The Lands of the Saracen eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 452 pages of information about The Lands of the Saracen.
after leaving Banias, we reached the highest part of the pass—­a dreary volcanic region, covered with fragments of lava.  Just at this place, an old Arab met us, and, after scanning us closely, stopped and accosted Dervish.  The latter immediately came running ahead, quite excited with the news that the old man had seen a company of about fifty Druses descend from the sides of Mount Hermon, towards the road we were to travel.  We immediately ordered the baggage to halt, and Mr. Harrison, Francois, and myself rode on to reconnoitre.  Our guard, the valiant man of Banias, whose teeth already chattered with fear, prudently kept with the baggage.  We crossed the ridge and watched the stony mountain-sides for some time; but no spear or glittering gun-barrel could we see.  The caravan was then set in motion; and we had not proceeded far before we met a second company of Arabs, who informed us that the road was free.

Leaving the heights, we descended cautiously into a ravine with walls of rough volcanic rock on each side.  It was a pass where three men might have stood their ground against a hundred; and we did not feel thoroughly convinced of our safety till we had threaded its many windings and emerged upon a narrow valley.  A village called Beit Jenn nestled under the rocks; and below it, a grove of poplar-trees shaded the banks of a rapid stream.  We had now fairly crossed the Anti-Lebanon.  The dazzling snows of Mount Hermon overhung us on the west; and, from the opening of the valley, we looked across a wild, waste country, to the distant range of Djebel Hauaran, the seat of the present rebellion, and one of the most interesting regions of Syria.  I regretted more than ever not being able to reach it.  The ruins of Bozrah, Ezra, and other ancient cities, would well repay the arduous character of the journey, while the traveller might succeed in getting some insight into the life and habits of that singular people, the Druses.  But now, and perhaps for some time to come, there is no chance of entering the Hauaran.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, we reached a large village, which is usually the end of the first day’s journey from Banias.  Our men wanted to stop here, but we considered that to halt then would be to increase the risk, and decided to push on to Katana, four hours’ journey from Damascus.  They yielded with a bad grace; and we jogged on over the stony road, crossing the long hills which form the eastern base of the Anti-Lebanon.  Before long, another Arab met us with the news that there was an encampment of Druses on the plain between us and Katana.  At this, our guard, who had recovered sufficient spirit to ride a few paces in advance, fell back, and the impassive Dervish became greatly agitated.  Where there is an uncertain danger, it is always better to go ahead than to turn back; and we did so.  But the guard reined up on the top of the first ridge, trembling as he pointed to a distant hill, and cried out:  "Aho, aho henak!"

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The Lands of the Saracen from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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