When we determined to cross the Dark Continent, we wisely chose one of the narrowest parts of it. This feat has become so common in these days that one feels like apologizing for engaging in it, and still more for describing it. But it may mitigate the offense by confessing, in advance, that our adventure involves neither perils nor geographical surprises, and did not have for its object the opening of new channels for the cottons and Christianity of Manchester or Lowell.
We selected for our passage that portion of Morocco which lies between Cape Spartel and the Bay of Tetuan; but as we were already at the city of Tangier, it would have been mere bravado to begin our journey at the lighthouse on the cape. We saved a ride of two hours by starting from Tangier. The mule path from Tangier to Cape Spartel is over breezy downs, through Moslem cemeteries and fields of cactus and hedges of aloes, and winds along the side of Mount Washington, with the broad expanse of the Atlantic always in view. The accomplished linguist who acted as guide informed us that Mount Washington takes its name from the fact that the women of the vicinity resort to the streams that flow from it to do their washing. It is certain that the landscape owes much of its picturesqueness to the women who are pounding clothes and chattering on every stream, or strolling along the white paths in easy-going groups. Draped in flowing white garments, with shawls drawn obliquely across the face, these dark-eyed, creamy-skinned daughters of the desert, loitering along the highway in clusters perpetually shifting as they go, embody much of the grace, the leisure, and the mystery of the Orient.
No sooner does one land in Africa than he passes into a sphere of tranquillity, and enjoys a state of rest and calm to which all parts of Europe are strangers. The haste and flurry of life fall off, like an irksome garment shed on a hot day; time is of no more account; and worry is impossible amidst a population which moves with dignified slowness, and defers all unnecessary exertion till to-morrow. Whatever may be the bustle of arrival, the clamor of boatmen, the indescribable noise and tumult and vociferation of the swarm that assails the stranger, seizes his property with a hundred hands, and threatens to scatter it all over Morocco; whatever may be the tumult of the market-place, with its camels, and donkeys, and dervishes, and conjurers, and beggars in clouds, sellers of lentils and greens, and bundles of stick for firewood, grain, sugar-candy, dates, oranges, pottery, and “truck” of all sorts powdered with dust; whatever may be the importunity of sellers, and the eagerness to act as guides of bright-eyed boys, who have a smattering of half a dozen languages, and often the courtly manner of young princes, there is, nevertheless, in all this noise and rout a sense of underlying calm, of absence of hurry, very grateful to Europeans, whose nerves, in the development of civilization, have all worked out upon the surface. There is even something soothing in the ceaseless and monotonous tom-tom of the drums, and the skirmishing and plaintive attempts of the flutes to suggest the minor air they are too lazy to play, and in the spasmodic and die-away ejaculations of the musicians, who sit upon the ground, worrying away at the tunes that are a thousand years old, and will be played with the same industrious idleness a thousand years hence. It requires less energy for the performers to go on with this sort of music than to stop.
It was difficult to summon resolution enough to break this contagious spell of repose, and make the journey to Tetuan. For the trip is not an easy one, and can always be performed better to-morrow than to-day. Tetuan is forty-five English miles from Tangier. The road is a model one for Morocco, and there is no decent halting-place on the way for the night. it is necessary, therefore, to push through between sunrise and sunset. With a good road and good horses this would be no hardship. But the government refuses to make the one, and circumstances denied us the other.
It was the time of the year for the annual pilgrimage of the European legations to the court of the emperor at Morocco. Each legation travels across the desert with considerable state and pomp, requiring for its train a large number of riding animals and beasts of burden, horses, mules, and camels. These caravans move very slowly, and consume nearly a month in the journey, making usually not more than fifteen miles a day on the march. As the legations remain at the court several weeks, about three months are spent in the trip. The caravans are furnished with tents and all the luxuries attainable, and, the march being slow, the excursion is much liked by the ladies of the different legations. The novelty of the desert journey and the visit to the thoroughly Oriental city of Morocco are pleasing inducements, but not the least of the attractions are the presents expected from the emperor to the individuals of the suites, in return for the costly gifts of arms and goods which the European governments send the emperor by the legations. The emperor’s presents are not always judiciously chosen. Last year one of the attachés of the Spanish legation so wormed himself into the favor of the emperor that he received a couple of superb pearl necklaces, of great value. On his return, the thrifty Spaniard, instead of giving one or both to his wife, turned them both into hard cash in the market. My informant, a Portuguese lady, who made the journey, received from the Morocco sultan a mule.
