How strange it must be to see in this lonely gloomy spot, a great building! Yet there is one at the foot of the mountain. What can it be? A convent. See those high walls around. It is necessary to have high walls, because all around are bands of fierce robbers. It is even unsafe to have a door near the ground. There is a door quite high up in the wall; but what use can it be of, when there are no steps by which to reach it? Can you guess how people get in by this door? A rope is let down from the door to draw the people up. One by one they are drawn up. In the inside of the walls there are steps by which travellers go down into the convent below. The monks who live there belong to the Greek church.
The clergyman was lodged in a small cell spread with carpets and cushions, and he was waited upon by the monks.
These monks think that they lead a very holy life in the desert. They eat no meat, and they rise in the night to pray in their chapel. But God does not care for such service as this. He never commanded men to shut themselves up in a desert, but rather to do good in the world.
One day the monks told the traveller they would show him the place where the burning bush once stood. How could they know the place? However, they pretended to know it. They led the way to the chapel, then taking off their shoes, they went down some stone steps till they came to a round room under ground, with three lamps burning in the midst. “There,” said the monks, “is the very spot where the burning bush once stood.”
There were two things the traveller enjoyed while in the convent, the beautiful garden full of thick trees and sweet flowers; and the cool pure water from the well. Such water and such a garden in the midst of a desert were sweet indeed.
The Arabs, who accompanied the traveller, enjoyed much the plentiful meals provided at the convent; for the monks bought sheep from the shepherds around, to feed their guests. After leaving the convent, Suleiman was taken ill in consequence of having eaten too much while there. The clergyman gave him medicine, which cured him. The Arabs were very fond of their chief, and were so grateful to the stranger for giving him in medicine, that they called him “the good physician.” Suleiman himself showed his gratitude by bringing his own black coffee-pot into the tent of the stranger, and asking him to drink coffee with him; for such is the pride of an Arab chief, that he thinks it is a very great honor indeed for a stranger to share his meal.
But the traveller soon found that it is dangerous to pass through a desert. Why? Not on account of wild beasts, but of wild men. There was a tribe of Arabs very angry with Suleiman, because he was conducting the travellers through their part of the desert. They wanted to be the guides through that part, in hopes of getting rewarded by a good sum of money. You see how covetous they were. The love of money is the root of all evil.