My Tea to Mehemet Ali and Fareedie by Unknown
WHEN I lived in Syria, Midhat Pasha was
appointed governor of the Pashalic in
which I resided, and came with great pomp and
ceremony to assume the duties of his position.
His retinue consisted of a great many guards, servants
and soldiers, and, as they passed through the
street just below my balcony, I looked at them all
with a great deal of interest.
The Pasha rode a fine bay horse and was
dressed in European costume, excepting that he
wore a turban instead of a hat. He was short and
stout, well bronzed by the sun, and had that air of
command which so much distinguishes a soldier
if he possesses it. He seemed to be about fifty
years of age, although I have heard he was much
Just here I shall tell you that I never saw a tall
and slender Turk, though I have seen many handsome
ones. They all seemed to show in their features
and frame their Tartar origin.
Damascus is the capital of the Pashalic, and
Midhat went there to live in the palace of the Governors,
which is near the famous Mosque of the
Sultan Selim. Damascus is about ninety miles
from Beirût, and the road that connects the two
cities is an excellent one. It was built by the
French after the terrible massacres in the Lebanon
Mountains in 1860.
We soon heard the new Pasha was very much
disliked in Damascus. He tried to reform several
abuses in the administration of affairs, and gave
great offence to all classes of the people; so he
brought his family with him and came to live in
The Turks are Orthodox Mohammedans, you
know, and are polygamists. In his youth Midhat
married a lady, who was remarkable for her goodness,
and he esteemed her very much. But this
lady had a great sorrow, for no little children were
hers. After awhile she asked Midhat to marry a
lady she knew, and he did so.
These ladies were very fond of one another;
the elder was the adviser and counselor of her husband,
interested in politics and business; the other
was very industrious, made beautiful fancy-work
and embroidery, and was always busy with her
needle, so neither became a horrible scold, nor
a lazy, fat animal, as almost all Mohammedan
women become because they are so idle and have
nothing to think about.
I knew the two dear little children of the second
wife. The boy, Mehemet Ali, was seven years old,
and the little girl, Fareedie, was five. I became
acquainted with them in this way.
Midhat wished the children to be well educated,
and he engaged an English lady, named Mrs.
Smith, to be their governess, with the distinct understanding
that she was never in any way to mention
any of the doctrines of our Christian religion
to them. This was a hard thing for her to promise,
but she did so and assumed the charge of the children.
They slept in a room opening from hers and
she watched over them night and day with loving
care. I knew Mrs. Smith very well, and through
her knew the children and their mother.
The little ones could speak French very well
(French is the favorite language of all Orientals),
but not any English.
I seem to be a long time in reaching my story,
but I had to tell you all this, else how would you
have known who Mehemet Ali and Fareedie were,
or how extraordinary it was for the children of a
Turkish Pasha to go anywhere to tea?
I invited them to take luncheon with me, but
Mrs. Smith said that would interfere with their
morning lessons, so the invitation was changed,
and I asked them to come to tea.
It was a beautiful November afternoon (November
in Syria is warm and is the perfection of
weather), and I sent a carriage for them at half-past
three o'clock. They soon came, no one with
them but Mrs. Smith.
Mehemet Ali wore a light gray suit made like
an American boy's, only his trousers were long and
he had a red tarboosh on his head. He had worn
a hat, but this gave offence to the Turks and was
one of the charges made against his father by the
people of Damascus, so it had been discarded.
Fareedie wore a dark blue velvet frock with a
frill of lace around the neck, and on her feet were
little red Turkish slippers. She was very beautiful,
eager and quick—nay, passionate in all her
feelings—and from the time she entered my house
until she left it in a quiver of excitement. When
she came in, she kissed me on the cheek and gave
me some white jasmine blossoms strung like beads
upon a fine wire, something little Syrian children
are very fond of. Her first astonishment was the
long mirror in my wardrobe; she never had seen
one before, and when she caught sight of herself
in it, she cried breathlessly: "Oh! très jolie!
très jolie!" and turned herself in every direction to
see the effect, then ran to me and gave me another
kiss and called me, "chère Madame."
She darted hither and thither, looking at every
thing and chattering; but Mehemet Ali was very
grave, although his little beady black eyes were
looking at everything also, and showed the interest
he felt but wished to conceal.
Now Fareedie was on the balcony looking down
on the fountain below and some shrubs covered
with wonderful large blue flowers (like morning-glories,
only ever so much larger)—"trees of
flowers," she called the shrubs; then she spied a
little rocking-chair, something that was a wonderful
curiosity to her, and, when told that she might
sit in it, she rocked back and forth furiously,
till I really feared she would break her pretty little
I said to Mrs. Smith, "This will never do; I
will take her on my lap and show her pictures."
"Yes," said she, "that will be a great treat, for
she has never seen any."
