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Agenoria had a little Arab boy called Ahmed, trained up from the kitchen. He knew nothing at all when he came to her, but was extremely clever at learning house things. He used to arrange the table very well, and had a genius for varying things. One day when she was going to have a dinner-party she found the table decorated in the most wonderful way with cypress leaves and oranges. Whenever he was asked how he did this, that, or the other, he used to reply with great dignity, “Me watch Madame much."
As he grew up he became rather a nuisance, because he paid so much attention to the female element in the house, and was very insubordinate to the housekeeper, while Cromwell Rhodes was away. When R. came back the servants came to him in a body to complain about that boy. When he was taken to task about it he answered insolently, "Oh, I cannot stand those women."
This was at the great age of fourteen. R. replied with the wellknown Egyptian formula, “ You had better stand outside the gate in the future.” Agenoria saw him about a year afterwards, a meek, thin thing, though he had been extremely fat when he could not “ stand those women.”
It was high time that he stood outside the door, for, when Agenoria was going into her new palace, she sent in her European servants to see that the native servants cleaned the floors properly. Ahmed made them understand that he did not mean to wash the floors. The maids flew back to Agenoria. She could not speak much Arabic in those days, but she followed them as soon as she could, and with about two words of Arabic, and a haughty mien, intimidated him into doing the work, in spite of his indignant protest of “Why should I? It was done three weeks ago."
F you think that I am harsh in my estimate of the
"If yeyptiank," said Cromwel' khodes, "I recommend you
to go and try to do business with a Mudir, something that should only take five minutes to do, when you have a train leaving in two hours. The Mudir will welcome you with any amount of palaver, as his oldest friend. While he is still palavering, before you have time to get a word in about your business, somebody else will come in, and the same thing will happen ; you will be quite forgotten. There is nothing to do but sit the other man out, and try and get a word in when he is gone, if no one else has come in to repeat the performance. If you do get as far as discussing your business, every one in the room proceeds to discuss it; they all agree that it is a good thing. Still nothing is done ; no instruction is given. The only thing to do is to pay the Coptic clerk a bribe to worry the Mudir in every leisure moment."
Yet the Mudir cannot be accused of being unsympathetic. If a prisoner is brought before him, both he and the trooper in charge of the prisoner address the villain in affectionate tones as 'Oh, my brother !' In Egypt the man in authority, though he may use frantic language and bully a subordinate one moment, treats him as a friend the next.
Arabs never pay a debt until they are obliged ; they would rather pay a lawyer double the money so as to have the satisfaction of not paying the debt. R. lent an Arab some money on mortgage ; he has to bring a lawsuit every year to get the interest; and the Arab has to pay R.'s lawyer
and his own lawyer as well as the interest. The Arabs are not a business people at all. R. told me that he had never known an Arab who had borrowed money pay it when it was due. They think it is oppression to try and make them pay, and immediately say that interest on money is usury, and contrary to their religion. When an Arab does not want to do a thing, it is always contrary to his religion. R. had a servant who did not like the taste of some medicine he was told to take. He said there was pig in it.
The Egyptians are born cheats; they put water in their cotton and put stones in the cotton bags, which is worse, for they break the machinery when the cotton is being ginned. Watering the cotton not only makes it weigh heavier, but liable to spontaneous combustion when it dries. That is why Egyptian cotton fetches such poor prices unless it has been inspected by British inspectors. The native inspector takes a bribe to pass frauds. R. asked a Greek cotton-buyer how he managed to deal with the Egyptian. The Greek said: “The Egyptian is never satisfied unless he is cheating you ; he cheats so hard that he does not notice when you are cheating him. While he is watering the cotton I change the weights and put in lead ones.” They ought to have a new proverb “When Greek meets Egyptian," or perhaps it should be "When Egyptian meets Greek"!
So incorrigible are the Egyptians that there is as much competition to get the boys out of the Ghezira Reformatory for servants as there is to get convicts out of the prison at Khartům. Nobody else has been taught how to work. R. found the best plan was to start by treating an Egyptian as if he had no honour; then you were sometimes surprised to find how much he did have.
The lady in charge of the slave-home tries to teach the slaves how to work while they are there, which is very difficult, and then marry them off to give them a home. There is no difficulty about this: they are taught to make such good wives that the fame of their excellence reached the ears of the Khedive, and this incident actually happened when R. was in the office talking to the lady in charge. The
marriage of a reformed slave was in progress, when a Bey arrived to marry her at the recommendation of the Khedive. The Khedive said that the Bey was to have the girl, and the Bey was very anxious to have her. The lady in charge did not know what to do, so she sent for the girl and asked whether she would have the Bey--a gentleman for whom she would not have to work—or the other. As she did not seem to care, it was decided that she should marry the Bey, so he was substituted for the half-married bridegroom, and the marriage proceeded. The "Lochinvared ” bridegroom went to Lord Cromer to complain that it was an infringement of the liberty of the subject. But Lord Cromer said, “You must not mind; these women are used to it from their childhood."
One great difficulty in having contracts with Egyptians is that they sign a document with their seal instead of a signature. Afterwards, if they don't like it, they destroy the seal with which the document was sealed, and have a new one made totally different. This happened to R. When the man repudiated the contract, R. went to the village policehouse, and had an interview with the Omdeh. He took the man who had witnessed the seal with him, and they testified that the seal had been made by that man in their presence, The Egyptian was not to be done ; he asked to be allowed to look at the document, and when it was handed to him tore it up, whereupon the Omdeh sagely observed that as the document was destroyed nothing could be done. The case unfortunately did not come before Lord Cromer, whose summary remedies kept even an Egyptian straight. The simplest Egyptian is cunning in his simplicity. R. was. examining a platelayer to see if he could understand simple bits of arithmetic before he engaged him. He asked “ If three men moved sand from the line at 41 p.t. a day for five days, how much should he have to pay them for it?"
"Where were they moving the sand ?" asked the platelayer.
“No man would work on the Suez line for 41 p.t. a day," said the platelayer.
A man was thrown into a canal by a cart running down a bank; he stuck in the mud and was in imminent danger of being drowned. R. and a gang of men flew to pull him out.
Stop!” cried the policeman, running up breathless, “ I must take a proces verbal before anything else is done." R. exercised his authority, and the policeman collapsed, as they always do in the face of resistance. Another time a train was going along a line, when the driver saw a string of camels roped together, walking along the line in front of them. The train whistled and whistled, but the camel-driver for a long time would take no notice. When he did, he was so slow at getting out of the way that the train caught the last camel on the rump and knocked it round. The shock dragged the other camels into collision, and they were all killed except one, including the camel-driver.
Another time there was a string of camels laden with petroleum walking along the line. The train came up behind and knocked the camels into a ditch with the driver and all the tins under them.
There is a great temptation for camels to use the line in Egypt, where there are so few roads. It is a mercy that they got the man out alive, because Egyptians do not show the least sense in emergencies. R. watched some men hauling and hauling at something in a ditch. He knew that whatever it was must have gone wrong, so he went to see what they were doing. A donkey had fallen in, and they were trying to pull him out by the hind-legs, with the result that his fore-legs stuck like an anchor, and his nose and mouth were full of mud.
On a cold north-wind day he saw a man take a tiny boy and girl down to the Nile, strip them naked, and start washing their clothes, while they howled on the bank. Then the father laid the clothes down and took the children, who were filthy-black instead of olive, except their legs and their heads
and washed the very parts of them that were clean, and left the rest. Then he put their wet clothes on them again and took them home. Once, when R. was travelling in a boat on the Mahmudiya canal, he met a woman with a