GAZA is upon the verge of the Desert, to which it stands in the same relation as a seaport to the sea. It is there
that you charter your camels ("the ships of the Desert"), and lay in your stores for the voyage.
These preparations kept me in the town for some days. Disliking restraint, I declined making myself the guest
of the Governor (as it is usual and proper to do), but took up my quarters at the Caravanserai, or "Khan," as
they call it in that part of Asia.
Dthemetri had to make the arrangements for my journey, and in order to arm himself with sufficient authority
for doing all that was required, he found it necessary to put himself in communication with the Governor. The
result of this diplomatic intercourse was that the Governor, with his train of attendants, came to me one day
at my caravanserai, and formally complained that Dthemetri had grossly insulted him. I was shocked at this,
for the man was always attentive and civil to me, and I was disgusted at the idea
 of his having been rewarded with insult. Dthemetri was present when the complaint was made, and I angrily
asked him whether it was true that he had really insulted the Governor, and what the deuce he meant by it.
This I asked with the full certainty that Dthemetri, as a matter of course, would deny the charge, would swear
that a "wrong construction had been put upon his words, and that nothing was further from his thoughts," &c.
&c., after the manner of the parliamentary people, but to my surprise he very plainly answered that he
certainly had insulted the Governor, and that rather grossly, but, he said, it was quite
necessary to do this in order to "strike terror and inspire respect." "Terror and respect! What on earth do
you mean by that nonsense?"—"Yes, but without striking terror and inspiring respect, he (Dthemetri)
would never be able to force on the arrangements for my journey, and Vossignoria would be kept at Gaza for a
month!" This would have been awkward, and certainly I could not deny that poor Dthemetri had succeeded in his
odd plan of inspiring respect, for at the very time that this explanation was going on in Italian the Governor
seemed more than ever, and more anxiously, disposed to overwhelm me with assurances of goodwill, and proffers
of his best services. All this kindness, or promise of kindness, I naturally received with courtesy—a
courtesy that greatly perturbed Dthemetri, for he evidently feared that my civility would undo all the good
that his insults had achieved.
You will find, I think, that one of the greatest drawbacks to the pleasure of travelling in Asia is the being
obliged, more or less, to make your way by bullying. It is true that your own lips are not soiled by the
utterance of all the mean words that are spoken for you, and that you don't even know of the sham threats, and
the false promises, and the vainglorious boasts, put forth by your dragoman; but now and then there happens
some incident of the sort which I have just been mentioning, which forces you to believe, or suspect, that
your dragoman is habitually fighting your battles for you in a way that you can hardly bear to think of.
 A caravanserai is not ill adapted to the purposes for which it is meant. It forms the four sides of a large
quadrangular court. The ground floor is used for warehouses, the first floor for guests, and the open court
for the temporary reception of the camels, as well as for the loading and unloading of their burthens, and the
transaction of mercantile business generally. The apartments used for the guests are small cells opening into
a corridor, which runs round the four sides of the court.
Whilst I lay near the opening of my cell looking down into the court below, there arrived from the Desert a
caravan, that is, a large assemblage of travellers. It consisted chiefly of Moldavian pilgrims, who to make
their good work even more than complete had begun by visiting the shrine of the Virgin in Egypt, and were now
going on to Jerusalem. They had been overtaken in the Desert by a gale of wind, which so drove the sand and
raised up such mountains before them, that their journey had been terribly perplexed and obstructed, and their
provisions (including water, the most precious of all) had been exhausted long before they reached the end of
their toilsome march. They were sadly wayworn. The arrival of the caravan drew many and various groups into
the court. There was the Moldavian pilgrim with his sable dress and cap of fur and heavy masses of bushy hair;
the Turk, with his various and brilliant garments; the Arab, superbly stalking under his striped blanket, that
hung like royalty upon his stately form; the jetty Ethiopian in his slavish frock; the sleek, smooth-faced
scribe with his comely pelisse, and his silver ink-box stuck in like a dagger at his girdle. And mingled with
these were the camels, some standing, some kneeling and being unladen, some twisting round their long necks,
and gently stealing the straw from out of their own pack-saddles.
In a couple of days I was ready to start. The way of providing for the passage of the Desert is this: there is
an agent in the town who keeps himself in communication with some of the desert Arabs that are hovering within
 journey of the place. A party of these upon being guaranteed against seizure or other ill-treatment at the
hands of the Governor come into the town, bringing with them the number of camels which you require, and then
they stipulate for a certain sum to take you to the place of your destination in a given time. The agreement
which they thus enter into includes a safe conduct through their country as well as the hire of the camels.
