From Jaffa to Jerusalem

Since Jonah made his short and ignominious voyage along the Syrian coast, mariners have had the same difficulty in getting ashore that the sailors experienced who attempted to land the prophet; his tedious though safe method of disembarking was not followed by later navigators, and the landing at Jaffa has remained a vexatious and half the time an impossible achievement.

The town lies upon the open sea and has no harbor. It is only in favorable weather that vessels can anchor within a mile or so from shore, and the Mediterranean steamboats often pass the port without being able to land either freight or passengers. In the usual condition of the sea the big fish would have found it difficult to discharge Jonah without stranding itself, and it seems that it waited three days for the favorable moment. The best chance for landing nowadays is in the early morning, in that calm period when the winds and the waves alike await the movements of the sun. It was at that hour, on the 5th of April, 1875, that we arrived from Port Said on the French steamboat Erymanthe. The night had been pleasant and the sea tolerably smooth, but not to the apprehensions of some of the passengers, who always declare that they prefer, now, a real tempest to a deceitful groundswell. On a recent trip a party had been prevented from landing, owing to time deliberation of the ladies in making their toilet; by the time they had attired themselves in a proper manner to appear in Southern Palestine, the golden hour had slipped away, and they were able only to look upon the land which their beauty and clothes would have adorned. None of us were caught in a like delinquency. At the moment the anchor went down we were bargaining with a villain to take us ashore, a bargain in which the yeasty and waxingly uneasy sea gave the boatman all the advantage.

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Our little company of four is guided by the philosopher and dragoman Mohammed Abd-el-Atti, of Cairo, who has served us during the long voyage of the Nile. He is assisted in his task by the Abyssinian boy Ahman Abdallah, the brightest and most faithful of servants. In making his first appearance in the Holy Land he has donned over his gay Oriental costume a blue Frank coat, and set his fez back upon his head at an angle exceeding the slope of his forehead. His black face has an unusual lustre and his eyes dance with more than their ordinary merriment as he points excitedly to the shore and cries, —

“Yâfa! Mist’r Dunham.”

The information is addressed to Madame, whom Ahman, utterly regardless of sex, invariably addresses by the name of one of our traveling companions on the Nile.

“Yes, marm; you see him, Yâfa,” interposed Abd-el-Atti, coming forward with the air of brushing aside, as impertinent, the geographical information of his subordinate; “not much, I tink, but him bery old. Let us to go ashore.”

Jaffa, or Yâfa, or Joppa, must have been a well-established city, since it had maritime dealings with Tarshish in that remote period in which the quaint story of Jonah is set—a piece of Hebrew literature that bears internal evidence of great antiquity in its extreme naīveté. Although the Canaanites did not come into Palestine till about 2400 B. C., that is to say about the time of the twelfth dynasty in Egypt, yet there is a reasonable tradition that Jaffa existed before the deluge. For ages it has been the chief Mediterranean port of great Jerusalem. Here Solomon landed his Lebanon timber for the temple. The town swarmed more than once with the Roman legions on their way to crush a Jewish insurrection. It displayed the banner of the Saracen host a few years after the Hegira. And, later, when the Crusaders erected the standard of the cross on its walls, it was the dépôt of supplies which Venice and Genoa and other rich cities contributed to the holy war. Great kingdoms and conquerors have possessed it in turn, and for thousands of years merchants have trusted their fortunes to its perilous roadstead. And yet no one has ever thought it worth while to give it a harbor by the construction of a mole, or a pier like that at Port Said. I should say that the first requisite in the industrial, to say nothing of the moral, regeneration of Palestine is a harbor at Jaffa.

The city is a cluster of irregular, flat-roofed houses, and looks from the sea like a brown bowl turned bottom up; the roofs are terraces on which the inhabitants can sleep on summer nights, and to which they can ascend, out of the narrow, evil-smelling streets, to get a whiff of sweet odor from the orange gardens which surround the town. The ordinary pictures of Jaffa do it ample justice. The chief feature in the view is the hundreds of clumsy feluccas tossing about in the aggravating waves, diving endwise and dipping sidewise, guided a little by the long sweeps of the sailors, but apparently the sport of the most uncertain billows. A swarm of them, four or five deep, surrounds our vessel; they are rising and falling in the most sickly motion, and dashing into each other in the frantic efforts of their rowers to get near the gangway ladder. One minute the boat nearest the stairs rises as if it would mount into the ship, and the next it sinks below the steps into a frightful gulf. The passengers watch the passing opportunity to jump on board, as people dive into the “lift” of a hotel. Freight is discharged into lighters that are equally frisky; and it is taken on and off splashed with salt water and liable to a thousand accidents in the violence of the transit.

Before the town stretches a line of rocks worn for ages, upon which the surf is breaking and sending white jets into the air. It is through a narrow opening in this that our boat is borne on the back of a great wave, and we come into a strip of calmer water and approach the single landing-stairs. These stairs are not so convenient as those of the vessel we have just left, and two persons can scarcely pass on them. But this is the only sea entrance to Jaffa; if the Jews attempt to return and enter their ancient kingdom this way, it will take them a lone time to get in. A sea wall fronts the town, fortified by a couple of rusty cannon at one end, and the passage is through the one gate at the head of these stairs.

