Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/643

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like the tribe of Hodeil, south of Mecca, perform it after a fashion peculiar to themselves.

Though polygamy is not common among Bedouins, marriages are contracted without any legal intervention or guarantee; the consent of the parties, and the oral testimony of a couple of witnesses, should such be at hand, are all that are required; and divorce is equally easy. Nor is mutual constancy much expected or observed either by men or women; and the husband is rarely strict in exacting from the wife a fidelity that he himself has no idea of observing. Jealousy may indeed occasionally bring about tragic results, but this rarely occurs except where publicity, to which the Bedouins, like all other Arabs, are very sensitive, is involved. Burckhardt writes: “The Bedouins are jealous of their women, but do not prevent them from laughing and talking with strangers. It seldom happens that a Bedouin strikes his wife; if he does so she calls loudly on her wasy or protector, who pacifies the husband and makes him listen to reason.... The wife and daughters perform all domestic business. They grind the wheat in the handmill or pound it in the mortar; they prepare the breakfast and dinner; knead and bake the bread; make butter, fetch water, work at the loom, mend the tent-covering ... while the husband or brother sits before the tent smoking his pipe.” A maiden’s honour is, on the other hand, severely guarded; and even too openly avowed a courtship, though with the most honourable intentions, is ill looked on. But marriage, if indeed so slight and temporary a connexion as it is among Bedouins deserves the name, is often merely a passport for mutual licence. In other respects Bedouin morality, like that of most half-savage races, depends on custom and public feeling rather than on any fixed code or trained conscience, and hence admits of the strangest contradictions. Not only are lying and exaggeration no reproach in ordinary discourse, but even deliberate perjury and violation of the most solemn engagements are frequent occurrences. Not less frequent, however, are instances of prolonged fidelity and observance of promise carried to the limits of romance. “The wind,” “the wood,” and “the honour of the Arabs” are the most ordinary oaths in serious matters; but even these do not give absolute security, while a simple verbal engagement will at other times prove an inviolable guarantee. Thus, too, the extreme abstemiousness of a Bedouin alternates with excessive gorgings; and, while the name and deeds of “robber” are hardly a reproach, those of “thief” are marked by abhorrence and contempt. In patience, or rather endurance, both physical and moral, few Bedouins are deficient; wariness is another quality universally developed by their mode of life. And in spite of an excessive coarseness of language, and often of action, gross vice, at least of the more debasing sorts that dishonour the East, is rare.

Most Bedouins, men and women, are rather undersized; their complexion, especially in the south, is dark; their hair coarse, thick and black; their eyes dark and oval; the nose is generally aquiline, and the features well formed; the beard and moustache are usually scanty. The men are active, but not strong; the women are generally plain. The dress of the men consists of a long cotton shirt, open at the breast, often girt with a leathern girdle; a black or striped cloak of hair is sometimes thrown over the shoulders; a handkerchief, folded once, black, or striped yellow and red, covers the head, round which it is kept in its place by a piece of twine or a twisted hairband. To this costume a pair of open sandals is sometimes added. Under the shirt, round the naked waist, a thin strip of leather plait is wound several times, not for any special object, but merely out of custom. In his hand a Bedouin almost always carries a slight crooked wand, commonly of almond-wood. Among the Bedouins of the south a light wrapper takes the place of the handkerchief on the head, and a loin-cloth that of the shirt. The women usually wear wide loose drawers, a long shirt, and over it a wide piece of dark blue cloth enveloping the whole figure and head, and trailing on the ground behind. Very rarely does a Bedouin woman wear a veil, or even cover her face with her overcloak, contenting herself with narrowing the folds of the latter over her head on the approach of a stranger. Her wrists and ankles are generally adorned with bracelets and rings of blue glass or copper or iron, very rarely of silver; her neck with glass beads; ear-rings are rare, and nose-rings rarer. Boys, till near puberty, usually go stark naked; girls also wear no clothes up to the age of six or seven.

On a journey a Bedouin invariably carries with him a light, sharp-pointed lance, the stem of which is made of Persian or African cane; the manner in which this is carried or trailed often indicates the tribe of the owner. The lance is the favourite and characteristic weapon of the Arab nomad, and the one in the use of which he shows the greatest skill. An antiquated sword, an out-of-date musket, an ornamented dagger or knife, a coat of mail, the manufacture of Yemen or Bagdad, and a helmet, a mere iron head-piece, without visor or crest, complete his military outfit.

A Bedouin’s tent consists of a few coverings of the coarsest goat-hair, dyed black, and spread over two or more small poles, in height from 8 to 9 ft., gipsy fashion. If it be the tent of a sheik, its total length may be from 30 to 40 ft.; if of an ordinary person, less than 20 ft. Sometimes a partition separates the quarters of the women and children; sometimes they are housed under a lower and narrower covering. A rough carpet or mat is spread on the ground; while camel-saddles, ropes, halters, two or three cooking pots, one or two platters, a wooden drinking bowl, the master’s arms at one side of the tent, and his spear stuck in the ground at the door, complete the list of household valuables. On striking camp all these are fastened on the backs of camels; the men mount their saddles, the women their litters; and in an hour the blackened stones that served for a cooking hearth are the only sign of the encampment. For food the Bedouin relies on his herds, but rice, vegetables, honey, locusts and even lizards are at times eaten.

Bibliography.—Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabis (1831); Karstens Niebuhr, Travels through Arabia (orig. Germ. edit. 1772), translated into English by Robert Heron (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1792); H. H. Tessup, Women of the Arabs (New York, 1874); W. S. Blunt, Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates (1879); Lady Anne Blunt, Pilgrimage to Nejd (1881); Desmoulins, Les Français d’aujourd’hui (Paris, 1898); C. M. Doughty, Arabia Deserta (2 vols., 1888); E. Reclus, Les Arabes (Brussels, 1898); Rev. S. M. Zwemer, Arabia, the Cradle of Islam (1900); W. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia (Cambridge, 1885); H. C. Trumbull, The Blood Covenant (Philadelphia, 1891).

BEDSORE, a form of ulceration or sloughing, occasioned in people who, through sickness or old age, are confined to bed, resulting from pressure or the irritation of sweat and dirt. Bedsores usually occur when there is a low condition of nutrition of the tissues. The more helpless the patient the more liable he is to bedsores, and especially when he is paralysed, delirious or insane, or when suffering from one of the acute specific fevers. They may occur wherever there is a pressure, more especially when any moisture is allowed to remain on the bedding; and thus lack of cleanliness is an important factor in the production of this condition. In large hospitals a bedsore is now a great rarity, and this, considering the helplessness of many of the patients treated, shows what good nursing can do. The bed must be made with a firm smooth mattress; the undersheet and blanket must be changed whenever they become soiled; the drawsheet is spread without creases, and changed the moment it becomes soiled. Preventive treatment must be followed from the first day of the illness. This consists in the most minute attention to cleanliness, and constant variation in the position of the patient. All parts subjected to pressure or friction must be frequently washed with soap and hot water, then thoroughly dried with a warm soft towel. The part should next be bathed in a solution of corrosive sublimate in spirits of wine, and finally dusted with an oxide of zinc and starch powder. This routine should be gone through not less than four times in the twenty-four hours in any case of prolonged illness. The pressure may be relieved over bony prominences by a water-pillow or by a piece of thick felt cut into a ring. Signs of impending bedsores must constantly be watched for. Where one threatens, the skin loses its proper colour, becoming either a deadly white or a dusky red,