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Chapter 14

Palgrave’s Travels—Adventures in Ri’ad


“Barakat and myself stopped our dromedaries a few minutes on the height to study and enjoy this noble prospect, and to forget the anxiety inseparable from a first approach to the lion’s own den.  Aboo-’Eysa, too, though not unacquainted with the scene, willingly paused with us to point out and name the main features of the view, and show us where lay the onward road to his home in Hasa. We then descended the slope and skirted the walls of the first outlying plantations which gird the town.

“At last we reached a great open square: its right side, the northern, consists of shops and warehouses; while the left is entirely absorbed by the huge abode of Nedjean royalty; in front of us, and consequently to the west, a long covered passage, upborne high on a clumsy colonnade, crossed the breadth of the square, and reached from the palace to the great mosque, which it thus joins directly with the interior of the castle and affords old Feysul a private and unseen passage at will from his own apartments to his official post at the Friday prayers, without exposing him on his way to vulgar curiosity, or perhaps to the dangers of treachery.  For the fate of his father and of his great-uncle, his predecessors on the throne, and each of them pierced by the dagger of an assassin during public worship, has rendered Feysul very timid on this score, though not at prayer-time only.  Behind this colonnade, other shops and warehouses make up the end of the square, or, more properly, parallelogram; its total length is about two hundred paces, by rather more than half the same width.  In the midst of this space, and under the far-reaching shadow of the castle walls, are seated some fifty or sixty women, each with a stock of bread, dates, milk, vegetables, or firewood before her for sale.

“But we did not now stop to gaze, nor indeed did we pay much attention to all this; our first introduction to the monarch and the critical position before us took up all our thoughts.  So we paced on alongside of the long blind wall running out from the central keep, and looking more like the outside of a fortress than of a peaceful residence, till we came near a low and narrow gate, the only entry to the palace.  Deep-sunk between the bastions, with massive folding doors iron bound, though thrown open at this hour of the day, and giving entrance into a dark passage, one might easily have taken it for the vestibule of a prison; while the number of guards, some black, some white, but all sword-girt, who almost choked the way, did not seem very inviting to those without, especially to foreigners.  Long earth seats lined the adjoining walls, and afforded a convenient waiting-place for visitors; and here we took up our rest at a little distance from the palace gate; but Aboo-’Eysa entered at once to announce our arrival, and the approach of the Na’ib.

“The first who drew near and saluted us was a tall, meagre figure, of a sallow complexion, and an intelligent but slightly ill-natured and underhand cast of features.  He was very well dressed, though of course without a vestige of unlawful silk in his apparel, and a certain air of conscious importance tempered the affability of his politeness.  This was ’Abd-el-’Azeez, whom, for want of a better title, I shall call the minister of foreign affairs, such being the approximate translation of his official style.

“Accompanied by some attendants from the palace, he came stately up, and seated himself by our side.  He next began the customary interrogations of whence and what, with much smiling courtesy and show of welcome.  After hearing our replies, the same of course as those given elsewhere, he invited us to enter the precincts, and partake of his Majesty’s coffee and hospitality, while he promised us more immediate communications from the king himself in the course of the day.

“If my readers have seen, as most of them undoubtedly will, the Paris Tuileries, they may hereby know that the whole extent of Feysul’s palace equals about two-thirds of that construction, and is little inferior to it in height; if indeed we except the angular pyramidal roofs or extinguishers peculiar to the French edifice.  But in ornament the Parisian pile has the better of it, for there is small pretensions to architectural embellishment in this Wahabee Louvre.  Without, within, every other consideration has been sacrificed to strength and security; and the outer view of Newgate, at any rate, bears a very strong resemblance to the general effect of Feysul’s palace.

“Aboo-’Eysa meanwhile, in company with the outriders sent from the palace, had gone to meet the Na’ib and introduce him to the lodgings prepared for his reception.  Very much was the Persian astounded to find none of the royal family among those who thus came, no one even of high name or office; but yet more was his surprise when, instead of immediate admittance to Feysul’s presence and eager embrace, he was quietly led aside to the very guest-room whither we had been conducted, and a dinner not a whit more sumptuous than ours was set before him, after which he was very coolly told that he might pray for Feysul and retire to his quarters, while the king settled the day and hour whereon he would vouchsafe him the honor of an audience.