It seems forever that we are kept waiting at the foot of this shaky stairway. Two opposing currents are struggling to get up and down it: excited travelers, porters with trunks and knapsacks, and dragomans who appear to be pushing their way through simply to show their familiarity with the country. It is a dangerous ascent for a delicate woman. Somehow, as we wait at this gate where so many men of note have entered, from Solomon to Origen, from Tiglath-Pileser to Frederick Barbarossa, the historical figure which most pervades Jaffa is that of the whimsical Jonah, whose connection with it was the slightest. There is no evidence that he ever returned here. Josephus, who takes liberties with the Hebrew Scriptures, says that a whale carried the fugitive into the Euxine Sea, and there discharged him much nearer to Nineveh than he would have been if he had kept with the conveyance in which he first took passage and landed at Tarsus. Probably no one in Jaffa noticed the little man as he slipped though this gate and took ship, and yet his simple embarkation from the town has given it more notoriety than any other event. Thanks to an enduring piece of literature, the unheroic Jonah and his whale are better known than St. Jerome and his lion; they are the earliest associates and Oriental acquaintances of all well-brought-up children in Christendom. For myself, I confess that the strictness of many a New England Sunday has been relieved by the perusal of his unique adventure. He in a manner anticipated the use of the monitors and other cigar-shaped submerged sea vessels.

When we have struggled up the slippery stairs and come through the gate, we wind about for some time in a narrow passage on the side of the sea, and then cross through the city, still on foot. It is a rubbishy place; the streets are steep and crooked; we pass through archways, we ascend steps, we make unexpected turns; the shops are a little like bazars, but rather Italian than Oriental; we pass a pillared mosque and a Moslem fountain; we come upon an ancient square, in the centre of which is a round fountain with pillars and a canopy of stone, and close about it are the bazars of merchants. This old fountain is profusely sculptured with Arabic inscriptions; the stones are worn and have taken the rich tint of age, and the sunlight blends it into harmony with the gay stuffs of the shops and the dark skins of the idlers on the pavement. We come into the great market of fruit and vegetables, where vast heaps of oranges, like apples in a New England orchard, line the way and fill the atmosphere with a golden tinge.

The Jaffa oranges are famous in the Orient: they grow to the size of ostrich eggs, they have a skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros, and, in their season, the pulp is sweet, juicy, and tender. It is a little late now, and we open one golden globe after another before we find one that is not dry and tasteless as a piece of punk. But one cannot resist buying such magnificent fruit.

Outside the walls, through broad dusty highways, by lanes of cactus hedges and in sight again of the sea breaking on a rocky shore, we come to the Hotel of the Twelve Tribes, occupied now principally by Cook’s tribes, most of whom appear to be lost. In the adjacent lot are pitched the tents of Syrian travelers, and one of Cook’s expeditions is in all the bustle of speedy departure. The bony, nervous Syrian horses are assigned by lot to the pilgrims, who are excellent people from England and America, and most of them as unaccustomed to the back of a horse as to that of an ostrich. It is touching to see some of the pilgrims walk around the animals which have fallen to them, wondering how they are to get on, which side they are to mount, and how they are to stay on. Some have already mounted, and are walking the steeds carefully round the inclosure or timidly essaying a trot. Nearly every one concludes, after a trial, that he would like to change, — something not quite so much up and down, you know, an easier saddle, a horse that more unites gentleness with spirit. Some of the dragomans are equipped in a manner to impress travelers with the perils of the country. One, whom I remember on the Nile as a mild though showy person, has bloomed here into a Bedawee: he is fierce in aspect, an arsenal of weapons, and gallops furiously about upon a horse loaded down with accoutrements. This, however, is only the beginning of our real danger.

After breakfast we sallied out to see the sights: besides the house of Simon the tanner, they are not many. The house of Simon is, as it was in the time of St. Peter, by the seaside. We went upon the roof (and it is more roof than anything else) where the apostle lay down to sleep and saw the vision, and looked around upon the other roofs and upon the wide sweep of the tumbling sea. In the court is a well, the stone curb of which is deeply worn in several places by the rope, showing long use. The water is brackish; Simon may have tanned with it. The house has not probably been destroyed and rebuilt more than four or five times since St. Peter dwelt here; the Romans once built the entire city. The chief room is now a mosque. We inquired for the house of Dorcas, but that is not shown, although I understood that we could see her grave outside the city. It is a great oversight not to show the house of Dorcas, and one that I cannot believe will long annoy pilgrims in these days of multiplied discoveries of sacred sites.

Whether this is the actual spot where the house of Simon stood, I do not know, nor does it much matter. Here, or hereabouts, the apostle saw that marvelous vision which proclaimed to a weary world the brotherhood of man. From this spot issued the gospel of democracy: “Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” From this insignificant dwelling went forth the edict that broke the power of tyrants, and loosed the bonds of slaves, and ennobled the lot of woman, and enfranchised the human mind. Of all places on earth I think there is only one more worthy of pilgrimage by all devout and liberty-loving souls.

We were greatly interested, also, in a visit to the well-known school of Miss Arnot, a mission school for girls in the upper chambers of a house in the most crowded part of Jaffa. With modest courage and tact and self-devotion this lady has sustained it here for twelve years, and the fruits of it already begin to appear. We found twenty or thirty pupils, nearly all quite young, and most of them daughters of Christians; they are taught in Arabic the common branches, and some English, and they learn to sing. They sang for us English tunes like any Sunday-school; a strange sound in a Moslem town. There are one or two other schools of a similar character in the Orient, conducted as private enterprises by ladies of culture; and I think there is no work nobler, and none more worthy of liberal support or more likely to result in giving women a decent position in Eastern society.

