Start from the Masheeah—Painful Parting—Chaouch’s Tent—A Family Quarrel—Wady Majeeneen—A Rainy Day—Moknee’s Wives—Two mad Fellows—Great Ascent of Gharian—Tedious Day’s Work—The Castle—View over the Country—Garrison—Troglodytes—Turkish Tax-gathering—Quarrelsome Servants—Proceed over the lofty Plain—Underground Villages—Kaleebah—The Batoum—Geology—A Slave Caravan—Cheerful Blacks—Rows—Oasis of Mizdah—Double Village—Intestine Discords—Interview with the Sheikh Omer—A Pocket Province—A Dream of Good Omen—Quarrels on Quarrels—Character of Fezzanees—A Leopard abroad.
The preliminary miseries of a great journey being at length over, I rose early on the morning of the 30th of March and started from the Masheeah, a kind of suburb of Tripoli, distant in the country, at six. Hope and the spirit of adventure sustained my courage; but it is always sad to part with those we love, even at the call of duty. However, I at length mustered strength to bid adieu to my wife—the almost silent adieu of affection. How many things that were thought were left unsaid on either side! It will be pleasant to fill up all blanks when we talk of these days after a safe return from this arduous undertaking.
It was a fresh, cheerful morning, succeeding several days of sultry weather—an auspicious commencement of the journey. My chaouch, Mohammed Souweea, preceded me on his great horse, murmuring some Arab ditty, and I followed hard on my little donkey. The desert assails the walls of Tripoli, and in half an hour we were in the Sahara sands, which here and there rise in great mounds. I should have liked to have pushed on to some considerable distance at once; but the habits of the country are dilatory, and one must conform to them. In a couple of hours we came to the chaouch’s tent, where he had a wife, five children, and seven brothers, one of whom was blind. He, too, was to go through the sad ceremony of parting with his family; and he burst into tears when they surrounded and embraced him. I am sorry to say, however, that before this affecting scene was concluded, a quarrel had began between the blind man and the chaouch’s wife, about two Tunisian piastres which were missing, she accusing him of theft and he indignantly repelling the charge. These Easterns seem to have minds constructed on different patterns from ours, and are apt to introduce such petty discussions at the most solemn moments; but we must not, therefore, be hasty in concluding that there is any sham in their sorrow, or affectation in their pathetic bewailings.