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Title: Letters from Egypt
Author: Duff Gordon, Lucie, Lady, 1821-1869
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1902 R. Brimley Johnson edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org



                            Lady Duff Gordon’s
                            Letters from Egypt


                             REVISED EDITION
                            WITH MEMOIR BY HER
                           DAUGHTER JANET ROSS
                           NEW INTRODUCTION BY
                             GEORGE MEREDITH

                           _SECOND IMPRESSION_

                       [Picture: Decorative symbol]

                        LONDON: R. BRIMLEY JOHNSON
                                   1902

   [Picture: Photograph of Lady Duff Gordon from sketch by G. F. Watts,
                            R.A., about 1848]



INTRODUCTION


The letters of Lady Duff Gordon are an introduction to her in person.
She wrote as she talked, and that is not always the note of private
correspondence, the pen being such an official instrument.  Readers
growing familiar with her voice will soon have assurance that, addressing
the public, she would not have blotted a passage or affected a tone for
the applause of all Europe.  Yet she could own to a liking for flattery,
and say of the consequent vanity, that an insensibility to it is inhuman.
Her humour was a mouthpiece of nature.  She inherited from her father the
judicial mind, and her fine conscience brought it to bear on herself as
well as on the world, so that she would ask, ‘Are we so much better?’
when someone supremely erratic was dangled before the popular eye.  She
had not studied her Goethe to no purpose.  Nor did the very ridiculous
creature who is commonly the outcast of all compassion miss having the
tolerant word from her, however much she might be of necessity in the
laugh, for Molière also was of her repertory.  Hers was the charity which
is perceptive and embracing: we may feel certain that she was never a
dupe of the poor souls, Christian and Muslim, whose tales of simple
misery or injustice moved her to friendly service.  Egyptians, _consule
Junio_, would have met the human interpreter in her, for a picture to set
beside that of the vexed Satirist.  She saw clearly into the later Nile
products, though her view of them was affectionate; but had they been
exponents of original sin, her charitableness would have found the
philosophical word on their behalf, for the reason that they were not in
the place of vantage.  The service she did to them was a greater service
done to her country, by giving these quivering creatures of the baked
land proof that a Christian Englishwoman could be companionable, tender,
beneficently motherly with them, despite the reputed insurmountable
barriers of alien race and religion.  Sympathy was quick in her breast
for all the diverse victims of mischance; a shade of it, that was not
indulgence, but knowledge of the roots of evil, for malefactors and for
the fool.  Against the cruelty of despotic rulers and the harshness of
society she was openly at war, at a time when championship of the lowly
or the fallen was not common.  Still, in this, as in everything
controversial, it was the μηδὲν ἄyαν with her.  That singular union of
the balanced intellect with the lively heart arrested even in advocacy
the floods pressing for pathos.  Her aim was at practical measures of
help; she doubted the uses of sentimentality in moving tyrants or
multitudes to do the thing needed.  Moreover, she distrusted eloquence,
Parliamentary, forensic, literary; thinking that the plain facts are the
persuasive speakers in a good cause, and that rhetoric is to be suspected
as the flourish over a weak one.  Does it soften the obdurate, kindle the
tardily inflammable?  Only for a day, and only in cases of extreme
urgency, is an appeal to emotion of value for the gain of a day.  Thus it
was that she never forced her voice, though her feelings might be at heat
and she possessed the literary art.

She writes from her home on the Upper Nile: ‘In this country one gets to
see how much more beautiful a perfectly natural expression is than any
degree of the mystical expression of the best painters.’  It is by her
banishing of literary colouring matter that she brings the Arab and Copt
home to us as none other has done, by her unlaboured pleading that she
touches to the heart.  She was not one to ‘spread gold-leaf over her
acquaintances and make them shine,’ as Horace Walpole says of Madame de
Sévigné; they would have been set shining from within, perhaps with a
mild lustre; sensibly to the observant, more credibly of the golden sort.
Her dislike of superlatives, when the marked effect had to be produced,
and it was not the literary performance she could relish as well as any
of us, renders hard the task of portraying a woman whose character calls
them forth.  To him knowing her, they would not fit; her individuality
passes between epithets.  The reading of a sentence of panegyric
(commonly a thing of extension) deadened her countenance, if it failed to
quicken the corners of her lips; the distended truth in it exhibited the
comic shadow on the wall behind.  That haunting demon of human eulogy is
quashed by the manner she adopted, from instinct and training.  Of her it
was known to all intimate with her that she could not speak falsely in
praise, nor unkindly in depreciation, however much the constant play of
her humour might tempt her to exalt or diminish beyond the bounds.  But
when, for the dispersion of nonsense about men or things, and daintiness
held up the veil against rational eyesight, the _gros mot_ was demanded,
she could utter it, as from the Bench, with a like authority and
composure.

In her youth she was radiantly beautiful, with dark brows on a brilliant
complexion, the head of a Roman man, and features of Grecian line, save
for the classic Greek wall of the nose off the forehead.  Women, not
enthusiasts, inclined rather to criticize, and to criticize so
independent a member of their sex particularly, have said that her entry
into a ballroom took the breath.  Poetical comparisons run under heavy
weights in prose; but it would seem in truth, from the reports of her,
that wherever she appeared she could be likened to a Selene breaking
through cloud; and, further, the splendid vessel was richly freighted.
Trained by a scholar, much in the society of scholarly men, having an
innate bent to exactitude, and with a ready tongue docile to the curb,
she stepped into the world armed to be a match for it.  She cut her way
through the accustomed troops of adorers, like what you will that is
buoyant and swims gallantly.  Her quality of the philosophical humour
carried her easily over the shoals or the deeps in the way of a woman
claiming her right to an independent judgement upon the minor rules of
conduct, as well as upon matters of the mind.  An illustrious foreigner,
_en tête-à-tête_ with her over some abstract theme, drops abruptly on a
knee to protest, overpowered; and in that posture he is patted on the
head, while the subject of conversation is continued by the benevolent
lady, until the form of ointment she administers for his beseeching
expression and his pain compels him to rise and resume his allotted part
with a mouth of acknowledging laughter.  Humour, as a beautiful woman’s
defensive weapon, is probably the best that can be called in aid for the
bringing of suppliant men to their senses.  And so manageable are they
when the idea of comedy and the chord of chivalry are made to vibrate,
that they (supposing them of the impressionable race which is overpowered
by Aphrodite’s favourites) will be withdrawn from their great aims, and
transformed into happy crust-munching devotees—in other words, fast
friends.  Lady Duff Gordon had many, and the truest, and of all lands.
She had, on the other hand, her number of detractors, whom she excused.
What woman is without them, if she offends the conventions, is a step in
advance of her day, and, in this instance, never hesitates upon the
needed occasion to dub things with their right names?  She could
appreciate their disapproval of her in giving herself the airs of a man,
pronouncing verdicts on affairs in the style of a man, preferring
association with men.  So it was; and, besides, she smoked.  Her
physician had hinted at the soothing for an irritated throat that might
come of some whiffs of tobacco.  She tried a cigar, and liked it, and
smoked from that day, in her library chair and on horseback.  Where she
saw no harm in an act, opinion had no greater effect on her than summer
flies to one with a fan.  The country people, sorely tried by the
spectacle at first, remembered the gentle deeds and homely chat of an
eccentric lady, and pardoned her, who was often to be seen discoursing
familiarly with the tramp on the road, incapable of denying her
house-door to the lost dog attached by some instinct to her heels.  In
the circles named ‘upper’ there was mention of women unsexing themselves.
She preferred the society of men, on the plain ground that they discuss
matters of weight, and are—the pick of them—of open speech, more liberal,
more genial, better comrades.  Was it wonderful to hear them, knowing her
as they did, unite in calling her _cœur d’or_?  And women could say it of
her, for the reasons known to women.  Her intimate friendships were with
women as with men.  The closest friend of this most manfully-minded of
women was one of her sex, little resembling her, except in downright
truthfulness, lovingness, and heroic fortitude.

The hospitable house at Esher gave its welcome not merely to men and
women of distinction; the humble undistinguished were made joyous guests
there, whether commonplace or counting among the hopeful.  Their hostess
knew how to shelter the sensitively silent at table, if they were unable
to take encouragement and join the flow.  Their faces at least responded
to her bright look on one or the other of them when something worthy of
memory sparkled flying.  She had the laugh that rocks the frame, but it
was usually with a triumphant smile that she greeted things good to the
ear; and her own manner of telling was concise, on the lines of the
running subject, to carry it along, not to produce an effect—which is
like the horrid gap in air after a blast of powder.  Quotation came when
it sprang to the lips and was native.  She was shrewd and cogent,
invariably calm in argument, sitting over it, not making it a duel, as
the argumentative are prone to do; and a strong point scored against her
received the honours due to a noble enemy.  No pose as mistress of a
salon shuffling the guests marked her treatment of them; she was their
comrade, one of the pack.  This can be the case only when a governing
lady is at all points their equal, more than a player of trump cards.  In
England, in her day, while health was with her, there was one house where
men and women conversed.  When that house perforce was closed, a light
had gone out in our country.

The fatal brilliancy of skin indicated the fell disease which ultimately
drove her into exile, to die in exile.  Lucie Duff Gordon was of the
order of women of whom a man of many years may say that their like is to
be met but once or twice in a lifetime.

                                    [Picture: George Meredith’s signature]



MEMOIR


Lucie Duff Gordon, born on June 24, 1821, was the only child of John and
Sarah Austin and inherited the beauty and the intellect of her parents.
The wisdom, learning, and vehement eloquence of John Austin, author of
the ‘Province of Jurisprudence Determined,’ were celebrated, and Lord
Brougham used to say: ‘If John Austin had had health, neither Lyndhurst
nor I should have been Chancellor.’  He entered the army, and was in
Sicily under Lord William Bentinck; but soon quitted an uncongenial
service, and was called to the Bar.  In 1819 he married Sarah, the
youngest daughter of John Taylor of Norwich, {1} when they took a house
in Queen Square, Westminster, close to James Mill, the historian of
British India, and next door to Jeremy Bentham, whose pupil Mr. Austin
was.  Here, it may be said, the Utilitarian philosophy of the nineteenth
century was born.  Jeremy Bentham’s garden became the playground of the
young Mills and of Lucie Austin; his coach-house was converted into a
gymnasium, and his flower-beds were intersected by tapes and threads to
represent the passages of a panopticon prison.  The girl grew in vigour
and in sense, with a strong tinge of originality and independence and an
extreme love of animals.  About 1826 the Austins went to Germany, Mr.
Austin having been nominated Professor of Civil Law in the new London
University, and wishing to study Roman Law under Niebuhr and Schlegel at
Bonn.  ‘Our dear child,’ writes Mrs. Austin to Mrs. Grote, ‘is a great
joy to us.  She grows wonderfully, and is the happiest thing in the
world.  Her German is very pretty; she interprets for her father with
great joy and naïveté.  God forbid that I should bring up a daughter
here!  But at her present age I am most glad to have her here, and to
send her to a school where she learns—_well_, writing, arithmetic,
geography, and, as a matter of course, German.’  Lucie returned to
England transformed into a little German maiden, with long braids of hair
down her back, speaking German like her own language, and well grounded
in Latin.  Her mother, writing to Mrs. Reeve, her sister, says: ‘John
Mill is ever my dearest child and friend, and he really dotes on Lucie,
and can do anything with her.  She is too wild, undisciplined, and
independent, and though she knows a great deal, it is in a strange, wild
way.  She reads everything, composes German verses, has imagined and put
together a fairy world, dress, language, music, everything, and talks to
them in the garden; but she is sadly negligent of her own appearance, and
is, as Sterling calls her, Miss Orson. . . . Lucie now goes to a Dr.
Biber, who has five other pupils (boys) and his own little child.  She
seems to take to Greek, with which her father is very anxious to have her
thoroughly imbued.  As this scheme, even if we stay in England, cannot
last many years, I am quite willing to forego all the feminine parts of
her education for the present.  The main thing is to secure her
independence, both with relation to her own mind and outward
circumstances.  She is handsome, striking, and full of vigour and
animation.’

From the very first Lucie Austin possessed a correct and vigorous style,
and a nice sense of language, which were hereditary rather than
implanted, and to these qualities was added a delightful strain of
humour, shedding a current of original thought all through her writings.
That her unusual gifts should have been so early developed is hardly
surprising with one of her sympathetic temperament when we remember the
throng of remarkable men and women who frequented the Austins’ house.
The Mills, the Grotes, the Bullers, the Carlyles, the Sterlings, Sydney
Smith, Luttrell, Rogers, Jeremy Bentham, and Lord Jeffrey, were among the
most intimate friends of her parents, and ‘Toodie,’ as they called her,
was a universal favourite with them.  Once, staying at a friend’s house,
and hearing their little girl rebuked for asking questions, she said:
‘_My_ mamma never says “I don’t know” or “Don’t ask questions.”’

In 1834 Mr. Austin’s health, always delicate, broke down, and with his
wife and daughter he went to Boulogne.  Mrs. Austin made many friends
among the fishermen and their wives, but ‘la belle Anglaise,’ as they
called her, became quite a heroine on the occasion of the wreck of the
_Amphitrite_, a ship carrying female convicts to Botany Bay.  She stood
the whole night on the beach in the howling storm, saved the lives of
three sailors who were washed up by the breakers, and dashed into the sea
and pulled one woman to shore.  Lucie was with her mother, and showed the
same cool courage that distinguished her in after life.  It was during
their stay at Boulogne that she first met Heinrich Heine; he sat next her
at the _table d’hôte_, and, soon finding out that she spoke German
perfectly, told her when she returned to England she could tell her
friends she had met Heinrich Heine.  He was much amused when she said:
‘And who is Heinrich Heine?’  The poet and the child used to lounge on
the pier together; she sang him old English ballads, and he told her
stories in which fish, mermaids, water-sprites, and a very funny old
French fiddler with a poodle, who was diligently taking three sea-baths a
day, were mixed up in a fanciful manner, sometimes humorous, often very
pathetic, especially when the water-sprites brought him greetings from
the North Sea.  He afterwards told her that one of his most charming
poems,

    ‘Wenn ich am deinem Hause
    Des Morgens vorüber geh’,
    So freut’s mich, du liebe Kleine,
    Wenn ich dich am Fenster seh’,’ etc.,

was meant for her whose magnificent eyes he never forgot.

Two years later Mr. Austin was appointed Royal Commissioner to inquire
into the grievances of the Maltese.  His wife accompanied him, but so hot
a climate was not considered good for a young girl, and Lucie was sent to
a school at Bromley.  She must have been as great a novelty to the school
as the school-life was to her, for with a great deal of desultory
knowledge she was singularly deficient in many rudiments of ordinary
knowledge.  She wrote well already at fifteen, and corresponded often
with Mrs. Grote and other friends of her parents. {4}  At sixteen she
determined to be baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church of
England (her parents and relations were Unitarians).  Lord Monteagle was
her sponsor and it was chiefly owing, I believe, to the influence of
himself and his family, with whom she was very intimate in spite of her
Radical ideas, that she took this step.

 [Picture: Lucie Austin, aged fifteen, from a sketch by a school friend]

When the Austins returned from Malta in 1838, Lucie began to appear in
the world; all the old friends flocked round them, and many new friends
were made, among them Sir Alexander Duff Gordon whom she first met at
Lansdowne House.  Left much alone, as her mother was always hard at work
translating, writing for various periodicals and nursing her husband, the
two young people were thrown much together, and often walked out alone.
One day Sir Alexander said to her: ‘Miss Austin, do you know people say
we are going to be married?’  Annoyed at being talked of, and hurt at his
brusque way of mentioning it, she was just going to give a sharp answer,
when he added: ‘Shall we make it true?’  With characteristic
straightforwardness she replied by the monosyllable, ‘Yes,’ and so they
were engaged.  Before her marriage she translated Niebuhr’s ‘Greek
Legends,’ which were published under her mother’s name.

On the 16th May, 1840, Lucie Austin and Sir Alexander Duff Gordon were
married in Kensington Old Church, and the few eye-witnesses left still
speak with enthusiasm of the beauty of bridegroom and bride.  They took a
house in Queen Square, Westminster, (No 8, with a statue of Queen Anne at
one corner), and the talent, beauty, and originality, joined with a
complete absence of affectation of Lady Duff Gordon, soon attracted a
remarkable circle of friends.  Lord Lansdowne, Lord Monteagle, Mrs.
Norton, Thackeray, Dickens, Elliot Warburton, Tennyson, Tom Taylor,
Kinglake, Henry Taylor, and many more, were habitués, and every foreigner
of distinction sought an introduction to the Duff Gordons.  I remember as
a little child seeing Leopold Ranke walking up and down the drawing-room,
and talking vehemently in an _olla-podrida_ of English, French, German,
Italian, and Spanish, with now and then a Latin quotation in between; I
thought he was a madman.  When M. Guizot escaped from France on the
outbreak of the Revolution, his first welcome and dinner was in Queen
Square.

The first child was born in 1842, and soon afterwards Lady Duff Gordon
began her translation of ‘The Amber Witch’; the ‘French in Algiers’ by
Lamping, and Feuerbach’s ‘Remarkable Criminal Trials,’ followed in quick
succession; and together my father and mother translated Ranke’s ‘Memoirs
of the House of Brandenburg’ and ‘Sketches of German Life.’  A remarkable
novel by Léon de Wailly, ‘Stella and Vanessa,’ had remained absolutely
unnoticed in France until my mother’s English version appeared, when it
suddenly had a great success which he always declared he owed entirely to
Lady Duff Gordon.

In a letter written to Mrs. Austin from Lord Lansdowne’s beautiful villa
at Richmond, which he lent to the Duff Gordons after a severe illness of
my father’s, my mother mentions Hassan el Bakkeet (a black boy): ‘He is
an inch taller for our grandeur; _peu s’en faut_, he thinks me a great
lady and himself a great butler.’  Hassan was a personage in the
establishment.  One night, on returning from a theatrical party at
Dickens’, my mother found the little boy crouching on the doorstep.  His
master had turned him out of doors because he was threatened with
blindness, and having come now and then with messages to Queen Square, he
found his way, as he explained, ‘to die on the threshold of the beautiful
pale lady.’  His eyes were cured, and he became my mother’s devoted slave
and my playmate, to the horror of Mr. Hilliard, the American author.  I
perfectly recollect how angry I was when he asked how Lady Duff Gordon
could let a negro touch her child, whereupon she called us to her, and
kissed me first and Hassan afterwards.  Some years ago I asked our dear
friend Kinglake about my mother and Hassan, and received the following
letter: ‘Can I, my dear Janet, how can I trust myself to speak of your
dear mother’s beauty in the phase it had reached when first I saw her?
The classic form of her features, the noble poise of her head and neck,
her stately height, her uncoloured yet pure complexion, caused some of
the beholders at first to call her beauty statuesque, and others to call
it majestic, some pronouncing it to be even imperious; but she was so
intellectual, so keen, so autocratic, sometimes even so impassioned in
speech, that nobody feeling her powers could go on feebly comparing her
to a statue or a mere Queen or Empress.  All this touches only the
beauteous surface; the stories (which were told me by your dear mother
herself) are incidentally illustrative of her kindness to
fellow-creatures in trouble or suffering.  Hassan, it is supposed, was a
Nubian, and originally, as his name implies, a Mahometan, he came into
the possession of English missionaries (who had probably delivered him
from slavery), and it resulted that he not only spoke English well and
without foreign accent, but was always ready with phrases in use amongst
pious Christians, and liked, when he could, to apply them as means of
giving honour and glory to his beloved master and mistress; so that if,
for example, it happened that, when they were not at home, a visitor
called on a Sunday, he was sure to be told by Hassan that Sir Alexander
and Lady Duff Gordon were at church, or even—for his diction was equal to
this—that they were “attending Divine service.”  Your mother had valour
enough to practise true Christian kindness under conditions from which
the bulk of “good people” might too often shrink; when on hearing that a
“Mary” once known to the household had brought herself into trouble by
omitting the precaution of marriage, my lady determined to secure the
girl a good refuge by taking her as a servant.  Before taking this step,
however, she assembled the household, declared her resolve to the
servants, and ordered that, on pain of instant dismissal, no one of them
should ever dare say a single unkind word to Mary.  Poor Hassan, small,
black as jet, but possessed with an idea of the dignity of his sex,
conceived it his duty to become the spokesman of the household, and
accordingly, advancing a little in front of the neat-aproned, tall,
wholesome maid-servants, he promised in his and their name a full and
careful obedience to the mistress’s order, but then, wringing his hands
and raising them over his head, he added these words: “What a lesson to
us all, my lady.”’  On the birth of a little son Hassan triumphantly
announced to all callers: ‘We have got a boy.’  Another of his delightful
speeches was made one evening when Prince Louis Napoleon (the late
Emperor of the French) dropt in unexpectedly to dinner.  ‘Please, my
lady,’ said he, on announcing that dinner was ready, ‘I ran out and
bought two pen’orth of sprats for the honour of the house.’

Though I was only six I distinctly remember the Chartist riots in 1848.
William Bridges Adams, the engineer, an old friend of my great-uncle,
Philip Taylor, had a workshop at Bow, and my mother helped to start a
library for the men, and sometimes attended meetings and discussed
politics with them.  They adored her, and when people talked of possible
danger she would smile and say: ‘My men will look after me.’  On the
evening of April 9 a large party of stalwart men in fustian jackets
arrived at our house and had supper; Tom Taylor made speeches and
proposed toasts which were cheered to the echo, and at last my mother
made a speech too, and wound up by calling the men her ‘Gordon
volunteers.’  The ‘Hip, hip, hurrah!’ with which it was greeted startled
the neighbours, who for a moment thought the Chartists had invaded the
quiet precincts of the square.

To Mrs. Austin, who was then in Paris, her daughter wrote, on April 10:

    DEAREST MUTTER,

    ‘I had only time to write once yesterday, as all hands were full of
    bustle in entertaining our guests.  I never wish to see forty better
    gentlemen than we had here last night.  As all was quiet, we had
    supper—cold beef, bread and beer—with songs, sentiments and toasts,
    such as “Success to the roof we are under,” “Liberty, brotherhood and
    order.”  Then they bivouacked in the different houses till five this
    morning, when they started home.  Among the party was a stray
    policeman, who looked rather wonder-struck.  Tom Taylor was capital,
    made short speeches, told stories, and kept all in high good-humour;
    and Alick came home from patrolling as a special constable, and was
    received with great glee and affection.  All agreed that the fright,
    to us at least, was well made up by the kindly and pleasant evening.
    As no one would take a penny, we shall send books to the library, or
    a contribution to the school, all our neighbours being quite anxious
    to pay, though not willing to fraternise.  I shall send cravats as a
    badge to the “Gordon volunteers.”

    ‘I enclose a letter from Eothen [Kinglake] about Paris, which will
    interest you.  My friends of yesterday unanimously decided that Louis
    Blanc would “just suit the ‘lazy set.’”

    ‘We had one row, which, however, ceased on the appearance of our
    stalwart troop; indeed, I think one Birmingham smith, a handsome
    fellow six feet high, whose vehement disinterestedness would neither
    allow to eat, drink, or sleep in the house, would have scattered
    them.’

Mr. and Mrs. Austin established themselves at Weybridge in a low,
rambling cottage, and we spent some summers with them.  The house was
cold and damp, and our dear Hassan died in 1850 from congestion of the
lungs.  I always attributed my mother’s bad health to the incessant colds
she caught there.  I can see before me now her beautiful pale face
bending over poor Hassan as she applied leeches to his chest, which a new
maid refused to do, saying, with a toss of her head, ‘Lor! my lady, I
couldn’t touch either of ’em!’  The flash of scorn with which she
regarded the girl softened into deep affection and pity when she looked
down on her faithful Nubian servant.

In 1851 my father took a house at Esher, which was known as ‘The Gordon
Arms,’ and much frequented by our friends.  In a letter, written about
that time to C. J. Bayley, then secretary to the Governor of the
Mauritius, Lady Duff Gordon gives the first note of alarm as to her
health: ‘I fear you would think me very much altered since my illness; I
look thin, ill, and old, and my hair is growing gray.  This I consider
hard upon a woman just over her thirtieth birthday.  I continue to like
Esher very much; I don’t think we could have placed ourselves better.
Kinglake has given Alick a great handsome chestnut mare, so he is well
mounted, and we ride merrily.  I expressed such exultation at the idea of
your return that my friends, all but Alick, refused to sympathize.
Philips, Millais, and Dicky Doyle talked of jealousy, and Tom Taylor
muttered something about a “hated rival.”  Meanwhile, all send friendly
greetings to you.’

One summer Macaulay was often at Esher, his brother-in-law having taken a
house near ours.  He shared my mother’s admiration for Miss Austen’s
novels, and they used to talk of her personages as though they were
living friends.  If, perchance, my grandfather Austin was there, the talk
grew indeed fast and furious, as all three were vehement, eloquent, and
enthusiastic talkers.

When my mother went to Paris in the summer of 1857 she saw Heine again.
As she entered the room he exclaimed ‘Oh!  Lucie has still the great
brown eyes!’  He remembered every little incident and all the people who
had been in the inn at Boulogne.  ‘I, for my part, could hardly speak to
him,’ my mother wrote to Lord Houghton, who asked her to give him some
recollections of the poet for his ‘Monographs,’ ‘so shocked was I by his
appearance.  He lay on a pile of mattresses, his body wasted so that it
seemed no bigger than a child’s under the sheet that covered him, the
eyes closed and the face altogether like the most painful and wasted
_Ecce Homo_ ever painted by some old German painter.  His voice was very
weak, and I was astonished at the animation with which he talked;
evidently his mind had wholly survived his body.’  He wished to give my
mother the copyright of all his works, made out lists how to arrange
them, and gave her _carte-blanche_ to cut out what she pleased, and was
especially eager that she should do a prose translation of his songs
against her opinion of its practicability.  To please him she translated
‘Almanzor’ and several short poems into verse—the best translations I
know.