On a little elevation a half mile outside the walls is a cluster of wooden houses, which were manufactured in America. There we found the remnants of the Adams colony, only half a dozen families out of the original two hundred and fifty persons; two or three men and some widows and children. The colony built in the centre of their settlement an ugly little church out of Maine timber; it now stands empty and staring, with broken windows. It is not difficult to make this adventure appear romantic. Those who engaged in it were plain New England people, many of them ignorant, but devout to fanaticism. They bad heard the prophets expounded, and the prophecies of the latter days unraveled, until they came to believe that the day of the Lord was nigh, and that they had laid upon them a mission in the fulfillment of the divine purposes. Most of them were from Maine and New Hampshire, accustomed to bitter winters and to wring their living from a niggardly soil. I do not wonder that they were fascinated by the pictures of a fair land of blue skies, a land of vines and olives and palms, where they were undoubtedly called by the Spirit to a life of greater sanctity and considerable ease and abundance. I think I see their dismay when they first pitched their tents amid this Moslem squalor, and attempted to “squat,” Western fashion, upon the skirts of the Plain of Sharon, which has been for some ages preëmpted. They erected houses, however, and joined the other inhabitants of the region in a struggle for existence. But Adams, the preacher and president, had not faith enough to wait for the unfolding of prophecy; he took to strong drink, and with general bad management the whole enterprise came to grief, and the deluded people were rescued from starvation only by the liberality of our government.

There was the germ of a good idea in the rash undertaking. If Palestine is ever to be repeopled, its coming inhabitants must have the means of subsistence; and if those now here are to be redeemed to a better life, they must learn to work; before all else there must come a revival of industry and a development of the resources of the country. To send here Jews or Gentiles and to support them by charity, only adds to the existing misery.

It was eight years ago that the Adams community exploded. Its heirs and successors are Germans, a colony from Würtemberg, an Advent sect akin to the American, but more single-minded and devout. They own the ground upon which they have settled, having acquired a title from the Turkish government; they have erected substantial houses of stone and a large hotel, The Jerusalem, and give many evidences of shrewdness and thrift as well as piety. They have established a good school, in which, with German thoroughness, Latin, English, and the higher mathematics are taught, and an excellent education may be obtained. More land the colony is not permitted to own; but they hire ground outside the walls which they farm to advantage.

I talked with one of the teachers, a thin young ascetic in spectacles, whose severity of countenance and demeanor was sufficient to rebuke all the Oriental levity I had encountered during the winter. There was in him and in the other leaders an air of sincere fanaticism, and a sobriety and integrity in the common laborers, which are the best omens for the success of the colony. The leaders told us that they thought the Americans came here with the expectation of making money uppermost in mind, and hardly in the right spirit. As to themselves, they do not expect to make money; they repelled the insinuation with some warmth; they have had, in fact, a very hard struggle, and are thankful for a fair measure of success. Their sole present purpose is evidently to redeem and reclaim the land, and make it fit for the expected day of jubilee. The Jews from all parts of the world, they say, are to return to Palestine, and there is to issue out of the Holy Land a new divine impulse which is to be the regeneration and salvation of the world. I do not know that anybody but the Jews themselves would oppose their migration to Palestine, though their withdrawal from the business of the world suddenly would create wide disaster. With these doubts, however, we did not trouble the youthful knight of severity. We only asked him upon what the community founded its creed and its mission. Largely, he replied, upon the prophets, and especially upon Isaiah; and he referred us to Isaiah xxxii. 1; xlix. 12 et seq.; and lii. 1. It is not every industrial community that would flourish on a charter so vague as this.

A lad of twelve or fourteen was our guide to the Advent settlement; he was an early polyglot, speaking, besides English, French, and German, Arabic and, I think, a little Greek; a boy of uncommon gravity of deportment and of precocious shrewdness. He is destined to be a guide and dragoman. I could see that the whole Biblical history was a little fade to him, but he does not lose sight of the profit of a knowledge of it. I could not but contrast him with a Sunday-school scholar of his own age in America, whose imagination kindles at the Old Testament stories, and whose enthusiasm for the Holy Land is awakened by the wall maps and the pictures of Solomon’s temple. Actual contact has destroyed the imagination of this boy; Jerusalem is not so much a wonder to him as Boston; Samson lived just over there beyond the Plain of Sharon, and is not so much a hero as Old Put.

The boy’s mother was a good New Hampshire woman, whose downright Yankeeism of thought and speech was in odd contrast to her Oriental surroundings. I sat in a rocking-chair in the sitting-room of her little wood cottage, and could scarcely convince myself that I was not in a prim New Hampshire parlor. To her mind there were no more Oriental illusions, and perhaps she had never indulged any; certainly, in her presence Palestine seemed to me as commonplace as New England.

“I s’pose you’ve seen the meetin’ house?’


“Wal, it’s goin’ to rack and ruin like everything else here. There isn’t enough here to have any service now. Sometimes I go to the German; I try to keep up a little feeling.”

I have no doubt it is more difficult to keep up a religious feeling in the Holy Land than it is in New Hampshire, but we did not discuss that point. I asked, “Do you have any society?”

“Precious little. The Germans are dreffle unsocial. The natives are all a low set. The Arabs will all lie; I don’t think much of any of ’em. The Mohammedans are all shiftless; you can’t trust any of ’em.”

“Why don’t you go home?”

“Wal, sometimes I think I’d like to see the old place, but I reckon I couldn’t stand the winters. This is a nice climate, that’s all there is here; and we have grapes and oranges, and loads of flowers—you see my garden there; I set great store by that, and me and my daughter take solid comfort in it, especially when he is away, and he has to be off most of the time with parties, guidin’ ’em. No, I guess I shan’t ever cross the ocean again.”

