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about his cab was its beautiful driver." Egyptians are positively wilted by sarcasm when they understand it.
Lavercombe had something to do with irrigation, I think, because I used to be told about his famous suppression of a swaggering Egyptian called Sheikh Ali something, who had a big estate that filled a whole loop of the Nile. An emissary came from Sheikh Ali with some preposterous request, and was very “large” about it. Lavercombe took him to the window.
“Do you see the loop the Nile makes here ?” he asked ; "making almost an island of the Sheikh's estate ? "
“Yes," said the emissary.
“And do you know why the Nile makes such a tremendous loop here ?"
“No," said the emissary.
“Because, when God made that river, He said, 'I daren't go through Sheikh Ali's land.'”
When Sheikh Ali heard this he conceived a great respect for the new Inspector of Irrigation.
Lavercombe's Coptic clerk said that a silent man never learns a language ; that the reason the Egyptian speaks languages so well is because he practises so much that he gets the sound of the language. He thought volubility was a virtue.
In the old days when the Hôtel Angleterre, which is now the Church and Family Hotel, was the most up-to-date place in Cairo, the Johnnies who were staying there used to turn out every night and make a row in the streets. You can still see occasional boabs, the door-porters, sleeping on their angeribs, or native bedsteads, outside shops in Cairo. In those days there were whole streets of them doing it, though they prefered sleeping in a packing-box if they got the chance. Packing-cases big enough to hold a piano are ordinary incidents of the Cairo pavement in the best regulated thoroughfares.
Lavercombe found a boab asleep in a packing-box one night. With a mixture of skill and strength, he turned it over and danced on it, and then jumped down and assumed
the attitude of an unconcerned bystander with marvellous aplomb, to watch the boab come out.
Once when he was going to do this the lid flew up, followed by a black jack-in-the-box; probably a man who had been a victim already. The Egyptians liked these games; they found it an easy way of making money. Lavercombe, after the way of his kind, was generous in tips to his victims; and the Egyptian can see the funny side of things. He can sleep anywhere : the top of a wall the width of his body will do. Nothing wakes an Egyptian boy when he is asleep. There was a Belgian in Cairo who used to boast that he had often taken his boy up, when he was asleep, and dropped his head on a stone to try if he could wake him, but that he had never succeeded. One of the triumphs of the evening was to bargain with the arbaghi (the cabman) while your friends were undoing the traces. Then you jumped into the cab, and the arbaghi cracked his whip, and the horses pulled him off the box.
Another tour de force was to go to the fancy-dress ball dressed as policemen, and arrest all the people who couldn't understand a joke. Lavercombe scored a still greater success in the same line, by coming down, when the Savoy fancydress ball was at its height (and all the people were sitting about in the little rooms, and round corners, and behind evergreens) attired only in a dressing-gown, with his bath towel and a sponge. He poked his nose in everywhere, and pretended to the couples he surprised that he was looking for the bathroom. There were some scares.
Tête-à-tête assignations and elopements were the order of the day. A young beauty for whom Lavercombe had a strong but unsuccessful admiration said to him :
“ You have to invent some lie to get mother out of the way, so that I can get away with this person "-refering to some one in the army.
The mother was in one carriage with Lavercombe and the beauty and "that person " were in another. The mother was trying to keep her eye on them as they drove round and round Ghezira. Lavercombe did not feel that he could go
to the length of telling the mother a deliberate lie, so he thought he would try the coachman; he asked him in Arabic, which mamma could not understand, “Can't you get the carriage to break down ?"
“Sir, that is quite easy," said the coachman. “I can take the wheel off to see what is the matter with it." They took it off, and kept it off, till the beauty and the person in the army had got safely away.
One of the best pieces of deceitfulness, which Cromwell Rhodes ever perpetrated, was thrust upon him. He went out to lunch with a friend. After lunch, the friend asked him if he would like to go for a ride. He had not ridden for fortyfive years, but having been brought up in the Colonies he said “ Yes."
The friend put him on a horse that went sideways down the street—the kind of horse that looks at you with his ears. The horse finally shot him into the verandah of another friend named Rolles, who had just come back from his summer holiday in England. R. was picking himself up when Mr. Rolles came out and, not knowing how he had got there, said:
" It's very good of you to call so soon ; Mrs. Rolles only arrived this afternoon-she is still sitting on her boxes."
When R. got on his horse again to go home, it bolted right between Lord and Lady Cromer as they were out for a quiet ride.
They used to have great floods in Cairo in those days. Once, when Agenoria and her niece Elaine were outside the Continental, a huge storm came up. Soon the road was a foot deep in water; the Egyptian women took off their clothes to cross it. Agenoria and the niece were going to church, and they had nearly got there when the water came pouring from a side-street right through the carriage. Elaine did not mind her clothes being spoilt, it was so much more exciting than going to church.
Cairo has some drains; though just as you can take a horse to the water but can't make him drink, so you can lay down a system of draining in Egypt, but you can't
make the Greek householder "join up." He loves his cesspool. Even in Alexandria, where there is a tax for drains, you can't make the householders of minor nationalities use them.
One of the great ceremonies in Cairo used to be the cutting of the Khalig, which meant letting the Nile flood into the canal which ran through the city past the Governorat. Once upon a time there was an annual human sacrifice to the Nile, for which a beautiful young virgin was chosen, and her family thought it a very high honour. But in the last days of the Khalig, which has now been filled up and turned into a tram-route, the sacrifice had degenerated into an old dahabeah and a guy. However, the Nile got its sacrifice all the same, for there were always about twenty people drowned in the course of the day.
They used to have operetta with big troupes at the Eldorado café. Lavercombe, with what he called a lot of chirpy people, went there one night, and laughed uproariously at mild jokes of their own, till the Egyptian waiter came up and
“ You musn't laugh like that." " Why ?" they asked.
And he replied : “There is something wrong in the piece, but we haven't come to it yet."
He then began telling them a long story about the trouble the son of Mrs. Bond had got into for creating the same kind of disturbance. “Why do you say the son of Mrs. Bond ?" they asked.
And he replied: "Because the father had darker hair than the mother," which was certainly a very delicate way of expressing the colour of Mrs. Bond's lover.
Lavercombe was a person of exasperating coolness. He had distinguished himself by some exceptional practical joke at Shepheard's Hotel Carnival. The manager, who did not know him personally, came up to him, purple in the face, and said :
“I believe your name is Lavercombe.” Lavercombe replied: "If you believe that you'll believe