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ANNOYED BY BEDOUÏNS.
utensils. In particular, some swaggering young Bedouïns, who came up prancing on beautiful mares, and entertained me with a mock fight round Ferez and his macaroni stew, perhaps to give me a sample of their skill in fighting on horseback, seemed little inclined to allow the traveller who had thus ventured among them to depart unmolested. My fatigue was such as to deprive me of any desire to have intercourse with them; yet I could not but think that were I master of the Arabic tongue, a fortnight's excursion in these tracts, with the advantage of being on friendly terms with the Bedouïns, and aided by the practice of medicine and surgery, would enable me to find out all the localities of Judah and Simeon.
Old Saleh had the wisdom to treat these stranger Bedouïns as friends, and at the same time to shew an increased measure of respect for the traveller to whom he was acting as guide. Thus we got away without difficulty, and had now, by Saleh's advice, to travel on till dark, in order that the Bedouïns might not know where our quarters for the night were to be. There was very little risk of our being attacked while actually travelling, but much risk of our being surprised as we lay asleep and with all our goods unpacked. The course we now followed was alternately west-north-west and northnorth-west. We had necessarily to pass over the heights to the west of Chewèlfeh, and saw from them the Bedouïn camps at not half an hour's distance from us, on the north side of the Wadi-Sheri'ah, in which, beyond the camp, Tell-Sheri'ah rose very conspicuously, as near as I could guess at from two and a half to three hours' distance from us. Yet another knoll, Tell-Mellâhah, at
ONE MORE NIGHT WITHOUT WATER.
tracted my attention. That, however, I first saw later in the day. I have put it down in my map as accurately as I could, but much regret having been unable to visit it. One or other of these two tells may have been the ancient Ziklag.
I was delighted at last to see the sun sink and set; twilight came on fast; for the last hour we had not perceived any Bedouïns; we were passing through uniformly low, grassy hills, and here and there along cultivated land; we seemed separated from the world, and now, by Saleh's advice, the tent was pitched. Once more, however, it was where there was no water, and consequently without any refreshment after the fatigue of such a day. My people in some measure made up for this by chewing and sucking the watery stems of a thistle plant much resembling a young artichoke, and which grows abundantly in the grassy places, I tried this delicacy, but found its insipid, sweetish-bitter taste far from being so seductive to my palate as old Saleh and my other fellow-travellers esteemed it.
Once more did the Lord's faithfulness and lovingkindness keep watch over us through the night. Sleep had refreshed all of us. As soon as the sun arose we were on the way. Then we came, after half an hour's riding, unexpectedly on the fountain Kesâba, a natural spring, which runs on with a tiny rill for some hundred yards, and is then lost in the sand. Had we but known yesterday evening that it was so near at hand! Saleh himself seemed much surprised. That we halted, had a good cup of coffee prepared, and converted into a breakfast the last eatable articles remaining in our provision chest, you may well suppose; and also
that our hearts, thankful for the preservation we had experienced, joined with the soaring lark in its song of praise. As we sat resting here, there came past us a band of ladies, some on foot, others on asses, perhaps from twenty-five to thirty in number. They were not at all timorous, though unaccompanied by cavaliers. On the contrary, they seemed to think their meeting with us quite a treat, and remained for some time beside us, prattling and conversing quite gaily. Ladies? I hear you ask. Yes, ladies; be it understood, however, Bedouïn ladies, on their way with provisions to their husbands, who had decamped an hour before for the Wadi-Sheri'ah on a fighting expedition. Their loud talking seemed to find echoes in the hills around us; at least from various points we saw Bedouïns approaching us. But our breakfast was over; the baggage was soon put up again; and the Bedouïns seeing us move off, followed our example, and each took his own way.
An hour and a half's ride through many undulating and winding valleys, and uniformly among low grassy hills, brought us to the well Bir-Isek (Isaac's well). What well can this be? A well with which tradition, without any good reason, has associated the name of Isaac? One of the wells mentioned in Genesis xxvi.? Perhaps the well Rehoboth (ver. 22); for Isaac's herdsmen seem to have abandoned the run of the valley of Gerar, in order to live without molestation elsewhere, until he went up to Beer-Sheba. Bir-Izek is undoubtedly a well of high antiquity and great notoriety among the inhabitants of the land. It has a wide diameter, and is eighty feet deep; the ancient quadrangular stones of the raised margin are quite sawn through by the ropes that have thousands of times
drawn up the vessels let down for water. The water, however, had an insipid and unpleasant taste. From the small amphitheatre of low hills in which Isaac's well is situated, to Beit-Jebrîn, we had still a ride of two and a half hours, with a north-east course. At about an hour's distance from the well stands a ruincovered hill called Tell-el-Kebaibeh, which must once have formed a strong key-fortress at the base of the mid-Judea-mountains. From this point to Beit-Jebrîn we rode through an uninterrupted series of ancient remains, bits of wall, or large hewn stones lying scattered about; sometimes, also, over pieces of an ancient causewhile the hill-sides likewise, to the right and to the left of our path, were often covered with ruins.
Undoubtedly we were here traversing a district of country which in former times must have been quite studded over with towns and villages. The wilderness and the grassy hills had now come to an end. They were succeeded by the gray rock, here and there studded with oak thickets; and the olive-tree, which we had not seen for some days, again delighted our hearts. A full half-hour on this side of Beit-Jebrîn, Saleh pointed out to me a high tell in the south-south-east. "That is Tell-Chilchis," said he, "the most remarkable among the tells of this neighbourhood." The names of the ruins along the road he did not know.
Beit-Jebrîn is encircled by rocky hills. We were close upon it when I first saw it. The village in itself is inconsiderable, but the contrast between the dark shade of the olives and the light green corn-fields along the hill-sides, with the blue lofty mountain range of Judea on the background, and some Roman ruins on
the foreground, make it well worthy of the pencil of