Love in Mount Lebanon

OUR hero was in the most romantic exaltation of youth. He was fit to go seeking Annibal Lees, with angels for high-born kinsmen, dwelling in kingdoms by the sea.

A great magician had given him the enchanted carpet, known among philosophers and poets as The Longing For Love ; and it had brought him with the speed of impatience from quiet German Dresden to Beirut, the seaport of Damascus

Guided by his dragoman, swarthy, slender, springy, red-jacketed, white-trousered Abdallah of Tripoli, he threaded the winding, sandy ways of the Beirut gardens, wondering at their hedges of gigantic cactus, and delighted with their dense odors of fruit and flower. Exquisite in detail and grandiose as a whole, the landscape surrounded him and overlooked him, amphitheatrical in contour and colossal in verdure, Saracenic arches and sunlit roofs, visible through groves of oranges, the compact, battlemented, antique city below, the violet, gigantic, sublime walls of Lebanon on one side, and on the other the gleaming Mediterranean.

“ Here is the Mission,” said Abdallah in distinct, hard, guttural English.

Opening a solid, whitewashed wooden gate, they passed through a strong wall six or seven feet in height, the top garnished with a defence of sharp pebbles and bits of pottery set in mortar. Above them towered an edifice of three lofty stories, built to the summit of large, hewn yellow stone, the masonry ponderous enough for a prison, the rare windows arched in the shape of pointed horseshoes, the roof flat and guarded by a parapet. Our hero halted; here was his goal of trial ; should he goon? For a moment his errand seemed absurd, and he was ashamed of it. In the next moment he saw a lovely girlish face glance from one of the windows ; he felt the magic carpet once more under his feet ; he was borne up the long stone stairway.

“The Howaja Sinclair want to see the Howaja Jackson,” gutturalled Abdallah to a gray-mustacbed Arab in blue cotton jacket and trousers, who answered his heavy knock on the wellnailed planking of a mighty door.

The Arab smiled, bowed, and murmured salaams so hospitably that Sinclair felt encouraged, as if by a good augury. Leaving Abdallah to redescend the stairway and amuse himself in the garden, he entered the house by a narrow hall, and turned into a noble saloon, the walls sixteen feet in height, and the ceiling supported and ornamented by mighty beams of carved and colored Lebanon pine. There was no carpet, and only two or three chairs ; but small, thick, many-tinted woollen rugs were spread here and there ; and along two sides of the room stretched a low divan, five feet in breadth. Through the windows gleamed the sun-smitten gardens, city, mountains, and sea.

Slippered Yusef had glided smiling and salaaming away. Presently there was another step, also slippered, but it struck the outer floor firmly and solidly; it was an American footfall. The Rev. James Jackson, fifty years old, portly yet vigorous, with a florid face and a courteous light in the eyes, entered the room, and advanced to meet his visitor.

It is wonderful how many heart-throbs we have at twenty-two. Fred Sinclair’s arteries beat like a full drum-corps as he put out his hand and said, “ The Rev. Mr. Jackson, I believe, the chief of the American mission.”

“The American mission has no chief,” replied the other with a peculiarly hearty and kindly smile. “ I am simply the oldest missionary. However, I do admit that I am the Rev. Mr. Jackson. How can I serve you?”

“ I have a letter of introduction from your brother Charles, in Dresden.”

“Ah, indeed ! I am delighted to see you. And how is Charles ? Terribly busy with his studies, I hope.”

He glanced over the letter. It was very enthusiastic in sentiment and florid in style. It introduced Mr. Frederic Sinclair as “my dearest friend” ; it asseverated that he came of “ one of the first families of Pennsylvania.” It requested that he should be befriended and aided ; he had “ a deep and strong purpose of the noblest and sweetest nature”; he was “ a man of fortune, honor, and high character ” ; he would “explain his designs to my dear brother.”

Air. Jackson was tempted to smile outright at this boarding-school effusion. He did smile, but it was with an expression of hospitality, saying, at the same time, “ Mr. Sinclair, you must stay with us. I shall be most happy to place myself at your service.”

Then there were some inquiries about Charles, his studies, his amusements, his way of life in Dresden. After a few minutes of this conversation, Sinclair exclaimed with a sort of gasp, “Mr. Jackson, I want to get out of suspense. I may as well tell you at once my object in coming here.”

Mr. Jackson, his stout hands on his broad knees, bowed with a smile which said, “ I am most happy to listen.”

“You have a young lady under your charge, I believe, named Lulu Esh Shidiak,” continued the stranger.

“There is such a scholar in the mission school,” answered the missionary, unable to control a stare of astonishment. “ She is an Arab, a native of Sidon.”

“Ah!” said Sinclair. “Yes, I know that she is an Arab. She is very beautiful, I understand.”

“ I beg pardon ; how did you learn all this ? ” asked Jackson, whose amazement had by this time become quite solemn.

“From Mr. Jones, our late consul here. We met him in the gallery at Dresden. He said that she was like a Madonna. Actually handsomer than any Madonna there, he said.”

The missionary thought that the exconsul might be in better business than running about the world with such stories concerning the female pupils of the Beirut mission school.

