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and they were the best-dressed servants in Cairo. They had golden silk galabeahs and very large turbans when they were in full dress; they were finer even than Lord Cromer's. One night, when Lord Cromer was entertaining royalty, unbeknown to his master, of course, his major-domo sent down to borrow their dresses for the Consul-General's servants. "No, sir," said Abdul Makram, “my madam is receiving important people herself to-night."
The servants, too, were very proud of her house, an old Pasha's palace, beautifully redecorated, and talked so much about it that people were always wanting to go over it, which, of course, was not permitted, except by the introduction of mutual friends.
To show what ants can do, I must tell the story of the governess who was sent to the German hospital with very bad legs. Agenoria's German cook was in the same room with her. The attendants did not pay much heed to the patients; they did not even tie paraffin rags round the legs of the beds, so the ants swarmed in the governess's wounds all night. She was defenceless; she could not stir.
But fleas are the speciality of Egypt; they have a fea season, which begins in April. It would be no good to address the Egyptian flea in the words of the Nicaraguan proverb, “ Have patience, fleas, the night is long," for the fleas would simply answer, “What is the good of being patient
I one day in April, with Major Fletcher and Miss Norma Lorimer the novelist, to the Hanging Church of Babylon in Old Cairo, one of the most beautiful churches in the The fleas were hopping up off the floor as the rain hops up off the pavement in a thunder shower, in the piazza of St. Mark's at Venice. The Major and I knew what we had to expect; so we began our "inspection" in the tram. When we had picked all the visible feas off our coats and trousers, we took off our coats and picked them off the linings, and unbuttoned our waistcoats and picked them off our shirts, and stood up and knocked our feet against the seats to shake them out of the bottoms of our trousers. Miss Lorimer went and sat three seats behind us, partly, I think, because she was ashamed of us, but nominally because she was afraid of our fleas hopping on to her. She did not know that the native policeman, who was sitting behind her, was being the pink of politeness, and picking feas off her back and hat and veil, quite as industrious as we were. He did not think he was taking any liberty, because nothing is commoner than for natives to go up to each other, even in a ball-room, saying, “Excuse me," to catch a flea. One native, who was suffering from the standard Egyptian complaint of weak eyes, went up to an old French lady, at an evening party at Agenoria's, and tried to pick a mole off her neck.
The Egyptians recognise the sand-fly as the worst of all their insect pests. They call it something which means “I eat and keep silence" but I can't spell the Arabic words.
More about Agenoria's Servants
ENTLEMAN been to see you,” said the suffragi, the
Arab man-housemaid, to Agenoria soon after her arrival,
“Who was he?" she asked.
Lourdes seemed nothing to this in the way of miracles, but the suffragi only meant Lord Cromer. The Egyptians had the habit of refering to him as “The Lord," and they were a great deal more afraid of him than of their Creator, whose name they so often took in vain as a witness to the value of their promises. Another time the same suffragi came into her drawing-room, and announced that a lady wished to see her. "Who is she?" asked Agenoria. The suffragi said she was a lady in her own right, not meaning that she was the daughter of a duke or a marquis or an earl, but that in his judgment she was a real lady.
Agenoria's servants were surprised that they were not allowed to wash their heads and their stockings in the pantry sink, or even allowed to spit into it. Her trouble with her cooks was that, when one got tired of the situation, he quietly slipped away, and left another man, about whom she knew nothing, to take his place. The cook would just send in word, “ I'll cook your dinner to-night, but I am going back to my billage.” The man left in his place was often preferable as a cook and as a citizen, but a good many things in the way of cooking apparatus used to vanish with the departed.
When Agenoria was staying at the Ghezira Palace before she married Cromwell Rhodes, he used to come courting her.
Directly he arrived the little nigger boy, whose duty it was to flick the dust off people's boots with an ostrich feather broom, used to rush forward, and say, "Your lady is in the garden," or " Your lady is in the summer-house"; while there was an old gardener who followed her about everywhere. One day, when she was sitting in the garden beginning to say good-bye to R-, the mosquitoes bit her badly, and she said, “Oh, bother the mosquitoes, I wish they wouldn't bite me so!” A voice-it was the old gardener's -came from just behind them, “Oh, but you are so sweet !"
Agenoria had a German maid for a while, who had been at the Mena House from November to the first of May, and had never once been to the Pyramids. It was not for want of spirit apparently, because Agenoria heard her having an impassioned quarrel with her lovely Arab cook. When she went to see what had happened she found the wall of the servants' hall covered with squashed food. The cook had brought the German girl vol-au-vent, when she wished for roast beef, so she threw it against the wall. The cook-man was heart-broken. The vol-au-vent was probably a lovegage.
This man's weakness was his sweet-tooth. What between him and a sharp little English maid, Agenoria could never keep cakes or sweets for tea. First she called the girl, whose name was very appropriately Swallow. “Swallow,” she said, "I am going to put poison into the cakes. I shan't say when, but, if Hassan gets very sick indeed, come and tell me." Swallow said nothing. Then Agenoria sent for Hassan. “ Hassan," she said, “I know you never take the cakes, so it doesn't much matter to you, but I'm going to put poison into them one day." “Oh, madam," he cried, "you couldn't do that!”
“But why not? It won't matter to you. I know you don't touch the things, because you told me so."
Then she called the boy Ibrahim, and told him the same thing. And after that she was able to keep her cakes. She said, “I shan't eat the poisoned one. I shall know which cake it is."
Agenoria had another servant at the time, who was a funny, slow old thing, a Syrian woman eaten up with sheumatism. She came one day to ask for a whole holiday.
"What are you going to do with it?" Agenoria inquired. “Go to a restaurant, madam, and have a good dinner.”
On another occasion Agenoria asked the same old woman, who spoke a little queer English, “Won't you have some milk?"
"No, I can't bear that bullock's milk, madam." She thought it was buffalo's.
When Agenoria first went to Egypt she took out the English servants who had been living with her for some time; but, after a while, they had constant rows with the native servants.
The man-servant had been a very humble individual in England; but when he was in Egypt it was necessary to have everything fetched for him by the suffragis. One day Agenoria saw a fine little comedy of this going on in the servants' hall. Bond, the butler, was having a meal, and, by stretching backwards, he could have helped himself to the bread he wanted off the sideboard. But he prefered to get up, and walk across the room, to ring the bell for a native to hand it to him. This showed true grandeur and nobility of soul.
One day he was in doubt whether Agenoria wished some sardines to be eaten at some al-fresco meal, and asked in his best manner, “ Madame, do you wish me to push these sardines ?" He meant press people to take them.
Whenever the servants were making a noise, and they do sometimes, he used to say, “ Madame, it is a perfect babyloon," and he was always talking of “them there A-rabs.” He was not kind to his wife. One night screams of murder came from the window of the room, which he occupied, on the first floor in the servants' quarter. Agenoria ordered the door to be broken open, but the Arabs said, “Leave him alone ; he'll soon throw her out."
I have said that Egyptian boy-servants are charming up to a certain age, and then go off like a vegetable marrow.