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ORIENTAL FAIR_DESCENT TO THE JORDAN.
quated and very curious gatherings. Every man, woman, and child has inherited the itch for trading, and, of course, all classes meet at this grand bourse to talk over the state of the markets, from the price of a cucumber to that of cotton, or of a five thousand dollar horse from the Hauran. Again, every Arab is a politician, and groups gather around the outskirts of the crowd to discuss the doings of the “allied powers," the last firman from the sultan, or the new tax demanded by their own petty emeer. Descending to more ordinary matters, these fairs are great places for gossip and scandal. Friends meet friends, and exchange the news of weddings, births, and deaths, and all the multifarious incidents and accidents between those grand extremes of human life. In a word, these fairs supply the places of many of the appliances of more civilized society. They are the daily newspaper, for there is one for every day within a circuit of forty miles. They are the exchange, and the forwarding office, and the political caucus, and the family gathering, and the grand festa and gala days, and underlying the whole is the ever-present idea and aim of making money.
Thus it is at Khan et Tejjar (the Inn of the Merchants) on Monday morning, but long before sunset not a soul this busy throng remains on the spot. All return home, or take refuge in some neighboring village. I attended once, and then took my way eastward to the valley of the Jordan, at Jisr el Mujamia, in search of 'Akil 'Aga. The country for the first three miles is a rich, volcanic plain. The path then leads down to a brook, called Sāāra, which descends from the north, past a village of the same name. The water, yellow-green and foul, flows off in a deep gorge to the Sherrar. Half an hour farther is M'ather, with hovels nearly concealed behind hills of manure. The only things at work about the village were the bees, of which there are more hives than there are houses, and the air rings with the hum of these industrious purveyors of honey. Two miles farther east is Hadathy, large and better built, with an enormous chasm, washed out of the surrounding bluffs by fountains which run out from the crumbling banks. This region was
thickly inhabited until quite recently; and in little more than a mile from Hadathy is 'Aolam, a large village in ruins. It is probably the Ulama of the ancients. It has excellent water, and very large fig-trees still flourishing, for it was sacked and destroyed by the Arabs only three years ago, as was also the next village, called Seerîn. Having thus ridden for three hours through this depopulated country, I dived suddenly into the valley of the Jordan, having the gorge of the Sherrar between me and Kaukab el Howa, the splendidly-situated castle of Belvoir. The descent to the jisr was extremely steep, and greatly surprised me by its depth. It is difficult to remember, or practically realize, that the Jordan is there eight hundred feet lower than the ocean. Down, down I walked, until, tired out, I resumed the saddle. The entire ghor presented a most singular appearance. It is far from level, tilted up, in fact, into fantastic hills and shelving bluffs by vast dikes of obtruding lava. Half way down I came upon ruins of a large place, called Yidma, evidently very ancient. The ghor was alive with Arabs, dotted with tents, and clothed with flocks.
I pitched my tent at sunset near that of the aga, and tried in vain to sleep. An intensely hot sirocco had commenced to blow, and this made every man and beast in this large encampment almost as nervous and restless as myself. Early next morning, while sitting in my tent-door smoking an argely, I was startled to see a large panther (nimr) scouring the plain in full chase of a pack of dogs that had attacked him. Making a long circle, they swept around my tent, when the panther left the dogs, leaped over the corner of the tent, tossed my argely to the winds, and then bounded away after the dogs. In another minute he returned, sprang on to the top of the tent, and laid himself down there. I was confounded, but sat still, and he soon jumped from the tent, and crouched down close to my feet. He was out of breath, and panted fearfully. Though not at all pleased to have the fierce brute so near, I kept my eye steadily and sternly fixed on his. He remained quiet until his keeper came from the aga's tent to recapture him. Then he
HUNTING LEOPARD_CURIOUS ADVENTURE.
growled fiercely, and was disposed to fight for his liberty; nor was it until they brought some fresh meat that they were able to get hold of him. He was a tame one, so far as nimrs can be tamed, brought up by the aga to hunt gazelles. The aga told me that these nimrs require seven years to complete their growth, and a constant course of careful training all that time to make them good hunters.
He is extremely cunning in his approaches toward his victim; lies flat on his belly, and creeps almost insensibly toward the flock. His color then is so like the surrounding grass and stubble that the aga said he could not keep track of him. He will thus manoeuvre for hours, until finally within leaping distance, when he springs with one tremendous bound upon his terrified prey. If he misses it, he gives over for that time, nor will any thing induce him to follow up the chase.
I was glad enough to get clear of my tiger, but, strange to say, I met him again under very different circumstances. Returning from Jaffa to Beirût some months after, when we came to Haifa, I saw a large cage coming in a boat toward the steamer, and there was my quondam acquaintance en route to Paris. The aga had sent him to the emperor through the French consul of Beirût. The poor fellow was miserably sea-sick, which made him perfectly furious. Leaping with all his might against the bars, he broke through, and seized a passenger who was standing near, and it was only by enveloping him in a heavy sail that he was subdued, and forced back into his cage.
I think David must have been acquainted with the hunting habits of the panther. Speaking of the “wicked,” he says, He croucheth and humbleth himself that he may catch the poor. It is true that the Psalmist is speaking in this place of the lion, but the description applies so accurately to the wily manæuvres of this hunting nimr that I imagine the royal poet must have also been acquainted with him and his ways. This is certainly possible; and it is certain that, in his
! Psalms x. 10.