The acting Governor of Fezzan always resides at Mourzuk. His principal coadjutors in the despatch of affairs are a Kady with two secretaries, a Sheikh or mayor of the city, some respectable men who act as privy councillors, the Wakeels of Bengazi, Augila, Sokna, &c.
A little story may find its place here, as an apt illustration of the state of society and manners in this out-of-the-way capital. A married woman preferred another man to her husband, and frankly confessed that her affections had strayed. Her lord, instead of flying into a passion, and killing her on the spot, thought a moment, and said,—
“I will consent to divorce you, if you will promise one thing.”
“What is that?” inquired the delighted wife.
“You must looloo to me only when I pass on the day of the celebration of your nuptials with the other man.”
Now it is, the custom for women, under such circumstances, to looloo (that is, salute with a peculiar cry) any handsome male passer-by. However, the woman promised, the divorce took place, and the lover was soon promoted into a second husband. On the day of the wedding, however, the man who had exacted the promise passed by the camel on which the bride was riding, and saluted her, as is the custom, with the discharge of his firelock. Upon this she remembered, and looloed to him. The new bridegroom, enraged at this marked preference, noticing that she had not greeted any one else, and thinking possibly that he was playing the part of a dupe, instantly fell upon his bride and slew her. He had scarcely done so when the brothers of the woman came up and shot him down; so that the first husband compassed ample vengeance without endangering himself in the slightest degree. This is an instance of Arab cunning.
A subject of considerable importance was brought under my attention at Mourzuk. It appears that whilst the objects of legitimate commerce, in being exported from the interior to Fezzan and Tripoli, pay double duties—that is, twelve and a-half per cent in each place—slaves pay no transit duty whatever in this regency of Barbary if they are destined for the Constantinople market, and even if sold in Tripoli or Fezzan only pay once a duty of ten mahboubs per head. It frequently happens besides that the Turkish merchants, who embark with their slaves for Constantinople, sell a considerable number on the way. On arriving at their destination, they pretend that such as are missing from their register have died; and in this manner they contrive to evade the payment of all duty whatever. It has been attempted to get the impost of ten mahboubs paid in Mourzuk, and likewise to force all the caravans to take that route. This would have acted as a check upon the slave-trade; but the influence of the Gadamsee merchants was too great to allow the measure to be carried out. It is most important that the legitimate trade should not be burdened with double custom-dues, and it is to be hoped that the influence of the British Government will be used to bring about some reform in this matter. We should bear in mind, that as most of the goods and merchandise passing through Fezzan are only in transit, they are therefore legally subject to a duty of no more than three per cent.