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EGYPTIAN WOMAN RIDING. She is holding her shawl over lier face with her teeth to conceal it as she passes the man on her Jeft. On the road from Karnak to Luxor.
sackful of stale bread and some pieces of cheese and meat.
“ What for ?"
"Sir,” she said, “very little will get to him, only what the guards cannot eat: they will take the cheese and the meat and the best of the bread, and then perhaps they will let me give what they cannot use to my husband.”
R. went to the prison in Tanta in 1882 when the British were assuming the occupation of the country. He found all the people who were waiting to go before the court, plaintiffs, claimants, witnesses, defendants, and prisoners, men and women, chained together in one large room, where they would not have been secure if they had not been chained, because it was so tumble-down. They were never allowed to leave the room, and there was no sanitary provision, except an open drain down the middle of it. That was how they managed things before the English went there.
R. heard that there were a lot of snipe at some place along the line, so he told the driver to stop the train there for him to get off. The birds were very plentiful, and he began shooting at once. After about half an hour he happened to look in the direction of the train, and found it still there. They said it was because he had not told them to go on, but the staff were watching the shooting with frantic interest; so it may have been that. Either was typically Egyptian.
When R. first went out to Egypt, in 1879, he was at work at a place that was a good way from a station, but not far from the line, so he used to give the guard and the driver bakshish to let him down where he wanted. Afterwards he thought there might be trouble about it, so he went to the President of the railway to get his authorisation. The President said he had no authority to stop expresses at any time, but that he could stop slow trains in the daytime. There was, however, no slow train during the day, so he could
do nothing. Influence was brought to bear, and the President had to give the authorisation. But then the guard and the engine-driver would not stop the train, because, as the President had given permission, they thought they would get no bakshish for it.
The first time R. arrived at this place was by night, and when he got out of the train he had no lantern, and the natives told him that he could not possibly get to his house because there was a canal in the way. He took off his clothes, tied them in a bundle, and swam across with them balanced on his head, put them on again without drying, and went on. But as it was hopeless to find his way in the dark, and there was an inviting heap of dry dhurra stalks, he lay down on them and slept till morning. Such is the grit of the Englishmen who have made Egypt !
The next day he got a telegram from the Japanese engineer, Ishugiro, who was going to share his quarters, asking him to send a hansom to the station to meet him! Could irony go further ? Once there was a great fight between his workmen and the villagers. The police were called in and logged every one who could not pay bakshish. One man did not appear to feel the blows in the least. When he was released R. asked him how he came to be so hardy. “I could only pay half the bakshish," he said, " so they had to beat me, but they took care not to hurt me."
Another time his foreman accidentally hurt a workman, and the whole village seized weapons and rushed at the foreman to murder him. They began by doing a deal of shaking the weapons at him, gesticulating and shouting. R. went out to try and repel them with his authority, but they were too angry to heed him.
In an inspired moment he imitated with his umbrella the way they were shaking their weapons, to try and scare them back. He looked so funny that they began to laugh, and the man was saved.
As an instance of the literal way in which Egyptians take orders there is a story that during the siege of Alexandria a shell fell into the German hospital. The doctor was absent; but the Egyptian attendants followed the rules
and poulticed it until it burst. This must be a fiction, but it is just what Egyptian attendants would do.
In the year that they had the cholera so badly at Alexandria the Egyptian authorities drew a cordon round the city to prevent intercourse with the surrounding districts. The way that the guards interpreted the order was to allow any one who liked to pass out, and let nothing, not even food,
During the scare a native was killed in the engineering works by the chimney falling off a portable engine. The black came off on his face, so the native doctor terrified the whole place by signing a certificate that the death was due to cholera, because the warning posted up in the station said that one of the symptoms of cholera was the patient turning black in the face.
Another Egyptian doctor was called in to give a certificate of death for a man who had been killed by going to sleep on the top of a kiln at Benha. He certified that the death was due to cold. When asked why, he said that the man must have been cold, or he would not have gone to sleep on the top of a kiln.
An Egyptian medical student, who was told to take into account all the particulars about a patient before prescribing for him, entered in his note-book that chlorodyne was good for a carpenter but had no effect on gardeners.
It is no wonder that even the Egyptian Nationalist has no desire that the post of engine-driver should be given to natives. R. left a native in charge of an engine while it was taking in water. He got playing with the engine taps, and, before he knew it, got up steam. Off it went, while R. and the other Englishman were having a frugal lunch off a water-melon. They sent a spare engine after it, which brought it back, whistling, as it got into the station, but not before it had killed a cow. The native's account of it was that the engine was an afrit and had got up steam and started itself, and that it had screamed as the other engine dragged it backwards, struggling its hardest, into the station. And the report that was sent in of the accident by the native station