It appeared that the good woman had consoled herself with a second husband, who bears a Jewish name; so that the original object of her mission, to gather in the chosen people, is not altogether lost sight of.

There is a curious interest in these New England transplantations. Climate is a great transformer. The habits and customs of thousands of years will insensibly conquer the most stubborn prejudices. I wonder how long it will require to blend these scions of our vigorous civilization with the motley growth that makes up the present Syriac population—people whose blood is streaked with a dozen different strains, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Arabian, Assyrian, Phœnician, Greek, Roman, Canaanite, Jewish, Persian, Turkish, with all the races that have in turn ravaged or occupied the land. I do not, indeed, presume to say what the Syrians are who have occupied Palestine for so many hundreds of years, but I cannot see how it can be otherwise than that their blood is as mixed as that of the modern Egyptians. Perhaps these New England offshoots will maintain their distinction of race for a long time, but I should be still more interested to know how long the New England mind will keep its integrity in these surroundings, and whether those ruggednesses of virtue and those homely simplicities of character which we recognize as belonging to the hilly portions of New England will insensibly melt away in this relaxing air that so much wants moral tone. These Oriental countries have been conquered many times, but they have always conquered their conquerors. I am told that even our American consuls are not always more successful in resisting the undermining seductions of the East than were the Roman pro-consuls.

These reflections, however, let it be confessed, did not come to me as I sat in the rocking-chair of my countrywoman. I was rather thinking how completely her presence and accent dispelled all my Oriental illusions and cheapened the associations of Jaffa. There is I know not what in a real living Yankee that puts all appearances to the test and dissipates the colors of romance. It was not until I came again into the highway and found in front of The Jerusalem hotel a company of Arab acrobats and pyramid-builders, their swarthy bodies shining in the white sunlight, and a lot of idlers squatting about in enjoyment of the exertions of others, that I recovered in any degree my delusions.

With the return of these, it seemed not so impossible to believe even in the return of the Jews; especially when we learned that preparations for them multiply. A second German colony has been established outside of the city. There is another at Haifa; on the Jerusalem road the beginning of one has been made by the Jews themselves. It amounts to something like a “movement.”

At three o’clock in the afternoon we set out for Ramleh, ignominiously, in a wagon. There is a carriage-road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and our dragoman had promised us a “private carriage.” We decided to take it, thinking it would be more comfortable than horseback for some of our party. We made a mistake which we have never ceased to regret. The road I can confidently commend as the worst in the world. The carriage into which we climbed belonged to the German colony, and was a compromise between the ancient ark, a modern dray, and a threshing-machine. It was one of those contrivances that a German would evolve out of his inner consciousness, and its appearance here gave me grave doubts as to the adaptability of these honest Germans to the Orient. It was, however, a great deal worse than it looked. If it were driven over smooth ground it would soon loosen all the teeth of the passengers, and shatter their spinal columns. But over the Jerusalem road the effect was indescribable. The noise of it was intolerable, the jolting incredible. The little, solid Dutchman who sat in front and drove, shook like the charioteer of an artillery wagon; but I suppose he had no feeling. We pounded along over the roughest stone pavement, with the sensation of victims drawn to execution in a cart, until we emerged into the open country; but there we found no improvement in the road.

Jaffa is surrounded by immense orange groves, which are protected along the highways by hedges of prickly-pear. We came out from a lane of these upon the level and blooming Plain of Sharon, and saw before us, on the left, the blue hills of Juden. It makes little difference what kind of conveyance one has, it is impossible for him to advance upon this historic, if not sacred plain, and catch the first glimpse of those pale hills which stood to him for a celestial vision in his childhood, without a great quickening of the pulse; and it is a most lovely view after Egypt, or after anything. The elements of it are simple enough, — merely a wide sweep of prairie and a line of graceful mountains; but the forms are pleasing, and the color is incomparable. The soil is warm and red, the fields are a mass of wild flowers of the most brilliant and variegated hues, and, alternately swept by the shadows of clouds and bathed in the sun, the scene takes on the animation of incessant change.

It was somewhere here, outside the walls, I do not know the spot, that the massacre of Jaffa occurred. I purposely go out of my way to repeat the well-known story of it, and I trust that it will always be recalled whenever any mention is made of the cruel little Corsican who so long imposed the vulgarity and savageness of his selfish nature upon Europe. It was in March, 1799, that Napoleon, toward the close of his humiliating and disastrous campaign in Egypt, carried Jaffa by storm. The town was given over to pillage. During its progress four thousand Albanians of the garrison, taking refuge in some old khans, offered to surrender on condition that their lives should be spared; otherwise they would fight to the bitter end. Their terms were accepted, and two of Napoleon’s aids-de-camp pledged their honor for their safety. They were marched out to the general’s head-quarters and seated in front of the tents with their arms bound behind them. The displeased commander called a council of war amid deliberated two days upon their fate, and then signed the order for the massacre of the entire body. The excuse was that the general could not be burdened with so many prisoners. Thus in one day were murdered in cold blood about as many people as Jaffa at present contains. Its inhabitants may be said to have been accustomed to being massacred; eight thousand of them were butchered in one Roman assault; but I suppose all antiquity may be searched in vain for an act of perfidy and cruelty combined equal to that of the Grand Emperor.

