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- The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton Volume II - 1/51 -
THE ROMANCE OF ISABEL LADY BURTON VOL. II.
The Story of Her Life
Told In Part by HERSELF and In Part by W. H. WILKINS
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
BOOK II. (Continued).
XI. IN AND ABOUT DAMASCUS.
XII. EARLY DAYS AT DAMASCUS.
XIII. THROUGH THE DESERT TO PALMYRA.
XIV. BLUDAN IN THE ANTI-LEBANON.
XV. GATHERING CLOUDS.
XVI. JERUSALEM AND THE HOLY LAND.
XVII. THE RECALL.
XVIII. THE TRUE REASONS OF BURTON'S RECALL.
XIX. THE PASSING OF THE CLOUD.
XX. EARLY YEARS AT TRIESTE.
XXI. THE JOURNEY TO BOMBAY.
XXIII. TRIESTE AGAIN.
XXIV. THE SHADOWS LENGTHEN.
XXV. GORDON AND THE BURTONS.
XXVI. THE SWORD HANGS.
XXVII. THE SWORD FALLS.
BOOK III. WIDOWED.
I. THE TRUTH ABOUT "THE SCENTED GARDEN."
II. THE RETURN TO ENGLAND.
III. THE TINKLING OF THE CAMEL'S BELL.
BOOK II. WEDDED (Continued).
CHAPTER XI. IN AND ABOUT DAMASCUS. (1870).
When I nighted and day'd in Damascus town, Time sware such another he ne'er should view; And careless we slept under wing of night, Till dappled morn 'gan her smiles renew, And dewdrops on branch in their beauty hung Like pearls to be dropt when the zephyr blew, And the lake was the page where birds read and wrote, And the clouds set points to what breezes roll.
_Alf Laylah wa Laylah_ (Burton's"Arabian Nights").
During the first weeks at Damascus my only work was to find a suitable house and to settle down in it. Our predecessor in the Consulate had lived in a large house in the city itself, and as soon as he retired he let it to a wealthy Jew. In any case it would not have suited us, nor would any house within the city walls; for though some of them were quite beautiful--indeed, marble palaces gorgeously decorated and furnished after the manner of oriental houses--yet there is always a certain sense of imprisonment about Damascus, as the windows of the houses are all barred and latticed, and the gates of the city are shut at sunset. This would not have suited our wild-cat proclivities; we should have felt as though we were confined in a cage. So after a search of many days we took a house in the environs, about a quarter of an hour's ride from Damascus, high up the hill. Just beyond it was the desert sand, and in the background a saffron-hued mountain known as the Camomile Mountain; and camomile was the scent which pervaded our village and all Damascus. Our house was in the suburb of Salahiyyeh, and we had good air and light, beautiful views, fresh water, quiet, and above all liberty. In five minutes we could gallop out over the mountains, and there we pitched our tent.
I should like to describe our house at Salahiyyeh, once more, though I have described it before, and Frederick Leighton once drew a sketch of it, so that it is pretty well known. Our house faced the road and the opposite gardens, and it was flanked on one side by the Mosque and on the other by the Hammam (Turkish Bath), and there were gardens at the back. On the other side of the road were apricot trees, whose varying beauty of bud and leaf and flower and fruit can be better imagined than described. Among these apricot orchards I had a capital stable for twelve horses, and a good room attached to it for any number of _saises_, or grooms; and beyond that again was a little garden, through which the river wended its way. So much for the exterior. Now to come indoors. As one entered, first of all came the courtyard, boldly painted in broad stripes of red and white and blue, after the manner of all the courtyards in Damascus. Here too splashed the fountain, and all around were orange, lemon, and jessamine trees. Two steps took one to the _liwan_, a raised room open one side to the court, and spread with carpets, divans, and Eastern stuffs. It was here, in the summer, I was wont to receive. On the right side of the court was a dining-room, when it was too hot to live upstairs. All the rest of the space below was left to the servants and offices. Upstairs the rooms ran around two sides of the courtyard. A long terrace occupied the other two sides, joining the rooms at either end. This terrace formed a pleasant housetop in the cool evenings. We spread it with mats and divans, and used to sit among the flowers and shrubs, and look over Damascus and sniff the desert air beyond.
Of course this house was not the Consulate, which was in the city, close to the Serai, or Government House.
I think the charm of our house lay chiefly in the gardens around it. We made a beautiful arbour in the garden opposite--a garden of roses and jessamine; and we made it by lifting up overladen vines and citrons, and the branches of lemon and orange trees, and supporting them on a framework, so that no sun could penetrate their luxuriant leafage. We put a divan in this arbour, which overlooked the rushing river; and that and the housetop were our favourite places to smoke on cool summer evenings.
By this time you will probably have discovered my love for animals, and as soon as I had arranged our house at Damascus the first thing I did was to indulge in my hobby of collecting a menagerie. First of all we bought some horses, three-quarter-breds and half-breds. Thorough-bred Arabs, especially mares, were too dear for our stable, and would have made us an object of suspicion. In the East, where there are official hands not clean of bribes, an Arab mare is a a favourite bribe, and I had many such offers before I had been at Damascus long; but I refused them all. Richard always gave me entire command of the stable, and so it was my domain. Living in solitude as I did very much, I discovered how companionable horses could be. There was no speech between us, but I knew everything they said and thought and felt, and they knew everything I said to them. I did not confine my purchases entirely to horses. I bought a camel and a snow-white donkey, which latter is the most honourable mount for grand visiting. I also picked up a splendid Persian cat in the bazars, and I had brought over with me a young pet St. Bernard dog, two brindle bull-terriers and two of the Yarborough breed, and I added later a Kurdish pup. I bought three milk goats for the house, and I had presents of a pet lamb and a _nimr_ (leopard), which became the idol of the house. The domestic hen-yard was duly stocked with all kinds of fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, and guinea-fowls, and in the garden and on the terrace and the house-top I kept my pigeons. This collection was my delight. I cannot say that they were a happy family. After a time I trained them into living together in something like harmony, but it took a very long time. I added to my family also from time to time half-famished dogs which I had rescued from the streets, or ill-treated and broken-down donkeys, which I purchased from some cruel master. In the course of time it became a truly wonderful gathering.
The animals in the East seem to me to be almost more intelligent than those at home. They certainly have a way of showing their likes and dislikes very strongly. When I first came to Damascus, fond though I was of animals, I found that most of them shied at me. I do not think that they had been accustomed to an Englishwoman at close quarters. For instance, I went for a walk one day, and met a small boy leading a donkey laden with radishes, as high as a small tree. I suppose that I was strange-looking, for at the sight of me the donkey kicked up his heels and threw all the radishes about a hundred yards around. The poor little boy set up a howl. I ran to help him, but the more I tried the more the donkey ran away, and at last I understood by signs that the donkey was shying at me, so I threw the boy a coin and retreated, and sent another boy to help him. We called to an old man riding a shabby-looking horse, but the moment the horse saw me it did exactly the same thing, and nearly flung the old man off. My sides ached with laughing. Fancy being so queer that the animals take fright at one!
I think before I go further I ought to give some general idea of the city of Damascus as it appeared to me. I have already said that my first sight of the city was one of disappointment; but when I got to know it better its charm grew upon me, and I shall never till I die like any place so well. Damascus, as I suppose every one knows, is the largest town in Syria. In shape it is rather like a boy's kite, with a very long tail. The tail of the kite is the Maydan, the poorest part of Damascus, but rich in ruined mosques and hammams, and houses which at first sight look as though they are in decay. But when we got to know these houses
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