According to the contract made with me I was to reach Cairo within ten days from the commencement of the
journey. I had four camels, one for my baggage, one for each of my servants, and one for myself. Four Arabs,
the owners of the camels, came with me on foot. My stores were a small soldier's tent, two bags of dried bread
brought from the convent at Jerusalem, and a couple of bottles of wine from the same source, two goat-skins
filled with water, tea, sugar, a cold tongue, and (of all things in the world) a jar of Irish butter which
Mysseri had purchased from some merchant. There was also a small sack of charcoal, for the greater part of the
Desert through which we were to pass is destitute of fuel.
The camel kneels to receive her load, and for a while she will allow the packing to go on with silent
resignation; but when she begins to suspect that her master is putting more than a just burthen upon her poor
hump she turns round her supple neck and looks sadly upon the increasing load, and then gently remonstrates
against the wrong with the sigh of a patient wife. If sighs will not move you, she can weep. You soon learn to
pity, and soon to love, her for the sake of her gentle and womanish ways.
ARABS ON THE SHORE.
You cannot, of course, put an English or any other riding saddle upon the back of the camel, but your quilt or
carpet, or whatever you carry for the purpose of lying on at night, is folded and fastened on to the
pack-saddle upon the top of the hump, and on this you ride, or rather sit. You sit as a man sits on a chair
when he sits astride and faces the back of it. I made an improvement on this plan. I had my English stirrups
strapped on to the cross-bars of the pack-saddle, and thus by gaining rest for my dangling legs, and gaining
too the power of varying my
 position more easily than I could otherwise have done, I added very much to my comfort. Don't forget to do as
The camel, like the elephant, is one of the old-fashioned sort of animals that still walk along upon the (now
nearly exploded) plan of the ancient beasts that lived before the Flood. She moves forward both her near legs
at the same time, and then awkwardly swings round her off shoulder and haunch so as to repeat the manoeuvre on
that side. Her pace, therefore, is an odd, disjointed and disjoining, sort of movement that is rather
disagreeable at first, but you soon grow reconciled to it. The height to which you are raised is of great
advantage to you in passing the burning sands of the Desert, for the air at such a distance from the ground is
much cooler and more lively than that which circulates beneath.
For several miles beyond Gaza the land, which had been plentifully watered by the rains of the last week, was
covered with rich verdure, and thickly jewelled with meadow flowers so fresh and fragrant, that I began to
grow almost uneasy, to fancy that the very Desert was receding before me, and that the long-desired adventure
of passing its "burning sands" was to end in a mere ride across a field. But as I advanced the true character
of the country began to display itself with sufficient clearness to dispel my apprehensions, and before the
close of my first day's journey I had the gratification of finding that I was surrounded on all sides by a
tract of real sand, and had nothing at all to complain of except that there peeped forth at intervals a few
isolated blades of grass, and many of those stunted shrubs which are the accustomed food of the camel.
Before sunset I came up with an encampment of Arabs (the encampment from which my camels had been brought),
and my tent was pitched amongst theirs. I was now amongst the true Bedouins. Almost every man of this race
closely resembles his brethren. Almost every man has large and finely-formed features; but his face is so
thoroughly stripped of flesh, and the white folds from his headgear fall down by his haggard cheeks so much in
the burial fashion, that he looks quite sad and ghastly. His large dark orbs roll slowly and
 solemnly over the white of his deep-set eyes; his countenance shows painful thought and long-suffering, the
suffering of one fallen from a high estate. His gait is strangely majestic, and he marches along with his
simple blanket as though he were wearing the purple. His common talk is a series of piercing screams and
very painful to hear.
The Bedouin women are not treasured up like the wives and daughters of other Orientals, and indeed they seemed
almost entirely free from the restraints imposed by jealousy. The feint which they made of concealing their
faces from me was always slight. They never, I think, wore the yashmak properly fixed. When they first saw me
they used to hold up a part of their drapery with one hand across their faces, but they seldom persevered very
steadily in subjecting me to this privation. Unhappy beings! they were sadly plain. The awful haggardness that
gave something of character to the faces of the men was sheer ugliness in the poor women. It is a great shame,
but the truth is that, except when we refer to the beautiful devotion of the mother to her child, all the fine
things we say and think about woman apply only to those who are tolerably good-looking or graceful. These Arab
women were so plain and clumsy, that they seemed to me to be fit for nothing but another and a better world.