“Afterward, the minister of foreign affairs condescended to come in person, and, sweetly smiling, informed us that our temporary habitation was ready, and that Aboo-’Eysa would conduct us thither without delay.  We then begged to know, if possible, the king’s good-will and pleasure regarding our stay and our business in the town.  For on our first introduction we had duly stated, in the most correct Wahabee phraseology, that we had come to Ri’ad ‘desiring the favor of God, and secondly of Feysul; and that we begged of God, and secondly of Feysul, permission to exercise in the town our medical profession, under the protection of God, and in the next place of Feysul.’  For Dogberry’s advice to ‘set God first, for God defend but God should go before such villains,’ is here observed to the letter; whatever is desired, purported, or asked, the Deity must take the lead.  Nor this only, but even the subsequent mention of the creature must nowise be coupled with that of the Creator by the ordinary conjunction ‘w’,’ that is, ‘and,’ since that would imply equality between the two—flat blasphemy in word or thought.  Hence the disjunctive ‘thumma,’ or ‘next after,’ ‘at a distance,’ must take the place of ‘w’,’ under penalty of prosecution under the statute.  ‘Unlucky the man who visits Nedjed without being previously well versed in the niceties of grammar,’ said Barakat; ‘under these schoolmasters a mistake might cost the scholar his head.’  But of this more anon; to return to our subject, ’Abd-el-’Azeez, a true politician, answered our second interrogation with a vague assurance of good-will and unmeaning patronage.  Meantime the Na’ib and his train marched off in high dudgeon to their quarters, and Aboo-’Eysa gave our dromedaries a kick, made them rise, and drove them before us to our new abode.”

In the course of a day or two the travellers discovered what a sensation the arrival of their caravan had produced at court.  The old king, Feysul, now in the thirty-third year of his reign, possessed all the superstition and bigotry of the old Wahabees, and the sudden presence of Syrians, suspected of being Christians, Persians, and Meccans, in his capital, was too much for him.  He at once left the palace, took up his temporary residence in a house outside the city, and a strong guard was posted around him until the court officials should have time to examine the strangers, discover, if possible, their secret designs, and report them to the king.  The first spy was a shrewd and intelligent Affghan, a pretended convert to the Wahabee doctrine, who discovered nothing, and consequently made an unfavorable report.  The second was a “man of zeal,” one of a committee of twenty-two inquisitors, appointed by the king to exercise constant espionage upon the inhabitants, with the power of punishing them at will for any infraction or neglect of the Wahabee discipline.  Palgrave gives the following account of his visit:

“Abbood, for such was his name, though I never met the like before or after in Arabia proper, however common it may be in Syria and Lebanon, took a different and more efficacious mode of espionage than ’Abd-el-Hameed had done before him.  Affecting to consider us Mahometans, and learned ones too, he entered at once on religious topics, on the true character of Islam, its purity or corruptions, and inquired much after the present teaching and usages of Damascus and the North, evidently in the view of catching us in our words.  But he had luckily encountered his match; for every citation of the Koran we replied with two, and proved ourselves intimately acquainted with the ‘greater’ and the ‘lesser’ polytheism of foreign nations and heterodox Mahometans, with the commentaries of Beydowee and the tales of the Hadeeth, till our visitor, now won over to confidence, launched out full sail on the sea of discussion, and thereby rendered himself equally instructive and interesting to men who had nothing more at heart than to learn the tenets of the sect from one of its most zealous professors, nay, a Zelator in person.  In short, he ended by becoming half a friend, and his regrets at our being, like other Damascenes, yet in the outer porch of darkness, were tempered by a hope, which he did not disguise, of at least putting a window in our porch for its better enlightenment.”

Next day, in the forenoon, while the travellers were sauntering about the market-place, they met the minister ’Abd-el-’Azeez, who had that morning returned to the capital.  With a smiling face and an air of great benignity he took them aside, and informed them the king did not consider Ri’ad a proper field for their medical skill; that they had better at once continue their journey to Hofhoof, whither Aboo-’Eysa should conduct them straightway; and that the king would furnish each of them with a camel, a new suit of clothes, and some money.  To these arguments Palgrave could only answer that he greatly desired the profit to be expected from a few weeks of medical practice in Ri’ad, since his success there would give him an immediate reputation in Hofhoof, while his departure might deprive him of all reputation at the latter place.  The minister promised to present his plea to Feysul, but gave him no hope of a favorable answer.  The order to leave was repeated, and then, as a last experiment, Palgrave sent to two of the ministers a pound of the fragrant wood, which is burned as pastilles in Arabia, and is highly prized by the upper classes.  The next day he received permission to remain longer in Ri’ad and exercise his profession.  He thereupon took another residence, not so near the palace, and within convenient reach of one of the city gates.  Before describing the place he gives the following account of the famous Arabian coffee:

