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    Chapter 49

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    Chapter 50
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    We took another swim in the Sea of Galilee at twilight yesterday, and
    another at sunrise this morning. We have not sailed, but three swims are
    equal to a sail, are they not? There were plenty of fish visible in the
    water, but we have no outside aids in this pilgrimage but "Tent Life in
    the Holy Land," "The Land and the Book," and other literature of like
    description--no fishing-tackle. There were no fish to be had in the
    village of Tiberias. True, we saw two or three vagabonds mending their
    nets, but never trying to catch any thing with them.

    We did not go to the ancient warm baths two miles below Tiberias. I had
    no desire in the world to go there. This seemed a little strange, and
    prompted me to try to discover what the cause of this unreasonable
    indifference was. It turned out to be simply because Pliny mentions
    them. I have conceived a sort of unwarrantable unfriendliness toward
    Pliny and St. Paul, because it seems as if I can never ferret out a place
    that I can have to myself. It always and eternally transpires that St.
    Paul has been to that place, and Pliny has "mentioned" it.

    In the early morning we mounted and started. And then a weird apparition
    marched forth at the head of the procession--a pirate, I thought, if ever
    a pirate dwelt upon land. It was a tall Arab, as swarthy as an Indian;
    young-say thirty years of age. On his head he had closely bound a
    gorgeous yellow and red striped silk scarf, whose ends, lavishly fringed
    with tassels, hung down between his shoulders and dallied with the wind.
    From his neck to his knees, in ample folds, a robe swept down that was a
    very star-spangled banner of curved and sinuous bars of black and white.
    Out of his back, somewhere, apparently, the long stem of a chibouk
    projected, and reached far above his right shoulder. Athwart his back,
    diagonally, and extending high above his left shoulder, was an Arab gum
    of Saladin's time, that was splendid with silver plating from stock clear
    up to the end of its measureless stretch of barrel. About his waist was
    bound many and many a yard of elaborately figured but sadly tarnished
    stuff that came from sumptuous Persia, and among the baggy folds in front
    the sunbeams glinted from a formidable battery of old brass-mounted
    horse-pistols and the gilded hilts of blood-thirsty knives. There were
    holsters for more pistols appended to the wonderful stack of long-haired
    goat-skins and Persian carpets, which the man had been taught to regard
    in the light of a saddle; and down among the pendulous rank of vast
    tassels that swung from that saddle, and clanging against the iron shovel
    of a stirrup that propped the warrior's knees up toward his chin, was a
    crooked, silver-clad scimitar of such awful dimensions and such
    implacable expression that no man might hope to look upon it and not
    shudder. The fringed and bedizened prince whose privilege it is to ride
    the pony and lead the elephant into a country village is poor and naked
    compared to this chaos of paraphernalia, and the happy vanity of the one
    is the very poverty of satisfaction compared to the majestic serenity,
    the overwhelming complacency of the other.

    "Who is this? What is this?" That was the trembling inquiry all down
    the line.

    "Our guard! From Galilee to the birthplace of the Savior, the country is
    infested with fierce Bedouins, whose sole happiness it is, in this life,
    to cut and stab and mangle and murder unoffending Christians. Allah be
    with us!"

    "Then hire a regiment! Would you send us out among these desperate
    hordes, with no salvation in our utmost need but this old turret?"

    The dragoman laughed--not at the facetiousness of the simile, for verily,
    that guide or that courier or that dragoman never yet lived upon earth
    who had in him the faintest appreciation of a joke, even though that joke
    were so broad and so ponderous that if it fell on him it would flatten
    him out like a postage stamp--the dragoman laughed, and then, emboldened
    by some thought that was in his brain, no doubt, proceeded to extremities
    and winked.

    In straits like these, when a man laughs, it is encouraging when he
    winks, it is positively reassuring. He finally intimated that one guard
    would be sufficient to protect us, but that that one was an absolute
    necessity. It was because of the moral weight his awful panoply would
    have with the Bedouins. Then I said we didn't want any guard at all.
    If one fantastic vagabond could protect eight armed Christians and a pack
    of Arab servants from all harm, surely that detachment could protect
    themselves. He shook his head doubtfully. Then I said, just think of
    how it looks--think of how it would read, to self-reliant Americans, that
    we went sneaking through this deserted wilderness under the protection of
    this masquerading Arab, who would break his neck getting out of the
    country if a man that was a man ever started after him. It was a mean,
    low, degrading position. Why were we ever told to bring navy revolvers
    with us if we had to be protected at last by this infamous star-spangled
    scum of the desert? These appeals were vain--the dragoman only smiled
    and shook his head.

