Page images
PDF
EPUB

When Agenoria's husband had to go away he was rather anxious as to what might happen to her in the heat, so he told his men to take particular care of her. They sat round her, pretending to be smoking, but all keeping an eye on her, because they were convinced that, if for one moment she was not watched, she would faint again ; and they thought it would be a disgrace to them if she fainted while she was in their charge.

The thermometer registered 127 in the shade and something less in the cabins; the Alies were something awful, and they were nearly annihilated by one of the afrits which gave the illustrators of the Arabian Nights their idea of a genie escaping from a bottle--the little spiral which goes on increasing, as it gyres, for several miles, and finally bursts in an awful sandstorm.

They had to have their beds on deck, surrounded by mosquito nets. One of these afrits blew the nets and the beds clean off the deck, and would have blown Agenoria too if the sailors had not sat on her: they were phlegmatic sailors fortunately. At Assuan the heat blew into them like the blast from a furnace.

Agenoria did not suffer like the French adviser whom the Khedive imported into Egypt, because he said he could put a barrage anywhere on the Nile, and save Philae. This egregious person was a Doctor of Medicine; he had never received the training of an engineer. Levels meant nothing to him. His plans for barrages were like the Czar's plans for the railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The Czar got a map which did not mark contours, and drew a straight line with a pen from one town to another ; the Frenchman also got a map which did not mark contours, and made little lines with his pen, across the Nile, where he thought he would like to play with his barrages. He said he could put up any number of barrages. He felt the heat most awfully. He could not endure any clothes, so he used to go out on the desert in his night-shirt and a pair of slippers, with, of course, a wonderful helmet, and an unbrella big enough to shade a French market-woman's stall. He suffered the torments of

the damned from the Alies: they ate his bare legs and his bald head; they swarmed up under his night-shirt.

He went about moaning “Mouches, mouches, sacrés mouches,” and scratching his head. He was a big, fat man with a double head like a Philippine almond-a nut in front, a sort of division, and another nut behind. A French archæological society, called the Société du Nil, or something of that kind, had sent him out. Nubar Pasha took him up; and the Duke of Sutherland and Mr. Edward Easton, who had just purchased the Alexandria waterworks from the Government, and were in treaty for a concession for the Behera Company, and several other large undertakings, advanced the money to send him up. They were the only people who had any money in Egypt then-the Government had not enough money to pay their own soldiers. But they would not trust the doctor with the money : they sent Cromwell Rhodes to run the expedition and act as their agent. Dr. de la Motte was so much exhilarated at realising at last the dream of his life, that' on more than one occasion he got the party into trouble, first by shooting the favourite cow of a native chief, under the impression that it was a wild animal; and afterwards by getting into difficulties at a native feast, which he insisted on attending with no other clothing but a coating of castor-oil. Owing to these and other circumstances, when the party returned to Cairo they were not on very cordial terms."

Dr. de la Motte did not possess the most elementary knowledge to help him in deciding whether a site was suitable for a dam or not. But that did not prevent him from coming out with an elaborate scheme of reservoirs for both sides of the Nile, marked with a blue pencil on an enormous map which he always carried about with him and had been studying for years. He had no exact data ; there were in fact no exact data, for Egypt had not been surveyed. The place he chose for his feeding canal could not have been fed by any barrage that could be built by human labour, on account of its height above the river ; but it was in vain that

'Egyptian Gazette.

Cromwell Rhodes took the levels to prove the impossibility -levels meant nothing to him-he had never heard of them. And his barrage was just like his reservoirs : he marked it with a blue pencil across the Nile at some place which struck his fancy, without any scientific reason to support it. When they got to Semna and Kumma, the twin fortresses first built by King Usertsen III., B.C. 2333, to guard the Second Cataract, they were telegraphed for. The excuse was that their dahabeah would have been stranded by the fall of the Nile if they waited any longer. The fact was that they had done nothing, and Mr. Huth, a relative of the banker, who was with them in the interests of the financiers, had telegraphed that they were spending money and doing no good. This did not prevent this Don Quixote of engineering from issuing a quarto on his achievements, and forming a Société d'Études du Nil.

He had a Sancho Panza in the person of Monsieur Prompt (this is a real name, not a skit), a little round fat Frenchman of the old school, who was one of the three administrators of the Railway Administration, and took an immense interest in Nile questions. His idea was to make a barrage of iron plates, like the side of a steamer, to dam the Nile, and the Cape to Cairo Railway was under his special protection.

[graphic]

THE FAMOUS LUXOR MARKET, Which all Cook's tourists are taken to see. In front are head and haberdashery stalls.

(p. 106

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE ORIENTAL LOUNGE OF THE CATARACT HOTEL AT ASSUAN.

Looking out on the Nile and the sunset.

P. 107)

« PreviousContinue »