Reiseliteratur weltweit

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1878 - Keane, T.F (Hajj Mohammed Amin)
Meetings with Miss Macintosh
Mecca, Saudi Arabia

... the old fellow casually remarked, à propos of the previous conversation: "There is in Englishwoman in Meccah, 'The Lady Venus' by name.'
   This was an eye-opener, though I took care not to show it, merely replying in an uninterested way:
   "Praise be to God, how long has she been here?"
   "Many years."
   "Whose zenana is she in?"
   "Nobody's; she works at sewing, and keeps herself, a Nawab gives her a room in his zenana house, and she does some little work for him. She is old." She is not an English lady. I think perhaps she is a half-caste."
   "No, she is a real lady, sahib. Would you like to see her?"
   "Yes, I will speak English to her and find out who she is." For I did not conceal any of my Christian accomplishments; instead, I rather bragged of them and got it believed I pretended to know more than I really did. Whether the old barber wanted to test me with a real Englishwoman, or whether he did it in a kindly busybody spirit, I cannot say; there is no accounting for motives. At any rate, he arranged a meeting at his brother-in-Iaw's house (a Moulvi) at two o'clock next day, saying he was certain to get the woman to come. The old fellow may have seen clean through me and expected a tip from one of us, and, if so, he got one. You may be sure I had but one thing to think about that night. An Englishwoman in Meccah; been here many years; impossible! I have seen a Gentleman driving an ox team in his swallowtails, and once met a Cambridge B.A. before the mast in a whaler; but this seemed impossible even to me. Still I thought, "I am here, and I did not find it very difficult to get here either; " and great misgivings came as it occurred to me, I don't know how in the name of the Prophet I could get out if anyone wanted to stop me; and then, to have to spend a whole life as she was doing, in such wretchedness and misery, buried alive in Meccah, I could put up with it while the novelty and the excitement of acting a difficult part lasted, but twelve months of it would kill me. "No," I said, "she can't be an EngIishwoman;" and I consoled myself by settling she must be a country-born halfcaste, fair enough to be called English. However I should see.
   The next day I put on a clean tunic and bright red cumerbund, and paid as much attention to the set and folds of my turban as I ever did to the tying of a white choker, and brushed out my beard with a - Allah, preserve us! - pig's-bristle brush. That brush had got me into great disrepute for a time, for incautiously telling the Amer what it was made of when asked; but no notice was taken of it, as they did not want to believe, and I took care to publicly explain on the first opportunity how hairbrushes were made of elephants' hair, and the old bristles went their round of some two dozen faithful beards every day. Allah, preserve us, Allah, forgive us
   When, having got myself up for the occasion, I hurried off at the right time in a great state of anticipation to the good Moulvi's house, called a boy in the yard, announced myself, and went upstairs into the little room about the size of a small bedroom, very clean; the only sign of untidiness being the usual dust-heap in the doorway. At one end of this room were a number of shelves let into the wall, covered with curious china-ware. This is to be seen in nearly every well-to-do house in Meccah, though how or at what time the china-ware found its way into the Hejaz in such quantities I could not find out. Perhaps it comes directly through Persia; but I heard of no existing import trade. It is likely to be very old, as it is valued only for ornamental purposes. (I should think it not improbable that some of it represents the remnants of treasure that may have been brought to Arabia at any time during the five thousand years of prosperous commerce carried on from its shores before Vasco da Gama led Europe round the Cape of Good Hope to "far Cathay.") Some of the vases were filled with artificial flowers; and two French flower lithographs hung on the wall. Representations of animal life are prohibited to Mohammedans. There was also a six-feet by four-feet window, with open teak-wood shutters, roughly carved in an elaborate pattern of very unfinished but substantial joinery. The only furniture in the room was a cushioned ottoman running half round the walls about eighteen inches high and three feet wide, having one or two pillows lying on it; a rough teak-wood cabinet standing against the wall, and, lying on it, the Moulvi's Koran, praying carpet, and turban. On the floor a good Persian carpet, one or two small mats, and of course a hookah and spittoon.
