his hide," was shouted out on all sides, and the foremost laid hold of the astonished Shiya'ee to inflict the legal chastisement. But 'Alee was a big strapping lad, and not easily floored; he soon tore himself away from his well-intentioned executioners, and rushed into the interior of the house, calling madly for aid on his brother Hasan. Out came the elder with a pistol in either hand, while 'Alee having picked up a dagger brandished it fearfully; and the old Nā'ib, aroused from sleep in his upstairs bedroom, leaned over the parapet in his dressing-gown, like Shelley's grey tyrant father, and screamed out from above Persian threats and curses. The Zelators turned tail and fled in confusion; 'Alee and Hasan ran after, sword and pistol in hand, half-way down

the street, beating one, kicking another, and leaving a third sprawling in the dust.'— Vol. ii. p. 105.

Here we paused to consider the case of these unhappy Sheeah heretics, who had so grossly maltreated this holy squadron,' 'backed up by the whole weight of government,' and concluded that their fate would be terrible. That the Zelators, though naturally enough, from the nature of their office, not very popular, should not have been able, in the streets of Riad, to command assistance enough to protect them from the personal violence of foreign heretics, seemed strange. There could be no doubt, however, that blows, which, in the estimation of Arabs, can be atoned only by blood, would meet with condign punishment,-but not a bit of it.

Without delay the Nā'ib donned his clothes and went to the palace, there to demand justice for the housebreaking aggression thus committed, and to protest very reasonably this time against the absurdity of compulsory attendance on divine worship. We did not think it necessary to accompany him, since our affair had at any rate ended smoothly. But Aboo-'Eysa, who had gone with the Nā'ib, played the orator in our behalf. The result was a royal order issued to the Zelators not to trouble themselves further about us and our doings; while, in compensation for past insults, the Persian ambassador was henceforth treated at the palace with greater decency by Mahboob and his crew.'

Now, although the Nā'ib, as the representative of a foreign government, was undoubtedly entitled to demand protection for himself and his servants from such intrusions, and especially from attempts to enforce by violence the spiritual discipline of Riad on the two members of his establishment, we must confess that the Zelators, of whose irresistible and irresponsible power Mr. Palgrave had led us to form so very exalted an idea, shrunk, in our estimation, after this affair, into the dimensions of ordinary and not very formidable beadles, who were kept well in hand, and whose power was very far from being either unlimited or irresponsible.

Our author's account of the moral condition of the Wahaby capital is as repulsive a picture of human depravity as we remember to have met with, and he attributes its bad preeminence in vice mainly to the efforts of the government to enforce religious observance :

Meanwhile poor morality fares little better in this pharisaical land than in Burns's Kilmarnock, or Holy Fair. True, lights are extinguished an hour or so after sunset, and street-walking rigorously inhibited; while in the daytime not even a child may play by the roadside ; not a man laugh out. True, profane instruments of music

« 이전계속 »