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regard of their own lives, have produced invaluable results; but it was especially the formation of the school at Abouzabel which gave a new era to medicine in Egypt, a glorious epoch for the enlightened sovereign.
“Initiated in the different sciences which belong to the art of medicine, and which constitute the well-informed man, the medical pupils became so many apostles, destined to spread the light of knowledge in the midst of a people still enslaved by prejudice and ignorance.”
Having heard much of the extraordinary powers of the famous magician, we were anxious to see him, and to judge for ourselves how far he had a right to even that celebrity with which traTellers in this land of wonders have invested him. And now I must say, that no one was more inclined to give a fair trial to the powers of magic—more willing to be astonished, or wished more to see what others are said to have seen than I was; and for myself and my friends who witnessed his attempt—and which was certainly to us an imposition--I am compelled to confess it was a miserable and complete failure. My narrative is simply this: we sent to the magician in the morning, desiring his presence that night. While we were at dinner, about three o'clock, he came, in order to obtain a dollar to make preparations ; this he did as well to reconnoitre, as to make sure of the money. He sat for some time, and appeared particularly watchful and attentive to every thing going forward. In the evening he came again, and a great number of travellers from different countries had assembled in the room of the hotel to witness his performance.
The magician appeared to be a middle-aged man, of rather swarthy complexion ; with a long and silky brown beard, and exceeding quickness and brilliancy of eye. He wore a darkcoloured gibbeh, or outer garment, and a green turban. A chafing-dish with some lighted charcoal was brought in, together with writing materials. He seated himself on the floor opposite the chafing-dish, and desired that a young boy about nine or ten years of age might be brought to him. A second person, whom we had not at first observed, and who sat at the door among a crowd of servants and the people of the hotel, instantly produced a little boy, who I soon discovered to be the usual attendant of the magician; however, he was allowed to proceed in his own way. The boy was placed opposite to him on the other side of
the chafing-dish, and the man wrote some characters in Arabic on slips of paper ; one of these he placed on the forehead of the boy, underneath his turboosh or cap; the others he burned from time to time in the fire ; he then made some characters upon another piece of paper, and crumpling it up so as to form a cup, he placed it in the boy's right hand, and poured some of the ink into the hollow of the paper, desiring the boy to keep his eye steadily fixed upon the black shining mirror of the ink. He then commenced a kind of incantation, repeating the same words over and over again as fast as he possibly could, rocking his body backward and forward all the time, and occasionally throwing some incense on the fire, which rose in fumes, and almost enveloped the operators within it.
After some time he asked the boy if he saw any thing, and being answered twice or thrice in the negative, he continued the incantation with redoubled energy ; at length the boy said he saw two people sweeping the street, and then a man on a white horse approach ; that the sweeping ceased, and he sat down on the deewan ; presently the figures vanished, and the magician demanded of us what or whom we would have appear in the mirror. A gentleman present desired that a lady of his acquaintance in Syria should be brought up; this lady was de
THE MAGIC TESTED.
scribed by the boy as an ill-favoured person, with red hair, and seated tete-a-tete upon a sofa with a black man. As our friend had already described her to us as a person of considerable personal beauty, and appeared to be more than ordinarily concerned in her welfare, a hearty laugh went round, in which the magician and the boy joined, (at least as much as a Mooslim can laugh,) supposing they had made a good hit. He was next tried with persons residing in England, but he always failed. However, as he made an attempt to describe somebody, and seemed evidently prepared by the magician, we dismissed him and procured another—the very one who a few days before had so valiantly chopped off his finger, as I mentioned at page 204. Not being educated to the affair, he certainly was unable to see any thing but his own face, although the incantation was repeated till the operator was nearly hoarse, and the smoke of the frankincense had well nigh smothered the little boy. A third was tried, but with like success; the magician, however, asserted, that from these children having some evil thoughts, or from some untoward circumstances attending the performance on that particular occasion, they were unable to see the persons he wished—in fact, they were not magnetisable.
To try still further the powers of this man, a Greek chief, who was present, brought in a picture-case, containing the portrait of a lady then alive, and offered the man a hundred dollars, which he placed in the hands of Count Albert, if he could then, either himself or by his own boy, describe the dress and features of the person represented in the picture. This he declined at the time, but said he would come on Sunday and do it. He soon slunk down stairs and decamped, and I need hardly say he never came back. So much for our magician, who, we all agreed, was a complete hoax, and a much more clumsy conjuror than an English fair could afford. There was decidedly an endeavour to deceive, and of this I am the more convinced by a circumstance related to me by our vice-consul, Dr. Walne.