They may have been good women enough so far as relates to the exercise of the minor virtues, but they had so
grossly neglected the prime duty of looking pretty in this transitory life, that I could not at all forgive
them. They seemed to feel the weight of their guilt, and to be truly and humbly penitent. I had the complete
command of their affections, for at any moment I could make their young hearts bound and their old hearts jump
by offering a handful of tobacco, and yet, believe me, it was not in the first soirée that my
store of Latakia was exhausted.
The Bedouin women have no religion. This is partly the cause of their clumsiness. Perhaps if from Christian
 they would learn how to pray, their souls might become more gentle, and their limbs be clothed with grace.
You who are going into their country have a direct personal interest in knowing something about "Arab
hospitality"; but the deuce of it is, that the poor fellows with whom I have happened to pitch my tent were
scarcely ever in a condition to exercise that magnanimous virtue with much éclat. Indeed, Mysseri's
canteen generally enabled me to outdo my hosts in the matter of entertainment. They were always courteous,
however, and were never backward in offering me the youart, a kind of whey, which is the principal delicacy to
be found amongst the wandering tribes.
Practically, I think, Childe Harold would have found it a dreadful bore to make "the Desert his
dwelling-place," for at all events, if he adopted the life of the Arabs he would have tasted no solitude. The
tents are partitioned, not so as to divide the Childe and the "fair spirit" who is his "minister" from the
rest of the world, but so as to separate the twenty or thirty brown men that sit screaming in the one
compartment from the fifty or sixty brown women and children that scream and squeak in the other. If you adopt
the Arab life for the sake of seclusion you will be horribly disappointed, for you will find yourself in
perpetual contact with a mass of hot fellow-creatures. It is true that all who are inmates of the same tent
are related to each other, but I am not quite sure that that circumstance adds much to the charm of such a
life. At all events, before you finally determine to become an Arab try a gentle experiment. Take one of those
small, shabby houses in May Fair, and shut yourself up in it with forty or fifty shrill cousins for a couple
of weeks in July.
In passing the Desert you will find your Arabs wanting to start and to rest at all sorts of odd times. They
like, for instance, to be off at one in the morning, and to rest during the whole of the afternoon. You must
not give way to their wishes in this respect. I tried their plan once, and found it very harassing and
unwholesome. An ordinary tent can give you very little protection against heat, for the fire strikes fiercely
through single canvas, and you soon find that whilst you lie crouching and striving to hide yourself from the
blazing face of the sun, his power is harder to bear than it is where you boldly defy him from the airy
heights of your camel.
 It had been arranged with my Arabs that they were to bring with them all the food which they would want for
themselves during the passage of the Desert, but as we rested at the end of the first day's journey by the
side of an Arab encampment, my camel men found all that they required for that night in the tents of their own
brethren. On the evening of the second day, however, just before we encamped for the night, my four Arabs came
to Dthemetri, and formally announced that they had not brought with them one atom of food, and that they
looked entirely to my supplies for their daily bread. This was awkward intelligence. We were now just two days
deep in the Desert, and I had brought with me no more bread than might be reasonably required for myself and
my European attendants. I believed at the moment (for it seemed likely enough) that the men had really
mistaken the terms of the arrangement, and feeling that the bore of being put upon half-rations would be a
less evil (and even to myself a less inconvenience) than the starvation of my Arabs, I at once told Dthemetri
to assure them that my bread should be equally shared with all. Dthemetri, however, did not approve of this
concession; he assured me quite positively that the Arabs thoroughly understood the agreement, and that if
they were now without food they had wilfully brought themselves into this strait for the wretched purpose of
bettering their bargain by the value of a few paras' worth of bread. This suggestion made me look at the
affair in a new light. I should have been glad enough to put up with the slight privation to which my
concession would subject me, and could have borne to witness the semi-starvation of poor Dthemetri with a
fine, philosophical calm, but it seemed to me that the scheme, if scheme it were, had something of audacity in
it, and was well enough calculated to try the extent of my softness. I well knew the danger of allowing such a
trial to result in a conclusion that I was one who might be easily managed; and therefore, after thoroughly
satisfying myself from Dthemetri's clear and repeated assertions that the Arabs had really understood the
arrangement, I determined that they should not now
 violate it by taking advantage of my position in the midst of their big Desert, so I desired Dthemetri to tell
them that they should touch no bread of mine. We stopped, and the tent was pitched. The Arabs came to me, and
prayed loudly for bread. I refused them.
"Then we die!"
"God's will be done!"
I gave the Arabs to understand that I regretted their perishing by hunger, but that I should bear this calmly,
like any other misfortune not my own, that, in short, I was happily resigned to their fate. The
men would have talked a great deal, but they were under the disadvantage of addressing me through a hostile
interpreter; they looked hard upon my face, but they found no hope there; so at last they retired as they
pretended, to lay them down and die.
In about ten minutes from this time I found that the Arabs were busily cooking their bread! Their pretence of
having brought no food was false, and was only invented for the purpose of saving it. They had a good bag of
meal, which they had contrived to stow away under the baggage upon one of the camels in such a way as to
escape notice. In Europe the detection of a scheme like this would have occasioned a disagreeable feeling
between the master and the delinquent, but you would no more recoil from an Oriental on account of a matter of
this sort, than in England you would reject a horse that had tried, and failed, to throw you. Indeed, I felt
quite good-humouredly towards my Arabs, because they had so woefully failed in their wretched attempt, and
because, as it turned out, I had done what was right. They too, poor fellows, evidently began to like me
immensely, on account of the hard-heartedness which had enabled me to baffle their scheme.
The Arabs adhere to those ancestral principles of bread-baking which have been sanctioned by the experience of
ages. The very first baker of bread that ever lived must have done his work exactly as the Arab does at this
day. He takes some meal and holds it out in the hollow of his hands, whilst his
 comrade pours over it a few drops of water; he then mashes up the moistened flour into a paste, which he pulls
into small pieces, and thrusts into the embers. His way of baking exactly resembles the craft or mystery of
roasting chestnuts as practised by children; there is the same prudence and circumspection in choosing a good
berth for the morsel, the same enterprise and self-sacrificing valour in pulling it out with the fingers.
The manner of my daily march was this. At about an hour before dawn I rose and made the most of about a pint
of water, which I allowed myself for washing. Then I breakfasted upon tea and bread. As soon as the beasts
were loaded I mounted my camel and pressed forward. My poor Arabs, being on foot, would sometimes moan with
fatigue and pray for rest; but I was anxious to enable them to perform their contract for bringing me to Cairo
within the stipulated time, and I did not therefore allow a halt until the evening came. About midday, or soon
after, Mysseri used to bring up his camel alongside of mine, and supply me with a piece of bread softened in
water (for it was dried hard like board), and also (as long as it lasted) with a piece of the tongue; after
this there came into my hand (how well I remember it) the little tin cup half-filled with wine and water.
As long as you are journeying in the interior of the Desert you have no particular point to make for as your
resting-place. The endless sands yield nothing but small stunted shrubs; even these fail after the first two
or three days, and from that time you pass over broad plains, you pass over newly-reared hills, you pass
through valleys that the storm of the last week has dug, and the hills and the valleys are sand, sand, sand,
still sand, and only sand, and sand and sand again. The earth is so samely that your eyes turn towards
heaven—towards heaven, I mean, in the sense of sky. You look to the sun, for he is your task-master, and
by him you know the measure of the work that you have done, and the measure of the work that remains for you
to do. He comes when you strike your tent in the early morning, and then, for the first hour of the day,
 as you move forward on your camel, he stands at your near side and makes you know that the whole day's toil
is before you; then for a while, and a long while, you see him no more, for you are veiled and shrouded, and
dare not look upon the greatness of his glory, but you know where he strides overhead by the touch of his
flaming sword. No words are spoken, but your Arabs moan, your camels sigh, your skin glows, your shoulders
ache, and for sights you see the pattern and the web of the silk that veils your eyes and the glare of the
outer light. Time labours on; your skin glows and your shoulders ache, your Arabs moan, your camels sigh, and
you see the same pattern in the silk, and the same glare of light beyond, but conquering Time marches on, and
by-and-by the descending sun has compassed the heaven, and now softly touches your right arm, and throws your
lank shadow over the sand right along on the way to Persia. Then again you look upon his face, for his power
is all veiled in his beauty, and the redness of flames has become the redness of roses; the fair, wavy cloud
that fled in the morning now comes to his sight once more, comes blushing, yet still comes on, comes burning
with blushes, yet hastens and clings to his side.
Then arrives your time for resting. The world about you is all your own, and there, where you will, you pitch
your solitary tent; there is no living thing to dispute your choice. When at last the spot had been fixed upon
and we came to a halt, one of the Arabs would touch the chest of my camel and utter at the same time a
peculiar gurgling sound. The beast instantly understood and obeyed the sign, and slowly sunk under me till she
brought her body to a level with the ground, then gladly enough I alighted. The rest of the camels were
unloaded and turned loose to browse upon the shrubs of the desert, where shrubs there were, or where these
failed, to wait for the small quantity of food that was allowed them out of our stores.