   This may be taken as a good specimen of a room in any middle-class Meccan's house. The occupants were the Moulvi, a kind honest old man with a genial pleasant face. Who could believe he had been a great conspirator in his youth? Yet he is now an exile, and dare not return to his own country; and is said to have been one of the most daring mutineer leaders at Lucknow. I was greatly taken with the genuineness of the old fellow. He may have fought, land fought hard, for his faith and his country, but I believe he never acted other than conscientiously according to his lights - which is saying a good deal for a Hindi. Seated on the ottoman near him, the barber, a most "or'nary cuss," a shiny old black with a straight white beard and a tongue like a Bengali; and the woman sitting on the floor in the costume of the country - a figure squatted down with a sheet thrown over it and the edges well tucked under, two slits somewhere near the eyes with pieces of gauze sewn over them for looking through. Give the whole a convulsive subdued shaking, and you have the "Lady Venus" as I first saw her.
   I slipped off my shoes, entered the room, and made my bow and "Peace be upon you," exchanged a few "Take-a-seats," "Don't-stirs'," with the Moulvi, then subsided cross-legged on the floor opposite the woman. She evidently understood my real character, and it seemed a painful interview to her. We sat silently for some minutes, the motion of her hand to her eyes under the veil showing she was in tears.
   At length the Moulvi spoke to her in Arabic, telling her to ask me some questions in English, as my name, age, country, employment - all of which I answered as I wished the Moulvi to believe; but when she asked, at his instance, how I came to Meccah, and I replied "God put it into my head," which she interpreted, "God put it into his heart," I felt safe and talked more freely. After a time, by her advice, we talked in Hindi on general and safe topics of interest to both. I found that she had been amongst Mohammedans since 1858; and satisfied myself, in the half-hour's conversation, that she was a real educated Englishwoman. When she rose to go I asked her in English if I might shake hands with her. She said No and told me the part of the Haram in which she prayed, where I could meet her any day at noon …
   During the last three days I had no time look for the "Lady Venus," but the moment I was at liberty I set out in quest of her. To such of my readers as may be wholly unacquainted with the customs of the East, I may here explain why in my interview with the "Lady Venus" such great caution was preserved. Our being English, and the subjects of our conversations - which will appear obvious and sufficient reasons - had really little to do with it. If we had been born Meccans we should not have been able to maintain nearly such free intercourse as we did, for we should have had more prying friends to make scandal of our (from a Mohammedan point of view) grossly improper "goings on" - immoral they would have been called, in a society where it is a canon that no woman may uncover her face to any man who is not her father, brother, or husband; and it was chiefly on this account that our meetings had to be of such a clandestine character. Any one familiar with the social habits of Mohammedans - the jealousy, conventional and affected, of the men, and the formal restraint under which the women are held – will be surprised that I was able to walk in public with the lady without attracting notice in the way I did; but in Meccah the women are allowed great freedom. Many of the most ordinary precautions of the Haram are relaxed, and it is quite the correct thing for the women of the wealthy to appear at public worship unattended, praying among the men, no part of the Haram being set apart for them as in every other mosque. On the second day after the Amer's departure, I went to that part of the Haram she had mentioned as her place of prayer at noonday. After the prayers I remained sitting, counting my beads. There are ninety-nine beads in a Mohammedan rosary, not counting certain little pendants or stops. As you count your beads, for each bead passed you mention one of the ninety-nine names or attributes of God: the hundred is not complete as the perfection of God is unlimited. A Mohammedan therefore says, "God is great, good, merciful," etc. etc. etc., through the ninety-nine; imagine the rest - a sort of 99 recurring ideas or, as others say, the hundredth attribute is love, which man shares with God, and so is not mentioned.
