Depart from Larache with a little Army - Moorish military Salute - Numerous Villages - Customary Procession of the Inhabitants - Judicial Arrangements - River Beth resembles the Po - Herds of Camels - Arrive at Mequinez - French Falsehood again put down - Excellent Road from Mequinez - Fertility and Luxuriance of the adjacent Country - Procession to the Sanctuary of Sidy Edris - Multiplicity of Saints - Ceremony demonstrative of the Emperor's Favour - Take possession of my new Residence.

Fez, - - 1806.

In consequence of the dispatches received from the Emperor, we left Larache the same day. The Governor commands a territory of two hundred English miles. He put himself at the head of his troops, which amounted to six thousand cavalry, divided into squadrons, distinguished by their respective standards. There were in his train, besides, a prodigious number of mules, some carrying field equipage and provisions, others the treasures, consisting of the collected taxes, and presents for the Emperor.

This little army moved on in tolerably good order and discipline. It was preceded by an officer at the head of a small corps, doing the duty of a Quarter-master-general. We were met on our way by several officers, with small detachments of soldiers, under the government of His Excellency. The Moorish mode of saluting attracted my attention; when on a level in point of rank, the officers embrace each other, and then kiss the back of their own hand; but in saluting a superior, they kiss the hem of his garment; upon which he presents his hand, and they salute it. I assure you, they do all this with considerable grace.

In passing through villages (which in this part are very numerous, and formed of a much greater collection of tents than those described in a former letter), we were received by a great concourse of men, women, and children, shouting, and making a noise exactly resembling the whoop of the North American savages. I was informed, that this was their usual mode of expressing their joy and mirth, on all great and solemn occasions. A venerable Moor, the chief of the surrounding villages, accompanied by the military and civil officers, and by the principal inhabitants, advanced to kiss the garment of His Excellency: this ceremony was closed by a train of women, preceded by an elderly matron, carrying a standard of colours, made of various fillets of silk; and by a young one of great beauty, supporting on her head a bowl of fresh milk, which she presented, first to the Governor (or, as he is otherwise called, the Sheik), then to me, and afterwards to all the officers. This ceremony is always performed by the prettiest young woman of the village; and it not unfrequently happens, that her beauty captivates the affections of the great men (sometimes even the Emperor), and she becomes the legitimate and favourite wife.

When we arrived at any village, His Excellency halted to receive the report of the commanding officer; and to inquire if any murder, robbery, or other crimes, militating against the laws and constitution of the empire, had been perpetrated. This excellent man patiently listened to all the complaints made to him; and after hearing both parties with the greatest impartiality, he ordered such delinquents as stood fairly convicted to be punished by imprisonment, or fine, according to the nature of their offences. At one place where he held a court of justice, he received information of a band of assassins who had lately committed several murders and highway robberies, and had violated many young women, whom they afterwards destroyed. By this prompt and judicious arrangement, they were all secured, and brought before him. He ordered them to be dragged in the rear of his troops to Fez; there to receive whatever punishment the Emperor might think fit to award them.

We performed our route by short and easy stages, on a road which is perfectly level, and very different from those between Tetuan or Tangiers and Larache. We generally halted about two o'clock in the afternoon, and encamped; struck tents again at four in the morning, and then moved on regularly without noise or confusion.

On approaching the river Beth, we halted, to allow the baggage to cross, which was expeditiously conveyed in a large ferry-boat; the horses and mules were obliged to swim over, a spectacle curious and diverting enough. I passed over with the Governor; after which the boat went backwards and forwards till the whole of the troops were transported across the river, when we encamped, the side which we had quitted being occupied by another little army, headed by the Governor of another district. The two opposite camps had much the appearance of two hostile armies previous to a battle.

This river very much resembles the Po in Italy, and is perfectly navigable. On each side are immense fields of corn and rice, intersected by tracts of waste land covered with broom and heath, and spots of pasture-land on which large droves of camels graze. To prevent the camels from straying, they have one of their fore legs bent at the first joint, and tied up: they are attended by boys, who take them out early in the morning, and at night bring them back to the tents, before which each camel takes his place as regularly as our cows do in their stalls.

The next morning we reached a castle, and a ruinous walled town, occupied by soldiers, and slaves, who look after the herds of mules belonging to the Emperor. It is situated on a hill, whence I had a prospect of the immense plain we had first traversed, upon which not a single tree is to be seen.

About noon, on the sixth day, we approached a lofty mountain, which terminated this extensive plain, and formed the commencement of a chain of high hills, which we ascended and descended successively, and at length descried the large and populous city of Mequinez: we passed by a long aqueduct, a remnant of ancient architecture, and several Roman ruins, and reached one of the great gates of the town, where we were met by a strong detachment of soldiers commanded by the Governor, who, after the salutations and ceremonies usual on such occasions, escorted us to the palace of Eslawee, the Governor of Larache, where I was kindly received and most hospitably entertained by all his relations and friends.