My servants, helped by the Arabs, busied themselves in pitching the tent and kindling the fire. Whilst this
was doing I used to walk away towards the East, confiding in the print
 of my foot as a guide for my return. Apart from the cheering voices of my attendants I could better know and
feel the loneliness of the Desert. The influence of such scenes, however, was not of a softening kind, but
filled me rather with a sort of childish exultation in the self-sufficiency which enabled me to stand thus
alone in the wideness of Asia—a short-lived pride, for wherever man wanders he still remains tethered by
the chain that links him to his kind; and so when the night closed around me I began to return, to return, as
it were, to my own gate. Reaching at last some high ground I could see, and see with delight, the fire of our
small encampment, and when at last I regained the spot it seemed to me a very home that had sprung up for me
in the midst of these solitudes. My Arabs were busy with their bread; Mysseri rattling tea-cups; the little
kettle, with her odd old-maidish looks, sat humming away old songs about England; and two or three yards from
the fire my tent stood prim and tight, with open portal, and with welcoming look, like "the old arm-chair" of
our lyrist's "sweet Lady Anne."
At the beginning of my journey the night breeze blew coldly; when that happened, the dry sand was heaped up
outside round the skirts of the tent, and so the wind, that everywhere else could sweep as he listed along
those dreary plains, was forced to turn aside in his course and make way, as he ought, for the Englishman.
Then within my tent there were heaps of luxuries—dining-rooms, dressing-rooms, libraries, bedrooms,
drawing-rooms, oratories, all crowded into the space of a hearthrug. The first night, I remember, with my
books and maps about me, I wanted light; they brought me a taper, and immediately from out of the silent
Desert there rushed in a flood of life unseen before. Monsters of moths, of all shapes and hues, that never
before perhaps had looked upon the shining of a flame, now madly thronged into my tent, and dashed through the
fire of the candle till they fairly extinguished it with their burning limbs. Those who had failed in
attaining this martyrdom suddenly became serious, and clung despondingly to the canvas.
 By-and-by there was brought to me the fragrant tea and big masses of scorched and scorching toast, and the
butter that had come all the way to me in this Desert of Asia from out of that poor, dear, starving Ireland. I
feasted like a king, like four kings, like a boy in the fourth form.
When the cold, sullen morning dawned, and my people began to load the camels, I always felt loth to give back
to the waste this little spot of ground that had glowed for a while with the cheerfulness of a human dwelling.
One by one the cloaks, the saddles, the baggage, the hundred things that strewed the ground and made it look
so familiar—all these were taken away and laid upon the camels. A speck in the broad tracts of Asia
remained still impressed with the mark of patent portmanteaus and the heels of London boots; the embers of the
fire lay black and cold upon the sand, and these were the signs we left.
My tent was spared to the last, but when all else was ready for the start then came its fall; the pegs were
drawn, the canvas shivered, and in less than a minute there was nothing that remained of my genial home but
only a pole and a bundle. The encroaching Englishman was off, and instant upon the fall of the canvas, like an
owner who had waited and watched, the genius of the Desert stalked in.
To servants, as I suppose of any other Europeans not much accustomed to amuse themselves by fancy or memory,
it often happens that after a few days journeying the loneliness of the Desert will become frightfully
oppressive. Upon my poor fellows the access of melancholy came heavy, and all at once, as a blow from above;
they bent their necks, and bore it as best they could, but their joy was great on the fifth day when we came
to an oasis called Gatieh, for here we found encamped a caravan (that is, an assemblage of travellers) from
Cairo. The Orientals living in cities never pass the Desert except in this way; many will wait for weeks, and
even for months, until a sufficient number of persons can be found ready to undertake the journey at the same
time—until the flock of sheep is big enough to fancy itself a match for
 wolves. They could not, I think, really secure themselves against any serious danger by this contrivance, for
though they have arms, they are so little accustomed to use them, and so utterly unorganised, that they never
could make good their resistance to robbers of the slightest respectability. It is not of the Bedouins that
such travellers are afraid, for the safe conduct granted by the chief of the ruling tribe is never, I believe,
violated, but it is said that there are deserters and scamps of various sorts who hover about the skirts of
the Desert, particularly on the Cairo side, and are anxious to succeed to the property of any poor devils whom
they may find more weak and defenceless than themselves.
