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    Chapter 46

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    Chapter 47
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    About an hour's ride over a rough, rocky road, half flooded with water,
    and through a forest of oaks of Bashan, brought us to Dan.

    From a little mound here in the plain issues a broad stream of limpid
    water and forms a large shallow pool, and then rushes furiously onward,
    augmented in volume. This puddle is an important source of the Jordan.
    Its banks, and those of the brook are respectably adorned with blooming
    oleanders, but the unutterable beauty of the spot will not throw a
    well-balanced man into convulsions, as the Syrian books of travel would
    lead one to suppose.

    From the spot I am speaking of, a cannon-ball would carry beyond the
    confines of Holy Land and light upon profane ground three miles away.
    We were only one little hour's travel within the borders of Holy Land--we
    had hardly begun to appreciate yet that we were standing upon any
    different sort of earth than that we had always been used to, and see how
    the historic names began already to cluster! Dan--Bashan--Lake Huleh
    --the Sources of Jordan--the Sea of Galilee. They were all in sight but
    the last, and it was not far away. The little township of Bashan was
    once the kingdom so famous in Scripture for its bulls and its oaks.
    Lake Huleh is the Biblical "Waters of Merom." Dan was the northern and
    Beersheba the southern limit of Palestine--hence the expression "from Dan
    to Beersheba." It is equivalent to our phrases "from Maine to Texas"
    --"from Baltimore to San Francisco." Our expression and that of the
    Israelites both mean the same--great distance. With their slow camels
    and asses, it was about a seven days' journey from Dan to Beersheba---say
    a hundred and fifty or sixty miles--it was the entire length of their
    country, and was not to be undertaken without great preparation and much
    ceremony. When the Prodigal traveled to "a far country," it is not
    likely that he went more than eighty or ninety miles. Palestine is only
    from forty to sixty miles wide. The State of Missouri could be split
    into three Palestines, and there would then be enough material left for
    part of another--possibly a whole one. From Baltimore to San Francisco
    is several thousand miles, but it will be only a seven days' journey in
    the cars when I am two or three years older.--[The railroad has been
    completed since the above was written.]--If I live I shall necessarily
    have to go across the continent every now and then in those cars, but one
    journey from Dan to Beersheba will be sufficient, no doubt. It must be
    the most trying of the two. Therefore, if we chance to discover that
    from Dan to Beersheba seemed a mighty stretch of country to the
    Israelites, let us not be airy with them, but reflect that it was and is
    a mighty stretch when one can not traverse it by rail.

    The small mound I have mentioned a while ago was once occupied by the
    Phenician city of Laish. A party of filibusters from Zorah and Eschol
    captured the place, and lived there in a free and easy way, worshiping
    gods of their own manufacture and stealing idols from their neighbors
    whenever they wore their own out. Jeroboam set up a golden calf here to
    fascinate his people and keep them from making dangerous trips to
    Jerusalem to worship, which might result in a return to their rightful
    allegiance. With all respect for those ancient Israelites, I can not
    overlook the fact that they were not always virtuous enough to withstand
    the seductions of a golden calf. Human nature has not changed much since
    then.

    Some forty centuries ago the city of Sodom was pillaged by the Arab
    princes of Mesopotamia, and among other prisoners they seized upon the
    patriarch Lot and brought him here on their way to their own possessions.
    They brought him to Dan, and father Abraham, who was pursuing them, crept
    softly in at dead of night, among the whispering oleanders and under the
    shadows of the stately oaks, and fell upon the slumbering victors and
    startled them from their dreams with the clash of steel. He recaptured
    Lot and all the other plunder.

    We moved on. We were now in a green valley, five or six miles wide and
    fifteen long. The streams which are called the sources of the Jordan
    flow through it to Lake Huleh, a shallow pond three miles in diameter,
    and from the southern extremity of the Lake the concentrated Jordan flows
    out. The Lake is surrounded by a broad marsh, grown with reeds. Between
    the marsh and the mountains which wall the valley is a respectable strip
    of fertile land; at the end of the valley, toward Dan, as much as half
    the land is solid and fertile, and watered by Jordan's sources. There is
    enough of it to make a farm. It almost warrants the enthusiasm of the
    spies of that rabble of adventurers who captured Dan. They said: "We
    have seen the land, and behold it is very good. * * * A place where
    there is no want of any thing that is in the earth."

    Their enthusiasm was at least warranted by the fact that they had never
    seen a country as good as this. There was enough of it for the ample
    support of their six hundred men and their families, too.

    When we got fairly down on the level part of the Danite farm, we came to
    places where we could actually run our horses. It was a notable
    circumstance.

    We had been painfully clambering over interminable hills and rocks for
    days together, and when we suddenly came upon this astonishing piece of
    rockless plain, every man drove the spurs into his horse and sped away
    with a velocity he could surely enjoy to the utmost, but could never hope
    to comprehend in Syria.

