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PASSAGE TO JAFFA.
gether before God, to receive the recompence of their
P. S. Blessed be the God of mercy! I am this
TURKISH SCHOONER, THE ELPIS (HOPE) - THE CAPTAIN; THE CREW-
Jaffa, December 3d, 1831.
I have just arrived at this town, my dear friend, on
Whoever has not been the inmate of a Turkish vessel
cannot form any correct idea of one: nay, the most accurate description would fall short of the reality. Our captain, squatted on cushions, slept or smoked. The Greek sailors, to the number of five or six, gamed, amused themselves, or played tricks with one another. The most intelligent of the whole crew was Moustapha, the captain's son, a fine boy, seven or eight years old, with a prepossessing face, having an expression of extraordinary candour and honesty. He was the little steward it was he who had charge of the provisions, and he performed that duty with peculiar grace and cleverness. The very day that I went on board, this boy interested me by an action worthy of remark. He was eating, and, having dropped a morsel of bread, he picked it up with respect, raised it thrice to his forehead, then to his mouth, at the same time lifting his eyes to heaven, as much as to say that he knew the value of the food which God in his bounty was pleased to bestow on him. Poor boy! said I frequently to myself, as I looked at him, what a pity that thou art not a Christian!
Moustapha was cabin-boy also. Nothing was more curious than to see him climb to the mast-head with the lightness and agility of a squirrel: to descend, he glided down by a rope with frightful rapidity.
It was a curious sight, too, to see him at the helm: he then assumed a look of gravity, which formed a singular contrast with his age. The whole crew admired him. For my part, I did not like to see him at that post, which the seamen occasionally relinquished to him, either from indolence, or in compliance with his request, and with a view to obtain from him, as steward, a larger
portion of beans or biscuit. But if Moustapha was a most amiable boy, he was also a most artful one. Perceiving my impatience to get sight of the Holy Land, he took it into his head one day to ascend the mast and to shout "Land! land!" At that word every one rose, for there were other pilgrims on board; they looked, they rubbed their eyes, they looked again, but not a creature could descry any thing, except Moustapha, who, with his little turban in his hand, went round from pilgrim to pilgrim to beg a bakshisch, that is, a gratuity, for his good news, which every one cheerfully gave him with a smile, convinced that it was one of his tricks.
During the first days, we steered without compass. On my most peremptory demand, one was brought and soon furnished subject for dispute. The fact was that we were out of our track. It was mortifying. Luckily, we had, as I have told you, magnificent weather, though a contrary wind. To give you some idea of the confusion that prevailed on board, I must tell you, my dear friend, that, on the second day, having desired to have some eggs boiled for my dinner, I was told that there was no wood, because the clerk had forgot to procure some in Cyprus. . . . These people, no doubt, imagined that, as a Trappist pilgrim, the hope of soon descrying the country towards which all my thoughts were bent, to which all my affections were directed, would not only nourish my soul, but support my body. I bore it patiently.
The night of the 1st of December was one of ravishing beauty. A gentle calm pervaded the air; the sky presented a veil sprinkled with diamonds. The waves sported about our schooner. The wife who is expecting
COAST OF PALESTINE.
a beloved husband, whom she has not seen for a long time; the mother, who every moment fancies that she hears the step of a son whom she longs to see again after murderous wars; the young damsel who is going to be married, and is waiting the arrival of him who is to conduct her to the altar, and to vow to her everlasting love feel not more eager impatience than I did to see the Holy Land. The pilgrims on board shared that impatience. A young Greek woman, from the environs of Constantinople, who was going to Jerusalem with her husband and three little children, kept continually upon deck. One of these children was still at the breast. The two others were incessantly asking her questions, and she pointed to the distance, beyond the sea. . . and, standing on tiptoe with their little feet, they looked with all their eyes, without ceasing to chat and to question their mother, who seemed to me to be always talking to them about God. At length, at daybreak we perceived Palestine! We sunk upon our knees, with our eyes fixed on that land, which the Saviour of the world has filled with his mysteries and covered with his prodigies! At seven in the morning, we were off Cæsarea; on the left, in the distance, rose Mount Carmel. I had before me the coast of Palestine; it looks miserably dull.
In the evening, we came to an anchor off Jaffa. It is a town built amphitheatrically, of very sombre aspect. Its first name was Joppa, and so it is called in Scripture, in which it is frequently mentioned. Some profane authors have asserted that it was thus named from Jope, daughter of Eolus and wife of Cepheus. It is commonly believed to be one of the most ancient towns in the
LANDING AT JAFFA.
world, and to owe its foundation to Japhet, the second son of Noah. It was there that Jonah embarked to go to Tarsus. Hiram, king of Tyre, sent thither ships laden with timber and marble, to be forwarded to Solomon for the construction of the Temple. St. Peter dwelt there when he had a vision relative to Cornelius, and when he revived Tabitha. Josephus relates that the Romans utterly demolished this town during the siege of Jerusalem.
The road of Jaffa is very dangerous, and much dreaded by navigators, who must always be upon their guard.
Yesterday morning, at daybreak, boats put off and surrounded the vessel, to take us to the town, the access to which is difficult on account of the numerous rocks that present to view their bare flanks. The walls were covered with spectators, attracted by curiosity. The boats being much lower than the bridge upon which one is obliged to climb, and having no ladder, the landing is not effected without danger. More than once it has happened that passengers, in springing out, have broken their limbs, and we might have met with the like accident, if several persons had not hastened to our assistance. The apathetic indolence of the Turkish administration witnesses all this without applying a remedy.
No sooner had I landed than, notwithstanding the crowd drawn together around me by the strangeness of my costume, I knelt down to kiss that sacred soil to which God, in his mercy, had brought me in so miraculous a manner. The Turks and the soldiers of the vice