The road over which we rattle is a causeway of loose stones; the country is a plain of sand, but clothed with a luxuriant vegetation. In the fields the brown husbandmen are plowing, turning up the soft red earth with a rude plow drawn by cattle yoked wide apart. Red-legged storks, on their way, I suppose, from Egypt to their summer residence further north, dot the meadows, and are too busy picking up worms to notice our halloo. Abd-el-Atti, who has a passion for shooting, begs permission to “go for” these household birds with the gun; but we explain to him that we would no more shoot a stork than one of the green birds of Paradise. Quails are scudding about in the newly turned furrows, and song birds salute us from the tops of swinging cypresses. The Holy Land is rejoicing in its one season of beauty, its spring-time.

Trees are not wanting to the verdant meadows. We still encounter an occasional grove of oranges; olives also appear, and acacias, sycamores, cypresses, and tamarisks. The pods of the carob-tree are, I believe, the husks upon which the prodigal son did not thrive. Large patches of barley are passed. But the fields not occupied with grain are literally carpeted with wild-flowers of the most brilliant hues, such a display as I never saw elsewhere: scarlet and dark flaming poppies, the scarlet anemone, marigolds, white daisies, the lobelia, the lupin, the vetch, the gorse with its delicate yellow blossom, the pea, something that we agreed to call the white rose of Sharon, the mallow, the asphodel; the leaves of a lily not yet in bloom. About the rose of Sharon we no doubt were mistaken. There is no reason to suppose it was white; but we have somehow associated the purity of that color with the song beginning, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” It was probably not even a rose. We finally decided to cherish the red mallow as the rose of Sharon; it is very abundant, and the botanist of our company seemed satisfied to accept it. For myself, the rose by the name of mallow does not smell sweet.

We come in sight of Ramleh, which lies on the swelling mounds of the green plain, encompassed by emerald meadows and by groves of orange and olive, and conspicuous from a great distance by its elegant square tower, the most beautiful in form that we have seen in the East. As the sun is sinking we defer our visit to it, and drive to the Latin convent, where we are to lodge, permission to that effect having been obtained from the sister convent at Jaffa; a mere form, since a part of the convent was built expressly for the entertainment of travelers, and the few monks who occupy it find keeping a hotel a very profitable kind of hospitality. The stranger is the guest of the superior, no charge is made, and the little fiction of gratuitous hospitality so pleases the pilgrim that he will not at his departure be outdone in liberality. It would be much more agreeable if all our hotels were upon this system.

While the dragoman is unpacking the luggage in the court-yard and bustling about in a manner to impress the establishment with the importance of its accession, I climb up to the roofs to get the sunset. The house is all roofs, it would seem, at different levels. Steps lead here and there, and one can wander about at will; you could not desire a pleasanter lounging-place in a summer evening. The protecting walls, which are breast-high, are built in with cylinders of tile, like the mud houses in Egypt; the tiles make the walls lighter, and furnish at the same time peep-holes through which the monks can spy the world, themselves unseen. I noticed that the tiles about the entrance court were inclined downwards, so that a curious person could study any new arrival at the convent without being himself observed. The sun went down behind the square tower which is called Saracenic and is entirely Gothic in spirit, and the light lay soft and rosy on the wide compass of green vegetation; I heard on the distant fields the bells of mules returning to the gates, and the sound substituted Italy in my mind for Palestine.

From this prospect I was summoned in haste; the superior of the convent was waiting to receive me, and I had been sought in all directions. I had no idea why I should be received, but I soon found that the occasion was not a trivial one. In the reception-room were seated in some state the superior attended by two or three brothers, and the remainder of my suite already assembled. The abbot, if he is an abbot, arose and cordially welcomed “the general” to his humble establishment, hoped that he was not fatigued by the journey from Jaffa, and gave him a seat beside himself. The remainder of the party were ranged according to their rank. I replied that the journey was on the contrary delightful, and that any journey could be considered fortunate which had the hospitable convent of Ramleh as its end. The courteous monk renewed his solicitous inquiries, and my astonishment was increased by the botanist, who gravely assured the worthy father that “the general” was accustomed to fatigue, and that such a journey as this was a recreation to him.

“What in the mischief is all this about?” I seized a moment to whisper to the person next me.

“You are a distinguished American general, traveling with his lady in pursuit of Heaven knows what, and accompanied by his suite; don’t make a mess of it.”

“Oh,” I said, “if I am a distinguished American general, traveling with my lady in pursuit of Heaven knows what, I am glad to know it.”

Fortunately the peaceful father did not know anything more of war than I did, and I suppose my hastily assumed modesty of the soldier seemed to him the real thing. It was my first experience of anything like real war, the first time I had ever occupied any military position, and it did not seem to be so arduous as has been represented.

Great regret was expressed by the superior that they had not anticipated my arrival, in order to have entertained me in a more worthy manner; the convent was uncommonly full of pilgrims, and it would be difficult to lodge my suite as it deserved. Thea there followed a long discussion between the father and one of the monks upon our disposition for the night.

“If we give the general and his lady the south room in the court, then the doctor”—etc., etc.

“Or urged the monk, suppose the general and his lady occupy the cell number four, then mademoiselle can take”—etc., etc.

The military commander and his lady were at last shown into a cell opening out of the court, a lofty but narrow vaulted room, with brick floor and thick walls and one small window near the ceiling. Instead of candles we had antique Roman lamps, which made a feeble glimmer in the cavern; the oddest water-jugs served for pitchers. It may not have been damp, but it felt as if no sun had ever penetrated the chill interior.

“What is all this nonsense of the general?” I asked Abd-el-Atti, as soon as I could get hold of that managing factotum.