“ I must confess that I am somewhat astonished at Mr. Jones’s statements,” he began.

“ Would you have the kindness to let me see her?” interrupted Sinclair.

“ But really, sir,” returned the excessively puzzled clergyman, “ l hardly know what to say. There is no impropriety in your seeing her. 'I’lie girl, being a Christian, does not veil her face from Christians. But I don’t fancy the idea of exhibiting my scholars in any special manner. I should at least wish to know your motives.”

“ I will tell yon, sir,” began Sinclair, with the lyricism of youth. “ I am alone in the world, and I am tired of the world. I have long wanted a home.

I have come here to find one. It seems to me that in this land of beauty, poetry, and antiquity I could be quiet and happy. When I heard of tin’s Syrian Madonna, — this child of nature, as I suppose her to be,— I determined to sec her, and, il it might be, to marry her.”

“Marry her ! ” exclaimed the minister. “Dear me! dear me!” he went on, which was the mission style of swearing in astonishment. “ But, my dear sir — ”

He stopped, stricken by the suspicion that his visitor was insane. But there was the letter; there, too, was the young man’s lucid, intelligent face. He was forced to drop the supposition of mania.

“You do not understand the feelings which impel me to this step,” broke in Sinclair. “The follies and falsehoods of our artificial life have sickened me. I have no desire to put my heart and happiness in the hands of an American girl, — a creature demoralized by dress and fashion, — a votary of social ambition. I want a wife who is nearer to nature. I have come here to find her.”

We will venture to add the muchexplaining fact that Mr. Fred Sinclair had been grievously jilted by one of those creatures, demoralized by dress and fashion, concerning whom he was so bitter.

“My dear sir, you puzzle me prodigiously,” said the missionary, rising and pacing the room in his red, pointed, Damascus slippers. “ However, you are in earnest,—-of course you are in earnest. Well, I must talk to you plainly. I will treat you as if you were my brother. There are objections to your plan which you can scarcely imagine. You could not imagine them without knowing the character and domestic habits, and indeed the whole life, of these Syrians, A cheerful, sociable,amiable people; yes, I love them and love to labor for them ; but crafty, selfish, grasping, false, all liars, —

I mean all whom grace has not changed. O, you could not live with such a wife as a Syrian girl would almost certainly make. A child of nature! Why, that is just what ruins our world, — nature ! The farther we are from our natural state, the nearer to God. I say this positively, for though I know the vices of civilization, at the same time I know the greater vices of barbarism.”

“ But this young lady is one of your pupils,” pleaded Sinclair, eager to save his illusion. “ She has had your example and teachings.”

“Yes, she is one of our pupils; but what is that ? A little reading and writing and geography and English, Beyond those limits, dense ignorance and prejudice. Nothing or almost nothing of that fine, subtle, all-pervading, puissant education, which springs from the very air of an American family, and of American society. A mere child-wife is what you would have,—a wife as ignorant as a child, as freaky, as pettish, as unreasonable,—a wife whom you would be tempted some day to control with a cowhide. Come, don’t throw yourself away in this project. Don’t attempt to unite enlightenment to semi-civilization. Go back to America and take a wife who would raise you, instead of one whose only tendency would be to drag you downward.”

There was a chance that Mr. jackson would succeed in sending the boy off without even a look at his Syrian Madonna ; but through the centre of this salvatory chance, dashing it to hopeless shivers, burst a girlish figure.

A light step at the door of the saloon ; a vision of female beauty, exquisitely Oriental and bewitching ; a scarlet jacket, silken skirt, silken trousers, little feet in yellow slippers ; braids of abundant hair, looping beneath a crimson tarboosh; a face as madonnesque as an Eastern face ever is ; clear, blond, softly tinted cheeks ; clear, soft, bright hazel eyes.

The vision spoke something in Arabic, and the missionary replied hastily, as if anxious to have it vanish.

“Is that Lulu Esh Shidiak?” demanded Sinclair, already certain of the answer.

“ That is Lulu,” admitted Mr. Jackson, with a smile of good-natured vexation.

“ She has auburn hair,” said the young man, in a glow of wonder and delight.

“ Yes, she has auburn hair,”conceded Mr. Jackson, almost openly impatient of this youthful simplicity.

“ There must be European blood in her. Old crusader, perhaps ? ”

“ More likely mountaineer blood. There are plenty of blue eyes and yellow heads on Lebanon.”

“Ah ! ” answered Sinclair. The crusader hypothesis pleased him best; still the mountaineer one would do.

“ Mr. Jackson, you must not be astonished at me,” he added. “After having seen this young lady, I cannot but persist in my proposition. You will please consider me as a suitor for her hand.”

“ Mr. Sinclair, have you a father and mother ? ”

“ They died when I was a child. I have brothers, but I am independent of them.”

“ Well, sir, your failure be upon your own head. I have warned you of the dangers you run in marrying a child of semi-civilization. Now, then, I must consider my duties toward the young lady herself. She is my pupil, and a member of my family. She has been confided to my care by her parents. You perceive, I hope, that I am bound to watch over her interests.”

