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THE LONG WAY HOME
W E bade good-bye to Egypt that morning, and to
Gaddis—whose name and memory will always mean Egypt to me—and were off for Alexandria, where the ship was waiting. That long-ago dream of a visit to Damascus and Jerusalem, and of a camp on the Nile had been realized. Now it was over.
We were ready to go home—at least some of us were. There would be a stop at Naples, with Pompeii and Rome for those who cared for it, but even these great places would be tame after Egypt. They must be approached from another direction for that eager interest which properly belongs to an expedition of this kind. A number of our ship-dwellers had an eager interest-a large and growing interestbut it was for home, an interest that was multiplied each day by the square of the distance travelled.
Not many of us were left when we had made our last touch on the Riviera, rounded the Rock, and set out on the long, steady, Atlantic swing. The Reprobates had gone viâ Monte Carlo to Paris. Others had drifted up through Europe to sail from Cherbourg. The Diplomat was still with us; also Fosdick of Ohio, and Laura, age fourteen, but only a score or two of the original muster could gather at the long table in the dining-room on the last night out of port, for a final look at one another, and to exchange the greetings and god-speeds for which there would be little time during the bustle of arrival. It was hardly an occasion; just a pleasant little meeting that even with jollifica
tion was not without sadness. One of the ship's poets offered some verses of good-bye, of which I recall these lines:
“ To-night, we are here who have stayed by the ship;
To-morrow, the harbor and anchor and slip-
Then all the King's horses and all the King's men
That was a good while ago, nearly a year now, and already it seems as far back in the past as the days of Rameses; for, as I have said somewhere before, we have but a meagre conception of time. Indeed, I suspect there is no such thing as time. How can there be when one period is as long as another compared with eternity?
However, I do not compare with eternity, now. I compare with Egypt. I shall always compare with Egypt-everything else in the world. Other interests and other memories may fade and change, but Egypt, the real Egypt, the enchantment of that land, which is not a land, but a vast processional epic, will never change, and it will not grow dim. I may never visit it again, but I shall see it many times. I shall see the sunrise above the palms, flooding the mountains with amethyst and turning the sky to crimson gold. Again at sunset I shall sit in the vast temple of Luxor and hear once more the Muezzin's call to prayer. I shall race with Laura across the hot desert; I shall hear the cry of the donkey-boys and the scarabsellers and the wail for baksheesh; I shall see our cavalcade scattering through the dust across the Libyan sands. And I shall wander once more among the tombs of the kings, and follow down the splendid passage where Amenophis lies with the repose of the ages on his benignant face. I shall recall other lands and other ages, too, but it is to Egypt that I shall turn after all the others have drifted by; to her
temples and her tombs—her glories of the past made visible. Beyond the sands and the centuries they lie, but they are mine now, and neither thief nor beggar, nor importunate creditor, can ever take them away.