Puslapio vaizdai

ishes wherever planted. But the Mussul- In Sfax many of the inhabitants wear mans of Tunis pride themselves on a close the green turban indicative of a hypoobservance of the precepts of the Koran. thetical descent from the prophet. It was

From forests of olives we passed again here that we were privileged to enter as into vast, treeless, shrubless plains. It was guests the house of a wealthy Arab, the here we saw a sight disturbing to our in- vice-consul of Tripoli. With outstretched stinct of harmony. An automobile stage hands he met us in the courtyard of his sped past, crowded inside and out with house. Two serious young men were inArabs, the peaked hoods of their white troduced as his sons; they could speak a burnooses drawn well over their heads, little French. While the men were contheir dark eyes peering out at us with a ducted by one of the sons to a different kind of somber gleefulness of expression. part of the house, we women were led to We felt that cherished traditions had a room where we were received by the somehow been frivolously violated, though wives of the vice-consul, two young woour own automobile had never disturbed men gorgeously gowned who had a certain our sense of the congruous. “A foolish nobleness of carriage. The younger, perconsistency,” as Emerson observes, “is the haps eighteen, who looked very sad, wore hobgoblin of little minds."

a pink-silk, embroidered gown which Suddenly we discerned half a mile away, reached to her well-turned ankles and just in the midst of a vast, empty plain, an am- showed the wide, white silk trousers bephitheater of magnificent proportions. It neath. Her slender feet were bare. Great was El Djem, the grandest Roman monu- gold loops hung from her ears; a gold ment in Tunis, and perhaps the best pre- necklace encircled her throat, and fell alserved amphitheater in the world. Now most to her waist. A head-dress fitted the in the midst of desolation, it was once part head closely, and was heavily embroidered of a flourishing Roman city.

with gold, and long tabs touched her The walled town of Sfax is noted for shoulders. Her eyebrows were finely penits gardens and for the cultivation of the ciled, and the pallor of her cheeks was olive. When the French took possession, hidden behind a coating of rouge not very they quickly discovered that in the matter artistically applied. She was altogether of arboriculture they had much to learn. a pathetic, pretty creature. Her companLarge sponge-fisheries employ over a thou- ion, robed in the same fashion, with the sand boats manned by Sicilians, Greeks, exception that her tunic was blue and her and Arabs, who give to the harbor a very feet incased in sandals, was plump and animated appearance.

merry-looking, though her grayish-blue

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eyes had that about them which made one been five or six years the senior of his two think they could snap angrily when dis- pretty stepmothers. An elaborately dressed pleased. She took precedence in all things infant, the son of the wife in pink, was over the wife in pink. Conversation was presented by the vice-consul as his youngcarried on through the medium of the vice- est child. consul's son, who, by the way, must have We were then interrogated as to the number of our sons.

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One was listened to departure was pressing close upon us. with approval so marked that the other Later our guide informed us that the son hoped to escape interrogation, for gray who had acted as interpreter had refused hair and single-blessedness are invariably to marry an Arab wife, boldly proclaiming regarded with amazement by the Arats. his preference for a European woman. She retained a vivid remembrance of the Taking the route southward, we moArab guide who, hearing her referred to tored through miles of green-gray oliveas "Mademoiselle," stared at her, and ex- groves, then struck out across the desert claimed in loud surprise, “I never saw a with a sense of adventure, of subtle joy, mademoiselle with white hair before!" which the breath of the desert brings to When our host had extracted the truth, those who enter it. In the attesting preshis profound astonishment was shared in ence of the Kabyles, the glamour of the full measure by his wives. A few quickly desert came to us even before we entered spoken words of command from the vice- the sun-steeped, broad expanse with the consul caused one of the Arab ladies- yellow-white distances in it. They are wonshe of the sad eyes - to unlock a cabinet derfully handsome, these children of the drawer and produce a necklace of gold sun, and here in southern Tunis are more spangles, which was clasped around the smiling, more friendly in aspect, than throat of that husbandless guest. Brace- those we encountered in Algeria, and the lets were slipped upon her arms, her hat tattoo-marks on the faces of the women was removed, and a barbarously splendid are more exaggerated. head-dress, studded with handsome stones, Before the end of that day's ride we met was substituted. To complete the picture, our first mishap since leaving the capital a pink-silk tunic, gold embroidered, was of Algeria--a punctured tire, which decast over her shoulders. She stood arrayed layed us half an hour under a blazing sun. a veritable Oriental of high degree. The Large herds of camels browsed in the old man chuckled and rubbed his hands, luminous distance. The animals were the merry wife clapped her little henna- watched by a group of Bedouins gathered stained palms together, but the sad-eyed about an artesian well. In splendid efforts one gazed with an expression that was in- to reclaim the Sahara, French engineers scrutable.

