« EdellinenJatka »
and passing heaps of brick and pottery, such as was described on coming out, we discovered an enclosed spot of verdure, with date and other trees, to which we all, as if by common consent, hastened in search of water and shade. On reaching this garden, we found an old Dervish, who called himself the Imaum of a sanctuary here, sacred to Suliman ibn Daoud el Nebbé, or Solomon the son of David the Prophet. We alighted and threw ourselves along the ground, beneath the shade of some overspreading trees; and having satisfied our first want, by drinking immoderately of some brackish water, with which we filled our leathern bottle from an earthen jar, we all fell insensibly asleep, without even fastening our horses; these, being seemingly as much oppressed by the heat as ourselves, crept under the branches of the trees to seek a cooler air, and, lying down on the grass, remained perfectly still, while we lay on and near them, as if we were all members of the same weary family.
It was nearly five o'clock when we awoke, by which time the old Imaum, or Sheikh of the garden, had procured for us a melon, which we devoured greedily, with some dried and hard bread that still remained in our sack. This done, we set out again on our way, and, about an hour before sun-set, came into the great public road from Bagdad to Hillah, a mile or two to the south of the ruined heaps of Babylon, by which we had latterly directed our course.
Our approach to the bank of the Euphrates was through a broad road, lined on each side by a high wall of mud, built, like those of the gardens of Damascus, of large masses of earth, of an oblong form, placed on their edges instead of their flat parts, and enclosing thick and extensive forests of tall and full-leaved date-trees, now laden with clusters of fruit.
At sun-set we entered the eastern division of Hillah, or that part of it which lies on the eastern side of the Euphrates. It appeared to consist chiefly of one good street, leading directly to the river, and used as a bazār, with a number of smaller ones branching off from it on each side. It is closed at its western end by a large door, through which we now passed, and came immediately on the
bridge of boats, which here forms the passage of communication across the river. The boats composing this bridge, as well as the road formed over them, are both inferior to those of the bridge across the Tigris at Bagdad, and render it dangerous to pass on horseback among a crowd.
We happened to be here at an hour when this bridge was particularly thronged, and as every person's attention was arrested by the sight of Mr. Bellino in an European dress, the crowd pressed closer and closer together, by the successive halting of the curious to stare with open mouths of inquiry on the stranger. Our Koord guide, who forced his way before us, rode a very fiery horse, which every now and then reared back on his heels, and made the boat over which he happened to be, roll from side to side, which, giving a corresponding motion to the planks of the bridge, never failed to be followed by a shriek from that part of the crowd who were near. My companion, who rode next in order, necessarily partook of the general alarm; and being naturally impatient, gave vent to the feelings of the moment, in language, which, though no one understood, every one interpreted to be expressive of anger; while I, who rode behind, in quality of his attendant or escort, had enough to do to keep off with my lance the train of insolent boys, who had gathered round to cry out "Frinjee! Gaiour! Kafr !" (Frank! Unbeliever! Infidel!) and purposely to jump on the elastic planks of the bridge, in order to increase the general confusion and alarm.
It was in the midst of this scene of mirth to some, of fear to others, and of vexation and annoyance to myself, that two Bedouins passing by, halted to address me, calling out very gravely, "Ya Arab, ibn Arab," (You Arab, the son of an Arab,) as a man of descent among the Israelites was usually called "a Hebrew of the Hebrews." I thought their inquiry frivolous, when they asked me if the horseman before the stranger whom I escorted was a Koord. I replied in the affirmative, as the shortest answer I could give, and which I thought would prevent any farther questions. But I was mistaken. They first asked what business I could have to be tra
velling with a Koord; and, before I could answer, abused me for associating with a people whom the Arabs of these parts seem to hate most cordially. This was neither a moment nor a place for explanation, so that I left them undisturbed in their impression of my being an Arab, who had not a proper regard to the honour of his race; for though the being an escort to a Frank and a Christian seemed by no means objectionable to them, yet partaking that office with a Koord was talked of as if it were an indelible stain upon the Arab character.
“El humd ul Illah!"-" Praise be to God!"-was heard from twenty tongues at once, as we made our last step from the bridge, upon a firmer footing, and "Mash Allah !” and “Sult Salamee!" (cries of wonder and self-congratulation on arriving at the other side of the stream in safety,) followed, as if we had escaped from the horrors of a storm at sea, rather than from the dangers of a floating bridge in a calm and not a rapid river.
As well as the confusion of our passage across it would admit, I observed the length of the bridge to measure a hundred and ninety-five horse-paces, which would not be far short of the stadium assigned by Strabo to the breadth of the Euphrates at Babylon, particularly as the bridge is in the narrowest part. Mr. Niebuhr makes the stream here four hundred Danish feet; Mr. Rich, by a graduated line, seventy-five fathoms, or four hundred and fifty English feet; and its average breadth, through the site of the whole ruins, may be taken as from four hundred and fifty to five hundred and fifty, the greatest breadth being thus one-fifth less than the stadium assigned. This is narrower than the Tigris at the bridge of Bagdad, by ninety-two horse-paces, or nearly one-third, according to my measurement of it in going across. Its depth here was found by Mr. Rich, in the month of May, to be two and a half fathoms, erroneously printed "twenty-one fathoms" in the Memoir in "Les Mines de l'Orient." Notwithstanding, however, that the stream is thus narrow, its current appeared to run at a rate of less than two miles per hour; while the Tigris at Bagdad, at the moment of our crossing
it, ran certainly at the full rate of three, and sometimes rushes at the rate of six or seven miles an hour.
We forced our way with considerable difficulty through the crowds collected at the door by which the western quarter of Hillah is guarded, like its eastern one, towards the bridge; and getting soon afterwards to the khan, the discharge of artillery from the governor's residence in the town announced the appearance of the moon of Ramazan. As all without seemed noise and bustle and riotous exultation, we confined ourselves within the caravanserai, sufficiently happy, after our fatiguing and burning excursion, to find a place of shelter, refreshment, and repose.
JULY 27th. Our first duty was to send the letters, with which Mr. Rich had kindly furnished us, to the governor of Hillah, and to a powerful Arab of the same town, named Esau Bek. The former was inaccessible, being with his Harem; but the latter had no sooner received our letter, than he sent to announce his intention of visiting us.
It was about noon when he arrived at the caravanserai, accompanied by a younger brother, and a large train of servants. During the interview, after he had assured us that he was the slave of our wishes, and that the execution of our orders and the safety of our persons were on his head, both for the high respect he bore towards