“Dunno, be sure; these monk always pay more attention to ’stinguish people.”

“But what did you say at the convent in Jaffa when you applied for a permit to lodge here?”

“Oh, I tell him my gentleman general American, but ’stinguish; mebbe he done gone wrote ’em that you ’stinguish American general. Very nice man, the superior, speak Italian beautiful; when I give him the letter, he say he do all he can for the general and his suite; he sorry I not let him know ’forehand.”

The dinner was served in the long refectory, and there were some twenty-five persons at table, mostly pilgrims to Jerusalem, and most of them of the poorer class. One bright Italian had traveled alone with her little boy all the way from Verona, only to see the Holy Sepulchre. The monks waited at table and served a very good dinner. Travelers are not permitted to enter the portion of the large convent which contains the cells of the monks, nor to visit any part of the old building except the chapel. I fancied that the jolly brothers who waited at table were rather glad to come into contact with the world, even in this capacity.

In the dining-room hangs a notable picture. It is the Virgin enthroned, with a crown and aureole, holding the holy child, who is also crowned; in the foreground is a choir of white boys or angels. The Virgin and child are both black; it is the Virgin of Ethiopia. I could not learn the origin of this picture; it was rude enough in execution to be the work of a Greek artist of the present day; but it was said to come from Ethiopia, where it is necessary to a proper respect for the Virgin that she should be represented black. She seems to bear something the relation to the Virgin of Judea that Astarte did to the Grecian Venus. And we are again reminded that the East has no prejudice of color: “I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem;” “Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me.”

The convent bells are ringing at early dawn, and though we are up at half past five, nearly all the pilgrims have hastily departed for Jerusalem. Upon the roof I find the morning fair. There are more minarets than spires in sight, but they stand together in this pretty little town without discord. The bells are ringing in melodious persuasion, but at the same time, in voices as musical, the muezzins are calling from their galleries; each summoning men to prayer in its own way. From these walls spectators once looked down upon the battles of cross and crescent raging in the lovely meadows, battles of quite as much pride as piety. A common interest always softens animosity, and I fancy that monks and Moslems will not again resort to the foolish practice of breaking each others’ heads so long as they enjoy the profitable stream of pilgrims to the Holy Land.

After breakfast and a gift to the treasury of the convent according to our rank—I think if I were to stay there again it would be in the character of a common soldier—we embarked again in the ark, and jolted along behind the square-shouldered driver, who seemed to enjoy the rattling and rumbling of his clumsy vehicle. But no minor infelicity could destroy for us the freshness of the morning or the enjoyment of the lovely country. Although, in the jolting, one could not utter a remark about the beauty of the way without danger of biting his tongue in two, we feasted our eyes and let our imaginations loose over the vast ranges of the Old Testament story.

After passing through the fertile meadows of Ramleh we came into a more rolling country, destitute of houses, but clothed on with such a brilliant bloom of wild flowers, among which the papilionaceous flowers were conspicuous for color and delicacy. I found by the roadside a black calla (which I should no more have believed in than in the black Virgin, if I had not seen it). Its leaf is exactly that of our calla-lily; its flower is similar to but not so open and flaring as the white calla, and the pistil is large and very long, and of the color of the interior of the flower. The corolla is green on the outside, but the inside is incomparably rich, like velvet, black in some lights and dark maroon in others. Nothing could be finer in color and texture than this superb flower. Besides the blooms of yesterday we noticed buttercups, various sorts of the ranunculus, among them the scarlet and the shooting-star, a light purple flower with a dark purple centre, the Star of Bethlehem, and the purple wind-flower. Scarlet poppies and the still more brilliant scarlet anemones, dandelions, marguerites, filled all time fields with masses of color.

Shortly we come into the hills, through which the road winds upward, and the scenery is very much like that of the Adirondacks, or would be if the rocky hills of the latter were denuded of trees. The way begins to he lively with passengers, and it becomes us to be circumspect, for almost every foot of ground has been consecrated or desecrated, or in some manner made memorable. This heap of rubbish is the remains of a fortress which the Saracens captured, built by the Crusaders to guard the entrance of the pass, upon the site of an older fortification by the Maccabees, or founded upon Roman substructions, and mentioned in Judges as the spot where some very ancient Jew stayed overnight. It is also, no doubt, one of the stations that help us to determine with the accuracy of a surveyor the boundary between the territory of Benjamin and Judah. I try to ascertain all these localities and to remember them all, but I sometimes get Richard Cœur de Lion mixed with Jonathan Maccabæus, and I have no doubt I mistook “Job’s convent” for the Casteilum boni Latronis, a place we were specially desirous to see as the birthplace of the “penitent thief.” But whatever we confounded, we were certain of one thing: we looked over into the Valley of Ajalon. It was over this valley that Joshua commanded the moon to tarry while he smote the fugitive Amorites on the heights of Gibeon, there to the east.

The road is thronged with pilgrims to Jerusalem, and with travelers and their attendants, — gay cavalcades scattered all along the winding way over the rolling plain, as in the picture of the Pilgrims to Canterbury. All the transport of freight as well as passengers is by the backs of beasts of burden. There are long files of horses and mules staggering under enormous loads of trunks, tents, and bags. Dragomans, some of them got up in fierce style, with baggy yellow trousers, yellow kuffias bound about the head with a twisted fillet, armed with long Damascus swords, their belts stuck full of pistols, and a rifle slung on the back, gallop furiously along the line, the signs of danger but the assurances of protection. Camp boys and waiters dash along also, on the pack-horses, with a great clatter of kitchen furniture; even a scullion has an air of adventure as he pounds his rack-a-bone steed into a vicious gallop. And there are the Cooks tourists, called by everybody Cookies, men and women struggling on according to the pace of their horses, conspicuous in hats with white muslin drapery hanging over the neck. Villainous looking fellows with or without long guns, coming and going on the highway, have the air of being neither pilgrims nor strangers. We meet women returning from Jerusalem clad in white, seated astride their horses, or upon beds which top their multifarious baggage.

