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    Chapter 50

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    Chapter 51
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    We descended from Mount Tabor, crossed a deep ravine, followed a hilly,
    rocky road to Nazareth--distant two hours. All distances in the East are
    measured by hours, not miles. A good horse will walk three miles an hour
    over nearly any kind of a road; therefore, an hour, here, always stands
    for three miles. This method of computation is bothersome and annoying;
    and until one gets thoroughly accustomed to it, it carries no
    intelligence to his mind until he has stopped and translated the pagan
    hours into Christian miles, just as people do with the spoken words of a
    foreign language they are acquainted with, but not familiarly enough to
    catch the meaning in a moment. Distances traveled by human feet are also
    estimated by hours and minutes, though I do not know what the base of the
    calculation is. In Constantinople you ask, "How far is it to the
    Consulate?" and they answer, "About ten minutes." "How far is it to the
    Lloyds' Agency?" "Quarter of an hour." "How far is it to the lower
    bridge?" "Four minutes." I can not be positive about it, but I think
    that there, when a man orders a pair of pantaloons, he says he wants them
    a quarter of a minute in the legs and nine seconds around the waist.

    Two hours from Tabor to Nazareth--and as it was an uncommonly narrow,
    crooked trail, we necessarily met all the camel trains and jackass
    caravans between Jericho and Jacksonville in that particular place and
    nowhere else. The donkeys do not matter so much, because they are so
    small that you can jump your horse over them if he is an animal of
    spirit, but a camel is not jumpable. A camel is as tall as any ordinary
    dwelling-house in Syria--which is to say a camel is from one to two, and
    sometimes nearly three feet taller than a good-sized man. In this part
    of the country his load is oftenest in the shape of colossal sacks--one
    on each side. He and his cargo take up as much room as a carriage.
    Think of meeting this style of obstruction in a narrow trail. The camel
    would not turn out for a king. He stalks serenely along, bringing his
    cushioned stilts forward with the long, regular swing of a pendulum, and
    whatever is in the way must get out of the way peaceably, or be wiped out
    forcibly by the bulky sacks. It was a tiresome ride to us, and perfectly
    exhausting to the horses. We were compelled to jump over upwards of
    eighteen hundred donkeys, and only one person in the party was unseated
    less than sixty times by the camels. This seems like a powerful
    statement, but the poet has said, "Things are not what they seem." I can
    not think of any thing, now, more certain to make one shudder, than to
    have a soft-footed camel sneak up behind him and touch him on the ear
    with its cold, flabby under-lip. A camel did this for one of the boys,
    who was drooping over his saddle in a brown study. He glanced up and saw
    the majestic apparition hovering above him, and made frantic efforts to
    get out of the way, but the camel reached out and bit him on the shoulder
    before he accomplished it. This was the only pleasant incident of the
    journey.

    At Nazareth we camped in an olive grove near the Virgin Mary's fountain,
    and that wonderful Arab "guard" came to collect some bucksheesh for his
    "services" in following us from Tiberias and warding off invisible
    dangers with the terrors of his armament. The dragoman had paid his
    master, but that counted as nothing--if you hire a man to sneeze for you,
    here, and another man chooses to help him, you have got to pay both.
    They do nothing whatever without pay. How it must have surprised these
    people to hear the way of salvation offered to them "without money and
    without price." If the manners, the people or the customs of this
    country have changed since the Saviour's time, the figures and metaphors
    of the Bible are not the evidences to prove it by.

    We entered the great Latin Convent which is built over the traditional
    dwelling-place of the Holy Family. We went down a flight of fifteen
    steps below the ground level, and stood in a small chapel tricked out
    with tapestry hangings, silver lamps, and oil paintings. A spot marked
    by a cross, in the marble floor, under the altar, was exhibited as the
    place made forever holy by the feet of the Virgin when she stood up to
    receive the message of the angel. So simple, so unpretending a locality,
    to be the scene of so mighty an event! The very scene of the
    Annunciation--an event which has been commemorated by splendid shrines
    and august temples all over the civilized world, and one which the
    princes of art have made it their loftiest ambition to picture worthily
    on their canvas; a spot whose history is familiar to the very children of
    every house, and city, and obscure hamlet of the furthest lands of
    Christendom; a spot which myriads of men would toil across the breadth of
    a world to see, would consider it a priceless privilege to look upon.
    It was easy to think these thoughts. But it was not easy to bring myself
    up to the magnitude of the situation. I could sit off several thousand
    miles and imagine the angel appearing, with shadowy wings and lustrous
    countenance, and note the glory that streamed downward upon the Virgin's
    head while the message from the Throne of God fell upon her ears--any one
    can do that, beyond the ocean, but few can do it here. I saw the little
    recess from which the angel stepped, but could not fill its void. The
    angels that I know are creatures of unstable fancy--they will not fit in
    niches of substantial stone. Imagination labors best in distant fields.
    I doubt if any man can stand in the Grotto of the Annunciation and people
    with the phantom images of his mind its too tangible walls of stone.