Sinclair exhibited letters of introduction from various persons in America, two or three of them names well known in public affairs. There seemed to be no doubt of his respectability; the missionary was forced to admit thus much. He looked at the frank, earnest, intelligent, enthusiastic face of the young man with a perplexity which amounted to dismay.

“ Well, sir,” he said at last, “ I shall treat you with consideration, and as far as possible with hospitality. But really I shall have to withdraw the invitation I gave you to make your home under this roof. In view of your intentions, don't you see, sir, I should be playing the part of a match-maker, it I had you here ? ”

“ Quite so. I understand. I shall remain at the hotel in the city. I beg your permission, however, to call here.”

“ Certainly. With the greatest pleasure. We shall have a hundred more questions to put to you about Charles.”

There the interview ended, leaving the missionary in clouds of amazement, while Sinclair walked back to the city in an Arabian Nights’ revery.

After ten minutes of meditation, Mr. Jackson wrote and mailed a letter to a friend in Philadelphia, inquiring as to the fortune, character, and sanity of Mr. Frederic Sinclair. Meantime, feeling that the conjuncture was too much for unassisted man, he wished that his wife were at home. She had gone to Bbamdun, a village some three thousand feet up the slopes of Mt. Lebanon, the usual summer residence of one or more of the mission families. A house there was to be put in habitable order, and Mrs. Jackson was the person who could best attend to the job.

Three clays passed ; our Western knight - errant visited the mission school ; he gloated over the grace of his childish Syrian Madonna ; at last he found a chance to speak to her alone. Ascending to the flat roof of the mission house, he saw her leaning against the yellow parapet, and gazing out upon the Mediterranean. At the sound of his footstep she turned, put aside the long silken tarboosh tassel, which partially veiled her delicate face, and said in a low, flute-like voice, “Selling Howaja Frayd.”

That was the name by which Mr. Frederic Sinclair was already known to the twenty dark-eyed girls of the school. As she pronounced it, it sounded infinitely sweeter to him than Fred, or Frederic, or anything English.

“ Why don t you speak to me in my own language ? ” he asked.

“ I do not always think,” she answered with a slow utterance which showed how difficult the strange tongue was to her.

“ May I talk to you here a few minutes ? ” he implored.

“ Yes, you may talk.”

Do you know that I came many days’ journey to see you?”

“ Did you ? ” and she stared in simple wonder. “ Why did you ? ”

“ Because I heard that you were verybeautiful.”

O Howaja ! ” she exclaimed, coloring with embarrassment, but nevertheless shyly gratified.

Then other pupils came chattering up the inner stairway, putting an end to the dialogue. On the day which was made glorious to Sinclair by this interview Mrs. Jackson returned.

“Why! it can’t be,” she said, as soon as her husband had told his tale of marvels. “ What! did n’t you know that Lulu is betrothed to Antone Barakat ? I hey have been betrothed for years, since they were children.”

“ Oh ! that ends the matter,” answered the relieved Jackson. “ Betrothed to Antone ? Dear me ! I need n’t have written to Philadelphia. Well, that ends the imbroglio.”

Not so thought Frederic Sinclair. When informed of this betrothal, he simply said, “ I must try to cut the man out.”

“O, but that would be wrong,” objected the missionary. “ Put yourself in the place of Antone.”

“ I can’t put myself in his place. He was betrothed, I have no doubt, without being consulted ; perhaps against his will. There can’t be any love in the case. I don t believe the girl cares for him. What sort of a betrothal do you call that ? ”

It is according to the custom of the country. It would make a scandal to break it off.”

“ Let me see the fellow,” said Sinclair, who had begun to show some conceit in his manner since he had become better acquainted. “I fancyI can look him down. A chap in a long gown, I suppose, with no stockings.”

“ Perhaps you had better see him,” returned Mr. Jackson with a smile. “I will invite him to meet you to-morrow evening.”

At the meeting Sinclair was roundly astonished. Instead of a fellow in a long gown and no stockings, he beheld a dandy in full European costume, who addressed him in fluent and correct English. Antone Barakat, a representative ofhoung Syria, thoroughly contemptuous of his own country and countrymen, had spent nearly all his small patrimony in obtaining a European education, and in acquiring, perhaps, some European vices. From the age of sixteen to the age of twenty he had studied medicine in Paris and London. With that linguistic faculty which distinguishes the Arabs, he had mastered both the French and English so thoroughly, that, barring a certain distinctness of pronunciation, it would have been difficult to detect him as a foreigner. His manner was alert, easy, graceful, cordial, insinuating. His Smile was as ready and sultry as the Syrian sunlight.

“From America!” he said, taking Sinclair by both hands. “ I am so delighted to meet you ! We owe so much to America. This mission, the mission school, our friend Mr. Jackson,— we are indebted for them all to your great and beneficent republic. Mr. Sinclair, I welcome you to Syria. If you can find any pleasure in this effete country, I cordially wish it for you. Do, pray, sit down. It is my duty to sit last.”

Fluent as our countryman supposed himself to be, and was, here was a fluency which drowned him. All that he could think to say was, “I trust and believe that Syria is not quite effete.”