   When the crowd had dispersed I observed a little way off on my left a woman sitting alone. I thought this might be my friend, and looked fixedly at her for a few minutes. She was evidently looking at me, and I thought I noticed a beckoning movement of the hands under her garments, so I rose and walked towards her. She then got up and went out of the Haram, and I followed her at a little distance. We had gone some quarter of a mile through the town in this way, she always looking back at me before turning a corner, when she stopped, and let me come up to her. She at once addressed me in English, telling me to walk by her side, and that we were going to a Hindi friend's where we could talk undisturbedly as long as we liked.
   Some two hundred yards farther on we passed through a narrow part of the street, where a Turkish sentry was posted; here she talked loudly in Arabic, and I answered her in the same, making a great display of such expressions as I was master of. Half-an-hour's walk brought us to a little shielding, into which we went and sat down. I found the old Hindi who dwelt in it very well disposed. He made tea, gave me a smoke of his hookah, excused himself, and left us to ourselves. What a talk we had! How we let loose our English tongues! Sometimes we laughed wildly, sometimes she cried. It must have been a strange pleasure to her to hear and talk her native language after so many years. I, who had only been a few weeks away from my kind, felt most foolishly elated, talked all kinds of nonsense, anything that came into my head, just for chattering's sake. We asked one another questions, and asked others without waiting for answers.
   We had three hours of this, and then the old Hindi came in, and we thought it time to be going. Before parting she raised her veil and showed me her face, which was as English as my own. We also shook hands, and arranged that a boy Abdallah, a mutual acquaintance, should be our future means of communication. We then parted, and went home by different roads.
   That night, as I lay on my rug, thinking over the occurrences of the day, and hugging myself in the anticipation of many such pleasant conversations -for there was a taste of danger and secrecy that added zest and a feeling of having given another pleasure that made me supremely satisfied and contented that night - only one thing troubled me, almost her last words to me had been, "I can't make out who you are, child " –she always called me child, I suppose on account of my light-hearted attempts to raise her spirits - and I could not make out who she was. So there and then I thought over a list of questions I meant to ask her at our next meeting; but "man proposes," etc. Little did I think it would be some weeks before we should meet again, and that then we should have much more interesting matter in hand; and, most incongruous incongruity, a pilgrim fell asleep in sight of the Kaabah repeating those lines of Hood's:
The other sex, the tender, the fair,
What wide reverses of fate are there!
   While passing to and fro from the house, with bundels of gear, I twice fancied a woman in the yard tried to attract my attention, and the next time I passed I heard her pronounce my name. The "Lady Venus" at once dawned on me. I had been living in such stirring times lately that she had quite escaped my memory, and you may be sure my "Peace be upon you!" and "God be praised!" came from the bottom of my heart, when she now appeared on the scene so opportunely. She told me that she was staying in the same house as myself, with a lady friend, who was treating her to a seat on a camel for the pilgrimage. She also said the boy Abdallah had been twice to my house in Meccah to inquire for me, but had been told that I was gone to Jeddah. We had not much opportunity to talk, but I hastily got her to give me a programme of the forthcoming events of the next three days, and we agreed to meet in the Haram on that day of the week. Coarse remarks soon began to be made by the men standing about, and we were obliged to part quickly.
   Then came my meeting with the "Lady Venus." This time we had arranged that she should, after the noonday prayer, walk backwards and forwards in the arcade under my window, where I was to sit and look out till we recognised one another. This was easily managed, and I went off under her guidance. The crowd was so great that we were able to keep close together without appearing to be in company till near the shop of a Hindi binder of Korans, where she told me to wait while she went in. After waiting a few minutes a little child came up to me and invited me into the shop, leading me through to a small room at the back, where I found her sitting alone. The child then left us to ourselves. We talked for a short time about our lucky meeting at Muna, about her health, which had been very bad during the last year, almost as bad as on her first coming to Meccah many years ago (I think she said twenty). She threw her veil back and exposed her face for sometime - a scandalous impropriety, which if witnessed by anyone, the least I could have done would have been to declare her my wife on the spot. I had time to observe her features closely. She was rather short, and appeared about forty. She must have been good-looking in her youth, nor was she by any means ill-favoured now. She looked healthy, all things considered. Though her complexion was somewhat sallow, her skin was fair. She had an animated and pleasing expression. I can at this moment see her in my mind as distinctly as if she were before me in the flesh - the same sad, indulgent smile with which she greeted my little attempts at Anglo-Arabic jokes, saying "Speak English, child."