    They showed us a broken granite pillar, depending from the roof, which
    they said was hacked in two by the Moslem conquerors of Nazareth, in the
    vain hope of pulling down the sanctuary. But the pillar remained
    miraculously suspended in the air, and, unsupported itself, supported
    then and still supports the roof. By dividing this statement up among
    eight, it was found not difficult to believe it.

    These gifted Latin monks never do any thing by halves. If they were to
    show you the Brazen Serpent that was elevated in the wilderness, you
    could depend upon it that they had on hand the pole it was elevated on
    also, and even the hole it stood in. They have got the "Grotto" of the
    Annunciation here; and just as convenient to it as one's throat is to his
    mouth, they have also the Virgin's Kitchen, and even her sitting-room,
    where she and Joseph watched the infant Saviour play with Hebrew toys
    eighteen hundred years ago. All under one roof, and all clean, spacious,
    comfortable "grottoes." It seems curious that personages intimately
    connected with the Holy Family always lived in grottoes--in Nazareth, in
    Bethlehem, in imperial Ephesus--and yet nobody else in their day and
    generation thought of doing any thing of the kind. If they ever did,
    their grottoes are all gone, and I suppose we ought to wonder at the
    peculiar marvel of the preservation of these I speak of. When the Virgin
    fled from Herod's wrath, she hid in a grotto in Bethlehem, and the same
    is there to this day. The slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem was
    done in a grotto; the Saviour was born in a grotto--both are shown to
    pilgrims yet. It is exceedingly strange that these tremendous events all
    happened in grottoes--and exceedingly fortunate, likewise, because the
    strongest houses must crumble to ruin in time, but a grotto in the living
    rock will last forever. It is an imposture--this grotto stuff--but it is
    one that all men ought to thank the Catholics for. Wherever they ferret
    out a lost locality made holy by some Scriptural event, they straightway
    build a massive--almost imperishable--church there, and preserve the
    memory of that locality for the gratification of future generations. If
    it had been left to Protestants to do this most worthy work, we would not
    even know where Jerusalem is to-day, and the man who could go and put his
    finger on Nazareth would be too wise for this world. The world owes the
    Catholics its good will even for the happy rascality of hewing out these
    bogus grottoes in the rock; for it is infinitely more satisfactory to
    look at a grotto, where people have faithfully believed for centuries
    that the Virgin once lived, than to have to imagine a dwelling-place for
    her somewhere, any where, nowhere, loose and at large all over this town
    of Nazareth. There is too large a scope of country. The imagination can
    not work. There is no one particular spot to chain your eye, rivet your
    interest, and make you think. The memory of the Pilgrims can not perish
    while Plymouth Rock remains to us. The old monks are wise. They know
    how to drive a stake through a pleasant tradition that will hold it to
    its place forever.

    We visited the places where Jesus worked for fifteen years as a
    carpenter, and where he attempted to teach in the synagogue and was
    driven out by a mob. Catholic chapels stand upon these sites and protect
    the little fragments of the ancient walls which remain. Our pilgrims
    broke off specimens. We visited, also, a new chapel, in the midst of the
    town, which is built around a boulder some twelve feet long by four feet
    thick; the priests discovered, a few years ago, that the disciples had
    sat upon this rock to rest, once, when they had walked up from Capernaum.
    They hastened to preserve the relic. Relics are very good property.
    Travelers are expected to pay for seeing them, and they do it cheerfully.
    We like the idea. One's conscience can never be the worse for the
    knowledge that he has paid his way like a man. Our pilgrims would have
    liked very well to get out their lampblack and stencil-plates and paint
    their names on that rock, together with the names of the villages they
    hail from in America, but the priests permit nothing of that kind.
    To speak the strict truth, however, our party seldom offend in that way,
    though we have men in the ship who never lose an opportunity to do it.
    Our pilgrims' chief sin is their lust for "specimens." I suppose that by
    this time they know the dimensions of that rock to an inch, and its
    weight to a ton; and I do not hesitate to charge that they will go back
    there to-night and try to carry it off.