“Be it then known, by way of prelude, that coffee, though one in name, is manifold in fact; nor is every kind of berry entitled to the high qualifications too indiscriminately bestowed on the comprehensive genus.  The best coffee, let cavillers say what they will, is that of the Yemen, commonly entitled ‘Mokha,’ from the main place of exportation.  Now, I should be sorry to incur a lawsuit for libel or defamation from our wholesale or retail salesmen; but were the particle NOT prefixed to the countless labels in London shop windows that bear the name of the Red Sea haven, they would have a more truthy import than what at present they convey.  Very little, so little indeed as to be quite inappreciable, of the Mocha or Yemen berry ever finds its way westward of Constantinople.  Arabia itself, Syria, and Egypt consume fully two-thirds, and the remainder is almost exclusively absorbed by Turkish and Armenian œsophagi.  Nor do these last get for their limited share the best or the purest.  Before reaching the harbors of Alexandria, Jaffa, Beyrout, etc., for further exportation, the Mokhan bales have been, while yet on their way, sifted and resifted, grain by grain, and whatever they may have contained of the hard, rounded, half-transparent, greenish-brown berry, the only one really worth roasting and pounding, has been carefully picked out by experienced fingers; and it is the less generous residue of flattened, opaque, and whitish grains which alone, or almost alone, goes on board the shipping.  So constant is this selecting process, that a gradation regular as the degrees on a map may be observed in the quality of Mokha, that is, Yemen, coffee even within the limits of Arabia itself, in proportion as one approaches to or recedes from Wadi Nejran and the neighborhood of Mecca, the first stages of the radiating mart.  I have myself been times out of number an eye-witness of this sifting; the operation is performed with the utmost seriousness and scrupulous exactness, reminding me of the diligence ascribed to American diamond-searchers when scrutinizing the torrent sands for their minute but precious treasure.

“The berry, thus qualified for foreign use, quits its native land on three main lines of export—that of the Red Sea, that of the inner Hedjaz, and that of Kaseem.  The terminus of the first line is Egypt, of the second Syria, of the third Nedjed and Shomer.  Hence Egypt and Syria are, of all countries without the frontiers of Arabia, the best supplied with its specific produce, though under the restrictions already stated; and through Alexandria or the Syrian seaports, Constantinople and the North obtain their diminished share.  But this last stage of transport seldom conveys the genuine article, except by the intervention of private arrangements and personal friendship or interest.  Where mere sale and traffic are concerned, substitution of an inferior quality, or an adulteration almost equivalent to substitution, frequently takes place in the different storehouses of the coast, till whatever Mokha-marked coffee leaves them for Europe and the West, is often no more like the real offspring of the Yemen plant than the log-wood preparations of a London fourth-rate retail wine-seller resemble the pure libations of an Oporto vineyard.

“The second species of coffee, by some preferred to that of Yemen, but in my poor opinion inferior to it, is the growth of Abyssinia; its berry is larger, and of a somewhat different and a less heating flavor.  It is, however, an excellent species; and whenever the rich land that bears it shall be permitted by man to enjoy the benefits of her natural fertility, it will probably become an object of extensive cultivation and commerce.  With this stops, at least in European opinion and taste, the list of coffee, and begins the list of beans.

“While we were yet in the Djowf I described with sufficient minuteness how the berry is prepared for actual use; nor is the process any way varied in Nedjed or other Arab lands.  But in Nedjed an additional spicing of saffron, cloves, and the like, is still more common; a fact which is easily explained by the want of what stimulus tobacco affords elsewhere.  A second consequence of non-smoking among the Arabs is the increased strength of their coffee decoctions in Nedjed, and the prodigious frequency of their use; to which we must add the larger ‘finjans,’ or coffee-cups, here in fashion.  So sure are men, when debarred of one pleasure or excitement, to make it up by another.”