The expense of these costly expeditions, so far as transport is concerned, is borne, I was told, by the Morocco government; that is to say, the poor people have to be taxed for them. Their fitting-out sweeps off from Tangier and the region all the good saddle horses and mules. The English and some other legations had already gone, and the Italian was about to start. I saw at the Italian camp, outside the city, many fine horses and mules; the requisition for them made it impossible for us to procure decent riding animals for Tetuan. As we have only a consul-general in Morocco, the American government is not represented in these pilgrimages. If our government had any care for deserving travelers, it would furnish us the means of visiting the interesting city of Morocco in style befitting the citizens of the republic.
The government undertakes only to secure the safety of foreign travelers to Tetuan who are under escort of a soldier. This arrangement gives the soldier a dollar a day, which is paid by the traveler, throws around the latter the panoply of the law, and adds a certain state to his movements. The necessity of putting ourselves under the protection of the army was pleasing to us, and we commissioned our landlord to furnish us a man of war for our caravan. Our host assured us that he had procured the best beasts and equipments for our cavalcade, and we awoke early on the morning of our start, with excited anticipations of state and show.
When I glanced out of my windows at dawn, the view disclosed was exquisitely lovely. The comfortable hotel of M. Bruzeaud, where we stayed, is on a hill outside the Bab-el-Sok, or gate of the market-place, and above that busy exchange. One of my windows looked out on the garden, and the other upon the town and harbor. The garden is an orderly wilderness, a series of terraces of fruit-bearing trees, — oranges, lemons, figs, and palms; of flowering shrubs, — acacias, geraniums, carnations, pepper-trees, and rose-bushes, heavy with the weight of every form and color of this queen of the flowers. As soon as I had opened my window there came in a flood of sweet odors and a gush of bird notes. On the seats under the gigantic, wide-spreading sycamore that shades the front terrace were lounging three or four turbaned idlers, praising Allah, I hope, for the freshness of the morning, while they waited the advent of their prey, the foreigner.
From the seaward window the prospect was wide, varied, and most charming. Indeed, I scarcely know anywhere so pleasing a morning picture. The flat-topped roofs of the white-housed town, the even lines broken by a few pointed towers and minarets, and rising on the left to the ancient portions and castle, with the Alcazar; the little harbor, green and blue in patches, in the early light, with half a dozen sailing vessels and a steamer or two; to the left, the open Mediterranean and the high coast of Spain, and to the right the sand-hills of Morocco, rising by gradations and lofty mountains, over which the dawn was reddening, — this picture, for outline, color, repose, and Oriental suggestion, can hardly be equaled elsewhere. I think one might be content to spend a winter amid the color and perfume of this garden, with such a view to rest his tired senses. Already, as I looked, the life of the place was beginning to stir trains of camels were wending their way up the hill into the country; donkeys, with bundles of fagots and country produce, driven by women, or lazily bestrode by bare-legged men, were drifting into the market-place, where the crowd began to swarm, and buzz, and shift about like the occupants of an ant-hill; and I could hear the confused murmur and stir of beggars, and traffickers, and sluggards, unrolling themselves from their bundles of rags, in which they had slept beside their patient beasts. It was a market-day, and before I was dressed the idle business of the day had begun, and a circle was already formed about the snake-charmer, called together by the throb of the rude drum. If the Orientals go to rest with the sun, they rise with it.
It was five o’clock when we descended to the court-yard to mount. The cavalcade was ready: the beasts nodding with their heads against the wall, — mules and donkeys appear to be always asleep, — and our attendants squatting about in angles of the inclosure, not in the least impatient to go, wrapped in their burnouses against the fresh morning air. Whatever notion I may have formed of this outfit, I must have been disappointed. There were three mules for our party; a horse to carry the guide and the baggage; a footman, a tall, handsome-featured, bare-legged Arab, to run along and “whack” the mules; and the Morocco soldier, with his barbed steed. The mules were small, ill-conditioned beasts, with rickety saddles; the one I mounted was intended to be of a mouse color, but he had not been cleaned since he was a mule.
