Page images

do nothing. Influence was brought to bear, and the President had to give the authorisation. But then the guard and the engine-driver would not stop the train, because, as the President had given permission, they thought they would get no bakshish for it.

The first time R. arrived at this place was by night, and when he got out of the train he had no lantern, and the natives told him that he could not possibly get to his house because there was a canal in the way. He took off his clothes, tied them in a bundle, and swam across with them balanced on his head, put them on again without drying, and went on. But as it was hopeless to find his way in the dark, and there was an inviting heap of dry dhurra stalks, he lay down on them and slept till morning. Such is the grit of the Englishmen who have made Egypt !

The next day he got a telegram from the Japanese engineer, Ishugiro, who was going to share his quarters, asking him to send a hansom to the station to meet him ! Could irony go further ? Once there was a great fight between his workmen and the villagers. The police were called in and flogged every one who could not pay bakshish. One man did not appear to feel the blows in the least. When he was released R. asked him how he came to be so hardy. "I could only pay half the bakshish,” he said, “ so they had to beat me, but they took care not to hurt me.”

Another time his foreman accidentally hurt a workman, and the whole village seized weapons and rushed at the foreman to murder him. They began by doing a deal of shaking the weapons at him, gesticulating and shouting. R. went out to try and repel them with his authority, but they were too angry to heed him.

In an inspired moment he imitated with his umbrella the way they were shaking their weapons, to try and scare them back. He looked so funny that they began to laugh, and the man was saved.

As an instance of the literal way in which Egyptians take orders there is a story that during the siege of Alexandria a shell fell into the German hospital. The doctor was absent; but the Egyptian attendants followed the rules

and poulticed it until it burst. This must be a fiction, but it is just what Egyptian attendants would do.

In the year that they had the cholera so badly at Alexandria the Egyptian authorities drew a cordon round the city to prevent intercourse with the surrounding districts. The way that the guards interpreted the order was to allow any one who liked to pass out, and let nothing, not even food,

pass in,

During the scare a native was killed in the engineering works by the chimney falling off a portable engine. The black came off on his face, so the native doctor terrified the whole place by signing a certificate that the death was due to cholera, because the warning posted up in the station said that one of the symptoms of cholera was the patient turning black in the face.

Another Egyptian doctor was called in to give a certificate of death for a man who had been killed by going to sleep on the top of a kiln at Benha. He certified that the death was due to cold. When asked why, he said that the man must have been cold, or he would not have gone to sleep on the top of a kiln.

An Egyptian medical student, who was told to take into account all the particulars about a patient before prescribing for him, entered in his note-book that chlorodyne was good for a carpenter but had no effect on gardeners.

It is no wonder that even the Egyptian Nationalist has no desire that the post of engine-driver should be given to natives. R. left a native in charge of an engine while it was taking in water. He got playing with the engine taps, and, before he knew it, got up steam. Off it went, while R. and the other Englishman were having a frugal lunch off a water-melon. They sent a spare engine after it, which brought it back, whistling, as it got into the station, but not before it had killed a cow. The native's account of it was that the engine was an afrit and had got up steam and started itself, and that it had screamed as the other engine dragged it backwards, struggling its hardest, into the station. And the report that was sent in of the accident by the native station

master said that “the engine was scampering single and got into collusion with an ox (female)."

When a new engineer-in-chief came to Egypt he was surprised to find that they had twenty-six Schneider engines. He wanted to know why they had chosen this particular brand, and why they were entered on the list of plant as twenty-seven. He found that, in the days of Ismail Pasha, the beautiful Madame Schneider had come to Cairo and created a furore in a comic opera. Ismail cast his eye on her, and told his secretary what he wanted. The secretary was an ass, and thought that Ismail wished to meet Schneider the engine-manufacturer, who also was in Cairo. When the great manufacturer was shown into his presence, Ismail was dumbfounded till he learnt who he was. But he was sharp enough to try and put a good face on matters, so he said, “ I sent for you to order some of your famous engines !”

“How many ?" asked M. Schneider.

And Ismail said, “Twenty-seven," the first number that came into his head.

How there came to be only twenty-six was that the natives had helped themselves, bit by bit, to all the removable parts of one of them, and had covered over the remainder with sand when they were making a new siding.

