Here is a side gate, but half ruined, with great folding doors, and no one to open them. The wall of one of the flanking towers has, however, been broken in, and from thence we hope to find outlet on the gardens outside. We clamber in, and after mounting a heap of rubbish, once the foot of a winding staircase, have before us a window looking right on the gardens. Fortunately we are not the first to try this short cut, and the truant boys of the town have sufficiently enlarged the aperture and piled up stones on the ground outside to render the passage tolerably easy; we follow the indication, and in another minute stand in the open air without the walls. The breeze is fresh, and will continue so till noon. Before us are high palm-trees and dark shadows; the ground is velvet-green with the autumn crop of maize and vetches, and intersected by a labyrinth of watercourses, some dry, others flowing, for the wells are at work.
These wells are much the same throughout Arabia; their only diversity is in size and depth, but their hydraulic machinery is everywhere alike. Over the well’s month is fixed a crossbeam, supported high in air on pillars of wood or stone on either side, and on this beam are from three to six small wheels, over which pass the ropes of as many large leather buckets, each containing nearly twice the ordinary English measure. These are let down into the depth, and then drawn up again by camels or asses, who pace slowly backwards or forwards on an inclined plane leading from the edge of the well itself to a pit prolonged for some distance. When the buckets rise to the verge, they tilt over and pour out their contents by a broad channel into a reservoir hard by, from which part the watercourses that irrigate the garden. The supply thus obtained is necessarily discontinuous, and much inferior to what a little more skill in mechanism affords in Egypt and Syria; while the awkward shaping and not unfrequently the ragged condition of the buckets themselves causes half the liquid to fall back into the well before it reaches the brim. The creaking, singing noise of the wheels, the rush of water as the buckets attain their turning-point, the unceasing splash of their overflow dripping back into the source, all are a message of life and moisture very welcome in this dry and stilly region, and may be heard far off amid the sandhills, a first intimation to the sun-scorched traveller of his approach to a cooler resting-place.
* * * * *
What virtue is so fitting
for a knight,
Or for a lady whom a knight should love,
As courtesy; to bear themselves aright
To all of each degree as doth behove?
For whether they be placed high above
Or low beneath, yet ought they well to know
Their good: that none them rightly may reprove
Of rudeness for not yielding what they owe:
Great skill it is such duties