    This "Fountain of the Virgin" is the one which tradition says Mary used
    to get water from, twenty times a day, when she was a girl, and bear it
    away in a jar upon her head. The water streams through faucets in the
    face of a wall of ancient masonry which stands removed from the houses of
    the village. The young girls of Nazareth still collect about it by the
    dozen and keep up a riotous laughter and sky-larking. The Nazarene girls
    are homely. Some of them have large, lustrous eyes, but none of them
    have pretty faces. These girls wear a single garment, usually, and it is
    loose, shapeless, of undecided color; it is generally out of repair, too.
    They wear, from crown to jaw, curious strings of old coins, after the
    manner of the belles of Tiberias, and brass jewelry upon their wrists and
    in their ears. They wear no shoes and stockings. They are the most
    human girls we have found in the country yet, and the best natured.
    But there is no question that these picturesque maidens sadly lack
    comeliness.

    A pilgrim--the "Enthusiast"--said: "See that tall, graceful girl! look at
    the Madonna-like beauty of her countenance!"

    Another pilgrim came along presently and said: "Observe that tall,
    graceful girl; what queenly Madonna-like gracefulness of beauty is in her
    countenance."

    I said: "She is not tall, she is short; she is not beautiful, she is
    homely; she is graceful enough, I grant, but she is rather boisterous."

    The third and last pilgrim moved by, before long, and he said: "Ah, what
    a tall, graceful girl! what Madonna-like gracefulness of queenly beauty!"

    The verdicts were all in. It was time, now, to look up the authorities
    for all these opinions. I found this paragraph, which follows. Written
    by whom? Wm. C. Grimes:

    "After we were in the saddle, we rode down to the spring to have a
    last look at the women of Nazareth, who were, as a class, much the
    prettiest that we had seen in the East. As we approached the crowd
    a tall girl of nineteen advanced toward Miriam and offered her a cup
    of water. Her movement was graceful and queenly. We exclaimed on
    the spot at the Madonna-like beauty of her countenance. Whitely was
    suddenly thirsty, and begged for water, and drank it slowly, with
    his eyes over the top of the cup, fixed on her large black eyes,
    which gazed on him quite as curiously as he on her. Then Moreright
    wanted water. She gave it to him and he managed to spill it so as
    to ask for another cup, and by the time she came to me she saw
    through the operation; her eyes were full of fun as she looked at
    me. I laughed outright, and she joined me in as gay a shout as ever
    country maiden in old Orange county. I wished for a picture of her.
    A Madonna, whose face was a portrait of that beautiful Nazareth
    girl, would be a 'thing of beauty' and 'a joy forever.'"

    That is the kind of gruel which has been served out from Palestine for
    ages. Commend me to Fennimore Cooper to find beauty in the Indians, and
    to Grimes to find it in the Arabs. Arab men are often fine looking, but
    Arab women are not. We can all believe that the Virgin Mary was
    beautiful; it is not natural to think otherwise; but does it follow that
    it is our duty to find beauty in these present women of Nazareth?

    I love to quote from Grimes, because he is so dramatic. And because he
    is so romantic. And because he seems to care but little whether he tells
    the truth or not, so he scares the reader or excites his envy or his
    admiration.

    He went through this peaceful land with one hand forever on his revolver,
    and the other on his pocket-handkerchief. Always, when he was not on the
    point of crying over a holy place, he was on the point of killing an
    Arab. More surprising things happened to him in Palestine than ever
    happened to any traveler here or elsewhere since Munchausen died.

    At Beit Jin, where nobody had interfered with him, he crept out of his
    tent at dead of night and shot at what he took to be an Arab lying on a
    rock, some distance away, planning evil. The ball killed a wolf. Just
    before he fired, he makes a dramatic picture of himself--as usual, to
    scare the reader:

    "Was it imagination, or did I see a moving object on the surface of
    the rock? If it were a man, why did he not now drop me? He had a
    beautiful shot as I stood out in my black boornoose against the
    white tent. I had the sensation of an entering bullet in my throat,
    breast, brain."

    Reckless creature!

    Riding toward Genessaret, they saw two Bedouins, and "we looked to our
    pistols and loosened them quietly in our shawls," etc. Always cool.