   I really felt the deepest pity for her, an Englishwoman existing in the way she had been doing for years; and I must confess to a very soft moment when I saw the poor creature smiling, with her eyes brimful of tears before giving way and having a good cry, which relieved her. I had found in our very first tête-à-tête that any reference to her past had a painful effect, and hesitated to broach the subject, and so began to tell her about myself, my Christian name, why I had come to Meccah, and the like, in the hope of getting her to give some such account of herself, when a noise outside made her draw her veil, and a boy entered with some tea and sweetmeats sent by her friend the master of the house. This took our attention for the moment, and we both had tea, and I asked the boy to get me a smoke: first, because I wanted a smoke; secondly, because when I had done, returning the hookah would be a good excuse for going out of the room and having a look round. This little interruption over, I asked her if she knew the Cape people. She said she had made friends with some of their women a year or two before, and had sent letters by them to the Cape to a relation whom she had seen there on her way out to India, and whose address she remembered, but had heard nothing of it since.
   Having brought her to talk about herself, I now kept her at it, and pumped her as dry as I could, but it was very hard work. As well as my memory serves me, she told me that her name was "Macintosh," her father a doctor, and that she had lived in Devonshire in her youth, that she was at Lucknow at the time of the siege, and had been taken from there by a leading rebel. She avoided going into particulars, so that I did not ascertain whether she went willingly or as a captive. She said she had lived a year or so in India with this man, and that he had been hunted out of the country by the English, who set a price on his head, and had found refuge in Meccah, taking her with him; that he had died eight years before, leaving her in poverty, and that she now made a living by embroidering skull-caps, which she sold to the dealers in the bazaars.
   A rich Hindi merchant, who occasionally received letters written in English from his son, who was managing his business for him in India, and knew that he could get them translated by her, gave her a little room in his zenana-house to herself. All this I got from her only in replies to my persistent questioning, till at last I was obliged to desist out of pure compassion, she seemed so cowed and bullied, and was getting quite incoherent. After this I got her to repeat a few chapters of the Koran, pretending I wanted to learn the Meccah accent, so interesting her. I found, besides Hindustani, she could speak and read Persian and Arabic, though not Turkish. She regretted she was not in a position to be acquainted with any Turks, for whom she seemed to have some respect. She mentioned the names of a number of men living in Meccah who she said had been rebels or mutineers, also telling me the prices set on their heads by the English Government, and appeared perfectly up in everything connected with the siege and relief of Lucknow. She also let drop that a young Frenchman had lived eighteen months in Meccah, and had died about six months before my arrival. I asked her what he died of. To which she replied in Hindustani, with the usual "God knows; God giveth and God taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." And then told me the following story: That about two years before a young Frenchman had come to Meccah with whom she became very intimate, and had often seen him just as she was now seeing me. He had told her that he was a Mohammedan from conviction, and that he had at first gone to Constantinople to live, but that his father, who was very wealthy, had made such efforts to get him back that he was obliged to remove to Cairo. Here he was again found out by his friends, who did everything that money and influence could do to make him return to Christianity. He seems to have been a mere lad, for some attempt was made to get him off from here by force to France; however he escaped and fled to another place in Egypt, where he was again hunted out by his friends, who drove him to Meccah as a last refuge from them. It must have been 'preserve me from my friends' with him, poor fellow! In Meccah he took service in the house of a wealthy Turk, and was thought a very clever youth, 'learned in all the learning of the Egyptians,' so much so that he was looked upon with great jealousy by the Moulahs (most likely on account of the peculiar views he would be likely to have held), and, as the 'Lady Venus' said, 'made many enemies.' He repudiated the Frenchman, always calling himself a Turk.
