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cloths embroidered with gold, and all piled on the floor for the bride to walk over them, and then the eunuchs were smothered in them in the armfuls of plush. The drawingroom was blazing with splendour and electric light—the rest of the house could hardly raise a candle.
In the first room were all the Consul-generalesses and other foreign swells, the second was full of nearly naked Ghawazi—the famous dancing girls of Egypt. The men had found their way upstairs, where they ought not to be, and intimates were being taken to see the nuptial couch, which was surrounded with grand jewelled slippers.
It is a wonder that they did not get stolen by the promiscuous crowd which was swarming all over the house. That wedding was pandemonium. It was a mixture of rowdy European and rowdy native amusements. There was no drinking visible, but the women were getting "screwy." There were people with no shoes and stockings, people dressed up to the nines, people undressed to the nines, and, if you looked round, you found one of your servants next to you. Other people's servants got so friendly with you that they took your arm and slapped you on the back, examined your clothes, asked how much they cost, and how old you were-questions which may be embarrassing even to a lady of
At another grand wedding Agenoria went to, she was shown into a marquee in front of the house, made of cloths gaily embroidered with texts from the Koran in blue and green, and yellow and red, and purple and black, with festoons of lanterns and little Khedivial flags. To increase the honour, she was placed on one of a pair of huge golden chairs, and another English lady was placed on the other. The people walked past them salaaming and kissing their hands. At one time hundreds of men and women rushed in and kissed and embraced the bridegroom. Agenoria only complained that it was impossible to find conversation suited to the dignity of that chair.
Another of the Khedivial princesses had a beautiful little daughter, who was much attached to Agenoria and
always begging to have her at their Palace, where she used to hang on her and embrace her all the time. Agenoria's friends were very anxious to see the child, and the mother made an appointment for them one morning about twelve. They were kept a terrible time waiting when they got to the Palace, and filthy slaves, in dirty cottons and sloppy slippers, stood about and stared at them. They thought, of course, that the Princess was dressing, and hardly took any notice of an old thing in a crimson flannel dressing-gown without buttons or braids, and with grisly hair skewered on her head anyhow, who came down supported by touzled servants, until Agenoria nudged them to begin curtseying. Agenoria saw the same Princess at a wedding a few days afterwards, an elaborate Parisian dame, a blaze of diamonds.
Once she went to a private reception at the Palace. All the Court ladies were in flannelette dressing-gowns; but when she went to a state reception they were all in lovely brocade dresses, only to be distinguished as Moslems and Orientals by a sort of gauze toque with flowers.
One day Agenoria went to the Palace in a very smart fawn-coloured cape which had a rather pretty brocade lining. The lady-in-waiting put it on Agenoria's shoulders, insideout; the victim reversed it, and another Court lady at once put it back. There was nothing for it but to go out to her carriage in broad daylight like that. The Princess considered that this was the correct side.
One of Agenoria's most trying experiences was when she received instructions to be at Boulak at such an hour, to show the Khedivial mother, and the Khedivia, and all the princesses round the engineering works. The wives of the four chief engineers had to do it. There was no one to explain anything technically, because no men were allowed in except two who walked ahead and had to keep their backs turned to the ladies, on pain of some awful punishment. Luckily, Agenoria knew a little about engineering, having always taken a great interest in her husband's work, and knew the royal ladies from each other. None of the other wives were capable of explaining anything, or would
have known to whom they should address the explanations, a matter upon which the Khedive's wife and mother were extremely particular.
When the King of Siam came to Cairo, Agenoria's husband always had to go and see the royal personages received and put into their train. On one occasion the Khedive would not step into his carriage, and it was not etiquette to ask him why. They simply had to wait for his pleasure. In the end, after they had been waiting an hour, they found that his pleasure had been to send a special train to his palace on the Pont Limoun line to fetch a portmanteau which he had forgotten. One is bound to think of the Chinese, who set their houses on fire to roast pigs, in Charles Lamb's pages.
The Egyptian royal family were genuinely attached to the Rhodeses. When they were leaving Egypt the Khedive sent for Cromwell Rhodes, put his arms round his neck and patted his hand and said, “Dear Mr. Rhodes, is there anything I can do to keep you?"
One of their drollest experiences with royalty was in connection with an English royal duke who wished to see a certain temple near a remote station. The Rhodeses had to be at the station to receive him. When they got there the station-master was duly impressed ; to him Mr. Rhodes was the fountain of honour from whom all blessings flowed. The royal train was not to arrive for three or four hours, so the station-master invited the Rhodeses to drive to the temple in his carriage while they were waiting. It was a “most awful old shanderadan," drawn by two screws. As they were anxious to be back in good time, the driver flogged his horses and brought them back at a tearing pace. He would have probably done this anyway. All the cabs in Cairo go at ten or twelve miles an hour, when there is any one to run over. The horses were of course dead beat, and the carriage smothered in dust, when they arrived at the station, and the train came in almost directly afterwards. They found the Mudir or governor of the province there, and he said that they had been using his carriage, which he was going to lend to the Royal Duke. Of course it did not belong to either
of them, but was the local cab, which kept body and soul together with difficulty in the long intervals between the arrival of people who wanted to see the temples, and were not provided with donkeys by Thomas Cook & Son. History does not relate how the Royal Duke arrived at the temples. The Mudir proved to be a delightful man. He was soon afterwards sent to prison for some typical piece of Egyptian roguery.
When the Royal Duke had gone he asked the Rhodeses to stay with him, and gave them a much more regal entertainment than he had given to H.R.H. He showed them temples which foreigners never see, gave them picturesque police escorts on white Arabs, and provided a flotilla of carriages for them. The coachmen always tried to break their necks with kindness, because the proper thing to do was to drive them about at a gallop.
The climax came when it was time for them to go back to Cairo. The Mudir sent all sorts of stewed pigeons, and other flesh-pots of Egypt, on Hadendowa plates of plaited basket-work, and, just as the train was moving off, put a huge Erment dog, a great big puppy, into the train with them. This is the half-wild breed of gigantic watch-dog used in Upper Egypt. A friend had asked them to buy one for him and they had mentioned it. There was nothing to pay, the Mudir said : it was a present. They thanked him profusely, and, when they got back to Cairo, sent the dog to the friend who had given them the commission.
A few days afterwards they received an indignant letter. It appeared that the dog had been stolen. They wanted one; that was sufficient. The Mudir told his henchman to take the best he could find in the "billage," as he called it, and give it to the great man and his wife.
Agenoria wrote to the receiver of stolen goods to explain the circumstances, and wrote to the bereaved owner to ask what the equivalent of the dog was in money. She got back a letter by return of post, couched in terms of courtesy and generosity typically Egyptian–the Egyptian is not mean with his ill-gotten possessions, rather the reverse; he is merely dishonest. The letter said that all the late owner's possessions were hers; would she keep the dog to oblige him? He would not hear of her paying anything.
I forgot to say that the Mudir, wishing to show the generosity of his intentions, had sent enormous lumps of raw beef, in addition to the cooked viands, for them to eat in the train.
Ismail Pasha made up his mind that it would be a good thing to have Egyptian Houses of Parliament. He got them together somehow and proceeded to instruct them in their duties himself. He divided them into two lots, without any rhyme or reason in the selection, and said to the people on one side: "You are the Government. You have to bring in the measures,” and to the people on the other side: “You are the Opposition; you will have to oppose the measures And then you can take a vote."
The first motion that Ismail suggested for them to discuss was an increase in his salary by so many thousands a year. They all voted for it.
“But you are the Opposition," protested the Khedive to the people, who had been so arbitrarily selected for the purpose. You ought to vote against it.”
But the Opposition said, in other words : "No fear.” They knew far too well which side their bread was buttered.
“ But you must,” said Ismail, “or Party Government will be not much use in Egypt." He did not know how prophetically he was speaking.
Then he asked the whole of them to a soirée at the Ghezira Palace. It had not long been opened ; its cost had been something prodigious; he had sunk £500,000 before the building reached the level of the ground. It was so close to the Nile that the water rose in its cellars to the Nile level, as if they had been made for Nilometers, and it was begun at the wrong season.
The legislators arrived one evening. The Khedive inspected them through the peephole in one of the harem windows. As they did not look very clean, he decided to lend them white cotton gloves while they were there. The gloves were distributed by the police; they were probably police stores,