« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ror with which the mice scampered off, and the havoc which puss made among them. The king, of course, longed to possess so valuable a creature, and, in exchange for it, gave the merchant, to deliver to the owner of the cat, a ship finely equipped, and laden with all sorts of rich merchandise. The old woman could scarcely believe her good fortune on the return of the merchant. But when she found his tale true, she sent for her sons, who, you may be sure, came without delay. They spent the ready money in making merry, and then took their mother and the rest of the property to Kais. They became merchants, and traded with great success; but they soon gave up such peaceable pursuits for those of piracy. In this they were also successful, and in the course of time their descendants became kings of Kais.
H. That is like the story of Whittington and his cat.
U. O. Very much like it; and it is still more singular, that the time of the story is about the time of Whittington. In this case and many others Europeans are surprised to find in the East stories and jests so exceedingly similar to the popular ones of their own countries, that it
is natural to suppose the one are taken from the other. But many of these European stories are very old, and are found in countries that were scarcely ever, in any way, connected with the East. Many of these tales have been traced to China and India ; and it may be supposed that they were brought more to the west by the Persians, and carried still further westward by the Arabs and Turks, and were brought from Syrią to the different countries of Europe by the Crusaders who went to deliver the Holy Land from the power of the Infidels.
H. Do you think so, sir ?
U. O. I have not thought much about it. What do you think, Mr, Dillon?
Mr. D. I think the account you have given is very probable. But I also think, that many of these seemingly borrowed tales may be accounted for quite well enough by the fact that human nature, and human life, and thought, and feeling, are much the same in different countries; and therefore the same thing might happen, and the same tale be invented in nations that knew nothing of each other. We know it sometimes happens in Europe that two persons make the same discovery so nearly at the same time, that
it is never afterwards agreed to whom the merit of the first invention is due.
U. O. I quite agree with you, Mr. Dillon : and now let us proceed on our excursion in the Gulf.
J. Will you please to tell us first if that pretty story about the cat is true ? · U.O. I really don't know, my dear. With regard to the English cat story, it is certain that such a person as Whittington really existed; and in the Gulf the race of island kings existed, who are said to have descended from the old woman. There certainly have been places, particularly islands, which swarmed with rats or mice, without any domestic animals to destroy them; and in such places the services of a cat would be of immense value. The stories might then be true, but I am not sure that they are so. If we suppose them true in the main, I have no doubt many things have been added to make them seem the more wonderful and romantic. Now we will go on.
Here is Busheer, the principal town of the Gulf, and the principal sea-port of Persia. I am not going to describe to you all the places we came tomonly such as afford something curious, and only so far as they are curious. This Busheer is situated at the end of a low peninsula, which has clearly been gained from the sea. It has sometimes happened in the high tides of spring, that the narrow neck of land which joins Busheer to the continent has been covered by the sea, so as to render the spot an island. In most of the islands of the Gulf, fresh water may be obtained by digging wells of no great depth; but at Busheer they are obliged to dig their wells to the depth of ninety feet, cutting through three layers of soft stone, composed of sand and shells, before they can get water. And after all, the water obtained from wells near the town is brackish, and produces a medicinal effect on those who drink it. Therefore the poor Arab men and women get a livelihood by fetching water from wells at the distance of two or three miles from the town. One may see the elder women sitting and chatting at the well, and spinning the coarse cotton of the country, while the young girls fill the skins, in which they all carry the water on their backs into the town. They go and return in parties. When men go to draw water, they drive before them a number of asses, cach loaded with a pair of
skins, called musheks, and they carefully avoid going to the same wells which are frequented by the women.
Now that I am telling you how water is obtained, I may also mention that, on the opposite side of the Gulf, at the island of Bahrein and the neighbouring coast of Arabia, there are fine springs of fresh water at the bottom of the sea.
H. Indeed! but how could any body find that out?
U. O. I suppose it was first discovered by the divers employed in fishing for pearls.
J. Is a pearl a fish's eye, uncle ?
U. O. No, Jane; I will tell you all I know about pearls, and about fishing for them, on our next evening. The Arabs contrive to water their vessels from these springs by placing over the spot a vessel with a pipe attached to it; and very frequently it is done by sending down a diver with the barrel of a gun, which he brings up full of fresh water. The inhabitants of some parts of the island also obtain their regular supplies. of fresh water from such springs near the shore. The water of the springs bubbles up through the sands with considerable force. Over this they place a large jar, without a bottom, and when