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received a handsome" pourboire" from Handyside, had drunk two or three chopines with a friend at an estaminet on the Place before he stabled his steeds for the night.
Handyside went straight up to him and put a five-franc piece into his hand.
“ You recollect me ?” he said.
“ Ah!” he exclaimed, “ c'est vous, monsieur! Qu'est-ce qu'il y a pour votre service ?”
Handyside explained that he wished to hire him again. He wanted to know if he could take himself and his friend as far as Louvain that night, they wanted to see the Hôtel de Ville by moonlight. The driver scratched his head and began to make objections. He had had a long day's work, and his horses were knocked up. When pressed, however, and the promise given of a "Leopold” for himself when they got to Louvain, he expressed his readiness to accommodate Monsieur as far as lay in his power. He could get another pair of horses, strong ones, that would perform the journey in three hours, only perhaps Monsieur would not mind waiting till he had had his supper ; he should then be quite ready to set out. This was against the wish of Handyside, but there was no remedy, and he feared to be too urgent lest he should awaken suspicion as to the motive of his departure---strangely enough timid already. Under the pretext of taking a walk, as the night was fine and the moon at the full, Handyside appointed to meet him outside the Boulevard, a short distance beyond the Porte de Louvain, on the high road to that place. The driver, who did not often get such a chance as an extra twenty francs, besides the five he had already pocketed, promised faithfully to be on the spot exactly as the clock struck ten. He mentioned that he would take them up at a café on the left-hand side, called the Cadran Bleu, " where they sold capital faro."
“ Can we trust this fellow ?” said Graysteel, when they left the square and made for the Porte de Louvain.
“ Provided he keeps sober," returned Handyside. • And if he fails us?”
“We must then make the best use of our legs. Louvain is only eighteen miles off. We can get there at any rate by daylight.”
- And then ?” " Right through by the first train to Aix-la-Chapelle." They walked on quickly without another word. All night long Mr. John Woodman, the London Detective (who, “ from information received"—they always do receive information somehow—had tracked the fugitives to Antwerp, and there fallen in with the commissionnaire)- all night long Mr. John Woodman and one of the Brussels police, attended by the vindictive little fellow, watched in the Fossé aux Loups for the two fraudulent bankrupts. But the guet-à-pens was in vain ; the fugitives did not return to the Singe d'Or, and after a careful search through Brussels next day, Mr. John Woodman came to the conclusion that “the parties he wanted were somewhere else.”
Where he went to look for them will most likely appear in the next chapter.
DAMASCUS AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD.* DAMASCUS is unquestionably one of the oldest cities in the world, and in many respects one of the most remarkable. It has been a city from the time when Abraham left his home “ between the rivers” to journey westward to the “Land of Promise." It has outlived generations of cities, and has been a witness of the stirring events of full four thousand years. It is one of the few remaining connecting links between the patriarchal age and modern days; and its beauty and richness have ever been proverbial. The Arab writers call it one of the four paradises on earth. It has in succession formed an important part of the most powerful empires of the world. The monarchs of Nineveh, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome have conquered it, and it has prospered under every dynasty, and outlived them all. It was for a time the capital of the vast dominions of the Khalifs ; and as the stronghold of Islamism it was (excepting the holy cities Mecca and Medina) the last place that tolerated a European hat in its streets ; yet now, Mr. Porter tells us, the Osmanlis, its present rulers, are fast declining, and ere long it may be forced to acknowledge other masters. This is more than is admitted by some politicians of the Osmanlis, even in Europe; but no amount of political sagacity will suffice to uphold long a corrupt system or a deathstricken race except as an allied or vassal power. The decline of the Osmanlis may be repudiated by partisans, but the unanimous testimony of those who have lived long among them, or studied them intimately, as Mr. Porter has done, all go to establish the fact.
Few cities possess such advantages in respect to situation as Damascus. It stands on a plain, at the eastern base of Antilibanus, having an elevation of about 2200 feet above the sea. The area of this plain is about 236 square geographical miles. The fine stream of the Barada breaks through the lowest chain of the anti-Lebanon by a wild ravine, and, entering the plain, at once waters the city and its gardens. Aqueducts intersect every quarter, and fountains sparkle in every dwelling, while innumerable canals extend their ramifications over the wide expanse, clothing it with verdure and beauty :
The view that presents itself to the eye of the traveller as he surmounts the last ridge of Antilibanus, after passing the bleak and barren slopes beyond, is rich and grand almost surpassing conception. From the side of the little wely above referred to the best prospect is obtained. The elevation is about 500 feet above the city, which is a mile and a half distant. The peculiar forms of Eastern architecture produce a pleasing effect at this distance. Graceful minarets and swelling domes, surmounted by gilded crescents, rise up in every direction from the confused mass of terraced roofs, while in some places their glittering tops just appear above the deep green foliage, like diamonds in the midst of emeralds. In the centre of all stands the noble pile of the great mosk, and near it may be seen the massive towers and battlemented walls of the old castle. Away on the south the eye follows the long narrow suburb of the Medán, at the extremity of which is the “Gate of God,” where the great pilgrim caravan, on each returning
* Five Years in Damascus: including an Account of the History, Topography, and Antiquities of that City. By Rev. J. L. Porter, A.M., F.R.S.L. I'wo Vols. London: John Murray. 1855.
