[ocr errors]

manteaus were filled with gold. At their next halt, the Aga made very pressing overtures for the amber bead of Mr. Kin. neir's pipe, which, with a hundred piastres, procured him'a pas. sage throngh this place. Sert, the nest iinportant stage, appears to represent the ancient Tigranocerta, and is a place of some importance, in a tolerably cultivated country. The inhabitants of the surrounding tract are wild, savage, and faithless, but strongly attached to their chiefs, their mountains, and their national independence, which they boast of having maintained since the days of Noah, and which is secured by their defiles, passes, and inaccessible rocks. The Aga at first treated the travellers negligently, and pointed them to the lower end of the apartment; but on their haughty rejection of this incivility, he laughed heartily, and assigned them the place of honour next to himself. At this part of his work, Mr. Kinneir introduces, in a nute, a very singular story. He had been much annoyed by the applications of invalids, who, as usual, supposed that all Europeans must be infallible physicians, and after observing, in connexion with this, that the Easterns also attribute to the Franks the possession of the philosopher's stone, he relates the following circumstance.

A few days before my arrival at Bassora, Mr. Colquhoun, the acting resident at that place, received a message from an Arabian Philosopher, requesting a private interview, in order to communicate a most important secret. Mr. C. consented, and next morning the mysterious stranger was introduced to him. Embracing the knees of the resident, he said that he was come to supplicate the protection of the English from the cruel and continued persecution of his coun. trymen, who, having understood that he had the power of transmut. ing the basest metals into gold, daily put him to the torture to wring his secret from him. He added that he had just made his escape from Grane, where he had long been starved and imprisoned by the Sheck, and that he would divulge every thing he knew to Mr. Cola quhoun, provided he was permitted to reside in the factory. My friend agreed to receive him, and in return he faithfully promised to afford a convincing proof of his skill. He accordingly retired, and soon afterwards returned with a small crucible and chafing dish of coals, and when the former had become hot, he took four small papers, containing a whitish powder, from his pocket, and asked Mr. C. to fetch him a piece of lead : the latter went into his study, and taking four pistol bullets, weighed them unknown to the alchy. mist; these, with the powder, he put into the crucible, and the whole was immediately in a state of fusion. After the lapse of about twenty minutes, the Arabian desired Mr. C. to take the crucible from the fire, and put it into the air to cool: the contents were then removed by Mr. C., and proved to be a piece of pure gold, of the same weight as the bullets. The gold was subsequently valued at ninety piastres in the bazar. It is not easy to imagine how a deception could have been accomplished, since the crucible remained un.

Vol. X. N.S.

touched by the Arab after it had been put upon the fire; while it is, at the same time, difficult to conceive what inducement a poor Arab could have had to make an English gentleman a present of ninety piastres. Mr. C. ordered him to return the next day, which he promised to do, but in the middle of the night he was carried off by the Sheck of Grane, who, with a body of armed men, broke into his house, and put him on board a boat, which was out of sight long before day break. Whether this unhappy man possessed, like St. Leon, the secret of making gold, we are not called upon to deter. mine; but the suspicion that he did so was amply sufficient to ac. count for the unrelenting manner in which he would seem to have been persecuted by his countrymen.' . The only difficulty in this relation seems to lie in the statement, that the weight of the gold and that of the lead were equal; all the rest might obviously be nothing more than des. terous sleight-of-hand. But even this adınits of explanation, on the supposition of what was probably the case, the weights being no more than a fair approach towards an equality. It was far more probable that a man possessed of the means of infinite wealth, should make a clear escape, than seek refuge in an asylum near at hand; and it does not even appear that he really sought that, for the narrative states that he returned to his own dwelling instead of remaining at the factory. The story is certainly a strange one, but it does not seem that Mr. Cola quhoun was sufficiently jealous of imposition, and the whole business was possibly nothing more than a scheme framed by the Arab and the Sheck, to extract money from Mr. C., who, if he had taken steps to rescue the alchymist, would probably have found the Sheck willing enough to part with his captive for a valuable consideration. · Mr. Kinneir endeavoured to prevail on the chief of Sert, to pass them forward to Jezira ; but this he declined, stating that the place was a inere bold of banditti, and refused to hazard his followers on so perilous a track. Messrs. K. and C. determined therefore to proceed towards Merdio. On their road they halted at a village inhabited by a strange sect,' who wor• ship or rather deprecate the devil,' whose name cannot be mentioned in their presence without exciting an indescribable

sensation of borror.'' Tbey entertain an hereditary abhorrence of the Mahommedans, by whom they bave been fiercely persecuted. At page 414 of this volume, it is said they are at enmity with the Christians ; it is however clear, that it should have been at amity.