Some English travellers wished to see the far-famed magician, and an evening was appointed for his performance. He arrived, and the company not relishing the accomplice he had brought with him, one of the servants of the consulate was sent out to procure a boy, but directed to be on his guard, and not take any whom he might suspect of being in the pay of the conjuror. 244
DOES MAGIC NOW EXIST?
Now, in the vicinity of the consulate a number of streets meet, and on the servant coming to the end of one, a man asked him where he was going; being informed of his errand, he instantly said, “Oh, here is one for you,” producing a boy who was in waiting. The servant perceiving the trick refused him and turned another way ; but again and again the same attempt was repeated. In fact, fearful of failure, they had beset every avenue with boys instructed by the magician. Hence, I think, it is a fair inference to draw, that where there is a studied endeavour to practise a deception, there is no reality.
Except by the Almighty's permission, satanic influence is the only power by which the representation of persons living or dead could be thus really “brought up” in a distant land, and that power I do not believe now exists. I have heard and read many wonderful accounts of these men, but such was my experience.
Since the first edition of this work appeared, various intelligent English travellers have visited Grand Cairo, and have, I may say unanimously, expressed opinions confirmatory of those which I was the first to promulgate in this country, after the astounding accounts put forward about six years ago, relative to the revival of magic in this land of mystery and enchantment.
Not the least wonderful, and certainly one of the most disgusting performances we witnessed, was that of serpent-eating. An: Arab, of most ferocious mien and appearance, presented himself one day at our hotel for this purpose. He had with him a bag full of snakes, principally the coluber haje, * several of which he took out, and hanging some round his neck and on his arms,
* The haje (Coluber Haje, Linn.) Geoffr. Egypt. Rept. pl. vii. and Savigny, suppl. pl. 111, in which the neck is indented somewhat less than the Cobra de Capello used by the Indian jugglers, and which is greenish, bordered with brown. “The jugglers of this country, by pressing its nape with the finger, know how to throw this serpent into a kind of catalepsy, which renders it stiff and immoveable, thus seeming to change it into a rod or stick. The habit which the haje has of raising itself upright when approached, made the ancient Egyptians believe that it guarded the fields which it inhabited. They made it the emblem of the protecting Divinity of the world, and sculptured it on the portals of all their temples on the two sides of a globe. It is incontestably the serpent which the ancients have described under the name of Aspic of Egypt, of Cleopatra, &c."-Cuvier, Animal Kingdom.
he placed others on the ground, and by treading on their tails, irritated them so as to make them become erect, raise themselves up, swell out their necks laterally in a most remarkable manner, and assume, with their extended jaws, vibrating forked tongue, and hissing note, a most threatening aspect, as they formed a circle round the serpent-charmer. Their fangs had been, however, previously removed. For a four-piaster piece, he offered to eat one for our amusement, and accordingly, taking it up, he held it at full length opposite his face, for some minutes; his eyes glistened with a most inhuman brightness, his nostrils dilated, his lip curled, and the muscles of his face played with unusual and apparently involuntary motions, displaying a set of particularly white teeth, within the setting of his thick and grisly black beard and moustache. Each end of the serpent writhed in his hand; he placed the centre across his mouth, and with a single champ bit it in two, and then placing one end of the twining severed snake within his jaws, nipped off a large mouthful, and putting his finger to the still living morsel, to give it a jerk-bolted it—the stream of blood trickling like gravy from the corners of his mouth, and the head and tail of the snake he still held up, twined in his bloody hands—a more demoniac face I do not think I ever beheld, or a. scene more sickening ; but it is his mode of living, and there are many more pleasing, but perhaps less honest, as I that evening had an opportunity of observing.
An invitation from the managers introduced me to a public ball, held in the house of one of the European representatives. The scene was one calculated to inspire particular interest in a foreigner, as, from the number and diversity of costumes, it had all the appearance of a masquerade, while the ridiculous oddity of the dress of some of the men strengthened the illusion. These being for the most part in the native service, and glad of an opportunity of reviving, even in dress, the recollections of their father-land, had assumed in part their old garbs, but had covered their heads (shaven to meet the “regulation”) with the red turboosh, which made them look as if they had crowned their finery with old Kilmarnock night-caps.
A number of ladies were present, principally French, but dressed in the Levantine costume. Some few were natives, Jews, Copts, or Syrian Christians. The general effect of their costume was pleasing, though strange; the wide trowsers, tied tightly