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that they intend soon to promulgate an edict to that effect, and in the mean time any master who should murder or even much maltreat a slave is amenable to certain punishment. At the same time, unless I am misled by my willingness to believe a general and agreeable assertion, black slavery here wears no very frightful aspect. The contempt for a sable skin is certainly nothing so strong as it is in the West Indies and North America, for there are many instances of Moors marrying negresses; and though it is admitted that a black fellow will now and then get a smack with a stick from his master, he is in general attached to him, and the Algerines boast that during the late invasion not a single negro deserted to the French camp. I had a conversation yesterday with a wealthy Moor who has twenty-two blacks in his establishment. He said, "As to my black servants conspiring against me, I have no more apprehension of it than of my own children attempting my life." The heart yearns to believe such information.
I have just returned this morning from witnessing a superstitious ceremony, which, though unwarranted by the koran, is practised by all the Mahometans here, black, brown, and white, nay, by Jews also. It consists in sacrificing the life of some eatable animal to one of the devils who inhabit certain fountains near Algiers. The number of bedeviled fountains in the Regency is a point in Algerine demonology which I cannot ascertain. Some say there are seven, and others seventy. Be that as it may, the devil is coaxed out of his well by the slaughter of some warm-blooded animal fit for human food, the meat of which is afterwards cooked and administered to the sick, who recover by tasting it. The ceremony which I saw took place on the sea-shore. All that were present were negroes, except myself and a Marseillese merchant who understands Arabic, and who had the goodness to explain to me the language and nature of the sacrifice. A black high-priest, a subdeacon, and two negress priestesses presided at the ceremony; though, excepting their functions, and taking money, they bore no indications of priesthood. The offering consisted of fowls. The priest and people joined in a loud song quite worthy of the devil, turning all the while their faces to the east. The victims were dipped in the sacred sea, as Homer calls it, after which the high-priest took them to a neighbouring fountain, and having waved his knife thrice around the head of an old woman who sat squatting beside it, cut their throats, and the devotees concluded their solemnity by a general giggle at the cries of the pullets, who seemed the only personages in the scene that disliked it.
Among the population of Algiers I ought to have mentioned the Mozabites, who come from the Desert, and who, though evidently not negroes, are so dark in complexion, that I know not under what race to rank them. Those far-off visitants have the monopoly of several trades here. They superintend the mills, the butcheries, and the baths. This useful corporation makes frequent journies to the Desert, from whence they import ostrich-feathers, and have retained under the French the monopoly which they enjoyed under the Dey. From the same country of those Beni-Mozeb, or Mozabites, come the Piscaris, who are the night-watchmen of Algiers. After a certain hour you see them sleeping in their ragged bernouses, on benches before the shops. They form a corporation, whose deacon makes a convention with the shopkeepers to insure them against robbery at a certain price, and they are so vigilant,
that shop-lifting scarcely ever occurs. What amusingly various aspects human nature assumes in this country, and how many resources would they not afford to an ingenious novelist!
Whenever the steam-packet comes in, I speed to the post-office, where, thanks to my stars and my friends, I never fail to find kind letters from England, and then the "Cherub Content" flutters his wings over my heart. How do I continue to like this place? is your first question. Why, wonderfully well, considering all its discomforts. The worst thing is, that the restaurants have got a bad reputation. Do they deserve it? No; on my honour and conscience, I do not believe one word of the calumny; but Algiers is an ill-speaking place, and they say that when you are devouring what is called lamb or mutton, you may be unconsciously eating of a gigot of jackal or haunch of hyæna. I repeat to you my sincere faith that this is all falsehood and scandal; but still, though Othello was not a jealous man, he was made miserable by insinuations; and in like manner, when I sit down sharp-set to my plate of mutton, I am haunted with chimerical fears that I may be faring on the lion's provider. God pity the man who has one misgiving thought about either his mutton or his marriage-bed!
"Who doats, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves."
Again, you say, what is the climate of Algiers? From all that I can observe and learn, if we except some spots on the Matidjah and about Bona, it is a healthy climate. The heat was great when I arrived, but I never felt it quite intolerable except on one occasion, and then only for a very short time. In the middle of one night of September I awoke from sleep, in a breathless and burning heat, though I was conscious that I had neither ate nor drank anything that ought to have fevered me. I got up and opened the window, that I might respire more freely, but the air that rushed in was like the heat from a baker's oven, and made me fall half insensible on the floor for several minutes. I recovered, however, and was well enough next day to tell the accident to my friends. "Poh," they said, "that was nothing but a visit of the simoom, or wind of the Desert, who had heard of your arrival at Algiers, and thought it his duty to pay his respects to you." "Thank God," I replied, "that he was not a long-winded visiter!"'
