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Speaking about zambeels. Many years ago a man obtained a concession to supply the Government with all these baskets which they needed for a year. He gave the Minister a very large bakshish—a thousand pounds—for the concession. Unfortunately, the Minister was recalled to Constantinople immediately afterwards. His successor was not at all pleased that each zambeel, which was worth a penny halfpenny, should cost the Government two shillings, while he got nothing out of it. If he had received the thousand pounds he would have thought it an eminently proper proceeding, and would have taken pains to satisfy the concessionaire so as to get a larger bakshish next time. But as it did not, he took no notice of the concession, but sent for the concessionaire to get his squeeze too. The concessionaire could not pay a second bakshish, so the concession fell through. He sat tight for many years; he did not exercise the concession; he made no effort to get money from the Government; he just waited his opportunity. Finally a lawyer in Medinet Fayum bought the concession from him for a hundred pounds and brought a lawsuit against the Government. He won his case, and the Government had to pay him £60,000, for they had bought hundreds and thousands of baskets, and had to pay him the difference of Is. Io; d. on each. Then the original concessionaire brought an action against the lawyer to get some of the money, so there was a triangular contest in the COurts.
There are certain formalities to be observed about lawsuits in Egypt which we do not have here, and one of them is the squaring the magistrate's clerk, especially if he happens to be a Copt, though any Egyptian would do. Cromwell Rhodes had a lawsuit. He had the greatest possible trouble in getting it brought to the notice of the magistrates. It was always being classé sans suite—our sine die. The clerk, who was a well-wisher to R., would say: “Your case, it put on one side from the intervention of some interested party to the ches-de-parquet.” The native client says to the clerk: “Make me the pleasure not to carry that case in the courts”; and as you are not the native's equal in this kind of game, you on your side have to go straight to the magistrate (or the Minister, if you have the luck to know him) and ask him to get the case heard. R. went to the chef-de-parquet in this way. The chief was distinctly impressed; he asked him his name, and his father's name, and then gave an example of his friendliness which rather appalled R. by paying him the compliment of asking him where he got his clothes made, because he wished to have some made exactly like them. R. answered hastily that they were ready-made, and determined to let the case slide. One does not want an Egyptian double—a ka in the flesh. ( In the old days one had to be very careful about mudirs or provincial governors: they had been brought up in a school of thought which made them do things of which the English disapproved. A mudir who had been very polite to Cromwell Rhodes while he was constructing the line to the south, came to Cairo. The Rhodeses introduced him to everybody, and he enjoyed a blaze of popularity till he was suddenly sent to prison. It was discovered that he had helped a young man to force his aged parents to sign away their property to him, and had shared the property. ) One day Cromwell Rhodes's blacksmith was receiving instructions from him on the platform of a railway station. Being an Egyptian, the smith was talking very volubly. A friend seeing him on such good terms with the great man asked him to intercede with R. to give him a post. The blacksmith did not care enough for the friend, so he turned round to him and said: “It is no use; the engineer cannot understand a word of Arabic.” “Tell him in England," said the friend, “But I don't understand a word of English,” replied the blacksmith. The friend could not quite understand how they were talking so glibly if neither of them could understand what the other was saying; but he had no repartee ready, so he went away. The station-master at Zagazig, Osman Bey, was sent, when a boy, to England, to be trained as a lawyer. When he arrived back in Cairo, he naturally applied to be made a judge at once. But there was no vacancy, so they sent him to lay the telegraph wires in the Suez desert. Camel-riding appeared to suit him so well that they made him a station-master. Natives are not always responsible for the comedy of errors on the Egyptian railways. In 1882, for example, just after Tel-el-Kebir, the troops at Rosetta capitulated and came up to Kasr-ed-Dewar, which is quite close to Alexandria. Cromwell Rhodes got a horse and rode out to see the performance. When he arrived, .there was a train-load of British troops in the station and a frantic commanding-officer trying to get the engine-driver to back out or draw ahead. As R. was English, the officer asked him to speak to the engine-driver, who did not appear to understand any known language. He suggested that R. should try him in Greek or Armenian. He did, and in various other minor languages as well. After trying them all, he found that the engine-driver spoke excellent French, being, in fact, a Frenchman. One day at Ramleh a lot of native women gathered round Agenoria, feeling her clothes and asking how much they cost, and so on, as usual. One very poor one had a baby. “What a nice little thing it is,” said Agenoria, who was tired of pricing her clothes. “Take it; it's yours,” said the mother; and she meant it. She was not aware that Agenoria had no children, or that baby would never have returned home. The Egyptians who did know were always trying to provide her with an adoptive family. His family is the Egyptian's trump card when he wants bakshish and there is no reason why he should ask for it. An Egyptian came to Agenoria saying: “Have pity on my family, most of my children are orphans !" And another came to Agenoria's husband saying: “Sir, I want my pay raised; I have a large and insupportable family.” One day Agenoria got a letter from a Berberine whom she had engaged to come in and work every day in the garden. He signed it at the bottom of the first page and went on as if nothing had happened: “Mam, I am very sorry I could not come to work this morning because I have been confined— Ali Mohammed—to the house.” And he addressed the letter “To the Proprietor Esq. Dear Lady.” The first time that the gramophone made its appearance in Cairo was at a performance in the Ezbekieh gardens; it was put on a table draped with cloth like a dressing-table. Presently a young man passed by with a dignified old sheikh on his arm. The young man explained that the voice was produced mechanically. The sheikh pooh-pooh'd the matter altogether, and said that he knew all about it. But Cromwell Rhodes saw the old man as he was leaving, slyly progging the cloth under the table with a walking-stick to make sure that there was not really a man there. / During the last big epidemic, a doctor was called to see an old Irishwoman who was dying of cholera. He said that she was filthier than any native, and that while she lay there dying, the natives came in and out, and took pulls at the waterkúllas. The chance of a free drink weighed much more with them than the chance of swallowing a cholera microbe.
On the Humours of Egyptian Hotels
N Egypt there is nothing for a rational person to do in the evening except read, or go to the Opera, or go to sleep. The last two can be combined. There are no plays till the end of the season, and hardly any concerts. Evening entertainments are entirely for the flirting classes. Of course you must have your dinner, and it is very amusing, if you can afford it, to have it at one of the great Cairo hotels. But if you are satisfied with the mere fleshpots of Egypt you do not count : they are not really good enough for that. There is a dance at one or other of the big hotels every weekday night, and they are got up to help the pretty girls and pretty young married women, on the one hand, and the soldiers and the Golden Youth on the other, to play the old game. There are some girls, and a very few men, who like dancing for dancing's sake, and some men, and a few women, who like dining for dining's sake; but flirtation is the serious business of the evening in Cairo. “Egyptian hotels," said Mrs. Grundy, in one of her inspired utterances, “are the limit.” It is doubtful if the good lady used these words in their fashionable sense. But she was right, as she often is in her wrong-headed way. Egyptian hotels are the limit in most respects. There are hotels in Cairo in which Mrs. Grundy would be told to go about her business. It is not necessary to plunge into details of the lives of the ladies and gentlemen who rely upon the distance from the Divorce Courts of our country. In two, at any rate, of the best hotels the King's Proctor could combine business