« AnteriorContinuar »
distance from three-and-twenty of the most lovely and obedient wives in all Tripoli! Oh, Allah! shall thy servant never again return to his native land, nor behold his beloved wives, who beam on his memory beautiful as the rosy morn of the east, and graceful as Mahomet's
Yet beautiful, oh, most puissant slave-driver, as are my wives, they are far exceeded by the women of this country. Even those who run about the streets with bare arms and necks (et cetera), whose habiliments are too scanty to protect them either from the inclemency of the seasons, or the scrutinizing glances of the curious, and who, it would seem, belong to nobody, are lovely as the houris that people the elysium of true believers. If, then, such as run wild in the highways, and whom no one cares to appropriate, are thus beauteous; what must be the charms of those who are shut up in the seraglios, and never permitted to go abroad! Surely the region of beauty, the valley of the graces, can contain nothing so inimitably fair!
But, notwithstanding the charms of these infidel women, they are apt to have one fault, which is extremely troublesome and inconvenient. Wouldst thon believe it, Assem, I have been positively assured by a famous dervise (or doctor as he is here called), that at least onefifth of them-have souls! Incredible as it may seem to thee, I am the more inclined to believe them in possession of this monstrous superfluity, from my own little experience, and from the information which I have derived from others. In walking the streets I have actually seen an exceeding good-looking woman with soul enough to box her husband's ears to his heart's content, and my very whiskers trembled with indignation at the abject state of these wretched infidels. I am told, moreover, that some of the women have soul enough to usurp the breeches of the men, but these I suppose are married and kept ciose; for I have not, in my rambles, met with any so extravagantly accoutred; others, I am informed, have soul enough to swear! yea! by the beard of the great Omar, who prayed three times to each of the one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets of our most holy faith, and who never swore but once in his life—they actually swear!
Get thee to the mosque, good Assem ! return thanks to our most holy prophet that he has been thus mindful of the comfort of all true Mussul. men, and has given them wives with no more souls than cats and dogs, and other necessary animals of the household.
Thou wilt doubtless be anxious to learn our reception in this country, and how we were treated by a people whom we have been accustomed to consider as unenlightened barbarians.
On landing, we were waited upon to our lodgings, I suppose according to the directions of the municipality, by a vast and respectable escort of boys and negroes, who shouted and threw up their hats, doubtless to do honour to the magnanimous Mustapha, captain of a ketch; they were somewhat ragged and dirty in their equipments, but this was attributed to their republican simplicity. One of them, in the zeal of admiration, threw an old shoe, which gave thy friend rather an ungentle salutation on one side of the head, whereat I was not a little offended, until the interpreter informed us that this was the customary manner in which great men were honoured in this country; and that the more distinguished they were, the more they were subjected to the attacks and peltings of the mob. Upon this I bowed my head three times, with my hands to my turban, and made a speech in Arabic Greek, which gave great satisfaction, and occasioned a shower of old shoes, hats, and so forth, which was exceedingly refreshing to us all.
Thou wilt not as yet expect that I should give thee an account of the laws and politics of this country. I will reserve them for some future letter, when I shall be more experienced in their complicated and seemingly contradictory nature
This empire is governed by a grand and most puissant bashaw, whom they dignify with the title of President. He is chosen by persons who are chosen by an assembly, elected by the people -hence the mob is called the sovereign people; and the country, free—the body politic doubtless resembling a vessel, which is best governed by its tail. The present bashaw is a very plain old gentleman-something, they say, of a humourist, as he amuses himself with impaling butterflies and pickling tadpoles; he is rather declining in popularity, having given great offence by wearing red breeches, and tying his horse to a post.