A European hat in those days was a rarity except in the large towns, and it attracted notice. That is the reason why I generally discarded it, with other too conspicuously Western adjuncts. Where the inhabitants were not well mannered, the hat was apt to be saluted with a shower of stones.

One afternoon I happened to be riding by myself along a so-called road in the bare mountain country round Jerusalem, wearing a hat, when I came on a pedestrian resting in the shadow of a rock by the wayside. He was a native Christian—that much could be detected at a glance; but of what peculiar brand I could not guess from his costume, which consisted of a fez; a clerical black coat and waistcoat, quite of English cut, but very much the worse for wear; a yellow flannel shirt, and a red cord with tassels worn by way of necktie; baggy Turkish pantaloons; white stockings, and elastic-sided boots. Beside him, a long staff leaned up against the rock. He sprang upon his feet at my approach, and, with an amiable smile and bow, exclaimed:

‘Good afternoon. I think you are an English gentleman?’

I pleaded guilty to the charge, and he asked leave to walk beside me until past a certain village, not far distant, of which the people, he assured me, were extremely wicked and averse to Christians. I readily consented, and he took his staff and walked beside me, pouring out his soul in fulsome flattery.

The village which he dreaded to approach alone was the abode of Muslims, devilish people who hate the righteous Christians and persecute them when they get the chance. He said that he looked forward to the day when the English would take over the whole country and put those evil-doers in their proper place, below the Christians. It would be a mercy and a blessing to the human race, he gave as his mature opinion, if the English were to conquer the whole world. They were so good and upright and so truly pious. He did not think that any wrong was ever done in England. And then:

‘You are a Brûtestant?’ he asked.

I answered that I was a member of the Church of England.

‘Ah, thank God!’ he cried. ‘I also am a Brûtestant—a Babtist.’ He seemed to think that my avowal made us brothers.

It seemed, from the account he gave me of himself, that he was an evangelist, working to spread the truth among his wicked country-people; for the Christians of the Greek and Latin Churches were both wicked and benighted, he informed me, and would persecute him, like the Muslims, if they got the chance. It was hard work, he told me, turning up his eyes to heaven. He grieved to say it, but there seemed no other way to purge the land of all those wicked people save destruction. He wondered that the Lord had not destroyed them long ago. Yet when I said that I did not agree with him, but thought that they were decent folk, though rather backward, he came round to my opinion in a trice, exclaiming:

‘Ah, how true you speak! It is that they are backward. They will neffer be no better till they get the Gosbel light, the liffin water.’

Looking for converts. Jerusalem 1980.

Looking for converts. Jerusalem 1980.

I told him he was talking nonsense; that, for my part, I thought the missionaries did more harm than good, and once again he changed his standpoint, though less boldly, saying:

‘It is so delightful to talk thus freely to a noble English gentleman. God knows that I could listen for a day without fatigue, you talk so sweet. And what you say is all so new to me.’

And he proceeded to relate with what severity the English missionaries treated native converts like himself, mentioning many wicked things which they had done in his remembrance. I could not but admire his versatility and total lack of shame in his desire to please. Thus talking, we approached the village of his fears.

‘If I was by myself I should be much afraid,’ he fawned; ‘but not with you. These wicked beoble do not dare to hurt an English gentleman, who wears the hat and is brotected by the Bowers of Eurobe.’

We had not really got into the place before some boys at play among the rocks outside the houses, spying my hat, threw stones in our direction. One hit my horse. I raised my whip and rode at them. They fled with screams of terror. Glancing back, I could perceive no sign of my devout companion. But when I returned at leisure, having driven the young rogues to cover, I found him vigorously beating a small boy who had fallen in the panic flight and, finding himself left behind, had been too frightened to get up again.

Never have I seen a face of such triumphant malice as then appeared on that demure evangelist. He beat the child as if he meant to kill it, muttering execrations all the while and looking round him furtively for fear lest other Muslims should appear in sight, in which case, I believe, he would at once have turned from blows to fondling.

‘The wicked boy!’ he cried, as I came up, ‘to throw stones at a noble English gentleman. He well deserfs to be deliffered ofer to the Bowers of Eurobe.’

White means pure. Jerusalem, 2011.

White means pure. Jerusalem, 2011.

I bade him leave the child alone, or it would be the worse for him. Aggrieved, and, in appearance, shocked at my unsympathetic tone, he left his prey, and I endeavoured to speak comfort to the victim; who, however, took no notice of my words, but ran hard for the village, howling lustily.

‘The wicked boy! The wicked children!’ the evangelist kept moaning, in hesitating and half-contrite tones. ‘It is a bity that you let him go. He will perhabs make trouble for us in the fillage. But you are so brafe. I think the English are the brafest kind of beeble.’

I also thought it possible there might be trouble; but I decided to go on, not wishing to show fear before that craven. He cried aloud in awe and wonder when I told him that little boys threw stones in Christian England.

‘But only upon unbelievers!’ he exclaimed imploringly, as one who would preserve his last illusion.

I replied to the effect that members of the Church of England would, no doubt, have stoned a Baptist or a Roman Catholic with pleasure, if such heretics with us had dressed in a peculiar way; but that, in my opinion, it was only natural instinct in a boy to throw a stone at any living thing which seemed unusual.

The shock this information gave him—or his private terrors—kept him silent through the village; where the people, men and women, watched us pass with what appeared to be unfriendly faces. I was ill at ease, expecting some attack at every step.

As luck would have it, at the far end of the place, when I could see the open country, and was giving thanks for our escape, a great big stone was thrown by a small boy quite close to me. It struck me on the arm, and hurt enough to make me really angry.

‘For God’s sake, sir!’ implored my terrified companion, ‘Ride on! Do nothing! There are men obserfing.’

I heard him taking to his heels. But I had caught the culprit, and was beating him. His yells went forth with terrible insistence:

‘O my father, O my mother, help. Ya Muslimin!’

And, in a trice, I was surrounded by a group of surly-looking fellâhîn, one of whom told me curtly to release the boy. I did so instantly, prepared for trouble. But no sooner had I left off beating than that man began. The boy’s appeals for help went forth anew; but this time he addressed them to his mother only, for his father held him.

I begged the man to stop, and in the end he did so.

All those ferocious-looking fellâhîn returned my smile at this conclusion, and wished me a good evening as I rode away.

I never saw that bright evangelist again. No doubt he ran till he had reached some place inhabited by altogether righteous Christian people. But the way he started running was a clear inducement to pursuit to any son of Adam not evangelised

 Excerpted from Oriental Encounters. Reprint courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Photographs by Seth Frantzman, Benjamin, and Avital Pinnick. Published under a Creative Commons license.