year, takes leave of the city. The buildings of Damascus are almost all of snowy whiteness, and this contrasts well with the surrounding foliage. The gardens and orchards, which have been so long and so justly celebrated, encompass the city, and extend on both sides of the Barada some miles eastward. They cover an area at least twenty-five miles in circuit, and make the environs an earthly paradise. The varied tints of the foliage, and of the blossoms and fruit in their season, greatly enhance the beauty of the picture. The sombre hue of the olive and the deep green of the walnut are finely relieved by the lighter shade of the apricot, the silvery sheen of the poplar, and the purple tint of the pomegranate; while lofty cone-like cypresses appear at intervals, and a few palm-trees here and there raise up their graceful heads. The variously coloured foliage thus surrounding the bright city, and the smooth plain beyond, now bounded by naked hills, and now mingling with the sky, on the far-distant horizon, and the wavy atmosphere that makes forest, plain, and mountain tremble, give a softness and an aërial beauty to the whole scene that captivates the mind of the beholder.
It has been supposed that in this age of locomotion, libraries of researches, narratives, and journals have exhausted the romance of travel, and made persons familiar with most objects of interest, especially in the East, and with all their associations, classic or sacred, ere the rests
them. But this is not the case. There is a magic power in the living reality which neither poet's pen nor painter's pencil can ever appropriate, still less exhaust. The descriptions of others, however graphic, and even the sketch of the artist, however faithful, only place before the mind's eye an ideal scene, which we can contemplate, it is true, with unmingled pleasure, and even with satisfaction; but when the eye wanders over plain and mountain, or the foot touches "holy ground,” the superiority of the real over the ideal is at once felt and acknowledged.
Not that Damascus, a city thoroughly Oriental in character, has not also all the usual drawbacks of Eastern habits. Its streets are narrow and tortuous, the city irregular, dirty, and half ruinous, the houses like piles of mud, stone, and timber, heaped together without order, but in the same city, also, all that remains of the romance of the East is likewise to be met with. Its bazaars are splendid, and they are frequented by a great variety of races-Arab, Turk, Druse, Persian, and Kurd-in most picturesque costumes. Most of the mosques are fine specimens of Saracenic architecture, as are also the khans. In both it is in the gateways that the Saracenic architecture is seen to the greatest advantage.
But the chief glory of Damascus is in the splendour of its private houses. No contrast could be greater than that between the exterior and the interior. The irregular mud walls and rickety-looking projecting upper chambers give but poor promise of splendour within. The entrance is by a mean doorway into a narrow and winding passage, or sometimes a plain stable-yard. Passing this the outer court is gained. Here is a variegated pavement of black and white stones, intermixed with pieces of marble tastefully designed. A fountain sparkles in the midst, shaded by evergreens and flowering shrubs; and at one side is an open alcove, called a liwan, with a light and beautifully ornamented arch supporting the exterior wall. The floor is of marble of different colours, and a raised dais, covered with soft cushions of silk, surrounds the three sides. The chambers and halls in this court are all occupied by the
master and his men-servants ; here he receives his visitors, and to this alone are strangers ever admitted. Another winding passage opens from this to the inner or chief court, called the Harim, whose door is kept by eunuchs. It is when this court is gained that the splendour of the mansion first bursts upon the view.
Mr. Porter is enabled to describe this tabooed interior by the privileges obtained through the wife of one Ottoman Effendi. This lady was the daughter of Ali Aga, secretary to the treasury under Ibrahim Pasha, and although her father was put to death by the Egyptian chief, under suspicion of holding a treasonable correspondence with the Turkish government, still the daughter has inherited some of the spirit of the times, which were eminently progressive, and sets light value on the absurd laws that make Muslem ladies little better than prisoners.