These people from Cairo professed to be amazed at the ludicrous disproportion between their numerical forces
and mine. They could not understand, and they wanted to know, by what strange privilege it is that an
Englishman with a brace of pistols and a couple of servants rides safely across the Desert, whilst they, the
natives of the neighbouring cities, are forced to travel in troops, or rather in herds. One of them got a few
minutes of private conversation with Dthemetri, and ventured to ask him anxiously whether the English did not
travel under the protection of evil demons. I had previously known (from Methley, I think, who had travelled
in Persia) that this notion, so conducive to the safety of our countrymen, is generally prevalent amongst
Orientals. It owes its origin, partly to the strong wilfulness of the English gentleman (which not being
backed by any visible authority, either civil or military, seems perfectly superhuman to the soft Asiatic),
but partly too to the magic of the banking system, by force of which the wealthy traveller will make all his
journeys without carrying a handful of coin, and yet when he arrives at a city will rain down showers of gold.
The theory is, that the English traveller has committed some sin against God and his conscience, and that for
this the evil spirit has hold of him, and drives him from his home like a victim of the old Grecian furies,
and forces him to travel over countries far and strange, and most chiefly over deserts
 and desolate places, and to stand upon the sites of cities that once were and are now no more, and to grope
among the tombs of dead men. Often enough there is something of truth in this notion; often enough the
wandering Englishman is guilty (if guilt it be) of some pride or ambition, big or small, imperial or
parochial, which being offended has made the lone place more tolerable than ballrooms to him, a sinner.
I can understand the sort of amazement of the Orientals at the scantiness of the retinue with which an
Englishman passes the Desert, for I was somewhat struck myself when I saw one of my countrymen making his way
across the wilderness in this simple style. At first there was a mere moving speck on the horizon. My party of
course became all alive with excitement, and there were many surmises. Soon it appeared that three laden
camels were approaching, and that two of them carried riders. In a little while we saw that one of the riders
wore the European dress, and at last the travellers were pronounced to be an English gentleman and his
servant. By their side there were a couple, I think, of Arabs on foot, and this was the whole party.
You, you love sailing; in returning from a cruise to the English coast you see often enough a fisherman's
humble boat far away from all shores, with an ugly black sky above and an angry sea beneath. You watch the
grizzly old man at the helm carrying his craft with strange skill through the turmoil of waters, and the boy,
supple-limbed, yet weather-worn already, and with steady eyes that look through the blast, you see him
understanding commandments from the jerk of his father's white eyebrow, now belaying and now letting go, now
scrunching himself down into mere ballast, or baling out death with a pipkin. Stale enough is the sight, and
yet when I see it I always stare anew, and with a kind of Titanic exultation, because that a poor boat with
the brain of a man and the hands of a boy on board can match herself so bravely against black heaven and
ocean. Well, so when you have travelled for days and days over an Eastern Desert without meeting the likeness
of a human being, and then at
 last see an English shooting-jacket and his servant come listlessly slouching along from out of the forward
horizon, you stare at the wide unproportion between this slender company and the boundless plains of sand
through which they are keeping their way.
This Englishman, as I afterwards found, was a military man returning to his country from India, and crossing
the Desert at this part in order to go through Palestine. As for me, I had come pretty straight from England,
and so here we met in the wilderness at about half-way from our respective starting-points. As we approached
each other it became with me a question whether we should speak. I thought it likely that the stranger would
accost me, and in the event of his doing so I was quite ready to be as sociable and chatty as I could be
according to my nature; but still I could not think of anything particular that I had to say to him. Of
course, among civilised people the not having anything to say is no excuse at all for not speaking, but I was
shy and indolent, and I felt no great wish to stop and talk like a morning visitor in the midst of those broad
solitudes. The traveller perhaps felt as I did, for except that we lifted our hands to our caps and waved our
arms in courtesy, we passed each other as if we had passed in Bond Street. Our attendants, however, were not
to be cheated of the delight that they felt in speaking to new listeners and hearing fresh voices once more.
The masters, therefore, had no sooner passed each other than their respective servants quietly stopped and
entered into conversation. As soon as my camel found that her companions were not following her she caught the
social feeling and refused to go on. I felt the absurdity of the situation, and determined to accost the
stranger if only to avoid the awkwardness of remaining stuck fast in the Desert whilst our servants were
amusing themselves. When with this intent I turned round my camel I found that the gallant officer who had
passed me by about thirty or forty yards was exactly in the same predicament as myself. I put my now willing
camel in motion and rode up towards the stranger.
