Leave Larache with an Escort - Curious Custom on returning from Mecca - Arrive at Tetuan.


His Excellency the Governor of Larache being perfectly recovered, I took my departure from that city. For the sake of novelty, I proposed returning to Gibraltar, by this route, rather than by Tangiers. I obtained a letter of recommendation to Sidy Ash-Ash, and was accompanied by a strong guard, provided with a tent, and all other necessaries for the journey.

On my way hither, I was highly entertained by the Serjeant of the guard. This man had not long returned from Mecca and Upper Egypt. He spoke Italian tolerably well, was full of strange notions, and considered himself quite a superior genius. He told me, that he expected to be promoted in a very short time, and asked me, whether I were present at his public entry into the garrison of Larache, on his return from the sanctuary of Mecca. I smiled, and answered him in the affirmative. He asked me, why I smiled? "At the novelty of the exhibition," I replied, "in carrying you to all the mosques, and afterwards in escorting you in state to your humble habitation." - "It is but too often the practice," rejoined he, "of petulant infidels to ridicule us, in the exercise of pious customs and religious duties." Then spurring his horse, he muttered something abusive, which I pretended not to hear. However, I found no great difficulty in appeasing the pious and sanctified serjeant. In short, I dispelled all his glooms and ill humours, and drowned his scruples, in a cup of port wine. It is customary among the Moors, when any of them return from the pilgrimage of Mecca, to go out in great procession to meet the devout pilgrim, whom some of them carry on their shoulders with great solemnity through the town and to his own house, where he sits in state for three days, receiving visits and donations from all classes of people, who flock with the greatest eagerness to obtain a sight of him. The conversation was insensibly renewed, and he told me, that of a company of fifteen pilgrims, who set out for the holy city of Mecca, he was the sole survivor, the others having all perished in the deserts. He was the only favoured and true believer that was permitted to visit the holy sepulchre. He added: "As the dangers attending the pilgrimage are great and various, does not the happy being, who returns safe to his native place, deserve the honours and compliments paid him, for his great perseverance and patience in such a dangerous undertaking, the success of which is the result of his innate rectitude?" I gave him to understand that he had made the case clear. "The French," he continued, "had a design upon the treasures of Mecca." I agreed that they certainly had; and asked him, by what power he thought the French army was prevented from possessing itself of Mecca. "Unquestionably," rejoined he, "by the invincible and invisible power of our Prophet." In reply to my intimation that it was the British arms which defeated the French before Acre and Alexandria, and compelled them to give up the conquest they had made in Egypt, he went on to say, that "all the great acts of mankind are guided and governed by a supernatural power. The French were defeated by the English, because the latter fought under the invincible standard of Mahomet; and so fully convinced are the true believers of this, that we now consider the English as brethren. I hate the French mortally; they are a set of bloody impious infidels, and treacherous to a degree; I would not escort a dog of a Frenchman for all the treasures of the Emperor; I would rather lose my head than protect one. I fought the dogs in Egypt; but I took care not to spare one; I laid many of them in the dust. It behoves every honest Moor to be on his guard against the intrigues and duplicity of the French. A Moor can certainly face six of them. The Emperor's troops have more bodily strength than theirs. By the by, it is whispered about, that they intend paying us a visit to plunder us, and ravish our fine women. Let them come, we will meet them, I warrant you, and give them their due. Not one will return to France to tell his story." I then filled him another cup of port, to drink destruction to the French, whenever they should attempt either his shores or ours - and here ended our dialogue. I found him a bon-vivant, willing to overlook certain restrictions of his Prophet, and to drink his wine like an honest Englishman.

The second day of our journey I had raised his spirits to such a height, that he wantonly picked a quarrel with the muleteer, and gave him two or three slight cuts with his sabre, which so much provoked the honest driver, that, being a stout robust man, he soon dismounted my hero, and would actually have sent him to the shades below, but for my interference. When the Serjeant recovered his senses, he was very much alarmed lest his conduct should be exposed, or reach the ears of the Governor of Larache. In order therefore to dissipate the fears of this gallant soldier, I made the muleteer and the other swear, by their Prophet, to keep the transaction a secret. After this we travelled on merrily, without further disputes, and arrived here on the third day. I waited immediately upon, and delivered my letter to the Governor, who commanded one of his officers to conduct me to the house of the Vice-consul, where I now remain, in expectation of some vessel to convey me to Gibraltar.