Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

into the affair; from them it extended to the various branches of the tribe, always anxious to fight for their own honor, and for the honor of their women. At other times, a man repented himself of his bargain, and refused to fulfil it ; or a father, finding his future son-in-law increasing in wealth, demanded a higher price for his daughter—a breach of faith which would naturally lead to violent measures on the part of the disappointed lover. Then a workman, who had returned hungry from his work, and found his bread unbaked, or the water-skin still lying empty at the entrance of his tent, or the bundle of faggots for his evening fire yet ungathered, would, in a moment of passion, pronounce three times the awful sentence, and divorce his wife; or, avoiding such extremities, would content himself with inflicting summary punishment with a tent-pole. In the first case he probably repented himself of the act an hour or two afterwards, and wished to be remarried ; or endeavoured to prove that, being an ignorant man, he had mispronounced the formula, or omitted some words—both being good grounds to invalidate the divorce, and to obviate the necessity of any fresh ceremonies. But the mullah had to be summoned, witnesses called, and evidence produced. The beating was generally the most expeditious, and really, to the wife, the most satisfactory way of adjusting the quarrel. I had almost nightly to settle such questions as these. Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, who had obtained an immense influence over the Arabs, and was known amongst all the tribes, was directed to ascertain the merits of the story, and to collect the evidence. When this process had been completed, I summoned the elders, and gave judgment in their presence. The culprit was punished summarily, or, in case of a disputed bargain, was made to pay more, or to refund, as the case required. When I first employed the Arabs, the women were sorely illtreated, and subjected to great hardships. I endeavoured to introduce some reform into their domestic arrangements, and punished severely those who inflicted corporal chastisement on their wives. In a short time the number of domestic quarrels. was greatly reduced; and the women, who were at first afraid to complain of their husbands, now boldly appealed to me for protection. They had, however, some misgivings as to the future, which were thus expressed by a deputation sent to return thanks after an entertainment:– “O Bey! we are your sacrifice. May God reward you! Have we not eaten wheaten bread, and even meat and butter, since we have been under your shadow 2 Is there one of us that has not now a colored kerchief for her head, bracelets, and ankle-rings, and a striped cloak 2 But what shall we do when you leave us, which God forbid you ever should do 2 Our husbands will then have their turn, and there will be nobody to help us.” These poor creatures, like all Arab women, were exposed to constant hardships. They were obliged to look after the children, to make the bread, to fetch water, and to cut wood, which they brought home from afar on their heads. Moreover they were entrusted with all the domestic duties, wove their wool and goats' hair into clothes, carpets, and tent-canvass; and were left to strike and raise the tents, and to load and unload the beasts of burden when they changed their encamping ground. If their husbands possessed sheep or cows, they had to drive them to the pastures, and to milk them at night. When moving, they carried their children at their backs during the march, and were even troubled with this burden when employed in their domestic occupations, if the children were too young to be left alone. The men sat indolently by, smoking their pipes, or listening to the gossip of some stray Arab of the desert. At first the women, whose husbands encamped on the mound, brought water from the river; but I relieved them from this labor by employing horses and donkeys. The weight of a large sheep or goat's skin filled with water, is not inconsiderable. It is hung on the back by cords strapped over the shoulders, and upon it is frequently seated the child, who cannot be left in the tent, or is unable to follow its mother on foot. The bundles of fire-wood, brought from a considerable distance, were enormous, completely concealing the head and shoulders of those who tottered beneath them. And yet the women worked cheerfully, and it was seldom that their husbands had to complain of their idleness. Some were more active than others. There was a young girl named Hadla, who particularly distinguished herself, and was consequently sought in marriage by all the men. Her features were handsome, and her form erect, and exceedingly graceful. She carried the largest burdens, was never unemployed, and was accustomed, when she had finished the work imposed upon her by her mother, to assist her neighbours in completing theirs. The dinners or breakfasts (for the meal comprised both) of the Arab workmen, were brought to them at the mound, about eleven o'clock, by the younger children. Few had more than a loaf of millet bread, or millet made into a kind of paste, to satisfy their hunger; – wheaten bread was a luxury. Sometimes their wives had found time to gather a few herbs, which were boiled in water with a little salt, and sent in wooden bowls; and in spring, curds and sour milk occasionally accompanied their bread. The little children, who carried their father's or brother's portion, came merrily along, and sat smiling on the edge of the trenches, or stood gazing in wonder at the sculptures, until they were sent back with the empty platters and bowls. The working parties eat together in the trenches in which they had been employed. A little water, drank out of a large jar, was their only beverage. Yet they were happy and joyous. The joke went round ; or, during the short time they had to rest, one told a story, which, if not concluded at a sitting, was resumed on the following day. Sometimes a pedlar from Mosul, driving before him his donkey, laden with raisins or dried dates, would appear on the mound. Buying up his store, I would distribute it amongst the men. This largess created an immense deal of satisfaction and enthusiasm, which any one, not acquainted with the character of the Arab, might have thought almost more than equivalent to the consideration. The Arabs are naturally hospitable and generous. If one of the workmen was wealthy enough to buy a handful of raisins, or a piece of camel's or sheep's flesh, or if he had a cow, which