After trying Ventnor for two winters, my mother went out to the Cape of
Good Hope in a sailing vessel, but on her return was unfortunately
persuaded to go to Eaux Bonnes in the autumn of 1862, which did her great
harm.  Thence she went to Egypt, where the dry hot climate seemed to
arrest the malady for a short time.  The following memoir written by Mrs.
Norton in the _Times_ gives a better picture of her than could any words
of mine, the two talented and beautiful women were intimate friends, and
few mourned more deeply for Lucie Duff Gordon than Caroline Norton:

‘“In Memoriam.”  The brief phrase whose solemnity prefaced millions of
common place epitaphs before Tennyson taught grief to speak, lamenting
his dead friend in every phase and variety of regret.  With such
gradation and difference of sorrow will the recent death of a very
remarkable woman, Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon, be mourned for by all who knew
her, and with such a sense of blank loss will they long continue to
lament one whose public success as an author was only commensurate with
the charm of her private companionship.  Inheriting from both parents the
intellectual faculties which she so nobly exercised, her work has been
ended in the very noontide of life by premature failure of health; and
the long exile she endured for the sake of a better climate has failed to
arrest, though it delayed, the doom foretold by her physicians.  To that
exile we owe the most popular, perhaps, of her contributions to the
literature of her country, “Letters from the Cape,” and “Letters from
Egypt,” the latter more especially interesting from the vivid, life-like
descriptions of the people among whom she dwelt, her aspirations for
their better destiny, and the complete amalgamation of her own pursuits
and interests with theirs.  She was a settler, not a traveller among
them.  Unlike Lady Hester Stanhope, whose fantastic and half-insane
notions of rulership and superiority have been so often recorded for our
amazement, Lady Duff Gordon kept the simple frankness of heart and desire
to be of service to her fellow-creatures without a thought of self or a
taint of vanity in her intercourse with them.  Not for lack of flattery
or of real enthusiastic gratitude on their part.  It is known that when
at Thebes, on more than one of her journeys, the women raised the “cry of
joy” as she passed along, and the people flung branches and raiment on
her path, as in the old Biblical descriptions of Eastern life.  The
source of her popularity was in the liberal kindliness of spirit with
which she acted on all occasions, more especially towards those she
considered the victims of bad government and oppressive laws.  She says
of herself: “one’s pity becomes a perfect passion when one sits among the
people as I do, and sees all they endure.  Least of all can I forgive
those among Europeans and Christians who can help to break these bruised
reeds.”  And again: “Would that I could excite the interest of my country
in their suffering!  Some conception of the value of public opinion in
England has penetrated even here.”  Sympathizing, helping, doctoring
their sick, teaching their children, learning the language, Lady Duff
Gordon lived in Egypt, and in Egypt she has died, leaving a memory of her
greatness and goodness such as no other European woman ever acquired in
that country.  It is touching to trace her lingering hopes of life and
amended health in her letters to her husband and her mother, and to see
how, as they faded out, there rose over those hopes the grander light of
fortitude and submission to the will of God.

‘Gradually—how gradually the limits of this notice forbid us to
follow—hope departs, and she begins bravely to face the inevitable
destiny.  And then comes the end of all, the strong yet tender
announcement of her own conviction that there would be no more meetings,
but a grave opened to receive her in a foreign land.

    ‘“DEAREST ALICK,

    ‘“Do not think of coming here, as you dread the climate.  Indeed, it
    would be almost too painful to me to part from you again; and as it
    is, I can wait patiently for the end, among people who are kind and
    loving enough to be comfortable without too much feeling of the pain
    of parting.  The leaving Luxor was rather a distressing scene, as
    they did not think to see me again.  The kindness of all the people
    was really touching, from the Cadi, who made ready my tomb among his
    own family, to the poorest fellaheen.”

‘Such are the tranquil and kindly words with which she prefaces her
death.  Those who remember her in her youth and beauty, before disease
rather than time had altered the pale heroic face, and bowed the slight,
stately figure, may well perceive some strange analogy between soul and
body in the Spartan firmness which enabled her to pen that last farewell
so quietly.

‘But to the last her thought was for others, and for the services she
could render.  In this very letter, written, as it were, on the verge of
the tomb, she speaks with gratitude and gladness of the advancement of
her favourite attendant, Omar.  This Omar had been recommended to her by
the janissary of the American Consul-General, and so far back as 1862,
when in Alexandria, she mentions having engaged him, and his hopeful
prophecy of the good her Nile life is to do her.  “My cough is bad; but
Omar says I shall lose it and ‘eat plenty’ as soon as I see a crocodile.”

‘Omar “could not leave her,” and he had his reward.  One of the last
events in the life of this gifted and liberal-minded Englishwoman was the
visit to her dahabeeyeh, or Nile boat, of the Prince and Princess of
Wales.  Then poor Omar’s simple and faithful service to his dying
mistress was rewarded in a way he could scarcely have dreamt; and Lady
Duff Gordon thus relates the incident: “Omar sends you his heartfelt
thanks, and begs the boat may remain registered at the Consulate in your
name, as a protection, for his use and benefit.  The Prince has appointed
him his dragoman, but he is sad enough, poor fellow! all his prosperity
does not console him for the loss of “the mother he found in the world.”
Mahomed at Luxor wept bitterly, and said: “Poor I—poor my children—poor
all the people!” and kissed my hand passionately; and the people at Esneh
asked leave to touch me “for a blessing,” and everyone sent delicate
bread and their best butter and vegetables and lambs.  They are kinder
than ever now that I can no longer be of any use to them.  If I live till
September I will go up to Esneh, where the air is softest and I cough
less; I would rather die among my own people on the Saeed than here.  Can
you thank the Prince for Omar, or shall I write?  He was most pleasant
and kind, and the Princess too; she is the most perfectly simple-mannered
girl I ever saw; she does not even try to be civil like other great
people, but asks blunt questions and looks at one so heartily with her
clear, honest eyes, that she must win all hearts.  They were more
considerate than any people I have seen, and the Prince, instead of being
gracious, was, if I may say so, quite respectful in manner: he is very
well bred and pleasant, and has, too, the honest eyes that make one sure
he has a kind heart.  My sailors were so proud at having the honour of
rowing him in _our own boat_ and of singing to him.  I had a very good
singer in the boat.”

‘Long will her presence be remembered and wept for among the
half-civilized friends of her exile, the poor, the sick, the needy and
the oppressed.  She makes the gentle, half-playful boast in one of her
letters from the Nile that she is “very popular,” and has made many cures
as a Hakeem, or doctor, and that a Circassian had sat up with a dying
Englishman because she had nursed his wife.

‘The picture of the Circassian sitting up with the dying Englishman
because an English lady had nursed his wife is infinitely touching, and
had its parallel in the speech of an old Scottish landlady known to the
writer of this notice, whose son had died in the West Indies among
strangers.  “And they were so good to him,” said she, “that I vowed if
ever I had a lodger sick I would do my best for that stranger in
remembrance.”  In remembrance!  Who shall say what seeds of kindly
intercommunion that dying Englishwoman of whom and of whose works we have
been speaking may have planted in the arid Eastern soil?  Or what “bread
she may have cast” on those Nile waters, “which shall be found again
after many days”?  “Out of evil cometh good,” and certainly out of her
sickness and suffering good came to all within her influence.

‘Lady Duff Gordon’s printed works were many.  She was an excellent German
scholar, and had the advantage in her translations from that difficult
language of her labours being shared by her husband.  Ranke, Niebuhr,
Feuerbach, Moltke, and others, owe their introduction to our
English-reading public to the industry and talent of her pen.  She was
also a classic scholar of no mean pretensions.  Perhaps no woman of our
own time, except Mrs. Somerville and Mrs. Browning in their very
different styles, combined so much erudition with so much natural
ability.  She was the daughter of Mr. Austin, the well-known professor of
jurisprudence, and his gifted wife, Sarah Austin, whose name is familiar
to thousands of readers, and whose social brilliancy is yet remembered
with extreme admiration and regret by the generation immediately
preceding our own.

‘That Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon, inherited the best of the intellect and
qualities of both these parents will, we think, hardly be disputed, and
she had besides, of her own, a certain generosity of spirit, a widespread
sympathy for humanity in general, without narrowness or sectarianism,
which might well prove her faith modelled on the sentence which appeals
too often in vain from the last page of the printed Bible to resenting
and dissenting religionists, “Multæ terricolis linguæ, cœlestibus una.”’

                                * * * * *

The last two years of my mother’s life were one long struggle against
deadly disease.  The last winter was cheered by the presence of my
brother, but at her express desire he came home in early summer to
continue his studies, and my father and I were going out to see her, when
the news came of her death at Cairo on July 14, 1869.  Her desire had
been to be among her ‘own people’ at Thebes, but when she felt she would
never see Luxor again, she gave orders to be buried as quietly as
possible in the cemetery at Cairo.  The memory of her talent, simplicity,
stately beauty, and extraordinary eloquence, and her almost passionate
pity for any oppressed creature, will not easily fade.  She bore great
pain, and what was almost a greater trial, absence from her husband, her
little daughter Urania, and her many friends, uncomplainingly, gleaning
what consolation she could by helping her poor Arab neighbours, who
adored her, and have not, I am told, forgotten the ‘Great Lady’ who was
so good to them.

                                * * * * *

The first volume of Lady Duff Gordon’s ‘Letters from Egypt’ was published
by Messrs. Macmillan and Co. in May, 1865, with a preface by her mother,
Mrs. Austin, who edited them, and was obliged to omit much that might
have given offence and made my mother’s life uncomfortable—to say the
least—in Egypt.  Before the end of the year the book went through three
editions.

In 1875 a volume containing the ‘Last Letters from Egypt,’ to which were
added ‘Letters from the Cape,’ reprinted from ‘Vacation Tourists’ (1864),
with a Memoir of my mother by myself, was published by Messrs. Macmillan
and Co.  A second edition appeared in 1876.

I have now copied my mother’s letters as they were written, omitting only
the purely family matter which is of no interest to the public.  Edward
Lear’s drawing of Luxor was printed in ‘Three Generations of
Englishwomen,’ edited by Mrs. Ross, but the other illustrations are now
reproduced for the first time.

The names of villages alluded to in the ‘Letters’ have been spelt as in
the Atlas published by the Egyptian Exploration Fund.

                                                               JANET ROSS.



LETTERS FROM EGYPT


November 11, 1862: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                              GRAND CAIRO,
                                           _Tuesday_, _November_ 11, 1862.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I write to you out of the real Arabian Nights.  Well may the Prophet
(whose name be exalted) smile when he looks on Cairo.  It is a golden
existence, all sunshine and poetry, and, _I_ must add, kindness and
civility.  I came up last Thursday by railway with the American
Consul-General, a charming person, and had to stay at this horrid
Shepheard’s Hotel.  But I do little but sleep here.  Hekekian Bey, a
learned old Armenian, takes care of me every day, and the Amerian
Vice-Consul is my sacrifice.  I went on Sunday to his child’s
christening, and heard Sakna, the ‘Restorer of Hearts.’  She is
wonderfully like Rachel, and her singing is _hinreisend_ from expression
and passion.  Mr. Wilkinson (the Consul) is a Levantine, and his wife
Armenian, so they had a grand fantasia; people feasted all over the house
and in the street.  Arab music _schmetterte_, women yelled the
_zaghareet_, black servants served sweetmeats, pipes, and coffee, and
behaved as if they belonged to the company, and I was strongly under the
impression that I was at Nurreddin’s wedding with the Vizier’s daughter.
Yesterday I went to Heliopolis with Hekekian Bey and his wife, and
visited an Armenian country lady close by.

My servant Omar turns out a jewel.  He has _déterré_ an excellent boat
for the Nile voyage, and I am to be mistress of a captain, a mate, eight
men and a cabin boy for £25 a month.  I went to Boulak, the port of
Cairo, and saw various boats, and admired the way in which the English
travellers pay for their insolence and caprices.  Similar boats cost
people with dragomans £50 to £65.  But, then, ‘I shall lick the fellows,’
etc., is what I hear all round.  The dragoman, I conclude, pockets the
difference.  The owner of the boat, Sid Achmet el-Berberi, asked £30,
whereupon I touched my breast, mouth and eyes, and stated through Omar
that I was not, like other Ingeleez, made of money, but would give £20.
He then showed another boat at £20, very much worse, and I departed (with
fresh civilities) and looked at others, and saw two more for £20; but
neither was clean, and neither had a little boat for landing.  Meanwhile
Sid Achmet came after me and explained that, if I was not like other
Ingeleez in money, I likewise differed in politeness, and had refrained
from abuse, etc., etc., and I should have the boat for £25.  It was so
very excellent in all fittings, and so much larger, that I thought it
would make a great difference in health, so I said if he would go before
the American Vice-Consul (who is looked on as a sharp hand) and would
promise all he said to me before him, it should be well.

Mr. Thayer, the American Consul-General, gives me letters to every
consular agent depending on him; and two Coptic merchants whom I met at
the fantasia have already begged me to ‘honour their houses.’  I rather
think the poor agents, who are all Armenians and Copts, will think I am
the republic in person.  The weather has been all this time like a
splendid English August, and I hope I shall get rid of my cough in time,
but it has been very bad.  There is no cold at night here as at the Cape,
but it is nothing like so clear and bright.

Omar took Sally sightseeing all day while I was away, into several
mosques; in one he begged her to wait a minute while he said a prayer.
They compare notes about their respective countries and are great
friends; but he is put out at my not having provided her with a husband
long ago, as is one’s duty towards a ‘female servant,’ which almost
always here means a slave.

Of all the falsehoods I have heard about the East, that about women being
old hags at thirty is the biggest.  Among the poor fellah women it may be
true enough, but not nearly as much as in Germany; and I have now seen a
considerable number of Levantine ladies looking very handsome, or at
least comely, till fifty.  Sakna, the Arab Grisi, is fifty-five—an ugly
face, I am told (she was veiled and one only saw the eyes and glimpses of
her mouth when she drank water), but the figure of a leopard, all grace
and beauty, and a splendid voice of its kind, harsh but thrilling like
Malibran’s.  I guessed her about thirty, or perhaps thirty-five.  When
she improvised, the finesse and grace of her whole _Wesen_ were
ravishing.  I was on the point of shouting out ‘Wallah!’ as heartily as
the natives.  The eight younger Halmeh (_i.e._, learned women, which the
English call Almeh and think is an improper word) were ugly and
screeched.  Sakna was treated with great consideration and quite as a
friend by the Armenian ladies with whom she talked between her songs.
She is a Muslimeh and very rich and charitable; she gets £50 for a
night’s singing at least.

It would be very easy to learn colloquial Arabic, as they all speak with
such perfect distinctness that one can follow the sentences and catch the
words one knows as they are repeated.  I think I know forty or fifty
words already, besides my ‘salaam aleikum’ and ‘backsheesh.’

The reverse of the brilliant side of the medal is sad enough: deserted
palaces, and crowded hovels scarce good enough for pigstyes.  ‘One day
man see his dinner, and one other day none at all,’ as Omar observes; and
the children are shocking from bad food, dirt and overwork, but the
little pot-bellied, blear-eyed wretches grow up into noble young men and
women under all their difficulties.  The faces are all sad and rather
what the Scotch call ‘dour,’ not _méchant_ at all, but harsh, like their
voices.  All the melody is in walk and gesture; they are as graceful as
cats, and the women have exactly the ‘breasts like pomegranates’ of their
poetry.  A tall Bedaween woman came up to us in the field yesterday to
shake hands and look at us.  She wore a white sackcloth shift and veil,
_und weiter nichts_, and asked Mrs. Hekekian a good many questions about
me, looked at my face and hands, but took no notice of my rather smart
gown which the village women admired so much, shook hands again with the
air of a princess, wished me health and happiness, and strode off across
the graveyard like a stately ghost.  She was on a journey all alone, and
somehow it looked very solemn and affecting to see her walking away
towards the desert in the setting sun like Hagar.  All is so Scriptural
in the country here.  Sally called out in the railroad, ‘There is Boaz,
sitting in the cornfield’; and so it was, and there he has sat for how
many thousand years,—and Sakna sang just like Miriam in one war-song.

_Wednesday_.—My contract was drawn up and signed by the American
Vice-Consul to-day, and my Reis kissed my hand in due form, after which I
went to the bazaar to buy the needful pots and pans.  The transaction
lasted an hour.  The copper is so much per oka, the workmanship so much;
every article is weighed by a sworn weigher and a ticket sent with it.
More Arabian Nights.  The shopkeeper compares notes with me about
numerals, and is as much amused as I.  He treats me to coffee and a pipe
from a neighbouring shop while Omar eloquently depreciates the goods and
offers half the value.  A water-seller offers a brass cup of water; I
drink, and give the huge sum of twopence, and he distributes the contents
of his skin to the crowd (there always is a crowd) in my honour.  It
seems I have done a pious action.  Finally a boy is called to carry the
_batterie de cuisine_, while Omar brandishes a gigantic kettle which he
has picked up a little bruised for four shillings.  The boy has a donkey
which I mount astride _à l’Arabe_, while the boy carries all the copper
things on his head.  We are rather a grand procession, and quite enjoy
the fury of the dragomans and other leeches who hang on the English at
such independent proceedings, and Omar gets reviled for spoiling the
trade by being cook, dragoman, and all in one.

I went this morning with Hekekian Bey to the two earliest mosques.  The
Touloun is exquisite—noble, simple, and what ornament there is is the
most delicate lacework and embossing in stone and wood.  This Arab
architecture is even more lovely than our Gothic.  The Touloun is now a
vast poorhouse, a nest of paupers.  I went into three of their lodgings.
Several Turkish families were in a large square room neatly divided into
little partitions with old mats hung on ropes.  In each were as many bits
of carpet, mat and patchwork as the poor owner could collect, and a small
chest and a little brick cooking-place in one corner of the room with
three earthern pipkins for I don’t know how many people;—that was
all—they possess no sort of furniture, but all was scrupulously clean and
no bad smell whatever.  A little boy seized my hand and showed where he
slept, ate and cooked with the most expressive pantomime.  As there were
women, Hekekian could not come in, but when I came out an old man told us
they received three loaves (cakes as big as a sailor’s biscuit), four
piastres a month—_i.e._, eightpence per adult—a suit of clothes a year,
and on festive occasions lentil soup.  Such is the almshouse here.  A
little crowd belonging to the house had collected, and I gave sixpence to
an old man, who transferred it to the first old man to be _divided_ among
them all, ten or twelve people at least, mostly blind or lame.  The
poverty wrings my heart.  We took leave with salaams and politeness like
the best society, and then turned into an Arab hut stuck against the
lovely arches.  I stooped low under the door, and several women crowded
in.  This was still poorer, for there were no mats or rags of carpet, a
still worse cooking-place, a sort of dog-kennel piled up of loose stones
to sleep in, which contained a small chest and the print of human forms
on the stone floor.  It was, however, quite free from dust, and perfectly
sweet.  I gave the young woman who had led me in sixpence, and here the
difference between Turk and Arab appeared.  The division of this created
a perfect storm of noise, and we left the five or six Arab women
out-shrieking a whole rookery.  I ought to say that no one begged at all.

_Friday_.—I went to-day on a donkey to a mosque in the bazaar, of what we
call Arabesque style, like the Alhambra, very handsome.  The Kibleh was
very beautiful, and as I was admiring it Omar pulled a lemon out of his
breast and smeared it on the porphyry pillar on one side of the arch, and
then entreated me to lick it.  It cures all diseases.  The old man who
showed the mosque pulled eagerly at my arm to make me perform this absurd
ceremony, and I thought I should have been forced to do it.  The base of
the pillar was clogged with lemon-juice.  I then went to the tombs of the
Khalìfah; one of the great ones had such arches and such wondrous cupolas
but all in ruins.  There are scores of these noble buildings, any one of
which is a treasure, falling to decay.  The next, strange to say, was in
perfect repair.  I got off the donkey, and Omar fidgeted and hesitated a
little and consulted with a woman who had the key.  As there were no
overshoes I pulled my boots off, and was rewarded by seeing the
footprints of Mohammed on two black stones, and a lovely little mosque, a
sort of _Sainte Chapelle_.  Omar prayed with ardent fervour and went out
backwards, saluting the Prophet aloud.  To my surprise the woman was
highly pleased with sixpence, and did not ask for more.  When I remarked
this, Omar said that no Frank had ever been inside to his knowledge.  A
mosque-keeper of the sterner sex would not have let me in.  I returned
home through endless streets and squares of Moslem tombs, those of the
Memlooks among them.  It was very striking; and it was getting so dark
that I thought of Nurreddin Bey, and wondered if a Jinn would take me
anywhere if I took up my night’s lodging in one of the comfortable little
cupola-covered buildings.

My Coptic friend has just called in to say that his brother expects me at
Kenneh.  I find nothing but civility and a desire to please.  My boat is
the _Zint el Bachreyn_, and I carry the English flag and a small American
distinguishing pennant as a signal to my consular agents.  We sail next
Wednesday.  Good-bye for the present, dearest Mutter.



November 21, 1862: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                         BOAT OFF EMBABEH,
                                                      _November_ 21, 1862.

DEAREST ALICK,

We embarked yesterday, and after the fashion of Eastern caravans are
abiding to-day at a village opposite Cairo; it is Friday, and therefore
would be improper and unlucky to set out on our journey.  The scenes on
the river are wonderfully diverting and curious, so much life and
movement.  But the boatmen are sophisticated; my crew have all sported
new white drawers in honour of the Sitti Ingleezee’s supposed modesty—of
course compensation will be expected.  Poor fellows! they are very well
mannered and quiet in their rags and misery, and their queer little
humming song is rather pretty, ‘Eyah Mohammad, eyah Mohammad,’ _ad
infinitum_, except when an energetic man cries ‘Yallah!’—_i.e._, ‘O
God!’—which means ‘go it’ in everyday life.  Omar is gone to fetch one or
two more ‘unconsidered trifles,’ and I have been explaining the defects
to be remedied in the cabin door, broken window, etc., to my Reis with
the help of six words of Arabic and dumb show, which they understand and
answer with wonderful quickness.

The air on the river is certainly quite celestial—totally unlike the
damp, chilly feeling of the hotel and Frank quarter of Cairo.  The
Isbekeeyeh, or public garden, where all the Franks live, was a lake, I
believe, and is still very damp.

I shall go up to the second Cataract as fast as possible, and return back
at leisure.  Hekekian Bey came to take leave yesterday, and lent me
several books; pray tell Senior what a kindness his introduction was.  It
would have been rather dismal in Cairo—if one could be dismal
there—without a soul to speak to.  I was sorry to know no Turks or Arabs,
and have no opportunity of seeing any but the tradesman of whom I bought
my stores but that was very amusing.  The young man of whom I bought my
_finjaans_ was so handsome, elegant and melancholy that I know he was the
lover of the Sultan’s favourite slave.  How I wish you were here to enjoy
all this, so new, so beautiful, and yet so familiar, life—and you would
like the people, poor things! they are complete children, but amiable
children.

I went into the village here, where I was a curiosity, and some women
took me into their houses and showed me their sleeping-place, cookery,
poultry, etc.; and a man followed me to keep off the children, but no
backsheesh was asked for, which showed that Europeans were rare there.
The utter destitution is terrible to see, though in this climate of
course it matters less, but the much-talked-of dirt is simply utter
poverty.  The poor souls are as clean as Nile mud and water will make
their bodies, and they have not a second shirt, or any bed but dried mud.

Give my love to my darlings, and don’t be uneasy if you don’t get
letters.  My cough has been better now for five days without a bad return
of it, so I hope it is really better; it is the first reprieve for so
long.  The sun is so hot, a regular broil, November 21, and all doors and
windows open in the cabin—a delicious breeze.



November 30, 1862: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    FESHN,
                                            _Monday_, _November_ 30, 1862.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have now been enjoying this most delightful way of life for ten days,
and am certainly much better.  I begin to eat and sleep again, and cough
less.  My crew are a great amusement to me.  They are mostly men from
near the first Cataract above Assouan, sleek-skinned, gentle, patient,
merry black fellows.  The little black Reis is the very picture of
good-nature and full of fun, ‘chaffing’ the girls as we pass the
villages, and always smiling.  The steersman is of lighter complexion,
also very cheery, but decidedly pious.  He prays five times a day and
utters ejaculations to the apostle Rusool continually.  He hurt his ankle
on one leg and his instep on the other with a rusty nail, and they
festered.  I dressed them with poultices, and then with lint and
strapping, with perfect success, to the great admiration of all hands,
and he announced how much better he felt, ‘Alhamdulillah,
kieth-el-hairack khateer ya Sitti’ (Praise be to God and thanks without
end O Lady), and everyone echoed, ‘kieth-el-hairack khateer.’  The most
important person is the ‘weled’—boy—Achmet.  The most merry, clever,
omnipresent little rascal, with an ugly little pug face, a shape like an
antique Cupid, liberally displayed, and a skin of dark brown velvet.  His
voice, shrill and clear, is always heard foremost; he cooks for the crew,
he jumps overboard with the rope and gives advice on all occasions,
grinds the coffee with the end of a stick in a mortar, which he holds
between his feet, and uses the same large stick to walk proudly before
me, brandishing it if I go ashore for a minute, and ordering everybody
out of the way.  ‘Ya Achmet!’ resounds all day whenever anybody wants
anything, and the ‘weled’ is always ready and able.  My favourite is
Osman, a tall, long-limbed black who seems to have stepped out of a
hieroglyphical drawing, shirt, skull-cap and all.  He has only those two
garments, and how anyone contrives to look so inconceivably ‘neat and
respectable’ (as Sally truly remarked) in that costume is a mystery.  He
is always at work, always cheerful, but rather silent—in short, the able
seaman and steady, respectable ‘hand’ _par excellence_.  Then we have El
Zankalonee from near Cairo, an old fellow of white complexion and a
valuable person, an inexhaustible teller of stories at night and always
_en train_, full of jokes and remarkable for a dry humour much relished
by the crew.  I wish I understood the stories, which sound delightful,
all about Sultans and Efreets, with effective ‘points,’ at which all
hands exclaim ‘Mashallah!’ or ‘Ah!’ (as long as you can drawl it).  The
jokes, perhaps, I may as well be ignorant of.  There is a certain Shereef
who does nothing but laugh and work and be obliging; helps Omar with one
hand and Sally with the other, and looks like a great innocent black
child.  The rest of the dozen are of various colours, sizes and ages,
some quite old, but all very quiet and well-behaved.

