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A RAINY DAY ON MOUNT HERMON, AND
BY ZELLA CARMAN.
To the average traveller there is, perhaps, no pleasanter hour in the twenty-four than that which he spends over the walnuts and coffee after the serious business of the table d'hote is finished. In that serene state of mind and body which follows upon a well-spent day and a good dinner, he is at leisure to enjoy a chat over to-day's impressions and to-morrow's plans.
Shortly before our party left Jerusalem, Mr. Floyd, in the course of one of these after-dinner chats, remarked, "You will have one, or, it may be, two days' rain on your journey north. I hope it may occur
when you are under shelter."
The serenely confident air with which this announcement was made, prevented any open display of scepticism, but an intimate acquaintance with the Canadian climate is not conducive to faith in weather prophecies, and we did not take Mr. Floyd's prediction seriously, though we were destined to recall it. Some weeks later, the morning of the twenty-second of April, found us in camp at Banias, the northern limit of our journey in Palestine proper. We were awakened as usual at five o'clock by Assad's bell, accompanied by his invariable formula, "Fust bell, please;" but the little ceremony seemed to lack its usual brisk cheerfulness, and alas! the soft patter, patter on our canvas roof assured us that Mr. Floyd's prophecy had been only too correct.
Now a rainy day in April was not exactly a thing without VOL. XL. No. 2.
them as our due, we felt justified in resenting a change. Someone meekly ventured a reminder that we had been told that the peasants' hope of a full crop rested on this "latter rain "; but he was silently ignored, and the anxious watch of the skies proved
precedent in our experience; we had even, perhaps, a recollection of a few snowy April days in a certain far-away north land, but these things belonged to a past state of existence; we had had cloudless skies for two months now, and, having come to consider
that the prospect of crossing Mount Hermon in a violent storm, was the matter just then of most vital importance to Dr. Withrow's party.
We had, of course, the alternative of remaining in the safe shelter of our tents, but we greatly desired to spend Sunday in Damascus, still distant nearly two days' ride, and, as this was Friday we had no time to lose. Therefore a pale gleam of sunshine about eight o'clock was eagerly welcomed, and we gladly heard the order given to saddle the horses, which were brought round as the last scattering drops were falling.
The clouds quickly disappeared, and if the unpleasant thought arose that they might only be in hiding behind Mount Hermon, we refused to entertain it for a moment, in spite of an ominous shake of the head and a muttered word or two in Arabic, which plainly expressed Abdallah's views. Next moment, however, he dismissed the subject with that eloquent gesture with which an Oriental shifts all his responsibilities on fate, and swinging lightly into the saddle gave the word to start.
After leaving Banias the path led up the stony bed of a little mountain stream, which the rain had filled with a yellow current of liquid mud, rendering the stones so slippery that our horses stumbled constantly and required so much attention that we had little to give the gradually unfolding view. An hour's steady climbing brought us to a wide natural terrace about two thousand feet above the level of the sea, on a level with the castle of Banias, though at some distance from it. The atmosphere was SO radiantly clear that it seemed really distant but a stone's throw, and we stopped to admire the picturesque effect of the long, irregular outline, still very perfect on this side. The massive simplicity of form, and the rugged strength of the granite walls, suit well the wild grandeur of its situation among the everlasting hills.
There was a fascination about the beautiful old fortress and its long-forgotten history that enchained the eye and imagination and made one long to pierce the thick veil that hides the past, and learn the part it played in the story of this land. The light growing every moment more golden behind the cold white summit of Hermon warned us that we had no time to linger. Turning to the west we looked down upon the whole plain of the Upper Jordan flooded with the soft morning light, and sparkling with myriads of tiny streams. The distant hills of Naphtali flushed rosily under the level sun rays, the mirror-like surface of the waters of Merom was like a turquoise in an emerald setting, and the park-like slopes below Banias were aglow with the warm
colour of masses of rich-hued foliage that gave evidence of fertile soil and sunny skies.
More than three thousand years ago the envoys from the tribe of Dan, who had been sent to "spy out the land," found all their desires satisfied by this favoured spot, and reported of it as "a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth." The words are accurately descriptive still. Sheltered by the majestic beauty of the mountains, watered by their melting
TATOOED DRUSE WOMAN.
snows, the soil produces side by side the vegetation of widely different climes, all equally at home in this vale where nature wears her brightest smile.
It was our last view of the Holy Land, and as I turned reluctantly to obey the signal to ride on, I confess to having congratu lated myself that I had seen all this, before the black smoke of the locomotive had defiled these pure skies, and its discordant shriek disturbed the solemn silence of the "Holy Mountain," where we had heard
Half an hour later, rounding a spur of the mountain, every sign of luxuriant life suddenly disappeared; we entered a region of rocky slopes where only the hardy little thorn found sustenance, the valleys mere stony hollows with scanty groups of stunted olives. The golden light darkened into grey, the wind blew colder, great swirling masses of mist now and then blotted out the snowy crest of Hermon, along whose eastern shoulder we were slowly creeping. Soon we were in the midst of a driving storm; rain, hail and snow all at once, and from every quarter of heaven at once; though that was not altogether a disadvantage,