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doubt the more proper and judicious, but less humane measure, would have been to have reported the transaction to the governor, instead of taking the law into our own hands. But what then would have been the consequence? We should have had the horrid satisfaction of having this unfortunate man's ears cut off, or his being, perhaps, bastinadoed on the soles of his feet until the very nails dropt off. Under other circumstances the effects of this rencontre might have been attended with more serious results.
We performed the journey back to Ramla in six hours, unmarked by any adventure except that of encountering a sirocco wind, if such be an adventure. While upon the highest elevation of the hill country, we had perceived a certain sultriness of the air ; the wind was then blowing from the S.E., and on looking behind us we could discover a peculiar haziness of the atmosphere, which momentarily approached us, while in front all was yet bright and distinct. Presently the sultriness increased, although the sun was not particularly hot, and there was rather more breeze than usual. In fact, this wind, which was no other than the sirocco, appeared to move as a stratum of the atmosphere, and for some time, even after it reached us, it did not descend and fill the valleys. The wind had been blowing from the S.E. for two days previous, and it had, in all probability, been for some time traversing the hot and arid Idumean desert, where it met no particle of vegetable life to modify its force; and where the sand, in all likelihood, had never cooled during the night. This wind also takes up, and holds suspended in it the minutest particles of sand, which, in the space of a couple of hours, we could perceive upon our clothes.
We now began to feel its full force, and its effect was most unpleasant, though difficult to describe. The air itself became a hot thick palpable haze, of a bluish-grey colour, rendering the outlines of objects indistinct, though it allowed us to see much farther than in an ordinary humid mist. I know no better resemblance of the character the air assumes under these circumstances than that peculiar appearance and quivering motion which the heat and smoke of a fire has when lighted in the open air, on a clear hot sunny day. Although it may be blowing hard at the time, yet the breeze is unrefreshing, and comes hot and sultry on the brow, producing at first a feeling of oppression and constric
tion of the chest. This increases in time to a sickening sense of suffocation. There is a general dryness of the skin, the pores cease to throw out their secretions, the mouth becomes dry and parched, attended with urgent thirst, the vessels of the eyes become suffused, and headache and lassitude ensues. Finally, great prostration of strength is felt, which remains long after the exciting cause has ceased, and the other symptoms have been removed ; and above all, there is the most debilitating effect produced upon the mind by this sirocco—a feeling of good-for-nothingness.
This wind is one of the most trying things that awaits the invalid in his journeys through the Levant ; and it is indeed trying to all, even the most healthy. The residents in those places subject to it, shut themselves up in their houses during its continuance, and close all their doors and windows. Its action is generally modified towards evening, though it may continue for two or three days together. For this reason people who live in eastern countries seldom travel, if they can avoid it, during the heat of the day. The depressing effect of the sirocco may be that alluded to by the Psalmist as "the arrow that flieth hy day.”— (Psalm xci. 5.) Homer also appears to refer to this wind when he speaks of the contagion that appeared among the Greeks, and ascribed it to the “arrows of the god of light.” I may remark upon the subject of temperature generally in the Orient, that about two o'clock was the hour at which the mercury stood highest, and frequently it was higher at 10 A. M. than at noon.
Owing to the great difference of elevation in various parts of Palestine, the greatest dissimilarity prevails with regard to its temperature and climate. We were so fortunate as to visit it at the most favourable and healthy period of the year—the snows and cold of winter had just disappeared, and the rainy season had not yet commenced—a month or three weeks earlier we should have been travelling in some places with snow up to our horses' knees, while, at the same time, we would have endured a scorching sun overhead.* The rainy season in this country is very variable, both as to the quantity which falls, and
* For a table of the daily temperature on board our vessel during the Mediterranean cruise, see Appendix, 0.
the period at which it occurs ; it is, however, on the average, generally from the middle of March to the middle of April. The best time, therefore, for those who seek health as well as amusement in visiting Palestine, is from the end of February to the middle of the ensuing month. It was for this reason we left Egypt* so early in the year, and spent the intervening time on the coast of Asia Minor.
We arrived at Ramla ; and with considerable pleasure again entered the comfortable convent, and being greatly fatigued by our day's journey and the sirocco, we soon retired to rest; but the whole of the early part of the evening we were disturbed by the noise and uproar caused by the Mooslim part of the population, who, along with the Jews, were keeping a solemn but not a silent fast, on account of the great scarcity of rain, on which account the wheat and barley crops were in a withering state. The Mohammadans were walking in procession through the town the greater part of the night, accompanied by their priests and a number of boys who chanted portions of the Kooran, in which the female part of the procession occasionally joined in most shrill piercing tones. Annoying as this was to us, yet I could not help reflecting on the apparent dependence on the bounty of the Almighty that dictated this feeling; and which might be more frequently imitated by their Christian neighbours, who have the Scriptures revealing to them the true character of God, and pointing out the service that he requires from his creatures.