The soldier, however, came up to my ideas of military grandeur in Morocco. Seated on the ground, he was a mere bundle of dingy white garments, the capote of his burnous drawn over his turban. Gun he had none, and we felt wronged by the absence of this long and showy weapon. The idea of a soldier without arms seemed to us undignified. No doubt our safety was increased, but our pride of appearance was touched. His steed was a piebald animal resembling those hairless purple horses that you may see performing at an English country fair. When our soldier rose, we perceived that he was bare-legged, but wore ruined slippers; and when he climbed into his broad saddle, elevated on a pile of rugs, we noticed with rising spirits that his gown protruded, and the red end of a sword scabbard showed out of his garb of peace. This bundle of soiled rags on horseback, and armed symbol of peace and good will to men, slowly led the way out of the court-yard and down the cactus-covered hill, never looking behind him, and we meekly followed in his train. I think it was the sorriest cavalcade that ever crossed Africa. The west wind was blowing softly and sweet, the air was full of life, the sea sparkled, the white town glistened, as we rode down through the now swarming market-place, and through the narrow, ill-paved streets of the city, in search of adventure. I do not know why it was that our man of war reminded me of the mounted trooper who sits immovable at the Life Guards gate in Westminster. Both figures are my ideal of a soldier. Neither is of the slightest use, except to assert the presence of the law, and both, I presume, are harmless. Our Life Guardsman moved on at a snail’s pace, till we were free of the town, over the wide sandy beach of the harbor, and turned southward into a broad valley that winds among the low hills.
There are old Roman remains on the bay opposite the city, and a bridge of the solid architecture of the Roman period. Probably the ancient conquerors built roads and kept open good highways through this fertile country, but now there is not a road worthy of the name in all Morocco. If good roads are a sure sign of civilization, then Morocco is no more civilized than some parts of our own country. Perhaps the Moorish government is not altogether to blame for this want, though it is certainly unwilling to spend anything on highways or on the streets of the cities. For there is no popular demand for roads; if roads were made, it would be long before the people procured vehicles to run on them; they prefer the ancient method of transport by asses and camels. The way to Tetuan is exactly such a way as used to be made over our Western prairies, when every traveler found a path to suit himself, avoiding the corn and wheat fields, and describing a circuit to get over the marshy streams; that is, there are lines of wandering foot-paths, some of them deeply worn by ages of travel. In the rainy season the donkeys and camels make new paths, diverging here and there for firmer footing, so that the country is gridironed by chance roads.
The scene is animated as we advance. We meet hundreds of country people, in groups of twos and threes and dozens, with laden donkeys, on their way to town; all the women, however ugly and shabby and hare-legged, making a pretense of drawing their shawls over their faces as we pass. There are wide expanses of wheat, green and waving; flocks of sheep and herds of goats are grazing on the downs, and large numbers of the small cattle of the country, — the sort that takes nineteen to make a dozen, — such as are shipped to Gibraltar for beef. You may see them transferred from small boats to the steamers in the shallow harbor of Tangier, swung on board by a rope around the horns.
The land is vocal with the singing of innumerable birds; a very pretty warbler is a brown bird, the size of a meadow lark, with a peaked top-knot; flocks of ravens are circling about; and here and there in the fields stands a tall black and white bird, with red legs, a species of stork, the sigñana in Spanish. These domestic birds have their homes on the huts of a straggling Arab village, high up on a hill, which we pass, — thatched huts of brown earth, half hidden in the vast fields of luxuriant cactus.
After we pass this town on its high perch, the country is still largely cultivated, animated with the sounds of labor and the presence of flocks and herds, but there are no signs of habitations. Where do the people live who own these flocks and cultivate the ground? The absence of fences, or boundary hedges, and of houses makes the picture a strange one to Western eyes. For hours we saw only two or three brown hovels.
The country is rolling, like a Western prairie, but the soil is stony, and before us, to the south, are lines of serrated mountains. We pass over miles of the monotonous route, where the only verdure consists of stiff patches of palmetto, varied occasionally by yellow broom and gorse in bloom, and again interminable oleanders, budding, but not yet in flower, which grow as profusely as alders on the banks of our meadow brooks. Two weeks later their crimson blossoms, contrasted with the vivid yellow of the gorse, must make a brilliant show.
Is that a caravan wandering over the plain before us? As we approach, the procession resolves itself into a couple of dozen of camels, without loads, and with only two drivers, leisurely returning to Tetuan. The beasts are shambling along in their ungainly fashion; craning their long necks, nipping bits of grass, strolling about in a dozen paths, in no order of march. They do not march, but flow along, changing places, falling behind, and moving ahead, like figures in a kaleidoscope. I have noticed that a group of Orientals on the road saunters along in the same shifting order. The ancients of days lift up their supercilious heads, and disdainfully regard us as we pass by.
