« PreviousContinue »
late, and the other couple did not arrive at all. The girl who did come at the eleventh hour drove over first thing next morning to beg Agenoria not to let her mother hear of it ; the girl who didn't come at all simply did not care, The late Lord Rowton, of Rowton Houses fame, was one of the starters; he was riding his donkey beside a very fat young man, who found the pace and the evening too hot ; so they skulked behind, and waited at Agenoria's palace for
The Pasha was so fired with the joys of these midnight picnics that he thought he would like to give one himself ; so he sent a eunuch round to ask if he might call. When he came he said, “I wished to consult you about giving a picnic." "Charmed,” said Agenoria. It seemed that he did not know any one to ask. Would Agenoria do the inviting? She said she would if she might submit the list to him. She did, and he accepted it wholesale. He had only two suggestions to make himself. These persons were not extremely aristocratic, but they were invited. These picnics consisted chiefly of subalterns and the girls whom they affected in Cairo society. The Pasha went round saying " Very good chap, jolly good chap.” And the boys were rather tickled by his shining affability.
This sort of thing was too good to last. It was not long before he came to Agenoria bursting with fury, because “ he had not been noticed." It turned out that the commanding officers had passed word to the subalterns that they were not to drink with him in public bars.
But to return to the picnic. Agenoria had to drive with him in his carriage ; they drove right out to Ghezira and wandered along the river wall. Then the Pasha was suddenly lost. Agenoria, who knew him, said, “We had better wait here for half an hour.” She guessed exactly what had happened : he had thought that his supper might not be right, and had flown home to see. She kept the company playing about until the Pasha's carriage was sent back for her. Then they went to his palace. They found the whole courtyard filled with an enormous buffet laden with wonder
ful French pastry, a few sandwiches, and an ocean of drinks. The Pasha waddled about, puff, puff, puff, calling out, " I say, old chap.” He was prodigiously important. The guests stayed very late, and the subalterns almost drained the ocean, and told the Pasha straight on that he was “a jolly good chap.”
NCE upon a time, and that not many years ago, there
was a naughty princess, who was the wife of a Pasha. She was a very larky lady, anxious to be European in every way, and she was very fond of Agenoria ; so she asked her to go to the picnic she was giving on the river.
Agenoria went to her house-one of those big, old houses on the river, which made you quite nervous to go inside them: they had such cracks that you thought they would have fallen every minute. She was shown into the receptionhall of the harem; no one else had arrived. Suddenly while they were talking, the Princess bobbed down behind an ottoman, which ought not to have been there, in a properly constituted native house ; a man had appeared in the doorway-a painter or something of that kind.
The idea is that such men do not see the harem ladies, but they do see them all the time, though they only notice them, when they make frantic efforts to conceal themselves.
The Princess had made up her mind that Agenoria, who was slight and graceful, should be dressed in her (the Princess's) clothes for the picnic. She was a Turkish lady, and enormously fat.
Agenoria was dressed up in a grand brocade mantle, with a little kind of ladies' turban, made of flowers and a flat band of muslin, which went all round, very untidily pinned behind, very raggy. She had on a yashmak, the white gauze Turkish veil, not the little black Egyptian burka-that is only a common person's veil.
The Turkish ladies themselves wear that resplendent mantle, that pork-pie of lawn and flowers, that quite diaphanous yashmak, which can yet be very hot when it is pinned to the back, over European dress. And the better looking the lady the more diaphanous the yashmak. In Constantinople it is reported that, since the success of the Young Turk, the ladies are doing without veils altogether.
When all the guests arrived, they were escorted by a lot of slaves, various men and women, blackies and others, to the river, where the dahabeah was waiting. They went on board. It was a broiling hot day. Poor Agenoria was dressed in all these smothery things, and, on the top of that, the Princess insisted on her going down into the cabin till all the native guests had come on board. She heard the Princess greeting people as they rustled down with their slaves. After about twenty others had arrived, the Italian Consul-General's wife came, the only other European lady. She wore her own dress.
Then the Princess came and "fished out" Agenoria. What was the unfortunate victim to do? She could not speak Turkish, so it was decided that she was to be dumb; her voice would have given her away. When she came out, there was such a nudging, staring, and whispering as to who
Then the dahabeah began to go down the river, and the band struck up.
It was behind meshrebiya screens; but the bandsmen and the ladies could see each other perfectly well.
They sailed down the river for about an hour, and then the ladies went down to lunch in a very gorgeous cabin, very stuffy. There was gold plate to eat off ; but there were shoddy slaves about to wait on them--the whole shipful was very extraordinary. One old lady, the Pasha's aunt, drank an immense amount of beer, and got redder and redder in the face. They all had such a feast : the ladies drank beer mixed with champagne, whisky, etc., and began to get rowdy. Then they had coffee and very big cigarettes.
Agenoria had disclosed her identity before this ; the disguise was too hot to keep up, They were immensely tickled by it. When they saw any men in boats, if they were only fishermen, the whole of the Pasha's ladies waddled to the side, and stared over at them. Old Khadijah, the Pasha's aunt, kept jumping up and looking through the meshrebiya at the band. Not content with that, she began prodding them through the meshrebiya with her hat-pins. Agenoria tried to restrain her, and told her that it was “infra dig. to lark about" with common men. But the aunt was not to be restrained. She was enjoying herself so much that she began to get very hot, and to take her clothes off one by one. She had most of them off before she had finished. The band, who could see her perfectly well, pretended not to notice her or her hat-pins.
Then the dahabeah got stuck on a sand-bank, and things became very hot in every way). The Pasha's ladies began calling out, like servants from the back windows in flats, to the common men who passed. Agenoria was supposed to be a sort of keeper to the Pasha's wife. When subsequently that giddy lady eloped, old Khadijah came straight to Agenoria to ask where she had gone to; she would not believe that Agenoria had not been the go-between.
After all this, Agenoria said that there was no special incident about the picnic—"it was all so disjointed and foolish-certainly not refined or 'tony,' the way they went
Old Khadijah got redder and redder in the face, and peeled off more yashmaks and jackets; the others went down into the cabin and put on the shabby pink flannel dressing-gowns which they had made their slaves bring. They had shown their finery to their friends and now wished to be comfortable.
One day on a tramway Agenoria met the Naughty Princess dressed in the black habara of a common woman. When the other people had left the car, the Princess told Agenoria that she had been out to the Pyramids to meet some one.
One summer night, out on the road to the Pyramids, Agenoria and her husband were having a walk, when the Princess and her attendants passed them in a brake. They