Louisa (Jebb) Mrs. Roland Wilkins. Wilkins.

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Effendi expected us to be his guests. After giving
us tea, and thereby showing familiarity with the
customs of foreign Royal personages, they con-
ducted us to the Vali. He was of a very different
type from those we had previously seen. A young,
pleasant mannered, intelligent Turk, he received
us in a reserved, Western way, with no flowery


Hassan, in whose hands we felt safe as regards
points of Turkish etiquette, had whispered to us
that we had better camp outside as usual, for the
Pasha's harem was absent at the moment and we
could not therefore visit the ladies. For this reason
we declined as best we could his offers of hospitality.
The Head of the Education Department, instructed
by his chief, said the Pasha Effendi was " tiUsoli"
at our decision. Would we not reconsider it? We


were causing his Excellency intense disappointment.
His Excellency indeed looked crestfallen, and we
would also have enjoyed being royally entertained,
but we knew Hassan's judgment was never at fault
and thought it best to be on the safe side. We
were also conscious of the fact that in all probability
this was but a polite form of espionage, for Urfa
is the centre of the district where the worst Armenian
massacres took place ; European visitors, therefore,
especially those who say they are "travelling solely
for their health " in all the discomforts of winter,
are suspected of being mere gleaners of damaging

So we only accepted his Excellency's invitation
to dine and, taking leave of him for the moment,
were escorted to the Mission-house by the officers and
Zaptiehs who had formed our escort, led by the
smiling Armenian on the mule.

Thus ended our triumphal entry into Urfa, which
some call the ancient city of Abraham — " Ur of
the Chaldees."



" AND Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the
1~\ son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his
daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife ; and they
went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to
go unto the land of Canaan ; and they came unto
Haran, and dwelt there." And it happened that
we, sojourning in this land, bethought ourselves of
this journey of Abraham ; we also, therefore, arose
one morning and took two horses of the horses of
Ur, and three Zaptiehs also upon horses, and we
set our servants upon mules and departed across the
plain to visit this Harran, the city of Nahor ; and
there came with us a lady of the American Mission
and her servant Jacobhan and a young Armenian
friend ; and they also were upon mules. And we
all rode together across the plain of Mesopotamia,
of which it is written : " When corn comes from
Harran, then there is plenty ; when no corn comes,
then there is hunger." And, even as we rode,
the villagers were gathering in the barley, the clean
white straw with its well-filled heads ; and from time
to time we came also upon a couple of sleek-skinned


oxen drawing the wooden plough through the soil,
making the furrows for the next year's seed ; and the
soil, where it was turned, was of a rich red colour,
beside the yellow stubble which was yet unbroken.
The villages stood at the space of one hour's ride
apart, and by the side of every village, by the side of
their bell-shaped huts, we saw great mounds of such
a size that they covered as much ground as the
villages themselves; and each of these mounds was
of a rounded shape. And, looking across the plain
as we rode, as far as we could see we saw also many
such mounds far distant upon the horizon.

And we said to Hassan, "Wherefore these mounds?"
And he answered and said, " Behold, Effendi, you
see these villages at the space of one hour's ride apart,
each with its cornfields and its unbroken stubble, its
pasture and its flocks ; so it was in the days when
Abraham and Terah passed this way, even as you
and I are now passing ; but these villages that we
see of the bell-shaped huts were not the villages that
Terah and Abraham saw, for they are now buried
under these same mounds."

Now Harran is eight hours across the plain from
Ur ; four hours we rode to Rasselhamur, a village
by the side of a stream, where we ate and drank and
rested awhile, and yet another four hours we rode
from Rasselhamur to Harran.

Now consider the journey of Terah and Abraham.
There were his women and his children, his camels, his
man servants and his maid servants, his he asses and
his she asses, his oxen and flocks of sheep ; and they


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I fat e page i [2.


would cause him to delay on the road, for they cannot
be over-driven ; yet, even as the Arab tribes journey
to-day, the caravan of Terah and Abraham would
reach this Harran on the second day from the day
they left Ur of the Chaldees ; and the land of
Canaan, the land towards which they journeyed,
would still be far distant.

