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His aspirations make one European worthy of admission to this Valhalla—“Young German seeks lodgings of lady very severe. Under “Birch, Poste Restante, Cairo"
On the Humours of the Suffragi, the Egyptian Servant
UROPEANS who have to reside in Egypt objurgate the Egyptian servant. They discuss at afternoon tea-tables, and in the Egyptian Gazette, whether the Arab or the Berberine has most faults. One of our greatest friends in Egypt, a bachelor, used to be amusing on the servant question as it had presented itself to him. Most of the time that we were there his chief servant was a minute Egyptian, a glorious example of Egyptian precocity; for he was only twelve or fourteen at the end of his gay and chequered career as Ramidge's servant. Before he came to Ramidge he had been assistant in a bicycle shop. He wished to be hired as servant for cleaning a jibbing motor-car which Ramidge possessed. Ramidge refused to have anything to do with him at first, but as the boy cleaned the car, and stayed by it for a whole fortnight for nothing, he felt that he had to take him on. The car, for one thing, was kept absolutely spotless. That boy had not made these sacrifices for nothing. Having achieved a footing in the house, he proceded to try and get rid of the two Berberine servants. When Ramidge woke the first morning, the cleaner of motor-cars was standing by his bed watching the Berberine doing his valeting. Everything that the Berberine did that morning the Egyptian had done before the Berberine was up the next morning. For a fortnight Ramidge was in clover; then the Egyptian nature reasserted itself. One afternoon, when Ramidge woke up from his customary siesta, the car and the boy had both disappeared. Ramidge gave information to the police, who ascertained by telephone that he had been seen driving about Ghezira, the favourite promenade of the fashionable rich. On the next day it was discovered that Mustapha had capsized the car in a ditch as he was turning a corner. He pressed all the passers-by into his service until it was righted, and then made a man help him for nothing to push it to a garage, where it was safely stored. The police arrested the boy's father as well as the boy, but recommended Ramidge to confiscate his pay instead of prosecuting. The boy was then released and discharged. I forget what happened to the father, but he does not seem to have brought any action for wrongful imprisonment, or I should have heard of it. On the next morning, when Ramidge went round to the garage, there was Mustapha busily cleaning the car, and he had bought a new motor-horn as a present for his master. Ramidge absolutely refused to take him into his service again, even when Mustapha offered to come for nothing. But the next morning Mustapha brought the car to Ramidge's house, so that he should not have the trouble of walking to the garage. And Mustapha stayed. After about a month of very good work, Mustapha took the car out again one Saturday morning, and was seen with sixteen other boys piled up on it, though it was a very small one, driving round and round the Esbikiya Gardens. Ramidge offered him his choice of going to prison or taking a good thrashing ; he gratefully accepted the latter, and Ramidge caned him like a schoolboy till he was tired, and sent him to Alexandria. Three days later he turned up again with a basket of dates. Ramidge found him on the car when he went down to the garage in the morning. The basket of dates was a peace-offering. For the three months after that, till Ramidge went to England on leave, Mustapha was nearly perfect. He effected the discharge of one Berberine, and the other, though he was twice his size, was terrified of him. He took entire charge of Ramidge's valeting.
When Ramidge came back from England, he could not find him; he must have been in prison, or he would have found Ramidge. Egyptians always know everybody's business, and have a sort of general information bureau among themselves about foreigners. One day I was going out to the Pyramids. When I got to the tramway an Egyptian came up to me. He said: “Your friend has not arrived yet.” I didn't know the man from Adam. But he was quite correct: I was expecting the friend whom he described, and who had been to the Pyramids with me once, a good many weeks earlier. I had been to Khartūm and back in the interval. Belsize, another friend of ours, had an admirable Berberine servant, who simply ruled him. He would not allow him to use the stick which Ramidge had given him, because he did not think that it was up to his form. It did not signify that Belsize had chosen it himself at Ramidge's invitation. Zogby did not approve of it; that was enough. Berberine servants have likes and dislikes in other matters beside walking-canes, about which they are very particular. A Berberine will buy a cane and a pair of lemon-coloured kid boots before he has enough to eat—in Cairo. They adore good looks, and especially fair, bright English colouring. We had two friends whom I shall call Berkeley and Perkins. Berkeley, a blue-eyed giant, was one of the best-looking men in Cairo, Perkins also was a very nice-looking man, but he had not the same scenic effects to the Berberine eye. They lived together. Perkins was very gentle with their Berberine; Berkeley threw the eggs at him if they were not sufficiently cooked, or opened the teapot and shook its contents over him when he made the tea with lukewarm water. Suffragis wear washing dresses, so his clothes were not damaged. That might have hurt him. As it was, he adored Berkeley, and would have licked the blacking off his boots if he had not thought it more adulatory to put all Perkins's blacking on Berkeley's boots. It is best to have only one servant. He does everything : he caters for you and makes money out of that ; he cooks
not turn his slippers down at the heel like a Tunisian. He prefers to wear ridiculous boots of fancy colours, pale lemon predominating, though often with sky-blue or silver-grey tops. But few employers allow this on account of the noise. Ramidge's servant, Mustapha, who was a very small boy, wishing to be very grand, begged a pair of old shootingboots from him.
Another flower of Berberine conversation which I heard
was that the erection of the Assuan Dam was the greatest
mistake Lord Cromer ever made ; that it was erected to swamp two Berberine villages, to which servants, whom he disliked, belonged. No lie about the English is too big or too foolish for the Egyptian to believe. Ramidge once had a camera fastened to the back of a donkey. The donkey had the usual boy with it. When Ramidge wanted to use the camera, he found that the roll of films had been turned right round till it was all used up. The boy said he had seen the donkey biting at the saddle, and it must have caught the handle for turning the films in its teeth. When Ramidge was living at an old villa near Matariyeh his servant told him one day that three men had been murdered the previous night in the road between the villa and the station, two by robbers and one by an afrit." He begged Ramidge never to send him to the station again by night. He had himself seen no fewer than seven afrits in one night, while he was coming back late. Ramidge discovered from the police that there never had been a murder on that road, though they could not be sure about the o Egyptian will believe anything in the way of a superstition. Egyptian suffragis are always threatening their masters with the law-courts. Mustapha II., a Berberine, threatened to take Ramidge into court when he was going to beat him for not washing a meshrebiya screen as he had been ordered. Ramidge put the beating off till he could lose his temper. He only had to put it off till the next morning when he was waiting for the tea he was in the habit of drinking before he got up. He had to wait so long that he went to look for
* Evil spirit.