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-brown-skinned muscular creatures loading boatsutterly destitute of wardrobe. Yet, somehow, these things did not shock us—not greatly. They seemed to go with the sun, and the dead blue sky and the other scenery. A good deal depends on surroundings.
Our stops were not all brief. We put in a full day at Abydos, where there is a splendid temple built by Seti I., and Rameses the Great (of course), and where the donkeys are as poor as they are good in Luxor. Not that they were wretched in appearance, or illcared for, but they were a stiff-necked, unwilling breed. Mine had a way of stopping suddenly and facing about toward home. Twice I went over his head during these manoeuvres, which the others thought entertaining.
But they had their troubles, too. The distance to the temple was long-eight miles, I should thinkand part of the way the road was an embankment several feet high. Some of the donkeys seemed to think it amusing to suddenly decide to go down this embankment and make off over the desert. We were a scattering, disordered cavalcade, and what with the flies and distracting donkey-boys who were perpetually at one's side with “Mister, good donkey-fine donkey —baksheesh, mister,” the trip was a memorable one. Once when my donkey, whose name was “Straight Flush" and should have been “Two-spot” got behind the party, I caught my attendant, not only twisting his tail, but biting it.
It was a good excursion, on the whole. We had luncheon in the great hall of the temple, and I could
not help wondering who had held the first feast in that mighty place where we were holding the last, to date.
We feel at home now in a temple, especially when we see the relief of our faithful Rameses, and of Osiris, king of the underworld, and his kind. We have become familiar and even disrespectful toward these great guardians of the past. This makes it hard on Gaddis at times; especially after luncheon, when we are in a sportive mood.
“Zis is ze temple of Rameses ze Great”-he begins. “Ah, so it is—we suspected it all along." “Here you will see hees seventy-two son—" “Sure enough-our old friends." “And hees fourteen wive." “Happy man, but why a king and so few?”
“An' here all zose seventy-two son carry gift to Osiris-”
“King of the underworld—so they do, we would recognize that gang anywhere."
Truly, it is time we were giving up temples; we are no longer serious. But in this temple of Seti I., at Abydos, we sometimes forgot to jest. Frivolous and riotous as we have become, we were silent in the presence of one splendid decoration of Seti offering sacrifice before the sacred boat, and again where we confronted in a corridor that precious and beautiful relief carving, the Tablet of Egypt's Kings. The cartouche of every king down to Seti I. is therewith one exception: the name of Amenophis IV., the king who abandoned his faith and worshipped his mother's gods, has no place in that royal company.
Otherwise the story is as complete as it is impressive, and I recognized something of what that document means to those of Egypt who know (like Gaddis), when I put out a finger to touch the exquisite work and he whispered, “No, please.”
What record will there be of our history thirty-five centuries from now? Not a book of all those printed to-day will last any considerable fraction of that period. A tablet like this sets one to wondering if we should not get an appropriation to preserve at least the skeleton of our chronology on plates of bronze to be stored in some deep vault safe from the ravages of fire and flood and earthquake.
We also stopped at Assuit, or Asyut, or SuitI like these Egyptian names—you can spell them any way you please. Every one of them has all the spellings you can think of; you could not invent a new one if you tried. It is at Assuit they make the spangled shawls, and the natives flock down to the boat-landing to sell them. Gaddis had probably telegraphed ahead that a floating asylum of Americans was on the way and they had assembled accordingly. Long before we were in trading distance they began to dance about and gesticulate—the sheen of their fabrics blazing in the sun-crying the prices which they did not expect to get.
Some of our ladies were quite eager, and began to make offers when we were still many yards from shore. I suppose they thought the supply was limited. By the time we touched the landing the wildest trading was already going on. Shawls rolled in a ball were being flung aboard for examination,
and flung back wildly with preposterous under-bids, only to come hurtling back again with a fierce protest of refusal. For a time it was a regular game of snowball and fireworks. There were canes to sell, too, and fly-whips-beautiful ivory-handled things. Commerce swelled to high tide. In the midst of the melée somebody happened to notice, what we had not seen before, another steamer lying a little way ahead-an English party, we were told—the ladies and gentlemen quietly reading or pityingly regarding our exhibition. I know, now, that the English have no sense of humor. Another American boat would have been in spasms of delight at our antics. Also, the Englishman's Egypt is not as ours, and he does not enjoy it as much. How could he, without loading up, as we did, with those wonderful Assuit shawls?
Only one more stop along the Nile will I record. This was at Tell al-Amarna, where, in the desert a little beyond the green, lies all that is left of the city built by the heretic king, Amenophis IV., who abandoned Amen-Ra for the sun-worship of his Mesopotamia mother, Queen Thi.
It was a splendid granite city once, but it is all gone now. Only a little of the floor of the palace is left, Queen Thi's apartment, Gaddis said, but it held for us a curious interest. For it is painted, or perhaps enamelled, in colors, and the decorations, still in a good state of preservation, are not Egyptian in design, but Syrian or Persian! The Princess who had left her land to marry an Egyptian king could not forsake her gods and her traditions, and that old floor remains to-day after thirty-five
centuries to tell the story of her loyalty and her love.
We should have made other stops, perhaps, but we met disaster. The Nile was low, as I have said, and a hundred miles below Cairo we awoke one morning to find our boat hard and fast aground. We had, in fact, grounded the evening before, and Abbas and his men had been working all night, putting out anchors and pulling on ropes, a picturesque group, to the chorus “Ali sah-ali ya seni-ali hoop!” which is an appeal to the god of the Nile, Gaddis said, in this case unavailing. We were there to stay for the summer, unless we took train to Cairo, so after breakfast Gaddis and I went ashore with Abraham, still semi-officially attached to our party, and walked three miles to the nearest railway station to see what might be done. It was a fine walk, even though a warm one, across the Egyptian fields, and I saw some papyrus plant and bought a distaff and spindle from a man who was sitting by the road spinning after the fashion of the earliest race of men.
It was Fachen that we reached, an Arab town to which tourists never come, and the donkeys we arranged for there, to carry our party from the shore landing to the station, were a nondescript lot without saddle or bridle—with no gear, in fact, except a remnant of rope tied around the neck. Then we walked back opposite the boat, another three miles, and sat on the bank, and sweat and waved our hands and called to those people, half a mile away in mid-stream, who for some reason could not see our signals.