Palgrave gives the following picturesque description of the Wahabee capital: “We wrap our headgear, like true Arabs, round our chins, put on our grave-looking black cloaks, take each a long stick in hand, and thread the narrow streets intermediate between our house and the market-place at a funeral pace, and speaking in an undertone.  Those whom we meet salute us, or we salute them; be it known that the lesser number should always be the first to salute the greater, he who rides him who walks, he who walks him who stands, the stander the sitter, and so forth; but never should a man salute a woman; difference of age or even of rank between men does not enter into the general rules touching the priority of salutation.  If those whom we have accosted happen to be acquaintances or patients, or should they belong to the latitudinarian school, our salutation is duly returned.  But if, by ill fortune, they appertain to the strict and high orthodox party, an under-look with a half scowl in silence is their only answer to our greeting.  Whereat we smile, Malvolio-like, and pass on.

“At last we reach the market-place; it is full of women and peasants, selling exactly what we want to buy, besides meat, firewood, milk, etc.; around are customers, come on errands like our own.  We single out a tempting basket of dates, and begin haggling with the unbeautiful Phyllis, seated beside her rural store.  We find the price too high.  ‘By him who protects Feysul,’ answers she, ‘I am the loser at that price.’  We insist.  ‘By Him who shall grant Feysul a long life, I cannot bate it,’ she replies.  We have nothing to oppose to such tremendous asseverations, and accede or pass on, as the case may be.

“Half of the shops, namely, those containing grocery, household articles of use, shoemakers’ stalls and smithies, are already open and busily thronged.  For the capital of a strongly centralized empire is always full of strangers, come will they nill they on their several affairs.  But around the butchers’ shops awaits the greatest human and canine crowd.  My readers, I doubt not, know that the only licensed scavengers throughout the East are the dogs.  Nedjeans are great flesh-eaters, and no wonder, considering the cheapness of meat (a fine fat sheep costs at most five shillings, often less) and the keenness of mountaineer appetites.  I wish that the police regulations of the city would enforce a little more cleanliness about these numerous shambles; every refuse is left to cumber the ground at scarce two yards’ distance.  But dogs and dry air much alleviate the nuisance—a remark I made before at Ha’yel and Bereydah; it holds true for all Central Arabia.

“Barakat and I resolve on continuing our walk through the town.  Ri’ad is divided into four quarters: one, the northeastern, to which the palaces of the royal family, the houses of the state officers, and the richer class of proprietors and government men belong.  Here the dwellings are in general high, and the streets tolerably straight and not over-narrow; but the ground level is low, and it is perhaps the least healthy locality of all.  Next the northwestern, where we are lodged; a large irregular mass of houses, varying in size and keeping from the best to the worst; here strangers, and often certain equivocal characters, never wanting in large towns, however strictly regulated, chiefly abide; here too are many noted for disaffection, and harboring other tenets than those of the son of ’Abdel-Wahab, men prone to old Arab ways and customs in ‘Church and State,’ to borrow our own analogous phrase; here are country chiefs, here Bedouins and natives of Zulphah and the outskirts find a lodging; here, if anywhere, is tobacco smoked or sold, and the Koran neglected in proportion.  However, I would not have my readers to think our entire neighborhood so absolutely disreputable.

“But we gladly turn away our eyes from so dreary a view to refresh them by a survey of the southwestern quarter, the chosen abode of formalism and orthodoxy.  In this section of Ri’ad inhabit the most energetic Zelators, here are the most irreproachable five-prayers-a-day Nedjeans, and all the flower of Wahabee purity.  Above all, here dwell the principal survivors of the family of the great religions Founder, the posterity of ’Abd-el-Wahab escaped from the Egyptian sword, and free from every stain of foreign contamination.  Mosques of primitive simplicity and ample space, where the great dogma, not however confined to Ri’ad, that ‘we are exactly in the right, and everyone else is in the wrong,’ is daily inculcated to crowds of auditors, overjoyed to find Paradise all theirs and none’s but theirs; smaller oratories of Musallas, wells for ablution, and Kaabah-directed niches adorn every corner, and fill up every interval of house or orchard.  The streets of this quarter are open, and the air healthy, so that the invisible blessing is seconded by sensible and visible privileges of Providence.  Think not, gentle reader, that I am indulging in gratuitous or self-invented irony; I am only rendering expression for expression, and almost word for word, the talk of true Wahabees, when describing the model quarter of their model city.  This section of the town is spacious and well-peopled, and flourishes, the citadel of national and religious intolerance, pious pride, and genuine Wahabeeism.

