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of which the Delta is the flower—that is Egypt. Remote—shut in by the desert and the dead hills-it is far less a country and a habitation than a psychological condition which all the mummied ages have been preparing—which the traveller from the earliest moment is bound to feel. It has lived so long! It had made and recorded its history when the rest of the world was dealing in nursery-tales! The glamour of that stately past has become the spell, the enchantment of to-day. The magic of the lotus grows more potent with the years.
It is such a narrow land! Sometimes the lifeless hills close in on one side or the other to the water's edge. Nowhere is the fertile strip wide, for its fertility depends wholly on the water it receives from the Nile, and when that water is drawn up by hand with a goat-skin pail and a well-sweep-a shaduf, as they call it-it means that fields cannot be very extensive,even if there were room,which as a rule there is not.
Think of watering a whole wheat-field with a wellsweep and a pail! Furthermore, where the banks are high the water is sometimes lifted three times between the Nile and the surface, and much of it is wasted in transit. It is the oldest form of irrigation; the hieroglyphics show that it was in use in Egypt five thousand years ago. It is also still the most popular form in Upper Egypt. We saw a good many of the sakkieh — primitive and wastful water - wheels propelled by a buffalo or a camel or a cow — and at rare intervals a windmill, where some Englishman has established a plantation, but it is the shaduf that largely predominates.
The mud villages among the date-palms are unfailingly picturesque; the sail - boats of the Nile – markab they call them-drifting down upon us like great butterflies, have a charm not to be put in words; the life along the shores never loses its interest; the sun sets and the sun rises round the dreamy days with a marvel of color that seems each time more wonderful. Then there is the moonlight. But I must not speak of Egyptian moonlight or I shall lose my sense of proportion altogether, for it is like no other light that ever lay on sea or land.
We do not travel through the night, but anchor at dusk until daybreak. It is curious to reflect that one sees the entire country on a trip like this, if he rises early. We do rise early, most of us—though the cool nights (nights are always cool in Egypt) and the stillness are an inducement to sleep-and we are usually very hungry before breakfast comes along. One may have coffee on the deck if he likes—the picturesque Arab will bring it joyfully, especially where there is a baksheesh at the end. It is good coffee, too, and the food is good; everything is good on the Memnon except the beverages and the cigars. The wine could be improved and the cigars could be thrown away. I paid a shilling for one that was as hard as a stick and crumbled to dust when I bit it. Never mind the flavor. That brand was called “The Scarab.” It should have been named “The Mummy" -it had all the characteristics.
The pilot commands this boat—the captain merely conducts the excursion. The captain wears European dress and speaks English, but the pilot is Arab
throughout - dark - faced, heavily turbaned, silent watching the water like a sphinx. Now and then he makes a motion and says a word to the steersman at his side. Whenever we lie up or strike safe water he locates Mecca, prostrates himself, and prays. I should think his emotions would be conflicting at times. Doctrinally, of course, it is his duty to pray for the boat to sink and exterminate this crowd. Professionally, it is his duty to take us safely to Cairo. Poor old Abbas! how are you going to explain to the prophet by-and-by?
We may not reach Cairo, however. The Nile is shallow at this season, and already we have scraped the sand more than once. It is a curious river-full of currents and shifting sand—the water getting scantier as you descend. That seemed strange to us until we realize that its entire flow comes from the far interior; that it has no feeding tributaries, while the steady evaporation, the irrigation, and the absorption of these burning sands constitute a heavy drain. It is hard to grasp a condition like that, or what this river means—has always meant—to the dwellers along its shores. Not alone an artery of life, it is life itself—water, food, clothing, cleanliness.
They don't take as much advantage of that last blessing as they should-nor of the next to the last. It is true that most of them have some semblance of clothing, but not all of them. In this interior Nile, as we may call the district between Luxor and Cairo, early principles to some extent still prevail. At first we saw boys-donkey-boys and the like—without any perceivable clothing, and more lately we have seen men