occasionally yielded him butter or sour milk, he would immediately call his friends together to partake of his feast. I was frequently invited to such entertainments ; the whole dinner, perhaps, consisting of half a dozen dates or raisins spread out wide, to make the best show, upon a corn-sack ; a pat of butter upon a corner of a flat loaf; and a few cakes of dough baked in the ashes. And yet the repast was ushered in with every solemnity; — the host turned his dirty keffiah, or head-kerchief, and his cloak, in order to look clean and smart; appearing both proud of the honor conferred upon him, and of his means to meet it in a proper fashion.

I frequently feasted the workmen, and sometimes their wives and daughters were invited to separate entertainments, as they would not eat in public with the men. Generally of an evening, after the labors of the day were finished, some Kurdish musicians would stroll to the village with their instruments, and a dance would be commenced, which lasted through the greater part of the night. Sheikh Abd-ur-rahman, or some Sheikh of a neighbouring tribe, occasionally joined us; or an Arab from the Khabour, or from the more distant tribes of the desert, would pass through Nimroud, and entertain a large circle of curious and excited listeners with stories of recent fights, plundering expeditions, or the murder of a chief. I endeavoured, as far as it was in my power, to create a good feeling amongst all, and to obtain their willing co-operation in my work. I believe that I was to some extent successful.

The Tiyari diggers resided chiefly on the mound, where I had built a large hut for them. A few only returned at night to the village. Many of them had brought their wives from the mountains. The women made bread, and cooked for all. Two of the men walked to the village of Tel Yakoub, or to Mosul, on Saturday evening, to fetch flour for the whole party, and returned before the work of the day began on Monday morning; for they would not journey on the Sabbath. They kept their holidays and festivals with as much rigor as they kept the Sunday. On these days they assembled

on the mound or in the trenches; and one of the priests or deacons (for there were several amongst the workmen) repeated prayers, or led a hymn or chant. I often watched these poor creatures, as they reverentially knelt — their heads uncovered — under the great bulls, celebrating the praises of Him whose temples the worshippers of those frowning idols had destroyed, — whose power they had mocked. It was the triumph of truth over paganism. Never had that triumph been more forcibly illustrated than by those who now bowed down in the crumbling halls of the Assyrian kings. I experienced some difficulty in settling disputes between the Arabs and the Tiyari, which frequently threatened to finish in bloodshed. The Mussulmans were always ready, on the slightest provocation, to bestow upon the Chaldaeans the abuse usually reserved in the East for Christians. But the hardy mountaineers took these things differently from the humble Rayahs of the plain, and retorted with epithets very harsh to a Mohammedan's ear. This, of course, led to the drawing of sabres and priming of matchlocks; and it was not until I had inflicted a few summary punishments, that some check was placed upon these disorders. On Sunday, sheep were slain for the Tiyari workmen, and they feasted during the afternoon. When at night there were music and dances, they would sometimes join the Arabs; but generally performed a quiet dance with their own women, with more decorum, and less vehemence, than their more excitable companions. As for myself I rose at day-break, and, after a hasty breakfast, rode to the mound. Until night I was engaged in drawing the sculptures, copying and moulding the inscriptions, and superintending the excavations, and the removal and packing of the bas-reliefs. On my return to the village, I was occupied till past midnight in comparing the inscriptions with the paper impressions, in finishing drawings, and in preparing for the work of the following day. Such was our manner of life during the excavations at Nimroud; and I owe an apology to

« ElőzőTovább »