Then the vice-consul grace- have sunk many of these wells, tapping fully extended a dinner-invitation for the underground streams and springs, and morrow to our entire party; but we had to have restored the old Arab wells, which decline, as we meant to continue our tour

had silted up. early in the morning. Still, in the out- After sundown we came to a region of skirts of Sfax we visited his villa and gar- magnificent date-palms bordering the sea, dens, inclosed by high earth walls topped by which we followed to the sleepy little oasis a great growth of prickly-pear bushes. We town of Gabes. Our sudden appearance walked long lengths of plowed ground be- brought consternation to the landlord of tween lines of orange-, lemon-, pomegran- the inn. He was a Frenchman, rubicund ate-, and almond-trees, the ripening fruit of hue, with a countenance of bucolic asimparting a faintly spiced perfume to the pect, and a broad, round anatomy which air. From an ornamental point of view somehow made one think of the full moon the gardens were disappointing. There on stilts. His long, brown hair hung was an absence of Aowers, of grass, of low on his neck, and his brown mustache pretty paths-an absence which disquali- curled prettily. We had failed to notify fied them forever for pleasant loitering- him of our intended arrival ; his accommoplaces on beautiful summer days, despite dations were limited; another motor-car the cool, velvety brown of the upturned was expected. All this we gathered beearth. Indeed, the impression would have tween his voluble assurances that we must been disturbing had we not known that no account descend from our car. the gardens of Sfax are mainly utilitarian. When we protested, he raised his shoulders The white villa of Arab architecture was and spread out his chubby hands pathetisurrounded by tall palm-trees, and formed cally, apologetically, till we saw visions of a finished little picture. Coffee was a night spent in the desert in the tents of served, and we drank it standing in the Bedouins or under the myriad shining shadow of the trees, for the time of our stars, and one of the party with a zest for



experiences was graceless enough to be of Europeans, then over a fiery stretch of glad. But the host had a wife who pos- baked earth, and entered the native village. sessed the intelligent, helpful attributes The troglodytes are supposed to be "dwellcharacteristic of the Frenchwoman whose ers in caves,” and Médenine one of the husband is commercially employed. It

It most curious of their villages. As a matwas therefore due to her that we were ter of fact, the houses, built of stone, are a triumphantly established as guests.

succession of small, windowless, and for Gabes is not much more than a military the most part doorless, vaults, constructed post surrounded by the captivating palm- one on top of the other to the height of gardens of the natives. In a shallow four or five stories. Projecting stones on "oued" at one end of the town, women, the outside form staircases which permit with bright-colored skirts tucked up above access to the vaults on the upper Aoors. their knees, were leisurely pounding a Many of these are used for granaries, choice assortment of rags, which I took to while others, in no way differing from be their clothes. Pretty children, bronze