And we, marvelling, pondered on the words of the
learned man who has said that the Harran of Terah
and Abraham lies not here but at one day's journey
from the city of Damascus.

But why should our souls be vexed over the
words of learned men ? for, whether it be that Terah
stayed at this Harran, even the Harran we are
approaching, or whether he journeyed on day by day
over the plains to the city of Damascus, for us, as our
noiseless steeds trod the soft earth, these silent plains
yet echoed with the tinkling of his camel-bells, the
bleating of his innumerable herds, and the cries of his
men servants and his maid servants.

And the sun was yet high in the heavens when the
walls of the city of Harran rose up before us ; and as
we rode through the fields without the city walls we
looked, and behold there was a well in the field, and
near it were gathered flocks of sheep and herds of
cattle, for it was out of that well that they watered the
flocks. And it was at the time of the evening, the
time that the women go out to draw water ; and we
drew rein and watched them, even as Jacob watched
Rachel. And these daughters of the men of the city
were dark eyed and blue smocked, and they balanced



their pitchers on their heads ; and they went down
into the well, down the slippery stones which were
worn by the feet of the generations which begat
Rachel and Rebekah. And on beholding the
strangers some of them ran back, even as Rebekah
on beholding the servant of Isaac, and told their
mothers ; and some of them, even as Rachel on
beholding Jacob, emptied their pitchers into the
troughs and bade us water our horses. And the
herdsmen gathered themselves together and looked at
us in silence ; and their look was long and straight,
like the look of those who have the habit of looking
far, as far as where the sun sinks on the horizon ; and
we, wondering, held our peace. Of what availed it,
that we should vex ourselves as to whether this indeed
were the Harran where Terah stayed on his way to the
Land of Canaan ; here are we in the fertile regions,
without the walls of a city, by the side of a well where
the maidens come down to fetch water and where the
flocks are gathered at the going down of the sun.
And we bethought ourselves of those ancient days,
and we said unto the herdsmen, even as Jacob said
unto the herdsmen as they tended the cattle of Laban,
" Whence are ye?" and they answered us saying, " Of
Harran are we."

And looking about us we saw also the black tents,
the good camel-hair tents such as the Arabs use, and
they stretched out from the side of the watering-place ;
and on the ground in front of them the young
children rolled amongst the bleating flocks and herds.
And the shepherds, haughty and silent amongst men,
walked to the right and to the left in and out amongst


the bleating flocks and herds ; and their cloaks were
of sheepskin, long and squarely cut — they hung from
their shoulders, reaching nearly to the ankles ; and
looking at them we thought of Abraham who had left
this city for the Land of Promise, of Isaac who sent
his servant to seek out Rebekah, and of Jacob who
beheld Rachel even on this spot, and who tended
the flocks of sheep and herds of cattle for her father
Laban on these same fertile plains.

And as we tarried, marvelling on these things, there
came out a messenger from the city, and he said,
"Why standest thou without? we have prepared a
house and room for thy horses " ; and turning our
horses' heads we followed him and rode into the city.

Now the people of Harran number at this day over
4,000 souls of the Moslem faith ; of men there are
1,900, and of the women 2,300. And some of them
live in the city and some of them live without, in the
villages. Now in the generations that have passed
Harran was a great city of merchants ; they went
forth to Tyre, they were her traffickers in choice
wares, in wrappings of blue and broidered work, and
in chests of rich apparel bound with cords and made
of cedar.