    I rode to the front and struck up an acquaintance with King
    Solomon-in-all-his-glory, and got him to show me his lingering eternity
    of a gun. It had a rusty flint lock; it was ringed and barred and plated
    with silver from end to end, but it was as desperately out of the
    perpendicular as are the billiard cues of '49 that one finds yet in
    service in the ancient mining camps of California. The muzzle was eaten
    by the rust of centuries into a ragged filigree-work, like the end of a
    burnt-out stove-pipe. I shut one eye and peered within--it was flaked
    with iron rust like an old steamboat boiler. I borrowed the ponderous
    pistols and snapped them. They were rusty inside, too--had not been
    loaded for a generation. I went back, full of encouragement, and
    reported to the guide, and asked him to discharge this dismantled
    fortress. It came out, then. This fellow was a retainer of the Sheik
    of Tiberias. He was a source of Government revenue. He was to the
    Empire of Tiberias what the customs are to America. The Sheik imposed
    guards upon travelers and charged them for it. It is a lucrative source
    of emolument, and sometimes brings into the national treasury as much as
    thirty-five or forty dollars a year.

    I knew the warrior's secret now; I knew the hollow vanity of his rusty
    trumpery, and despised his asinine complacency. I told on him, and with
    reckless daring the cavalcade straight ahead into the perilous solitudes
    of the desert, and scorned his frantic warnings of the mutilation and
    death that hovered about them on every side.

    Arrived at an elevation of twelve hundred feet above the lake, (I ought
    to mention that the lake lies six hundred feet below the level of the
    Mediterranean--no traveler ever neglects to flourish that fragment of
    news in his letters,) as bald and unthrilling a panorama as any land can
    afford, perhaps, was spread out before us. Yet it was so crowded with
    historical interest, that if all the pages that have been written about
    it were spread upon its surface, they would flag it from horizon to
    horizon like a pavement. Among the localities comprised in this view,
    were Mount Hermon; the hills that border Cesarea Philippi, Dan, the
    Sources of the Jordan and the Waters of Merom; Tiberias; the Sea of
    Galilee; Joseph's Pit; Capernaum; Bethsaida; the supposed scenes of the
    Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of the multitudes and the miraculous
    draught of fishes; the declivity down which the swine ran to the sea; the
    entrance and the exit of the Jordan; Safed, "the city set upon a hill,"
    one of the four holy cities of the Jews, and the place where they believe
    the real Messiah will appear when he comes to redeem the world; part of
    the battle-field of Hattin, where the knightly Crusaders fought their
    last fight, and in a blaze of glory passed from the stage and ended their
    splendid career forever; Mount Tabor, the traditional scene of the Lord's
    Transfiguration. And down toward the southeast lay a landscape that
    suggested to my mind a quotation (imperfectly remembered, no doubt:)

    "The Ephraimites, not being called upon to share in the rich spoils
    of the Ammonitish war, assembled a mighty host to fight against
    Jeptha, Judge of Israel; who, being apprised of their approach,
    gathered together the men of Israel and gave them battle and put
    them to flight. To make his victory the more secure, he stationed
    guards at the different fords and passages of the Jordan, with
    instructions to let none pass who could not say Shibboleth. The
    Ephraimites, being of a different tribe, could not frame to
    pronounce the word right, but called it Sibboleth, which proved them
    enemies and cost them their lives; wherefore, forty and two thousand
    fell at the different fords and passages of the Jordan that day."

    We jogged along peacefully over the great caravan route from Damascus to
    Jerusalem and Egypt, past Lubia and other Syrian hamlets, perched, in the
    unvarying style, upon the summit of steep mounds and hills, and fenced
    round about with giant cactuses, (the sign of worthless land,) with
    prickly pears upon them like hams, and came at last to the battle-field
    of Hattin.

