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EVENING SCENE IN THE DESERT.
(With an Engraving.) The day's march is ended, and no travellers otherwise mounted could have performed it. The Arabian deserts are seas; and if the Creator of the earth had not prepared an animal capable of crossing them, their depths would have remained untraversed until now. An Arab, Dameer, well described the camel as a wondrous animal, great in bulk, yet easy to be managed, rising under the heavy load that he had knelt down to have laid upon his back. servant, so gentle, that if it were possible for a mouse to take his halter, and lead, he would not refuse to follow. He carries a house upon his back, wherein a person lives, with meat, and drink, and clothing, and furniture, and bed, and over the house a roof.* Laden with all this, he makes his way. Therefore God said, Why do they not consider the camels, how I have created them?' + That they might be like land-ships, He gave them lofty necks, which they carry on high above their burdens; and made them hardy, to endure thirst, which they can bear for ten days together; and made them able to live on anything that can be found growing in the desert, even what other creatures would not taste.”
Certainly the creation of the camel for its peculiar service
* The furniture and housings used for the conveyance of ladies.
is most beautifully illustrative of the goodness and wisdom of Almighty God. Its foot is exactly fitted to tread the dry, hot, sandy desert; for it has the bottom flat, like that of a shoe, yet, between the bones and tendons, which are made for swiftness of motion, and the horny sole, there is a cushion, so soft and elastic, that the animal can walk with equal security and lightness. The ostrich, also, for the same reason, has a similar padding; but, in the case of the camel, the adaptation is peculiarly evident from the fact that so delicate a structure would be wounded by much travelling over hard roads, and that the entire limb would be inflamed by continued walking on moist ground. The camel, it thus appears, was not formed to accompany man in his migrations, but only to carry him over otherwise intransitable wilds on the continents of Asia and Africa.
But what if, after the ship of the desert had left habitable country, provisions were to fail him? He would perish. He is therefore provided against thirst by means of an internal reservoir for water. It is a second stomach, which receives the water as he drinks it, before the desert-voyage. The supplementary stomach consists of a large number of little cells, or bottles, tied up at intervals with strong muscular bands, like sphincter muscles, to retain the contents of each, until the animal chooses to relax them, and let the water flow into his principal stomach, and mingle with the dates and other dry food given to him by his rider. And camels, accustomed to their work, acquire the habit of distending these bottles, by taking in a very large supply, guided by their keen instinct, and prompted by a patiently-retentive memory. And that the animal may not suffer from a sensation of drought during absence from streams of water, continued through a week or ten days, God has mercifully provided it with a glandular cavity, placed behind the palate, which pours out a fluid for moistening the throat; and the throat itself, which is very long, being lubricated by a multitude of glands, is made ready to swallow dry food until the pilgrimage is ended. Nor is the relation between the camel and his rider anticipated in this provision only. Even in the water-cells the fluid is preserved so pure, that if, by mis
calculation or accident, the man is in danger of perishing by thirst, he may kill the camel, drink the water, and finish the journey by mounting another of the caravan; for those that are able to carry heavy loads are of slower pace, and travel in droves. Or, if the stock of provisions be exhausted, there is yet a resource for the sustenance of the beast. The boss, or protuberance on its back, which consists of fat, will then be absorbed; and the patient camel still moves forward, saved from dying of inanition, because fed on its own fat, just as is the bear during hibernation.
But utter barrenness is as rare in the world as total darkness. There are a few small and remote spots, even in the great deserts, where vegetation masters the burning and the drought, or where “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” fosters a little nursery of verdure. But the human eye could not descry the oäsis when lost in distance. The living land-ship, carrying his head aloft, snuffs the breeze, and, by an exquisite faculty of scent, catches intelligence, and finds a resting-place that the most experienced human guide could never have discovered.