“ O, but it is ! ” protested Doctor Antone, as he was called, — “ wofully so ! All her sons are crushed by the fact. How different, how happily opposite, is your destiny! The youth and vigor of your great Republic fills you all with youth and vigor. An American never grows old. He is always full of energy. Our friend, Mr. Jackson here, is twice my age, and has twice as much work in him. If there is any human being in the world that I envy, it is an American. To own the fountain of perpetual youth, to have jeunesse dorée for a birthright, it is enviable, it is glorious.”

Sinclair was pretty thoroughly humbugged. He believed that Antone was entirely in earnest, whereas he was only one tenth in earnest. The Syrian was translating from his own hyperbolical tongue ; he was talking Arabic in the purest English; moreover, he was by nature a flatterer,

Mature as this youth was in language and manner, mature as his strong'mustache and darkly grained cheeks showed him to the eye, he was only twenty-one. Life comes early to its ripeness under a sun which fondles the fig, the olive, and the vine.

The American boy of twenty-two was for a time mastered by the Syrian man of twenty-one. They left the mission that evening arm in arm, and before they had walked a hundred yards amid the giant cactus of the garden hedges, Sinclair said to Antone, “You must spend the night with me.”

So there was a late supper on the best fare of the Hotel Franco. After the meats had been removed, fruit, sweets, and wines were served to the two in a stone balcony which overlooked a scene beyond the skill of painters. Below were gleaming roofs, dark shadows of winding streets, outlines of battlemented walls, and a castle, the waters of the harbor, silvery with moonlight, faint beams from prostrate pillars of Egyptian granite at the landingplace, the dark sweep of garden verdure beyond the city, — all closed in by the sombre, solemn ramparts of Lebanon. Amid this magic, drinking the hot wine of Cyprus, Sinclairs heart opened like a night-flower.

“ Here is to the belle of Syria!” he drank, — “the betrothed of my friend, Antone, — Lulu Esh Shidiak ! My dear friend, you must not wonder at me. I have come a thousand miles to see that beautiful girl who is yours. I did not know that her hand was promised. I have seen her only to lose her. You must allow me to drink to her. I unite your health with hers. In this wine of Cyprus, by all the memories of love that Cyprus brings, I wish you two health and happiness.”

For an instant Antone’s dark eyes showed a gleam of displeasure. European as he sought to be, he was still Oriental enough to cringe under a reference to his family affairs from a stranger, and to feel a pang of that most Eastern of passions, jealousy. He was, however, so agile and adroit of spirit that he found no difficulty in responding according to the humor of the occasion.

“ Thanks,” he said, springing, glass in hand, to his feet, — “ thanks, my American friend, for that most American toast. May the love of a thousand Syrian girls reward you for your beneficent wishes ! Ah ! yours is a happycountry. Women there may be spoken of freely, because they can be respected. Here is to my noble and chivalrous friend from the Yenghe Dunia ! Here is to his future. May it be as glorious as the manifest destiny of his great Republic.”

What young and patriotic American, full of the wine of Cyprus and surrounded by Syrian moonlight, could fail to be affected by this toast ? Sinclair grasped Antone by the hand, and swore eternal friendship to him. The young men passed the night on sofas in the dining-room.

The next time that Sinclair visited the mission-house he said to Mr. Jackson, “ I think I shall explore the Hauran.”

“ It is dangerous,” replied the missionary, shaking his head.

“I need danger,” muttered the young man, in a sad tone. “ It will be a relief to me.”

After the manner of good husbands, Mr. Jackson related the substance of this interview to his wife. 44 Dear me! ” he sighed. “I am afraid he is really in love with the girl. It is absurd, of course; and yet it is affecting.”

“ It is perhaps better that he should go,” replied the lady. " It would be dreadful for the school if that betrothal should be broken off by a visitor of ours.”

“Yes, it is better that he should go,” assented Jackson. " I must fit him out as thoroughly as possible for the Hauran. After all, I escaped from there, and I’m not positive that I was in much danger.”

While the preparations for the desert expedition went on, the intimacy between the two young men continued. Antone dined often with Sinclair, taught him various French games of cards, at last proposed stakes. The Syrian was not only a sponge, but a swindler. The American lost; he lost even after he had learned the games ; after a time he suspected cheating, finally he became sure of it. He showed Ins coolness of temper by playing on until he had detected his comrade’s trickeries, and by saying not one word concerning them. His losses now amounted to something over two hundred dollars. It was enough out of his letter of credit for one thousand, and his yearly income of only two thousand. He stopped playing, under a plea of native bad luck, and stopped his preparations for the Hauran, under a plea of summer heat.

At the same time, he resumed the plan of his Arabian Nights’ courtship. 44 The fellow is no gentleman,” he thought, 44 and he is totally unworthy of that exquisite girl, and it doesn’t matter how I treat him. If he can swindle me out of my money, I am excusable in beating him out of his betrothed.”

The Jacksons, with several of their pupils, including Lulu Esh Shidiak, were now at Bhamdun on Mount Lebanon. Sinclair decided that he would not follow them until he could say to the conscientious and watchful missionary, I have the permission of the girl’s father to offer her my hand.”

Furnished with letters from our consul at Beirut, and accompanied by Abdallah as guide and interpreter, he rode southward along the sun-gilded Phcenecian coast, between beaming hills on the left and the sparkling Mediterranean on the right, until he reached the yellow walls and cool, narrow streets of Sidon. Jurjus Esh Shidiak — better known as Abu Daoud, a well-to-do Sidonian merchant — was the most amazed Syrian between Jaffa and Aleppo when he learned the object of this young Frank’s visit. Although he was sitting cross-legged, stayed up by a chibouk six feet long, he came near toppling over on his back under the shock. His dark, massive, regular face crimsoned with a variety of emotions, the prevalent one being anger.

“ Break my daughter’s betrothal without cause! Does this Frank take me to be a man of no faith ? Does he fail to see that I am a Howaja ? Is he laughing at my beard ? If I dared I would stone him.”

Such were the first emotions of Abu Daoud as he listened to Sinclair’s proposition. However, as is the fashion of his countrymen, up to a certain point of provocation, he maintained perfect calmness of manner, and responded with sugary speech.

“ The bint (girl) — excuse me for mentioning her —is unworthy of the high attention of my most gracious lord,” he said, in slow, measured tones, giving Abdallah abundant time to translate. “ She is naught but the daughter of an Arab ; and his excellency is a Howaja far above such creatures. I thank him for the condescension of his words. His goodness of heart is excessive. A child could see it in his face. Let us speak of matters more worthy of his high attention.”

Abdallah—calm and expressionless as a pillar of Egyptian granite, without the faintest smile of the contempt which he felt for his subject and for both the men who bandied it—translated back and forth for an hour. He put into Arabic the American method of courtship as expounded by Sinclair. He put into English Abu Daoud’s florid litanies of unmeaning compliment. Not a twinkle of wonder or merriment rose to his sombre black eyes, as this extraordinary dialogue ebbed and flowed over his dark red lips. Abdallah would have made a secret-police agent of the first magnitude.

Abu Daoud could not see the sense of letting girls choose their own husbands, although he eulogized that Yankee notion to the skies the moment it was stated to him. But when Sinclair mentioned the amount of his fortune, the Syrian capitalist raised his eyelids with a start of conviction. Thirty thousand dollars! seven hundred thousand piastres ! In all Sidon there was no man so rich as that; it was as if one should say, “ I am Aladdin Abushamat.”

A wheedling smile at once puckered his politic mouth and the crafty corners of his meditative eyes.

“ I repeat,” he said, “that my daughter— excuse me for naming her — is unworthy of a single one of my lord’s beneficent thoughts. But since my lord insists, I will venture to attend to the matter. If it shall appear that the other is unworthy — in the name of God let us say no more. The matter shall receive attention. His Highness’s goodness of heart is so excessive that too much cannot be done to gratify him.”

Sinclair, full of hope and joy, rose to depart. Abu Daoud slyly put a piece of gold in Abdallah’s ready hand, whispering, “ Between us be peace and secrecy.”

“ He will give you the girl,” said the dragoman to his master, when they were in the street. “ For so much money you can have any girl in this country.”

The interview which we have described cost Abu Daoud a ride to Beirut and another to Bhamdun. In Beirut he picked up certain highly desirable reports adverse to Anione Barakat, such as that he had spent a large part of his one hundred and twenty thousand piastres ($ 5,000) in Europe, and that he indulged in various outlandish vices. From Mr. Jackson, who had lately entertained a travelling Philadelphian, he learned that Sinclair was as respectable and as rich as he claimed to be.

“This will be a new thing in the land of the Arabs, O Abu Daoud ! ” remonstrated the missionary.

“Alas, yes! But how necessary! ” replied the Syrian. “ How shall I give my child to one who is making himself a beggar ? Antone has spent much property abroad, and he risks his piastres at games. Would you have me marry my child to such a one ?”

“If that is so, I would not advise it,” assented Jackson. “ But make sure that it is so. Let us be discreet and just, as we desire God’s justice.”

“ Praise be to his name !” responded Abu Daoud, with the ready Syrian, piety. “We are always in his hand, and we must obey his will. I expected no other advice from one of your character and life. May he reward you for your incessant benevolence and holiness ! ”

Abu Daoud saw his daughter, showered benedictions upon her, and made her presents, but said nothing of his new plan for her future. The project was not yet ripe ; and then what had she to do with it ? A wise girl, a good daughter, — excuse me for naming her, — she would do her father’s bidding.

Now back to Beirut. Abu Daoud cringed and smiled to Sinclair until the young man was ashamed for him.

“ Tell him, once for all. that his daughter is worthy of twice what I am and have,” he said to Abdallah. “Ask him if I can go and see her. I want a letter from him to Air. Jackson.”

“ Let his Excellency wait one day longer,” answered Abu Daoud, and went off to close matters with Antone.

What sort of an interview there was between the two Syrians we cannot say. It was probably commenced with mellifluous sweetness by the elder, and carried on with stormy anger by the younger, ending in a violent quarrel.

Smoother than butter, however, was Abu Daoud the next day, when he went with Sinclair before the American consul, and there signed a contract of betrothal for his daughter.

“ There was no need of all this,” said the lover, as he added his name to the paper. “ Nevertheless, I suppose it is necessary in order to make the father feel safe. Confound it! I don’t want to bind the young lady until she is willing to bind herself.”

“We don’t do it this way in America, Mr. Sinclair,” blandly smiled the consul. “ I wish you joy. Good morning.”

“ That young ass has actually engaged himself to a native,” the consul remarked to his wife at dinner. “ In six months from his wedding, he ’ll be obliged to cowhide her.”

Furnished with Abu Daoud’s letter, and smeared to the ears with his embraces, Sinclair set out for Bhamdun, with Abdallah. An hour’s ride took him through the narrow, gloomy, noisome, and noisy market street ; through the winding ways of the magnificent amphitheatre of gardens ; through the pines, which cast their thin shadows over the surrounding flats of sand ; through the vast grove of olives, six miles in length, which silvers the shallow valley at the base of Lebanon. Then came the ascent, — hills beyond hills of yellow rock and yellow earth ; down-lookings into huge ravines of terraced and cultivated verdure ; grain, vines, olives, and mulberries, swarming up mighty slopes; villages in leafy nests of valleys and on rocky perches of crags ; the great sea behind growing ever broader and more sublime ; the mountain-ridge in front rivalling it in sublimity.

Light - footed mountaineers, some white-turbaned Druzes, others blueturbaned Maronites, passed them with salutations of “Yn subhac bel khiar ” (May God bless your morning). They watered their horses at fountains on which were inscriptions invoking the mercy of God. They lunched on figs and oranges and coffee, with their eyes fixed on the snowy peak of Sunneen. A wonderful present and a wonderful past were all around them. Had the sun been setting, they could have distinguished the mountains of Cyprus. Had a rocky cape been withdrawn, they could have beheld Sidon.

Sinclair felt his soul to be as radiant and boundless as the landscape. If we have hitherto treated this young man’s passion, with such levity as to throw doubt upon its sincerity, we have done it injustice. His imagination, at least, was all aflame ; he was romantically in love with his Syrian belle; he was crazily impatient to be near her once more. Ah, the bedlamite poetry and sentiment of two-and-twenty !

The steep rocky wady, or ravine, six hundred feet in depth, which gapes below Bhamdun, was fathomed at a speed which made the distant villages stare. At a fountain which flows near the lowermost stone cottages of the hamlet Sinclair leaped from his horse and advanced with extended hand toward two Syrian girls who were just then approaching the cool water from a terrace of mulberries.

“ How do you do, Lulu ? ” he said to the eldest and handsomest.

“ Ya, Howaja! ” she exclaimed, using her own language, in her surprise. “O Howaja, Frayd!” she repeated in English.

“ I am delighted,” he added, pressing her hand until the color rushed into her half-veiled blond face. “ I hope you are not vexed to see me.”

“No, I am not vexed,” she replied; “ why should I ? ”

Probably she did not know two hundred English words, and even those were strange and unmeaning to her ears. Her talk in this unfamiliar language rvas always brief, simple, and passionless.

“ I will see you again at Mr. Jackson’s,” he added, as he remounted his horse.

“ Yes, I will see you,” she answered, with a smile which was delicious, because it was girlish, because it was half hidden by the drooping folds of a mantilla of white gauze, because it was Oriental, madonnesque, and in short everything romanesque.

Of course Mr. Jackson had no more objections to make to this courtship when he learned that Abu Daoud had given it his paternal blessing.

“ I will speak to the girl,” he began-

“ O, for Heaven’s sake, no !” implored Sinclair. “You would rob me of a great happiness. I hate this betrothing, this commanding of elders, these shackles upon love. If she cannot like me for myself, without knowing that her father has contracted her to me, I will not take her.”

The missionary could not help smiling, in spite of his perplexity. “ This is new love-making for Syria,” he said ; “this is turning shekel belad1 topsyturvy.”

They were sitting in a sort of roofed court, nearly thirty feet long, which occupied the centre of the house. On three sides were rooms ; the other side was open, with the exception of two small, rudely cut pillars, supporting three broad, pointed arches ; through these arches the eye dropped to the bottom of the stony wady beneath the village, or shot aslant over yellow hills until it reached the Mediterranean. The sun was setting ; the sea was a blaze of flame ; the west was a glory of reddish gold. To add picturesqueness to the foreground, a man in a white turban and striped cloak stole along a terrace just below the house, turning his dark face upward, under the dwarf mulberries, to glance at the two Franks.

“ Who can that be ? ” muttered Mr. Jackson. “If the fellow were not in Druze costume, I should take him for Antone. I have seen him about here twice before. Do you know where Antone is ? ”

“ I don’t,” answered the youth, and dropped the subject there, not quite easy in his conscience.

“ Well, no matter, I don’t know what harm he could do you that he would dare do.”

“ Nor I,” returned Sinclair, scornfully ; for he was not timorous, and he had the bravado of his age.