Pretty children, bronze- them, serve as dwellings. At the time of colored and naked, were splashing one an- our visit, the granaries were empty and other in the water and shouting merrily. the people pathetically poor, their harvest We took a path which led behind clay having failed for two successive years; yet walls to a veritable jungle of date-palms. they did not beg of us, offering in this Beneath the tall, scaly trunks were green respect a striking contrast to the poor patches of young wheat, squares of vegeta- among the Arabs, Kabyles, and Jews in ble gardens, and small orange-, lemon-, other parts of Tunisia and in Algeria. and fig-trees, all watered by a network of Though the powerful protection of irrigating-ditches. Here and there small France has for many years been extended mosques and adobe huts with thatched to travelers throughout the regency of roofs nestled in the shadow of the palms. Tunisia, there remained certain places in The natives were grouped about, smoking, the country where until a comparatively chatting, or working, turning over the rich recent period it was deemed by the French soil with short-handled hoes, and cutting government necessary to supply armed off large sprouts from date-palms for re- escort to foreigners who visited them. planting

The beneficence of French rule in TuThere is a charm about life in the oasis nisia is nowhere more strikingly shown which, though indefinable, is very potent than among the fanatical inhabitants of

a charm felt by the homesick soldier, by Kairwan, one of the four holy cities of the the exiled foreigner, by the passing tourist. Mussulman, the others being Mecca, JeruIndeed, the latter acquires a taste for the salem, and Medina. Seven pilgrimages to desert and for the oasis in the desert which Kairwan are equivalent to one to Mecca. haunts him persistently. Long after he It is essentially an Arab town, with a pophas said good-by to them, the music of the ulation numbering twenty thousand, of wind-stirred palm-trees lingers in his mem- which two hundred and fifty are French. ory.

As we drew near, the holy city blazed Gabes lies one hundred and fifty miles like a white jewel in the sunlight, with its farther south than Biskra, and Médenine white, crenelated walls, its white towers lies fifty miles south of Gabes. Between and bastions, its great white-fleeced domes, them an edge of the desert stretches along and its lofty white minarets, where the the foot of the Matmatas Mountains, and muezzins call to prayer. sweeps down to the sea, but without miti- After obtaining permission to visit the gating the heat, which on the day we mosques, we set forth to see the Grand motored to Médenine seemed to come from Mosque, built by Sidi-Okba. It is near a red-hot furnace. It was noon when we the ramparts, on the northeast corner of entered Médenine, the strangest village in the city, and is surrounded by high walls. all Tunisia, a large troglodyte village and It has, as one approaches it, somewhat the the principal frontier post of the French appearance of a Moorish stronghold, as army, for a few miles beyond lies Tripoli. though it had been constructed for defense After leaving the car at the little hotel, we rather than for prayer. The impression walked through a small avenue of brilliant disappears with the opening of the great pepper-trees, passed a few white houses doors, and one steps into a court surrounded by a beautiful arcade of marble In a dirty inclosed court near the market, columns. The mosque itself is one of the we saw the snake-charmers of Kairwan, noblest in northern Africa.

who form a well-known religious sect, and A certain distance beyond the city walls who treated us to an exhibition of antics is the “Mosque of the Barber of the and snakes, including the deadly cobra. Prophet," which, properly speaking, is not In the market-place, surrounded by a a mosque at all, but a place of pilgrimage, crowd of Arabs, and accompanied by the a college for students of the Koran, and a same mischievous little imp who had morefuge for religious mendicants. After tored uninvited with us from the Mosque the Alhambra, to portions of which it of the Barber, and who now was contentbears a family resemblance, it is the most edly smoking a cigarette and explaining perfect thing of its kind in the world. matters of interest to us in choice Arabic

Outside the mosque, a score of boys, (so at least I took his fluent speech to be), sadly soiled as to clothes and complexion, we forgot the unpleasant episode of the waited us with petitions to ride in the car. snake-charmers and lost ourselves in the Our guide fiercely dispersed them, but one contemplation of a bewildering display of small Arab managed to elude him and Oriental rugs. A week later, under the tucked himself most incomprehensively gold of the stars, with a crescent moon under the car, where later, in the market- brightly shining, we sailed from the shores place, he emerged smiling mischievously. of Tunis la Blanche, Tunis l'Odorante.

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