Notwithstanding that large tracts of the stony land are neglected, we are never long out of sight of cattle, sheep, and people, and cultivated fields. Occasionally there are olive-trees, but for the most part the land is treeless. From the slopes, however, come the cheerful notes of labor: workmen are calling to each other, or singing the plaintive minor songs of Egypt. Plowing is going on. The plow is the primitive stick of wood, with an iron point, that only scratches up the soil on the surface. The motive power is a couple of small bulls, yoked wide apart, — the yoke in front of the horns instead of on the neck; and progress is made by as much noise and clamor as is needed to move a house by rollers and handspikes elsewhere.
The man of war rides through all this with imperturbable gravity and slowness. Much of the way has been fair trotting-ground; it is necessary to make speed when we can, but the soldier is moving under the accumulated weight of three thousand years of leisure. When I urge him to advance, and push my mule upon him, — an effort which causes me much pounding and exhortation, — the Old Tortoise will raise his lumpy hulk in the saddle, lean forward like an old woman, and lift himself in his stirrups so as not to feel the jar; whereupon his steed will swing into a slow jog, which, slow as it is, seems very distasteful to our brave defender. At such times the red point of his scabbard sticks np behind in a military manner, lifting his burnouse, the bundle of clothes is animated by motion, and, as I urge on my mule with whacks and ejaculations of encouragement, we present for a moment a martial appearance. But it is only for a moment. The seat of this hardy defender of his country, protected as it is by piles of rugs, is not inured to this sort of violent campaigning, and he soon subsides into a walk. It is only by taking the lead, and forcing the train to follow my forced pace, that we get over the ground at all.
We have been several hours in the saddle, the sun is hot, the morning breeze has ceased, the scenery has become monotonous, when our spirits are raised by the sight of the Fondak, where we are to take our luncheon and midday rest, — a white building on the side of the mountain, in the jaws of the pass we are to scramble through. It seems very near, but we ride an hour and a half, through hot gullies and stony ravines and over steep paths, before we reach it. After five hours of this sort of work we are quite willing to throw ourselves on the ground under the scant shade afforded by a fine old ilex-tree at midday.
Our halting-place was not the Fondak, which is half a mile beyond, but the spring, which is the resort of all the people and the cattle of the region. The place is wild and rugged, and not picturesque, but the view from it over the rolling country we had traversed, and the mountains beyond, was flue. This might be made, with a little trouble, a pleasant resting-place, and one would think that on a highway so frequented as this some pains would be taken to make it comfortable. It is, however, like every Oriental place of the sort, shabby and dirty.
The Fondak itself, which has no water near it, is worse, although natives and Spanish men and women, who are no more fastidious, do spend one night there. The Fondak would be called in New England a cow-yard. It is simply a large square inclosure, built of stone and whitewashed. Within are some open arches, that afford a slight shelter to man and beast in stormy weather. A couple of the arches are inclosed, forming dark chambers, where we are told people sleep. Like the rest of the place, these rooms are full of vermin, filth, and fleas. This is, and has been, I suppose, for ages, the only sort of resting-place between two large cities that have daily communication and considerable commerce. We met, on our return, a gay cavalcade, Spanish ladies and gentlemen, going down to visit the consul at Tetuan, who had spent the night in this khan; also a company of Jews, among them some very handsome women, who had also passed the night in that filthy place. Oriental and Spanish women can do this sort of thing, and still look pretty, — look even like the painted rose.
It was two hours and a half after midday when we aroused our nodding train, and the Life Guardsman put himself again valiantly in the advance. The beasts had not been fed. It is a piece of Oriental cruelty to let working animals toil all day without food. The path was as rugged as it could be, and be a path, like the bed of a mountain torrent, up and down sharp hills and through desert ravines. The old bridle path up Mount Washington in its best days was not so bad. We went on miles and miles, stumbling and sliding over the rocks; and I had always before me that hateful bundle of soldier, with his Capote down over his head, having only this one trait of a great soldier, that he was as silent as a fish. The only exclamation he made all the afternoon was when we came to the summit of a sharp ridge. Turning in his saddle, and pointing forward, be cried out, “Tetuan!” And there, over the intervening mountains, like a vision in the sky, was the fair town of our pilgrimage, lifted up on a mountain ridge, a long, white streak, white as chalk, and beyond it the sapphire blue sea. Even at this distance—and we must have been over fifteen miles away—the walls and houses of the town shone dazzling white, and hung in the sky like a city dropped out of heaven. Not so glorious for situation as the New Jerusalem, doubtless, but more glorious than the old Jerusalem from any point of view I ever beheld it. We were so elevated that the sea beyond it seemed close to its walls, and we did not know then that between the city and the sea lay a flat plain, at least six miles across.
