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overthrow of Typhon. Horus gave over the foe in bonds to his mother, Isis; she, however, granted him his life, and was reunited to her husband, Osiris. “Under the image of husband and wife, this pretty legend very subtly represents the course of the phenomena of Nature in Egypt—the circuit of the sun, and the fate of the earth, the illuminating power of the sun, the fundamental principles of human life, the ultimate triumph of goodness and truth, as figured by Osiris, are apparently assailed and vanquished by Typhon—that is, by drought and the encroachments of the desert, by the darkness of night, mists, clouds, and storms; by death, by lies, and all the evil and restless stirrings of the soul; but as soon as the diminished flow of the river swells again, the young crops grow green, a new sun lights and cheers the world, and disperses the mists, the human soul rises again in the other world to a new and everlasting life, truth triumphs over falsehood, and good conquers evil. Horus has overthrown Typhon, avenged his father, and restored him to his throne. Isis, the mother, is the feminine and sympathetic element, formative, not begetting, the conceiving element of Plato, overflowing with love for the first and highest essence, which is goodness itself, though it must use that which is base and evil as its material and vehicle, even while it hates and shuns it. In this myth of the Divine family, which is amply illustrated by the monuments, every Egyptian saw a figurative representation of the fate of his own soul, and every dying man believed in a resurrection like that of the risen god. No wonder, then, that the grave of Osiris attracted all the pious souls in the country, and that devout princes and citizens commanded that their bodies should be brought to Abydos to be consecrated or interred under the shadow of the sanctuary. The vast cemeteries in which Mariette Pacha found graves of every period of Egyptian history from the very latest up to that of the builders of the Pyramids, are the asylums where the dead, who were always conveyed by water, hoped to find eternal rest.” Thus Ebers, who scorns stops, and, ordinarily, wallows in his learning, though he has such a fund of erudition and picturesqueness. It was very regretfully that I turned my donkey's head from Abydos for the ride back to Baliana, through the waving green of the wheat, which, as we drew near the river, was bathed in the ineffable glory of the Egyptian sunset. All the way we met the Procession of Egypt; once, twice, thrice, there was a Good Shepherd followed by his flock and carrying the weakling in his arms. The workers of the fields lived, it was clear, not at Baliana, but at the villages round the Sanctuary of Osiris. Baliana is not famous for good citizens. But Baliana itself, as it stands on its high bank, towering over the Nile and the inundation lands, at sunset might take its place in the Arabian Nights, with its mosques and its fantastic mansions embosomed in groves.
Crossing the Libyan Desert to the Great Oasis
E made no expedition in Egypt, to which we looked forward with such excitement as our visit to the Great Oasis. It is expected to prove popular with English travellers. It very well might, considering that it only rains three days a year there, and then not enough to be called a mist by a Scotchman. It used to take soft people six days to get there, though surveyors have done it in two. It now only takes the inside of a day after you leave the base at Kharga Junction on the line between Cairo and Assuan. We were the first tourists who ever went by the Western Oasis Railway, though a certain number of celebrities had been taken up for the opening a few weeks before, for which palms were especially planted in the sand round the rest-house, though they looked a little sorry when we saw them. They were not necessary. The fertility of the Oasis is sufficiently obvious without them, to eyes which are attuned to Egypt, where the same piece of land may be covered with rich deep verdure one year, and go back to bare desert the next, according to whether it has been irrigated or not. We started with great excitement, because this would be our first experience of staying in an Egyptian rest-house. We had crossed a much more extensive desert on the Sudan Railway. Our visit to the oasis naturally divides itself into two chapters. If I attempted to deal with the getting there and the sights of the oasis in a single chapter
both subjects would get lost in detail.
We started from Cairo by night. You can have an excellent dinner on the Wagons-lits, and the sleeping berths are ideal for a hot climate. There are only two in each room, and each room has a dressing-room off it with convenient washing arrangements. Further, for the sake of coolness, the partitions are made of plaited cane, which is hung over with leather screens in cold weather. And there are of course punkahs, and electric light. I have never been in better sleeping-carriages in Europe or America. I understand that the carriages can be built more comfortable because they can be built wider, being intended for single-line traffic. Before five o'clock in the morning the scene changed, like a magic-lantern slide, from the wagons-lits to pioneers' cabins in the desert. Dawn was breaking as we were shot out by the guard. The train was stopped for us, so he did not wish to waste time. A ghafir and about twenty other natives were crouching round a crackling fire, though it had been over a hundred in the shade in the middle of the day. It is always chilly at night in the desert. We were just on the edge of the desert, where cemeteries begin. The modern Egyptian continues the tradition of the Pharaohs in burying his dead on the edge of the desert. Only he prefers the eastern side as looking towards Mecca, and the children of Cheops prefered the western, because the souls of the dead were supposed to descend to the under-world in the west, like the sun. A light train, what they would call a secondaria in Italy, conveyed us to the base some minutes' distance away. We had been wondering what was going to happen to us as we were deposited on the platform by the flying express in the dusk of dawn, wondering where Mohammed, the Berberine dragoman, who was to take charge of us for the expedition, would put in his appearance. But our minds were soon at rest, for two immaculate Englishmen rushed across from the other train. It is wonderful how spruce the British pioneer in Egypt contrives to be, no matter how arduous his work. They might have just ridden in from a smart country-house. The Arabs they called seized our baggage and put it into the oasis train as carefully as if it had been packed with wine-glasses and bank-notes, for they locked the van the moment it was in, and, after cordial greetings, we were escorted to a saloon carriage with plaited cane seats, and windows guarded with glass, fly-wires, and shutters. At the base they had breakfast ready for us, with baconand-eggs and chops and several kinds of jam—a desert welcome. Commissariat is the Arab's strong point. The bungalow and cabins, in which the Englishmen stationed here live, are wonderfully neat and attractive-looking—they have even got a garden of sorts, which will soon blossom like a rose with their water-supply. The tomatoes are prodigal already. They reminded me of the tomatoes a friend of mine started on a station in Australia. He thought he would lay down a field of tomatoes to see how they did. They grew in such a thicket that you could only gather the fruit at the edges, for all the poisonous snakes in the neighbourhood collected in the tomato patch, because it was such a nice shady place ; and snakes hate the sun in an Australian summer. One extra hot day in Melbourne all the snakes in the Zoo died because sufficient precautions had not been taken for keeping the snake-house cool. But that dangerous tomato-patch was a thing of beauty, for its ruddy fruit attracted clouds of the dear little love-birds, which Australians call budgery-gahs. To return to the Kharga base: besides the garden, there are some fascinating enclosures of tame gazelles and jerboas. The jerboa is a sort of kangeroo-rat, which makes holes in the sand for horses to break their legs in—donkeys have too much sense. The bungalow of the manager had an avenue in front of it—a young avenue—and fine healthy shrubs in protected spaces round it. At that moment we saw him riding up, a soldierly figure in white on a beautiful Arab, from one of his perpetual inspections. His house and his verandah were full of interesting antiquities, chiefly Roman, found in making cuttings for the railway. As we had some time to kill before the train started, and