    Here were evidences of cultivation--a rare sight in this country--an acre
    or two of rich soil studded with last season's dead corn-stalks of the
    thickness of your thumb and very wide apart. But in such a land it was a
    thrilling spectacle. Close to it was a stream, and on its banks a great
    herd of curious-looking Syrian goats and sheep were gratefully eating
    gravel. I do not state this as a petrified fact--I only suppose they
    were eating gravel, because there did not appear to be any thing else for
    them to eat. The shepherds that tended them were the very pictures of
    Joseph and his brethren I have no doubt in the world. They were tall,
    muscular, and very dark-skinned Bedouins, with inky black beards. They
    had firm lips, unquailing eyes, and a kingly stateliness of bearing.
    They wore the parti-colored half bonnet, half hood, with fringed ends
    falling upon their shoulders, and the full, flowing robe barred with
    broad black stripes--the dress one sees in all pictures of the swarthy
    sons of the desert. These chaps would sell their younger brothers if
    they had a chance, I think. They have the manners, the customs, the
    dress, the occupation and the loose principles of the ancient stock.
    [They attacked our camp last night, and I bear them no good will.]
    They had with them the pigmy jackasses one sees all over Syria and
    remembers in all pictures of the "Flight into Egypt," where Mary and the
    Young Child are riding and Joseph is walking alongside, towering high
    above the little donkey's shoulders.

    But really, here the man rides and carries the child, as a general thing,
    and the woman walks. The customs have not changed since Joseph's time.
    We would not have in our houses a picture representing Joseph riding and
    Mary walking; we would see profanation in it, but a Syrian Christian
    would not. I know that hereafter the picture I first spoke of will look
    odd to me.

    We could not stop to rest two or three hours out from our camp, of
    course, albeit the brook was beside us. So we went on an hour longer.
    We saw water, then, but nowhere in all the waste around was there a foot
    of shade, and we were scorching to death. "Like unto the shadow of a
    great rock in a weary land." Nothing in the Bible is more beautiful than
    that, and surely there is no place we have wandered to that is able to
    give it such touching expression as this blistering, naked, treeless
    land.

    Here you do not stop just when you please, but when you can. We found
    water, but no shade. We traveled on and found a tree at last, but no
    water. We rested and lunched, and came on to this place, Ain Mellahah
    (the boys call it Baldwinsville.) It was a very short day's run, but the
    dragoman does not want to go further, and has invented a plausible lie
    about the country beyond this being infested by ferocious Arabs, who
    would make sleeping in their midst a dangerous pastime. Well, they ought
    to be dangerous. They carry a rusty old weather-beaten flint-lock gun,
    with a barrel that is longer than themselves; it has no sights on it, it
    will not carry farther than a brickbat, and is not half so certain. And
    the great sash they wear in many a fold around their waists has two or
    three absurd old horse-pistols in it that are rusty from eternal disuse
    --weapons that would hang fire just about long enough for you to walk out
    of range, and then burst and blow the Arab's head off. Exceedingly
    dangerous these sons of the desert are.

    It used to make my blood run cold to read Wm. C. Grimes' hairbreadth
    escapes from Bedouins, but I think I could read them now without a
    tremor. He never said he was attacked by Bedouins, I believe, or was
    ever treated uncivilly, but then in about every other chapter he
    discovered them approaching, any how, and he had a blood-curdling fashion
    of working up the peril; and of wondering how his relations far away
    would feel could they see their poor wandering boy, with his weary feet
    and his dim eyes, in such fearful danger; and of thinking for the last
    time of the old homestead, and the dear old church, and the cow, and
    those things; and of finally straightening his form to its utmost height
    in the saddle, drawing his trusty revolver, and then dashing the spurs
    into "Mohammed" and sweeping down upon the ferocious enemy determined to
    sell his life as dearly as possible. True the Bedouins never did any
    thing to him when he arrived, and never had any intention of doing any
    thing to him in the first place, and wondered what in the mischief he was
    making all that to-do about; but still I could not divest myself of the
    idea, somehow, that a frightful peril had been escaped through that man's
    dare-devil bravery, and so I never could read about Wm. C. Grimes'
    Bedouins and sleep comfortably afterward. But I believe the Bedouins to
    be a fraud, now. I have seen the monster, and I can outrun him. I shall
    never be afraid of his daring to stand behind his own gun and discharge
    it.

    About fifteen hundred years before Christ, this camp-ground of ours by
    the Waters of Merom was the scene of one of Joshua's exterminating
    battles. Jabin, King of Hazor, (up yonder above Dan,) called all the
    sheiks about him together, with their hosts, to make ready for Israel's
    terrible General who was approaching.

    "And when all these Kings were met together, they came and pitched
    together by the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. And they
    went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as
    the sand that is upon the sea-shore for multitude," etc.