Inspired by this glorious picture, we felt that we were almost at our journey’s end; but the sight was like a cup of cool water presented to the lips of a thirsty traveler, and then withdrawn. The city disappeared as we plunged down the steep path, and it was weary hours before we saw it again.
The sun was getting low when we emerged into a windy plain, cultivated, and traversed by a considerable stream. here were signs of life again: laborers on foot and on donkeys were moving over the plain, and groups of women and girls in white garments, idling by the stream, told us that we were near habitations. On the spur of a mountain opposite appeared the white houses of a Moorish village. We must be near Tetuan at last. On this plain was fought the last battle between the Spaniards and the Moors, in the war of 1860-61, and before the capture of Tetuan. I urged the Old Turtle over it at a livelier gait, much against his will. We crossed a substantial bridge with Moorish arches, turned the spur of the mountain that we had been approaching for hours, and again beheld Tetuan, a long, white mass on its hill, apparently close at hand. In a few moments we should enter its white gates, and, thanks to the protection of our dollar-n-day Moslem knight, be safe from the numerous wild boars, monkeys, hyenas, jackals, gazelles, and ostriches promised us as sure to be encountered on the way, by the guide-book, — none of which, owing to our protector, had put in an appearance. The plain on which we had now entered, a rich bottom land, watered by a winding river, and inclosed on every side by high mountains, seemed one continuous wheat field, — an emerald in a gray setting. Here and there on the hills to the right were white villas, and at the southern end the white town rose beautified in the slanting rays of the sun.
The plain proved of vaster extent than we supposed. Our road along the hillside was far from level. We descended into gorges and emerged again, we caught sight of the town and lost it again and again, until, in our weariness, it seemed a very will-o’-the-wisp of a city, shown to us and removed by the enchantment of a genius. It was over an hour and a half from the time of striking the plain that the road became so cut up and utterly abominable that we knew we must be near a large city. We were now involved in cactus lanes, and splashing along through muddy pools; crowded and jostled by laborers and donkeys, and herds of cattle and sheep being driven inside the walls for the night. Within the outer wall of all these Oriental cities and the first row of houses is usually a vacant space for the herding of cattle.
Ascending the last slippery slope, we found ourselves under the high city wall. Behind and above the town on the hill rose a harmless-looking citadel. On our left, projecting from the wall, was what is called a battery, which looked like a school-house with guns in the second story. We followed the wall to the right, and entered by a great gate, in which a lot of loafers playing soldier were lounging. They hailed us and ran after us, demanding an entrance fee; but we took no heed of their necessities, pushed on through the herds of cattle, entered, and crossed the big market square of the city, surrounded by shabby buildings and resembling a stockyard, — a place humming with Oriental life, with whose fantastic squalor and picturesqueness all travelers in the East are familiar. We turned from this square into a narrow street, into other and yet other narrow streets, lined with little shops and dens where human beings labor and sleep, into a region swarming with life, swimming in grease, and over cobble-stone pavements slippery with refuse, into the quarter of the Jews, and alighted at the house of Isaac Nahon, Jew by religion, British vice-consul by title, keeper of a house of entertainment by occupation. O Tetuan, Tetuan, we said, that shone so white and pure in the distance, what a whited sepulchre you are!
But the street and the house of Isaac were clean. We were admitted (the mules, for a wonder, staying outside) into a house thoroughly Moorish in design, — a court in the centre, open up to the stars above, upon which all the rooms in all the stories opened. From the gallery on the second floor, upon which our rooms opened, we talked with the family in the court below, and held communication with the kitchen. Our rooms were long, narrow, and high, with little windows at one end (for these houses are built to exclude the sun), Moorish-arch doorways and hangings, and the walls ornamented with strips of the painted wood, cut in Arabic designs, for the manufacture of which Tetuan has a reputation. In the morning I was surprised to see how much light came in at my diminutive window, but the secret of it was explained when I looked out. All the houses are white-washed; all the flat roofs, every inch of them, are whitewashed; and this reflected glare of the sun makes every room luminous to which a ray of light is admitted.