And, in precaution, that “ the ship of the desert,” voyaging the waste, unarmed, and having little power of defence, might not be attacked by the pirates that could not plunge into the heart of the Libyan or Arabian sands, but infest the borders, it is not destitute of natural protection. The horses used by bands of robbers that are not accustomed to follow with the caravans, or not familiarised with the sight and smell of the camel, refuse to approach it; and thus both rider and camel are often saved from an assault that might be mortal. History brings instances of this advantage. That of the forces of Cyrus and Cresus is perhaps the most remarkable, as related by Herodotus and Xenophon, who describe the horses of Cræsus breaking loose on the field of battle, because disturbed by the smell of the camels, and leaving the wealthy Lydian at the mercy of his enemy from the East. Ælian, also, mentions the terror of the horse in presence of the camel. And the historian Procopius relates a similar defeat of an African Prefect, whose cavalry, five hundred strong, were dispersed by the smell of the Moorish camels.
But that man may not abuse its patience, this animal is provided with a retentive memory, and armed with a temper that impels it to revenge itself on oppressors. • Revengeful as a camel ” is said to be a proverbial sentence in Persia. Travellers frequently mention this quality, and the epithet “ill-remembering is common with the Greeks. Thus Gregory of Nazianzum writes:
Τι δ' άν κάμηλος φυσικής εξ ύβρεως
Βροντώσα λαιμό κ' αυχέν' εκτείνουσά σοι; “ What if the she-camel, with her natural hate, thunders from her throat, and, stretching out her neck, runs on thee ?"
The length of neck, too, answering to the length of leg, by a proportion common to most quadrupeds, not only serves to assist the camel in rearing its head, that it may catch the scent of distant water or vegetation, and may look own load and the loads of its companions, but actually serves, with the instinctively-ready flexure of the knee, to help its master. Kneeling down to receive the load, —which it would be difficult for a man to lift on to its back, if it were standing,--the obedient animal places its neck under a sort of yoke, contrived for the purpose, and slips packages, which the drivers afterwards adjust, upon its own back. When it feels that the load is as great as it can conveniently carry, it rises, if not kept down to the ground by cords bound round its legs. The strong, elastic ligament (ligamentum nucha) which strengthens the neck of all quadrupeds, when in a horizontal or prone position, to carry the weight of the head, is in the camel peculiarly powerful, and enables it also to render man that service.
A smaller and lighter kind of camel, not equal to the carriage of heavy loads, serves travellers and couriers to cross the deserts, at the rate of thirty-five or forty leagues in one long day's journey ; and thus it will continue to travel for eight or ten days in succession.
The flesh and milk of young camels are food for the Arabs ; the hair is woven into clothing; merchandise is conveyed by this most useful animal, where carriages could not be drawn, and where horses or mules could not make their way. The wealth of the Eastern Chief or Patriarch is estimated, like that of Job, who had six thousand of them, by the number of camels he possesses. Still do companies of Ishmaelites carry spicery, and balm, and myrrh. This reminds us of the imagery of Isaiah, where he describes the flowing of wealth and honour as tribute to the Saviour of mankind, as if it were by an assemblage of eastern caravans, meeting each other from all parts of the continent, to be unloaded in one emporium. “ The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and Kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up tbine eyes round about, and see : all they gather themselves together, they come to thee : thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance"(wealth)" of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces” (armies) “ of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come : they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.” (Isai. Ix. 3—6.)
When the day's march is ended at the caravansary, while the lightened camels rest upon the ground, slowly ruminating their evening meal, and the shades of approaching night steal upon the plain, the Mussulman turns towards Mecca, makes his prostration, and offers up
prayer most een and always recited at their morning and evening ceremony, is this :—"Praise be to God, the Lord of all creatures; the most merciful, the King of the day of judgment. Thee do we worship, and of Thee do we beg assistance. Direct us in the right way, in the way of those to whom Thou hast been gracious; not of those against whom Thou art incensed, nor of those who go astray.” It sounds as if it were composed for pilgrims; but the Persian or the Moor cannot understand it, and is content to recite it, rapidly, in ancient Arabic, just as the Papist says his Latin prayer, the Abyssinian his Ethiopic, the Malay his Syriac, the Russian his Greek, the Jew his Hebrew. And the Mussulman is wont to add other prayers or exclamations, equally foreign to his understanding, and, we fear, also unfelt