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RETURN TO THE DRUSE'S HOUSE-DRUSE WOMEN-THEIR ACQUIRE
MENTS-METAPHOR— THE RESULT-HAREMS OF THE EAST-AN
to paint the lily,
or add another hue
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
By the time we get back to the Druse's house, having loitered so long with the monks, the hour of their usual mid-day repast is over, and they are waiting in hungry expectation for our arrival; for the Druse is too hospitable to allow himself or any of his family to satisfy their hunger before all the guests are assembled.
You will recollect that we left the Druse's house this morning under the firm conviction that we should not want for the good things of this life; this conviction is now verified, and the repast spread before us
RETURN TO THE DRUSE'S HOUSE.
would feed five times as many hungry persons as now sit down to it.
After the mid-day repast it is usual with the master of the house to indulge in an hour's siesta, which he does with the doors of his hut closed so as to expel light, as also to keep away the swarms of annoying flies which would otherwise set repose at defiance.
Whilst the master of the house is asleep, the wife and daughter wash up the cooking utensils and put these by till evening; the children go forth on various errands of amusement, else fall asleep under the shade of the nearest tree. The wife has minor duties to attend to in the village, so she leaves us alone with the eldest daughter, who is a buxom lass of between sixteen and seventeen, and who, sitting down near us, enters into conversation without the least restraint or affectation. This fact alone proves that the Druses are not that jealous people they are sometimes represented to be, nor are their women such slaves to the prevailing Mahometan custom in Syria of excluding their sex from the companionship of men; this rigid law has only effect in the intercourse of the Druses with each other, or with the Turks, and this fact also proves that they have greater confidence in the good faith and honour of Christians and strangers than they can place upon their own fraternity.
If we may judge by the sample before us, the Druse women are not one whit behind their sisters in more civilised countries as far as regards natural sharpness
of intellect, and even wit; they possess, beyond a doubt, the rough unpolished matter which when worked up would constitute what is styled elegance and manners,-a perfect illustration of the aptitude of that ancient proverb which says, that the roughest surface often contains within it the greatest mineral wealth.
Somehow or other, the Druses, in common with all classes inhabiting Syria, are born with a natural tendency to politeness and etiquette. This is more particularly the case with the women; the wildest mountain girl possesses a refinement of manners, an elegance of deportment, and a delicacy of speech, which one might seek for in vain amongst a similar class in England and France. That heavy awkward gesture and speech so familiar to clodhoppers, and which so immediately stamps the creature with the class he belongs to, is never to be met with in the East.
Here the only perceptible difference between a princess and a peasant's daughter is in the costume. Take for instance, the Druse's daughter, now seated in familiar converse by our side ; she has never received even the rudiments of education, she knows books only by their name; she has heard of learned men who could actually write a whole letter, and her knowledge of geography extends to about five miles round the village where she was born; her acquirements in natural history may be summed up in goats, oxen, poultry, sparrows, hawks, jackals, owls, donkeys,
cats, dogs, and an occasional hedgehog. Tell her about fishes any bigger than tadpoles, and she will immediately imagine that they were all whales, and consequently difficult to swallow; tell her of birds bright in plumage and sweet in song, which never stir from their hot retreats in India and Africa, and she will retail such information as a capital fable to her younger brother, who is just cutting his teeth.
Speak to her of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, multifarious as they are delicious in taste and smell, and nourishing to the body; her power of comprehension is too limited to expand and embrace so vast a field of contemplation. She imagines that you are kindly endeavouring to amuse her with tales and stories, but she cannot for an instant identify the reality with the description. And, worst of all, if you hazarded a narrative combining all the marvels of science, talking about steamboats and railways, ships and balloons, crystal palaces and cathedrals, then she would set you down as a magnoon—a babbler of incoherent nonsense; for even her father, and her grandfather before him, had never talked of suchlike absurdities. Besides which, her notions of a palace are circumscribed, and the mud and stone building of the Emir M’rad is in her conception the acmé of architectural science.
It is therefore worse than useless to attempt to describe anything, however simple, to an illiterate mind, which cannot distinguish between B and a bull's
foot. When education has taken the rough uneven matter in hand, and gradually refined and polished it, then, as the dawn of knowledge opens upon the mind, so in exact proportion the mind itself expands and becomes more capable of embracing and cherishing the rays of knowledge.
We cannot in the language of metaphor give a more beautiful example of the intellect of a Druse village maiden than by comparing it to an unblown rosebud; if the stem upon which it flourishes be conveniently planted where the heat of day and the dew of night refresh and invigorate the plant, then it will in due time expand, blow, and come to perfection. As the sun, gradually gathering strength, ascends in the horizon, so the rosebud under its congenial influence rapidly opens, developing itself a beautiful flower full of the richest incense. But if this same plant had sprung up in some secluded dell where the light barely penetrated, and both heat and cold were uncongenial, then the bud might arrive at maturity, but the richness of its odour and the beauty of its tint would have evaporated before the flower arrived at perfection, and the flower itself be a faded sickly specimen.
Just so in the Druse girl, now budding into all the beauty of mature womanhood ; there is that lurking behind her brilliant eyes which tells us clearly and unmistakeably of latent talent. With her, as in the rosebud, the essence and the beauty of colour are yet