Well, but with all its faults, I like Algiers. I can easily get out of the dismal city, and outside of the walls everything is beautiful. When I sally forth from the gate of Bab-el-Oued, the bold sea-beach smells so freshly, and sounds so musically, that I little wonder at Homer calling the sea "Divine." The air of autumn nerves my limbs, and the atmosphere is so clear, that I feel as if a veil of gauze had been removed from my eyes since I looked on the scenery of Europe. Every object-every turf and tree is so distinct a mile off, that it seems to me as if I could touch them. They look like a picture held up to the eyes by the close light of a candle. I can fancy the Father of Nature himself enjoying the beauties of his own creation, and admiring, by the light of the blessed sun,
"His children's looks that brighten at the blaze."
your letter challenges me to subjects of more matter-of-fact con
sideration. Before I can attempt to answer what you ask me about Algiers, I must reduce your desultory questions into distinct heads. Query 1st. Will the French retain this colony? Query 2nd. If they do retain it, will they profit by it? Query 3rd. How do the natives like the French? Query 4th. Will the advantages likely to be derivable by France from Algiers be pernicious to Great Britain? And query 5th. Will the French possession of this part of Africa be a benefit to the general cause of civilization?
I venture on these questions rather as a diffident speculator than as one hoping to solve them. After all, can you expect me to predict infallibly what the French may do with Algiers, when, at this moment, the French nation itself scarcely knows its own mind upon the subject. But offering my opinion at the lowest rate at which you may value it, I do think that the French will keep Algiers, being pledged thereunto by their national pride. I am led to this opinion by the conversations I have had with their officers, civil and military; and I am certain that I have had more frank (observe, I do not say confidential) intercourse with them than any Englishman who has been here since the conquest. The French mind seems to me to wince at the idea of abandoning the colony, and above all at the slightest hint of England interfering against their possession of it. If you wish them to retain Algiers, your surest way is to begin to squabble about it. A whimsical circumstance has by chance broken that reserve between the French and myself which our nationality might have otherwise created. They found by chance in Algiers a volume of "Blackwood's Magazine*," in which I am described as a man eaten up with Gallicism, one who, if a French and English regiment were about to charge each other, would wager in favour of the French. Now this calumny nettled me; and I wished Blackwood at the black devil. I protested indignantly to the first French party I went into it was when dining at General Voirol's-that I was no Gallican-no renegade. My regard for France, I said, impairs not one iota of my native patriotism. Because I love my mother, is it necessary that I should spit in the face of every other decent old woman that I may meet with? Well, the French took my word for this; but they insisted that I had no Anti-Gallican prejudices-no, none whatsoever. And one good effect has resulted to me from this character-namely, that they have put up with my speaking more plain truths to them than they would have otherwise borne, and that seeing me an undisguised man they are outspoken with me. I am much mistaken if their national pride will speedily resile from retaining Algiers, although it costs them at this moment about a million and a half sterling a-year for the support of somewhat less than 30,000 soldiers, the expense of the civil government included. The chance of the natives turning them out of the country I reckon at nothing, and even their power of opposing their further invasion I should calculate not to be great, if the French were to employ more cavalry and light artillery instead of mainly depending on their infantry. The infantry man, loaded with arms and equipage under a climate that alternates deluges of rain with burning heat, and
* "Blackwood's Magazine" treats me as if it were a playful cat. Upon the whole, exceedingly kind, it often purrs applause beyond my deserts; but, anon, it puts the claws out of the velvet sheath, and gives me a scratch that makes me suck my bleeding finger.
frequently in a hilly country, is very unfairly tried against Arabian cavalry, who are the best in the world at desultory warfare. To see the mounted Arab sweeping down declivities on which no jockey of England would venture would make your head spin round, and when he fires and manoeuvres you would imagine him a piece of his own horse. My astonishment is that the little Frenchman, at one time drenched to the marrow with rain and at other times dissolved in heat like a boiled onion, has been able to cope so well as he has done with this enemy. But the French will improve in their warfare by experience. At present they have somewhat under 500 Arab cavalry in their pay, but they will increase their number, and in this manner they will have it in their power, if they choose, to conquer the country. Whether they will choose to do so or not is a different question. Buonaparte would have settled the matter sooner. Instead of groping and pawing about for the partial conquest of a coast 500 miles in extent, he would have struck up at once to Constantina, into the heart of the regency. My opinion, then, is that if the French be true to their feeling of national glory, they are able to retain, and to extend, their dominion over Algiers.
