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architectural ornaments led us, at least, so to conclude. The Ksour resembled a citadel; and Bou Semroun, surrounded by a broad ditch and good mud walls, might well set pillagers at defiance, and protect, in its two-storied houses, and narrow streets, the merchandise, granaries, and treasures of its nomade tribes. Happily, the inhabitants had determined not to defend themselves, for we should not have been able to take the fortress without sapping and mining. But we found the gates open, and lost no time in exploring the houses, some of which those of the chiefs—had more of elegance than we could have anticipated. We had pitched our bivouac near gardens, only a step from barrenness and aridity, and by descending an abrupt slope, we might be suddenly in a scene as fresh and as calm as any that was ever seen. Here, in this magnificent park, for so it might be called, every field was surrounded by a mud wall, to protect the barley, the pomegranate, and the fig trees, and the pasturage of the inhabitants. Here, too, enormous palm trees rose, mingling their boughs high up in the air, and besides, these gardens furnished us with fresh vegetables, and green barley for our horses, without taking into account the palm-tree canes with which every soldier provided himself, as a souvenir of our expedition. We remained here to our great contentment for a whole week, inventing new pleasures and new amusements; for movement had became so habitual to us that such a long repose would have been otherwise fatiguing. We were glad, then, when in these gardens of the Bou-Semroun, as if we were on a village market place, the trumpet announced a steeple-chase for the next day. The general, the principal authority, the mayor of the place, was invited, according to ancient custom, to preside at the fête. The whole camp met at the sport; the elegantes came on horseback, the foot soldier with his palm cane in his hand, and the hostess of the canteen, proclaimed the queen of beauty, for the occasion, was to bestow on the conqueror a pair of pistols, which General Renaud had given her for the purpose. The stake was well earned, for never did a chase, even in the palmy days of the Cross of Berny, present greater difficulties. Two thousand four hundred meters, going and returning, were to be traversed. Walls, barriers, obstacles of all sorts, branching palm trees, mud walls, and a narrow walled passage to be leapt into, which obliged the horseman to throw his legs on his horse's neck whilst springing into it, to avoid serious injury. Such was the course. Everything was done according to rule. A member of the jockey club, a real member, gave the word for starting in English, and the galloping avalanche flew over all obstacles and barriers. Alas ! there was more than one fall, and I can assure you that to be carried off by your horse till your head, in the leap, is under the flying legs of the horse preceding, and in danger of a kick that may at least break your jaw, with other horses' hoofs behind, almost on your head in descending, occasions a rapid stir of blood, and a high excitement, which was the more enjoyed as we had not anticipated it. Killed and wounded, and all, were perfectly well after the chase was over, and much merriment had we in talking over the misadventures of the day. Thus passed the time away rapidly enough, without care, without disquietude; that is to say, we had no sick, and the column was in a condition to go through any fatigue. But as the onions of Egypt were regretted by the Hebrews, we may well be pardoned for having regretted the delicious little onions of Bou-Semroun, when we were ordered to return northward, then to incline eastward, and then
again towards the south, in order to reach AbiotSidi-Chirq, a village of Marabouts, celebrated in the country.
Our way was down a steep hill. An immense horizon stretched around us. On our right were lofty mountain crests, in the form of half a horseshoe; on the left this chain extended eastward; and at the foot of the mountains lay, crossing each other, downs of sand, like the nettings of a great net. Facing us a stony plain, two leagues long, separated us from four villages of the Ouled-SidiChirq, which were connected together by their groves and gardens. In the large spaces which now environed us we breathed freely; the weight was removed from our chests, and our bosoms swelled with I know not what indefinable sentiment of loftiness and pride. A little mosque occupied the centre of the villages. The chiefs of the tribe, whose religious influence extends over the whole Sahara, and even over a part of the Tell, came to meet the General, to offer him their homage, and to pay their tribute.
It was now the 30th of April. For a whole month we had had no news from France. We were more than a hundred and twenty leagues from the sea-shore; the sand of the desert stretched on all sides before and around us, and it was here, in this country of fable and of mystery, that we were about to celebrate the fête of the King. In the evening our little mountain howitzers announced the fête, and the next day every soldier did his best to merit the prizes which the General had provided for the occasion. Horse races, sack races, sheep-shooting, and all sorts of games and sports, such as are seen ata village fair, were celebrated with a gaiety and merriment that made the soldier not only forget his fatigues, but France also, and his family and friends, from whom he was so widely separated. Two little negroes, and some ostriches and haiks, which were offered to our General as a present, reminded us, however, of where we were, and claps of thunder* every day at three o'clock—the hour of prayerseemed like the echoes of those far away tracts of which such prodigies are related.
It would appear, indeed, that this chain of mountains, against the base of which the last waves of the sea of sand subside, is the barrier placed by God to stop the man of the North from
* It is a singular phenomenon that every day during the summer, at about this time, there is a storm of wind and thunder at Abiot, which lasts about two hours.