“Round the whole town run the walls, varying from twenty to thirty feet in height; they are strong, in good repair, and defended by a deep trench and embankment.  Beyond them are the gardens, much similar to those of Kaseem, both in arrangement and produce, despite the difference of latitude, here compensated by a higher ground level.  But immediately to the south, in Yemamah, the eye remarks a change in the vegetation to a more tropical aspect; of this, however, I will not say more for the present.

“According to promise, Aboo-’Eysa played his part to bring us in patients and customers, and the very second morning that dawned on us in our new house ushered in an invalid who proved a very godsend.  This was no other than Djowhar, treasurer of Feysul, and of the Wahabee empire.  My readers may be startled to learn that this great functionary was jet black, a negro in fact, though not a slave, having obtained his freedom from Turkee, the father of the present king.  He was tall, and, for a negro, handsome; about forty-five years of age, splendidly dressed, a point never neglected by wealthy Africans, whatever be their theoretical creed, and girt with a golden-hilted sword.  ‘But,’ said he, ‘gold, though unlawful if forming a part of apparel or mere ornament, may be employed with a safe conscience in decorating weapons.’

“After ceremonies and coffee, I took my dusky patient into the consulting-room, where, by dint of questioning and surmise, for negroes in general are much less clear and less to the point than Arabs in their statements, I obtained the requisite elucidation of his case.  The malady, though painful, was fortunately one admitting of simple and efficacious treatment, so that I was able on the spot to promise him a sensible amendment of condition within a fortnight, and that in three weeks’ time he should be in plight to undertake his journey to Bahreyn.  I added that with so distinguished a personage I could not think of exacting a bargain and fixing the amount of fees; the requital of my care should be left to his generosity.  He then took leave, and was re-conducted to his rooms in the palace by his fellow blacks of less degree.”

The next visitor was Abd el-Kereem, of the oldest nobility of Nedjed, related to the ruling family; a bitter Wahabee, a strong, intelligent, bad, and dangerous man, who was both hated and feared by the people.  His visit was a distinction for Palgrave, yet an additional danger.  The latter, however, determined to draw as much information from him concerning Wahabee doctrine as he might be inclined to give; and, in reality, found him quite communicative.  One day Palgrave asked him to define the difference between the great sins and the little ones—that is, those to be punished in the next world, or at least deserving of it, and those whose penalty is remissible in this life.

“Abd-el-Kereem doubted not that he had a sincere scholar before him, nor would refuse his hand to a drowning man.  So, putting on a profound air, and with a voice of first-class solemnity, he uttered his oracle, that ‘the first of the great sins is the giving divine honors to a creature.’  A hit, I may observe, at ordinary Mahometans, whose whole doctrine of intercession, whether vested in Mahomet or in ’Alee, is classed by Wahabees along with direct and downright idolatry.  A Damascene Shekh would have avoided the equivocation by answering, ‘infidelity.’

“‘Of course,’ I replied, ‘the enormity of such a sin is beyond all doubt.  But if this be the first, there must be a second; what is it?’

“‘Drinking the shameful,’ in English, ‘smoking tobacco,’ was the unhesitating answer.

“‘And murder, and adultery, and false witness?’ I suggested.

“‘God is merciful and forgiving,’ rejoined my friend; that is, these are merely little sins.

“‘Hence two sins alone are great, polytheism and smoking,’ I continued, though hardly able to keep countenance any longer.  And Abd-el-Kereem, with the most serious asseveration, replied that such was really the case.  On hearing this, I proceeded humbly to entreat my friend to explain to me the especial wickedness inherent in tobacco leaves, that I might the more detest and eschew them hereafter.

“Accordingly he proceeded to instruct me, saying that, Firstly, all intoxicating substances are prohibited by the Koran; but tobacco is an intoxicating substance—ergo, tobacco is prohibited.