Query 2nd. Will her occupation of the colony repay France for her expenses, present and to come? Why, not for a long time; but, I should venture to think, ultimately. The golden prospects from indigo, cotton, sugar, and cochineal may have been exaggerated; and as to corn, I cannot understand how a country so little irrigated could ever have been a granary to the Romans. That fact is no doubt asserted about ancient Numidia, and you will observe that the said tradition would fall in pat with my purpose, if I were engaged as a special pleader to argue what is, nevertheless, my general opinion, that this colony might be made in the end a most productive colony to France. But the Cereal renown of old Numidia is, I confess, to me a stumbling-block. As it is written in Greek and Latin, I am bound to believe it; but as a matter of comprehension, I give up the problem. North America, I suspect, will, for an indefinite number of years, rear Indian corn and all manner of grain cheaper than it can be cultivated here. But, on this account, I am far from surrendering my main position, that Algiers might be made a richly available colony to France. It is a conquerable country. Its mountains are rich in metals and timber. In its eastern parts, towards Oran and Mostaganem, there is fossil or spontaneous salt enough to supply the whole world with that article; and if the vine, the tobacco plant, the olive, and the silk-worm were cherished, the whole universe might sit down with oil to their salads, with silken velvet on their backs, and with cigars and wine at the cost of half nothing.
Query 3rd. How do the natives like the French? To be plain, I don't think they have yet acquired a taste for them. The Jews complain that, since the arrival of the French, there has been "Point de commershe;" and the only Turk whose acquaintance I have made cuts me short from all conversation about them by exclaiming Bestia! To be sure, poor fellow, he owes them no love, for they thumped and misused him shamefully. The Moors are reserved in their conversation. Only on one occasion have I met with a rich, influential individual among them from whom I could elicit a sincere opinion; but as I got it
under his own roof, and with no warrant to publish it, I omit his name. I said to him, that I would give much to know his sentiments respecting the French. He eyed me significantly, and replied through the interpreter, "I will answer you with another question. How would you like the French if they had come into England, dug up the bones of your parents and countrymen, and sent off a ship-load of them to be used by the sugar-bakers of France ?" Here he alluded to the French having made a highway through the Moorish cemetery at the Bab-elOued gate at Algiers; and though for this operation they had the tyrant plea of necessity, I believe they conducted it unfeelingly, and allowed their soldiers to pilfer the marble turbans that adorned the most respected tombs. As to the ship-full of bones and the sugar-bakers, I cannot so well vouch for that story.
Before we parted, my entertainer expressed himself very freely about the Jews. He told me, with fierce delight in his countenance, that one satisfaction which the Mussulmans would enjoy in case of a change would be the punishment of those Hebrew dogs. (6 They insulted us,' he said, "the day after the entry of the French, and the day after their departure we should have our revenge." From all that he told me, I believe that barbarous civil wars would be the result of France suddenly abandoning this conquest, and that the miserable Jews would stand a chance of being generally massacred.
I come to the next question,-Whether Old England will suffer damage by the French possession of Algiers? You ask me how I can tolerate the idea of France continuing in possession of so large a portion of Northern Africa, and of thus beginning to realise Buonaparte's idea of converting the Mediterranean into a great French lake? Let the French, you say, once settle themselves at Algiers, and they will by and by extend themselves right and left to Tunis and Morocco; Gibraltar and Malta will then cease to be ours. But this is all a vision. It requires France, at the present moment, to support 30,000 men, each man on an average costing 40l. a-year, in order to keep hold of a few stations on the African coast. Let her conquests extend to Morocco and Tunis, and with 90,000 men for her African army she would have a yearly expense of between four and five millions. Further, you ask my opinion whether it would not be worth our while to put in a word against the said possession, as well to claim for ourselves some portion of the Algerine coast-say Oran? I have given you my opinion that, in the long run, much wealth might accrue from the colony to France; but I am not ashamed to say that it is only a conjectural opinion. However, supposing the country to be ultimately productive to France, (its speedy productiveness is palpably out of the question,) is it certain and necessary that the wealth of our neighbours would be ruinous to us? I think not. I suspect that the issue might be quite the contrary, and that the African wealth of France might make her a better customer to our manufacturers. As to our claiming a part of the coast, if we had it, it would only involve us in garrison expenses, and be a source of quarrels with France, like those which arose out of the juxtaposition of our colonies and theirs in North America: nay more, the French would not concede an inch of the coast unless England were to negociate with her hand on the hilt of her sword; and what Englishman, at this time of day, would suffer his beer to be