 Seeing this, he followed my example and came forward to meet me. He was the first to speak. He was much too
courteous to address me as if he admitted the possibility of my wishing to accost him from any feeling of mere
sociability or civilian-like love of vain talk. On the contrary, he at once attributed my advances to a
laudable wish of acquiring statistical information, and accordingly, when we got within speaking distance, he
said, "I dare say you wish to know how the plague is going on at Cairo?" And then he went on to say, he
regretted that his information did not enable him to give me in numbers a perfectly accurate statement of the
daily deaths. He afterwards talked pleasantly enough upon other and less ghastly subjects. I thought him manly
and intelligent, a worthy one of the few thousand strong Englishmen to whom the empire of India is committed.
The night after the meeting with the people of the caravan, Dthemetri, alarmed by their warnings, took upon
himself to keep watch all night in the tent. No robbers came except a jackal, that poked his nose into my tent
from some motive of rational curiosity. Dthemetri did not shoot him for fear of waking me. These brutes swarm
in every part of Syria, and there were many of them even in the midst of the void sands, that would seem to
give such poor promise of food. I can hardly tell what prey they could be hoping for, unless it were that they
might find now and then the carcass of some camel that had died on the journey. They do not marshal themselves
into great packs like the wild dogs of Eastern cities, but follow their prey in families, like the
place-hunters of Europe. Their voices are frightfully like to the shouts and cries of human beings. If you lie
awake in your tent at night you are almost continually hearing some hungry family as it sweeps along in full
cry. You hear the exulting scream with which the sagacious dam first winds the carrion, and the shrill
response of the unanimous cubs as they sniff the tainted air, "Wha! wha! wha! wha! wha! wha! Whose gift is it
Once during this passage my Arabs lost their way among
 the hills of loose sand that surrounded us, but after a while we were lucky enough to recover our right line
of march. The same day we fell in with a Sheik, the head of a family, that actually dwells at no great
distance from this part of the Desert during nine months of the year. The man carried a matchlock, of which he
was very proud. We stopped and sat down and rested awhile for the sake of a little talk. There was much that I
should have liked to ask this man, but he could not understand Dthemetri's language, and the process of
getting at his knowledge by double interpretation through my Arabs was unsatisfactory. I discovered, however
(and my Arabs knew of that fact), that this man and his family lived habitually for nine months of the year
without touching or seeing either bread or water. The stunted shrub growing at intervals through the sand in
this part of the Desert enables the camel mares to yield a little milk, which furnishes the sole food and
drink of their owner and his people. During the other three months (the hottest of the months, I suppose) even
this resource fails, and then the Sheik and his people are forced to pass into another district. You would ask
me why the man should not remain always in that district which supplies him with water during three months of
the year, but I don't know enough of Arab politics to answer the question. The Sheik was not a good specimen
of the effect produced by the diet to which he is subjected. He was very small, very spare, and sadly
shrivelled, a poor, over-roasted snipe, a mere cinder of a man. I made him sit down by my side, and gave him a
piece of bread and a cup of water from out of my goat-skins. This was not very tempting drink to look at, for
it had become turbid, and was deeply reddened by some colouring matter contained in the skins, but it kept its
sweetness, and tasted like a strong decoction of russia leather. The Sheik sipped this, drop by drop, with
ineffable relish, and rolled his eyes solemnly round between every draught, as though the drink were the drink
of the Prophet, and had come from the seventh heaven.
An inquiry about distances led to the discovery that
 this Sheik had never heard of the division of time into hours; my Arabs themselves, I think, were rather
surprised at this.
About this part of my journey I saw the likeness of a fresh-water lake. I saw, as it seemed, a broad sheet of
calm water, that stretched far and fair towards the south, stretching deep into winding creeks, and hemmed in
by jutting promontories, and shelving smooth off towards the shallow side. On its bosom the reflected fire of
the sun lay playing, and seeming to float upon waters deep and still.
Though I knew of the cheat, it was not till the spongy foot of my camel had almost trodden in the seeming
waters that I could undeceive my eyes, for the shore-line was quite true and natural. I soon saw the cause of
the phantasm. A sheet of water heavily impregnated with salts had filled this great hollow, and when dried up
by evaporation had left a white saline deposit, that exactly marked the space which the waters had covered,
and thus sketched a good shore-line. The minute crystals of the salt sparkled in the sun, and so looked like
the face of a lake that is calm and smooth.