We have had either dead calm or contrary wind all the time and the men
have worked very hard at the tow-rope.  On Friday I proclaimed a halt in
the afternoon at a village at prayer-time for the pious Muslims to go to
the mosque; this gave great satisfaction, though only five went, Reis,
steersman, Zankalonee and two old men.  The up-river men never pray at
all, and Osman occupied himself by buying salt out of another boat and
stowing it away to take up to his family, as it is terribly dear high up
the river.  At Benisouef we halted to buy meat and bread, it is _comme
qui dirait_ an assize town, there is one butcher who kills one sheep a
day.  I walked about the streets escorted by Omar in front and two
sailors with huge staves behind, and created a sensation accordingly.  It
is a dull little country town with a wretched palace of Said Pasha.  On
Sunday we halted at Bibbeh, where I caught sight of a large Coptic church
and sallied forth to see whether they would let me in.  The road lay past
the house of the headman of the village, and there ‘in the gate’ sat a
patriarch, surrounded by his servants and his cattle.  Over the gateway
were crosses and queer constellations of dots, more like Mithraic symbols
than anything Christian, but Girgis was a Copt, though the chosen head of
the Muslim village.  He rose as I came up, stepped out and salaamed, then
took my hand and said I must go into his house before I saw the church
and enter the hareem.  His old mother, who looked a hundred, and his
pretty wife, were very friendly; but, as I had to leave Omar at the door,
our talk soon came to an end, and Girgis took me out into the divan,
without the sacred precincts of the hareem.  Of course we had pipes and
coffee, and he pressed me to stay some days, to eat with him every day
and to accept all his house contained.  I took the milk he offered, and
asked him to visit me in the boat, saying I must return before sunset
when it gets cold, as I was ill.  The house was a curious specimen of a
wealthy man’s house—I could not describe it if I tried, but I felt I was
acting a passage of the Old Testament.  We went to the church, which
outside looked like nine beehives in a box.  Inside, the nine domes
resting on square pillars were very handsome.  Girgis was putting it into
thorough repair at his own expense, and it will cost a good deal, I
think, to repair and renew the fine old wood panelling of such minute and
intricate workmanship.  The church is divided by three screens; one in
front of the eastern three domes is impervious and conceals the holy of
holies.  He opened the horseshoe door for me to look in, but explained
that no Hareem might cross the threshold.  All was in confusion owing to
the repairs which were actively going on without the slightest regard to
Sunday; but he took up a large bundle, kissed it, and showed it me.  What
it contained I cannot guess, and I scrupled to inquire through a Muslim
interpreter.  To the right of this sanctum is the tomb of a Muslim saint!
enclosed under the adjoining dome.  Here we went in and Girgis kissed the
tomb on one side while Omar salaamed it on the other—a pleasant sight.
They were much more particular about our shoes than in the mosques.  Omar
wanted to tie handkerchiefs over my boots like at Cairo, but the priest
objected and made me take them off and march about in the brick and
mortar rubbish in my stockings.  I wished to hear the service, but it was
not till sunset, and, as far as I could make out, not different on Sunday
to other days.  The Hareems are behind the screen furthest removed from
the holy screen, behind a third screen where also was the font, locked up
and shaped like a Muslim tomb in little.  (Hareem is used here just like
the German _Frauenzimmer_, to mean a respectable woman.  Girgis spoke of
me to Omar as ‘Hareem.’)  The Copts have but one wife, but they shut her
up much closer than the Arabs.  The children were sweetly pretty, so
unlike the Arab brats, and the men very good-looking.  They did not seem
to acknowledge me at all as a _co-religionnaire_, and asked whether we of
the English religion did not marry our brothers and sisters.

The priest then asked me to drink coffee at his house close by, and there
I ‘sat in the gate’—_i.e._, in a large sort of den raised 2 feet from the
ground and matted, to the left of the gate.  A crowd of Copts collected
and squatted about, and we were joined by the mason who was repairing the
church, a fine, burly, rough-bearded old Mussulman, who told how the
Sheykh buried in the church of Bibbeh had appeared to him three nights
running at Cairo and ordered him to leave his work and go to Bibbeh and
mend his church, and how he came and offered to do so without pay if the
Copts would find the materials.  He spoke with evident pride, as one who
had received a Divine command, and the Copts all confirmed the story and
everyone was highly gratified by the miracle.  I asked Omar if he thought
it was all true, and he had no doubt of it.  The mason he knew to be a
respectable man in full work, and Girgis added that he had tried to get a
man to come for years for the purpose without success.  It is not often
that a dead saint contrives to be equally agreeable to Christians and
Mussulmans, and here was the staunch old ‘true believer’ working away in
the sanctuary which they would not allow an English fellow-Christian to
enter.

Whilst we sat hearing all these wonders, the sheep and cattle pushed in
between us, coming home at eve.  The venerable old priest looked so like
Father Abraham, and the whole scene was _so_ pastoral and Biblical that I
felt quite as if my wish was fulfilled to live a little a few thousands
of years ago.  They wanted me to stay many days, and then Girgis said I
must stop at Feshn where he had a fine house and garden, and he would go
on horseback and meet me there, and would give me a whole troop of
Fellaheen to pull the boat up quick.  Omar’s eyes twinkled with fun as he
translated this, and said he knew the Sitt would cry out, as she always
did about the Fellaheen, as if she were hurt herself.  He told Girgis
that the English customs did not allow people to work without pay, which
evidently seemed very absurd to the whole party.

                                                      GEBEL SHEYK EMBARAK,
                                                               _Thursday_.

I stopped last night at Feshn, but finding this morning that my Coptic
friends were not expected till the afternoon, I would not spend the whole
day, and came on still against wind and stream.  If I could speak Arabic
I should have enjoyed a few days with Girgis and his family immensely, to
learn their _Ansichten_ a little; but Omar’s English is too imperfect to
get beyond elementary subjects.  The thing that strikes me most is the
tolerant spirit that I see everywhere.  They say ‘Ah! it is your custom,’
and express no sort of condemnation, and Muslims and Christians appear
perfectly good friends, as my story of Bibbeh goes to prove.  I have yet
to see the much-talked-of fanaticism, at present I have not met with a
symptom of it.  There were thirteen Copt families at Bibbeh and a
considerable Muslim population, who had elected Girgis their headman and
kissed his hand very heartily as our procession moved through the
streets.  Omar said he was a very good man and much liked.

The villages look like slight elevations in the mud banks cut into square
shapes.  The best houses have neither paint, whitewash, plaster, bricks
nor windows, nor any visible roofs.  They don’t give one the notion of
human dwellings at all at first, but soon the eye gets used to the
absence of all that constitutes a house in Europe, the impression of
wretchedness wears off, and one sees how picturesque they are, with
palm-trees and tall pigeon-houses, and here and there the dome over a
saint’s tomb.  The men at work on the river-banks are exactly the same
colour as the Nile mud, with just the warmer hue of the blood circulating
beneath the skin.  Prometheus has just formed them out of the universal
material at hand, and the sun breathed life into them.  Poor fellows—even
the boatmen, ragged crew as they are—say ‘Ah, Fellaheen!’ with a
contemptuous pity when they see me watch the villagers at work.

The other day four huge barges passed us towed by a steamer and crammed
with hundreds of the poor souls torn from their homes to work at the
Isthmus of Suez, or some palace of the Pasha’s, for a nominal piastre a
day, and find their own bread and water and cloak.  One of my crew,
Andrasool, a black savage whose function is always to jump overboard
whenever the rope gets entangled or anything is wanted, recognised some
relations of his from a village close to Assouan.  There was much
shouting and poor Andrasool looked very mournful all day.  It may be his
turn next.  Some of the crew disloyally remarked that they were sure the
men there wished they were working for a Sitti Ingleez, as Andrasool told
them he was.  Think too what splendid pay it must be that the boat-owner
can give out of £25 a month to twelve men, after taking his own profits,
the interest of money being enormous.

When I call my crew black, don’t think of negroes.  They are
elegantly-shaped Arabs and all gentlemen in manners, and the black is
transparent, with amber _reflets_ under it in the sunshine; a negro looks
_blue_ beside them.  I have learned a great deal that is curious from
Omar’s confidences, who tells me his family affairs and talks about the
women of his family, which he would not to a man.  He refused to speak to
his brother, a very grand dragoman, who was with the Prince of Wales, and
who came up to us in the hotel at Cairo and addressed Omar, who turned
his back on him.  I asked the reason, and Omar told me how his brother
had a wife, ‘An old wife, been with him long time, very good wife.’  She
had had three children—all dead.  All at once the dragoman, who is much
older than Omar, declared he would divorce her and marry a young woman.
Omar said, ‘No, don’t do that; keep her in your house as head of your
home, and take one of your two black slave girls as your Hareem.’  But
the other insisted, and married a young Turkish wife; whereupon Omar took
his poor old sister-in-law to live with him and his own young wife, and
cut his grand brother dead.  See how characteristic!—the urging his
brother to take the young slave girl ‘as his Hareem,’ like a respectable
man—that would have been all right; but what he did was ‘not good.’  I’ll
trouble you (as Mrs. Grote used to say) to settle these questions to
everyone’s satisfaction.  I own Omar seemed to me to take a view against
which I had nothing to say.  His account of his other brother, a
confectioner’s household with two wives, was very curious.  He and they,
with his wife and sister-in-law, all live together, and one of the
brother’s wives has six children—three sleep with their own mother and
three with their _other_ mother—and all is quite harmonious.

                                                                    SIOUT,
                                                            _December_ 10.

I could not send a letter from Minieh, where we stopped, and I visited a
sugar manufactory and a gentlemanly Turk, who superintended the district,
the Moudir.  I heard a boy singing a _Zikr_ (the ninety-nine attributes
of God) to a set of dervishes in a mosque, and I think I never heard
anything more beautiful and affecting.  Ordinary Arab singing is harsh
and nasal, but it can be wonderfully moving.  Since we left Minieh we
have suffered dreadfully from the cold; the chickens died of it, and the
Arabs look blue and pinched.  Of course it is _my weather_ and there
never was such cold and such incessant contrary winds known.  To-day was
better, and Wassef, a Copt here, lent me his superb donkey to go up to
the tomb in the mountain.  The tomb is a mere cavern, so defaced, but the
view of beautiful Siout standing in the midst of a loop of the Nile was
ravishing.  A green deeper and brighter than England, graceful minarets
in crowds, a picturesque bridge, gardens, palm-trees, then the river
beyond it, the barren yellow cliffs as a frame all around that.  At our
feet a woman was being carried to the grave, and the boys’ voices rang
out the Koran full and clear as the long procession—first white turbans
and then black veils and robes—wound along.  It is all a dream to me.
You can’t think what an odd effect it is to take up an English book and
read it and then look up and hear the men cry, ‘Yah Mohammad.’  ‘Bless
thee, Bottom, how art thou translated;’ it is the reverse of all one’s
former life when one sat in England and read of the East.  ‘_Und nun sitz
ich mitten drein_’ in the real, true Arabian Nights, and don’t know
whether ‘I be I as I suppose I be’ or not.

Tell Alick the news, for I have not written to any but you.  I do so long
for my Rainie.  The little Copt girls are like her, only pale; but they
don’t let you admire them for fear of the evil-eye.



December 20, 1862: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   THEBES,
                                                      _December_ 20, 1862.

DEAR ALICK,

I have had a long, dawdling voyage up here, but enjoyed it much, and have
seen and heard many curious things.  I only stop here for letters and
shall go on at once to Wady Halfeh, as the weather is very cold still,
and I shall be better able to enjoy the ruins when I return about a month
hence, and shall certainly prefer the tropics now.  I can’t describe the
kindness of the Copts.  The men I met at a party in Cairo wrote to all
their friends and relations to be civil to me.  Wassef’s attentions
consisted first in lending me his superb donkey and accompanying me about
all day.  Next morning arrived a procession headed by his clerk, a
gentlemanly young Copt, and consisting of five black memlooks carrying a
live sheep, a huge basket of the most delicious bread, a pile of
cricket-balls of creamy butter, a large copper caldron of milk and a cage
of poultry.  I was confounded, and tried to give a good baksheesh to the
clerk, but he utterly declined.  At Girgeh one Mishrehgi was waiting for
me, and was in despair because he had only time to get a few hundred
eggs, two turkeys, a heap of butter and a can of milk.  At Keneh one Issa
(Jesus) also lent a donkey, and sent me three boxes of delicious Mecca
dates, which Omar thought stingy.  Such attentions are agreeable here
where good food is not to be had except as a gift.  They all made me
promise to see them again on my return and dine at their houses, and
Wassef wanted to make a fantasia and have dancing girls.  How you would
love the Arab women in the country villages.  I wandered off the other
day alone, while the men were mending the rudder, and fell in with a
troop of them carrying water-jars—such sweet, graceful beings, all smiles
and grace.  One beautiful woman pointed to the village and made signs of
eating and took my hand to lead me.  I went with her, admiring them as
they walked.  Omar came running after and wondered I was not afraid.  I
laughed, and said they were much too pretty and kindly-looking to
frighten anyone, which amused them immensely when he told them so.  They
all wanted me to go and eat in their houses, and I had a great mind to
it, but the wind was fair and the boat waiting, so I bid my beautiful
friends farewell.  They asked if we wanted anything—milk or eggs—for they
would give it with pleasure, it was not their custom to sell things, they
said, I offered a bit of money to a little naked child, but his mother
would not let him take it.  I shall never forget the sweet, engaging
creatures at that little village, or the dignified politeness of an old
weaver whose loom I walked in to look at, and who also wished to ‘set a
piece of bread before me.’  It is the true poetical pastoral life of the
Bible in the villages where the English have not been, and happily they
don’t land at the little places.  Thebes has become an English
watering-place.  There are now nine boats lying here, and the great
object is to _do the Nile_ as fast as possible.  It is a race up to Wady
Halfeh or Assouan.  I have gained so much during this month that I hope
the remaining three will do real good, as the weather will improve with
the new year they tell me.  All the English stay here and ‘make
Christmas,’ as Omar calls it, but I shall go on and do my devotions with
the Copts at Esneh or Edfou.  I found that their seeming disinclination
to let one attend their service arose from an idea that we English would
not recognise them as Christians.  I wrote a curious story of a miracle
to my mother, I find that I was wrong about the saint being a Mussulman
(and so is Murray); he is no less than Mar Girghis, our own St. George
himself.  Why he selected a Mussulman mason I suppose he best knows.

In a week I shall be in Nubia.  Some year we must all make this voyage;
you would revel in it.  Kiss my darlings for me.



February 11, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   THEBES,
                                                      _February_ 11, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

On arriving here last night I found one letter from you, dated December
10, and have received nothing else.  Pray write again forthwith to Cairo
where I hope to stay some weeks.  A clever old dragoman I met at Philæ
offers to lend me furniture for a lodging or a tent for the desert, and
when I hesitated he said he was very well off and it was not his business
to sell things, but only to be paid for his services by rich people, and
that if I did not accept it as he meant it he should be quite hurt.  This
is what I have met with from everything Arab—nothing but kindness and
politeness.  I shall say farewell to Egypt with real feeling; among other
things, it will be quite a pang to part with Omar who has been my shadow
all this time and for whom I have quite an affection, he is so thoroughly
good and amiable.

I am really much better I hope and believe, though only within the last
week or two.  We have had the coldest winter ever known in Nubia, such
bitter north-east winds, but when the wind by great favour did not blow,
the weather was heavenly.  If the millennium really does come I shall
take a good bit of mine on the Nile.  At Assouan I had been strolling
about in that most poetically melancholy spot, the granite quarry of old
Egypt and burial-place of Muslim martyrs, and as I came homewards along
the bank a party of slave merchants, who had just loaded their goods for
Senaar from the boat on the camels, asked me to dinner, and, oh! how
delicious it felt to sit on a mat among the camels and strange bales of
goods and eat the hot tough bread, sour milk and dates, offered with such
stately courtesy.  We got quite intimate over our leather cup of sherbet
(brown sugar and water), and the handsome jet-black men, with features as
beautiful as those of the young Bacchus, described the distant lands in a
way which would have charmed Herodotus.  They proposed to me to join
them, ‘they had food enough,’ and Omar and I were equally inclined to go.
It is of no use to talk of the ruins; everybody has said, I suppose, all
that can be said, but Philæ surpassed my expectations.  No wonder the
Arab legends of Ans el Wogood are so romantic, and Abou Simbel and many
more.  The scribbling of names is quite infamous, beautiful paintings are
defaced by Tomkins and Hobson, but worst of all Prince Pückler Muskau has
engraved his and his _Ordenskreuz_ in huge letters on the naked breast of
that august and pathetic giant who sits at Abou Simbel.  I wish someone
would kick him for his profanity.

I have eaten many odd things with odd people in queer places, dined in a
respectable Nubian family (the castor-oil was trying), been to a Nubian
wedding—such a dance I saw.  Made friends with a man much looked up to in
his place (Kalabshee—notorious for cutting throats), inasmuch as he had
killed several intrusive tax-gatherers and recruiting officers.  He was
very gentlemanly and kind and carried me up a place so steep I could not
have reached it.  Just below the cataract—by-the-by going up is nothing
but noise and shouting, but coming down is fine fun—_Fantasia khateer_ as
my excellent little Nubian pilot said.  My sailors all prayed away
manfully and were horribly frightened.  I confess my pulse quickened, but
I don’t think it was fear.  Well, below the cataract I stopped for a
religious fête, and went to a holy tomb with the darweesh, so
extraordinarily handsome and graceful—the true _feingemacht_ noble
Bedaween type.  He took care of me through the crowd, who never had seen
a Frank woman before and crowded fearfully, and pushed the true believers
unmercifully to make way for me.  He was particularly pleased at my not
being afraid of Arabs; I laughed, and asked if he was afraid of us.  ‘Oh
no! he would like to come to England; when there he would work to eat and
drink, and then sit and sleep in the church.’  I was positively ashamed
to tell my religious friend that with us the ‘house of God’ is not the
house of the poor stranger.  I asked him to eat with me but he was
holding a preliminary Ramadan (it begins next week), and could not; but
he brought his handsome sister, who was richly dressed, and begged me to
visit him and eat of his bread, cheese and milk.  Such is the treatment
one finds if one leaves the highroad and the backsheesh-hunting
parasites.  There are plenty of ‘gentlemen’ barefooted and clad in a
shirt and cloak ready to pay attentions which you may return with a civil
look and greeting, and if you offer a cup of coffee and a seat on the
floor you give great pleasure, still more if you eat the dourah and
dates, or bread and sour milk with an appetite.

At Koom Ombo we met a Rifaee darweesh with his basket of tame snakes.
After a little talk he proposed to initiate me, and so we sat down and
held hands like people marrying.  Omar sat behind me and repeated the
words as my ‘Wakeel,’ then the Rifaee twisted a cobra round our joined
hands and requested me to spit on it, he did the same and I was
pronounced safe and enveloped in snakes.  My sailors groaned and Omar
shuddered as the snakes put out their tongues—the darweesh and I smiled
at each other like Roman augurs.  I need not say the creatures were
toothless.

It is worth going to Nubia to see the girls.  Up to twelve or thirteen
they are neatly dressed in a bead necklace and a leather fringe 4 inches
wide round the loins, and anything so absolutely perfect as their shapes
or so sweetly innocent as their look can’t be conceived.  My pilot’s
little girl came in the dress mentioned before carrying a present of
cooked fish on her head and some fresh eggs; she was four years old and
so _klug_.  I gave her a captain’s biscuit and some figs, and the little
pet sat with her little legs tucked under her, and ate it so _manierlich_
and was so long over it, and wrapped up some more white biscuit to take
home in a little rag of a veil so carefully.  I longed to steal her, she
was such a darling.  Two beautiful young Nubian women visited me in my
boat, with hair in little plaits finished off with lumps of yellow clay
burnished like golden tags, soft, deep bronze skins, and lips and eyes
fit for Isis and Hathor.  Their very dress and ornaments were the same as
those represented in the tombs, and I felt inclined to ask them how many
thousand years old they were.  In their house I sat on an ancient
Egyptian couch with the semicircular head-rest, and drank out of crockery
which looked antique, and they brought a present of dates in a basket
such as you may see in the British Museum.  They are dressed in drapery
like Greek statues, and are as perfect, but have hard, bold faces, and,
though far handsomer, lack the charm of the Arab women; and the men,
except at Kalabshee and those from far up the country, are not such
gentlemen as the Arabs.

Everyone is cursing the French here.  Forty thousand men always at work
at the Suez Canal at starvation-point, does not endear them to the Arabs.
There is great excitement as to what the new Pasha will do.  If he ceases
to give forced labour, the Canal, I suppose, must be given up.  Well, I
must leave off and send my letter to Mustapha Aga to forward.  I shall
stay here ten days or so, and then return slowly to Cairo on March 10,
the last day of Ramadan.  I will stay a short time at Cairo, and then
take a small boat and drop down to Alexandria and see Janet.  How I did
wish for my darling Rainie to play with Achmet in the boat and see the
pretty Nubian boys and girls.  I have seen and heard so much, that like
M. de Conti _je voudrais être levé pour l’aller dire_.  I long to bore
you with traveller’s tales.  Pray write soon.

Omar wanted to hear all that ‘the gentleman’ said about ‘weled and bint’
(boy and girl), and was quite delighted to hear of Maurice’s good report
at school, he thinks that the ‘Abou el welàd’ (father of the
children—you, to wit) will send a sheep to the ‘fikee’ who teaches him.
I have learned a new code of propriety altogether—_célà a du bon et du
mauvais_, like ours.  When I said ‘my husband’ Omar blushed and gently
corrected me; when my donkey fell in the streets he cried with vexation,
and on my mentioning the fall to Hekekian Bey he was quite indignant.
‘Why you say it, ma’am? that shame’—a _faux pas_ in fact.  On the other
hand they mention all that belongs to the production of children with
perfect satisfaction and pleasure.  A very pleasing, modest and handsome
Nubian young woman, wishing to give me the best present she could think
of, brought me a mat of her own making, and which had been her
marriage-bed.  It was a gift both friendly and honourable, and I treasure
it accordingly.  Omar gave me a description of his own marriage,
appealing to my sympathy about the distress of absence from his wife.  I
intimated that English people were not accustomed to some words and might
be shocked, on which he said, ‘Of course I not speak of my Hareem to
English gentleman, but to good Lady can speak it.’

Good-bye, dear Alick, no, that is improper: I must say ‘O my Lord’ or
‘Abou Maurice.’



March 7, 1863: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                 A FEW MILES BELOW GIRGEH,
                                                          _March_ 7, 1863.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I was so glad to find from your letter (which Janet sent me to Thebes by
a steamer) that mine from Siout had reached you safely.  First and
foremost I am wonderfully better.  In Cairo the winter has been terribly
cold and damp, as the Coptic priest told me yesterday at Girgeh.  So I
don’t repent the expense of the boat for _j’en ai pour mon argent_—I am
_all_ the money better and really think of getting well.  Now that I know
the ways of this country a little, which Herodotus truly says is like no
other, I see that I might have gone and lived at Thebes or at Keneh or
Assouan on next to nothing, but then how could I know it?  The English
have raised a mirage of false wants and extravagance which the servants
of the country of course, some from interest and others from mere
ignorance, do their best to keep up.  As soon as I had succeeded in
really persuading Omar that I was not as rich as a Pasha and had no wish
to be thought so, he immediately turned over a new leaf as to what must
be had and said ‘Oh, if I could have thought an English lady would have
eaten and lived and done the least like Arab people, I might have hired a
house at Keneh for you, and we might have gone up in a clean passenger
boat, but I thought no English could bear it.’  At Cairo, where we shall
be, Inshallaha, on the 19th, Omar will get a lodging and borrow a few
mattresses and a table and chair and, as he says, ‘keep the money in our
pockets instead of giving it to the hotel.’  I hope Alick got my letter
from Thebes, and that he told you that I had dined with ‘the blameless
Ethiopians.’  I have seen all the temples in Nubia and down as far as I
have come, and nine of the tombs at Thebes.  Some are wonderfully
beautiful—Abou Simbel, Kalabshee, Room Ombo—a little temple at El Kab,
lovely—three tombs at Thebes and most of all Abydos; Edfou and Dendera
are the most perfect, Edfou quite perfect, but far less beautiful.  But
the most lovely object my eyes ever saw is the island of Philæ.  It gives
one quite the supernatural feeling of Claude’s best landscapes, only not
the least like them—_ganz anders_.  The Arabs say that Ans el Wogood, the
most beautiful of men, built it for his most beautiful beloved, and there
they lived in perfect beauty and happiness all alone.  If the weather had
not been so cold while I was there I should have lived in the temple, in
a chamber sculptured with the mystery of Osiris’ burial and resurrection.
Omar cleaned it out and meant to move my things there for a few days, but
it was too cold to sleep in a room without a door.  The winds have been
extraordinarily cold this year, and are so still.  We have had very
little of the fine warm weather, and really been pinched with cold most
of the time.  On the shore away from the river would be much better for
invalids.

Mustapha Aga, the consular agent at Thebes, has offered me a house of
his, up among the tombs in the finest air, if ever I want it.  He was
very kind and hospitable indeed to all the English there.  I went into
his hareem, and liked his wife’s manners very much.  It was charming to
see that she henpecked her handsome old husband completely.  They had
fine children and his boy, about thirteen or so, rode and played Jereed
one day when Abdallah Pasha had ordered the people of the neighbourhood
to do it for General Parker.  I never saw so beautiful a performance.
The old General and I were quite excited, and he tried it to the great
amusement of the Sheykh el Beled.  Some young Englishmen were rather
grand about it, but declined mounting the horses and trying a throw.  The
Sheykh and young Hassan and then old Mustapha wheeled round and round
like beautiful hawks, and caught the palm-sticks thrown at them as they
dashed round.  It was superb, and the horses were good, though the
saddles and bridles were rags and ends of rope, and the men mere
tatterdemalions.  A little below Thebes I stopped, and walked inland to
Koos to see a noble old mosque falling to ruin.  No English had ever been
there and we were surrounded by a crowd in the bazaar.  Instantly five or
six tall fellows with long sticks improvised themselves our body-guard
and kept the people off, who _du reste_ were perfectly civil and only
curious to see such strange ‘Hareem,’ and after seeing us well out of the
town evaporated as quietly as they came without a word.  I gave about
ten-pence to buy oil, as it is Ramadan and the mosque ought to be
lighted, and the old servant of the mosque kindly promised me full
justice at the Day of Judgment, as I was one of those Nasranee of whom
the Lord Mohammed said that they are not proud and wish well to the
Muslimeen.  The Pasha had confiscated all the lands belonging to the
mosque, and allowed 300 piastres—not £2 a month—for all expenses; of
course the noble old building with its beautiful carving and arabesque
mouldings must fall down.  There was a smaller one beside it, where he
declared that anciently forty girls lived unmarried and recited the
Koran—Muslim nuns, in fact.  I intend to ask the Alim, for whom I have a
letter from Mustapha, about such an anomaly.

Some way above Bellianeh Omar asked eagerly leave to stop the boat as a
great Sheyk had called to us, and we should inevitably have some disaster
if we disobeyed.  So we stopped and Omar said, ‘come and see the Sheyk,
ma’am.’  I walked off and presently found about thirty people, including
all my own men, sitting on the ground round St. Simon Stylites—without
the column.  A hideous old man like Polyphemus, utterly naked, with the
skin of a rhinoceros all cracked with the weather, sat there, and had sat
day and night, summer and winter, motionless for twenty years.  He never
prays, he never washes, he does not keep Ramadan, and yet he is a saint.
Of course I expected a good hearty curse from such a man, but he was
delighted with my visit, asked me to sit down, ordered his servant to
bring me sugar-cane, asked my name and tried to repeat it over and over
again, and was quite talkative and full of jokes and compliments, and
took no notice of anyone else.  Omar and my crew smiled and nodded, and
all congratulated me heartily.  Such a distinction proves my own
excellence (as the Sheyk knows all people’s thoughts), and is sure to be
followed by good fortune.  Finally Omar proposed to say the Fathah in
which all joined except the Sheykh, who looked rather bored by the
interruption, and desired us not to go so soon, unless I were in a hurry.
A party of Bedaween came up on camels with presents for the holy man, but
he took no notice of them, and went on questioning Omar about me, and
answering my questions.  What struck me was the total absence of any
sanctimonious air about the old fellow, he was quite worldly and jocose;
I suppose he knew that his position was secure, and thought his dirt and
nakedness proved his holiness enough.  Omar then recited the Fathah
again, and we rose and gave the servants a few foddahs—the saint takes no
notice of this part of the proceeding—but he asked me to send him twice
my hand full of rice for his dinner, an honour so great that there was a
murmur of congratulation through the whole assembly.  I asked Omar how a
man could be a saint who neglected all the duties of a Muslim, and I
found that he fully believed that Sheykh Seleem could be in two places at
once, that while he sits there on the shore he is also at Mecca,
performing every sacred function and dressed all in green.  ‘Many people
have seen him there, ma’am, quite true.’