We set forward for Jaffa early next morning. On the previous
* As far as my observation went during our stay in Egypt, I cannot say much for its climate as suited to invalids ; indeed it requires a tolerably good constitution to withstand the effects of the nightly cold, which does not go off till the sun is well up. This variability of daily temperature is highly detrimental to health. There were severe harsh winds, attended with much rain, shortly before we left Alexandria, as can be seen by a reference to the register of temperature in the Appendix. To winter in Egypt with advantage it must be done at Cairo, and that with warm clothing and a fire in the bed-room. I consider that the most favourable time for travelling through the country, is from the fall of the inundation, in September, to the beginning of November, or from the end of February to the middle of April.
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day one of our party rode a mule; a small, wiry, bitter creature; and which, though as obstinate as mule could be, yet was not wanting in his paces; but could keep up with the horses very well when he liked. This being, however, a straightforward course, was by no means congenial to the stubborn little animal's taste; and, so having caused my friend to ride nearly one half more than any of our party, I undertook to use my influence with the beast during the remaining part of the journey to Jaffa. All went on very smoothly for some time; the mule seemed to have got into good humour, and we reached the plains of Sharon, among the olive groves of which we soon espied several large storks and herons. I was anxious to get a shot at one of these ; and the mule, nothing loath to leave the direct path, carried me very quietly to where they had alighted. Arrived at the proper distance, I got down, and counting on the creature's recent good behaviour and improved disposition, I passed the bridle over my arm, and creeping stealthily among the bushes, presented my fowling-piece to fire at the birds; when, just as I was about to pull the trigger, the evil spirit of the mule returned—it reared—the gun went off, and, leaving me sprawling on my back, it kicked up its heels, gave a neigh of delight, and galloped away, showing a determination not to be easily re-captured.
Then came the chase—the whole mounted cavalcade set off after it ; and, though they came up with, and several times surrounded it, the animal always contrived to escape, stopping and turning round with extraordinary quickness; and when its pursuers were at fault, halting to look at them with the greatest composure. After nearly an hour spent in useless endeavours to capture the obstinate animal, the majority of our party proceeded to Jaffa, supposing that in a short time it would be so tired that it would easily be caught, or that the owners, who had lagged behind, would come up and recover it. They left, however, two of the sailors, who accompanied us, to make what they could of the wild creature, and watch his movements in the meantime. For myself, I ran after the brute until I was so wearied that I was unable to proceed farther, and was compelled to lie down upon the ground quite exhausted. After some time, when I recovered my strength, I made my way to the port on foot, and left the sailors in pursuit of the animal.
The tars, however, were not to be beaten by a mule. Off they set, and tilting at him, from different directions, not unlike the efforts of Clown and Pantaloon, more frequently encountered each other than the object of their pursuit, which, like a nimble Harlequin, still skipt out of the way. Seeing no hope of retaking him left, they loaded their carabines with small shot, and very deliberately fired several rounds at the enemy—whom, to use their own words, they soon “ brought to;" for after having two or three rounds lodged in his hinder parts he fell back on his haunches, and rushing in, they captured him, and carried off their prize to Jaffa. They might have relinquished the pursuit for all the mule was worth ; but, as it had a handsome carpet strapt upon it of as much value as itself-that could not be lost. The animal was not, however, very much hurt, as the shot, which was very small, only entered the skin, the distance being considerable.
The whole scene was ludicrous in the extreme; but to me its consequences were any thing but agreeable—for, when I arrived at the port, almost in a state of fever, I very injudiciously exposed myself to a cold draft of air, while resting on the housetop of the consul's residence. The Crusader had put to sea on our first landing, but was now ready to take us aboard ; as soon therefore, as the baggage was shipped and the mule-owner satisfied, we once more set sail for Europe. My feverish symptoms, however, increased; I was confined to bed for several days, and did not recover from the effects of mule-hunting for a long time.
Having now completed the narrative of our eastern travel, and turned our back upon that land of wonders—the prospects that seemed in store for it, and the reflections suggested by the scenes that we had witnessed, kept our minds upon the stretch, till we gained the shores of Cyprus.