Mr. Rouse, the railway engineer who erected the Kafr-czZayyat Bridge, received a solatium of £10,000 for his trouble, and brought a lawsuit to recover a further indemnity, and won it. There never was such a pagoda-tree as Ismail Pasha. Nowadays a Government official is considered lucky if he can get his pay without shamming illness or threatening a lawsuit. If he is really ill his friends apply for his post.

R. suggested that this reminder should be written large to hang before every official: “I was not given this post by divine agency, or even by the British Agency, and I am little better than my superiors."

R. started schools for the children of railway employees. He was warned by European and native friends of the risks that he was incurring, and told that good Moslems would not allow a Christian to interfere with the educa

tion of their children. But the Moslem parents showed better knowledge of their religion than their critics did, for they hailed the schools with joy, sent their children freely, paid for them being taught, and constantly thanked R. for what he had done. They were so much the less fanatical than he was that they did nothing to prevent the children learning anything, whereas he did his best to prevent them being taught to learn the Koran by heart until they could say their alphabet.

One village boy laughed when R. asked him if he was learning arithmetic. "Sir, no," he said ; “I am going to be a Fikee," which means a scholar.

Once upon a time, when R. had a serious attack of some rheumatic complaint, they brought him a masseur who, in a very short time, completely cured him whether by the charms he repeated over him, or by faith healing. He would take no reward for his supernatural gifts, but in the end allowed R. to pay for the bottle of oil with which he had rubbed him, because, he said, that had no medicinal effect, only mechanical. He effected more cures than any of the doctors, but, unfortunately, has since died himself.

To show how inexact Egyptians are, the famous Kafr-ezZayyat accident is often quoted. It happened only fifty-one years ago, and the heir to the throne was killed in it, either by the machinations of his brother Ismail, the future Khedive, or by the most appalling carelessness. The exact day on which it happened has been completely forgotten, and there is a detail mentioned in connection with it which would not have happened until two years after the accident actually did happen. De Leon, who lived years in Egypt, speaks of the Nile Bridge being open, and the train falling through it into the roaring abyss. The bridge was not built until two years afterwards, and the Nile only roars at high Nile, when it almost comes up to the bridge, so that if it had been roaring the train would have had no distance to fall. Without doubt, the accident happened either on the 13th or 16th day of May, 1858. McCoan says the 13th, others declare that it happened on Sunday, the second day of

Bairam, which that year fell on May 16. In any case, there was no bridge, and the accident happened by the carriage in which Prince Achmet, the heir to the throne, was seated, being run over the end of the steam ferry. R. declares that it was the purest accident, that there were absolutely no grounds for supposing that Ismail Pasha was in any way responsible. He tried to get particulars about it; but the son of the Pasha, who held the inquiry, told him that he was sure that his father would not be willing to remember such a lamentable affair ; and yet the man, who was responsible for Mr. Dicey saying that it happened through the bridge being left open, was actually stationmaster at Kafr-ez-Zayyat at the time of the accident. In any case, the accident cost Egypt Arabi's rebellion, and the British Occupation, and a hundred million sterling in Ismail Pasha's debts. It is said to have happened by too many people helping the royal railway carriage on to the ferry in their anxiety to show their loyalty.

One can hardly credit the proverb “Too many cooks" in Egypt, because no Egyptian would believe that it was possible to have too many “cooks." The burning desire of every town on the Nile is to have a Cook, i.e. an office of Thomas Cook & Son.

R. had a clerk who did not hear very well, and he had reason to believe that he was not honest either; so he went out one morning and returned suddenly; he found his clerk with the cash-box open before him, groping inside it. He did not hear R.'s footsteps, so they both had a very good look-R, at him and he at the box. And R. had time to go and get a cane, with which he pointed out the enormity of the act. To prevent the servant taking any steps to summon him for the beating, he went to the police himself and tried to get him run in. When the police came the clerk said that he was only dusting the inside of the cash-box--a sublime Egyptianism. The police asked if R. could swear to the piastres which were found in his clerk's pocket. As he knew that he had had twenty new two-piastre pieces in his box, and some of the money was still in the little roll in which

« PreviousContinue »