Page images


The avenue on the site of the city wall.

P. 55]

as the ending of it. For, when Agenoria and her husband had arranged to go to England and had refused to take him with them, they found him lying on a heap of sand outside the house, naked. “What are you doing, Ibrahim ?” they asked, and he answered : “I shall have to do this in my village, so I had better get used to it." Was there ever a more histrionic appeal to the feelings?

Agenoria was stony-hearted, however; she knew the Egyptian's tricks far too well to want to have one in England. She had a narrow escape of having one all the same. For, long after they had settled in London, they had a letter from the stationmaster they had known in the country-near Alexandria. “You will be very sorry to hear my wife is dead. As you have no children, I am going to send you my eldest son." Agenoria kept up a lofty silence, trusting that he would not know where to send the boy to. Also that he would think it a waste of money unless she paid the boy's fare. It was this probably which saved her.

That station near Alexandria was rich in humorists; it was the terminus of a little bit of railway line, built to lead to the quarries, which never got to its destination. When Agenoria had been there a month or more she said to her cook, “I suppose we shall want some coals soon?” The cook was a true Egyptian. “Why you want to buy coals,' he said, “when I can go and take it from the engine ?"

But it isn't ours, Hassan.” “Engineer not have coal ? " he said with lofty scorn. “No; and when we get our coal in, you must carry back as much as you have taken, just as you brought it, a basketful at a time.”

This might have been magnificent, but it was not the way to carry war into the camp of an Egyptian. He probably took the coal back, not to the engine, but to a friend who would sell it for him. The stationmaster always spoke of her as the princess. When they went to the station his form of salutation was : “All people see who is this coming. It is the Princess and Mr. Rhodes."

He was a man of nice discrimination in language. Speaking of two ladies, one of whom was very stout, and the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

never seen.

other had a fine figure, he said, with appropriate pantomimic gestures, “ Lady fat down there not at all nice, but a little fat up here very nice, emphasising by adding to a lean native woman who was standing near, “ You very thin, you like one bit o' wood."

This stationmaster was very proud of living in a twostoried house. He was always referring to his uppy-stairs window.

A coachman wrote a long petition to Agenoria, imploring her to give work to some relation of his whom she had

“ You ask Mr. R.," he said, “your marriad, English husband always do what his wife tell him."

While she was sitting at her window one day in Cairo, she she saw her next door neighbour's cook-man come out and seat himself on the curb-stone opposite. Presently he produced a beefsteak from the breast of his galabeah, looked about for a big stone, and pounded it on the curb in a place where goats passed by the thousand. She smiled when she thought how Sir John would enjoy the tenderness of that deceptive morceau.

She once had a Coptic servant. He left under exceptional circumstances. She had an Irish female cook, a very large

She noticed that whenever the cook asked leave to have a bath in their bathroom, the Copt kept going to the back of the door, and, whenever anybody came past, used to knock to request instructions for this or the other thing. Her suspicions were aroused because he became so love-sick and ridiculous, and she discovered that there was a crack in the door.

Egyptian servants are very clever when they are tiny, but by the time that they are sixteen they are almost imbecile. Sometimes they recover. She was glad that she only knew Ibrahim in his interesting stage; he was so very magnificent. On her at-home days he stood outside the door with his arms crossed, from three o'clock till the last guest had departed, as if the whole thing depended on it. Nothing gave him greater pride than answering the door. The moment he heard a ring he flew to it, but, if the caller only wanted to ask a



question, he invented an answer himself withcut consulting anybody.

A servant they had, who was already married, thought he would like to have a younger and more beautiful wife, so he asked their permission to go to a village in Upper Egypt where there was a woman whom he had contrived to see ; which is not difficult up there. He received it and went off with £12 in his pocket, and sent them an invitation to the wedding, in which he was alarmingly frank about the preparations which had been made for their comfort. Knowing how particular the English were about certain arrangements, he thought he was doing quite the right thing in mentioning them, poor man.

Egyptian animals are as naïve as their fellow-countrymen. Agenoria kept a flamingo, six gazelles, a dozen dogs, and fifteen cats, who were not all belonging to her. The flamingo had an admirer in a skinny old hen; he used to stride round the garden with the hen running herself breathless to keep up with him. Her eggs were so large that they thought she was really in love with the flamingo.

The oldest resident cannot always escape the attentions of the Egyptian guide. One day, when they were at Mulid-enNebi, the Festival of the Birthday of the Prophet, a guide attached himself to Agenoria's niece and her, and remained their devoted slave to the day of their departure from Egypt. He quoted Shakespeare, and had a sense of humour. They never employed him, but he used to come and call upon them. One day he brought £60 with him, and said: “Will you take this of me?" He meant that she was to take care of it for him. She consented and said, “I had better give you a receipt. He said, “No; all right with you; all people always coming into my house." But she protested, “No, you see me seal this up," and asked him his name to write upon

it. "Gladyos Morgan, a Copt." Egyptians,” said Gladyos Morgan, “think it is nothing to be honest, but they are very proud of doing you. They always say you won't know."

Once when her husband was away Agenoria was so ill that

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

the servants thought she was dying. They all came in and stood round her, and one of them saved her life. It was so comical seeing the tears drop off the horns of his enormous moustache ; he did not think it respectful to wipe them off his face. She laughed so that the flood of vitality came back, which reminds one of a story which a well-known author tells of himself. The cherished pig of one of his parishioners was dying, and the old woman begged and prayed him to say some good words over it so that it might recover. He refused for a long time, but at last her distress prevailed, and he went down to the pigstye and said: "O pig, if thou livest thou livest, and if thou diest thou diest." The pig at once turned round and began to eat its food. Some time after it was the vicar's turn; he was dying of quinsy, when the old woman came to his door and said: "O vicar, if thou liveth thou liveth, and if thou dieth thou dieth"; and he laughed so heartily that he burst the quinsy and immediately began to mend.

Agenoria had an old German cook at one time who, strange to say, was dishonest. The gatekeeper, a Nubian Moslem named Abdul Makram, was a delightful person who always looked a gentleman, and was most intelligent and lazy. One day Abdul Makram sent for Agenoria's niece, at seven o'clock in the morning, to say that the cook was taking things away, and that he would not let her pass. When the niece had slipped on a dressing-gown and reached the point of action, she saw the remains of the cook's umbrella, which had been broken over Abdul Makram's head. “What did you do to her, Abdul Makram ?"

“ I no touch her-I a gentleman."

Egyptian servants are good up to a certain point, but they have no initiative; they are also good up to a certain time, when they grow weary of well-doing. All foreigners who know them are agreed that they are not the faithful creatures they used to be.

Agenoria, however, had less trouble with her servants than most people. They were very proud of her being so pretty (Egyptians, like some other nations, love people to be pretty),

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »