صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

BEAUTIES

OF

WASHINGTON IRVING.

LETTER

FROM MUSTAPHA RUB-A-DUB KELI KHAN,

Captain of a Ketch, to Assem Hacchem, principal Slavedriver to his Highness the Bashaw of Tripoli.

THOU wilt learn from this letter, most illustrious disciple of Mahomet, that I have for some time resided in New-York, the most polished, vast, and magnificent city of the United States of America.-But what to me are its delights! I wander a captive through its splendid streets; I turn a heavy eye on every rising day that beholds me banished from my country. The Christian husbands here lament most bitterly any short absence from home, though they leave but one wife behind to lament their departure;-what then must be the feelings of thy unhappy kinsman, while thus lingering at an immeasurable distance from three-and-twenty of the most lovely and obedient wives in all Tripoli! Oh, Allah! shall thy servant never again return to his native land, nor behold his beloved wives, who beam on his memory beautiful as the rosy morn of the East, and graceful as Mahomet's camel!

Yet beautiful, oh, most puissant slave-driver, as are my wives, they are far exceeded by the women of this country. Even those who run about the streets with bare arms and necks (et cetera), whose habiliments are

A

too scanty to protect them either from the inclemency of the seasons, or the scrutinizing glances of the curious, and who, it would seem, belong to nobody, are lovely as the houris that people the elysium of true believers. If, then, such as run wild in the highways, and whom no one cares to appropriate, are thus beauteous; what must be the charms of those who are shut up in the seraglios, and never permitted to go abroad! Surely the region of beauty, the valley of the graces, can contain nothing so inimitably fair!

But, notwithstanding the charms of these infidel women, they are apt to have one fault, which is extremely troublesome and inconvenient. Wouldst thou believe it, Assem, I have been positively assured by a famous dervise (or doctor as he is here called), that at least one-fifth of them have souls! Incredible as it may seem to thee, I am the more inclined to believe them in possession of this monstrous superfluity, from my own little experience, and from the information which I have derived from others. In walking the streets I have actually seen an exceeding good-looking woman with soul enough to box her husband's ears to his heart's content, and my very whiskers trembled with indignation at the abject state of these wretched infidels. I am told, moreover, that some of the women have soul enough to usurp the breeches of the men, but these I suppose are married and kept close; for I have not, in my rambles, met with any so extravagantly accoutred; others, I am informed, have soul enough to swear!-yea! by the beard of the great Omar, who prayed three times to each of the one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets of our most holy faith, and who never swore but once in his life-they actually swear!

Get thee to the mosque, good Assem! return thanks to our most holy prophet that he has been thus mindful of the comfort of all true Mussulmen, and has given them wives with no more souls than cats and dogs, and other necessary animals of the household.

Thou wilt doubtless be anxious to learn our reception in this country, and how we were treated by a people

whom we have been accustomed to consider as unenlightened barbarians.

On landing, we were waited upon to our lodgings, I suppose according to the directions of the municipality, by a vast and respectable escort of boys and negroes, who shouted and threw up their hats, doubtless to do honour to the magnanimous Mustapha, captain of a ketch; they were somewhat ragged and dirty in their equipments, but this was attributed to their republican simplicity. One of them, in the zeal of admiration, threw an old shoe, which gave thy friend rather an ungentle salutation on one side of the head, whereat I was not a little offended, until the interpreter informed us that this was the customary manner in which great men were honoured in this country; and that the more distinguished they were, the more they were subjected to the attacks and peltings of the mob. Upon this I bowed my head three times, with my hands to my turban, and made a speech in Arabic Greek, which gave great satisfaction, and occasioned a shower of old shoes, hats, and so forth, which was exceedingly refreshing to us all.

Thou wilt not as yet expect that I should give thee an account of the laws and politics of this country. I will reserve them for some future letter, when I shall be more experienced in their complicated and seemingly contradictory nature.

This empire is governed by a grand and most puissant bashaw, whom they dignify with the title of President. He is chosen by persons who are chosen by an assembly, elected by the people-hence the mob is called the sovereign people and the country, free; the body politic doubtless resembling a vessel, which is best governed by its tail. The present bashaw is a very plain old gentleman -something, they say, of a humourist, as he amuses himself with impalling butterflies and pickling tadpoles; he is rather declining in popularity, having given great offence by wearing red breeches, and tying his horse to a post. The people of the United States have assured me that they themselves are the most enlightened nation under the sun; but thou knowest that the barbarians of

the desert, who assemble at the summer solstice, to shoot their arrows at the glorious luminary, in order to extinguish its burning rays, make precisely the same boast; -which of them have the superior claim, I shall not attempt to decide.

I have observed with some degree of surprise, that the men in this country do not seem in haste to accommodate themselves even with a single wife which alone the laws permit them to marry; this backwardness is probably owing to the misfortune of their absolutely having no female mutes among them. Thou knowest how invaluable are these silent companions; what a price is given for them in the East, and what entertaining wives they make. What delightful entertainment arises from beholding the silent eloquence of their signs and gestures; but a wife possessed both of a tongue and a soul-monstrous! monstrous! It is astonishing that these unhappy infidels should shrink from a union with a woman so preposterously endowed!

Thou hast doubtless read in the words of Abel Faraj, the Arabian historian, the tradition which mentions that the muses were once upon the point of falling together by the ears about the admission of a tenth among their number, until she assured them, by signs, that she was dumb; whereupon they received her with great rejoicing. I should, perhaps, inform thee, that there are but nine Christian muses, who were formerly Pagans, but have since been converted, and that in this country we never hear of a tenth, unless some crazy poet wishes to pay an hyperbolical compliment to his mistress; on which occasion it goes hard but she figures as a tenth muse, or fourth grace, even though she should be more illiterate than a Hottentot, and more ungraceful than a dancing bear! Since my arrival in this country, I have met not less than a hundred of these supernumerary muses and graces-and may Allah preserve me from ever meeting any more.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

WOUTER VAN TWILLER.

THE renowned Wouter (or Walter) Van Twiller was descended from a long line of Dutch burgomasters, who had successively dozed away their lives, and grown fat upon the bench of magistracy in Rotterdam; and who had comported themselves with such singular wisdom and propriety that they were never either heard or talked of which, next to being universally applauded, should be the object of ambition to all sage magistrates and rulers.

His surname of Twiller is said to be a corruption of the original Twijfler, which in English means doubter; a name admirably descriptive of his deliberative habits. For though he was a man shut up within himself like an oyster, and of such a profoundly reflective turn that he scarcely ever spoke except in monosyllables; yet did he never make up his mind on any doubtful point. This was clearly accounted for by his adherents, who affirmed that he always conceived every subject on so comprehensive a scale that he had not room in his head to turn it over and examine both sides of it; so that he always remained in doubt, merely in consequence of the astonishing magnitude of his ideas!

There are two opposite ways by which some men get into notice-one by talking a vast deal and thinking a little, and the other by holding their tongues and not thinking at all. By the first, many a vapouring superficial pretender acquires the reputation of a man of quick parts-by the other, many a vacant dunderpate, like the owl, the stupidest of birds, comes to be complimented by a discerning world, with all the attributes of wisdom. This, by the way, is a mere casual remark, which I would not for the universe have it thought I apply to Governor Van Twiller. On the contrary, he was a very wise Dutchman, for he never said a foolish thing; and of such invincible gravity that he was never known to laugh or even to smile, through the course of a long and prosperous life. Certain, however, it is,

« السابقةمتابعة »