Harran lay also on the highway from the north
to the Land of Canaan, on the highway from the
west, from Assyria and Babylonia to the shores of
the Cilician Sea ; hence also was Harran a great


fortified city. And looking about us as we rode
through the city, many and ancient were the ruins that
we saw, showing that Harran had been great indeed
in her time ; and there stands to this day a four-sided


tower, the walls of which are perfect even now ; and
at the summit of this tower the bricks are exceeding
hard and of a bright yellow colour speckled with
black spots withal. And still riding in and out
amongst the bell-shaped huts we came at last to the
ruins of a great castle; and still riding, our good horses
picked their way amongst the columns which were
fallen, of which there were many, and under the massive
stone arches which were not yet fallen. And we came
at last to an open space set right in the midst of the
castle, and on this space the grass grew green all about
in amongst the fallen stones. And, dismounting, we
climbed yet a little way further until we came to a
room in the walls, well covered in and newly built
up with stones, so that neither wind nor rain could
enter in. And at the door of this well-built room stood
the Shaykh of the Beni-Zeid. And he welcomed us,
bowing after the fashion of his country, and we also
greeted him, bowing after the fashion of our country ;
and speaking to Jacobhan, for we knew not his
language, neither did he know ours, he bade us
welcome, and said that meat and drink would be laid
before us, and provender should be found for our
horses. And we rejoiced, for we were exceeding
hungry. But the sheep was yet roasting on the
great fire in a hut in the ruins of the castle below, and
we said to Jacobhan, " Send these men away, for we
are weary and would rest awhile." And, taking
Hassan only with us, we climbed up to where the
ruins of a great tower looked away over the plain,
even the plain over which we had ridden and beyond
also on the other side further than where we had

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ridden ; and sitting down here we rested awhile ; and
down below the servants tended the horses, and
Jacobhan and the lady from the American Mission
unpacked the neatly folded bundles — and, further
below, lay the ruins of the great city, and between
them the little bell-shaped huts ; but above us there
was nothing but the sky. And looking away from
the city, over the walls and over the plain even unto
the far horizon where the sun was now setting, for
the day was far spent, I said unto Hassan ; "What
think you, Hassan, can this indeed be the city whence
Abraham departed, and think you that this is the
plain over which Jacob fled with his women and
children, his men servants and his maid servants,
his asses and camels, his cattle and his sheep ? "

And Hassan knit his great brows and pondered
awhile, and then he made answer : " What matters it,
EfTendi, whether this was the city of Abraham, and
whether this was the plain over which Jacob fled
before the wrath of Laban ? Look down below and
see these fallen ruins, which are all that is left of the
great nations who conquered this city in the genera-
tions that have passed ; and look down again, and you
will see the miserable huts of the people who are left ;
what do they care for the great people who have
lived and died within these walls where you and I
are sitting? In a short time they also will be dead,
and you and I will be dead, and therefore why should
we care whether or not this was the city of Abraham ?
for, where Abraham is, there shall we soon be also."

As he was speaking we heard a shout from below,


and looking down we saw Jacobhan beckoning to us,
for the meat was now served. And we made haste
to come down, and entered the room. Here on the
earthern floor stood a well-filled bowl, all hot and
smoking, for the meat was mixed with swelling rice
well cooked in fat. Now Jacobhan fetched a little
red carpet and spread it on the floor by the side of
the bowl, and on this we sat, crossing our legs after
the fashion of the country.

On one side of us sat the lady from the American
Mission and on the other side sat Hassan.

And they brought us flat cakes of bread, which
we dipped into the bowl and scooping out the rice and
meat, we ate it thus, for we had neither spoons nor
forks. And round about us as we ate sat the dark-
eyed Arabs in the white robes. When we had
finished eating, one of them rose and fetched a pitcher
of water and another brought a bowl, and they poured
water over our hands until they were clean. Then,
making way for those who had not yet eaten, we
caused the carpet to be spread on the far side of the
room, where, lying on it, we watched the men eating,
gathered round the bowl. Now, when all had finished,
one removed the empty bowl and another fetched a
brush and swept the floor, for much rice had been
spilt about. Then each man folded his cloak together,
and sitting back against the wall gazed at us out of
the dark corners.

But Jacobhan the Armenian and his young friend,
who was also of the same people, had no mind to sit
thus quiet all the evening. For they were not as the
Arabs are, content to smoke and make no sound.


