Page images
PDF
EPUB

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.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Which all Cook's tourists are taken to see. In front are bead and haberdashery stalls. (p. 1 oë

[graphic]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic][graphic][graphic]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

CHAPTER XIII
The Gyps at Home

HE Egyptians are a very polite people. Here is one of the fine flowers of Egyptian politeness. J A wellknown English athlete lived at Ramleh. Every year, when the Alexandria sports were coming on, he used to train on the road between Ramleh and Alexandria. One day when he was sprinting along, an antiquated native, on an old screw of a donkey, fell off in his flurry and obsequiousness, and begged the master to “take his donkey if he was in such a hurry." ) This is worthy of an illustration by Lance Thackeray in a future “Light Side of Egypt": he is inimitable in his donkey-pieces. ( But if the Egyptians are polite, they can also be sticklers about etiquette.) There was an Italian named Noseda (whom the English casled Nosy) living in Alexandria, who made his living by giving lessons on the guitar. He played very badly; but this did not matter, because it made it easier for the people he was teaching to reach his standard. One day a friend asked Nosy if he would like to give lessons to a princess in a harem. Nosy was highly delighted, and put on his cleanest collar, and went to the Palace. After waiting for two hours in the selamik, interviewing several servants who passed, he was ultimately shown into an inner chamber, where he waited another two hours, interviewing more servants. After many protests, the chief eunuch came to him, and said that he had come to receive the lesson and would give it himself to the Princess later on. The Egyptian soldier, in his anxiety to be polite, salutes all sorts of civilians, whom he takes for officers in plain clothes,

They always used to mistake Cromwell Rhodes for General
Lane. One day, when R. was riding his bicycle past the
barracks, the guard turned out and blew their bugles so
loudly that he fell off his machine.
It was inevitable that there should be a whole category
of jokes about swearing and the big dam at Assuan. One
classic occasion must be recorded, when the new president
of the railways, a Scotchman who had graduated on golf-
courses, was taken to see the Assuan Dam, and the native
engine-driver (they tried natives sometimes for the job in
those days) was so anxious, that he drove the train too far,
and it carried away the buffers at the end of the line and
ploughed its way into the sand, and very nearly into the
Nile. The big dam of Assuan was quite eclipsed on
that occasion. This same functionary thought he would
like to do his work at the S. Stefano Hotel at Ramleh,
near Alexandria, when the summer came on. It did not
make much difference to his work, and it made a great deal
of difference to him. Everybody came to call on him, of
course, and he started out to return the calls. He had a
cavasse on the box, who was supposed to talk English properly
and to know where every one lived; but he knew as much
about one as he did about the other. The roads are very
narrow round Ramleh, and the turns are always at right
angles, and the cavasse always took the wrong turn, and
they kept on meeting camals laden with scaffolding poles
for some job the president had ordered. The camels being
of an inquiring turn of mind, kept on turning round to look
at him: they made their observations much too frequently
for the safety of his head. When he had gone into the
wrong house three or four times, and met six lots of camels,
the president's language became so disturbed that the
cavasse suggested, with the single ray of intelligence that
he had displayed that afternoon, “Sir, I think that we had
better go home.”
In one of the public offices in Cairo they had a notice up:
“Glass windows not to be broken, except by permission given
in writing.” The translation had gone wrong; that was all.

a

« PreviousContinue »