The charms of Tetuan, which is a city of about twenty-five thousand inhabitants, exist somewhat in the imagination. Only a little over half the people are Moors; there are resident here several hundred Spaniards, and some eight thousand Jews. But Tetuan is the city of Barbary most romantically connected with Spain. In every city of Andalusia is a street called Tetuan. Tetuan was in fact founded by the Moors when they were finally expelled from Granada by the religious zeal of Ferdinand and Isabella, — a loss of skillful artificers and chivalrous poetical people from which Granada has never recovered. The only things in Granada worthy of the travelers interest are the reminiscences of the Moors. It is always said that the expelled Moors, who carried away with them such wealth as they could save from the rapacious Spaniards, and endeavored to reproduce their luxurious houses in Tetuan, expected some day to return to Granada and the Alhambra. We are told that their descendants to-day cherish the same hope, and that they preserve the title-deeds to their Spanish possessions, and the keys to their houses in Granada. I think the latter part of the statement is apocryphal. It is hardly probable that keys would be preserved hundreds of years, in the hope of using them, to houses that have not existed for centuries; and it is doubtful if the intelligent Moors of Morocco have to-day any higher ambition than getting what they can out of the government, escaping taxation, and living at ease.
When one sees the beggars and the commonplace and shabby condition of Spanish Granada, and regrets the expulsion of the Moors, he may perhaps give a new turn to his reflections by visiting Tetuan. What have the Moors done since they left Granada? Have they not retrograded in every art and refinement of life? Had the race not culminated in the splendor of the Alhambra? Had not the Moorish civilization run its natural career, and come near to its close at the time of the conquest? What have the Moors ever done since, anywhere, that has been of the least service to the world? Moors and Spaniards alike went into a decline after the brilliant epoch of the conquest and of discovery; and if Spain recovers, it will be owing wholly to the actual contact with modern civilization, which has been wanting to the Moors. If, when the Moors departed, the stately and luxurious Alhambra could have been locked up, saved from the destruction and the neglect of the Spaniards, and preserved to modern curiosity and intelligence, the traveler might be content, and regret neither the expulsion of the Moslems nor the occupation of the Christians.
The street where we lodged was, as I have said, clean; but it was very narrow, and the line of high whitewashed houses on either side, presenting a surface of solid wall broken only by small grated windows, was entirely Moorish in its character. Few other portions of the compact city were so clean. It was market-day, the day we spent in Tetuan, and the best occasion for seeing the country people and the life of the place. The open squares and streets of shops swarmed with buyers and sellers and calm waiters on Providence. The crowd had a certain picturesqueness, but it wanted the color of many Oriental populations, for the uniform dress is white, or dirty white and dirty brown, and of very coarse material. The exceptions are the Jews, who wear, as in Tangier, black skull-caps, and the few Moorish gentlemen and rich shop-keepers, whose voluminous turbans and amply flowing robes of spotless silk and linen present the true Oriental type of luxurious magnificence.
The guide-books are always beseeching the traveler to admire the Jewesses of Tangier and Tetuan. As these women go unveiled, it is easy to do so. They use color in their street apparel, a sort of broad embroidered bands worn longitudinally on the dress. Those past youth are usually rather gross in form and face, but the young women have regular features, — some of them a faultless form, fine eyes, and a good complexion; and all of them are many shades lighter than the men. A really handsome woman, however, is usually such a surprise to the traveler in Africa, as she is in Southern Spain, that he is apt to fall into an extravagance of gratitude for the sight. The Moorish women may be equally alluring, but they cover all of the face except the eyes. I noticed here, as I had noticed on the plain the evening before, that the women wore short leggings of red leather. These are survivals of the Roman fasciæ, and are exactly such as were worn by the Moorish women of Granada, as may be seen in a curious has-relief representing the baptism of Moslem women, after the conquest, in the chapel of Ferdinand and Isabella, at Granada.