"It is not possible!" I exclaimed.
"Indeed it is. You forget the Mohammedans do
not allow pictures anywhere in their houses, and
the little books I have to teach the children from
are French ones without illustrations."
By this time I had gotten a book of Natural
History, and, taking the little girl on my knees, I
said I would show her something. I opened the
book at random, and I shall never forget the look
upon Fareedie's face, nor the quiver that ran
through her little body, when she saw the picture
and screamed out, "Tigre! Tigre!"
At this Ali ran to us and the two turned over the
pages hurriedly, mentioning the names of each animal
they knew, with a delight I cannot describe to
Then Ali said, "Perhaps, Madame, it may be
you have a picture of an engine of a ship—is it
(This sentence of Ali's I have translated for fear
it would be hard for you, if I gave it in French.
You remember he did not know English.)
"Now what shall I do!" I thought, "for I don't
know anything about engines, and I don't know
where to find any pictures of them;" but the black
eyes helped in the search, and before I could think
where to look the boy seized upon a copy of the Scientific
American, and there, fortunately, were several
pictures of engines and boilers. He did not move
for a long time afterward, except to say, "It is a regret
that I do not know the English to read." He
sat as still as a statue, perfectly absorbed, even
pale, so intense were his feelings.
Soon Prexea, my slender Syrian maid, came in
and announced that tea was served. Prexea was a
Greek in religion and hated the Turks, so she was
not in a good humor, as I knew very well by the
way she opened the door.
Fareedie ran into the dining-room, but Ali evidently
did not wish to lay down his paper, till Mrs.
Smith gently told him he must; then he obeyed.
"A table! Chairs! How droll! How droll!"
And now a great difficulty presented itself.
They had never sat at a table, and I had no high
chairs for them. They always sat on the floor, on
a rug, to eat, and had a low Arabic table put in
front of each of them. Their tables are about
eighteen inches high, made of olive wood inlaid
with mother-of-pearl and silver, perhaps all silver.
As to dishes, the children seldom had even a bowl.
Arabic bread is very peculiar. It is baked in
thin flat cakes, about the size of a dinner plate,
and does not look in the least like bread, more like
leather. The children usually had one of these
cakes for the dish, and all that they were to have
to eat would be put on it, then another cake
would be given to them which they would break in
pieces, using them as spoons, and last of all, eating
spoons and dish, too.
So you can imagine how surprised they were
when they saw my table. But what about chairs
for them? A brilliant idea struck me. I ran to the
bookcase and got two dictionaries, which I put on
the chairs they were to occupy, and with Ali on
Webster's and Fareedie on Worcester's, we began
Ali had been very serious during these proceedings
and, as soon as we were seated, he pointed to
my sideboard and the silver on it, and said impressively,
The knives and forks were too much for them.
They sawed away with the one and speared the
food with the other so ineffectively, that we told
them they might eat with their fingers, which they
did very nicely.
I had tea and coffee, sandwiches, cold chicken,
blackberry jam, and other sweets and cake. The
sandwiches were of eggs, not ham, of course; for it
would have been an insult to their parents to have
let them taste pork, which is held in great abhorrence
by all Mohammedans. Why, many of
them will not wear European shoes, for fear the
bristles of swine may have been used in sewing
Both children asked for coffee "à la Frank," as
they called it. They had never seen it with cream
in it, nor served in anything but a tiny Oriental
cup. I gave it to them in our own coffee cups,
with plenty of cream in, and they stirred it with
their spoons and said it was "very grand."
Fareedie was a little sloppy, I must confess, but
otherwise they behaved very politely.
But the questions they asked! Fareedie was an
animated interrogation point, I thought; and after
tea Ali lost his impassiveness, and went round the
house examining everything with curiosity, especially
anything that could be moved, or had casters
At last the visit was over. My tall "cawass"
came in and announced the carriage was at the
door to take them home. With many promises to
come again, they went away, kissing me lovingly,
Ali with the coveted Scientific American under his
arm, and Fareedie with a cup and saucer her little
heart had longed for.
But they never did come, and I never saw them
anywhere again. For, Wasif Effendi, the Secretary
of the Pasha, hated Mrs. Smith, and by some
underhand means contrived to have her dismissed.
Then Midhat was transferred to Smyrna, and my
little friends left Beirût, never to return, I fear.
Perhaps you know the Pasha was ordered to Constantinople
and tried for the murder of the Sultan
Abdul Aziz. It was proved that he had been an
accomplice, and he was exiled for life, to a place
And there on the shores of the terrible Red Sea,
near Mecca, and far from all civilizing and good
influences, my dear little friends are forced to live.
Their father is dead, but his family are still at
You would be surprised to know how often I
think of them, and how sad it makes me. Their
future is full of peril. I wonder if they ever think