Page images



[ocr errors]

ARCH 10. The steamer left early to-day, and

by the time we were awake and dressed was ploughing its way up river again, sniffing occasionally at sandbars, but fortunately not sticking. For this immunity we are doubtless indebted to the generosity of our crew, who made up a purse the other day to toss overboard to a wayside sheik. This form of pious tribute seems to be exacted of every passing craft,

I omitted to mention it at the time, and I do not now recollect which day it was, but at any rate it was well below Luxor when we were steaming merrily along. As we passed a spot on shore marked by the

presence of a "marabout," — one of the innumerable domed tombs that serve to contain all that is mortal of certain modern saints who from their labors rest, -a skiff put out to intercept us. It was manned by a hoary old fellow of monstrous holiness, I judge, for he awakened instant interest among the men on the deck forward. The old sheik rowed close to the steamer, which in turn piously slowed down, and tossed aboard a little bag attached to some bamboo sticks. By the time this had been filled with pieces of silver the Egypt was well upstream; but the men tossed the bag into the water and in a little while it had floated back to where the aged saint sat waiting in his boat, bobbing about in the wash from the steamer. How delighted he may have been when he opened it, I cannot say, but the contribution appeared to contain a good store of silver, and I judge the superstition of the crew in itself is ample warrant that no just pretense of the old sheik for backsheesh would be disallowed. By this much are we aided in our advance, for we are well assured that had we refused our dole the steamer would have been fast in the mud

ere this.

Soon after breakfast we were locked through the barrage at Esneh, a process which required time, but which was far from dull owing to the presence of a horde of native boys who came down to the bank to

watch the process and incidentally to beg. They waded into the water and caught the half-piastres that were thrown as best they could. One urchin more eager than the rest tore off his single shift and dashed mother-naked into the river to swim for bits of silver that fell too short. It proved disastrous to him, however, because while he was jubilantly disporting in the water some evil-minded comrade stole his blue-cotton robe and so effectually concealed it that it could not be found. Meantime a scandalized local policeman came along the bank, drew the astonished and dripping lad from his bath, and cuffed him soundly for rashly disrobing in so public a spot. He wept loudly, — they weep easily in Egypt and without meaning very much, — but it failed to bring back his tattered shirt, and he stood dripping and disconsolate in the midst of a jeering crowd until the steamer had been warped through the lock and up to her landing in front of the little town.

There proved to be little in Esneh to see, apart from a half-buried temple and some meagre bazaars. None of these sights were far from the dock, and we all walked, attended by the majority of the local population, among whom were half a dozen watercarriers bending under the weight of dripping and distended skins.

The temple of Esneh, dedicated to Khnum, the

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »