"Finding myself the observed of all observers in Mogador, I transferred my residence to Mr. Pepe Ratto's International Sanatorium, about three miles outside the town, which passes generally under the designation of the Palm-Tree House. There I essayed to live my filibustering character down, and for a day or two went sedulously out shooting in the hottest time of day, to show I was a European traveller; collected ‘specimens’, as butterflies and useless stones; took photographs, all of which turned out badly; classified flowers according to a system of my own; took lessons in Arabic, and learned to ride upon the Moorish saddle. A few days of this exhilarating life made all things quiet, and the good citizens of Mogador were certain that I was a bona-fide traveller and had no design to attack the province of the Sus.
The Sanatori Internacional de la Palmera was a sort of hotel of the next century. Everything in it was “en construction.” The managers, two little Marseillais, of the bull-dog type, spent almost all their time either in practising la boxe Marseillaise, in playing on the concertina, an instrument which, when I am in Europe (dans les pays policés), I fancy obsolete, but which, in days gone by, set my teeth often aching in the River Plate and in Brazil. After so many years when first again I heard its wheezy tones, upon a moonlight night in the Palmera, with camels resting under the great palm tree, and Arabs lying asleep, their faces covered in their haiks, horses and mules champing their corn, hyenas growling in the distance, jackals yelping, and the frogs croaking like silver cymbals, as they never croak to the north of latitude forty, it set me wondering why men must go about on a calm, clear night grinding an instrument to make their unoffending fellows’ stomachs ache. Besides the concertina and “la boxe” (Marseillaise), the brothers, curly-headed and pleasant little sons of La Joliette or La Cannebiere, devoutly entered everything into a ledger, large enough for Lombard Street, by double entry; and besides that had an infinity of talents de société, kept chameleons, understood botany, were cooks and linguists, speaking most languages including “petit nègre” quite fluently; were civil, educated, ignorant, and thoroughly good fellows to the full length of their respective five feet four and five feet seven inches.
The hotel was on a hill and had a view over a sand hill, on which grew oceans of white broom, dwarf rhododendrons, gum cistus, thyme (which in Morocco is a bush), and mignonette, and in whose thickets wild boars harboured and from which sand grouse flew whirring out. The owner of the place, a mighty sportsman, having slain more boars, and had more adventures in the slaying than any one, since Sir John Drummond Hay laid down his spear. Born in Mogador, of English or Gibraltarian parents, and speaking Spanish, English, Arabic, and Shillah quite without prejudice of one another, Mr. Ratto, known to his friends as “Pepe,” fills, in South Morocco, the place that Bibi Carleton fills in the north. No book upon Morocco is complete without a reference to both of them. How the thing comes about I do not know, but not unfrequently the sons of Europeans born in hot countries turn out failures, either in person or in mind, or both, but when the contrary occurs and the transplanting turns out well, the type is finer than is common in the mother country. Both of my types would, walking in a crowd in any town of Europe, attract attention. Tall, dark, brown-eyed, erect and lithe, clear brown complexions, open-handed and quick of apprehension, good horsemen, linguists, and yet perhaps not fitted to excel in England or in France, or any country where continuous work is necessary, they have had the sense to stay at home, and become as it were “Gauchos,” that is a sort of intermediate link between the Arab and the European, and at the same time to incorporate most of the virtues of the two races. Put them in Western Texas, Buenos Ayres, or South Africa, and they must have made fortunes; as it is both are as rich as kings when mounted on a good horse, a rifle in their hands, and a long road to travel for no special cause.
Not far away begins, sporadically, the district of the Argan Tree, in fact, outside the door of the Palmera stands a small specimen, the roots almost uncovered and bent towards the east by the prevailing wind. (p. 50 -52)
Graham, Robert Bontine Cunninghame. Mogreb-El-Acksa: A Journey in Morocco. London:
Duckworth and Co, 1898.
Link to source : The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, Volym 3