“I insinuated that it was not intoxicating, and appealed to experience.  But, to my surprise, my friend had experience too on his side, and had ready at hand the most appalling tales of men falling down dead drunk after a single whiff of smoke, and of others in a state of bestial and habitual ebriety from its use.  Nor were his stories so purely gratuitous as many might at first imagine.  The only tobacco known, when known, in Southern Nedjed, is that of Oman, a very powerful species.  I was myself astonished, and almost ‘taken in,’ more than once, by its extraordinary narcotic effects, when I experienced them, in the coffee-houses of Bahreyn.”

Palgrave furnishes a tolerably complete account of the provinces of Nedjed and the tribes which inhabit them.  His concluding statement, however, embodies all which will interest the reader.

“To sum up, we may say that the Wahabee empire is a compact and well-organized government, where centralization is fully understood and effectually carried out, and whose main-springs and connecting links are force and fanaticism.  There exist no constitutional checks either on the king or on his subordinates, save what the necessity of circumstance imposes or the Koran prescribes.  Its atmosphere, to speak metaphorically, is sheer despotism—moral, intellectual, religious, and physical.  This empire is capable of frontier extension, and hence is dangerous to its neighbors, some of whom it is even now swallowing up, and will certainly swallow more if not otherwise prevented.  Incapable of true internal progress, hostile to commerce, unfavorable to arts and even to agriculture, and in the highest degree intolerant and aggressive, it can neither better itself nor benefit others; while the order and calm which it sometimes spreads over the lands of its conquest are described in the oft-cited Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant of the Roman annalist.

“In conclusion, I here subjoin a numerical list, taken partly from the government registers of Ri’ad, partly from local information, and containing the provinces, the number of the principal towns or villages, the population, and the military contingent, throughout the Wahabee empire.”

 


            Provinces       Towns or     Population     Military
                               Villages                     muster
				   
	    I.  ’Aared                    15       110,000         6,000
       II.  Yemamah                   32       140,000         4,500
      III.  Hareek                    16        45,000         3,000
       IV.  Aflaj                     12        14,000         1,200
        V.  Wady Dowasir              50       100,000         4,000
       VI.  Seley’yel                 14        30,000         1,400
      VII.  Woshem                    20        80,000         4,000
     VIII.  Sedeyr                    25       140,000         5,200
       IX.  Kaseem                    60       300,000        11,000
        X.  Hasa                      50       160,000         7,000
       XI.  Kateef                    22       100,000             —
                                     316     1,219,000        47,300			   
				   
				   

				   
				   

After a time, Palgrave was sent for by Abdallah, the eldest son of King Feysul, who pretended that he wished to learn something of the medical art.  This led to a regular intercourse, which at least enabled the traveller to learn many things concerning the Wahabee government.  Another important result was an opportunity of visiting the royal stables, where the finest specimens of the famous Nedjed breed of horses are kept.  Of these he gives the following interesting description:

“The stables are situated some way out of the town, to the northeast, a little to the left of the road which we had followed at our first arrival, and not far from the gardens of ’Abd-er-Rahman the Wahabee.  They cover a large square space, about 150 yards each way, and are open in the centre, with a long shed running round the inner walls; under this covering the horses, about three hundred in number when I saw them, are picketed during the night; in the daytime they may stretch their legs at pleasure within the central court-yard.  The greater number were accordingly loose; a few, however, were tied up at their stalls; some, but not many, had horse-cloths over them.  The heavy dews which fall in Wady Haneefah do not permit their remaining with impunity in the open night air; I was told also that a northerly wind will occasionally injure the animals here, no less than the land wind does now and then their brethren in India.  About half the royal stud was present before me, the rest were out at grass; Feysul’s entire muster is reckoned at six hundred, or rather more.

“No Arab dreams of tying up a horse by the neck; a tether replaces the halter, and one of the animal’s hind legs is encircled about the pastern by a light iron ring, furnished with a padlock, and connected with an iron chain of two feet or thereabouts in length, ending in a rope, which is fastened to the ground at some distance by an iron peg; such is the customary method.  But should the animal be restless and troublesome, a foreleg is put under similar restraint.  It is well known that in Arabia horses are much less frequently vicious or refractory than in Europe, and this is the reason why geldings are here so rare, though not unknown.  No particular prejudice, that I could discover, exists against the operation itself; only it is seldom performed, because not otherwise necessary, and tending, of course, to diminish the value of the animal.

