« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The influence of Mohamed over the Beni Ouragh, was as much owing to politie conduct as to the prestige and souvenirs of his race. On the Thursday of every week especially, the power of this chief had, under the superintendence of the French authority, its fullest display, and an attentive observer might, on this market-day, whilst witnessing one of the most curious episodes of Arab life, understand the double object attained by the establishment of post magazines. The little fort of Khamis, a depot of ammunition and provisions, situated as were all our forts in the interior of Africa, on a line parallel with the sea, allowed our columns to advance, in war time, without the encumbrance of a heavy convoy; thus rendering them as light and ubiquitous as the enemy. Under the command of picked officers these posts were also in peace, loopholes, or eyes of observation, whence every movement of the Arab populations might be noted. Being in the very centre of news and reports, with a special police, the officers had to give an account of the slightest symptoms of agitation that might appear in the mountains. The posts had each also been established near a market, for in Africa the market is not only a place of traffic, it is likewise a bazaar of news; and not an Arab or a Kabyle ever fails to be present at this resort of all. On the market day, throngs arrived from all sides, from the mountains, from the vallies, crowding every pathway, some driving before them sheep, others oxen and horses, many in charge of loads of corn and beans, or of bales of wool, or printed cottons, but all armed, several bringing with them nothing but their firelocks, and a knotty stick, one blow of which would suffice to break the hardest head. The Jew, with his dirty turban and his wretched skeleton mule, would be also there, unpacking his cases at the place pointed out by the Caid, and setting up his little cotton tent to protect him from pillage. The first few hours were almost always devoted to commercial transactions. One might then see the butchers skinning their sheep, just slaughtered, pronouncing the formulary of the Koran, Besmelah—praise be to Godhanging them up afterwards on hooks, and sitting down underneath them, awaiting a purchaser ; the venders of fowls, corn, barley, beans, and salt too, chattering, screaming, and disputing for. a sous; but above, and the busiest of all, the Jew, whose voice and lamentations would be heard loudest all over the market. The middleman in all transactions, the Jew, here as elsewhere, over-reached, sold, and stole. In Algeria, the Jew deals in cotton, pepper, cloves, sugar, and coffee ; he vends the antimony black with which the women encircle their eyes, and the henna leaf with which they redden their finger nails. As blacksmith, he repairs arms; he resolders rings, polishes and sets jewels; and by him also the plates of silver suspended to the saddles of the chiefs are fabricated. No traffic comes amiss to him, and he wriggles about in every sort of gain. See him there, pressing forward, gesticulating, holding constantly out his dirty and greedy hand, quarrelling, maltreated, beaten, but returning perseveringly to the chaffer, or if the dispute becomes serious, going for justice to the Cadi, whose tribunal is on the spot, to give instant decision and cut short all difficulties. The Caid, responsible for order in the market, keeps usually close to the Cadi, to give him assistance in case of need. But respect for authority is so
great among men, that a verdict once pronounced is generally accepted without a word of objection. A minute or two before, two barristers, pleading against each other, would have been beaten in volubility, in eloquence, in exclamatory inyectives, by the disputants of the Khamis market-place; but now, the Cadi having spoken, they walk away without a murmur.
The first few hours over, and commercial matters nearly finished, the confused clamour, like the hoarse murmur of the sea, of all these talkers together, would grow louder; and the groups would close in and comment on, and discuss, either acts of authority which the public crier had just proclaimed, the chances of peace or war
-the great question with all—or the disputes of tribes, and the quarrels of individuals. The envoys of the Emir would often glide among the crowd, scattering words of encouragement and hope; and the brothers of religious orders known to each other by mysterious signs, whisper fanatic messages into the ears of their more credulous votaries.
There are seven religious associations in Algeria; but though Islamism came from the East, these orders, with one single exception, originated in Morocco. However different they may be with
respect to their rules and tendencies, they have
all the same source: the love of the marvellous · and religious enthusiasm. In almost every instance
the founder of each order is said to have been visited in a dream by a messenger from the prophet, showing him the path in which he should lead the faithful. According to popular tradition the greater part of these founders were gouths, that is men become powerful through suffering. The Zaouias institutions-half-collegiate, half monastic, maintained by the donations of the pious, and by a tax on the faithful, are most of them dependant on these orders. All, however, are not; there are secular Zaouias, if the expression may be allowed. But secular or religious, they all give refuge to the destitute, the infirm, the sick and the wounded; and in all of them, three great books on which the faith of all good Mussulmen is founded, are alone studied: the Koran, Sidi Boukari, and Sidi Krelil.*
* The Koran, a work of inspiration, communicated to the prophet by the angel Gabriel, is to all Musselmen the book of books, the complete code of all the duties of man towards God and towards his neighbour. In every line therein may be found hatred to the Christian, and the exaltation of a glorious death in battle against the Infidel. The most meritorious work except one, says the prophet, is a pilgrimage to Mecca ;-the one which surpasses it in merit is death in a