From Bellianeh we rode on pack-donkeys without bridles to Abydos, six
miles through the most beautiful crops ever seen.  The absence of weeds
and blight is wonderful, and the green of Egypt, where it is green, would
make English green look black.  Beautiful cattle, sheep and camels were
eating the delicious clover, while their owners camped there in reed huts
during the time the crops are growing.  Such a lovely scene, all
sweetness and plenty.  We ate our bread and dates in Osiris’ temple, and
a woman offered us buffalo milk on our way home, which we drank warm out
of the huge earthen pan it had been milked in.  At Girgeh I found my
former friend Mishregi absent, but his servants told some of his friends
of my arrival, and about seven or eight big black turbans soon gathered
in the boat.  A darling little Coptic boy came with his father and wanted
a ‘_kitaab_’ (book) to write in, so I made one with paper and the cover
of my old pocket-book, and gave him a pencil.  I also bethought me of
showing him ‘pickys’ in a book, which was so glorious a novelty that he
wanted to go with me to my town, ‘Beled Ingleez,’ where more such books
were to be found.

                                                                    SIOUT,
                                                                _March_ 9.

I found here letters from Alick, telling me of dear Lord Lansdowne’s
death.  Of course I know that his time was come, but the thought that I
shall never see his face again, that all that kindness and affection is
gone out of my life, is a great blow.  No friend could leave such a blank
to me as that old and faithful one, though the death of younger ones
might be more tragic; but so many things seem gone with him into the
grave.  Many indeed will mourn that kind, wise, steadfast man—_Antiqua
fides_.  No one nowadays will be so noble with such unconsciousness and
simplicity.  I have bought two Coptic turbans to make a black dress out
of.  I thought I should like to wear it for him—here, where ‘compliment’
is out of the question.

I also found a letter from Janet, who has been very ill; the account was
so bad that I have telegraphed to hear how she is, and shall go at once
to Alexandria if she is not better.  If she is I shall hold to my plan
and see Beni Hassan and the Pyramids on my way to Cairo.  I found my kind
friend the Copt Wassef kinder than ever.  He went off to telegraph to
Alexandria for me, and showed so much feeling and real kindness that I
was quite touched.

I was grieved to hear that you had been ill again, dearest Mutter.  The
best is that I feel so much better that I think I may come home again
without fear; I still have an irritable cough, but it has begun to have
lucid intervals, and is far less frequent.  I can walk four or five miles
and my appetite is good.  All this in spite of really cold weather in a
boat where nothing shuts within two fingers’ breadths.  I long to be
again with my own people.

Please send this to Alick, to whom I will write again from Cairo.



March 10, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                         _March_ 10, 1863.

    ‘If in the street I led thee, dearest,
    Though the veil hid thy face divine,
    They who beheld thy graceful motion
    Would stagger as though drunk with wine.

    Nay, e’en the holy Sheykh, while praying
    For guidance in the narrow way,
    Must needs leave off, and on the traces
    Of thine enchanting footsteps stray.

    O ye who go down in the boats to Dumyat,
    Cross, I beseech ye, the stream to Budallah;
    Seek my beloved, and beg that she will not
    Forget me, I pray and implore her by Allah.

    ‘Fair as two moons is the face of my sweetheart,
    And as to her neck and her bosom—Mashallah.
    And unless to my love I am soon reunited
    Death is my portion—I swear it by Allah.’

Thus sings Ali Asleemee, the most _debraillé_ of my crew, a _hashshásh_,
{48} but a singer and a good fellow.  The translation is not free, though
the sentiments are.  I merely rhymed Omar’s literal word-for-word
interpretation.  The songs are all in a similar strain, except one funny
one abusing the ‘Sheykh el-Beled, may the fleas bite him.’  Horrid
imprecation! as I know to my cost, for after visiting the Coptic monks at
Girgeh I came home to the boat with myriads.  Sally said she felt like
Rameses the Great, so tremendous was the slaughter of the active enemy.

I had written the first page just as I got to Siout and was stopped by
bad news of Janet; but now all is right again, and I am to meet her in
Cairo, and she proposes a jaunt to Suez and to Damietta.  I have got a
superb illumination to-night, improvised by Omar in honour of the Prince
of Wales’s marriage, and consequently am writing with flaring candles, my
lantern being on duty at the masthead, and the men are singing an
epithalamium and beating the tarabookeh as loud as they can.

You will have seen my letter to my mother, and heard how much better I am
for the glorious air of Nubia and the high up-country.  Already we are
returning into misty weather.  I dined and spent the day with Wassef and
his Hareem, such an amiable, kindly household.  I was charmed with their
manner to each other, to the slaves and family.  The slaves (all Muslims)
told Omar what an excellent master they had.  He had meant to make a
dance-fantasia, but as I had not good news it was countermanded.  Poor
Wassef ate his boiled beans rather ruefully, while his wife and I had an
excellent dinner, she being excused fasting on account of a coming baby.
The Copt fast is no joke, neither butter, milk, eggs nor fish being
allowed for fifty-five days.  They made Sally dine with us, and Omar was
admitted to wait and interpret.  Wassef’s younger brother waited on him
as in the Bible, and his clerk, a nice young fellow, assisted.  Black
slaves brought the dishes in, and capital the food was.  There was plenty
of joking between the lady and Omar about Ramadan, which he had broken,
and the Nasranee fast, and also about the number of wives allowed, the
young clerk intimating that he rather liked that point in Islam.  I have
promised to spend ten or twelve days at their house if ever I go up the
Nile again.  I have also promised to send Wassef all particulars as to
the expense, etc. of educating his boy in England, and to look after him
and have him to our house in the holidays.  I can’t describe how
anxiously kind these people were to me.  One gets such a wonderful amount
of sympathy and real hearty kindness here.  A curious instance of the
affinity of the British mind for prejudice is the way in which every
Englishman I have seen scorns the Eastern Christians, and droll enough
that sinners like Kinglake and I should be the only people to feel the
tie of the ‘common faith’ (_vide_ ‘Eothen’).  A very pious Scotch
gentleman wondered that I could think of entering a Copt’s house, adding
that they were the publicans (tax-gatherers) of this country, which is
partly true.  I felt inclined to mention that better company than he or I
had dined with publicans, and even sinners.

The Copts are evidently the ancient Egyptians.  The slightly aquiline
nose and long eye are the very same as the profiles of the tombs and
temples, and also like the very earliest Byzantine pictures; _du reste_,
the face is handsome, but generally sallow and rather inclined to
puffiness, and the figure wants the grace of the Arabs.  Nor has any Copt
the thoroughbred, _distingué_ look of the meanest man or woman of good
Arab blood.  Their feet are the long-toed, flattish foot of the Egyptian
statue, while the Arab foot is classically perfect and you could put your
hand under the instep.  The beauty of the Ababdeh, black, naked, and
shaggy-haired, is quite marvellous.  I never saw such delicate limbs and
features, or such eyes and teeth.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                               _March_ 19.

After leaving Siout I caught cold.  The worst of going up the Nile is
that one must come down again and find horrid fogs, and cold nights with
sultry days.  So I did not attempt Sakhara and the Pyramids, but came a
day before my appointed time to Cairo.  Up here in the town it is much
warmer and dryer, and my cough is better already.  I found all your
letters in many volumes, and was so excited over reading them that I
could not sleep one moment last night, so excuse dulness, but I thought
you’d like to know I was safe in Briggs’ bank, and expecting Janet and
Ross to-night.



April 9, 1863: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                          _April_ 9, 1863.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I write to you because I know Janet is sure to write to Alick.  I have
had a very severe attack of bronchitis.  As I seemed to be getting worse
after Janet and Ross left for Alexandria, Omar very wisely sent for
Hekekian Bey, who came at once bringing De Leo Bey, the surgeon-in-chief
of the Pasha’s troops, and also the doctor to the hareem.  He has been
most kind, coming two and three times a day at first.  He won’t take any
fee, _sous prétexte_ that he is _officier du Pasha_; I must send him a
present from England.  As to Hekekian Bey, he is absolutely the Good
Samaritan, and these Orientals do their kindnesses with such an air of
enjoyment to themselves that it seems quite a favour to let them wait
upon one.  Hekekian comes in every day with his handsome old face and a
budget of news, all the gossip of the Sultan and his doings.  I shall
always fancy the Good Samaritan in a tarboosh with a white beard and very
long eyes.  I am out of bed to-day for the second time, and waiting for a
warm day to go out.  Sally saw the illuminations last night; the Turkish
bazaar she says was gorgeous.  The Sultan and all his suite have not
eaten bread here, all their food comes from Constantinople.  To-morrow
the Mahmaal goes—think of my missing that sight!  _C’est désclant_.

I have a black slave—a real one.  I looked at her little ears wondering
they had not been bored for rings.  She fancied I wished them bored (she
was sitting on the floor close at my side), and in a minute she stood up
and showed me her ear with a great pin through it: ‘Is that well, lady?’
the creature is eight years old.  The shock nearly made me faint.  What
extremities of terror had reduced that little mind to such a state.  She
is very good and gentle, and sews quite nicely already.  When she first
came, she tells me, she thought I should eat her; now her one dread is
that I should leave her behind.  She sings a wild song of joy to
Maurice’s picture and about the little Sitt.  She was sent from Khartoum
as a present to Mr. Thayer, who has no woman-servant at all.  He fetched
me to look at her, and when I saw the terror-stricken creature being
coarsely pulled about by his cook and groom, I said I would take her for
the present.  Sally teaches her, and she is very good; but now she has
set her whole little black soul upon me.  De Leo can give no opinion as
to what I ought to do, as he knows little but Egypt, and thinks England
rather like Norway, I fancy.  Only don’t let me be put in a dreadful
mountain valley; I hear the drip, drip, drip of Eaux Bonnes in bad dreams
still, when I am chilly and oppressed in my sleep.  I’ll write again
soon, send this to Alick, please.



April 13, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                         _April_ 13, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

You will have heard from my mother of my ill luck, falling sick again.
The fact is that the spring in Egypt is very trying, and I came down the
river a full month too soon.  People do tell such lies about the heat.
To-day is the first warm day we have had; till now I have been shivering,
and Sally too.  I have been out twice, and saw the holy Mahmaal rest for
its first station outside the town, it is a deeply affecting sight—all
those men prepared to endure such hardship.  They halt among the tombs of
the Khalìfah, such a spot.  Omar’s eyes were full of tears and his voice
shaking with emotion, as he talked about it and pointed out the Mahmaal
and the Sheykh al-Gemel, who leads the sacred camel, naked to the waist
with flowing hair.  Muslim piety is so unlike what Europeans think it is,
so full of tender emotions, so much more sentimental than we imagine—and
it is wonderfully strong.  I used to hear Omar praying outside my door
while I was so ill, ‘O God, make her better.  O my God, let her sleep,’
as naturally as we should say, ‘I hope she’ll have a good night.’

The Sultan’s coming is a kind of riddle.  No one knows what he wants.
The Pasha has ordered all the women of the lower classes to keep indoors
while he is here.  Arab women are outspoken, and might shout out their
grievances to the great Sultan.

_April_ 15.—I continue to get better slowly, and in a few days will go
down to Alexandria.  Omar is gone to Boulak to inquire the cost of a
boat, as I am not fond of the railroad, and have a good deal of heavy
baggage, cooking utensils, etc., which the railway charges enormously
for.  The black slave girl, sent as a present to the American
Consul-General, is as happy as possible, and sings quaint, soft little
Kordofan songs all day.  I hope you won’t object to my bringing her home.
She wails so terribly when Omar tells her she is not my slave, for fear I
should leave her, and insists on being my slave.  She wants to be a
present to Rainie, the little Sitt, and laughs out so heartily at the
thought of her.  She is very quiet and gentle, poor little savage, and
the utter slavishness of the poor little soul quite upsets me; she has no
will of her own.  Now she has taken to talking, and tells all her woes
and how _batal_ (bad) everyone was at Khartoum; and then she rubs her
little black nose on my hand, and laughs so merrily, and says all is
_quyis keteer_ (very good) here, and she hugs herself with delight.  I
think Rainie will like her very much.

I am going to visit an old Muslim French painter’s family.  He has an
Arab wife and grown-up daughters, and is a very agreeable old man with a
store of Arab legends; I am going to persuade him to write them and let
me translate them into English.  The Sultan goes away to-day.  Even water
to drink has been brought from Constantinople; I heard that from Hekekian
Bey, who formerly owned the eunuch who is now Kislar Aghasy to the Sultan
himself.  Hekekian had the honour of kissing his old slave’s hand.  If
anyone tries to make you believe any bosh about civilization in Egypt,
laugh at it.  The real life and the real people are exactly as described
in the most veracious of books, the ‘Thousand and One Nights’; the
tyranny is the same, the people are not altered—and very charming people
they are.  If I could but speak the language I could get into Arab
society here through two or three different people, and see more than
many Europeans who have lived here all their lives.  The Arabs are keenly
alive to the least prejudice against them, but when they feel quite safe
on that point they rather like the amusement of a stranger.

Omar devised a glorious scheme, if I were only well and strong, of
putting me in a takterrawan and taking me to Mecca in the character of
his mother, supposed to be a Turk.  To a European man, of course, it
would be impossible, but an enterprising woman might do it easily with a
Muslim confederate.  Fancy seeing the pilgrimage!  In a few days I shall
go down to Alexandria, if it makes me ill again I must return to Europe
or go to Beyrout.  I can’t get a boat under £12; thus do the Arabs
understand competition; the owner of boats said so few were wanted, times
were bad on account of the railway, etc., he must have double what he
used to charge.  In vain Omar argued that that was not the way to get
employment.  ‘Maleesh!’ (Never mind!), and so I must go by rail.  Is not
that Eastern?  Up the river, where there is no railroad, I might have had
it at half that rate.  All you have ever told me as most Spanish in Spain
is in full vigour here, and also I am reminded of Ireland at every turn;
the same causes produce the same effects.

To-day the Khamseen is blowing and it is decidedly hot, quite unlike the
heat at the Cape; this is close and gloomy, no sunshine.  Altogether the
climate is far less bright than I expected, very, very inferior to the
Cape.  Nevertheless, I heartily agree to the Arab saying: ‘He who has
drunk Nile water will ever long to drink it again’; and when a graceful
woman in a blue shirt and veil lifts a huge jar from her shoulder and
holds it to your lips with a hearty smile and welcome, it tastes doubly
sweet.  _Alhamdulillah_!  Sally says all other water is like bad
small-beer compared to sweet ale after the Nile water.  When the Khamseen
is over, Omar insists on my going to see the tree and the well where
Sittina Mariam rested with Seyidna Issa {55} in her arms during the
flight into Egypt.  It is venerated by Christian and Muslim alike, and is
a great place for feasting and holiday-making out of doors, which the
Arabs so dearly love.  Do write and tell me what you wish me to do.  If
it were not that I cannot endure not to see you and the children, I would
stay here and take a house at the Abbassieh in the desert; but I could
not endure it.  Nor can I endure this wandering life much longer.  I must
come home and die in peace if I don’t get really better.  Write to
Alexandria next.



April 18, 1863: Mr. Tom Taylor


                           _To Mr. Tom Taylor_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                         _April_ 18, 1863.

MY DEAR TOM,

Your letter and Laura’s were a great pleasure to me in this distant land.
I could not answer before, as I have been very ill.  But Samaritans came
with oil and wine and comforted me.  It had an odd, dreary effect to hear
my friend Hekekian Bey, a learned old Armenian, and De Leo Bey, my
doctor, discoursing Turkish at my bedside, while my faithful Omar cried
and prayed _Yah Robbeena_!  _Yah Saatir_! (O Lord!  O Preserver!) ‘don’t
let her die.’

Alick is quite right that I am in love with the Arabs’ ways, and I have
contrived to see and know more of family life than many Europeans who
have lived here for years.  When the Arabs feel that one really cares for
them, they heartily return it.  If I could only speak the language I
could see anything.  Cairo _is_ the Arabian Nights; there is a little
Frankish varnish here and there, but the government, the people—all is
unchanged since that most veracious book was written.  No words can
describe the departure of the holy Mahmal and the pilgrims for Mecca.  I
spent half the day loitering about in the Bedaween tents admiring the
glorious, free people.  To see a Bedaween and his wife walk through the
streets of Cairo is superb.  Her hand resting on his shoulder, and
scarcely deigning to cover her haughty face, she looks down on the
Egyptian veiled woman who carries the heavy burden and walks behind her
lord and master.

By no deed of my own have I become a slave-owner.  The American
Consul-General turned over to me a black girl of eight or nine, and in
consequence of her reports the poor little black boy who is the slave and
marmiton of the cook here has been entreating Omar to beg me to buy him
and take him with me.  It is touching to see the two poor little black
things recounting their woes and comparing notes.  I went yesterday to
deposit my cooking things and boat furniture at my washerwoman’s house.
Seeing me arrive on my donkey, followed by a cargo of household goods,
about eight or ten Arab women thronged round delighted at the idea that I
was coming to live in their quarter, and offering me neighbourly
services.  Of course all rushed upstairs, and my old washerwoman was put
to great expense in pipes and coffee.  I think, as you, that I must have
the ‘black drop,’ and that the Arabs see it, for I am always told that I
am like them, with praises of my former good looks.  ‘You were beautiful
Hareem once.’  Nothing is more striking to me than the way in which one
is constantly reminded of Herodotus.  The Christianity and the Islam of
this country are full of the ancient worship, and the sacred animals have
all taken service with Muslim saints.  At Minieh one reigns over
crocodiles; higher up I saw the hole of Æsculapius’ serpent at Gebel
Sheykh Hereedee, and I fed the birds—as did Herodotus—who used to tear
the cordage of boats which refused to feed them, and who are now the
servants of Sheykh Naooneh, and still come on board by scores for the
bread which no Reis dares refuse them.  Bubastis’ cats are still fed in
the Cadi’s court at public expense in Cairo, and behave with singular
decorum when ‘the servant of the cats’ serves them their dinner.  Among
gods, Amun Ra, the sun-god and serpent-killer, calls himself Mar Girgis
(St. George), and is worshipped by Christians and Muslims in the same
churches, and Osiris holds his festivals as riotously as ever at Tanta in
the Delta, under the name of Seyd el Bedawee.  The _fellah_ women offer
sacrifices to the Nile, and walk round ancient statues in order to have
children.  The ceremonies at births and burials are not Muslim, but
ancient Egyptian.

The Copts are far more close and reserved and backward than the Arabs,
and they have been so repudiated by Europeans that they are doubly shy of
us.  The Europeans resent being called ‘Nazranee’ as a genteel Hebrew
gentleman may shrink from ‘Jew.’  But I said boldly, ‘_Ana Nazraneeh_.
_Alhamdulillah_!’ (I am a Nazranee.  Praise be to God), and found that it
was much approved by the Muslims as well as the Copts.  Curious things
are to be seen here in religion—Muslims praying at the tomb of Mar Girgis
(St. George) and the resting-places of Sittina Mariam and Seyidna Issa,
and miracles, brand-new, of an equally mixed description.

If you have any power over any artists, send them to paint here.  No
words can describe either the picturesque beauty of Cairo or the splendid
forms of the people in Upper Egypt, and above all in Nubia.  I was in
raptures at seeing how superb an animal man (and woman) really is.  My
donkey-girl at Thebes, dressed like a Greek statue—Ward es-Sham (the Rose
of Syria)—was a feast to the eyes; and here, too, what grace and
sweetness, and how good is a drink of Nile water out of an amphora held
to your lips by a woman as graceful as she is kindly.  ‘May it benefit
thee,’ she says, smiling with all her beautiful teeth and eyes.
‘_Alhamdulillah_,’ you reply; and it is worth thanking God for.  The days
of the beauty of Cairo are numbered.  The mosques are falling to decay,
the exquisite lattice windows rotting away and replaced by European glass
and jalousies.  Only the people and the Government remain unchanged.
Read all the pretty paragraphs about civilisation here, and then say,
Bosh!

If you know anyone coming here and wanting a good servant and dragoman,
recommend my dear Omar Abou el-Haláweh of Alexandria.  He has been my
friend and companion, as well as my cook and general servant, now for six
months, and we are very sad at our approaching separation.  I am to spend
a day in his house with his young wife at Alexandria, and to eat his
bread.  He sadly wants to go with me to Europe and to see my children.
Sally, I think, is almost as fond of the Arabs as I am, and very popular.
My poor ragged crew were for ever calling out ‘Yah Sara’ for some
assistance or other, hurt fingers or such calamities; and the quantity of
doctoring I did was fearful.  Sally was constantly wishing for you to see
all manner of things and to sketch.  What a yarn I have made!



May 12, 1863: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                               ALEXANDRIA,
                                                           _May_ 12, 1863.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have been here a fortnight, but the climate disagrees so much with me
that I am going back to Cairo at once by the advice of the doctor of the
Suez Canal.  I cannot shake off my cough here.  Mr. Thayer kindly lends
me his nice little bachelor house, and I take Omar back again for the
job.  It is very hot here, but with a sea-breeze which strikes me like
ice; strong people enjoy it, but it gives even Janet cold in the head.
She is very well, I think, and seems very happy.  She is _Times_
correspondent and does it very well.

I am terribly disappointed at not being as materially better as I had
hoped I should be while in Upper Egypt.  I cannot express the longing I
have for home and my children, and how much I feel the sort of suspense
it all causes to you and to Alick, and my desire to be with you.

One must come to the East to understand absolute equality.  As there is
no education and no reason why the donkey-boy who runs behind me may not
become a great man, and as all Muslims are _ipso facto_ equal; money and
rank are looked on as mere accidents, and my _savoir vivre_ was highly
thought of because I sat down with Fellaheen and treated everyone as they
treat each other.  In Alexandria all that is changed.  The European ideas
and customs have extinguished the Arab altogether, and those who remain
are not improved by the contact.  Only the _Bedaween_ preserve their
haughty _nonchalance_.  I found the Mograbee bazaar full of them when I
went to buy a white cloak, and was amused at the way in which one
splendid bronze figure, who lay on the shop-front, moved one leg to let
me sit down.  They got interested in my purchase, and assisted in making
the bargain and wrapping the cloak round me Bedawee fashion, and they too
complimented me on having ‘the face of the Arab,’ which means Bedaween.
I wanted a little Arab dress for Rainie, but could not find one, as at
her age none are worn in the desert.

I dined one day with Omar, or rather I ate at his house, for he would not
eat with me.  His sister-in-law cooked a most admirable dinner, and
everyone was delighted.  It was an interesting family circle.  A very
respectable elder brother a confectioner, whose elder wife was a black
woman, a really remarkable person, who speaks Italian perfectly, and gave
me a great deal of information and asked such intelligent questions.  She
ruled the house but had no children, so he had married a fair,
gentle-looking Arab woman who had six children, and all lived in perfect
harmony.  Omar’s wife is a tall, handsome girl of his own age, with very
good manners.  She had been outside the door of the close little court
which constituted the house _once_ since her marriage.  I now begin to
understand all about the _wesen_ with the women.  There is a good deal of
chivalry in some respects, and in the respectable lower and middle
classes the result is not so bad.  I suspect that among the rich few are
very happy.  But I don’t know them, or anything of the Turkish ways.  I
will go and see the black woman again and hear more, her conversation was
really interesting.



May 12, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               ALEXANDRIA,
                                                           _May_ 12, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

I only got your letter an hour ago, and the mail goes out at four.  I
enclose to you the letter I had written to my mother, so I need not
repeat about my plans.  Continue to write here, a letter comes as soon
and safer.  My general health is so much stronger and better—especially
before I had this last severe attack—that I still hope, though it is a
severe trial of patience not to throw it up and come home for good.  It
would be delightful to have you at Cairo now I have pots and pans and all
needful for a house, but a carpet and a few mattresses, if you could camp
with me _à l’Arabe_.

How you would revel in old Masr el-Kahira, peep up at lattice windows,
gape like a _gasheem_ (green one) in the bazaar, go wild over the
mosques, laugh at portly Turks and dignified Sheykhs on their white
donkeys, drink sherbet in the streets, ride wildly about on a donkey,
peer under black veils at beautiful eyes and feel generally intoxicated!
I am quite a good cicerone now of the glorious old city.  Omar is in
raptures at the idea that the Sidi el Kebir (the Great Master) might
come, and still more if he brought the ‘little master.’  He plans meeting
you on the steamboat and bringing you to me, that I may kiss your hand
first of all.  Mashallah!  How our hearts would be dilated!



May 21, 1863: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                    MASR EL-KAHIRA, CAIRO,
                                                           _May_ 21, 1863.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I came here on Saturday night.  To-day is Wednesday, and I am already
much better.  I have attached an excellent donkey and his master, a
delightful youth called Hassan, to my household for fifteen piastres
(under two shillings) a day.  They live at the door, and Hassan cleans
the stairs and goes errands during the heat of the day, and I ride out
very early, at six or seven, and again at five.  The air is delicious
now.  It is very hot for a few hours, but not stifling, and the breeze
does not chill one as it does at Alexandria.  I live all day and all
night with open windows, and plenty of fresh warm air is the best of
remedies.  I can do no better than stay here till the heat becomes too
great.  I left little Zeyneb at Alexandria with Janet’s maid Ellen who
quite loves her, and begged to keep her ‘for company,’ and also to help
in their removal to the new house.  She clung about me and made me
promise to come back to her, but was content to stop with Ellen, whose
affection she of course returns.  It was pleasant to see her so happy,
and how she relished being ‘put to bed’ with a kiss by Ellen or Sally.
Her Turkish master, whom she pronounces to have been _batal_ (bad),
called her Salaam es-Sidi (the Peace of her Master); but she said that in
her own village she used to be Zeyneb, and so we call her.  She has grown
fatter and, if possible, blacker.  Mahbrooka (Good Fortune), the elder
wife of Hegab, the confectioner, was much interested in her, as her fate
had been the same.  She was bought by an Italian who lived with her till
his death, when she married Hegab.  She is a pious Muslimeh, and invoked
the intercession of Seyidna Mohammad for me when I told her I had no
intention of baptizing Zeyneb by force, as had been done to her.