Tetuan has not many good shops, though it has in one quarter a nest of narrow streets lined with tiny rooms, just big enough to hold the dealer and his stuffs, and roofed over by trellises covered with grape-vines, which will pass for a bazar. It is a cool and agreeable retreat out of the glare of the sun and the dust and clamor of the market squares, and it is a pleasure to sit down and bargain with a coolly dressed, regular-featured Moslem, who is in no haste to sell, and whose courtesy is rather that of the gentleman than the shop-keeper. These dealers have intercourse with Rabat, Fez, Timbuctoo, and other towns in the interior, and can offer you barbarous embroideries and other curiosities. Tetuan is famous also as a manufactory of red and yellow bags of the soft leather which takes its name of morocco from this country in which it is made. Part of the traffic on market-day is done by auctioneers, who carry their goods upon their arms, and push about in the crowd, asking for bids. They repeat continually their last offer, and sell only when their price is obtained. If the original bidder desires to raise his bid and compete for the article, he must follow the auctioneer. I believe the fellows are quite honest in stating the latest offer.
Tetuan is no more pleasing interiorly than any other Oriental town. It is a mass of lanes, abominably paved, and presents to the sight-seer only dead walls, with here and there a door. But looking up the narrow streets, we saw, above the flat roofs, the sharp mountain peaks, which seemed in the clear air very near, and reminded us of the situation of Innsbruck in the Tyrol. One might walk the streets forever, and have no hint of the luxury and even magnificence of the dwellings masked by the dead walls. The opening of a door, and the passage of a winding entrance, tiled and decorated, may admit one to an earthly paradise, a palace amid gardens sometimes occupying an entire square. By the courtesy of the Spanish consul, whose residence and garden are of considerable extent in the heart of the town, we were taken to see some of the best Moorish palaces. For spaciousness, elegance, and sumptuousness there is nothing comparable to them in Tangier. One was a specimen of the best old Moorish houses: open courts with fountains, surrounded by light colonnades, and galleries above; cool recessed apartments, open to the air and the sight of falling water, and yet shaded from the sun, — apartments with the dado of slightly lustred tiles, the walls painted in toned colors, the ceilings of carved old wood, gilded and softly colored, furnished with divans and luxurious rugs. The courtly old Moor who showed us his apartments, and did not offer to show us his harem, looked as if he had passed a long and useful life in voluptuous repose. As we went about the house—time had been given, while we waited in the vestibule, to warn the women—we could hear scurrying of slippered feet, and there was a great opening and shutting of doors, through the openings of which we saw curious female eyes peering at the foreigners. But the proprietor did not think it necessary to hide from our view the numerous female slaves, who had charge of the children, or were engaged in other domestic work. The house contained many delightful pieces of the old wood-work, ancient inlaid doors and latticed windows. The charm of the house was completed by a large walled garden, delicious to the senses with the odors of the orange, the lemon, the jessamine, and the rose, and marble ponds and fountains of sparkling water.
Another Moorish house that we visited was quite new, and built and occupied by the late finance minister of the emperor, whose finances had thrived, whatever had happened to his master’s. The house was equal in extent and stateliness to the old one, but lacked the subdued taste in decoration. It was over-gilded and over-splendid, and its noblest apartments were incongruously furnished with French clocks, French chairs, rows of mirrors, and staring rugs. Yet one of its long and gilded apartments, notwithstanding its somewhat oppressive luxury, would be a charming retreat in the warm season. Through its arches on one side we saw the open pillared court and the fountain, while from a row of windows level to the floor, on the other side, we looked over the vast extent of green plain to the blue Mediterranean, from which a refreshing breeze entered this abode of luxury, the owner of which probably never troubled himself with the query, Is Life Worth Living?
We ascended the hillside to the citadel, which commands the town. The city spread out below us, and was larger than we thought it when looking at it from without; and the entire prospect was one of the most interesting to be beheld anywhere. The uniform flat roofs of the entire city and its dazzling whiteness were broken only by a few towers and a dozen minarets, some of them octagonal and covered with green tiles. We stood upon the end of a long spur of the Riff Mountains. Fertile plains spread away on either side, bounded by the blue sea and by bold serrated hills.
When we descended the steep and winding streets we had a fleeting vision of beauty. From a high window, just large enough to frame her face, looked out a Moorish woman, with dark eyes of fascination and perhaps of sin; for no woman of a well-regulated harem will show her face to a man. If she was as handsome as she was painted, she was a dangerous person. The native women of Tetuan, our guide said, are famous for their beauty, and the town lends itself to adventure. Over the flat roofs one can with ease and security go all over the city, and the Moorish girls not seldom evade the watch of doors and windows, and cross the house-tops at night to keep appointments with their lovers.
