Page images

anything.” The manager, who was familiar with the timehonoured joke, “I believe your name is Smith,” was abashed and went away.

Every one is familiar with the story of the man who said to another man,“My name is Smith," and the other man's reply: " I remember your name, but I don't remember your face." This is a common formula with Egyptians who don't like confessing that they don't know anything.

If you want to see real importance, there is nothing for it like the smaller fry of consuls in Cairo. There was a Swedish consul-general, a fine figure of a man, blown up like a balloon with conceit. He called on Agenoria (followed by a cavasse, in a gold-laced livery, carrying his sword), to show her the uniform he had been wearing at a levee.

“My niece cannot come down; she is not very well,” said Agenoria.

The Consul made a rush for the staircase.

“Where are you going?” asked the scandalised Agenoria. And the Consul replied in perfect good faith :

“I thought it might cheer her up if I went to see her in my uniform."


The Humours of the Country Egyptian

HE country Egyptian is a weird, though kindly and

generally estimable person; he is nothing if not literal. Cromwell Rhodes was one day fetched to see a boy who had just been bitten by a cerastes, the venomous horned viper of Egypt which made Cleopatra cease from troubling. He lanced the place and injected manganese crystals, and told them not on any account to let the boy go to sleep till he (himself) came back from his work in a few hours' time. As it happened, there was an accident on the line in the course of the day, and he was sent for. It kept him away for five days, and he did not think of sending a message to the relatives of the snake bitten boy, because he was engrossed with the seriousness of the accident. When he did get back they asked him to come and see the boy because he was dying. As soon as he saw him he knew that the child was only dying from want of sleep: that the effects of the snakebite had all gone. On inquiring, he found that they had kept him awake for the whole five days by stabbing him with a needle. He at once ordered the boy to be left alone, and, after about a week's sleep, he completely recovered. It would be most unsafe to be bitten by a snake in that district


Once upon a time he had to ride several miles through a quarry in the wilds, to which he was proposing to make a railway-as there will be one to the famous porphyry quarries some day. At present all the good porphyry in the world is second-hand.

Agenoria and her husband rode on staid little donkeys, but

they were escorted by wild Arabs on swift white horses, flourishing their long guns and with their shawls Aying round their heads, who executed a sort of fantasia all the time. They were especially anxious to entertain the Rhodeses at a banquet.

When their consent was obtained outriders tore on to warn the camp to prepare. Agenoria was left with the women, who exercised her little Arabic to the full while they patted her on the back.

"How old are you ?” was of course the first question they asked.

“How old is your husband ? "
“How many children have you ? "
“How much did your clothes cost ?"

Then the women vanished, and the men came in with armfuls of bread like long thin logs, which they chopped up into lengths. Then they brought all sorts of meat skewered on little sticks. Naturally, there were no knives or forks. The one-eyed man who acted as host, whom the Rhodeses instinctively hated, pulled off all sorts of disagreeable and greasy delicacies and popped them into their mouths with his fingers. Agenoria went through it mournfully, and when she got home sent the women a present of spangled gauze.

On another occasion, when the restrictions of sex prevented her from being personally present at a banquet, an enormous dish was sent to her with a portion of everything that had been served at the feast arranged on it. Agenoria wrote a nice little letter of thanks, which so overcame the donor of the feast that he replied, “If I were not so unwholesome I would call and kiss your feet.”

He only meant that he was not feeling well.

Cromwell Rhodes had a mango-tree in his garden which would not bear any fruit, so he told the head gardener to grub it out and put in a new one. The man was most unwilling to obey him. "I can get a charm for three piastres,” he said, “and then if I burn some incense underneath it, it would fruit all right. But if you don't want that

expense I shall drive a nail into it, and then you can say in the hearing of the tree, 'Gardener, cut it down.' And I shall say, 'Sir, spare it for a year, then if it does not bear fruit I will cut it down.'"

Mr. Rhodes gave him permission to try all the remedies. He bought the charm, and burnt the incense, and drove in the nail and hung a piece of raw meat on it, and the very next year it bore three mangoes. It is true that they all dropped off before they came to maturity. But the tree was spared, and the last year before the Rhodeses returned to Europe it bore quantities of fruit.

Gardeners are sometimes a trouble. Agenoria had a gardener's boy who not only stole the eggs, but could not even leave the nest-egg alone.

When R. was in Upper Egypt he needed a servant, and had to engage a fellah absolutely untrained. But he liked the uncouth barbarian, and took him down to Alexandria, when he returned. The man had never seen the sea before, and inquired if he might ask a question. He wanted to know if the sea went on at night as well. He had never seen ice before, and when he could not find the ice in the morning, which he had put in his room overnight, accused everybody all round of stealing it.

When Agenoria first went out to Egypt, Cromwell Rhodes gave a picnic in her honour to the Virgin's Tree. He asked her to pour out tea, but the water which came out of the teapot was hardly coloured. “ Put in some more tea,” said R. The Egyptian put in half a teaspoonful, and said that there must be plenty now, because he had put in as much as that before. It was for twenty people.

All countries in the East have much the same word for tea, because they use some adaptation of the original Chinese word cha. Egyptians call it shay, and their word for barley is shair. When Mr. Rhodes came in from the marshes with his shooting boots very wet, he told this same treasure of a servant to fill them up with barley, which is the best way of drying them and making them retain their shape. The servant misunderstood him and filled them up with the tea

he kept for these picnics, which cost him four shillings a pound. It acted, however, quite as well as barley.

R. had a private car when he was travelling up and down the line, and had this servant attending him. When he got home one night to go to bed, he could find neither his servant nor the matches, but as he felt his way to his bunk he found a person lying prostrate on the bed. Then he remembered that he had a match in his overcoat pocket, and struck it. It was his own servant, with his feet on the pillow and a bundle of his master's clothes under his head. R. woke him up with a loud voice, and the servant at once said, " La mush ana"-No, it isn't me. He was not drunk, he merely did not expect his master home so soon.

Upper Egypt has its drawbacks—as a summer resort. Agenoria's husband was building the Keneh to Assuan line, one May and June. Agenoria went up at the end of May by the post-boat as far as Luxor, and then on by a little refass or tug, a stern-wheeler which towed Cromwell Rhodes's deputy in a dahabeah. It was frightfully hot, so hot that when Agenoria went on board and sat down to lunch, and took up her knife and fork, the fork burnt her fingers. She dropped it like a hot coal, and the Arabs put a tumbler of water beside her and slipped into it everything she was going to touch. They used to land first at one point and then at another, and in going from one boat to another Agenoria sometimes wore only about one garment. Her feet swelled so in the sand that she could not put her shoes on, and, when she went to her bath, she almost felt that she could not put her clothes on again. The climax of the prodigious heat was in the bathroom. Agenoria touched the wall when she was getting into her bath and scalded herself. She was so frightened that she believed she was fainting, and thought she would never get out. She hammered desperately at the door and really did faint before she was lugged out. When she came to she was lying on the floor in one garment, while a very fat man was putting ice on her ankles. He was asked why he did it; he said, “My mother always does it."

« PreviousContinue »