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And they shall clear the mildew dank
"Oh the poor blind old widow!
"And some, they brought the brown lint-seed,
"Oh the poor lame weaver!
"And then up spoke a brownie,
With a long beard on his chin : 'I have spun up all the tow,' said he, 'And I want some more to spin.
"I've spun a piece of hempen cloth,
"And with that I could not help but laugh, And I laughed out loud and free;
And then on the top of the Caldon-Low
"And all on the top of the Caldon-Low
"But coming down from the hill-top,
How busy the jolly miller was,
"And I peeped into the widow's field,
The yellow ears of the mildewed corn
"And down by the weaver's croft I stole
"Now, this is all I heard, mother,
LXXXIV.-A JOURNEY TO PALMYRA.
1. My journey to Palmyra, otherwise "Tadmor in the Desert," was somewhat adventurous. My whole party consisted of an English friend, an Arab sheik and a camel driver-four men in all-mounted on three dromedaries. To attempt to go from Damascus to Tadmor, through a hundred miles of desert infested by prowling bandits and overrun by hostile Bedouins, with such an escort, may appear a little rash, and looking back upon it now from the calm seclusion of my library, I think it was rash. It had these good effects, however: it led me away from the ordinary and direct route; it brought me into contact with a number of friendly tribes; it gave me large experience of genuine Arab hospitality; and it afforded me some very palpable, if not very pleasant, illustrations of the truth of the prophecy pronounced of old on Ishmael and his posterity: "He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him."
2. It was the fifth morning of our journey, and the sheik told us that by noon we should see the ruins of Tadmor. For three whole days we had already marched through the desert— not, however, the desert of boyhood's fancy, a plain of drifting sand, blazing in the fierce sunbeams and bounded by the circle of the horizon. This desert had more pleasing features. There were long ranges and clustering groups of mountains, presenting an agreeable variety of form and outline, and occasionally also of color, though the general hue was that light gray or yellowish white so characteristic of the limestone strata of Syria.
3. Many strange and interesting traits of Arab life and law came under our notice. Whenever our path led us near an encampment we always found some active sheik or venerable patriarch sitting "in his tent door," and as soon as we were within hail we heard the earnest words of welcome and invitation which the Old Testament Scriptures had rendered long ago familiar to us: "Stay, my lord, stay. Pass not on till
thou hast eaten bread and rested under thy servant's tent. Alight and remain until thy servant kill a kid and prepare a feast." Again and again were these invitations given and urged in such a way that we found it impossible to resist them.
4. Another trait of desert life we also noticed. On several occasions we suddenly and unexpectedly found ourselves close to a solitary tent or small encampment whose occupants were unknown to our leader and suspected to be enemies of his tribe. We were then told to muffle up our faces, drive our dromedaries quickly up to the tent door and dismount. We were thus safe. Arab law made the master of the tent responsible for our lives and our entertainment. On such occasions not a word was spoken till we were seated within the tent, and not a question was ever asked during the whole time we remained, as to who we were, whence we came or whither we were going.
5. It was, as I said, the fifth morning of our journey. We were up before the dawn, and the first gray streak of the new day was just visible along the eastern horizon as we mounted our dromedaries and rode off. The camp where we had spent the night lay in a broad valley, shut in on the north and south by steep ranges of naked limestone, but opening on the east, at the distance of a few miles, to a boundless plain. Our leader went straight to the northern ridge. Up it we scrambled by a track so steep, so rugged and in places so narrow that I often feared the dromedaries would topple over and dash us to pieces on the rocks far below. From the summit we had a commanding view. In front a broad plain, bare and gray, bounded on the north by a line of rocky mountains almost perfectly white; behind us another plain, green with the grass of spring and thickly studded with the black tents of Bedouins.
6. We now turned eastward and descended diagonally into a plain so barren and desolate that we had never seen anything like it before. We dipped into a glen that crossed our path, then swiftly and cautiously the sheik led us along the base of the mountains, which rose up far overhead, here in
long gravelly slopes and there in frowning precipices capped by great masses of projecting rock, which seemed as if an infant's touch could hurl them down upon our heads. We surmounted a rocky spur, and the sheik paused. "Look!" he exclaimed, pointing to a narrow opening in the low line of hills which crossed the plain in front. We saw a castle crowning a conical peak; we saw tall slender towers on the slopes and in the bottom of the pass below. That is Tadmor. Yallah!"
7. But the next moment two wild Arab horsemen reined up their panting steeds within pistol shot. They spoke not a word. They gave not a sign. One of them, after taking a rapid glance at our party, wheeled his horse and went off at full gallop across the plain. The other remained, motionless as a statue, leaning upon his long lance. Our chief was silent. He seemed almost paralyzed. His dromedary wandered about at will cropping the dry weeds. Something was wrong, we knew not well what. We were not left long in suspense. A cloud of dust appeared approaching us across the plain. It opened, and we saw a troop of some forty or fifty horsemen charging us at full speed. The next moment a score of glittering lances were brandished fiercely round our heads. Resistance would have been worse than useless. We were prisoners.
8. We were led off across the plain for some two miles, and we then met the whole tribe of our captors on the march. It was a strangely interesting sight. Far as the eye could see, the plain was covered with countless droves of camels and flocks of sheep and horsemen, and dromedaries laden with tents and all manner of furniture and utensils. The sheik, who happened to have my animal by the halter, stuck his spear in the ground and dismounted. It was the signal for encamping. In a moment the tents were on the ground, and hundreds of women wielding the heavy mallets with which they drive in the large iron tent-pins. This is always their work, and they do it with singular dexterity.
9. At first our prospects in our desert prison looked gloomy enough. A large ransom was demanded. Uncomfortable