    It is a grand, irregular plateau, and looks as if it might have been
    created for a battle-field. Here the peerless Saladin met the Christian
    host some seven hundred years ago, and broke their power in Palestine for
    all time to come. There had long been a truce between the opposing
    forces, but according to the Guide-Book, Raynauld of Chatillon, Lord of
    Kerak, broke it by plundering a Damascus caravan, and refusing to give up
    either the merchants or their goods when Saladin demanded them. This
    conduct of an insolent petty chieftain stung the Sultan to the quick, and
    he swore that he would slaughter Raynauld with his own hand, no matter
    how, or when, or where he found him. Both armies prepared for war.
    Under the weak King of Jerusalem was the very flower of the Christian
    chivalry. He foolishly compelled them to undergo a long, exhausting
    march, in the scorching sun, and then, without water or other
    refreshment, ordered them to encamp in this open plain. The splendidly
    mounted masses of Moslem soldiers swept round the north end of
    Genessaret, burning and destroying as they came, and pitched their camp
    in front of the opposing lines. At dawn the terrific fight began.
    Surrounded on all sides by the Sultan's swarming battalions, the
    Christian Knights fought on without a hope for their lives. They fought
    with desperate valor, but to no purpose; the odds of heat and numbers,
    and consuming thirst, were too great against them. Towards the middle of
    the day the bravest of their band cut their way through the Moslem ranks
    and gained the summit of a little hill, and there, hour after hour, they
    closed around the banner of the Cross, and beat back the charging
    squadrons of the enemy.

    But the doom of the Christian power was sealed. Sunset found Saladin
    Lord of Palestine, the Christian chivalry strewn in heaps upon the field,
    and the King of Jerusalem, the Grand Master of the Templars, and Raynauld
    of Chatillon, captives in the Sultan's tent. Saladin treated two of the
    prisoners with princely courtesy, and ordered refreshments to be set
    before them. When the King handed an iced Sherbet to Chatillon, the
    Sultan said, "It is thou that givest it to him, not I." He remembered
    his oath, and slaughtered the hapless Knight of Chatillon with his own
    hand.

    It was hard to realize that this silent plain had once resounded with
    martial music and trembled to the tramp of armed men. It was hard to
    people this solitude with rushing columns of cavalry, and stir its torpid
    pulses with the shouts of victors, the shrieks of the wounded, and the
    flash of banner and steel above the surging billows of war. A desolation
    is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and
    action.

    We reached Tabor safely, and considerably in advance of that old
    iron-clad swindle of a guard. We never saw a human being on the whole
    route, much less lawless hordes of Bedouins. Tabor stands solitary and
    alone, a giant sentinel above the Plain of Esdraelon. It rises some
    fourteen hundred feet above the surrounding level, a green, wooden cone,
    symmetrical and full of grace--a prominent landmark, and one that is
    exceedingly pleasant to eyes surfeited with the repulsive monotony of
    desert Syria. We climbed the steep path to its summit, through breezy
    glades of thorn and oak. The view presented from its highest peak was
    almost beautiful. Below, was the broad, level plain of Esdraelon,
    checkered with fields like a chess-board, and full as smooth and level,
    seemingly; dotted about its borders with white, compact villages, and
    faintly penciled, far and near, with the curving lines of roads and
    trails. When it is robed in the fresh verdure of spring, it must form a
    charming picture, even by itself. Skirting its southern border rises
    "Little Hermon," over whose summit a glimpse of Gilboa is caught. Nain,
    famous for the raising of the widow's son, and Endor, as famous for the
    performances of her witch are in view. To the eastward lies the Valley
    of the Jordan and beyond it the mountains of Gilead. Westward is Mount
    Carmel. Hermon in the north--the table-lands of Bashan--Safed, the holy
    city, gleaming white upon a tall spur of the mountains of Lebanon
    --a steel-blue corner of the Sea of Galilee--saddle-peaked Hattin,
    traditional "Mount of Beatitudes" and mute witness brave fights of the
    Crusading host for Holy Cross--these fill up the picture.