Now came a period of courtship. “ It must be in the presence of my family,” Jackson had said ; and Sinclair had acceded in good faith to the somewhat severe decree. But Mrs. Jackson, interested in this match now that it had become lawful, made the way as easy as she might for the two lovers. When the five Arab maidens of her branch of the school walked out under her charge she allowed Sinclair to accompany them, and to detain Lulu behind the others or inveigle her ahead on little pretexts. So there was love-making of a kind new to Syrian damsels.

Lulu was at once charmed andfrightened at feeling her hand pressed by this young man, and at hearing from his lips that she was beautiful. Her slightly pale blond cheeks colored under these excitements until they glowed like a sunset. She was in love ; there was soon no doubt of that; but still she was shy. She had been told that she was free from her engagement with Antone, but not that she was betrothed to this glorious stranger. To her former affianced, by the way, she hardly gave a thought; she had not spoken to him above a dozen times in her life ; even then their talk had not been of affection ; why should she care for him ? ”

At last, after a month of this coy happiness, Sinclair begged that he might see Lulu alone.

“ Give me an hour,” smiled Mrs. Jackson ; then she arrayed the girl in her best attire. When Sinclair entered the room where his Madonna had been sent to receive him, he beheld a spectacle which we must describe.

Lulu was in truth very handsome. There are thousands of handsomer girls in America, and even in Philadelphia ; but then hers was an Oriental beauty, and to Sinclair it had the magic of novelty. Her profile was what one might call a compromise between the Greek and the Jewish. Her forehead was low and broad ; her nose delicate and the merest trifle curved ; her mouth was rather small, but the lips were pulpy; her chin was well brought forward, and exquisitely dimpled. Her expression was more noble and intellectual than was justly due to her somewhat uncultured soul and brain.

In form she was father small, but rounded, graceful, and willowy. The only changes which the missionaries had made in her native costume were to close up the breast of her dress to the neck, and to lengthen the skirt until it concealed her shintyan or Oriental trousers. On her head, set a little back, so as to show her wavy auburn hair, was a crimson tarboosh, with a long black silk tassel. Her jacket of crimson broadcloth hung loosely, and its embroidered sleeves only came halfway to her elbows. Her dress — a figured stuff of cotton and silk — fitted her round form closely, showing the natural contour of both waist and hips. Around the waist, or rather around the hips, and nearly falling from them, was a twisted shawl of India silk, white, with narrow golden stripes. Her little feet were in pointed slippers of yellow morocco.

The girl’s cheeks, when Sinclair entered her presence, were a flame of scarlet, and her hazel eyes were flashes of frightened, curious, loving, liquid light.

My beautiful girl, please read that,” he said, handing her the letter of Abu Daoud to Mr. Jackson.

She read it, blushing deeper than ever, and looked up at him with unconcealed gladness.

“ Dear Lulu,” he went on, seizing her hands, “ I love you dearly. Do you understand me ? O, do you ? Are you willing to be my wife ? ”

Syrian as she was, she received all this in such a truly American fashion that I am inclined to suspect that the American fashion is strictly in accordance with universal human nature. She laid her golden head against his shoulder, and whispered, “ I am willing.”

We will pass over something that next happened, also very American; we will skip on to the moment when Sinclair asked, “ When will you be married ? ”

“ When you want,” replied Lulu, still with her head on his shoulder.

This answer, I have reason to believe, is not so American; but our young Pennsylvanian seemed to find it perfectly satisfactory, and there was another little scene which we shall omit.

This affiancing must be a long job. It was an hour or so before the portal of the parlor opened, and through the nondescript court of the straggling, one-storied, and leaky, though stonebuilt cottage, walked bashfully, arm in arm, Fred Sinclair and Lulu Esh Shidiak, betrothed lovers. The Christian gravity of Mrs. Jackson melted into a shower of kisses and a moisture which brightened her eyes. The four unaffianced damsels of the school kissed first Lulu’s hand, and then her cheek, with an air of profound respect. Mr. Jackson wished the couple joy, and beamed with irrational confidence that all was for the best, although logically he did not believe in marrying two grades of civilization.

Now Sinclair became a missionary, and heard Lulu’s English lessons. There was a delightful month of study, of babblings in the comandaloon, or double-arched window, and of walks among the mulberries and vines of the terraces which surrounded the village. Then came a whirlwind of trouble.

A terrific civil war burst out between the eighty thousand Maronites and the thirty-five thousand Druzes of Mount Lebanon. Over rocky heights and through verdant ravines, for a space of fifteen miles in breadth by forty in length, the struggle rioted in the blood of men, women, and children, and in the flames of convents and villages. The Druzes, favored by their compact feudal organization, and led by their five great families of martial sheiks, rapidly gained ground on their more numerous but badly handled antagonists. The ferocity of the contest may be judged of by a single ghastly incident. Colonel Rose, the English Consul-General of Syria, visiting the venerable chief of the powerful house of Boneked on a mission of peace, found the old man smoking his pipe amid a circle of thirty bloody Christian heads, expiatory sacrifices for the death of his son in battle. Even in the presence of this hideous spectacle the fierce but politic and smooth-tongued barbarian had the impudence to lay his hand upon his heart and say, “ Rose Bey, may Allah bless you for your thoughts of peace ! ”

There were reports that Bhamdun, a Christian village, would be burned. The Abdelmeleks, within whose feudal territories it lay, declared that, while they would protect the lives of the missionaries, they could not guarantee the safety of the hamlet. The Jacksons decided that they must retire to Beirut, and, for greater safety, they concluded to make the journey by night.