11 Give us some song," he said to the assembled
company, "that we may make merry, for the night
is yet young."

And they pushed forward, out of the far corner,
a young man who seated himself at our feet. After
looking at us awhile, there being no sound in the
room, he began to sing softly, and these are the
words that he sang, as they were told to us later by
Jacobhan : " As the swallows from a far country
winging their way from the north to the south, so
you come to us for the day and on the morrow you
are gone. You have the soft eyes of a dove, your
hair is of silken threads, and your skin is as the soft
skin of the pomegranate. Your little feet they are
as the feet of swift gazelles — and they will bear you
hence so that your going will be as swift and silent
as your coming. Oh, may the snows come in the
morning to stay your going away, for my heart will
be sick when you are no longer here, and my eyes
no longer behold your eyes. The land will mourn
and be desolate ; the herbs of the field will wither and
the waters of the river will dry up in the wilderness."

When the words of the song were finished, a
silence fell upon us all ; and the silence was so long
in the quiet stillness of night that many of us fell half
asleep sitting there in the dark room. And one by
one the company glided out softly into the night until
we were left only with our own men. There
numbered thirteen of us in all, and wrapping our-
selves each in his blanket we lay on the hard floor
until morning.


Now on the morrow the son of the Shavkh came to
us and said :

" My father sends you word he will be absent
until evening, for he rode away this morning two
hours before the rising of the sun. To-night,
however, he prepares a feast for you and will return,
Inshallah, with glad tidings for his people. He bids
me meanwhile ask of the ladies what their pleasure
will be to-day, and I am at their commands."

And we said to the son of the Shaykh :

"Take now thy father's lance and these our horses,
and we pray thee call out one of your companions
and let us see how the men of your country fight
their enemies."

And the young chief, nothing loth, fetched the long
spear which stood at the door of his father's house,
and he mounted one of our horses ; and he called
another youth from amongst the many that would
ride with him, and they rode out together into the
field, without the city walls. And we climbed up upon
the high walls of the castle which looked over the
field that we should have the better view. And the
two young men set their lances and rode their horses
hard at one another, first to the one side and then to
the other, now wheeling round, now holding the spear
aloft, shouting with loud cries. And their cries were
mingled with the cries of all the assembled company,
and we also shouted with the others. For the space
of an hour or more did they fight thus with one
another until they and their horses were weary, but
we were not weary with watching them.

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Now as we were feasting that day at the time
of the setting of the sun, the Shaykh entered the room
where we sat and greeted us.

And we, speaking through Jacobhan, said to him,
"Has your business been well?" And he said,
" Very well ; to day is a great day for myself and
for my people."

And we said, "Tell us, we pray thee, how that is? "
And he seated himself in our midst, and he told us
how his tribe, the tribe of the Beni-Zeid, had offended
the great Kurdish chief, Ibrahim Pasha, head of the
Hamidieh, who lived not far distant at Viran-shahir.
For some amongst them had stolen camels and
mules belonging to his people. The wrath of
Ibrahim Pasha was very great, and he caused his men
to harass their men, and their beasts were no longer
safe. Now the Shaykh knew not which among his
people were the offenders, but after a year had gone
by there came certain of the tribe to him and said,
" Behold these camels and mules, are they not those
which were stolen from Ibrahim Pasha? We pray
thee restore them that we may no longer live in fear
of having ours stolen." Thus it was, that on this
same day the Shaykh had ridden out with his men,
driving these animals, and had delivered them back
to the Pasha at Viran-shahir. Inshallah, now they
would no longer live under fear of his displeasure.
For those who offended Ibrahim Pasha had no mercy
at his hands ; but those who pleased him had much
kindness shown them.

And we and the whole company rejoiced together
over the good deed that had been done that day,


and there was much feasting and sinking that

On the morrow we mounted our horses once more
and rode away through the bell-shaped huts and past
the ancient ruins, over the rich plains, back again into
the city of Ur, at the foot of the grey hills.