Near a village called Kiverzo, they found a Turkish detach ment besieging soude refractory natives who had taken refuge in a church, before which these valiant and scientific warriors had been encamped during two months, and it was still in the full possession of its little garrison, of which not a man had

been even wounded. After 'detecting and counteracting an intrigue of the Tatar's, they proceeded under the charge of the Kia's standard-bearer, whom they dismissed at Kian Khoi. The Aga of this place was a "boisterous ruffian,' and it was with great difficulty that they succeeded in making him tractable. On the 17th of July they reached Merdin, and in comfortable quarters congratulated themselves on having passed through the most dangerous portion of their journey. From the moment of their departure from Trebisond, to their arrival at their present resting-place, they had indeed been in a state of constant anxiety and hazard ; and the danger to which they were exposed from their own guards, was scarcely less than that which they risked by travelling in a country overrun by banditti. Little, however, did they anticipate that the worst was yet to come, and that their present ease and enjoyment were but to enhance the misery of the condition into which they were shortly to be cast. On making inquiry respecting the journey to Mosul, they were advised to wait for a caravan, as the road was exposed to the predatory excursions of the. Zezidees, the sect before described as paying a species of worship to the devil, and who, it is here said, assemble every year at a deep cavern supposed to communicate with the infernal regions, and to throw into it jewels and pieces of gold, as deprecatory offerings. · After visiting the ruins and catacombs of Dara, the travellers reached Nisibin, a village built on the ruins of the ancient Nisibis. Here Mr. Chavasse became most alarmingly ill, having cauglit a severe cold at Merdin, by exposure to a strong draught of air, immediately after using the warm bath. For several days he had laboured under severe head-achs, and his disorder now increased so rapidly, that he grew delirious ; but calomel and a night's rest so far restored him, that he rejected Mr. Kinneir's plan for returning to Merdin until his entire recovery, and expressed his anxiety to proceed. Unbappily for Messrs. K. and C., a considerable number of travellers, merchants and Tatars, had assembled at Nisibin, with the intention of forming a caffila or small caravan ; and though the Europeans were anxious to proceed alone, for both greater safety and speed, they were ultimately compelled, by the intrigues of Ma. bomed Aga, to journey in company with the others. After a few days rest, they quitted Nisibin; but on the very first day's journey, Mr. Chavasse's delirium returned. They halted at a camp of Tye Arabs, whose Sheck at first promised compliance with Mr. K.'s wish for a separate escort, but afterwards suffered himself to be influenced by the dastardly Mahomed Aga, and withdrew bis promise, stating to Mr. Kinneir that men were not to be spared for a separate guard, and that there was no alternative but accompanying the caravan to Jezira ul Omar, the very place which the Aga of Sert had pointed out as a mere den of banditti. The treacherous Tatar had a double motive for desiring this route; it was at least a hundred miles longer than that by the desert, and was also, as he supposed, much safer;' and he thus not only secured his person, but by adding to the length of the journey, also lengthened the period for which he was to receive pay. No intreaty could persuade this villain to alter his conduct, and my friend,' indignantly exclaims Mr. Kinneir,' became a sacrifice to the cowardice and treachery of la villain. In addition to bis intrigues with the various chiefs, he worked upon the fears of the merchants, until they joined with him in clamouring for the circuit by Jezira ; and on one occasion, when Mr. K. was expostulating with the leader of the escort, he came up in the most impudent manner, and told ' the Arab' not to pay any attention to Mr. Kinneir's intreaties.