We are leaving behind us on the right the country of Samson, in which he pissed his playful and engaging boyhood, and we look wistfully towards it. Of Zorah, where he was born, nothing is left but a cistern, and there is only a wretched hamlet to mark the site of Timnath, where he got his Philistine wife. “Get her for me, for she pleaseth me well,” was his only reply to the entreaty of his father that he would be content with a maid of his own people.

The country gets wilder and more rocky as we ascend. Down the ragged side paths come wretched women and girls, staggering under the loads of brushwood which they have cut in the high ravines; loads borne upon the head that would tax the strength of a strong man. I found it no easy task to lift one of the bundles. The poor creatures were scantily clad in a single garment of coarse brown cloth, but most of them wore a profusion of ornaments: strings of coins, Turkish and Arabic, on the head and breast, and uncouth rings and bracelets. Farther on a rabble of boys besets us, begging for backsheesh in piteous and whining tones, and throwing up their arms in theatrical gestures of despair.

All the hills bear marks of having once been terraced to the very tops, for vines and olives. The natural ledges seem to have been humored into terraces and occasionally built up and broadened by stone walls; but where the hill was smooth, traces of terraces are yet visible. The grape is still cultivated low down the steeps, and the olives straggle over some of the hills to the very top; but these feeble efforts of culture or of nature do little to relieve the deserted aspect of the scene.

We lunch in a pretty olive grove, upon a slope long ago terraced and now grass-grown and flower-sown; lovely vistas open into cool glades, and paths lead upward among the rocks to inviting retreats. From this high perch in the bosom of the hills we look off upon Ramleh, Jaffa, the broad Plain of Sharon, and the sea. A strip of sand between the sea and the plain produces the effect of a mirage, giving to the plain the appearance of the sea. It would be a charming spot for a country-seat for a resident of Jerusalem, although Jerusalem itself is rural enough at present; and David and Solomon may have had summer pavilions in these cool shades in sight of the Mediterranean. David himself, however, perhaps had enough of this region—when he dodged about in these fastnesses between Ramah and Gath, from the pursuit of Saul—to make him content with a city life. There is nothing to hinder our believing that he often enjoyed this prospect; and we do believe it, for it is already evident that the imagination must be called in to create an enjoyment of this deserted land. David no doubt loved this spot. For David was a poet, even at this early period when his occupation was that of a successful guerrilla; and he had all the true poet’s adaptability, as witness the exquisite ode he composed on the death of his enemy Saul. I have no doubt that he enjoyed this lovely prospect often, for he was a man who enjoyed heartily everything lovely. He was in this as in all he did a thorough man; when he made a raid on an Amorite city, he left neither man, woman, nor child alive to spread the news.

We have already mounted over two thousand feet. The rocks are silicious limestone, crumbling and gray with ages of exposure; they give the landscape an ashy appearance. But there is always a little verdure amid the rocks, and now and then an olive-tree, perhaps a very old one, decrepit and twisted into the most fantastic form, as if distorted by a vegetable rheumatism, casting abroad its withered arms as if the tree writhed in pain. On such ghostly trees I have no doubt the five kings were hanged. Another tree or rather shrub is abundant, the dwarf-oak; and the hawthorne, now in blossom, is frequently seen. The rock-rose—a delicate white single flower—blooms by the wayside and amid the ledges, and the scarlet anemone flames out more brilliantly than ever. Nothing indeed could be more beautiful than the contrast of the clusters of scarlet anemones and white roses with the gray rocks.

We soon descend into a valley and reach the site of Kirjath-Jearim, which has not much ancient interest for me, except that the name is pleasing; but on the other side of the stream and opposite a Moslem fountain are the gloomy stone habitations of the family pf the terrible Abu Ghaush, whose robberies of travelers kept the whole country in a panic a quarter of a century ago. He held the key of this pass, and let no one go by without toll. For fifty years he and his companions defied the Turkish government, and even went to the extremity of murdering two pashas who attempted to pass this way. He was disposed of in 1846, but his descendants still live here, having the inclination but not the courage of the old chief. We did not encounter any of them, but I have never seen any buildings that have such a wicked physiognomy as their grim houses.

Near by is the ruin of a low, thick-walled chapel, of a pure Gothic style, a remnant of the Crusaders’ occupation. The gloomy wady has another association; a monkish tradition would have us believe it was the birthplace of Jeremiah; if the prophet was born in such a hard country it might account for his lamentations. As we pass out of this wady, the German driver points to a forlorn village clinging to the rocky slope of a hill to the right, and says, —

“That is where John Baptist was born.”

The information is sudden and seems improbable, especially as there are other places where he was born.

“How do you know?” we ask.

“Oh, I know ganz wohl; I been five years in dis land, and I ought to know.”

