Imágenes de páginas
PDF
[graphic]

were browsing, and seemed to feel it to be their primeval heritage. After the pleasures and excitements of Damascus, where many days had been passed, the contrast of this wild pass was strong: yet are not our richest feelings, our exquisite enjoyments, often the result of this vivid contrast? From the garden to the desert, from the burning sand to the fountain, from the busy hum of the world, even the world of beauty—to the rush of the mountain torrent, the cry of the eagle, the savageness of the mountains! And the fir and cedar forest, into which the traveller was entering, was the only forest within view, and it felt like a friend; its very gloom was beautiful, for behind, in front, and on each side, was a succession of heights, pointed and bare, or of iron aspect and battlemented form, on which the fierce tempests of Lebanon had beat for ages. These declivities were sometimes divided by ravines, hard of descent; their bosom wasted, their cliffs withered and stricken, seemed to wait gloomily the hour of their departure, and to be weary of their own age. How much more sweet and glad was the descent into the forest; the path, its sides covered with grass and wild flowers, went down gently into its bosom, and wound around its shadows and glades, and passed into its rich and calm recesses; the camel bell pealed through them like a strange and melancholy sound. It was not a place to leave quickly: the Syrian cottage afforded no refreshment at parting, and the traveller thought the foot of one of the noble cedars, a delightful resting-place in which to breakfast: a fire soon kindled, and coffee prepared, the grassy bank, so canopied and shadowed, was more voluptuous than the richest ottoman of Damascus: the wood, far and near, had no monotony: its avenues swept down the descents, or wound round their sides, or enclosed within their grasp ancient masses of rock, in a prostrate or turreted form, that looked like sullen captives within the strong and eternal forest

This pass is above Barouk, a large village of the Druses, which is situated on the wild banks of the torrent Barouk: Sheich Beshir conducted a branch of this torrent to his mountain palace at Mochtar. The fate of this eminent man, long the rival in power and popularity of the Emir Beshir of Beteddein, was tragical and almost dramatic. Wealthy, shrewd, more of a warrior than the Emir, often general of their joint forces; the latter could do nothing important without his consent and aid, and was obliged to share with him his contributions and extortions from the mountaineers. The Sheich Beshir, a Druse in religion, was beloved by all of that faith, and equally disliked on that account by the Christians, who would never submit to the sway of a Druse, so that the ascendancy of the two chieftains seemed to be equally divided, though the Emir was in reality the most powerful as well as wise of the two. During many years they were apparently on the best terms: the Sheich came from his palace at Mochtar, to visit the Emir at Beteddein almost every week, attended by a small retinue of horsemen, and was always received with the greatest cordiality. He had the reputation of being a brave and generous man; the writer saw him during one of his visits to the palace of Beteddein: a tall and robust man, with a round face, florid complexion, and quick blue eye, plainly dressed in the Druse costume; features expressive of energy and good nature, with a dash of the mountain fierceness. During the flight and exile of the Emir in Egypt, the Sheich Beshir entered into a league with the brother of the fugitive, in order to acquire the command of Lebanon. But when, at the intercession of the Viceroy of Egypt, the Emir was restored by the Porte to his dominion, and returned to Beteddein, the Sheich was exposed to his revenge. A thousand purses were demanded of him, to reimburse the Emir for his losses, and the expenses of his exile. He refused to pay, withdrew to his palace at Mochtar, and again entered into a league with the brother of the Emir, and engaged in the conspiracy three younger brothers, who had hitherto remained in their provinces without mixing in any intrigues against their eldest and powerful brother, the Emir. This league might have proved fatal to the latter, had it not been for the assistance he received from his friend Abdallah, Pacha of Acre. The Sheich Beshir was pursued, and arrested in the plains of Damascus, with an escort of two hundred followers. He might easily have effected his escape: but relying on the assurance of the Turkish officer, in the name of the Pacha of Damascus, he surrendered himself, and was led to that city. On his arrival, he was stripped of his clothes, one of his hands was tied before him, the other behind his back, and he was thrown into a prison, where he remained many months. His trial was conducted at Constantinople, and he was condemned to death. When he was presented with the bow-string, his countenance underwent no change; he submitted to his fate with calmness, and was strangled; his head was then severed from the body, which was cut in pieces and thrown to the dogs. The three younger brothers of the Emir were then arrested, their tongues were cut off, their eyes put out, and they were afterwards exiled with their families, each of them in a village at a distance from the other. From that moment tranquillity has comparatively reigned over Lebanon: the Emir, now without a rival, has established a more active police in his dominions than formerly, and the friendship of Abdallah Pacha of Acre was a tower of defence, until the conquest of the latter by Ibrahim and his Egyptian army. His present existence is dependent on the duration of Ibrahim's rule in Syria: he has compromised himself with this conqueror too far, to allow of his being again received into favour by the Porte. But from his mountain palace he may now safely contemplate, in all probability, the fast declining star of the Sultan, and challenge fate itself to disturb his few remaining years of life with any message of the bow-string or deposition from Constantinople.

Below are the summits of the valley of the Druses, Beteddein being only three hours' distant; and three hours from thence, on the mountain side, is the now lordless palace of Mochtar, in the midst of the tribe and the principal sheichs of the Yezdeky Druses, whose fidelity and bravery, timely exerted, should have saved their great chieftain from nis cruel and miserable fate.

« AnteriorContinuar »