    In Samaria, he charged up a hill, in the face of a volley of stones; he
    fired into the crowd of men who threw them. He says:

    "I never lost an opportunity of impressing the Arabs with the
    perfection of American and English weapons, and the danger of
    attacking any one of the armed Franks. I think the lesson of that
    ball not lost."

    At Beit Jin he gave his whole band of Arab muleteers a piece of his mind,
    and then--

    "I contented myself with a solemn assurance that if there occurred
    another instance of disobedience to orders I would thrash the
    responsible party as he never dreamed of being thrashed, and if I
    could not find who was responsible, I would whip them all, from
    first to last, whether there was a governor at hand to do it or I
    had to do it myself"

    Perfectly fearless, this man.

    He rode down the perpendicular path in the rocks, from the Castle of
    Banias to the oak grove, at a flying gallop, his horse striding "thirty
    feet" at every bound. I stand prepared to bring thirty reliable
    witnesses to prove that Putnam's famous feat at Horseneck was
    insignificant compared to this.

    Behold him--always theatrical--looking at Jerusalem--this time, by an
    oversight, with his hand off his pistol for once.

    "I stood in the road, my hand on my horse's neck, and with my dim
    eyes sought to trace the outlines of the holy places which I had
    long before fixed in my mind, but the fast-flowing tears forbade my
    succeeding. There were our Mohammedan servants, a Latin monk, two
    Armenians and a Jew in our cortege, and all alike gazed with
    overflowing eyes."

    If Latin monks and Arabs cried, I know to a moral certainty that the
    horses cried also, and so the picture is complete.

    But when necessity demanded, he could be firm as adamant. In the Lebanon
    Valley an Arab youth--a Christian; he is particular to explain that
    Mohammedans do not steal--robbed him of a paltry ten dollars' worth of
    powder and shot. He convicted him before a sheik and looked on while he
    was punished by the terrible bastinado. Hear him:

    "He (Mousa) was on his back in a twinkling, howling, shouting,
    screaming, but he was carried out to the piazza before the door,
    where we could see the operation, and laid face down. One man sat
    on his back and one on his legs, the latter holding up his feet,
    while a third laid on the bare soles a rhinoceros-hide koorbash
    --["A Koorbash is Arabic for cowhide, the cow being a rhinoceros.
    It is the most cruel whip known to fame. Heavy as lead, and
    flexible as India-rubber, usually about forty inches long and
    tapering gradually from an inch in diameter to a point, it
    administers a blow which leaves its mark for time."--Scow Life in
    Egypt, by the same author.]--that whizzed through the air at every
    stroke. Poor Moreright was in agony, and Nama and Nama the Second
    (mother and sister of Mousa,) were on their faces begging and
    wailing, now embracing my knees and now Whitely's, while the
    brother, outside, made the air ring with cries louder than Mousa's.
    Even Yusef came and asked me on his knees to relent, and last of
    all, Betuni--the rascal had lost a feed-bag in their house and had
    been loudest in his denunciations that morning--besought the Howajji
    to have mercy on the fellow."

    But not he! The punishment was "suspended," at the fifteenth blow to
    hear the confession. Then Grimes and his party rode away, and left the
    entire Christian family to be fined and as severely punished as the
    Mohammedan sheik should deem proper.

    "As I mounted, Yusef once more begged me to interfere and have mercy
    on them, but I looked around at the dark faces of the crowd, and I
    couldn't find one drop of pity in my heart for them."

    He closes his picture with a rollicking burst of humor which contrasts
    finely with the grief of the mother and her children.

    One more paragraph:

    "Then once more I bowed my head. It is no shame to have wept in
    Palestine. I wept, when I saw Jerusalem, I wept when I lay in the
    starlight at Bethlehem. I wept on the blessed shores of Galilee.
    My hand was no less firm on the rein, my anger did not tremble on
    the trigger of my pistol when I rode with it in my right hand along
    the shore of the blue sea" (weeping.) "My eye was not dimmed by
    those tears nor my heart in aught weakened. Let him who would sneer
    at my emotion close this volume here, for he will find little to his
    taste in my journeyings through Holy Land."

    He never bored but he struck water.

    I am aware that this is a pretty voluminous notice of Mr. Grimes' book.
    However, it is proper and legitimate to speak of it, for "Nomadic Life in
    Palestine" is a representative book--the representative of a class of
    Palestine books--and a criticism upon it will serve for a criticism upon
    them all. And since I am treating it in the comprehensive capacity of a
    representative book, I have taken the liberty of giving to both book and
    author fictitious names. Perhaps it is in better taste, any how, to do
    this.
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