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2017/10/11 11:55:36 プライベート♪
the fields yoked beside a camel
And here is another incident which illustrates the fashion in which the French administrators in Algeria deal with those ticklish questions which involve Arab domestic relations. A farmer and his wife were travelling through the interior; he was on a donkey and she, of course, on foot. Along came an Arab sheikh on horseback and offered the woman a lift. She accepted, and presently, growing confidential, admitted that she was [Pg 76] unhappily married and detested her husband. Her companion proposing an elopement, she readily agreed. Accordingly, when they came to a by-road, this Lochinvar of the desert put spurs to his horse and galloped off with the lady across his saddle-bow, paying no heed to the shouts and protestations of the husband toiling along in the dust behind. Though he succeeded in tracing the runaway couple to the sheikh's village, the husband quickly found that plans had been made against his coming, for the villagers asserted to a man that they had known the eloping pair for years as man and wife and that the real husband was nothing but an impudent impostor.

Unable to regain his wife, he then appealed to the French authorities of the district, who were at first at somewhat of a loss how to act in the circumstances, for the Europeans in North Africa are always sitting on top of a powder barrel and a hasty or ill-considered action may result in blowing them higher than Gilderoy's kite. Finally, an inspiration came to the juge d'instruction before whom the matter had been brought. Placing the dogs of the real husband in one room, and those of the pretended husband in another, he confronted the woman with them both. Now, Arab dogs are notoriously faithful to the members of their own households and equally unfriendly toward all strangers, so that though her own dogs fawned upon her and attempted to lick her hand, those of the sheikh snarled at sight of her and showed every sign of distrust. The judge promptly ordered her to be returned to her lawful husband—who, I fancy, punished her in [Pg 77] true Arab fashion—and had the village placarded with a notice in Arabic which read: “The testimony of one dog is more to be believed than that of a townful of Arabs.” To appreciate how much more effective than any amount of fines or imprisonment this notice proved, one must remember that the deadliest insult an Arab can give another is to call him a dog.

Perhaps it is because they live so far from the contaminating influence of civilisation, or what stands for civilisation in North Africa, that the lives of those women who dwell beneath the black camel's-hair tents of the Sahara are far freer and happier than those led by their urban cousins. Which reminds me of a little procession that I once met while riding through southern Algeria. It consisted of an Arab, his wife, and a donkey. The man strode in front, his rifle over his shoulder. Then came the donkey, bearing nothing heavier than its harness. In the rear trudged the wife, carrying the plough. Though the Arab women may, and probably do, till , a donkey, or an ox, their faces are unveiled and they are permitted free intercourse with the men of their tribe.

Even among the nomad desert folk, however, women are regarded with indifference and contempt, the Arabs saying of a boy “It is a benediction,” but of a girl “It is a malediction.” With the Arabs a woman is primarily regarded as a servant, and long before a daughter of the “Great Tents” has entered her teens she has been taught how to cut and fit a burnoose, to sew a tent cover, and to make a couscous, that peculiar dish of [Pg 78] half-ground barley, raisins, honey, hard-boiled eggs, and mangled fowl, stewed with a gravy in a sealed vessel, of which the Arabs are so fond. By the time she is ten her parents have probably received and accepted an offer for her hand—and praise Allah for ridding them of her!—and by the time she is twelve she is married and a mother.
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