The fault of my lodging here is the noise.  We are on the road from the
railway and there is no quiet except in the few hot hours, when nothing
is heard but the cool tinkle of the Sakka’s brass cup as he sells water
in the street, or perchance _erksoos_ (liquorice-water), or caroub or
raisin sherbet.  The _erksoos_ is rather bitter and very good.  I drink
it a good deal, for drink one must; a gulleh of water is soon gone.  A
gulleh is a wide-mouthed porous jar, and Nile water drunk out of it
without the intervention of a glass is delicious.  Omar goes to market
every morning with a donkey—I went too, and was much amused—and cooks,
and in the evening goes out with me if I want him.  I told him I had
recommended him highly, and hoped he would get good employment; but he
declares that he will go with no one else so long as I come to Egypt,
whatever the difference of wages may be.  ‘The bread I eat with you is
sweet’—a pretty little unconscious antithesis to Dante.  I have been
advising his brother Hajjee Ali to start a hotel at Thebes for invalids,
and he has already set about getting a house there; there is _one_.  Next
winter there will be steamers twice a week—to Assouan!  Juvenal’s distant
Syene, where he died in banishment.  My old washerwoman sent me a fervent
entreaty through Omar that I would dine with her one day, since I had
made Cairo delightful with my presence.  If one will only devour these
people’s food, they are enchanted; they like that much better than a
present.  So I will honour her house some day.  Good old Hannah, she is
divorced for being too fat and old, and replaced by a young Turk whose
family sponge on Hajjee Ali and are condescending.  If I could afford it,
I would have a sketch of a beloved old mosque of mine, falling to decay,
and with three palm-trees growing in the middle of it.  Indeed, I would
have a book full, for all is exquisite, and alas, all is going.  The old
Copt quarter is _entamé_, and hideous, shabby French houses, like the one
I live in, are being run up; and in this weather how much better would be
the Arab courtyard, with its mastabah and fountain!

There is a quarrel now in the street; how they talk and gesticulate, and
everybody puts in a word; a boy has upset a cake-seller’s tray, ‘_Naal
Abu’k_!’ (Curses on your father) he claims six piastres damages, and
everyone gives an opinion _pour ou contre_.  We all look out of the
window; my opposite neighbour, the pretty Armenian woman, leans out, and
her diamond head-ornaments and earrings glitter as she laughs like a
child.  The Christian dyer is also very active in the row, which, like
all Arab rows, ends in nothing; it evaporates in fine theatrical gestures
and lots of talk.  Curious!  In the street they are so noisy, but get the
same men in a coffee-shop or anywhere, and they are the quietest of
mankind.  Only one man speaks at a time, the rest listen, and never
interrupt; twenty men don’t make the noise of three Europeans.

Hekekian Bey is my near neighbour, and he comes in and we _fronder_ the
Government.  His heart is sore with disinterested grief for the
sufferings of the people.  ‘Don’t they deserve to be decently governed,
to be allowed a little happiness and prosperity?  They are so docile, so
contented; are they not a good people?’  Those were his words as he was
recounting some new iniquity.  Of course half these acts are done under
pretext of improving and civilizing, and the Europeans applaud and say,
‘Oh, but nothing could be done without forced labour,’ and the poor
Fellaheen are marched off in gangs like convicts, and their families
starve, and (who’d have thought it) the population keeps diminishing.  No
wonder the cry is, ‘Let the English Queen come and take us.’  You see, I
don’t see things quite as Ross does, but mine is another _standpunkt_,
and my heart is with the Arabs.  I care less about opening up the trade
with the Soudan and all the new railways, and I should like to see person
and property safe, which no one’s is here (Europeans, of course,
excepted).  Ismail Pasha got the Sultan to allow him to take 90,000
feddans of uncultivated land for himself as private property, very well,
but the late Viceroy Said granted eight years ago certain uncultivated
lands to a good many Turks, his _employés_, in hopes of founding a landed
aristocracy and inducing them to spend their capital in cultivation.
They did so, and now Ismail Pasha takes their improved land and gives
them feddan for feddan of his new land, which will take five years to
bring into cultivation, instead.  He forces them to sign a _voluntary_
deed of exchange, or they go off to Fazogloo, a hot Siberia whence none
return.  The Sultan also left a large sum of money for religious
institutions and charities—Muslim, Jew, and Christian.  None have
received a foddah.  It is true the Sultan and his suite plundered the
Pasha and the people here; but from all I hear the Sultan really wishes
to do good.  What is wanted here is hands to till the ground, and wages
are very high; food, of course, gets dearer, and the forced labour
inflicts more suffering than before, and the population will decrease yet
faster.  This appears to me to be a state of things in which it is no use
to say that public works must be made at any cost.  The wealth will
perhaps be increased, if meanwhile the people are not exterminated.
Then, every new Pasha builds a huge new palace while those of his
predecessors fall to ruin.  Mehemet Ali’s sons even cut down the trees of
his beautiful botanical garden and planted beans there; so money is
constantly wasted more than if it were thrown into the Nile, for then the
Fellaheen would not have to spend their time, so much wanted for
agriculture, in building hideous barrack-like so-called palaces.  What
chokes me is to hear English people talk of the stick being ‘the only way
to manage Arabs’ as if anyone could doubt that it is the easiest way to
manage any people where it can be used with impunity.

_Sunday_.—I went to a large unfinished new Coptic church this morning.
Omar went with me up to the women’s gallery, and was discreetly going
back when he saw me in the right place, but the Coptic women began to
talk to him and asked questions about me all the time I was looking down
on the strange scene below.  I believe they celebrate the ancient
mysteries still.  The clashing of cymbals, the chanting, a humming unlike
any sound I ever heard, the strange yellow copes covered with stranger
devices—it was _wunderlich_.  At the end everyone went away, and I went
down and took off my shoes to go and look at the church.  While I was
doing so a side-door opened and a procession entered.  A priest dressed
in the usual black robe and turban of all Copts carrying a trident-shaped
sort of candlestick, another with cymbals, a lot of little boys, and two
young ecclesiastics of some sort in the yellow satin copes (contrasting
queerly with the familiar tarboosh of common life on their heads), these
carried little babies and huge wax tapers, each a baby and a taper.  They
marched round and round three times, the cymbals going furiously, and
chanting a jig tune.  The dear little tiny boys marched just in front of
the priest with such a pretty little solemn, consequential air.  Then
they all stopped in front of the sanctuary, and the priest untied a sort
of broad-coloured tape which was round each of the babies, reciting
something in Coptic all the time, and finally touched their foreheads and
hands with water.  This is a ceremony subsequent to baptism after I don’t
know how many days, but the priest ties and then unties the bands.  Of
what is this symbolical?  _Je m’y perds_.  Then an old man gave a little
round cake of bread, with a cabalistic-looking pattern on it, both to
Omar and to me, which was certainly baked for Isis.  A lot of
closely-veiled women stood on one side in the aisle, and among them the
mothers of the babies who received them from the men in yellow copes at
the end of the ceremony.  One of these young men was very handsome, and
as he stood looking down and smiling on the baby he held, with the light
of the torch sharpening the lines of his features, would have made a
lovely picture.  The expression was sweeter than St. Vincent de Paul,
because his smile told that he could have played with the baby as well as
have prayed for it.  In this country one gets to see how much more
beautiful a perfectly natural expression is than any degree of the
mystical expression of the best painters, and it is so refreshing that no
one tries to look pious.  The Muslim looks serious, and often warlike, as
he stands at prayer.  The Christian just keeps his everyday face.  When
the Muslim gets into a state of devotional frenzy he does not think of
making a face, and it is quite tremendous.  I don’t think the Copt has
any such ardours, but the scene this morning was all the more touching
that no one was ‘behaving him or herself’ at all.  A little acolyte
peeped into the sacramental cup and swigged off the drops left in it with
the most innocent air, and no one rebuked him, and the quite little
children ran about in the sanctuary—up to seven they are privileged—and
only they and the priests enter it.  It is a pretty commentary on the
words ‘Suffer the little children,’ etc.

I am more and more annoyed at not being able to ask questions for myself,
as I don’t like to ask through a Muslim and no Copts speak any foreign
language, or very very few.  Omar and Hassan had been at five this
morning to the tomb of Sittina Zeyneb, one of the daughters of the
Prophet, to ‘see her’ (Sunday is her day of reception), and say the
Fathah at her tomb.  Next Friday the great Bairam begins and every Muslim
eats a bit of meat at his richer neighbour’s expense.  It is the day on
which the pilgrims go up the sacred mount near Mecca, to hear the sermon
which terminates the Haj.  Yesterday I went to call on pretty Mrs.
Wilkinson, she is an Armenian of the Greek faith, and was gone to pray at
the convent of Mar Girgis (St. George) to cure the pains a bad rheumatic
fever has left in her hands.  Evidently Mar Girgis is simply Ammon Ra,
the God of the Sun and great serpent-slayer, who is still revered in
Egypt by all sects, and Seyd el-Bedawee is as certainly one form of
Osiris.  His festivals, held twice a year at Tanta, still display the
symbol of the Creator of all things.  All is thus here—the women wail the
dead, as on the old sculptures, all the ceremonies are pagan, and would
shock an Indian Mussulman as much as his objection to eat with a
Christian shocks an Arab.  This country is a palimpsest, in which the
Bible is written over Herodotus, and the Koran over that.  In the towns
the Koran is most visible, in the country Herodotus.  I fancy it is most
marked and most curious among the Copts, whose churches are shaped like
the ancient temples, but they are so much less accessible than the Arabs
that I know less of their customs.

Now I have filled such a long letter I hardly know if it is worth
sending, and whether you will be amused by my commonplaces of Eastern
life.  I kill a sheep next Friday, and Omar will cook a stupendous dish
for the poor Fellaheen who are lying about the railway-station, waiting
to be taken to work somewhere.  That is to be my Bairam, and Omar hopes
for great benefit for me from the process.



May 25, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                           _May_ 25, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have spun such a yarn to my mother that I shall make it serve for both.
It may amuse you to see what impression Cairo makes.  I ride along on my
valiant donkey led by the stalwart Hassan and attended by Omar, and
constantly say, ‘Oh, if our master were here, how pleased he would
be’—husband is not a correct word.

I went out to the tombs yesterday.  Fancy that Omar witnessed the
destruction of some sixty-eight or so of the most exquisite buildings—the
tombs and mosques of the Arab Khaleefehs, which Said Pasha used to divert
himself with bombarding for practice for his artillery.  Omar was then in
the boy corps of camel artillery, now disbanded.  Thus the Pasha added
the piquancy of sacrilege to barbarity.

The street and the neighbours would divert you.  Opposite lives a
Christian dyer who must be a seventh brother of the admirable barber.
The same impertinence, loquacity, and love of meddling in everybody’s
business.  I long to see him thrashed, though he is a constant comedy.
My delightful servant, Omar Abou-el-Halláweh (the father of sweets)—his
family are pastrycooks—is the type of all the amiable _jeune premiers_ of
the stories.  I am privately of opinion that he is Bedr-ed-Deen Hassan,
the more that he can make cream tarts and there is no pepper in them.
Cream tarts are not very good, but lamb stuffed with pistachio nuts
fulfils all one’s dreams of excellence.  The Arabs next door and the
Levantines opposite are quiet enough, but how _do_ they eat all the
cucumbers they buy of the man who cries them every morning as ‘fruit
gathered by sweet girls in the garden with the early dew.’

The more I see of the back-slums of Cairo, the more in love I am with it.
The oldest European towns are tame and regular in comparison, and the
people are so pleasant.  If you smile at anything that amuses you, you
get the kindest, brightest smiles in return; they give hospitality with
their faces, and if one brings out a few words, ‘Mashallah! what Arabic
the Sitt Ingleez speaks.’  The Arabs are clever enough to understand the
amusement of a stranger and to enter into it, and are amused in turn, and
they are wonderfully unprejudiced.  When Omar explains to me their views
on various matters, he adds: ‘The Arab people think so—I know not if
right;’ and the way in which the Arab merchants worked the electric
telegraph, and the eagerness of the Fellaheen for steam-ploughs, are
quite extraordinary.  They are extremely clever and nice children, easily
amused, easily roused into a fury which lasts five minutes and leaves no
malice, and half the lying and cheating of which they are accused comes
from misunderstanding and ignorance.  When I first took Omar he was by
way of ‘ten pounds, twenty pounds,’ being nothing for my dignity.  But as
soon as I told him that ‘my master was a Bey who got £100 a month and no
backsheesh,’ he was as careful as if for himself.  They see us come here
and do what only their greatest Pashas do, hire a boat to ourselves, and,
of course, think our wealth is boundless.  The lying is mostly from
fright.  They dare not suggest a difference of opinion to a European, and
lie to get out of scrapes which blind obedience has often got them into.
As to the charges of shopkeepers, that is the custom, and the haggling a
ceremony you must submit to.  It is for the purchaser or employer to
offer a price and fix wages—the reverse of Europe—and if you ask the
price they ask something fabulous at random.

I hope to go home next month, as soon as it gets too hot here and is
likely to be warm enough in England.  I do so long to see the children
again.



October 19, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               ALEXANDRIA,
                                                       _October_ 19, 1863.

We had a wretched voyage, good weather, but such a _pétaudière_ of a
ship.  I am competent to describe the horrors of the middle
passage—hunger, suffocation, dirt, and such _canaille_, high and low, on
board.  The only gentleman was a poor Moor going to Mecca (who stowed his
wife and family in a spare boiler on deck).  I saw him washing his
children in the morning!  ‘_Que c’est degoutant_!’ was the cry of the
French spectators.  If an Arab washes he is a _sale cochon_—no wonder!  A
delicious man who sat near me on deck, when the sun came round to our
side, growled between his clenched teeth: ‘_Voilà un tas d’intrigants a
l’ombre tandis que le soleil me grille, moi_,’ a good resume of French
politics, methinks.  Well, on arriving at noon of Friday, I was consoled
for all by seeing Janet in a boat looking as fresh and bright and merry
as ever she could look.  The heat has evidently not hurt her at all.
Omar’s joy was intense.  He has had an offer of a place as messenger with
the mails to Suez and back, £60 a year; and also his brother wanted him
for Lady Herbert of Lea, who has engaged Hajjee Ali, and Ali promised
high pay, but Omar said that he could not leave me.  ‘I think my God give
her to me to take care of her, how then I leave her if she not well and
not very rich?  I can’t speak to my God if I do bad things like that.’  I
am going to his house to-day to see the baby and Hajjee Hannah, who is
just come down from Cairo.  Omar is gone to try to get a dahabieh to go
up the river, as I hear that the half-railway, half-steamer journey is
dreadfully inconvenient and fatiguing, and the sight of the overflowing
Nile is said to be magnificent, it is all over the land and eight miles
of the railway gone.  Omar kisses your hand and is charmed with the
knife, but far more that my family should know his name and be satisfied
with my servant.

I cannot live in Thayer’s house because the march of civilization has led
a party of French and Wallachian women into the ground-floor thereof to
instruct the ignorant Arabs in drinking, card-playing, and other vices.
So I will consult Hajjee Hannah to-day; she may know of an empty house
and would make divan cushions for me.  Zeyneb is much grown and very
active and intelligent, but a little louder and bolder than she was owing
to the maids here wanting to christianize her, and taking her out
unveiled, and letting her be among the men.  However, she is as
affectionate as ever, and delighted at the prospect of going with me.  I
have replaced the veil, and Sally has checked her tongue and scolded her
sister Ellen for want of decorum, to the amazement of the latter.  Janet
has a darling Nubian boy.  Oh dear! what an elegant person Omar seemed
after the French ‘gentleman,’ and how noble was old Hamees’s (Janet’s
doorkeeper) paternal but reverential blessing!  It is a real comfort to
live in a nation of truly well-bred people and to encounter kindness
after the savage incivility of France.

                                                  _Tuesday_, _October_ 20.

Omar has got a boat for £13, which is not more than the railway would
cost now that half must be done by steamer and a bit on donkeys or on
foot.  Poor Hajjee Hannah was quite knocked up by the journey down; I
shall take her up in my boat.  Two and a half hours to sit grilling at
noonday on the banks, and two miles to walk carrying one’s own baggage is
hard lines for a fat old woman.  Everything is almost double in price
owing to the cattle murrain and the high Nile.  Such an inundation as
this year was never known before.  Does the blue God resent Speke’s
intrusion on his privacy?  It will be a glorious sight, but the damage to
crops, and even to the last year’s stacks of grain and beans, is
frightful.  One sails among the palm-trees and over the submerged
cotton-fields.  Ismail Pasha has been very active, but, alas! his ‘eye is
bad,’ and there have been as many calamities as under Pharaoh in his
short reign.  The cattle murrain is fearful, and is now beginning in
Cairo and Upper Egypt.  Ross reckons the loss at twelve millions sterling
in cattle.  The gazelles in the desert have it too, but not horses, asses
or goats.



October 26, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               ALEXANDRIA,
                                                       _October_ 26, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

I went to two hareems the other day with a little boy of Mustapha Aga’s,
and was much pleased.  A very pleasant Turkish lady put out all her
splendid bedding and dresses for me, and was most amiable.  At another a
superb Arab with most _grande dame_ manners, dressed in white cotton and
with unpainted face, received me statelily.  Her house would drive you
wild, such antique enamelled tiles covering the panels of the walls, all
divided by carved woods, and such carved screens and galleries, all very
old and rather dilapidated, but superb, and the lady worthy of the house.
A bold-eyed slave girl with a baby put herself forward for admiration,
and was ordered to bring coffee with such cool though polite
imperiousness.  One of our great ladies can’t half crush a rival in
comparison, she does it too coarsely.  The quiet scorn of the pale-faced,
black-haired Arab was beyond any English powers.  Then it was fun to open
the lattice and make me look out on the square, and to wonder what the
neighbours would say at the sight of my face and European hat.  She asked
about my children and blessed them repeatedly, and took my hand very
kindly in doing so, for fear I should think her envious and fear her
eye—she had none.

_Tuesday_.—The post goes out to-morrow, and I have such a cold I must
stay in bed and cannot write much.  I go on Thursday and shall go to
Briggs’ house.  Pray write to me at Cairo.  Sally and I are both unwell
and anxious to get up the river.  I can’t write more.



October 31, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               KAFR ZEYAT,
                                                       _October_ 31, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

We left Alexandria on Thursday about noon, and sailed with a fair wind
along the Mahmoudieh Canal.  My little boat flies like a bird, and my men
are a capital set of fellows, bold and careful sailors.  I have only
seven in all, but they work well, and at a pinch Omar leaves the pots and
pans and handles a rope or a pole manfully.  We sailed all night and
passed the locks at Atleh at four o’clock yesterday, and were greeted by
old Nile tearing down like a torrent.  The river is magnificent, ‘seven
men’s height,’ my Reis says, above its usual pitch; it has gone down five
or six feet and left a sad scene of havoc on either side.  However what
the Nile takes he repays with threefold interest, they say.  The women
are at work rebuilding their mud huts, and the men repairing the dykes.
A Frenchman told me he was on board a Pasha’s steamer under M. de
Lesseps’ command, and they passed a flooded village where two hundred or
so people stood on their roofs crying for help.  Would you, could you,
believe it that they passed on and left them to drown?  None but an
eyewitness could have made me believe such villainy.

All to-day we sailed in such heavenly weather—a sky like nothing but its
most beautiful self.  At the bend of the river just now we had a grand
struggle to get round, and got entangled with a big timber boat.  My crew
got so vehement that I had to come out with an imperious request to
everyone to bless the Prophet.  Then the boat nearly pulled the men into
the stream, and they pulled and hauled and struggled up to their waists
in mud and water, and Omar brandished his pole and shouted ‘Islam el
Islam!’ which gave a fresh spirit to the poor fellows, and round we came
with a dash and caught the breeze again.  Now we have put up for the
night, and shall pass the railway-bridge to-morrow.  The railway is all
under water from here up to Tantah—eight miles—and in many places higher
up.



November 14, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                      _November_ 14, 1863.

Here I am at last in my old quarters at Thayer’s house, after a tiresome
negotiation with the Vice-Consul, who had taken possession and invented
the story of women on the ground-floor.  I was a week in Briggs’ damp
house, and too ill to write.  The morning I arrived at Cairo I was seized
with hæmorrhage, and had two days of it; however, since then I am better.
I was very foolish to stay a fortnight in Alexandria.

The passage under the railway-bridge at Tantah (which is only opened once
in two days) was most exciting and pretty.  Such a scramble and dash of
boats—two or three hundred at least.  Old Zedan, the steersman, slid
under the noses of the big boats with my little _Cangia_ and through the
gates before they were well open, and we saw the rush and confusion
behind us at our ease, and headed the whole fleet for a few miles.  Then
we stuck, and Zedan raged; but we got off in an hour and again overtook
and passed all.  And then we saw the spectacle of devastation—whole
villages gone, submerged and melted, mud to mud, and the people with
their animals encamped on spits of sand or on the dykes in long rows of
ragged makeshift tents, while we sailed over where they had lived.
Cotton rotting in all directions and the dry tops crackling under the
bows of the boat.  When we stopped to buy milk, the poor woman exclaimed:
‘Milk! from where?  Do you want it out of my breasts?’  However, she took
our saucepan and went to get some from another family.  No one refuses it
if they have a drop left, for they all believe the murrain to be a
punishment for churlishness to strangers—by whom committed no one can
say.  Nor would they fix a price, or take more than the old rate.  But
here everything has doubled in price.

Never did a present give such pleasure as Mme. De Leo’s bracelet.  De Leo
came quite overflowing with gratitude at my having remembered such a
trifle as his attending me and coming three times a day!  He thinks me
looking better, and advises me to stay on here till I feel it cold.  Mr.
Thayer’s underling has been doing Levantine rogueries, selling the
American protégé’s claims to the Egyptian Government, and I witnessed a
curious phase of Eastern life.  Omar, when he found him in _my_ house,
went and ordered him out.  I was ill in bed, and knew nothing till it was
done, and when I asked Omar how he came to do it, he told me to be civil
to him if I saw him as it was not for me to know what he was; that was
his (Omar’s) business.  At the same time Mr. Thayer’s servant sent him a
telegram so insolent that it amounted to a kicking.  Such is the Nemesis
for being a rogue here.  The servants know you, and let you feel it.  I
was quite ‘flabbergasted’ at Omar, who is so reverential to me and to the
Rosses, and who I fancied trembled before every European, taking such a
tone to a man in the position of a ‘gentleman.’  It is a fresh proof of
the feeling of actual equality among men that lies at the bottom of such
great inequality of position.  Hekekian Bey has seen a Turkish Pasha’s
shins kicked by his own servants, who were cognizant of his misdeeds.
Finally, on Thursday we got the keys of the house, and Omar came with two
_ferashes_ and shovelled out the Levantine dirt, and scoured and
scrubbed; and on Friday afternoon (yesterday) we came in.  Zeyneb has
been very good ever since she has been with us, she will soon be a
complete ‘dragowoman,’ for she is learning Arabic from Omar and English
from us fast.  In Janet’s house she only heard a sort of ‘lingua franca’
of Greek, Italian, Nubian and English.  She asked me ‘How piccolo bint?’
(How’s the little girl?) a fine specimen of Alexandrian.  Ross is here,
and will dine with me to-night before starting by an express train which
Ismail Pasha gives him.

On Thursday evening I rode to the Abbassieh, and met all the schoolboys
going home for their Friday.  Such a pretty sight!  The little Turks on
grand horses with velvet trappings and two or three sais running before
them, and the Arab boys fetched—some by proud fathers on handsome
donkeys, some by trusty servants on foot, some by poor mothers astride on
shabby donkeys and taking up their darlings before them, some two and
three on one donkey, and crowds on foot.  Such a number of lovely
faces—all dressed in white European-cut clothes and red tarbooshes.

Last night we had a wedding opposite.  A pretty boy, about Maurice’s
size, or rather less, with a friend of his own size, dressed like him in
a scarlet robe and turban, on each side, and surrounded by men carrying
tapers and singing songs, and preceded by cressets flaring.  He stepped
along like Agag, very slowly and mincingly, and looked very shy and
pretty.  My poor Hassan (donkey-driver) is ill—I fear very ill.  His
father came with the donkey for me, and kept drawing his sleeve over his
eyes and sighing so heavily.  ‘_Yah Hassan meskeen_! _yah Hassan ibn_!’
(Oh poor Hassan! oh Hassan my son!); and then, in a resigned tone,
‘_Allah kereem_’ (God is merciful).  I will go and see him this morning,
and have a doctor to him ‘by force,’ as Omar says, if he is very bad.
There is something heart-rending in the patient, helpless suffering of
these people.

_Sunday_.—Abu Hassan reported his son so much better that I did not go
after him, having several things to do, and Omar being deep in cooking a
_festin de Balthazar_ because Ross was to dine with me.  The weather is
delicious—much what we had at Bournemouth in summer—but there is a great
deal of sickness, and I fear there will be more, from people burying dead
cattle on their premises inside the town.  It costs 100 _gersh_ to bury
one outside the town.  All labour is rendered scarce, too, as well as
food dear, and the streets are not cleaned and water hard to get.  My
_sakka_ comes very irregularly, and makes quite a favour of supplying us
with water.  All this must tell heavily on the poor.  Hekekian’s wife had
seventy head of cattle on her farm—one wretched bullock is left; and, of
seven to water the house in Cairo, also one left, and that expected to
die.  I wonder what ill-conditioned fellow of a Moses is at the bottom of
it.  Hajjee Ali has just been here, and offers me his tents if I like to
go up to Thebes and not live in a boat, so that I may not be dependent on
getting a house there.  He is engaged by Lady Herbert of Lea, so will not
go to Syria this year and has all his tents to spare.  I fancy I might be
very comfortable among the tombs of the Kings or in the valley of
Assaseef with good tents.  It is never cold at all among the hills at
Thebes—_au contraire_.  On the sunny side of the valley you are broiled
and stunned with heat in January, and in the shade it is heavenly.  How I
do wish you could come too, how you would enjoy it!  I shall rather like
the change from a boat life to a Bedawee one, with my own sheep and
chickens and horse about the tent, and a small following of ragged
retainers; moreover, it will be considerably cheaper, I think.



