Imagini ale paginilor



tions may be seen of an old wall, with four towers. In what is properly the top, a hollow has been formed, whereby the outer wall forms, as it were, a crown. The base of the hill is covered with rubbish, and on the north-west side there are the remains of a large rain-tank. Robinson gives his reasons for identifying this place with the fortress of Herodium in Josephus. He thinks there is less ground for holding the JebelFareidis to be the Beth-haccerem of Jer. vi. 1; yet, considering that the hill is the loftiest elevation whole of this region, and is easily distinguishable at a great distance by its isolated position and its conical shape, I know no other locality in the whole district that answers better to the place referred to in Scripture.

Whence it obtained the appellation of the FrankMountain seems to be uncertain. The tradition that the fortress on this hill was the last place occupied by the Crusaders in Palestine-and that, too, during a series of years after they had been driven from all the other strongholds in the country, is subject to much doubt.

Were the travellers who visit Jerusalem, and who from it make an excursion to Bethlehem, aware of the extensive and picturesque prospect to be seen from the top of the Frank-Mountain, more of them would come to enjoy it. It is especially to be recommended for the view it presents of the northern part of the Dead Sea, and the plain of Jericho. We chanced to have an unusually clear day, and could distinguish among many other remarkable places Kerak, the second capital of Moab. Professor Robinson found himself, as he complains, disappointed in the view which he

[blocks in formation]

enjoyed from the Frank-Mountain over the Dead Sea. He expected, however, too much—no less than to overlook both extremities of that sea from this one point!

As I sat admiring the singular landscape that lay stretched out around me, Peter's eyes had for some time been steadily fixed on some other object. All of a sudden he ran down the hill, was in a twinkling mounted on his mare, and flew like an arrow from a bow over stone and shrub some hundred yards forward. There he stopped, and stretched out a friendly hand to a Bedouïn of gigantic stature, who from behind yonder hills, and followed by five or six other Bedouïns, had come up as quickly as Peter had flown to him. Who was this shech whom Peter had hastened to meet with such cordiality, and almost embraced in the joy with which he greeted him? Thought I, my prospects are improving. I have been to-day regularly initiated among the Bedouïns. A few moments after, and this new company had ascended the hill. I had now to make my début as a traveller among the Bedouins, and to keep myself as cool and sedate as possible, endeavouring to shew at the same time that sort of amiability which some people know so well how to assume when they wish to save their own character from the charge of being rude, without, however, being influenced by any sincere and heartfelt friendship for the opposite party -a graceful and courteous politeness. Peter introduced his friend to me as Shech Safizir, the first and the most formidable among the Bedouïns. No wonder, thought I; the fellow's whole appearance is that of a chief of banditti: nearer seven than six feet high; an

[blocks in formation]

eye like lightning; a nose like a hawk's; a sash full of pistols, besides the firelock on his back, and the long pike in his hand. I believe I shall never meet with a finer specimen of a Bedouin shech. Well, indeed, it was that the meeting betwixt us was on a friendly footing. To have been surprised by Shech Safizir, whilst alone on the Frank-Mountain, without a revolving pistol, would, I suspect, have lessened my coolness and composure.

The friends seated themselves beside me. Peter's eye sparkled with satisfaction; he had the honour to enjoy the freebooter's special favour.


Fancy, sir, he whispered into my ear, that the Pasha of Jerusalem has already more than once sent troops to capture him on account of his robberies. Once even there came twenty men on horseback after him when he chanced to be in a house in Bethlehem; but Shech Safizir had only to shew himself in order to inspire the whole of them with such awe that they preferred an ignominious return to the Pasha, without accomplishing their purpose, to venture on a struggle, twenty as they were in number, with this one giant. If could get you him to accompany you to the Dead Sea, you could not do better."

"Well, then, make the proposal. Let us see!" A quarter of an hour's negotiation followed about piastres and the places that I wanted to visit. But it was without result. Shech Safizir's demands, likewise, too largely exceeded father Mashullam's estimate, and our Goliath was soon on his way again, while we pursued ours back to Bethlehem. To see this robber chief testify no small respect for little Peter, was indeed a

[ocr errors]



picture. I can now understand how the lad has made himself so familiar with the manners of the Bedouïns.

The way from the Frank-Mountain to Bethlehem leads by the small village of Beit-Ta'mrah, or BeitTa'mr, through the windings of a partially cultivated valley. At half an hour's distance from Bethlehem, between Beit-Ta'mrah and Beit-Fahûr, where tradition says that the shepherds of Luke ii. 8 had their dwellings, you come into a beautiful plain encompassed with knolls, partly planted with olive-trees, and partly sown with corn. In the midst of this plain there is a garden filled with fruit-trees, and within the garden walls are the ruins of a convent that was founded by the pious Paula. There still remains a half-dilapidated church, but, as the stones indicate, of modern architecture; the stones of the original building, and fragments of the mosaic pavement, lie scattered about. It was here that the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, in order to proclaim the most blissful tidings that ever were heard upon earth-" great joy that shall be to all people;" and it was here that the multitude of the heavenly host sang the greatest and most glorious hymn of praise that ever reached the ear of man. O that God's Spirit would teach us to repeat that Hallelujah! You know that no more than yourself do I respect relics. Nevertheless, I took away, as memorials of this spot, a few bits of mosaic stone and a few twigs of those olive-trees.

Following the base of Bethlehem's now barren vineyard-terraces, we reached again in safety the farm of Wadi-Urtas.

"And now, sir,” said Peter's father, "what say you



of my boy? Will you have him with you to the Dead Sea?"

"Most willingly; after a good lesson from you, he may undoubtedly be of use to me among the Bedouïns."

And the result now is, that Peter's mother is still up late in the evening, busily preparing his little bundle of travelling requisites; for early to-morrow we must be on our way.

HEBRON, 24th March.

I can hardly believe the reality, that I am actually in the city of the patriarchs; the royal residence of David during the seven years previous to his having taken the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites, and made it the seat of his court. Yet, so it is: from Hebron, I continue the letter which I last night broke off at Etam, Solomon's pleasure-grounds.

The day proved a charming one. On this high mountain-plateau, and at this season of the year, the heat of the sun is not felt as it was yesterday among the cliffs and ridges of the barren hills of Tekoah. Moreover, the sky to-day has been almost wholly covered over with clouds, and truly Easter season is at this elevation (about 3000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean) rather cool than warm.

It was with a certain feeling of regret that I left the lovely little spot in Wadi-Urtas. But my journey had to be recommenced. Peter's father accompanied us till we were past the peach-trees, then shewed us how we must proceed along the rubbish heaps of the village of Urtas, steadily following the line of the ancient water-course, and then parted from us with his wishes for our journey's success. It was no small

« ÎnapoiContinuă »