On the morning after our arrival at Mequinez, an express arrived from the Emperor with an answer to a representation which I had made concerning the loss of a French privateer on the coast of Barbary; I had sent it at the same time with that respecting the tariff, and expected the answers together. The affair was this: a French privateer attempted to board several of our transports, laden with bullocks, from Tangiers for Gibraltar; but had scarcely succeeded with one, when the Confounder gun-brig, which was appointed to convoy them, came unobserved, within pistol-shot, and after an obstinate engagement of two hours the Frenchman ran on shore, and went to pieces immediately under the Moorish battery. This was considered, by the French Consul and his party, as an open violation of neutrality, and also a gross insult to His Imperial Majesty; and as such it was represented to him by Governor Ash-Ash, seconded by a letter from the French Consul, and supported by all his partisans. On our part, the statement was founded on simple facts, which perfectly satisfied the Emperor, and Governor Ash-Ash received a severe reprimand, accompanied by the remark, that His Imperial Majesty regretted the English had been so passive on this occasion, and that his subjects did not exterminate every Frenchman that presumed to land on his shores without his permission. You will feel assured that this additional triumph on our part gave me no small satisfaction.

My good friend Eslawee obtained leave likewise, to repose himself and his army for three days in his native place. This condescension was esteemed as an excellent omen. At the conclusion of the appointed time, we set off for this our ultimate destination. The road from Mequinez to Fez is excellent, extending along a pleasant and spacious plain, encompassed by high mountains, and intersected by small rivers, over which are stone bridges. These rivers are divided into several branches, which are again subdivided by the inhabitants, and carried in canals to water their lands. The prospect of the country is every where luxuriant in the extreme, and continually presents the most interesting objects. A scattered ruin, a large village, a meandering river, or a fine natural cascade, vineyards, woods, corn-fields, meadows, and saints' houses, surrounded by beautiful gardens and shrubberies, all lying in endless variety, formed the most picturesque landscapes.

As we left our quarters at Mequinez rather late, we encamped at eight o'clock in the evening at the opening of the plain I have just described. The next morning we set off much earlier than usual, but had not proceeded far when our progress was interrupted by a prodigious multitude of people, who pressed forward with such eagerness, that we were obliged to stand aside, and allow them to pass. Men, on horseback and on foot, women, and children, formed a procession which extended as far as the eye could reach. They were advancing in several divisions, each division preceded by a man bearing a standard, and by a band of music (if the horrible discord produced by their instruments could be dignified with the name of music), the people accompanying the band with their voices, shouting, bawling, and bellowing their national songs with the greatest vehemence.

These people were on their way to visit the sanctuary of Sidy Edris, the founder of Mahometanism in this country: it stands on the mountain Zaaron, at the western side of the plain of Fez, and near the city of Mequinez. Close to the sanctuary is a village, the inhabitants of which are held in the highest veneration, their huts and tents being consecrated to the Mahometan devotion, and, as well as the sanctuary, forming asylums for malefactors, which are never violated even by the Emperor. After this visit to the sanctuary, they attend an annual meeting, where they feast for three days, amusing themselves with dancing, fighting with wild beasts, and committing all kinds of excess in the ancient Bacchanalian style.

Formerly saints sprang up in Barbary like mushrooms. A Moor, seized in the night with a slight fit of insanity, was considered in the morning as a new saint, and as such he was revered, and his name added to their list of saints. In consequence of this, he was permitted to do whatever his fancy directed, without suffering the smallest molestation. Hence many worthless wretches feigned madness, in order that they might, with impunity, gratify their avaricious and revengeful passions, or their violent and ungovernable lust. The number of these impostors a few years back was incredible, and they literally held sovereign rule, from their numbers and great influence over this superstitious and fanatic people; but since the accession of Muley Solyman to the throne of Morocco, their influence and their numbers have considerably decreased. The country has been in a great measure swept and cleansed of imposters and other profligate persons, and the rest approach more and more towards a tolerable degree of civilization, under his paternal care and example. His chief study and attention appear to be directed to the welfare and happiness of his people.

We received no further interruptions; but reached this place on the 26th of April. On approaching the walls of the imperial palace, His Excellency formed his little army into a line of two deep. They fired a feu de joie with great precision and correctness. This done, they filed off to the place allotted for our encampment. Shortly after, two black slaves arrived from the palace, with a large bowl of fresh milk, and several cakes of bread, which were presented with much ceremony to His Excellency the Sheik, and received by him with marks of the most profound respect. This compliment was also paid to me, and to all his officers. This ceremony in Barbary, indicates that the person so honoured is a friend and favourite at the court of Morocco. The other Governors, with the exception of three, received the same honour, successively as they assembled on the plains of Fez, to be afterwards reviewed by the Emperor at the anniversary celebration of the birth of Mahomet. The three disgraced Governors were arrested the next day, thrown into prison, and condemned to remain there at the pleasure of the Emperor. Their whole property, amounting, as I am told, to several hundred thousand dollars, was confiscated.

My friend finding himself thus perfectly secure, appeared in high spirits, and proceeded to the palace to prostrate himself before his sovereign. He was received with every mark of the highest approbation and favour. At his return to the camp, he came to me with a smiling countenance, and related the flattering reception he had met with. He then informed me, that the Emperor had given orders, that a convenient house should be immediately provided for me, and that an officer of the household was coming to conduct me to my new habitation. This officer arrived while we were talking, and I followed him to my place of residence, which I found exceedingly neat and commodious. This I continue to occupy, and am furnished abundantly with all the delicacies which the city of Fez affords.

I have exceeded the bounds of moderation in this letter already, and must therefore postpone my introduction till my next.