   I asked if he was known to be a Frenchman, and she replied:
   "He was a True Believer," implying that beyond that nobody knew or cared what he might be.
   She laid great stress on his extensive reading and the fluency with which he spoke Turkish and Arabic, and on the fact of his being well known and much disliked by a certain set who made it so hot for him that he was on the point of going away, and had seen and said good-bye to her when he suddenly died, and she had no doubt but that there had been foul play, darkly hinting at a cup of coffee.
   This was the sum of all I heard from the "Lady Venus" on this our longest interview. On parting she pointed out to me a peculiarity in the make of the upper part of her veil by which I might distinguish her from any other woman, and we appointed a rendezvous in the Haram, where we could meet on any day at a certain hour, in order that we might see as much of one another as possible, and that I might consult her about my prospects of getting away; for I was becoming very sick of hearing every day of ships leaving Jeddah, only a matter of some forty miles off, yet seeming to be almost in another world – ships I knew well, and whose officers were old shipmates.
      I met the "Lady Venus" three or four times in the Haram, and had conversations with her for intervals varying from the mere exchange of a few words during a moment's opportunity to a ten minutes' talk walking together under the arcades. Once she asked me if I had a book or any English printing to give her, saying she had part of an old almanac, ever so many years old, which she had come across in Meccah, and hoarded up ever since to read. One day she showed me her much thumbed treasure - only five pages, one month on each page. I did not notice the year, but saw the sort of thing it was "Coronation Day", "Battle of Waterloo," etc. etc., and then returned it to her carefully, telling her that it was not bad reading, under the circumstances, though it did occur to me how she would value a more substantial and interesting volume, poor beggar! I wrote in English my Christian name and address in England on a little bit of blue paper and gave it to her, and heard her read it straight off. I told her if she wrote a letter and could get any returning, pilgrim to give it to an English officer in one of the ships, it would be sure to be forwarded. She had little hopes of being able to find anyone she could trust, or who would be likely to do such a thing - even if they promised. The last time but one that I met her she was very queer, slightly hysterical I thought. She kept repeating: "Ah, child! You don't know what it is to me to see you," and then, " I would not hurt you," I would not do you any harm," stopping me and catching hold of my arm as we walked along so excitedly that I expected a scene every moment: certainly in London the expression of half such emotion would have found us the centre of an admiring throng. I looked as unconcerned as I could, talking in Arabic to her and trying to calm her; till at last I lost my temper, and said: " Do you want to raise a row?" and then told her that I should meet her on the day of my leaving for Medinah, if she would keep cool and find a place where we could be alone. I then hurried home, for I had distinctly heard a sly looking Arab make use of the nasty word -Christian.