• Enraged,' says Mr. K. · at the ingratitude and insolence of this rascal, I put an end to his harangue by thrusting, with great force, down his throat, a stick which I fortunately had in my hand. I observed the blood gush from his mouth, and recoiling a few paces, he drew his dagger, but at the same time allowed himself to be led quietly away.'

In this agitating situation, compelled to travel in the very heat of the day, with his friend in a state of the greatest debility, but still bearing up against disease with astonishing fortitude, while the ruffian Mahomed was evidently desirous that they might both perish, in the bope that he might share in the plunder of their property, Mr. Kioneir at length reached the justly dreaded Jezira.

• A short time before we approached the town, the Arabs and our guard, consisting of twelve Koordish boors, made up, and seizing the reins of my bridle, demanded buck shish in a loud and imperious manner. I told them that I had come this road against my inclination, and therefore I would give them nothing : upon which they put their spears to my breast, and threatened to kill me, but I held their threats at defiance, and persisted in my refusal, telling them they ought to apply to the Tatars and other travellers, at whose request they had accompanied us. They then turned towards them, and, to my infinite satisfaction, extorted an hundred piastres from them.'

At Jezira Mr. Kinneir found his apprehensions verified. It should seem, from the early part of his narrative, that the whole caravan was immediately confined in a room, only eight feet square, without window or opening, and over the hot fumes of a stable; though, as be afterwards speaks of sending for his companions, it is not improbable that the Europeans and Easterns were separately shut up: in either case our readers will readily conceive of Mr. Chavasse's sufferings, though his intellect bad quite failed, and of the keen sensation, both per• sonal and sympathetic, which must have agitated Mr. K. In the evening he received a message from the Beg, demanding, on pain of pillage and death, two thousand piastres.

* Satisfied that there was nothing to be done but to pay the money with a good grace, and get out of the clutches of this fiend as soon as possible, I sent for my companions, and submitted to them the resolution of the Beg, who was a robber by profession, and not to be turned from his purpose. I told them I was ready to pay the half, on condition they would subscribe among themselves to make up the remainder, and added that I thought them fortunate in escaping at so cheap a rate. They protested that they had no money, and en. treated me to defray the whole expence, promising to repay me on their arrival at Mosul : but aware of the characters of the gentlemen I had to deal with, I refused to listen to their request, and told them to make up their mind, and inform me of their determination in the course, of an hour. They appeared to be in a dreadful alarm, some of them shed tears, whilst others, wringing their hands in despair, cursed the Arabs for having deceived them. Mahomed Aga was so much ashamed of his conduct, and, at the same time, so much alarmed for the saftety of his person, that he did not even venture to open his mouth. The dread of being entirely despoiled of their merchandize, and perhaps massacred, overcame their avarice, and after many heart-breaking sighs, they produced the money, which was paid to the Beg, who seemed satisfied, and sent a message that he wished to see me in the morning. We were permitted to sleep on the top of the caravanserai; and my servant having made some broth and boiled a chicken for Mr. Chavasse, he recovered his reason in some degree, and felt better than he had been for some days before.'. · The next day, after an interview with the robber-chief, a gigantic and ferocious looking person, Mr. Kindeir was permitted to proceed. At Zaku, they were kindly received, but permission to remain was refused, and thus Mr. Chavasse was successively deprived of every means of recovery. At the village of Ameer, Aga, the Zabit, made a demand of two hundred piastres, half of which the merchants of the caravan were compelled to pay, cursing their own obstinacy, and declaring that the profits of their merchandize would not defray their expenses ' to Bagdad.' From a Zezidee village, called Namur, where they were not permitted to stop, though in other respects treated with hospitality, they were accompanied by a guard commanded by the chief's brother, who was anxious to know how many • families of Zezidees there were in England.' At Telischoff, Mr. K. dismissed the Zezidee escort, who demanded po buckshish, but were perfectly satisfied with bis voluntary present. At length they reached Mosul; but even here the disastrous fatality which had hung over the journey, continued to pursue them. Mr. K. had reckoned on the medical aid of a Capuchin friar, a man of worth, and possessed of considerable skill in thera

« ElőzőTovább »