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The city of Tunis is one of the finest and largest in Africa. If you go to it by sea, you must sail into the bay of Tunis which is very beautiful, and leave your ship at Goletta, which is a little sea-side place where the King of Tunis, who is called the Bey, goes to bathe every summer. Goletta is a very dirty little village, and the moment you land, it seems as if every man, woman, and child in the place came instantly out to beg; and on all sides you see men who have done something very wicked, working in heavy chains for a punishment. These men are called convicts, and their left arms are chained to their right legs, so that they cannot run away; and as they move, they make a loud clanking noise.
There is a large lake between Goletta and Tunis, but it is so shallow that you can only cross it in a small boat; but the carriage road lies by its side, and all round it you see flocks of strange birds, of which the bright red flamingos are the prettiest ; and herds of camels, and long-haired ugly sheep and goats, with their tall shepherds wrapped in great grey blankets watching them, and standing so quiet that you might think it was a stone figure. It is a drive of five miles to Tunis, and the nearer you get to it the worse the road becomes, and the more disagreeable it smells, until you expect the carriage to stick fast in the mud. But Tunis itself looks very pretty, being all built of shining white stone with round domes and towers, which they call minarets. These they ascend every night at sunset, and say their prayers in them. The principal street is a very long, narrow one, running right across the town, and when we entered
it some years ago, we were quite afraid we should never get to our inn.
For there was no pavement of any kind either at the sides, or in the middle, and it was one mass of horrible black slime, through which horses and carriages, mules, camels, and footpassengers struggled as best they might. A little of this black mud was caked into hard rough ruts at the side, and this the men and women tried to keep to themselves. They were most of them beggars, one trying to get possession of our umbrellas, another of our waterproofs, a third of our bags, to help to carry them our driver said, but we, who felt as if it was almost certain if once these precious articles got out of our sight we should never see them again, fought as well as we could to keep possession of them. We could not understand a word they said, but we did not like their looks. Another thing they were very fond of doing, was putting one of their fingers on our hands, and kissing the finger which had touched us with great respect. We did not like this either, and there was such a crowd of them that we could not drive on.
Whilst we were struggling with them, we were often startled by finding a camel had put its great long prying head and throat into the carriage also, for we were in a hopeless confusion of men and animals, and at last were forced to get out and walk to the inn. We met Turkish ladies with black veils, and white gauze tunics, and trousers, picking their way in the mud too, and not seeming to mind it, though they had bright yellow shoes on. And on each side of the street were long rows of shops, looking like immense packing-cases set up on end with their lids
off (for they were quite open to the street, with neither window nor door); the Turkish shopman sat cross-legged in the front; and all round the top and sides hung his wares, festoons of dates, onions, and dried poppies, or handkerchiefs, and scarves. There was apparentiy nothing in the shop behind him, but a seat covered with matting, running entirely round the room ; and sometimes we saw the owner sitting crosslegged on this with a party of cross-legged friends, all smoking their great pipes, and each with a pair of yellow or red slippers standing on the floor beneath him waiting for him. We were very glad to get to the inn, and very pleased to find it comfortable. It had been a splendid place once, and still the walls were covered with fine tiles, and the floors were marble, and there were beautiful arches, and ornamental carvings. Most of the servants were negresses, quite black, and of course we could not understand a word they said. They were very gaily dressed in the afternoon, but quite plainly in the morning; and when they went out to do a little shopping, it was very funny to see them go and take a sheet off one of the beds and wrap themselves lightly up in it, twisting it over their heads, and making it serve both as bonnet and shawl.
Oft has it been my lot to mark
Now talked of this, and now of that: Discoursed a while, 'mongst other matter Of the chameleon's form and nature. “A stranger animal,” cries one, “ Sure never lived beneath the sun; A lizard's body, lean and long, A fish's head, a serpent's tongue, Its foot with triple claw disjoined ; And what a length of tail behind ! How slow its pace! And then its hue Who ever saw so fine a blue?”. "Hold there,” the other quick replies, “ 'Tis green ; I saw it with these eyes As late with open mouth it lay, And warmed it in the sunny ray; Stretched at its ease the beast I viewed, And saw it eat the air for food.” “I've seen it, sir, as well as you, And must again affirm it blue: At leisure I the beast surveyed Extended in the cooling shade.” “ 'Tis green, 'tis green, sir, I assure you." “Green !” cried the other in a fury:
Why, do you think I've lost my eyes ?” “'Twere no great loss,” the friend replies, “For if they always serve you thus, You 'll find them but of little use.” So high at last the contest rose, From words they almost came to blows, When luckily came by a third : To him the question they referred, And begged he'd tell them if he knew,