Descending into a deep ravine we cross a brook, which we are told is the one that flows into the Valley of Elah, the valley of the “terebinth” or acacia trees; and if so, it is the brook out of which David took the stone that killed Goliath. It is a bright, dashing stream. I stood upon the bridge, watching it dancing down the ravine, and should have none but agreeable recollections of it, but that close to the bridge stood a vile grog-shop, and in the doorway sat the most villainous-looking man I ever saw in Judea, rapacity and murder in his eyes. The present generation have much more to fear from him and his drugged liquors than the Israelite had from the giant of Gath.

While the wagon zigzags up the last long hill, I mount by a short path and come upon a rocky plateau, across which runs a broad way, on the bed rock, worn smooth by many centuries of travel: by the passing of caravans and armies to Jerusalem, of innumerable generations of peasants, of chariots, of horses, mules, and foot soldiers; here went the messengers of the king’s pleasure, and here came the heralds and legates of foreign nations; this treat highway the kings and prophets themselves must have trodden when they journeyed towards the sea; for I cannot learn that the Jews ever had any decent roads, and perhaps they never attained the civilization necessary to build them. We have certainly seen no traces of anything like a practicable ancient highway on this route.

Indeed, the greatest wonder to me in the whole East is that there has not been a good road built from Jaffa to Jerusalem; that the city sacred to more than half the world, to all the most powerful nations, to Moslems, Jews, Greeks, Roman Catholics, Protestants, the desire of all lands, and the object of pilgrimage with the delicate and the feeble as well as the strong, should not have a highway to it over which one can ride without being jarred and stunned and pounded to a jelly; that the Jews should never have made a road to their seaport; that the Romans, the road builders, do not seem to have constructed one over this important route. The Sultan began this one over which we have been dragged, for the Empress Eugénie. But he did not finish it; most of the way it is a mere rubble of stones. The track is well engineered, and the road bed is well enough; soft stone is at hand to form an excellent dressing, and it might be, in a short time, as good a highway as any in Switzerland, if the Sultan would set some of his lazy subjects to work out their taxes on it. Of course, it is now a great improvement over the old path for mules; but as a carriage road it is atrocious. Imagine thirty-six miles of cobble pavement, with every other stone gone and the remainder sharpened!

Perhaps, however, it is best not to have a decent road to the Holy City of the world. It would make going there easy, even for delicate ladies and invalid clergymen; it would reduce the cost of the trip from Jaffa by two thirds; it would take away employment from a lot of vagabonds who hurry the traveler over the route; it would make the pilgrimage too much a luxury, in these days of pilgrimages by rail, and of little faith, or rather of a sort of lacquer of faith which is only credulity.

Upon this plateau we begin to discern signs of the neighborhood of the city, and we press forward with the utmost eagerness, disappointed at every turn that a sight of it is not disclosed. Scattered settlements extend for some distance out on the Jaffa road. We pass a school which the Germans have established for Arab boys; an institution which does not meet the approval of our restoration driver; the boys, when they come out, he says, don’t know what they are; they are neither Moslems nor Christians. We go rapidly on over the swelling hill, but the city will not reveal itself. We expect it any moment to rise up before us, conspicuous on its ancient hills, its walls shining in the sun. We pass a guard-house, some towers, and newly built private residences. Our pulses are beating a hundred to the minute, but the city refuses to burst upon us as it does upon other travelers. We have advanced far enough to see that there is no elevation before us higher than that we are on. The great sight of all our lives is only a moment separated from us; in a few rods more our hearts will be satisfied by that long dreamed of prospect. How many millions of pilgrims have hurried along this road, lifting up their eyes in impatience for the vision. But it does not come suddenly. We have already seen it, when the driver stops, points with his whip, and cries, —


“What, that?”

We are above it and nearly upon it. What we see is chiefly this: the domes and long buildings of the Russian Hospice, on higher ground than the city and concealing a good part of it; a large number of new houses, built of limestone prettily streaked with the red oxide of iron; the roofs of a few of the city houses, and a little portion of the wall that over-looks the Valley of Hinnom. The remainder of the city of David is visible to the imagination.

The suburb through which we pass cannot be called pleasing. Everything outside the walls looks new and naked; the whitish glare of the stone is relieved by little vegetation, and the effect is that of barrenness. As we drive down along the wall of the Russian convent, we begin to meet pilgrims and strangers, with whom the city overflows at this season; many Russian peasants, unkempt, unsavory fellows, with long hair and dirty apparel, but most of them wearing a pelisse trimmed with fur and a huge fur hat. There are coffee-houses and all sorts of cheap booths and shanty shops along the highway. The crowd is motley and far from pleasant; it is sordid, grimy, hard, very different from the more homogeneous, easy, flowing, graceful, and picturesque assemblage of vagabonds at the gate of an Egyptian town. There are Russians, Cossacks, Georgians, Jews, Armenians, Syrians. The northern dirt and squalor and fanaticism do not come gracefully into the Orient. Besides, the rabble is importunate and impudent.

We enter by the Jaffa and Hebron gate, a big square tower, with the exterior entrance to the north and the interior to the eastern, and the short turn is choked with camels and horses and a clamorous crowd. Beside it stands the ruinous citadel of Saladin and the Tower of David, a noble entrance to a mean street. Through the rush of footmen and horsemen, beggars, venders of olive wood, Moslems, Jews, and Greeks, we make our way to the Mediterranean Hotel, a rambling old hostelry. In passing to our rooms we pause a moment upon an open balcony to look down into the green Pool of Hezekiah, and off over the roofs to the Mount of Olives. Having secured our rooms, I hasten along narrow and abominably cobbled streets, mere ditches of stone, lined with mean shops, to the Centre of the Earth, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.