Page images
PDF
EPUB

He filled full threescore temples with

His statues vast and grim,
And some of Mrs. Rameses

Who wa'n't knee-high to him.

I don't know why a malady of this sort should fall upon our party. Such things never happened on the ship, but then Egypt is different, as I have said. There was one more outbreak before we got the germ destroyed:

Behold the halls of Seti I.,

And also Seti II.;
Likewise of old Amenhetep

And haughty Hatasu.

They lived in state, their days were great

And glided gayly by;
Sometimes they used to rail at fate,

The same as you and I.

Oh, Seti I., your race is run,

And also Seti II.,
And lizards sleep where ages creep

In the house of Hatasu. It was time to check the tendency; it was getting serious.

We went up to the “House of Hatasu”—all that is left of it—a beautiful fragment of what was built by the great Queen as her Holy of Holies. It is unlike other temples we have seen, with its square columns; its beautiful open portico; its fine ceiling, still perfect in workmanship and coloring. Queen Hatasu had ideas of her own about building; also, her own architect. His name was Senmut, and his tomb, a mile from the temple, commands a view of it to this day.

Hatasu once made a notable expedition to th lower east coast of Africa—to Punt, as it was called then, and she has recorded it on these walls. It shows the natives bringing valuable presents—woods, spices, gold, and the like—in exchange for glass beads and tin whistles, after the customary manner of such barter. A part of the relief shows the Prince of Punt and “Mrs. Punt,” whose figure was certai. remarkable, followed by their family, all with hans raised in deference to the Egyptian Queen.

It was near here, in 1881, that the cave or pit was found containing the mummies of many kings, icluding Seti I., Rameses II., and others who had been stored here for safety. Arabs had been selling royal scarabs for some time, and the archæologists finally discovered the secret of their supply. It was a priceless find, and with the treasures of the tomb of Amenophis II., made the museum of Cairo the richest archæological depository in the world.

We put in the afternoon visiting temples, mostly of Rameses the Great, and looking at statues which he had caused to be erected of himself wherever there was room. I remember one colossal granite figure of that self-sufficient king, lying prostrate on the sand now, estimated to weigh a thousand tonswhich is to say two million pounds. That statue was sixty feet high when it stood upright, and it is cut like a gem. It was brought down from Assuan in one piece, by barge, as was the enormous granite base, which is thirty feet long, sixteen feet wide, and eight feet thick.

I remember, too, some sun-dried brick — brick

to th ade by the Israelites, maybe -- with the imprint caller [ Rameses still on them, uneffaced after thirtys. 1 iree centuries. The sun bakes hard in Egypt; voods o other kiln is needed. I remember a temple of glas Rameses III. and a pictorial record of one of his ann: ictories. His soldiers had reported a killing of Princ welve thousand of the enemy; he said: ai Go bring the evidence. If you have those dead lan win anywhere you can bring something to prove it."

So the army returned and got the right hands of Wat their victims. The story is all cut there on the ,i walls, and the hands are there too.

Rameses III. knew the custom inaugurated by his ncestor “The Great,” of eliminating old names with new ones, and he took measures accordingly by cutting his own inscriptions deep. Some of them sink ten inches into the walls and will stay there a good while.

I had noticed one curious thing along the outer walls of all these old temples, to wit: row after row of smooth egg-shaped holes, ranging irregularly, one above the other, from the base upward—sometimes to the very top. It was as if they had been dug out by some animal or insect. I asked Gaddis, at last, what they were, and he told me this curious thing.

The childless Arab woman, he said, for ages had believed that some magic in these walls could make them fruitful, so had come and rubbed patiently with th ir fingers until they worked a few grains of the sandstone into a cup of water, which they drank with a prayer of hope. They had begun, he said, in that far-off time when the temples stood as clear of rubbish as they do to-day; and, as the years heaped up the débris, these anxious women had rubbed higher and higher up the walls until, with the drift of the ages, they had reached the very top. So there the record stands to-day, and when one realizes how little of that stone can be rubbed away with the finger-end; how comparatively few must have been the childless mothers, and then sees how innumerable and deep those holes are, he gets a sudden and comprehensive grasp of the vast stretch of time these walls stood tenantless, vanishing, and unregarded, save by those generations of barren women.

We raced away for the Colossi of Memnon, where, I fear, we did not linger as long as was proper. It was growing late—we were very tired and were overfull of undigested story and tangled chronology. Also the scarab men and Aies were especially bad just there. We were willing to take a bare look at that majestic pair who have watched the sun rise morning after morning while a great city vanished away from around them, and then go steaming away across the sands for the Nile and the cool rest of the hotel.

Such a time as we had settling with those donkeyboys—the old white-turbaned sheik, owner of the donkeys, squatting and smoking indifferently while the storm raged about him. But it was over at last, and the boatmen sang again—a quiet afterlude of that extraordinary day—and collected baksheesh on the farther shore.

XLII

THE HIGHWAY OF EGYPT

THERE could hardly be a daintier boat than the

1 Memnon. It just holds our party; it is as clean and speckless as possible, and there is an open deck the full width of the tiny steamer, with pretty rugs and lazy chairs, where we may lounge and drowse and dream and look out on the gently passing panorama of the Nile.

For we have left Luxor, and are floating in this peaceful fashion down to Cairo, resting in the delight of it, after those fierce temple-hunting, tomb-visiting days. Not that we are entirely through with temples and the like. Here and there we tie up to the bank, and go ashore and scamper away on donkeys to some tumbled ruin, but it is a diversion now, not a business, and we find such stops welcome. For the most part we spend our days just idling, and submitting to the spell of Egypt, which has encompassed us and possessed us as it will encompass and possess any one who has a trace of the old human tendency to drift and dream.

It has been said of Boston that it is less a locality than a state of mind. I wish I had said that-of Egypt. I will say it now, and without humor, for of this land it is so eminently true. A mere riverbank; a filament of green; a long slender lotus-stem,

« PreviousContinue »