Still descending, we encountered in a narrow street, for contrast, a funeral procession. The body of a woman, scantily wrapped in a white cloth, and resting on a light, rude bier, was borne upon the shoulders of men, who advanced at a rapid pace. The bier was followed by a motley procession of men and women, chanting a lament in an unearthly, shrill, minor key. The haste, the shabbiness, the mournful notes, were fit to wring one’s heart, breaking in as they did upon the careless life of the buzzing streets, and it was long before the sad refrain passed out of our memory.
The house of Nahon, the Jew, was a pleasant place of shelter, in our brief stay. Although it is Moorish in style, and the iridescent tiles of the interior doorways recall the skill of another race than the Jewish, there is a Hebrew atmosphere throughout. On the side of the doorways to two of our rooms, I discovered a tiny recess, not more than three inches long and an inch deep. It contained a little roll of parchment, transcribed with Hebrew, and I remembered the injunction of Jehovah to this ancient people: Write my words on thy doorposts.
With our dessert at dinner we were served with a new confection, — orange blossoms cooked in honey. Nothing could be more appetizing in the sound than this truly Oriental sweetmeat; it tasted like sweetened turpentine. The house of Nahon, like other houses in the city, distills a great quantity of orange-flower water from the blossoms. The oranges of Tetuan are very large, fine of skin and firm of flesh, and delicious. After eating the sour fruit of Southern Italy and Sicily, one appreciates the luscious oranges of Malta and Barbary.
We were off at an early hour for Tangier, for we had before us the endurance of eleven hours in the saddle, exclusive of the noon siesta, over a route which had lost its charm of novelty. The Life Guardsman, whom we had not seen since he came in the morning after our arrival to kiss our hands, — a truly knightly hint for backsheesh, — turned np, smiling, after a day of repose from the actual hardships of war of the first day. But to our disgust, when he mounted and led the way out of town, we saw that his fiery military ardor had abated. He no longer wore his sword, — our sole dignity of appearance, — but had given it to the mule driver to carry. I had the curiosity to examine this weapon of war, upon which we had relied. It took the united and prolonged effort of the guide and myself to draw it from its scabbard, in which it was firmly rusted. I do not suppose it had been drawn before in all the wars our brave trooper had engaged in. With the sword in the hands of the mule driver, our martial appearance fell to zero.
We were five hours in reaching the Fondak. The Turtle had evidently made up his mind that his carcass should not he jolted by a trot in returning. The only new objects we saw during the morning were a species of bird, that kept close to the cattle in the plain where the natives were plowing. The Arabs call them cow-birds, because they always attend the cattle, as the crocodile-birds do the Egyptian saurians.
Before setting out, after our halt of one hour and a half at the Fondak, I insisted that the mules, who had drank nothing since morning, should be watered. The soldier refused to permit it, and moved off. I asked the reason, and was told that the beasts were too warm, and that they could be watered in the river, which was just ahead. Knowing that Orientals seldom give the true reason for anything, I asked again. The reply was that the water in the spring was too low, but they would get water directly. I could not see how the mules would be any cooler with more travel in the heat, but I was obliged to yield, although my animal was evidently distressed for drink. It was over an hour and a half before we reached the river, and there the animals had to drink from a stagnant pool. Why this cruelty was practiced, I could not understand.
When we set out from the Fondak we took a different route from the one we had come by. I inquired the reason, and the answer was that this route was shorter and better. It was the track I had noticed as diverging from ours, on the morning we left Tangier. I then asked where it led, and was told that it went to Tetuan, but that it was a longer and more difficult road! This was Orientalism, pure and simple. This return route, we found, was in fact an hour longer; it was hilly and stony, with hardly a rod of it that we could trot over. I have no doubt that our protector took this long and rough way out of revenge, because I had pushed his pace on the journey out, and because it was impossible to move over it faster than a walk.
I was never so tired of anything as I was of that soldier’s back. But there is an end to everything, says the proverb, except the tongue of woman, and before sunset we came out upon the vast and lovely plain near Tangier. The western sky was flecked with light clouds of burnished crimson and gold. The broad fields of wheat waved green in many shifting shades, interspersed with patches of a yellow bloom, in the slanting rays. It was a marvelous effect of color. Long shadows were cast over the plain by the flocks of sheep, goats, and cattle, and the slowly moving groups of peasants, returning from labor to the Arab village on the hill, upon the roofs of which the storks were already perched for evening meditation. Good-by, lazy, picturesque Africa!
As we rounded the last ridge, there were the sea beach, the sands of gold burning in the light, the waves white-capped and racing before an eastern breeze, and, beyond, the purple mountains of Spain.