   I went to the Haram to meet the "Lady Venus", as I had appointed with her. I had not been sitting long when she came up to me, and we went off together as we had done on other occasions. This time we walked about two miles into the country on the Muna road, to the house of an Arab; here she went in, and shortly after came out and told me that the man had disappointed her and was not at home, and as there were only women inside I could not be admitted. This was a disappointment, and poor "Lady Venus" was extremely sorry; however, we walked about together among the hills, always walking fast, as if we were going somewhere, and had a talk. I told her how I had worked it, and the luck I had met in getting away on that day, and I asked her point-blank, " lf I come back for you will you go to England with me?" to which she replied "Yes," much in the same tone as the little boy answered the lady who asked him, " Could you eat a bun?" I said to her, "You, understanding so many languages, could easily make a living in England," and I mentioned the " Asiatic Home," not that I knew anything about it, but it occurred to me at the moment as a place where she would be likely to find work. I also told her that there were man rich people in England who would, if they knew of her existence, soon provide money or means of getting her released. To this she replied "How you talk", (events have shown how I did talk, to be sure! Yes, I am afraid I was a great deal too hopeful), and so on; I promising her she would be in England in less than a year, and she very much doubting the chances of such a thing till we got back to the Haram, when she again became as excited as on our last meeting, and behaved so foolishly that (I am ashamed to say it) I doubted her for a moment and remembered the fate of the poor Frenchman. Three times I said " With you be peace " and left her, but she followed me to the gate of the Haram, and I had to go back and speak to her and tell her that people were noticing her strange conduct. The last time I went back I led her to the opposite side of the Haram, and then said "Goodbye" and ran out of one of the near gates. As I passed out I looked out and saw her sitting down against one of the pillars and a number of children standing round looking at her. This was the last time I saw the "Lady Venus."
   I have been withholding my MS from the publisher for the last eight months in the hope of being able to add, in conclusion, the story of the "Lady Venus"; or, at least, to be able to assure the reader of her release. But I now find that there is no likelihood of her story ever being divulged, which is to be regretted, as it cannot but be one of intense interest.
   She has had an opportunity of escape offered her, of which she has refused to take advantage; so that there seems nothing more to be done on her account, as I think the reader will see when I have shown him something of what has already been done for her.
   On my return to England, in the winter of 1878, I told my story to a number of gentlemen who had been either long residents in India or were well-known travellers in the East, and through them the fact of an Englishwoman being in Meccah was brought to the notice of the Government authorities. The Foreign Office then sent instructions to their Consul at Jeddah to send a Mohammedan agent into Meccah and make inquiry for the supposed captive. The inquiry found my statements of her existence and locality correct; but she had left Meccah a short time previously for India, accompanying the family with whom she had been living in Meccah. As she was now no longer within the range of the Foreign Office (Consular), the India Office was moved to go on with the necessary inquiry, and with some difficulty the lady was traced in India and at last found.
   Whether she is really an English lady, now unwilling under her sad and painful circumstances to disclose her real identity, is open to doubt. The English magistrate, whose lady had two hours' conversation with her, seems to have some suspicion of the truth of the story now told by her. And as I have been given an opportunity of reading that gentleman's semi-official communication on the subject, I hope I shall not transgress in quoting the following from it:
Semi-Official, from the Magistrate in whose District the lady was found, to the Foreign Office Authorities.
   I beg to say that I acted on your suggestion to continue my inquiries through my wife; but finding that the required interview was on one pretext or another put off, I sent for Mohammed - myself on the twenty-third instant from D-, which is about twenty-four miles from the station, and he came next day. I at once told him what I had heard about an Englishwoman being under his protection, and if so I required an interview between her and my wife. He frankly admitted the fact, and while he said he knew nothing about her he made no objection whatever to bring her to the station and let my wife converse with her. Accordingly, nine o'clock last night was appointed, and the lady duly came to my bungalow, where my wife conversed with her in privacy for more than two hours.
   I enclose herewith the substance of her own story. There is no reasonable doubt that this is the lady referred to by Mr. Keane; for except the material point (which she here denies) that she is an Englishwoman who was ravished from her friends during the Mutiny, forced to turn Mohammedan and marry her ravisher, all other details of Mr. Keane's description are found in her. And as I have carefully kept all the correspondence sealed and concealed from native view, it was utterly impossible for her to have been prompted in telling any set tale; and, moreover, as she conversed without reserve, no suspicion could arise as to the truth of her own story - except, perhaps, the main point, which she may be loath to divulge, and which certainly she positively denied to my wife.