At this point Antone Barakat reappears darkly on the scene. It seems that he had sworn vengeance for his dismissal; that, under the disguise of a Druze costume, he had followed Lulu to the mountains ; that he had haunted the neighborhood of Bhamdun with the purpose of doing — we cannot say what. When the war broke out, he saw in it a chance for executing his vindictive projects. A member of the Greek Church, and consequently a hater of the papistical Maronites, he had no hesitation in aiding the Druzes against their Christian foes.

In return for his services as a spy he demanded of the Abdelmeleks that they should assist him in recovering his betrothed. Sheik Ali, the old and crafty head of the house, refused to meddle in the affairs of Franks ; but his eldest son, Sheik Yusef, the warrior of the race, nodded assent to a group of his ferocious henchmen.

On a summer evening, lighted only by the stars, the Jackson cavalcade, no less than eight loaded mules and horses, left Bhamdun for the city. The first ravine was passed, and they were winding over the stony ridge beyond it, when the missionary called Sinclair aside.

“ I have seen that Druze again today,” he whispered. “The one who looks like Antone. And he is Antone.

I walked after him, and he ran away from me. I am seriously afraid that he will make some trouble for us, — that is, especially for you and Lulu. My opinion is that we had better divide our party. Suppose that you and Lulu should take the boy Habeeb, and push straight to the left into the next wady. There is a Maronite village at the bottom of it, and there you will probably be safe. The way is rough, but Habeeb knows it. Meantime we will follow the public road to Beirut. If people come upon us, I shall know how to make them waste their time, even if I don’t scare them out of their enterprise.”

Ten minutes later, Sinclair and Lulu, guided by a lean, springy Arab youth of eighteen, had cantered along the stony nose of the ridge, and were descending its steepest declivity into a deep, shadowy ravine. For a space they leaped their horses down the terraces ; then they found a path which followed the windings of a gulley. Vines and mulberries rose to right and left above them ; the thick verdure of oranges and lemons darkened below them. They were within half a mile of the village, when from behind the blackened walls of a cottage which had been burned the day previous rode three men in the white turbans and cloaks of white and black stripes which distinguish the Druzes. With a groan of terror Habeeb sprang out of the path, and rushed up the terraced hillside at the sublimest speed of his slippers. Sinclair, stupefied by the novelty of the conjuncture, halted his horse in front of Lulu, and slowly drew his revolver.

“ Ah, Howaja Fred,” said the foremost Druze, in pure English, and with a mocking accent, " so you came out of your way to meet me ? How kind ! Nobody is so kind as these Americans. Their goodness is excessive, as we poor Arabs say. Now will you cause the measure of your beneficence to overflow by giving me my betrothed wife ? ”

Lulu had uttered a low cry of alarm when she recognized the voice of Antone. Sinclair, without saying a word, placed his left hand on the bridle of her horse, and with the other hand presented his revolver. As quick as lightning Antone slipped to the ground, and aimed a fowling-piece across his saddle.

At that moment tongues of fire shot from a thicket a hundred yards distant; there was a swift whish of missiles through the air, and then the bang bang of the volley. With the sharp cry of a wounded man Antone Barakat clambered into his saddle, and, followed by his two comrades, plunged past Sinclair and Lulu, galloping up the gulleypathway toward the dark ridges of the mountain. The crisis was over in an instant ; it had swept by like a whirlwind ; it had come only to be gone. In explanation of the volley, we must understand a picket of Maronites from the village, who had detected the whiteturbans and striped cloaks, distinct against the sombre hillside.

At daybreak, safely housed in Beirut, Sinclair learned from Mr. Jackson that he also had been halted by a party of Druzes, and had with difficulty convinced them that Lulu Esh Shidiak was not in his cavalcade. They had only left him when they heard a crash of musketry in the wady.

In what Howaja Frayd considered due season there was a wedding at the mission-house. All the Esh Shidiaks were there,—men in turbans and longrobes, women in figured silks and headdresses of gold coins, all glowing with such pride and satisfaction as seldom illuminates Syrian families. Abu Daoud’s face wrinkled all over with joy, like a sea covered with frisking, sunny wavelets, when he learned that his Excellency Howaja Frayd would reside in Syria. What pickings ! what purses of gold to borrow ! what chances for speculation in wool and cocoons !

“ Are you happy. Lulu ? ” asked Howaja Frayd, as he drew his Oriental wife out of the reception.

“Yes, very,” sighed Lulu, looking up in his face as frankly as if she had belonged to him forever.

Whether he has ever had occasion to cowhide her, after the manly fashion of many Syrian husbands, we cannot positively declare. Let us stubbornly hope to tke contrary, inasmuch as she is a member of the mission church.

  1. The custom of the country.