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mantled plains. The three great pyramids towered close at hand, soft yet glowing in the magic of the moonlight. No other traveller was yet abroad, and the effect was so potent that all conversation was hushed in the general awe, the silent bliss of itthe indescribable grandeur of those monsters of the past and the illimitable spaces of the billowy desert. The effect of our march was much like that of passing over a recent soft snowfall, lulled by the gentle, swaying motion of the beasts and numbed by the chill of the night.
In due time we descended in silent majesty to the hollow where lay the.Sphinx -- never so impressive at other times as by moonlight. We were ahead of the crowd. The huge image, carved out of the solid rock of the plateau and half buried in the sands, was deserted save for our little group. The moon softened the gaze of its sightless eyes and threw the sharp shadow of its mighty back upon the face of the desert. The visage wore the mystic look which tradition insists on associating with such an object, and it was easy to forget that this was nothing but the image of a Pharaoh rather than an abstract typification of eternal secrecy. The camels stood motionless. The Bedouin squatted in their shrouds and smoked silently. Katrina and I said nothing, but gazed in awe upon this handiwork of a bygone age. Its spell was irresistible.
Meantime, alas, the other sowaheen finished their dinner and came trooping out by twos and threes, and finally in battalions. Their coming marred the splendor and snapped the mystic thread which had bound us. Objectionable dragomans began flashing magnesium wire under the chin of the Sphinx, ruining the effect of the moonlight on that impassive face. Chatter became universal, and we turned to go — when it occurred to me to ask Hassan if his camels had names.
“Oh, yes, sah! This one you ride, he called “Romses.' And the camel the lady ride, he called • LovelyNice'?"
I exploded. It seemed a name to conjure with.
“Lovely-Nice, he been to Chicago. You know Chicago ?” pursued Hassan in his commiserating coo. “And this donkey, he named “Marka Twain.' You know Marka Twain?”
Later I discovered that almost every donkey in Ghizeh is named for the humorous American who did his merry part toward making the pyramids famous. Also that every male inhabitant of the place wishes you to believe that he is either the sheik or the sheik's son. Further, that all and several have been to Chicago and there helped to furnish forth the “Streets of Cairo." Finally, that eternal backsheesh is the price of liberty — and little of that, for we had a perfectly awful time in getting rid of Hassan and his crew on returning to Mena. I tremble to think of the amount we disbursed to that violent and mendacious horde. The consolation, however, was that the experience was easily worth many times the money — not only the pyramids, but also the general education in dealing with the pyramid Bedouin.
Our later visits were less productive of largess. It was quite impossible to dissuade the local inhabitants from begging, but we managed to discourage undue persistence by a show of firmness that went often to the verge of violence, and generally ended in an outburst of vigorous English which had more effect than all our pidgin Arabic.
“I go with you, sah, up the pyramid ?"
“Oh, yallah! Understand ? Yallah! Go on, get out, vamos! Mush sowaheen!”
“I not afraid of you, sah, because I Bedouin.”
“Now, see here, Hassan, Ali, Ibrahim, Mahmoud, whatever your name is — do you see that rock over there? Well, you go sit on it, and if you dare to move from it until we're out of sight, I 'll — well, I'll do something to you you won't like. Taraaf? Understand that?"