   The facts referred to are these. She went to Meccah soon after the Mutiny. Her husband died there, or at Medinah, about seven or eight years ago. She supported herself at Meccah by doing small needlework. She was always known as an Englishwoman in Meccah. She speaks Hindi (i.e. Hindustani) and Arabic, and used to translate English letters for a native merchant. She is about forty years of age (probably nearer forty-five). She was in straitened circumstances in Meccah. She appears to be an intelligent and educated Englishwoman. She lived in Meccah in the house of Mohammed. She had interviews with Europeans at Meccah. She was known in Meccah to be an Englishwoman turned Mohammedan.
   Finally, Mr. Keane’s impression that 'she was certainly an European, though bronzed from long exposure,' he judging from a momentary view of her face when she raised her veil and shook hands at parting, is corroborated by my wife, who had a very long tête-à-tête with her in strict privacy, as she has the appearance of nothing so much as a reduced gentlewoman. In the face of her repeated and unreserved statement it is difficult if not impossible to believe that she is an Englishwoman, although fair enough to pass for one. And yet her English accent is hardly at all East-Indian, while her speech is so fluent and natural that it is not easy to suppose that she could ever have acquired English, which she seems to have learnt as her mother-tongue. Could I have had five minutes' conversation with her, I should probably have satisfied myself as to her race; but I had promised Mohammed that I would not see her, and she herself shrank from seeing me, a suggestion which my wife made to her in order to settle the matter.
   Be she whoever she may, there is no doubt she is very well content where she is. She is under no restraint whatever, beyond such as is imposed on females of her creed and country (supposing she is, as she says, a native), and has nothing to complain of; has neither friends nor relations according to her own account, and is treated more as a companion than as a dependant by the members of Mohammed's family.
   My own impression is that her father (of whom she says she knows nothing, and about whom her mother would never disclose anything to her) may have been an Englishman, and her mother, as she says, a Kashmiri; that she was brought up to speak English from infancy until she became an adult, and that in a way which her own story does not account for; that, after the Mutiny, by some vicissitude of fortune over which a veil still hangs (her own story to the contrary notwithstanding) she was taken to Meccah, where she lived ever since til the beginning of this year (1879).
   It is only just to Mohammed to say that, barring his putting off my wife two or three times, for which probably the ladies of his family were more responsible than himself, he has given every assistance in his power. I believe, what he says, that he never conversed with the lady herself till I asked him to introduce her to my wife, and that all that he knew about her was that the Shahzadi, his stepmother, was a kind of patron of hers, and called her a Feringhi (Frank) in Meccah, and an Angrezin (Englishwoman) in this country. Of course I have in no way intruded on the privacy of the family, the lady in question, according to mutual accounts, being no connection. But the fact that the lady was sent for alarmed the family, and only this morning Mohammed begged of me to take charge of the lady, whose residence with him would at any time, he thought, expose him to suspicion. I assured him that there was no occasion for any alarm, as he at least had done all that was required of him, and I requested him to let the lady live on with him as she had done for years past, which he consented to do for the present at least.
   Complexion light olive, eyes of a light colour, middle height, medium size, hair short and thin, face slightly pitted with small-pox; manner quiet and self-possessed; general appearance that of a reduced gentlewoman; speaks English remarkably well, with an accent slightly East-Indian; reads and writes English and Arabic; is said to speak Hindi with a foreign accent; age about forty -five.
   Either her present statement is true, or, as some think, after her sad and painful captivity and degradation of more than twenty years, and the uncertainty she may feel about finding a home and maintenance open to her, she prefers to remain in her present obscurity and seclusion. If not really English, it is difficult to account for her accurate knowledge of English - a language to which she has been a stranger for twenty years - her manner and appearance. At all events, I have fulfilled my promise made to her in Meccah.
Keane, T.F (Hajj Mohammed Amin) : Six Months in Meccah: an Account of the Mohammedan Pilgrimage to Meccah; Recently Accomplished by an Englishman Professing Mohammedanism
London 1881

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