November 21, 1863: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                      _November_ 21, 1863.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I shall stay on here till it gets colder, and then go up the Nile either
in a steamer or a boat.  The old father of my donkey-boy, Hassan, gave me
a fine illustration of Arab feeling towards women to-day.  I asked if Abd
el-Kader was coming here, as I had heard; he did not know, and asked me
if he were not _Achul en-Benàt_, a brother of girls.  I prosaically said
I did not know if he had sisters.  ‘The Arabs, O lady, call that man a
“brother of girls” to whom God has given a clean heart to love all women
as his sisters, and strength and courage to fight for their protection.’
Omar suggested a ‘thorough gentleman’ as the equivalent of Abou Hassan’s
title.  Our European _galimatias_ about the ‘smiles of the fair,’ etc.,
look very mean beside ‘Achul en Benàt,’ methinks.  Moreover, they carry
it into common life.  Omar was telling me of some little family
tribulations, showing that he is not a little henpecked.  His wife wanted
all his money.  I asked how much she had of her own, as I knew she had
property.  ‘Oh, ma’am!  I can’t speak of that, shame for me if I ask what
money she got.’  A man married at Alexandria, and took home the daily
provisions for the first week; after that he neglected it for two days,
and came home with a lemon in his hand.  He asked for some dinner, and
his wife placed the stool and the tray and the washing basin and napkin,
and in the tray the lemon cut in quarters.  ‘Well, and the dinner?’
‘Dinner! you want dinner?  Where from?  What man are you to want women
when you don’t keep them?  I am going to the Cadi to be divorced from
you;’ and she did.  The man must provide all necessaries for his Hareem,
and if she has money or earns any she spends it in dress; if she makes
him a skullcap or a handkerchief he must pay her for her work.  _Tout
n’est pas roses_ for these Eastern tyrants, not to speak of the unbridled
license of tongue allowed to women and children.  Zeyneb hectors Omar and
I cannot persuade him to check her.  ‘How I say anything to it, that one
child?’  Of course, the children are insupportable, and, I fancy, the
women little better.

A poor neighbour of mine lost his little boy yesterday, and came out in
the streets, as usual, for sympathy.  He stood under my window leaning
his head against the wall, and sobbing and crying till, literally, his
tears wetted the dust.  He was too grieved to tear off his turban or to
lament in form, but clasped his hands and cried, ‘Yah weled, yah weled,
yah weled’ (O my boy, my boy).  The bean-seller opposite shut his shop,
the dyer took no notice but smoked his pipe.  Some people passed on, but
many stopped and stood round the poor man, saying nothing, but looking
concerned.  Two were well-dressed Copts on handsome donkeys, who
dismounted, and all waited till he went home, when about twenty men
accompanied him with a respectful air.  How strange it seems to us to go
out into the street and call on the passers-by to grieve with one!  I was
at the house of Hekekian Bey the other day when he received a parcel from
his former slave, now the Sultan’s chief eunuch.  It contained a very
fine photograph of the eunuch—whose face, though negro, is very
intelligent and of charming expression—a present of illustrated English
books, and some printed music composed by the Sultan, Abd el Aziz,
himself.  _O tempera_! _O mores_! one was a waltz.  The very ugliest and
scrubbiest of street dogs has adopted me—like the Irishman who wrote to
Lord Lansdowne that he had selected him as his patron—and he guards the
house and follows me in the street.  He is rewarded with scraps, and
Sally cost me a new tin mug by letting the dog drink out of the old one,
which was used to scoop the water from the jars, forgetting that Omar and
Zeyneb could not drink after the poor beast.

_Monday_.—I went yesterday to the port of Cairo, Boulak, to see Hassaneyn
Effendi about boats.  He was gone up the Nile, and I sat with his wife—a
very nice Turkish woman who speaks English to perfection—and heard all
sorts of curious things.  I heard the whole story of an unhappy marriage
made by Leyla, my hostess’s sister, and much Cairo gossip.  Like all
Eastern ladies that I have seen she complains of indigestion, and said
she knew she ought to go out more and to walk, but custom _e contra il
nostro decoro_.

Mr. Thayer will be back in Egypt on December 15, so I shall embark about
that time, as he may want his house here.  It is now a little fresh in
the early morning, but like fine English summer weather.

_Tuesday_.—Since I have been here my cough is nearly gone, and I am
better for having good food again.  Omar manages to get good mutton, and
I have discovered that some of the Nile fish is excellent.  The _abyad_,
six or eight feet long and very fat, is delicious, and I am told there
are still better; the eels are delicate and good too.  Maurice might hook
an _abyad_, but how would he land him?  The worst is that everything is
just double the price of last year, as, of course, no beef can be eaten
at all, and the draught oxen being dead makes labour dear as well.  The
high Nile was a small misfortune compared to the murrain.  There is a
legend about it, of course.  A certain Sheykh el-Beled (burgomaster) of
some place—not mentioned—lost his cattle, and being rich defied God, said
he did not care, and bought as many more; they died too, and he continued
impenitent and defiant, and bought on till he was ruined, and now he is
sinking into the earth bodily, though his friends dig and dig without
ceasing night and day.  It is curious how like the German legends the
Arab ones are.  All those about wasting bread wantonly are almost
identical.  If a bit is dirty, Omar carefully gives it to the dog; if
clean, he keeps it in a drawer for making breadcrumbs for cutlets; not a
bit must fall on the floor.  In other things they are careless enough,
but _das liebe Brod_ is sacred—_vide_ Grimm’s _Deutsche Sagen_.  I am
constantly struck with resemblances to German customs.  A Fellah wedding
is very like the German _Bauern hochzeit_ firing of guns and display of
household goods, only on a camel instead of a cart.  I have been trying
to get a teacher of Arabic, but it is very hard to find one who knows any
European language, and the consular dragoman asks four dollars a lesson.
I must wait till I get to Thebes, where I think a certain young Said can
teach me.  Meanwhile I am beginning to understand rather more and to
speak a very little.  Please direct to me to Briggs and Co. at Cairo; if
I am gone, the letters will follow up the river.



December 1, 1863: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                       _December_ 1, 1863.

DEAREST JANET,

I should much like to go with Thayer if his times and seasons will suit
mine; but I cannot wait indefinitely, still less come down the river
before the end of April.  But most likely the Pasha will give him a boat.
It is getting cold here and I feel my throat sore to-day.  I went to see
Hassan yesterday, he is much better, but very weak and pale.  It is such
a nice family—old father, mother, and sister, all well-bred and pleasing
like Hassan himself.  He almost shrieked at hearing of your fall, and is
most anxious to see you when you come here.  Zeyneb, after behaving very
well for three weeks, has turned quietly sullen and displays great
religious intolerance.  It would seem that the Berberi men have put it
into her head that we are inferior beings, and she pretends not to be
able to eat because she thinks everything is pig.  Omar’s eating the food
does not convince her.  As she evidently does not like us I will offer
her to Mrs. Hekekian Bey, and if she does not do there, in a household of
black Mussulman slaves, they must pass her on to a Turkish house.  She is
very clever and I am sorry, but to keep a sullen face about me is more
than I can endure, as I have shown her every possible kindness.  I think
she despises Omar for his affection towards me.  How much easier it is to
instil the bad part of religion than the good; it is really a curious
phenomenon in so young a child.  She waits capitally at table, and can do
most things, but she won’t move if the fancy takes her except when
ordered, and spends her time on the terrace.  One thing is that the life
is dull for a child, and I think she will be happier in a larger, more
bustling house.  I don’t know whether, after the fearful example of Mrs.
B., I can venture to travel up the Nile with such a _séducteur_ as our
dear Mr. Thayer.  What do you think?  Will gray hairs on my side and
_mutual_ bad lungs guarantee our international virtue; or will someone
ask the Pater when he means to divorce me?  Would it be considered that
Yankeedoodle had ‘stuck a feather in his cap’ by leading a British matron
and grandmother astray?



December 2, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                       _December_ 2, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

It is beginning to be cold here, and I only await the results of my
inquiries about possible houses at Thebes to hire a boat and depart.
Yesterday I saw a camel go through the eye of a needle—_i.e._, the low
arched door of an enclosure; he must kneel and bow his head to creep
through—and thus the rich man must humble himself.  See how a false
translation spoils a good metaphor, and turns a familiar simile into a
ferociously communist sentiment.  I expect Henry and Janet here in four
or five days when her ancle allows her to travel.  If I get a house at
Thebes, I will only hire a boat up and dismiss it, and trust to Allah for
my return.  There are rumours of troubles at Jeddah, and a sort of
expectation of fighting somewhere next spring; even here people are
buying arms to a great extent, I think the gunsmiths’ bazaar looks
unusually lively.  I do look forward to next November and your coming
here; I know you would donkey-ride all day in a state of ecstasy.  I
never saw so good a servant as Omar and such a nice creature, so pleasant
and good.  When I hear and see what other people spend here in travelling
and in living, and what bother they have, I say: ‘May God favour Omar and
his descendants.’

I stayed in bed yesterday for a cold, and my next-door neighbour, a
Coptic merchant, kept me awake all night by auditing his accounts with
his clerk.  How would you like to chant your rows of figures?  He had
just bought lots of cotton, and I had to get into my door on Monday over
a camel’s back, the street being filled with bales.

                                * * * * *

[The house at Thebes of which my mother speaks in the following letter
was built about 1815, over the ancient temple of Khem, by Mr. Salt,
English Consul-General in Egypt.  He was an archæologist and a student of
hieroglyphics, and when Belzoni landed at Alexandria was struck by his
ability, and sent him up to Thebes to superintend the removal of the
great bust of Memnon, now in the British Museum.  Belzoni, I believe,
lived for some time in Mr. Salt’s house, which afterwards became the
property of the French Government, and was known as the _Maison de
France_; it was pulled down in 1884 when the great temple of Luxor was
excavated by M. Maspero.  My late friend Miss A. B. Edwards wrote a
description of his work in the _Illustrated London News_, from which I
give a few extracts:

    ‘Squatters settled upon the temple like a swarm of mason bees; and
    the extent of the mischief they perpetrated in the course of
    centuries may be gathered from the fact that they raised the level of
    the surrounding soil to such a height that the obelisks, the colossi,
    and the entrance pylon were buried to a depth of 40 feet, while
    inside the building the level of the native village was 50 feet above
    the original pavement.  Seven months ago the first court contained
    not only the local mosque, but a labyrinthine maze of mud structures,
    numbering some thirty dwellings, and eighty strawsheds, besides
    yards, stables, and pigeon-towers, the whole being intersected by
    innumerable lanes and passages.  Two large mansions—real mansions,
    spacious and, in Arab fashion, luxurious,—blocked the great Colonnade
    of Horembebi; while the second court, and all the open spaces and
    ruined parts of the upper end of the Temple, were encumbered by
    sheepfolds, goat-yards, poultry-yards, donkey-sheds, clusters of mud
    huts, refuse-heaps, and piles of broken pottery.  Upon the roof of
    the portico there stood a large, rambling, ruinous old house, the
    property of the French Government, and known as the “Maison de
    France” . . .  Within its walls the illustrious Champollion and his
    ally Rosellini lived and worked together in 1829, during part of
    their long sojourn at Thebes.  Here the naval officers sent out by
    the French in 1831 to remove the obelisk which now stands in the
    Place de la Concorde took up their temporary quarters.  And here,
    most interesting to English readers, Lady Duff Gordon lingered
    through some of her last winters, and wrote most of her delightful
    “Letters from Egypt.”  A little balcony with a broken veranda and a
    bit of lattice-work parapet, juts out above some mud walls at the end
    of the building.  Upon that balcony she was wont to sit in the cool
    of the evening, watching the boats upon the river and the magical
    effect of the after-glow upon the Libyan mountains opposite.  All
    these buildings—“Maison de France,” stores, yards, etc. . . . are all
    swept away.’]



December 17, 1863: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                      _December_ 17, 1863.

DEAREST ALICK,

At last I hope I shall get off in a few days.  I have had one delay and
bother after another, chiefly caused by relying on the fine speeches of
Mr. D.  On applying straight to the French Consulate at Alexandria, Janet
got me the loan of the _Maison de France_ at Thebes at once.  M. Mounier,
the agent to Halim Pasha, is going up to Esneh, and will let me travel in
the steamer which is to tow his dahabieh.  It will be dirty, but will
cost little and take me out of this dreadful cold weather in five or six
days.

_December_ 22.—I wrote the above five days ago, since when I have had to
turn out of Thayer’s house, as his new Vice-Consul wanted it, and am back
at Briggs’.  M. Mounier is waiting in frantic impatience to set off, and
I ditto; but Ismail Pasha keeps him from day to day.  The worry of
depending on anyone in the East is beyond belief.  Tell your mother that
Lady Herbert is gone up the river; her son was much the better for Cairo.
I saw Pietro, her courier, who is stupendously grand, he offered Omar £8
a month to go with them; you may imagine how Pietro despised his
heathenish ignorance in preferring to stay with me for £3.  It quite
confirmed him in his contempt for the Arabs.

You would have laughed to hear me buying a carpet.  I saw an old broker
with one on his shoulder in the bazaar, and asked the price, ‘eight
napoleons’—then it was unfolded and spread in the street, to the great
inconvenience of passers-by, just in front of a coffee-shop.  I look at
it superciliously, and say, ‘Three hundred piastres, O uncle,’ the poor
old broker cries out in despair to the men sitting outside the
coffee-shop: ‘O Muslims, hear that and look at this excellent carpet.
Three hundred piastres!  By the faith, it is worth two thousand!’  But
the men take my part and one mildly says: ‘I wonder that an old man as
thou art should tell us that this lady, who is a traveller and a person
of experience, values it at three hundred—thinkest thou we will give thee
more?’  Then another suggests that if the lady will consent to give four
napoleons, he had better take them, and that settles it.  Everybody gives
an opinion here, and the price is fixed by a sort of improvised jury.

_Christmas Day_.—At last my departure is fixed.  I embark to-morrow
afternoon at Boulak, and we sail—or steam, rather—on Sunday morning
early, and expect to reach Thebes in eight days.  I heard a curious
illustration of Arab manners to-day.  I met Hassan, the janissary of the
American Consulate, a very respectable, good man.  He told me he had
married another wife since last year—I asked what for.  It was the widow
of his brother who had always lived with him in the same house, and who
died leaving two boys.  She is neither young nor handsome, but he
considered it his duty to provide for her and the children, and not to
let her marry a stranger.  So you see that polygamy is not always sensual
indulgence, and a man may practise greater self-sacrifice so than by
talking sentiment about deceased wives’ sisters.  Hassan has £3 a month,
and two wives come expensive.  I said, laughing, to Omar as we left him,
that I did not think the two wives sounded very comfortable.  ‘Oh no! not
comfortable at all for the man, but he take care of the women, that’s
what is proper—that is the good Mussulman.’

I shall have the company of a Turkish Effendi on my voyage—a Commissioner
of Inland Revenue, in fact, going to look after the tax-gatherers in the
Saeed.  I wonder whether he will be civil.  Sally is gone with some
English servants out to the Virgin’s tree, the great picnic frolic of
Cairene Christians, and, indeed, of Muslimeen also at some seasons.  Omar
is gone to a _Khatmeh_—a reading of the Koran—at Hassan the donkey-boy’s
house.  I was asked, but am afraid of the night air.  A good deal of
religious celebration goes on now, the middle of the month of Regeb, six
weeks before Ramadan.  I rather dread Ramadan as Omar is sure to be faint
and ill, and everybody else cross during the first five days or so; then
their stomachs get into training.  The new passenger-steamers have been
promised ever since the 6th, and will not now go till after the races—6th
or 7th of next month.  Fancy the Cairo races!  It is growing dreadfully
Cockney here, I must go to Timbuctoo: and we are to have a railway to
Mecca, and take return tickets for the _Haj_ from all parts of the world.



December 27, 1863: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                      BOULAK, ON BOARD A RIVER STEAM-BOAT,
                                                      _December_ 27, 1863.

DEAREST MUTTER,

After infinite delays and worries, we are at last on board, and shall
sail to-morrow morning.  After all was comfortably settled, Ismail Pasha
sent for _all_ the steamers up to Rhoda, near Minieh, and at the same
time ordered a Turkish General to come up instantly somehow.  So Latif
Pasha, the head of the steamers, had to turn me out of the best cabin,
and if I had not come myself, and taken rather forcible possession of the
forecastle cabin, the servants of the Turkish General would not have
allowed Omar to embark the baggage.  He had been waiting all the morning
in despair on the bank; but at four I arrived, and ordered the _hammals_
to carry the goods into the forecabin, and walked on board myself, where
the Arab captain pantomimically placed me in his right eye and on the top
of his head.  Once installed, this has become a hareem, and I may defy
the Turkish Effendi with success.  I have got a good-sized cabin with
good, clean divans round three sides for Sally and myself.  Omar will
sleep on deck and cook where he can.  A poor Turkish lady is to inhabit a
sort of dusthole by the side of my cabin; if she seems decent, I will
entertain her hospitably.  There is no furniture of any sort but the
divan, and we cook our own food, bring our own candles, jugs, basins,
beds and everything.  If Sally and I were not such complete Arabs we
should think it very miserable; but as things stand this year we say,
_Alhamdulillah_ it is no worse!  Luckily it is a very warm night, so we
can make our arrangements unchilled.  There is no door to the cabin, so
we nail up an old plaid, and, as no one ever looks into a hareem, it is
quite enough.  All on board are Arabs—captain, engineer, and men.  An
English Sitt is a novelty, and the captain is unhappy that things are not
_alla Franca_ for me.  We are to tow three dahabiehs—M. Mounier’s, one
belonging to the envoy from the Sultan of Darfour, and another.  Three
steamers were to have done it, but the Pasha had a fancy for all the
boats, and so our poor little craft must do her best.  Only fancy the
Queen ordering all the river steamers up to Windsor!

At Minieh the Turkish General leaves us, and we shall have the boat to
ourselves, so the captain has just been down to tell me.  I should like
to go with the gentlemen from Darfor, as you may suppose.  See what
strange combinations of people float on old Nile.  Two Englishwomen, one
French (Mme. Mounier), one Frenchman, Turks, Arabs, Negroes, Circassians,
and men from Darfor, all in one party; perhaps the third boat contains
some other strange element.  The Turks are from Constantinople and can’t
speak Arabic, and make faces at the muddy river water, which, indeed, I
would rather have filtered.

I hope to have letters from home to-morrow morning.  Hassan, my faithful
donkey-boy, will go to the post as soon as it is open and bring them down
to Boulak.  Darling Rainie sent me a card with a cock robin for
Christmas; how terribly I miss her dear little face and talk!  I am
pretty well now; I only feel rather weaker than before and more easily
tired.  I send you a kind letter of Mme. Tastu’s, who got her son to lend
me the house at Thebes.



January 3, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                         ON BOARD THE STEAMER, NEAR SIOUT,
                                              _Sunday_, _January_ 3, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

We left Cairo last Sunday morning, and a wonderfully queer company we
were.  I had been promised all the steamer to myself, but owing to Ismail
Pasha’s caprices our little steamer had to do the work of three—_i.e._,
to carry passengers, to tow M. Mounier’s dahabieh, and to tow the oldest,
dirtiest, queerest Nubian boat, in which the young son of the Sultan of
Darfoor and the Sultan’s envoy, a handsome black of Dongola (not a
negro), had visited Ismail Pasha.  The best cabin was taken by a sulky
old one-eyed Turkish Pasha, so I had the fore-cabin, luckily a large one,
where I slept with Sally on one divan and I on the other, and Omar at my
feet.  He tried sleeping on deck, but the Pasha’s Arnouts were too bad
company, and the captain begged me to ‘cover my face’ and let my servant
sleep at my feet.  Besides, there was a poor old asthmatic Turkish
Effendi going to collect the taxes, and a lot of women in the
engine-room, and children also.  It would have been insupportable but for
the hearty politeness of the Arab captain, a regular ‘old salt,’ and
owing to his attention and care it was only very amusing.

At Benisouef, the first town above Cairo (seventy miles), we found no
coals: the Pasha had been up and taken them all.  So we kicked our heels
on the bank all day, with the prospect of doing so for a week.  The
captain brought H.R.H. of Darfoor to visit me, and to beg me to make him
hear reason about the delay, as I, being English, must know that a
steamer could not go without coals.  H.R.H. was a pretty imperious little
nigger about eleven or twelve, dressed in a yellow silk kuftan and a
scarlet burnous, who cut the good old captain short by saying, ‘Why, she
is a woman; she can’t talk to me.’  ‘Wallah! wallah! what a way to talk
to English Hareem!’ shrieked the captain, who was about to lose his
temper; but I had a happy idea and produced a box of French sweetmeats,
which altered the young Prince’s views at once.  I asked if he had
brothers.  ‘Who can count them? they are like mice.’  He said that the
Pasha had given him only a few presents, and was evidently not pleased.
Some of his suite are the most formidable-looking wild beasts in human
shape I ever beheld—bulldogs and wild-boars black as ink, red-eyed, and,
ye gods! such jowls and throats and teeth!—others like monkeys, with arms
down to their knees.

The Illyrian Arnouts on board our boat are revoltingly white—like fish or
drowned people, no pink in the tallowy skin at all.  There were Greeks
also who left us at Minieh (second large town), and the old Pasha left
this morning at Rodah.  The captain at once ordered all my goods into the
cabin he had left and turned out the Turkish Effendi, who wanted to stay
and sleep with us.  No impropriety! he said he was an old man and sick,
and my company would be agreeable to him; then he said he was ashamed
before the people to be turned out by an English woman.  So I was civil
and begged him to pass the day and to dine with me, and that set all
right, and now after dinner he has gone off quite pleasantly to the
fore-cabin and left me here.  I have a stern-cabin, a saloon and an
anteroom here, so we are comfortable enough—only the fleas!  Never till
now did I know what fleas could be; even Omar groaned and tossed in his
sleep, and Sally and I woke every ten minutes.  Perhaps this cabin may be
better, some fleas may have landed in the beds of the Turks.  I send a
dish from my table every day henceforth to the captain; as I take the
place of a Pasha it is part of my dignity to do so; and as I occupy the
kitchen and burn the ship’s coals, I may as well let the captain dine a
little at my expense.  In the day I go up and sit in his cabin on deck,
and we talk as well as we can without an interpreter.  The old fellow is
sixty-seven, but does not look more than forty-five.  He has just the air
and manner of a seafaring-man with us, and has been wrecked four
times—the last in the Black Sea during the Crimean War, when he was taken
prisoner by the Russians and sent to Moscow for three years, until the
peace.  He has a charming boy of eleven with him, and he tells me he has
twelve children in all, but only one wife, and is as strict a monogamist
as Dr. Primrose, for he told me he should not marry again if she died,
nor he believed would she.  He is surprised at my gray hair.

There are a good many Copts on board too, of a rather low class and not
pleasant.  The Christian gentlemen are very pleasant, but the low are
_low_ indeed compared to the Muslimeen, and one gets a feeling of
dirtiness about them to see them eat all among the coals, and then squat
there and pull out their beads to pray without washing their hands even.
It does look nasty when compared to the Muslim coming up clean washed,
and standing erect and manly—looking to his prayers; besides they are
coarse in their manners and conversation and have not the Arab respect
for women.  I only speak of the common people—not of educated Copts.  The
best fun was to hear the Greeks (one of whom spoke English) abusing the
Copts—rogues, heretics, schismatics from the Greek Church, ignorant,
rapacious, cunning, impudent, etc., etc.  In short, they narrated the
whole fable about their own sweet selves.  I am quite surprised to see
how well these men manage their work.  The boat is quite as clean as an
English boat as crowded could be kept, and the engine in beautiful order.
The head-engineer, Achmet Effendi, and indeed all the crew and captain
too, wear English clothes and use the universal ‘All right, stop
her—fooreh (full) speed, half speed—turn her head,’ etc.  I was delighted
to hear ‘All right—go ahead—_el-Fathah_’ in one breath.  Here we always
say the _Fathah_ (first chapter of the Koran, nearly identical with the
Lord’s Prayer) when starting on a journey, concluding a bargain, etc.
The combination was very quaint.  There are rats and fleas on board, but
neither bugs nor cockroaches.  Already the climate has changed, the air
is sensibly drier and clearer and the weather much warmer, and we are not
yet at Siout.  I remarked last year that the climate changed most at
Keneh, forty miles below Thebes.  The banks are terribly broken and
washed away by the inundation, and the Nile far higher even now than it
was six weeks earlier last year.

At Benisouef, which used to be the great cattle place, not a buffalo was
left, and we could not get a drop of milk.  But since we left Minieh we
see them again, and I hear the disease is not spreading up the river.
Omar told me that the poor people at Benisouef were complaining of the
drought and prospect of scarcity, as they could no longer water the land
for want of oxen.  I paid ten napoleons passage-money, and shall give
four or five more as backsheesh, as I have given a good deal of trouble
with all my luggage, beddings, furniture, provisions for four months,
etc., and the boat’s people have been more than civil, really kind and
attentive to us; but a bad dahabieh would have cost forty, so I am
greatly the gainer.  Nothing can exceed the muddle, uncertainty and
carelessness of the ‘administration’ at Cairo: no coals at the depots,
boats announced to sail and dawdling on three weeks, no order and no care
for anybody’s convenience but the Pasha’s own.  But the subordinates on
board the boats do their work perfectly well.  We go only half as quickly
as we ought because we have two very heavy dahabiehs in tow instead of
one; but no time is lost, as long as the light lasts we go, and start
again as soon as the moon rises.  The people on board have promoted me in
rank—and call me ‘el-Ameereh,’ an obsolete Arab title which the engineer
thinks is the equivalent of ‘Ladysheep,’ as he calls it.  ‘Sitti,’ he
said, was the same as ‘Meessees.’  I don’t know how he acquired his ideas
on the subject of English precedence.

Omar has just come in with coffee, and begs me to give his best salaam to
his big master and his little master and lady, and not to forget to tell
them he is their servant and my memlook (slave) ‘from one hand to the
other’ (the whole body).  If we stay at all at Siout, I will ride a
donkey up to Wassef’s house, and leave this letter for him to send down
with his next opportunity to Cairo.  At Keneh we must try to find time to
buy two filters and some gullehs (water-coolers); they are made there.
At Thebes nothing can be got.

How I do wish you were here to enjoy all the new and strange sights!  I
am sure it would amuse you, and as the fleas don’t bite you there would
be no drawback.  Janet sent me a photo of dear little Rainie; it is ugly,
but very like the ‘zuweyeh’ (little one).  Give her no end of kisses, and
thank her for the cock robin, which pleased me quite as much as she
thought it would.



January 5, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                             _Tuesday_, _January_ 5, 1864.