WE were encamped in the khan, the native inn,
at Severek, a dismal town in the dismal wilds
of Mesopotamia ; the weather and the depth of mud
made it impossible for us to pitch our tents outside,
and the dirty, windowless sheds round the courtyard,
which afforded the only sleeping accommodation, were
not inviting, so we had fixed our tent in a covered
passage by tying the ropes to the pillars supporting
the roof. The Zaptiehs deputed to guard us for the
night hung about the door, plying Hassan and Arten
with questions as to our sanity. Why should two foreign
ladies choose the depth of winter to travel between
Urfa and Diarbekr along the caravan route which
had been lon^ deserted owincr to the raids of the
Hamidieh Kurds? I had often asked myself the
same question during the last few days, but had not
yet thought of an answer.

A pale, dishevelled young man in semi-European
clothes slouched into the courtyard and joined the
group. The Zaptiehs spoke roughly to him and he
gave a cringing reply. He forced his way past them
up to me.



" Moi parle Francais," he said, with an accent cor-
responding to his grammar.

" So it seems," I answered, in the same language.

" To-morrow I travel with you," he went on.

" Indeed ! " I answered, with more of interrogation
than cordiality.

" Yes, you and my mother and sisters will go in an
araba and I and my brother will ride your horses.''

I made a closer inspection of the individual, but
could detect no signs of insanity to harmonise with his

"Who are you?" I said.

II I am an Armenian." he answered. " I have a
travelling theatre. We want to get to Diarbekr, and
have been waiting here for weeks for an opportunity
to join a caravan ; the road is so unsafe that no one
dares pass this way now, and if we do not go with you
we may be here for months yet. You will start at
seven to-morrow mornino, and we shall do thirteen
hours to K ."

"We shall start when it suits us," I replied, "and
stop when we have a mind. We never travel more
than eight hours, and shall not do the regular stages to
Diarbekr. We shall be three days on the way."

"You must go in two days," he persisted; "we
cannot afford to be so loner on the road."

I began to get angry.

"Go away, strange young man," I said, "and don't
bother me any more."

" I will have everything ready," he said.

"You may make your own arrangements for your-
self," I rejoined, " if you wish to follow us on the


road. It is a public way, but understand that we
have nothing to do with you. We start when we
like, stop when we wish, ride our own animals, and
call our souls our own."

"My soul is Christian," he said anxiously, as I
moved off; "are you not my sister?"

"Young man," I said sternly, "we may be brothers
and sisters in spirit, and we may be travelling along
the same road to heaven ; but please understand that
we travel to Diarbekr on our own horses and not in
our sisters' arabas."

Next morning we left the khan at sunrise, and out-
side the town we found the whole of the Armenian
theatre party ready to accompany us. A covered
araba concealed the mother and daughters — we caught
glimpses of tawdry garments and towzled heads.
Another araba was piled with stage scenery and cook-
ing-pots. Three or four men were riding mules and
there were an equal number on foot. The men were
dressed in flimsy cotton coats, showing bright green or
red waistcoats underneath, and tight trousers in loud
check patterns ; they wore Italian bandit-looking hats,
and their shirts seemed to end in a sort of frill round
the neck, suggesting the paper which ornaments the
end of a leg of mutton. The whole get-up seemed
singularly inappropriate as they plunged ankle-deep
through the mud. Patches of snow lay in the hollows
of the road, a furious gale was driving sleet at right
angles into our faces ; it was bitterly cold.

We rode for hours through a dreary country of
broken grey stones with no sign of vegetation or life
of any kind. At last we arrived at a collection of


tumble-down deserted huts, built of the stones lying
round, and hardly distinguishable from the rest of the
country until we were actually amongst them. We
were cold and wet and had hardly come half-way to
our destination, but as neither of us could stand long
hours in the saddle without rest or food, we called a
halt here to recruit. The Zaptiehs forming our escort
begged us not to stop. They could not understand
the strange ways of these mad foreigners, who not only
travelled in such weather, but sat down to picnic in it
instead of pushing on to the shelter of the khan at
the journey's end. But we were inexorable, and they
reluctantly fastened the horses on the sheltered side
of the remaining walls, against which they stood with
their backs tightly pressed, drawing their ragged coats
closely round them. The village had been but lately
ransacked and destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha, the re-

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Online LibraryLouisa (Jebb) Mrs. Roland Wilkins. WilkinsBy desert ways to Baghdad → online text (page 7 of 18)