    To glance at the salient features of this landscape through the
    picturesque framework of a ragged and ruined stone window--arch of the
    time of Christ, thus hiding from sight all that is unattractive, is to
    secure to yourself a pleasure worth climbing the mountain to enjoy. One
    must stand on his head to get the best effect in a fine sunset, and set a
    landscape in a bold, strong framework that is very close at hand, to
    bring out all its beauty. One learns this latter truth never more to
    forget it, in that mimic land of enchantment, the wonderful garden of my
    lord the Count Pallavicini, near Genoa. You go wandering for hours among
    hills and wooded glens, artfully contrived to leave the impression that
    Nature shaped them and not man; following winding paths and coming
    suddenly upon leaping cascades and rustic bridges; finding sylvan lakes
    where you expected them not; loitering through battered mediaeval castles
    in miniature that seem hoary with age and yet were built a dozen years
    ago; meditating over ancient crumbling tombs, whose marble columns were
    marred and broken purposely by the modern artist that made them;
    stumbling unawares upon toy palaces, wrought of rare and costly
    materials, and again upon a peasant's hut, whose dilapidated furniture
    would never suggest that it was made so to order; sweeping round and
    round in the midst of a forest on an enchanted wooden horse that is moved
    by some invisible agency; traversing Roman roads and passing under
    majestic triumphal arches; resting in quaint bowers where unseen spirits
    discharge jets of water on you from every possible direction, and where
    even the flowers you touch assail you with a shower; boating on a
    subterranean lake among caverns and arches royally draped with clustering
    stalactites, and passing out into open day upon another lake, which is
    bordered with sloping banks of grass and gay with patrician barges that
    swim at anchor in the shadow of a miniature marble temple that rises out
    of the clear water and glasses its white statues, its rich capitals and
    fluted columns in the tranquil depths. So, from marvel to marvel you
    have drifted on, thinking all the time that the one last seen must be the
    chiefest. And, verily, the chiefest wonder is reserved until the last,
    but you do not see it until you step ashore, and passing through a
    wilderness of rare flowers, collected from every corner of the earth, you
    stand at the door of one more mimic temple. Right in this place the
    artist taxed his genius to the utmost, and fairly opened the gates of
    fairy land. You look through an unpretending pane of glass, stained
    yellow--the first thing you see is a mass of quivering foliage, ten short
    steps before you, in the midst of which is a ragged opening like a
    gateway-a thing that is common enough in nature, and not apt to excite
    suspicions of a deep human design--and above the bottom of the gateway,
    project, in the most careless way! a few broad tropic leaves and
    brilliant flowers. All of a sudden, through this bright, bold gateway,
    you catch a glimpse of the faintest, softest, richest picture that ever
    graced the dream of a dying Saint, since John saw the New Jerusalem
    glimmering above the clouds of Heaven. A broad sweep of sea, flecked
    with careening sails; a sharp, jutting cape, and a lofty lighthouse on
    it; a sloping lawn behind it; beyond, a portion of the old "city of
    palaces," with its parks and hills and stately mansions; beyond these, a
    prodigious mountain, with its strong outlines sharply cut against ocean
    and sky; and over all, vagrant shreds and flakes of cloud, floating in a
    sea of gold. The ocean is gold, the city is gold, the meadow, the
    mountain, the sky--every thing is golden-rich, and mellow, and dreamy as
    a vision of Paradise. No artist could put upon canvas, its entrancing
    beauty, and yet, without the yellow glass, and the carefully contrived
    accident of a framework that cast it into enchanted distance and shut out
    from it all unattractive features, it was not a picture to fall into
    ecstasies over. Such is life, and the trail of the serpent is over us
    all.

    There is nothing for it now but to come back to old Tabor, though the
    subject is tiresome enough, and I can not stick to it for wandering off
    to scenes that are pleasanter to remember. I think I will skip, any how.
    There is nothing about Tabor (except we concede that it was the scene of
    the Transfiguration,) but some gray old ruins, stacked up there in all
    ages of the world from the days of stout Gideon and parties that
    flourished thirty centuries ago to the fresh yesterday of Crusading
    times. It has its Greek Convent, and the coffee there is good, but never
    a splinter of the true cross or bone of a hallowed saint to arrest the
    idle thoughts of worldlings and turn them into graver channels.
    A Catholic church is nothing to me that has no relics.

    The plain of Esdraelon--"the battle-field of the nations"--only sets one
    to dreaming of Joshua, and Benhadad, and Saul, and Gideon; Tamerlane,
    Tancred, Coeur de Lion, and Saladin; the warrior Kings of Persia, Egypt's
    heroes, and Napoleon--for they all fought here. If the magic of the
    moonlight could summon from the graves of forgotten centuries and many
    lands the countless myriads that have battled on this wide, far-reaching
    floor, and array them in the thousand strange Costumes of their hundred
    nationalities, and send the vast host sweeping down the plain, splendid
    with plumes and banners and glittering lances, I could stay here an age
    to see the phantom pageant. But the magic of the moonlight is a vanity
    and a fraud; and whoso putteth his trust in it shall suffer sorrow and
    disappointment.

    Down at the foot of Tabor, and just at the edge of the storied Plain of
    Esdraelon, is the insignificant village of Deburieh, where Deborah,
    prophetess of Israel, lived. It is just like Magdala.
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