We left Siout this afternoon.  The captain had announced that we should
start at ten o’clock, so I did not go into the town, but sent Omar to buy
food and give my letter and best salaam to Wassef.  But the men of
Darfoor all went off declaring that they would stop, promising to cut off
the captain’s head if he went without them.  Hassan Effendi, the Turk,
was furious, and threatened to telegraph his complaints to Cairo if we
did not go directly, and the poor captain was in a sad quandary.  He
appealed to me, peaceably sitting on the trunk of a palm-tree with some
poor _fellaheen_ (of whom more anon).  I uttered the longest sentence I
could compose in Arabic, to the effect that he was captain, and that
while on the boat we were all bound to obey him.  ‘_Mashallah_! one
English Hareem is worth more than ten men for sense; these Ingeleez have
only one word both for themselves and for other people:
_doghree_—_doghree_ (right is right); this Ameereh is ready to obey like
a memlook, and when she has to command—whew!’—with a most expressive toss
back of the head.  The bank was crowded with poor _fellaheen_ who had
been taken for soldiers and sent to await the Pasha’s arrival at Girgeh;
three weeks they lay there, and were then sent down to Soohaj (the Pasha
wanted to see them himself and pick out the men he liked); eight days
more at Soohaj, then to Siout eight days more, and meanwhile Ismail Pasha
has gone back to Cairo and the poor souls may wait indefinitely, for no
one will venture to remind the Pasha of their trifling existence.
_Wallah_, _wallah_!

While I was walking on the bank with M. and Mme. Mounier, a person came
up and saluted them whose appearance puzzled me.  Don’t call me a Persian
when I tell you it was an eccentric Bedawee young lady.  She was eighteen
or twenty at most, dressed like a young man, but small and feminine and
rather pretty, except that one eye was blind.  Her dress was handsome,
and she had women’s jewels, diamonds, etc., and a European watch and
chain.  Her manner was excellent, quite _ungenirt_, and not the least
impudent or swaggering, and I was told—indeed, I could hear—that her
language was beautiful, a thing much esteemed among Arabs.  She is a
virgin and fond of travelling and of men’s society, being very clever, so
she has her dromedary and goes about quite alone.  No one seemed
surprised, no one stared, and when I asked if it was _proper_, our
captain was surprised.  ‘Why not? if she does not wish to marry, she can
go alone; if she does, she can marry—what harm?  She is a virgin and
free.’  She went to breakfast with the Mouniers on their boat (Mme. M. is
Egyptian born, and both speak Arabic perfectly), and the young lady had
many things to ask them, she said.  She expressed her opinions pretty
freely as far as I could understand her.  Mme. Mounier had heard of her
before, and said she was much respected and admired.  M. Mounier had
heard that she was a spy of the Pasha’s, but the people on board the boat
here say that the truth was that she went before Said Pasha herself to
complain of some tyrannical Moodir who ground and imprisoned the
_fellaheen_—a bold thing for a girl to do.  To me she seems, anyhow, far
the most curious thing I have yet seen.

The weather is already much warmer, it is nine in the evening, we are
steaming along and I sit with the cabin window open.  My cough is, of
course, a great deal better.  _Inshallah_!  Above Keneh (about another
150 miles) it will go away.  To-day, for the first time, I pulled my
cloak over my head in the sun, it was so stinging hot—quite delicious,
and it is the 5th of January.  _Poveri voi_ in the cold!  Our captain was
prisoner for three years at Moscow and at Bakshi Serai, and declares he
never saw the sun at all—hard lines for an Egyptian.  Do you remember the
cigarettes you bought for me at Eaux Bonnes?  Well, I gave them to the
old Turkish Effendi, who is dreadfully asthmatic, and he is enchanted; of
course five other people came to be cured directly.  The rhubarb pills
are a real comfort to travellers, for they can’t do much harm, and
inspire great confidence.

Luckily we left all the fleas behind in the fore-cabin, for the benefit
of the poor old Turk, who, I hear, suffers severely.  The divans were all
brand-new, and the fleas came in the cotton stuffing, for there are no
live things of any sort in the rest of the boat.

                                                                   GIRGEH,
                                                        _January_ 9, 1864.

We have put in here for the night.  To-day we took on board three
convicts in chains, two bound for Fazogloo, one for calumny and perjury,
and one for manslaughter.  Hard labour for life in that climate will soon
dispose of them.  The third is a petty thief from Keneh who has been a
year in chains in the Custom-house of Alexandria, and is now being taken
back to be shown in his own place in his chains.  The _causes célèbres_
of this country would be curious reading; they do their crimes so
differently to us.  If I can get hold of anyone who can relate a few
cases well, I’ll write them down.  Omar has told me a few, but he may not
know the details quite exactly.

I made further inquiries about the Bedawee lady, who is older than she
looks, for she has travelled constantly for ten years.  She is rich and
much respected, and received in all the best houses, where she sits with
the men all day and sleeps in the hareem.  She has been in the interior
of Africa and to Mecca, speaks Turkish, and M. Mounier says he found her
extremely agreeable, full of interesting information about all the
countries she had visited.  As soon as I can talk I must try and find her
out; she likes the company of Europeans.

Here is a contribution to folk-lore, new even to Lane I think.  When the
coffee-seller lights his stove in the morning, he makes two cups of
coffee of the best and nicely sugared, and pours them out all over the
stove, saying, ‘God bless or favour Sheykh Shadhilee and his
descendants.’  The blessing on the saint who invented coffee of course I
knew, and often utter, but the libation is new to me.  You see the
ancient religion crops up even through the severe faith of Islam.  If I
could describe all the details of an Arab, and still more of a Coptic,
wedding, you would think I was relating the mysteries of Isis.  At one
house I saw the bride’s father looking pale and anxious, and Omar said,
‘I think he wants to hold his stomach with both hands till the women tell
him if his daughter makes his face white.’  It was such a good phrase for
the sinking at heart of anxiety.  It certainly seems more reasonable that
a woman’s misconduct should blacken her father’s face than her husband’s.
There are a good many things about hareem here which I am barbarian
enough to think extremely good and rational.  An old Turk of Cairo, who
had been in Europe, was talking to an Englishman a short time ago, who
politely chaffed him about Mussulman license.  The venerable Muslim
replied, ‘Pray, how many women have you, who are quite young, seen (that
is the Eastern phrase) in your whole life?’  The Englishman could not
count—of course not.  ‘Well, young man, I am old, and was married at
twelve, and I have seen in all my life seven women; four are dead, and
three are happy and comfortable in my house.  _Where are all yours_?’
Hassaneyn Effendi heard the conversation, which passed in French, and was
amused at the question.

I find that the criminal convicted of calumny accused, together with
twenty-nine others not in custody, the Sheykh-el-Beled of his place of
murdering his servant, and produced a basket full of bones as proof, but
the Sheykh-el-Beled produced the living man, and his detractor gets hard
labour for life.  The proceeding is characteristic of the childish
_ruses_ of this country.  I inquired whether the thief who was dragged in
chains through the streets would be able to find work, and was told, ‘Oh,
certainly; is he not a poor man?  For the sake of God everyone will be
ready to help him.’  An absolute uncertainty of justice naturally leads
to this result.  Our captain was quite shocked to hear that in my country
we did not like to employ a returned convict.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _January_ 13, 1864.

We spent all the afternoon of Saturday at Keneh, where I dined with the
English Consul, a worthy old Arab, who also invited our captain, and we
all sat round his copper tray on the floor and ate with our fingers, the
captain, who sat next me, picking out the best bits and feeding me and
Sally with them.  After dinner the French Consul, a Copt, one Jesus
Buktor, sent to invite me to a fantasia at his house, where I found the
Mouniers, the Moudir, and some other Turks, and a disagreeable Italian,
who stared at me as if I had been young and pretty, and put Omar into a
great fury.  I was glad to see the dancing-girls, but I liked old Seyyid
Achmet’s patriarchal ways much better than the tone of the Frenchified
Copt.  At first I thought the dancing queer and dull.  One girl was very
handsome, but cold and uninteresting; one who sang was also very pretty
and engaging, and a dear little thing.  But the dancing was contortions,
more or less graceful, _very_ wonderful as gymnastic feats, and no more.
But the captain called out to one Latifeh, an ugly, clumsy-looking wench,
to show the Sitt what she could do.  And then it was revealed to me.  The
ugly girl started on her feet and became the ‘serpent of old Nile,’—the
head, shoulders and arms eagerly bent forward, waist in, and haunches
advanced on the bent knees—the posture of a cobra about to spring.  I
could not call it _voluptuous_ any more than Racine’s _Phèdre_.  It is
_Venus toute entière à sa proie attachée_, and to me seemed tragic.  It
is far more realistic than the ‘fandango,’ and far less coquettish,
because the thing represented is _au grande sérieux_, not travestied,
_gazé_, or played with; and like all such things, the Arab men don’t
think it the least improper.  Of course the girls don’t commit any
indecorums before European women, except the dance itself.  Seyyid Achmet
would have given me a fantasia, but he feared I might have men with me,
and he had had a great annoyance with two Englishmen who wanted to make
the girls dance naked, which they objected to, and he had to turn them
out of his house after hospitably entertaining them.

Our procession home to the boat was very droll.  Mme. Mounier could not
ride an Arab saddle, so I lent her mine and _enfourché’d_ my donkey, and
away we went with men running with ‘meshhaals’ (fire-baskets on long
poles) and lanterns, and the captain shouting out ‘Full speed!’ and such
English phrases all the way—like a regular old salt as he is.  We got
here last night, and this morning Mustapha A’gha and the Nazir came down
to conduct me up to my palace.  I have such a big rambling house all over
the top of the temple of Khem.  How I wish I had you and the chicks to
fill it!  We had about twenty _fellahs_ to clean the dust of _three
years_’ accumulation, and my room looks quite handsome with carpets and a
divan.  Mustapha’s little girl found her way here when she heard I was
come, and it seemed quite pleasant to have her playing on the carpet with
a dolly and some sugar-plums, and making a feast for dolly on a saucer,
arranging the sugar-plums Arab fashion.  She was monstrously pleased with
Rainie’s picture and kissed it.  Such a quiet, nice little brown tot, and
curiously like Rainie and walnut-juice.

  [Picture: Luxor, by Edward Lear, showing Lady Duff Gordon’s house, now
                                destroyed]

The view all round my house is magnificent on every side, over the Nile
in front facing north-west, and over a splendid range of green and
distant orange buff hills to the south-east, where I have a spacious
covered terrace.  It is rough and dusty to the extreme, but will be very
pleasant.  Mustapha came in just now to offer me the loan of a horse, and
to ask me to go to the mosque in a few nights to see the illumination in
honour of a great Sheykh, a son of Sidi Hosseyn or Hassan.  I asked
whether my presence might not offend any Muslimeen, and he would not hear
of such a thing.  The sun set while he was here, and he asked if I
objected to his praying in my presence, and went through his four
_rekahs_ very comfortably on my carpet.  My next-door neighbour (across
the courtyard all filled with antiquities) is a nice little Copt who
looks like an antique statue himself.  I shall _voisiner_ with his
family.  He sent me coffee as soon as I arrived, and came to help.  I am
invited to El-Moutaneh, a few hours up the river, to visit the Mouniers,
and to Keneh to visit Seyyid Achmet, and also the head of the merchants
there who settled the price of a carpet for me in the bazaar, and seemed
to like me.  He was just one of those handsome, high-bred, elderly
merchants with whom a story always begins in the Arabian Nights.  When I
can talk I will go and see a real Arab hareem.  A very nice English
couple, a man and his wife, gave me breakfast in their boat, and turned
out to be business connections of Ross’s, of the name of Arrowsmith; they
were going to Assouan, and I shall see them on their way back.  I asked
Mustapha about the Arab young lady, and he spoke very highly of her, and
is to let me know if she comes here and to offer hospitality from me: he
did not know her name—she is called ‘el _Hággeh_’ (the Pilgrimess).

_Thursday_.—Now I am settled in my Theban palace, it seems more and more
beautiful, and I am quite melancholy that you cannot be here to enjoy it.
The house is very large and has good thick walls, the comfort of which we
feel to-day for it blows a hurricane; but indoors it is not at all cold.
I have glass windows and doors to some of the rooms.  It is a lovely
dwelling.  Two funny little owls as big as my fist live in the wall under
my window, and come up and peep in, walking on tip-toe, and looking
inquisitive like the owls in the hieroglyphics; and a splendid horus (the
sacred hawk) frequents my lofty balcony.  Another of my contemplar gods I
sacrilegiously killed last night, a whip snake.  Omar is rather in
consternation for fear it should be ‘the snake of the house,’ for Islam
has not dethroned the _Dii lares et tutelares_.

I have been ‘sapping’ at the _Alif Bey_ (A B C) to-day, under the
direction of Sheykh Yussuf, a graceful, sweet-looking young man, with a
dark brown face and such fine manners, in his _fellah_ dress—a coarse
brown woollen shirt, a _libdeh_, or felt skull-cap, and a common red
shawl round his head and shoulders; writing the wrong way is very hard
work.  Some men came to mend the staircase, which had fallen in and which
consists of huge solid blocks of stone.  One crushed his thumb and I had
to operate on it.  It is extraordinary how these people bear pain; he
never winced in the least, and went off thanking God and the lady quite
cheerfully.  Till to-day the weather has been quite heavenly; last night
I sat with my window open, it was so warm.  If only I had you all here!
How Rainie would play in the temple, Maurice fish in the Nile, and you go
about with your spectacles on your nose.  I think you would discard
Frangi dress and take to a brown shirt and a _libdeh_, and soon be as
brown as any _fellah_.  It was so curious to see Sheykh Yussuf blush from
shyness when he came in first; it shows quite as much in the coffee-brown
Arab skin as in the fairest European—quite unlike the much
lighter-coloured mulatto or Malay, who never change colour at all.  A
photographer who is living here showed me photographs done high up the
White Nile.  One negro girl is so splendid that I must get him to do me a
copy to send you.  She is not perfect like the Nubians, but so superbly
strong and majestic.  If I can get hold of a handsome _fellahah_ here,
I’ll get her photographed to show you in Europe what a woman’s breast can
be, for I never knew it before I came here—it is the most beautiful thing
in the world.  The dancing-girl I saw moved her breasts by some
extraordinary muscular effort, first one and then the other; they were
just like pomegranates and gloriously independent of stays or any
support.



January 20, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                          _Wednesday_, _January_ 20, 1864.

I received your welcome letters of December 15 and 25 on Monday, to my
great joy, but was much grieved to hear of Thomas’s death, and still more
so to hear from Janet that Thackeray and Mrs. Alison were dead.  She died
the morning I left Cairo, so her last act almost was to send sweetmeats
to the boat after me on the evening before.  Poor dear soul her sweetness
and patience were very touching.  We have had a week of piercing winds,
and yesterday I stayed in bed, to the great surprise of Mustapha’s little
girl who came to see me.  To-day was beautiful again, and I mounted old
Mustapha’s cob pony and jogged over his farm with him, and lunched on
delicious sour cream and _fateereh_ at a neighbouring village, to the
great delight of the _fellaheen_.  It was more Biblical than ever; the
people were all relations of Mustapha’s, and to see Sidi Omar, the head
of the household, and the ‘young men coming in from the field,’ and the
‘flocks and herds and camels and asses,’ was like a beautiful dream.  All
these people are of high blood, and a sort of ‘roll of Battle’ is kept
here for the genealogies of the noble Arabs who came in with Amr—the
first Arab conqueror and lieutenant of Omar.  Not one of these brown men,
who do not own a second shirt, would give his brown daughter to the
greatest Turkish Pasha.  This country _noblesse_ is more interesting to
me by far than the town people, though Omar, who is quite a Cockney, and
piques himself on being ‘delicate,’ turns up his nose at their beggarly
pride, as Londoners used to do at bare-legged Highlanders.  The air of
perfect equality—except as to the respect due to the head of the
clan—with which the villagers treated Mustapha, and which he fully
returned, made it all seem so very gentlemanly.  They are not so dazzled
by a little show, and far more manly than the Cairenes.  I am on visiting
terms with all the ‘county families’ resident in Luxor already.  The
Názir (magistrate) is a very nice person, and my Sheykh Yussuf, who is of
the highest blood (being descended from Abu-l-Hajjaj himself), is quite
charming.  There is an intelligent little German here as Austrian Consul,
who draws nicely.  I went into his house, and was startled by hearing a
pretty Arab boy, his servant, inquire, ‘_Soll ich den Kaffee bringen_?’
What next?  They are all mad to learn languages, and Mustapha begs me and
Sally to teach his little girl Zeyneb English.

_Friday_, 22_nd_.—Yesterday I rode over to Karnac, with Mustapha’s _sais_
running by my side.  Glorious hot sun and delicious air.  To hear the
_sais_ chatter away, his tongue running as fast as his feet, made me
deeply envious of his lungs.  Mustapha joined me, and pressed me to go to
visit the Sheykh’s tomb for the benefit of my health, as he and Sheykh
Yussuf wished to say a _Fathah_ for me; but I must not drink wine at
dinner.  I made a little difficulty on the score of difference of
religion, but Sheykh Yussuf, who came up, said that he presumed I
worshipped God, and not stones, and that sincere prayers were good
anywhere.  Clearly the bigotry would have been on my side if I had
refused any longer.  So in the evening I went with Mustapha.  It was a
very curious sight, the little dome illuminated with as much oil as the
mosque could afford, and the tombs of Abu-l-Hajjaj and his three sons.  A
magnificent old man, like Father Abraham himself, dressed in white, sat
on a carpet at the foot of the tomb; he was the head of the family of
Abu-l-Hajjaj.  He made me sit by, and was extremely polite.  Then came
the Názir, the Kadee, a Turk travelling on Government business, and a few
other gentlemen, who all sat down round us after kissing the hand of the
old Sheykh.  Everyone talked; in fact it was a _soirée_ for the
entertainment of the dead Sheykh.  A party of men sat at the further end
of the place, with their faces to the Kibleh, and played on a
_taraboukeh_ (sort of small drum stretched on earthenware which gives a
peculiar sound), a tambourine without bells, and little tinkling cymbals
fitting on thumb and fingers (crotales), and chanted songs in honour of
Mohammed and verses from the Psalms of David.  Every now and then one of
our party left off talking, and prayed a little or counted his beads.
The old Sheykh sent for coffee, and gave me the first cup—a wonderful
concession.  At last the Názir proposed a _Fathah_ for me, which the
whole group round me repeated aloud, and then each said to me, ‘Our Lord
God bless and give thee health and peace, to thee and thy family, and
take thee back safe to thy master and thy children,’ one adding _Ameen_
and giving the salaam with the hand.  I returned it, and said, ‘Our Lord
reward thee and all the people of kindness to strangers,’ which was
considered a very proper answer.  After that we went away, and the worthy
Názir walked home with me to take a pipe and a glass of sherbet, and
enjoy a talk about his wife and eight children, who are all in
Foum-el-Bachr’, except two boys at school in Cairo.  Government
appointments are so precarious that it is not worth while to move them up
here, as the expense would be too heavy on a salary of £15 a month, with
the chance of recall any day.  In Cairo or Lower Egypt it would be quite
impossible for a Christian to enter a Sheykh’s tomb at all—above all on
his birthday festival and on the night of Friday.

_Friday_, _January_ 29.—I have been too unwell to write all this week,
but will finish this to-day to send off by Lady Herbert’s boat.  The last
week has been very cold here, the thermometer at 59° and 60°, with a
nipping wind and bright sun.  I was obliged to keep my bed for three or
four days, as of course a _palazzo_ without doors or windows to speak of
was very trying, though far better than a boat.  Yesterday and to-day are
much better, not really much warmer, but a different air.

The _moolid_ (festival) of the Sheykh terminated last Saturday with a
procession, in which the new cover of his tomb, and the ancient sacred
boat, were carried on men’s shoulders.  It all seemed to have walked out
of the royal tombs, only dusty and shabby instead of gorgeous.  These
festivals of the dead are such as Herodotus alludes to as held in honour
of ‘Him whose name he dares not mention—Him who sleeps in Philæ,’ only
the name is changed and the mummy is absent.

For a fortnight everyone who had a horse and could ride came and ‘made
fantasia’ every afternoon for two hours before sunset; and very pretty it
was.  The people here show their good blood in their riding.  On the last
three days all strangers were entertained with bread and cooked meat at
the expense of the Luxor people; every house killed a sheep and baked
bread.  As I could not do that for want of servants enough, I sent 100
piastres (12s) to the servants of Abu-l-Hajjaj at the mosque to pay for
the oil burnt at the tomb, etc.  I was not well and in bed, but I hear
that my gift gave immense satisfaction, and that I was again well prayed
for.  The Coptic Bishop came to see me, but he is a tipsy old monk and an
impudent beggar.  He sent for tea as he was ill, so I went to see him,
and perceived that his disorder was arrakee.  He has a very nice black
slave, a Christian (Abyssinian, I think), who is a friend of Omar’s, and
who sent Omar a handsome dinner all ready cooked; among other things a
chicken stuffed with green wheat was excellent.  Omar constantly gets
dinners sent him, a lot of bread, some dates and cooked fowls or pigeons,
and _fateereh_ with honey, all tied up hot in a cloth.  I gave an old
fellow a pill and dose some days ago, but his _dura ilia_ took no notice,
and he came for more, and got castor-oil.  I have not seen him since, but
his employer, _fellah_ Omar, sent me a lot of delicious butter in return.
I think it shows great intelligence in these people, how none of them
will any longer consult an Arab _hakeem_ if they can get a European to
physic them.  They now ask directly whether the Government doctors have
been to Europe to learn _Hekmeh_, and if not they don’t trust them—for
poor ‘savages’ and ‘heathens’ _ce n’est pas si bête_.  I had to interrupt
my lessons from illness, but Sheykh Yussuf came again last night.  I have
mastered _Abba shedda o mus beteen_—_ibbi shedda o heftedeen_, etc.  Oh
dear, what must poor Arab children suffer in learning ABC!  It is a
terrible alphabet, and the _shekel_ (points) are _désespérants_; but now
I stick for want of a dictionary.

Mr. Arrowsmith kindly gave me Miss Martineau’s book, which I have begun.
It is true as far as it goes, but there is the usual defect—the people
are not real people, only part of the scenery to her, as to most
Europeans.  You may conceive how much we are naturalized when I tell you
that I have received a serious offer of marriage for Sally.  Mustapha
A’gha has requested me to ‘give her to him’ for his eldest son Seyyid, a
nice lad of nineteen or twenty at most.  As Mustapha is the richest and
most considerable person here, it shows that the Arabs draw no
unfavourable conclusions as to our morals from the freedom of our
manners.  He said of course she would keep her own religion and her own
customs.  Seyyid is still in Alexandria, so it will be time to refuse
when he returns.  I said she was too old, but they think that no
objection at all.  She will have to say that her father would not allow
it, for of course a handsome offer deserves a civil refusal.  Sally’s
proposals would be quite an ethnological study; Mustapha asked what I
should require as dowry for her.  Fancy Sally as Hareem of the
Sheykh-el-Beled of Luxor!

I am so charmed with my house that I begin seriously to contemplate
staying here all the time.  Cairo is so dear now, and so many dead cattle
are buried there, that I think I should do better in this place.  There
is a huge hall, so large and cold now as to be uninhabitable, which in
summer would be glorious.  My dear old captain of steamer XII. would
bring me up coffee and candles, and if I ‘sap’ and learn to talk to
people, I shall have plenty of company.

The cattle disease has not extended above Minieh to any degree, and here
there has not been a case.  _Alhamdulillah_!  Food is very good here,
rather less than half Cairo prices even now; in summer it will be half
that.  Mustapha urges me to stay, and proposes a picnic of a few days
over in the tombs with his Hareem as a diversion.  I have got a photo,
for a stereoscope, which I send you, of my two beloved, lovely palm-trees
on the river-bank just above and looking over Philæ.

Hitherto my right side has been the bad one, but now one side is uneasy
and the other impossible to lie on.  It does not make one sleep
pleasantly, and the loss of my good, sound sleep tries me, and so I don’t
seem well.  We shall see what hot weather will do; if that fails I will
give up the contest, and come home to see as much as I shall have time
for of you and my chicks.



February 7, 1864: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                              _Sunday_, _February_ 7, 1864

DEAREST MUTTER,

We have had our winter pretty sharp for three weeks, and everybody has
had violent colds and coughs—the Arabs, I mean.

I have been a good deal ailing, but have escaped any violent cold
altogether, and now the thermometer is up to 64°, and it feels very
pleasant.  In the sun it is always very hot, but that does not prevent
the air from being keen, and chapping lips and noses, and even hands; it
is curious how a temperature, which would be summer in England, makes one
shiver at Thebes—_Alhamdulillah_! it is over now.

My poor Sheykh Yussuf is in great distress about his brother, also a
young Sheykh (_i.e._, one learned in theology and competent to preach in
the mosque).  Sheykh Mohammed is come home from studying in ‘El-Azhar’ at
Cairo—I fear to die.  I went with Sheykh Yussuf, at his desire, to see if
I could help him, and found him gasping for breath and very, very ill.  I
gave him a little soothing medicine, and put mustard plasters on him, and
as it relieved him, I went again and repeated them.  All the family and a
lot of neighbours crowded in to look on.  There he lay in a dark little
den with bare mud walls, worse off, to our ideas, than any pauper; but
these people do not feel the want of comforts, and one learns to think it
quite natural to sit with perfect gentlemen in places inferior to our
cattle-sheds.  I pulled some blankets up against the wall, and put my arm
behind Sheykh Mohammed’s back to make him rest while the poultices were
on him, whereupon he laid his green turban on my shoulder, and presently
held up his delicate brown face for a kiss like an affectionate child.
As I kissed him, a very pious old moollah said _Bismillah_ (In the name
of God) with an approving nod, and Sheykh Mohammed’s old father, a
splendid old man in a green turban, thanked me with effusion, and prayed
that my children might always find help and kindness.  I suppose if I
confessed to kissing a ‘dirty Arab’ in a ‘hovel’ the English travellers
would execrate me; but it shows how much there is in ‘Mussulman bigotry,
unconquerable hatred, etc.,’ for this family are Seyyids (descendents of
the Prophet) and very pious.  Sheykh Yussuf does not even smoke, and he
preaches on Fridays.  You would love these Saeedees, they are such
thorough gentlemen.  I rode over to the village a few days ago to see a
farmer named Omar.  Of course I had to eat, and the people were enchanted
at my going alone, as they are used to see the English armed and guarded.
Sidi Omar, however, insisted on accompanying me home, which is the civil
thing here.  He piled a whole stack of green fodder on his little nimble
donkey, and hoisted himself atop of it without saddle or bridle (the
fodder was for Mustapha A’gha), and we trotted home across the beautiful
green barley-fields, to the amazement of some European young men out
shooting.  We did look a curious pair, certainly, with my English saddle
and bridle, habit, hat and feather, on horseback, and Sidi Omar’s brown
shirt, brown legs and white turban, guiding his donkey with his
chibouque.  We were laughing very merrily, too, over my blundering
Arabic.

Young Heathcote and Strutt called here, but were hurrying on up the
river.  I shall see more of them when they come down.  Young Strutt is so
like his mother I knew him in the street.  I would like to give him a
fantasia, but it is not proper for a woman to send for the dancing-girls,
and as I am the friend of the Maōhn (police magistrate), the Kadee, and
the respectable people here, I cannot do what is indecent in their eyes.
It is quite enough that they approve my unveiled face, and my associating
with men; that is ‘my custom,’ and they think no harm of it.