“But to return to the horses now before us; never had I seen or imagined so lovely a collection.  Their stature was indeed somewhat low; I do not think that any came fully up to fifteen hands; fourteen appeared to me about their average, but they were so exquisitely well shaped that want of greater size seemed hardly, if at all, a defect.  Remarkably full in the haunches, with a shoulder of a slope so elegant as to make one, in the words of an Arab poet, ‘go raving mad about it;’ a little, a very little, saddle-backed, just the curve which indicates springiness without any weakness; a head broad above, and tapering down to a nose fine enough to verify the phrase of ‘drinking from a pint pot,’ did pint pots exist in Nedjed; a most intelligent and yet a singularly gentle look, full eye, sharp thorn-like little ear, legs fore and hind that seemed as if made of hammered iron, so clean and yet so well twisted with sinew; a neat, round hoof, just the requisite for hard ground; the tail set on, or rather thrown out at a perfect arch; coats smooth, shining, and light, the mane long, but not overgrown nor heavy, and an air and step that seemed to say, ‘Look at me, am I not pretty?’ their appearance justified all reputation, all value, all poetry.  The prevailing color was chestnut or gray; a light bay, an iron color, white or black, were less common; full bay, flea-bitten or piebald, none.  But if asked what are, after all, the specially distinctive points of the Nedjee horse, I should reply, the slope of the shoulder, the extreme cleanness of the shank, and the full, rounded haunch, though every other part, too, has a perfection and a harmony unwitnessed (at least by my eyes) anywhere else.

“Nedjee horses are especially esteemed for great speed and endurance of fatigue; indeed, in this latter quality, none come up to them.  To pass twenty-four hours on the road without drink and without flagging is certainly something; but to keep up the same abstinence and labor conjoined under the burning Arabian sky for forty-eight hours at a stretch, is, I believe, peculiar to the animals of the breed.  Besides, they have a delicacy, I cannot say of mouth, for it is common to ride them without bit or bridle, but of feeling and obedience to the knee and thigh, to the slightest check of the halter and the voice of the rider, far surpassing whatever the most elaborate manége gives a European horse, though furnished with snaffle, curb, and all.  I often mounted them at the invitation of their owners, and without saddle, rein, or stirrup, set them off at full gallop, wheeled them round, brought them up in mid career at a dead halt, and that without the least difficulty or the smallest want of correspondence between the horse’s movements and my own will; the rider on their back really feels himself the man-half of a centaur, not a distinct being.”

During the last week in November the Persian Na’ib, who had been little edified by his experiences in Nedjed, set off for Bagdad.  In the meantime, Feysul had made great preparations toward collecting an army for the reduction of the city of ’Oneyzah (near Bereydah), which still held out gallantly.  Troops were summoned from the eastern coast and the adjoining provinces, and Sa’ood, the second son of Feysul, was ordered to bring them together at the capital, when the command was to be given to Abdallah, the eldest son.  Palgrave had then his only opportunity of seeing the old King of the Wahabees.

“Sa’ood speedily arrived, and with him about two hundred horsemen; the rest of his men, more than two thousand, were mounted on camels.  When they entered Ri’ad, Feysul, for the first and last time during our stay, gave a public audience at the palace gate.  It was a scene for a painter.  There sat the blind old tyrant, corpulent, decrepit, yet imposing, with his large, broad forehead, white beard, and thoughtful air, clad in all the simplicity of a Wahabee; the gold-hafted sword at his side his only ornament or distinction.  Beside him the ministers, the officers of his court, and a crowd of the nobler and wealthier citizens.  Abdallah, the heir to the throne, was alone absent.  Up came Sa’ood with the bearing of a hussar officer, richly clad in cashmere shawls and a gold-wrought mantle, while man by man followed his red-dressed cavaliers, their spears over their shoulders, and their swords hanging down; a musket, too, was slung behind the saddle of each warrior; and the sharp dagger of Hareek glittered in every girdle.  Next came the common soldiers on camels or dromedaries, some with spears only, some with spears and guns, till the wide square was filled with armed men and gazing spectators, as the whole troop drew up before the great autocrat, and Sa’ood alighted to bend and kiss his father’s hand.  ‘God save Feysul!  God give the victory to the armies of the Muslims!’ was shouted out on every side, and all faces kindled into the fierce smile of concentrated enthusiasm and conscious strength.  Feysul arose from his seat and placed his son at his side; another moment, and they entered the castle together.”



Bayard Taylor

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