The pace of the camel is irksome, and makes your shoulders and loins ache from the peculiar way in which you
are obliged to suit yourself to the movements of the beast, but you soon of course become inured to this, and
after the first two days this way of travelling became so familiar to me, that (poor sleeper as I am) I now
and then slumbered for some moments together on the back of my camel. On the fifth day of my journey the air
above lay dead, and all the whole earth that I could reach with my utmost sight and keenest listening was
still and lifeless as some dispeopled and forgotten world that rolls round and round in the heavens through
wasted floods of light. The sun growing fiercer and fiercer shone down more mightily now than ever on me he
shone before, and as I dropped my head under his fire, and closed my eyes against the glare that surrounded
me, I slowly fell asleep, for how many minutes or moments I cannot tell, but after a while I was gently
awakened by a peal of church
 bells, my native bells, the innocent bells of Marlen, that never before sent forth their music beyond the
Blaygon hills! My first idea naturally was, that I still remained fast under the power of a dream. I roused
myself and drew aside the silk that covered my eyes, and plunged my bare face into the light. Then at least I
was well enough wakened, but still those old Marlen bells rung on, not ringing for joy, but properly, prosily,
steadily, merrily ringing "for church." After a while the sound died away slowly. It happened that neither I
nor any of my party had a watch by which to measure the exact time of its lasting, but it seemed to me that
about ten minutes had passed before the bells ceased. I attributed the effect to the great heat of the sun,
the perfect dryness of the clear air through which I moved, and the deep stillness of all around me. It seemed
to me that these causes, by occasioning a great tension, and consequent susceptibility, of the hearing organs
had rendered them liable to tingle under the passing touch of some mere memory that must have swept across my
brain in a moment of sleep. Since my return to England it has been told me that like sounds have been heard at
sea, and that the sailor becalmed under a vertical sun in the midst of the wide ocean has listened in
trembling wonder to the chime of his own village bells.
During my travels I kept a journal—a journal sadly meagre and intermittent, but one which enabled me to
find out the day of the month and the week, according to the European calendar. Referring to this, I found
that the day was Sunday, and roughly allowing for the difference of time in this longitude, I concluded that
at the moment of my hearing that strange peal the church-going bells of Marlen must have been actually calling
the prim congregation of the parish to morning prayer. The coincidence amused me faintly, but I could not
pluck up the least hope that the effect which I had experienced was anything other than an illusion, an
illusion liable to be explained (as every illusion is in these days) by some of the philosophers who guess at
Nature's riddles. It would have been sweeter to believe that my kneeling mother by some pious
 enchantment had asked, and found, this spell to rouse me from my scandalous forgetfulness of God's holy day,
but my fancy was too weak to carry a faith like that. Indeed, the vale through which the bells of Marlen send
their song is a highly respectable vale, and its people (save one, two, or three) are wholly unaddicted to the
practice of magical arts.
After the fifth day of my journey I no longer travelled over shifting hills, but came upon a dead level, a
dead level bed of sand, quite hard, and studded with small shining pebbles.
The heat grew fierce; there was no valley nor hollow, no hill, no mound, no shadow of hill nor of mound, by
which I could mark the way I was making. Hour by hour I advanced, and saw no change—I was still the very
centre of a round horizon; hour by hour I advanced, and still there was the same, and the same, and the
same—the same circle of flaming sky—the same circle of sand still glaring with light and fire.
Over all the heaven above, over all the earth beneath, there was no visible power that could balk the fierce
will of the sun: "he rejoiced as a strong man to run a race; his going forth was from the end of the heaven,
and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there was nothing hid from the heat thereof." From pole to pole, and
from the east to the west, he brandished his fiery sceptre as though he had usurped all heaven and earth. As
he bid the soft Persian in ancient times, so now, and fiercely too, he bid me bow down and worship him; so now
in his pride he seemed to command me, and say, "Thou shalt have none other gods but me." I was all alone
before him. There were these two pitted together, and face to face—the mighty sun for one, and for the
other this poor, pale, solitary self of mine, that I always carry about with me.
But on the eighth day, and before I had yet turned away from Jehovah for the glittering god of the Persians,
there appeared a dark line upon the edge of the forward horizon, and soon the line deepened into a delicate
fringe, that sparkled here and there as though it were sewn with diamonds. There, then, before me were the
gardens and the minarets of Egypt,
 and the mighty works of the Nile, and I (the eternal Ego that I am!)—I had lived to see, and I saw them.
When evening came I was still within the confines of the Desert, and my tent was pitched as usual; but one of
my Arabs stalked away rapidly towards the west, without telling me of the errand on which he was bent. After a
while he returned; he had toiled on a graceful service; he had travelled all the way on to the border of the
living world, and brought me back for token an ear of rice, full, fresh, and green.
The next day I entered upon Egypt, and floated along (for the delight was as the delight of bathing) through
green wavy fields of rice, and pastures fresh and plentiful, and dived into the cold verdure of groves and
gardens, and quenched my hot eyes in shade, as though in deep, rushing waters.