    But Joshua fell upon them and utterly destroyed them, root and branch.
    That was his usual policy in war. He never left any chance for newspaper
    controversies about who won the battle. He made this valley, so quiet
    now, a reeking slaughter-pen.

    Somewhere in this part of the country--I do not know exactly where
    --Israel fought another bloody battle a hundred years later. Deborah, the
    prophetess, told Barak to take ten thousand men and sally forth against
    another King Jabin who had been doing something. Barak came down from
    Mount Tabor, twenty or twenty-five miles from here, and gave battle to
    Jabin's forces, who were in command of Sisera. Barak won the fight, and
    while he was making the victory complete by the usual method of
    exterminating the remnant of the defeated host, Sisera fled away on foot,
    and when he was nearly exhausted by fatigue and thirst, one Jael, a woman
    he seems to have been acquainted with, invited him to come into her tent
    and rest himself. The weary soldier acceded readily enough, and Jael put
    him to bed. He said he was very thirsty, and asked his generous
    preserver to get him a cup of water. She brought him some milk, and he
    drank of it gratefully and lay down again, to forget in pleasant dreams
    his lost battle and his humbled pride. Presently when he was asleep she
    came softly in with a hammer and drove a hideous tent-pen down through
    his brain!

    "For he was fast asleep and weary. So he died." Such is the touching
    language of the Bible. "The Song of Deborah and Barak" praises Jael for
    the memorable service she had rendered, in an exultant strain:

    "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be,
    blessed shall she be above women in the tent.

    "He asked for water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter
    in a lordly dish.

    "She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workman's
    hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head
    when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.

    "At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed,
    he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead."

    Stirring scenes like these occur in this valley no more. There is not a
    solitary village throughout its whole extent--not for thirty miles in
    either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin
    tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles,
    hereabouts, and not see ten human beings.

    To this region one of the prophecies is applied:

    "I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies which dwell
    therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the
    heathen, and I will draw out a sword after you; and your land shall
    be desolate and your cities waste."

    No man can stand here by deserted Ain Mellahah and say the prophecy has
    not been fulfilled.

    In a verse from the Bible which I have quoted above, occurs the phrase
    "all these kings." It attracted my attention in a moment, because it
    carries to my mind such a vastly different significance from what it
    always did at home. I can see easily enough that if I wish to profit by
    this tour and come to a correct understanding of the matters of interest
    connected with it, I must studiously and faithfully unlearn a great many
    things I have somehow absorbed concerning Palestine. I must begin a
    system of reduction. Like my grapes which the spies bore out of the
    Promised Land, I have got every thing in Palestine on too large a scale.
    Some of my ideas were wild enough. The word Palestine always brought to
    my mind a vague suggestion of a country as large as the United States.
    I do not know why, but such was the case. I suppose it was because I
    could not conceive of a small country having so large a history. I think
    I was a little surprised to find that the grand Sultan of Turkey was a
    man of only ordinary size. I must try to reduce my ideas of Palestine to
    a more reasonable shape. One gets large impressions in boyhood,
    sometimes, which he has to fight against all his life. "All these
    kings." When I used to read that in Sunday School, it suggested to me
    the several kings of such countries as England, France, Spain, Germany,
    Russia, etc., arrayed in splendid robes ablaze with jewels, marching in
    grave procession, with sceptres of gold in their hands and flashing
    crowns upon their heads. But here in Ain Mellahah, after coming through
    Syria, and after giving serious study to the character and customs of the
    country, the phrase "all these kings" loses its grandeur. It suggests
    only a parcel of petty chiefs--ill-clad and ill-conditioned savages much
    like our Indians, who lived in full sight of each other and whose
    "kingdoms" were large when they were five miles square and contained two
    thousand souls. The combined monarchies of the thirty "kings" destroyed
    by Joshua on one of his famous campaigns, only covered an area about
    equal to four of our counties of ordinary size. The poor old sheik we
    saw at Cesarea Philippi with his ragged band of a hundred followers,
    would have been called a "king" in those ancient times.

    It is seven in the morning, and as we are in the country, the grass ought
    to be sparkling with dew, the flowers enriching the air with their
    fragrance, and the birds singing in the trees. But alas, there is no dew
    here, nor flowers, nor birds, nor trees. There is a plain and an
    unshaded lake, and beyond them some barren mountains. The tents are
    tumbling, the Arabs are quarreling like dogs and cats, as usual, the
    campground is strewn with packages and bundles, the labor of packing them
    upon the backs of the mules is progressing with great activity, the
    horses are saddled, the umbrellas are out, and in ten minutes we shall
    mount and the long procession will move again. The white city of the
    Mellahah, resurrected for a moment out of the dead centuries, will have
    disappeared again and left no sign.
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