The interior court, or harim, is a quadrangle from fifty to sixty yards square, with a tesselated pavement of marble; a large marble fountain stands in the centre, and several smaller ones of great beauty sparkle around, and give a delicious coolness to the air, even amid the heat of summer. Orange, lemon, and citron trees, diffuse their fragrant odours; while gigantic flowering shrubs and rare exotics are disposed in tasteful groups, and climbing plants are trained on trellis-work overhead, affording grateful shade and pleasing variety. All the great reception-rooms and chambers open on this court; the former are upon the first floor, and the latter above, having in front a narrow corridor closed in with glass. On the southern side is the lewan, or open alcove, similar in design to those found in the exterior courts, but loftier, and far more gorgeously decorated. The grand salon is a noble room. It is divided into two compartments by a beautiful arch richly ornamented with gilt fretwork. The floor of the first compartment is of the rarest marbles of every hue, arranged with admirable precision and pleasing variety in mathematical designs. In the centre is a fountain inlaid with mother-of-pearl and rare stones. The walls to the height of twenty feet are covered with mosaic in panels, in the centre of each of which is a slab of polished granite, porphyry, or finely-veined marble, with the exception of those in the upper tier, which are inscribed with sentences from the Koran, written in letters of gold. Several niches relieve the plainness of the walls; in their angles are slender columns of white marble with gilt capitals, and the arches above are richly sculptured in the Saracenic style. The upper part of the walls is painted in the Italian style. The ceiling is about thirty feet high, and delicately painted. The central ornaments and cornices are elaborately carved and gilt, and inlaid with innumerable little mirrors. The other and principal part of the room is raised about two feet. The walls and ceiling are similar in design to those described, except that the former are in part covered with a wainscoting, carved, gilt, and ornamented with mirrors. Around the three sides run the divans, covered with the richest purple satin, embroidered with gold, in chaste designs of flowers and scrolls, and having a deep gold fringe descending to the floor. Though none of the workmanship might bear minute examination, and some of those accustomed to the chaste and subdued style of decoration in Western Europe might pronounce this gaudy and even vulgar, yet all will admit that the general effect is exceedingly striking. It resembles, in fact, some scene in fairyland; and one feels, on beholding it, that the glowing descriptions in the “ Arabian Nights” were not mere pictures of the fancy. But it is only when the bright-eyed houris” of this sunny clime assemble in such a salon, decked out in their gay and picturesque costumes, and blazing with gold and diamonds, and when numerous lamps of every form and colour pour a rich and variegated flood of light all round, to be reflected from polished mirrors, and countless gems, and flashing eyes, that we can fully
comprehend the splendour of Oriental life, and the perfect adaptation of the gorgeous decorations of the mansions to the brilliant costumes of those that inhabit them,
There are many other apartments in the court, less spacious it is true than the grand salon, but no less beautifully finished. The style of decoration in this mansion may be called the modern Damascene, the painting of the walls and ceiling being a recent innovation. In the more ancient houses the ceilings and wainscoted walls are covered with the richest arabesques, encompassing little panels of deep blue and delicate azure, on which are inscribed, in elegantly interlaced Arabic characters, whole verses and chapters of their law. Vast sums of money are thus expended, the ornamenting of one chamber often costing upwards of 20001. sterling. A few of the more wealthy Jewish families have also large and splendid residences, but they cannot be compared with those of the Muslems. The Hebrew writing, too, which they universally put upon the walls, is stiff and formal-looking, and is infinitely inferior, in an ornamental point of view, to the graceful curves and easy flow of the Arabic.
Travellers have generally represented Damascus as almost wholly destitute of ancient remains. Mr. Porter shows that if ruins do not stand out here in bold relief from a desert plain as they do at Palmyra, or lift their proud heads in solitary grandeur far above the crumbling ruins around them, as in Baalbek, Busrah, or Jerash, they still abound, encompassed by modern mansions or buried in the labyrinth of bustling bazaars. Indeed, with the help of a valuable Arabic MS. of Ibn Asaker's
History of the Celebrated Tombs and Mausolea in and around Damascus,” and his own persevering and long.continued researches, we are presented with such a picture of Damascus as it once was, and Damascus as it is now, as has never been attempted before, or is likely to be superseded for detail and accuracy for many a year to come.
Oriental archæologists, also, owe Mr. Porter a debt of gratitude for his researches on the plain of Damascus, more particularly his determination of the Tell es-Salahîyeh as an Assyrian ruin.
The Tell es-Salahīyeh is one of the most interesting remnants of antiquity in the whole plain. It is an artificial mound of an oval form, about 300 yards in diameter and about 100 feet in height. The whole surface is covered with loose earth, composed mainly of brickdust and fragments of broken pottery. On the southern side, next the bank of the river, a portion of the mound has been cut away, and here may be seen the regular layers of sunburnt brick of which the whole
appears to have been constructed. From the present form of the mound it seems that there was originally a large platform built, from twenty to thirty feet high, and then in the centre of this stood a lofty conical structure, which during the course of long centuries has gradually crumbled down to its present form. On the western side of the mound, beside the little village, I found, on my first visit to this place, a limestone slab, about five feet long by three wide, containing a bas-relief representing an Assyrian priest. The workmanship is rude and the stone has been defaced; but still it was sufficiently plain to show the costume and attitude of the figure. I sketched it at the time, intending on some future occasion either to obtain a cast or the stone itself; but, unfortunately, it has since disappeared, and I have been unable to discover what has been done with it.
There can be no doubt that none of these tells, so numerous in Syria, but would repay the archæological explorer more or less. We have already particularly called attention to the groups of artificial mounds in North Syria, between Antioch and the Euphrates, and in Northern