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112

PROCLAMATION TO THE ABBASSAKS.

enlighten them. But all the measures he could suggest were necessarily of a nature as vague and general as his knowledge of the country and the circumstances to which they applied.

The chief among them was the summoning to their assistance the inhabitants of the neighbouring provinces, and accordingly Mehemet Hadji Oli Effendi, their chief judge and secretary of state, had drawn up a manifesto, which, not unlike the dignitary who composed it, presented a strange medley of shrewdness, pathos, and buffoonery, and which, among other rhetorical flourishes, told the Abbassaks, to whom it was addressed, that their high mountains would ultimately prove no protection to them; if they allowed the more exposed districts, which acted as their advanced guard, to be ruined in detail, their own position, inexpugnable as it appeared to be, would be seriously compromised ;-could the spit be considered out of danger while the roast was on fire ?

In this document all true Mussulmans were invoked in the name of Sultan Mahmoud, their lord, (spiritual of course,) and his trusty ally, the Inglis Caral, or King of England, to assist in the warfare against the infidel; and Mr. Bell, albeit no Mussulman himself, yet as a friend to Mussulmans, and an enemy to Ghiaurs, was invited to put his signature to it. But this he declined to do, and

DIFFICULTY OF CONCENTRATION.

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as, a few days afterwards, ambassadors from the Abbassaks arrived to greet us in person, I believe it was never sent. Indeed, it is very doubtful if Mehemet Effendi, a famous diplomatist in his way, meant to send it at all, and if it was ever intended for anything more than a mystification for their English visitors, to whom he conceived himself by no means called upon to tell the truth, but bound in duty, as a true Circassian, to impose the belief of his countrymen being much more united than they really were.

As to reinforcements in any number from the Abbassaks, he must have been pretty sure that, though summoned, they would, “like spirits from the vasty deep,” be very slow in making their appearance ; or if they did come, still surer that their presence would be far from desirable or welcome. Under existing circumstances, an army of their own countrymen, gathered from the remoter provinces, would probably give them more trouble than the Russians themselves. For the latter they had only to provide as much powder and lead as the neighbourhood could afford for their entertainment: but, save us from our friends, as we say in England; for, from these they could neither withhold their sheep nor their pasta ; and in the absence of public funds, or resources of any sort, the collec

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APPEARANCE BEFORE THE COUNCIL.

tion of a considerable force in a particular spot would certainly produce a famine there.

From the nature of the country, if the advantages it afforded for defence against the enemy were duly attended to, a handful of men would be as efficient as a host; and the whole male and adult population being armed, were prepared for the Russians wherever they might present themselves.

In crossing the Kuban for a foray into the Russian territory, the same reasons not existing against it, they would frequently assemble there in great force, though even then I have heard it maintained by them, that small bodies of cavalry are preferable to large ones, as being more manageable, and better adapted for the purposes of secrecy and expedition.

The above matters were summarily discussed by Mr. Bell and myself, during the endless removes of another repast, which, with what appetite I could command after the feasting I had already undergone scarce an hour before, I was, out of courtesy to my new Konag Bey, compelled to sit down to, and which, notwithstanding the eagerness of the multitude out of doors for our interview, their notions of hospitality made a necessary preliminary to it.

THE COUNCIL RING

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CHAPTER VI.

Our conference with the council-Remarks on that assembly

Selim Bey – Schimaf's rapacity Mehemet Hadji Oli Effendi-His motives for patronising us.

On issuing, at length, into the grass-grown court in front of the guest-house, we found it occupied by a dense crowd of people, through which room was made for us as we passed to an open space, where mats and cushions had been prepared for us in the centre. On our arrival there, the most distinguished persons seated themselves round us in a ring, an arrangement apparently inseparable from the proceedings of a deliberative assembly. From the number of turbaned heads among them, it might be seen there was a general muster of

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THE COUNCIL-RING.

the effendis or judges of the land there on the occasion.

Wherever we cast our eyes beyond this circle, they encountered those of the assembled warriors, who not only pressed on every side of us, but were many of them clinging to the trees that enclosed the court-yard, from whose foliage above, as well as from the esplanade beneath, a throng of grimlooking countenances were bent on us in every direction. Wonder, curiosity, and suspicion might be traced there in fluctuating yet legible characters; but though in some aspect more savage than the rest might be detected a scowl of hostility, the prevailing expression was such as to convince us we were among friends, and had nothing to fear from the few that were ill-disposed to us. Mingled at the same time with the respect they bore us as Englishmen was the proud consciousness of their own independence, and the feeling that if strangers were admitted into retreats deemed hitherto inaccessible, if allowed a seat in the councils of Circassia, the former they had themselves introduced them to, nor were the secrets of the latter such as a free and warlike nation had any reason to be ashamed of.

The chief interlocutor on the occasion, an office ceded to him by the tacit consent of the whole

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