He set out, down the roughly paved streets, through the arched and shaded bazaars— places less full of colour and more sombre than the markets of other Oriental cities— to the heart of the city, where the streets were bounded by the vision of the distant hills of Olivet.
The religious riots and unrest were long since over. The pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were less in number, but were mostly Russians of the Greek Church, who still accepted the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the true goal of their desires.
The Greeks and Armenians hated each other no more than usual. The Turks were held in good control by a strong governor of Jerusalem. Nor was this a time of special festival. The city, never quite at rest, was still in its normal condition.
The Bedouin women with their unveiled faces, tattooed in blue, strode to the bazaars with the butter they had brought in from their desert herds. They wore gaudy head-dresses and high red boots, and they jostled the "pale townsmen" as they passed them; free, untamed creatures of the sun and air. As Spence passed by the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre a crowd of Fellah boys ran up to him with candles ornamented with scenes from the Passion, pressing him to buy.
observations: Consult the earlier entry on this book to find out what is going on here – briefly, an evil conspiracy has challenged the basis of religion, and the world has become a wicked place. (Except for the Catholics that is, who have been told by the Vatican not to believe any of this rubbish, and who have obeyed. Go, Catholics! Surprisingly, the Church of England curate says he always goes to a Catholic church when in France.)
Early on, Thorne says of a character: ‘The future was not yet revealed to him. God spared him the torture of foreknowledge.’ He certainly doesn’t spare us – there’s not really much in the way of surprises or twists in the book. The conspiracy is clear to us from the beginning, and we follow conspirators and the forces of good alternately. In this section, the forces of good are trying to fight back.
Being a Bedouin woman, all free and untamed, sounds a lot more fun than being an Englishwoman – the choices seem to be the dull Helena, a good woman who does nothing -
Sweet-faced she was and with an underlying seriousness even in her times of laughter…The eyes were placid, intelligent, but without keenness.- and fallen woman Gertrude who is doomed, mabye - see this entry.
Links up with: Another Helena - the Empress Helena from this book - is mentioned dismissively as having had a ‘foolish dream’ about the site of the Holy Sepulchre - which you would guess from the passage above is a key element of the book.
The picture of a Bedouin woman in Jerusalem at around the date of the book is from the Library of Congress.