A Dweller in Mesopotamia by Donald Maxwell

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By Donald Maxwell

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I cannot lay hands on a sketch of her, but the one reproduced at the head of this chapter will give some idea of her character. Take away one funnel and place it amid-ships, reduce her tonnage a little, and you have the Shushan to the life. This gallant little curiosity is no late conscripted product of the war. She is one of the pukka ships of the Navy in Mesopotamia—one of the Old Contemptibles. Armed with a three-pounder which caused such havoc to her decks when fired that it is reported the ship had to be turned round after each round.

Perhaps in this case mirage had something to do with it. A mosque or tomb became visible and then, almost suddenly, we seemed to get to close quarters with everything. A ridge rose up from the flat land and from this point of vantage, known as the tomb of Abraham, we could look across a level zone a few hundred yards wide to the long, irregular hummock about a hundred feet high, although in this setting it looked a great deal more. The east side of this small range is scored with miniature wadies washed out by rain, and the crowning ruin appeared (as in sketch, Fig.

1), casting a long shadow down the slope of the hill. Leaving the high ground we skirted the foot of the mound, going southwards and seeing it from the point of view indicated in Fig. 2, and then as at Fig. 3. A group of Arabs bargaining about coins and attempting to sell curios to two British officers, who had dismounted from their horses, made a tremendous hubbub and, as Brown noted, gave the right local colour as to the confusion of tongues. I am ill-equipped with books of reference out here, but in one of Murray's handbooks I have unearthed the following note—all I can find about this place:— Tower of Babel.

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