To-morrow or next day Ramadan begins at the first sight of the new moon.
It is a great nuisance, because everybody is cross.  Omar did not keep it
last year, but this year he will, and if he spoils my dinners, who can
blame him?  There was a wedding close by here last night, and about ten
o’clock all the women passed under my windows with crys of joy
‘ez-zaghareet’ down to the river.  I find, on inquiry, that in Upper
Egypt, as soon as the bridegroom has ‘taken the face’ of his bride, the
women take her down to ‘see the Nile.’  They have not yet forgotten that
the old god is the giver of increase, it seems.

I have been reading Miss Martineau’s book; the descriptions are
excellent, but she evidently knew and cared nothing about the people, and
had the feeling of most English people here, that the difference of
manners is a sort of impassable gulf, the truth being that their feelings
and passions are just like our own.  It is curious that all the old books
of travels that I have read mention the natives of strange countries in a
far more natural tone, and with far more attempt to discriminate
character, than modern ones, _e.g._, Niebuhr’s Travels here and in
Arabia, Cook’s Voyages, and many others.  _Have_ we grown so _very_
civilized since a hundred years that outlandish people seem like mere
puppets, and not like real human beings?  Miss M.’s bigotry against Copts
and Greeks is droll enough, compared to her very proper reverence for
‘Him who sleeps in Philæ,’ and her attack upon hareems outrageous; she
implies that they are brothels.  I must admit that I have not seen a
Turkish hareem, and she apparently saw no other, and yet she fancies the
morals of Turkey to be superior to those of Egypt.  It is not possible
for a woman to explain all the limitations to which ordinary people do
subject themselves.  Great men I know nothing of; but women can and do,
without blame, sue their husbands-in-law for the full ‘payment of debt,’
and demand a divorce if they please in default.  Very often a man marries
a second wife out of duty to provide for a brother’s widow and children,
or the like.  Of course licentious men act loosely as elsewhere.
_Kulloolum Beni Adam_ (we are all sons of Adam), as Sheykh Yussuf says
constantly, ‘bad-bad and good-good’; and modern travellers show strange
ignorance in talking of foreign natives _in the lump_, as they nearly all
do.

_Monday_.—I have just heard that poor Sheykh Mohammed died yesterday, and
was, as usual, buried at once.  I had not been well for a few days, and
Sheykh Yussuf took care that I should not know of his brother’s death.
He went to Mustapha A’gha, and told him not to tell anyone in my house
till I was better, because he knew ‘what was in my stomach towards his
family,’ and feared I should be made worse by the news.  And how often I
have been advised not to meddle with sick Arabs, because they are sure to
suspect a Christian of poisoning those who die!  I do grieve for the
graceful, handsome young creature and his old father.  Omar was vexed at
not knowing of his death, because he would have liked to help to carry
him to the grave.

I have at last learned the alphabet in Arabic, and can write it quite
tidily, but now I am in a fix for want of a dictionary, and have written
to Hekekian Bey to buy me one in Cairo.  Sheykh Yussuf knows not a word
of English, and Omar can’t read or write, and has no notion of grammar or
of _word for word_ interpretation, and it is very slow work.  When I walk
through the court of the mosque I give the customary coppers to the
little boys who are spelling away loudly under the arcade, _Abba sheddeh
o nusbeyteen_, _Ibbi sheddeh o heftedeen_, etc., with a keen sympathy
with their difficulties and well-smudged tin slates.  An additional evil
is that the Arabic books printed in England, and at English presses here,
require a 40-horse power microscope to distinguish a letter.  The
ciphering is like ours, but with other figures, and I felt very stupid
when I discovered how I had reckoned Arab fashion from right to left all
my life and never observed the fact.  However, they ‘cast down’ a column
of figures from top to bottom.

I am just called away by some poor men who want me to speak to the
English travellers about shooting their pigeons.  It is very thoughtless,
but it is in great measure the fault of the servants and dragomans who
think they must not venture to tell their masters that pigeons are
private property.  I have a great mind to put a notice on the wall of my
house about it.  Here, where there are never less than eight or ten boats
lying for full three months, the loss to the _fellaheen_ is serious, and
our Consul Mustapha A’gha is afraid to say anything.  I have given my
neighbours permission to call the pigeons mine, as they roost in flocks
on my roof, and to go out and say that the Sitt objects to her poultry
being shot, especially as I have had them shot off my balcony as they sat
there.

I got a note from M. Mounier yesterday, inviting me to go and stay at
El-Moutaneh, Halim Pasha’s great estate, near Edfoo, and offering to send
his dahabieh for me.  I certainly will go as soon as the weather is
decidedly hot.  It is now very warm and pleasant.  If I find Thebes too
hot as summer advances I must drop down and return to Cairo, or try Suez,
which I hear is excellent in summer—bracing desert air.  But it is very
tempting to stay here—a splendid cool house, food extremely cheap; about
£1 a week for three of us for fish, bread, butter, meat, milk, eggs and
vegetables; all grocery, of course, I brought with me; no trouble, rest
and civil neighbours.  I feel very disinclined to move unless I am baked
out, and it takes a good deal to bake me.  The only fear is the Khamaseen
wind.  I do not feel very well.  I don’t ail anything in particular;
blood-spitting frequent, but very slight; much less cough; but I am so
weak and good for nothing.  I seldom feel able to go out or do more than
sit in the balcony on one side or other of the house.  I have no donkey
here, the hired ones are so very bad and so dear; but I have written
Mounier to try and get me one at El-Moutaneh and send it down in one of
Halim Pasha’s corn-boats.  There is no comfort like a donkey always
ready.  If I have to send for Mustapha’s horse, I feel lazy and fancy it
is too much trouble unless I can go just when I want.

I have received a letter from Alexandria of January 8.  What dreadful
weather!  We felt the ghost of it here in our three weeks of cold.
Sometimes I feel as if I must go back to you all _coûte qui coûte_, but I
know it would be no use to try it in the summer.  I long for more news of
you and my chicks.



February 8, 1864: February 8, 1864


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                            _Tuesday_, _February_ 8, 1864.

DEAREST CHILD,

I got your letter No. 3 about a week ago, and two others before it.  I
have been very lazy in writing, for it has been very cold (for Thebes),
and I have been very seedy—no severe attack, but no strength at all.  The
last three or four days the weather has been warm, and I am beginning to
feel better.  I send this to Cairo by a clever, pleasant Mme. de
Beaulaincourt, a daughter of Maréchal Castellane, who is here in one of
the Pasha’s steamers.  She will call on you when she goes to Alexandria.
I have been learning to write Arabic, and know my letters—no trifle, I
assure you.  My Sheykh is a perfect darling—the most graceful, high-bred
young creature, and a Seyyid.  These Saeedees are much nicer than the
Lower Egypt people.  They have good Arab blood in their veins, keep
pedigrees, and are more manly and independent, and more liberal in
religion.

Sheykh Yussuf took me into the tomb of his ancestor, Sheykh Abul Hajjaj,
the great saint here, and all the company said a Fathah for my health.
It was on the night of Friday, and during the moolid of the Sheykh.  Omar
was surprised at the proceeding, and a little afraid the dead Sheykh
might be offended.  My great friend is the Maōhn (police magistrate)
here—a very kind, good man, much liked, I hear, by all except the Kadee,
who was displeased at his giving the stick to a Mussulman for some wrong
to a Copt.  I am beginning to stammer out a little Arabic, but find it
horribly difficult.  The plurals are bewildering and the verbs quite
heart-breaking.  I have no books, which makes learning very slow work.  I
have written to Hekekian Bey to buy me a dictionary.

The house here is delightful—rather cold now, but will be perfect in hot
weather—so airy and cheerful.  I think I shall stay on here all the time
the expense is nil, and it is very comfortable.  I have a friend in a
farm in a neighbouring village, and am much amused at seeing country
life.  It cannot be rougher, as regards material comforts, in New Zealand
or Central Africa, but there is no barbarism or lack of refinement in the
manners of the people.  M. Mounier has invited me to go and stay with
them at El-Moutaneh, and offers to send his dahabieh for me.  When it
gets really hot I shall like the trip very much.

Pray, when you see Mme. Tastu, say civil things for me, and tell her how
much I like the house.  I think it wonderful that Omar cooked the dinner
without being cross.  I am sure I should swear if I had to cook for a
heretic in Ramadan.



February 12, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _February_ 12, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

We are in Ramadan now, and Omar really enjoys a good opportunity of
‘making his soul.’  He fasts and washes vigorously, prays his five times
a day, goes to mosque on Fridays, and is quite merry over it, and ready
to cook infidels’ dinners with exemplary good-humour.  It is a great
merit in Muslims that they are not at all grumpy over their piety.  The
weather has set in since five or six days quite like paradise.  I sit on
my lofty balcony and drink the sweet northerly breeze, and look at the
glorious mountain opposite, and think if only you and the chicks were
here it would be ‘the best o’ life.’  The beauty of Egypt grows on one,
and I think it far more lovely this year than I did last.  My great
friend the Maōhn (he is _not_ the Nazir, who is a fat little pig-eyed,
jolly Turk) lives in a house which also has a superb view in another
direction, and I often go and sit ‘on the bench’—_i.e._, the _mastabah_
in front of his house—and do what little talk I can and see the people
come with their grievances.  I don’t understand much of what goes on, as
the _patois_ is broad and doubles the difficulty, or I would send you a
Theban police report; but the Maōhn is very pleasant in his manner to
them, and they don’t seem frightened.  We have appointed a very small boy
our _bowàb_, or porter—or, rather, he has appointed himself—and his
assumption of dignity is quite delicious.  He has provided himself with a
huge staff, and he behaves like the most tremendous janissary.  He is
about Rainie’s size, as sharp as a needle, and possesses the remains of a
brown shirt and a ragged kitchen duster as turban.  I am very fond of
little Achmet, and like to see him doing _tableaux vivants_ from Murillo
with a plate of broken victuals.  The children of this place have become
so insufferable about _backsheesh_ that I have complained to the Maōhn,
and he will assemble a committee of parents and enforce better manners.
It is only here and just where the English go.  When I ride into the
little villages I never hear the word, but am always offered milk to
drink.  I have taken it two or three times and not offered to pay, and
the people always seem quite pleased.

Yesterday Sheykh Yussuf came again, the first time since his brother’s
death; he was evidently deeply affected, but spoke in the usual way, ‘It
is the will of God, we must all die,’ etc.  I wish you could see Sheykh
Yussuf.  I think he is the sweetest creature in look and manner I ever
beheld—so refined and so simple, and with the animal grace of a gazelle.
A high-bred Arab is as graceful as an Indian, but quite without the
feline _Geschmeidigkeit_ or the look of dissimulation; the eye is as
clear and frank as a child’s.  Mr. Ruchl, the Austrian Consul here, who
knows Egypt and Arabia well, tells me that he thinks many of them quite
as good as they look, and said of Sheykh Yussuf, _Er ist so gemüthlich_.
There is a German here deciphering hieroglyphics, Herr Dümmichen, a very
agreeable man, but he has gone across the river to live at el-Kurneh.  He
has been through Ethiopia in search of temples and inscriptions.  I am to
go over and visit him, and see some of the tombs again in his company,
which I shall enjoy, as a good interpreter is sadly wanted in those
mysterious regions.

My chest is wonderfully better these last six or seven days.  It is quite
clear that downright heat is what does me good.  Moreover, I have just
heard from M. Mounier that a good donkey is _en route_ in a boat from
El-Moutaneh—he will cost me between £4 and £5 and will enable me to be
about far more than I can by merely borrowing Mustapha’s horse, about
which I have scruples as he lends it to other lady travellers.  Little
Achmet will be my sais as well as my door-keeper, I suppose.  I wish you
would speak to Layard in behalf of Mustapha A’gha.  He has acted as
English Consul here for something like thirty years, and he really is the
slave of the travellers.  He gives them dinners, mounts them, and does
all the disagreeable business of wrangling with the reis and dragomans
for them, makes himself a postmaster, takes care of their letters and
sends them out to the boats, and does all manner of services for them,
and lends his house for the infidels to pray in on Sundays when a
clergyman is here.  For this he has no remuneration at all, except such
presents as the English see fit to make him, and I have seen enough to
know that they are neither large nor always gracefully given.  The old
fellow at Keneh who has nothing to do gets regular pay, and I think
Mustapha ought to have something; he is now old and rather infirm, and
has to keep a clerk to help him; and at least, his expenses should be
covered.  Please say this to Layard from me as my message to him.  Don’t
forget it, please, for Mustapha is a really kind friend to me at all
times and in all ways.

_February_ 14th.—Yesterday we had a dust-storm off the desert.  It made
my head heavy and made me feel languid, but did not affect my chest at
all.  To-day is a soft gray day; there was a little thunder this morning
and a few, very few, drops of rain—hardly enough for even Herodotus to
consider portentous.  My donkey came down last night, and I tried him
to-day, and he is very satisfactory though alarmingly small, as the real
Egyptian donkey always is; the big ones are from the Hejaz.  But it is
wonderful how the little creatures run along under one as easy as
possible, and they have no will of their own.  I rode mine out to Karnac
and back, and he did not seem to think me at all heavy.  When they are
overworked and overgalloped they become bad on the legs and easily fall,
and all those for hire are quite stumped up, poor beasts—they are so
willing and docile that everyone overdrives them.



February 19, 1864: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _February_ 19, 1864.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have only time for a few lines to go down by Mr. Strutt and Heathcote’s
boat to Cairo.  They are very good specimens and quite recognised as
‘belonging to the higher people,’ because they ‘do not make themselves
big.’  I received your letter of January 21 with little darling Rainie’s
three days ago.

I am better now that the weather is fine again.  We had a whole day’s
rain (which Herodotus says is a portent here) and a hurricane from the
south worthy of the Cape.  I thought we should have been buried under the
drifting sand.  To-day is again heavenly.  I saw Abd-el-Azeez, the
chemist in Cairo; he seemed a very good fellow, and was a pupil of my old
friend M. Chrevreul, and highly recommended by him.  Here I am out of all
European ideas.  The Sheykh-el-Arab (of the Ababdeh tribe), who has a
sort of town house here, has invited me out into the desert to the black
tents, and I intend to pay a visit with old Mustapha A’gha.  There is a
Roman well in his yard with a ghoul in it.  I can’t get the story from
Mustapha, who is ashamed of such superstitions, but I’ll find it out.  We
had a fantasia at Mustapha’s for young Strutt and Co., and a very good
dancing-girl.  Some dear old prosy English people made me laugh so.  The
lady wondered how the women here could wear clothes ‘so different from
English females—poor things!’ but they were not _malveillants_, only
pitying and wonderstruck—nothing astonished them so much as my
salutations with Seleem Effendi, the Maōhn.

I begin to feel the time before me to be away from you all very long
indeed, but I do think my best chance is a long spell of real heat.  I
have got through this winter without once catching cold at all to
signify, and now the fine weather is come.  I am writing in Arabic from
Sheykh Yussuf’s dictation the dear old story of the barber’s brother with
the basket of glass.  The Arabs are so diverted at hearing that we all
know the _Alf Leyleh o Leyleh_, the ‘Thousand Nights and a Night.’  The
want of a dictionary with a teacher knowing no word of English is
terrible.  I don’t know how I learn at all.  The post is pretty quick up
to here.  I got your letter within three weeks, you see, but I get no
newspapers; the post is all on foot and can’t carry anything so heavy.
One of my men of last year, Asgalani the steersman, has just been to see
me; he says his journey was happier last year.

I hear that Phillips is coming to Cairo, and have written to him there to
invite him up here to paint these handsome Saeedees.  He could get up in
a steamer as I did through Hassaneyn Effendi for a trifle.  I wish you
_could_ come, but the heat here which gives me life would be quite
_impossible_ to you.  The thermometer in the cold antechamber now is 67°
where no sun ever comes, and the blaze of the sun is prodigious.



February 26, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _February_ 26, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have just received your letter of the 3rd inst., and am glad to get
such good tidings.  You would be amused to see Omar bring me a letter and
sit down on the floor till I tell him the family news, and then
_Alhamdulillah_, we are so pleased, and he goes off to his pots and pans
again.  Lord and Lady Spencer are here, and his sister, in two boats.
The English ‘Milord,’ extinct on the Continent, has revived in Egypt, and
is greatly reverenced and usually much liked.  ‘These high English have
mercy in their stomachs,’ said one of my last year’s sailors who came to
kiss my hand—a pleasing fact in natural history!  _Fee wahed Lord_, was
little ragged Achmet’s announcement of Lord Spencer—‘Here’s a Lord.’
They are very pleasant people.  I heard from Janet to-day of _ice_ at
Cairo and at Shoubra, and famine prices.  I cannot attempt Cairo with
meat at 1s. 3d. a pound, and will e’en stay here and grill at Thebes.
Marry-come-up with your Thebes and savagery!  What if we _do_ wear ragged
brown shirts?  ‘’Tis manners makyth man,’ and we defy you to show better
breeding.

We are now in the full enjoyment of summer weather; there has been no
cold for fully a fortnight, and I am getting better every day now.  My
cough has quite subsided, and the pain in the chest much diminished; if
the heat does not overpower me I feel sure it will be very healing to my
lungs.  I sit out on my glorious balcony and drink the air from early
morning till noon, when the sun comes upon it and drives me under cover.
The thermometer has stood at 64° for a fortnight or three weeks, rising
sometimes to 67°, but people in the boats tell me it is still cold at
night on the river.  Up here, only a stone’s-throw from it, it is warm
all night.  I fear the loss of cattle has suspended irrigation to a
fearful extent, and that the harvests of Lower Egypt of all kinds will be
sadly scanty.  The disease has not spread above Minieh, or very slightly;
but, of course, cattle will rise in price here also.  Already food is
getting dearer here; meat is 4½ piastres—7d.—the _rötl_ (a fraction less
than a pound), and bread has risen considerably—I should say corn, for no
bakers exist here.  I pay a woman to grind and bake my wheat which I buy,
and delicious bread it is.  It is impossible to say how exactly like the
early parts of the Bible every act of life is here, and how totally new
it seems when one reads it here.  Old Jacob’s speech to Pharaoh really
made me laugh (don’t be shocked), because it is so exactly what a fellah
says to a Pasha: ‘Few and evil have been the days,’ etc. (Jacob being a
most prosperous man); but it is manners to say all that, and I feel quite
kindly to Jacob, whom I used to think ungrateful and discontented; and
when I go to Sidi Omar’s farm, does he not say, ‘Take now fine meal and
bake cakes quickly,’ and wants to kill a kid?  _Fateereh_ with plenty of
butter is what the ‘three men’ who came to Abraham ate; and the way that
Abraham’s chief memlook, acting as Vakeel, manages Isaac’s marriage with
Rebekah!  All the vulgarized associations with Puritanism and abominable
little ‘Scripture tales and pictures’ peel off here, and the inimitably
truthful representation of life and character—not a flattering one
certainly—comes out, and it feels like Homer.  Joseph’s tears and his
love for the brother born of the _same mother_ is so perfect.  Only one
sees what a bad inferior race the Beni Israel were compared to the Beni
Ishmael or to the Egyptians.  Leviticus and Deuteronomy are so very
heathenish compared to the law of the Koran, or to the early days of
Abraham.  Verily the ancient Jews were a foul nation, judging by the
police regulations needful for them.  Please don’t make these remarks
public, or I shall be burnt with Stanley and Colenso (unless I suffer
Sheykh Yussuf to propose me El-Islam).  He and M. de Rougé were here last
evening, and we had an Arabic _soirée_.  M. de Rougé speaks admirably,
quite like an Alim, and it was charming to see Sheykh Yussuf’s pretty
look of grateful pleasure at finding himself treated like a gentleman and
a scholar by two such eminent Europeans; for I (as a woman) am quite as
surprising as even M. de Rougé’s knowledge of hieroglyphics and Arabic
_Fosseeha_.  It is very interesting to see something of Arabs who have
read and have the ‘gentleman’ ideas.  His brother, the Imam, has lost his
wife; he was married twenty-two years, and won’t hear of taking another.
I was struck with the sympathy he expressed with the English Sultana, as
all the uneducated people say, ‘Why doesn’t she marry again?’  It is
curious how refinement brings out the same feelings under all
‘dispensations.’  I apologized to Yussuf for inadvertently returning the
_Salaam aleykoum_ (Peace be with thee), which he said to Omar, and which
I, as an unbeliever, could not accept.  He coloured crimson, touched my
hand and kissed his own, quite distressed lest the distinction might
wound me.  When I think of a young parsonic prig at home I shudder at the
difference.  But Yussuf is superstitious; he told me how someone down the
river cured his cattle with water poured over a _Mushaf_ (a copy of the
Koran), and has hinted at writing out a chapter for me to wear as a
_hegab_ (an amulet for my health).  He is interested in the antiquities
and in M. de Rougé’s work, and is quite up to the connection between
Ancient Egypt and the books of Moses, exaggerating the importance of
_Seyidna Moussa_, of course.

If I go down to Cairo again I will get letters to some of the Alim there
from Abd-el-Waris, the Imam here, and I shall see what no European but
Lane has seen.  I think things have altered since his day, and that men
of that class would be less inaccessible than they were then; and then a
woman who is old (Yussuf guessed me at sixty) and educated does not
shock, and does interest them.  All the Europeans here are traders, and
only speak the vulgarest language, and don’t care to know Arab gentlemen;
if they see anything above their servants it is only Turks, or Arab
merchants at times.  Don’t fancy that I can speak at all decently yet,
but I understand a good deal, and stammer out a little.



March 1, 1864: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _March_ 1, 1864.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I think I shall have an opportunity of sending letters in a few days by a
fast steamer, so I will begin one on the chance and send it by post if
the steamer is delayed long.  The glory of the climate now is beyond
description, and I feel better every day.  I go out early—at seven or
eight o’clock—on my tiny black donkey, and come in to breakfast about
ten, and go out again at four.

I want to photograph Yussuf for you.  The feelings and prejudices and
ideas of a cultivated Arab, as I get at them little by little, are
curious beyond compare.  It won’t do to generalize from one man, of
course, but even one gives some very new ideas.  The most striking thing
is the sweetness and delicacy of feeling—the horror of hurting anyone
(this must be individual, of course: it is too good to be general).  I
apologized to him two days ago for inadvertently answering the _Salaam
aleykoum_, which he, of course, said to Omar on coming in.  Yesterday
evening he walked in and startled me by a _Salaam aleykee_ addressed to
me; he had evidently been thinking it over whether he ought to say it to
me, and come to the conclusion that it was not wrong.  ‘Surely it is well
for all the creatures of God to speak peace (_Salaam_) to each other,’
said he.  Now, no uneducated Muslim would have arrived at such a
conclusion.  Omar would pray, work, lie, do anything for me—sacrifice
money even; but I doubt whether he _could_ utter _Salaam aleykoum_ to any
but a Muslim.  I answered as I felt: ‘Peace, oh my brother, and God bless
thee!’  It was almost as if a Catholic priest had felt impelled by
charity to offer the communion to a heretic.  I observed that the story
of the barber was new to him, and asked if he did not know the ‘Thousand
and One Nights.’  No; he studied only things of religion, no light
amusements were proper for an Alim (elder of religion); _we_ Europeans
did not know that, of course, as _our_ religion was to enjoy ourselves;
but _he_ must not make merry with diversions, or music, or droll stories.
(See the mutual ignorance of all ascetics!)  He has a little girl of six
or seven, and teaches her to write and read; no one else, he believes,
thinks of such a thing out of Cairo; there many of the daughters of the
Alim learn—those who desire it.  His wife died two years ago, and six
months ago he married again a wife of twelve years old!  (Sheykh Yussuf
is thirty he tells me; he looks twenty-two or twenty-three.)  What a
stepmother and what a wife!  He can repeat the whole Koran without a
book, it takes twelve hours to do it.  Has read the Towrát (old
Testament) and the el-Aangeel (Gospels), of course, every Alim reads
them.  ‘The words of Seyyidna Eesa are the true faith, but Christians
have altered and corrupted their meaning.  So we Muslims believe.  We are
all the children of God.’  I ask if Muslims call themselves so, or only
the slaves of God.  ‘’Tis all one, children or slaves.  Does not a good
man care for both tenderly alike?’  (Pray observe the Oriental feeling
here.  _Slave_ is a term of affection, not contempt; and remember the
Centurion’s ‘_servant_ (slave) whom he loved.’)  He had heard from Fodl
Pasha how a cow was cured of the prevailing disease in Lower Egypt by
water weighed against a _Mushaf_ (copy of the Koran), and had no doubt it
was true, Fodl Pasha had tried it.  Yet he thinks the Arab doctors no use
at all who use verses of the Koran.

M. de Rougé, the great _Egyptologue_, came here one evening; he speaks
Arabic perfectly, and delighted Sheykh Yussuf, who was much interested in
the translations of the hieroglyphics and anxious to know if he had found
anything about _Moussa_ (Moses) or _Yussuf_ (Joseph).  He looked pleased
and grateful to be treated like a ‘gentleman and scholar’ by such an Alim
as M. de Rougé and such a Sheykhah as myself.  As he acts as clerk to
Mustapha, our consular agent, and wears a shabby old brown shirt, or
gown, and speaks no English, I dare say he not seldom encounters great
slights (from sheer ignorance).  He produced a bit of old Cufic MS. and
consulted M. de R. as to its meaning—a pretty little bit of flattery in
an Arab Alim to a Frenchman, to which the latter was not insensible, I
saw.  In answer to the invariable questions about all my family I once
told him my father had been a great Alim of the Law, and that my mother
had got ready his written books and put some lectures in order to be
printed.  He was amazed—first that I had a mother, as he told me he
thought I was fifty or sixty, and immensely delighted at the idea.  ‘God
has favoured your family with understanding and knowledge; I wish I could
kiss the _Sheykhah_ your mother’s hand.  May God favour her!’  Maurice’s
portrait (as usual) he admired fervently, and said one saw his good
qualities in his face—a compliment I could have fully returned, as he sat
looking at the picture with affectionate eyes and praying, _sotto voce_,
for _el gedda_, _el gemeel_ (the youth, the beautiful), in the words of
the _Fathah_, ‘O give him guidance and let him not stray into the paths
of the rejected!’  Altogether, something in Sheykh Yussuf reminds me of
Worsley: there is the same look of _Seelen reinheit_, with far less
thought and intelligence; indeed little thought, of course, and an
additional childlike innocence.  I suppose some medieval monks may have
had the same look, but no Catholic I have ever seen looks so peaceful or
so unpretending.  I see in him, like in all people who don’t know what
doubt means, that easy familiarity with religion.  I hear him joke with
Omar about Ramadan, and even about Omar’s assiduous prayers, and he is a
frequent and hearty laugher.  I wonder whether this gives you any idea of
a character new to you.  It is so impossible to describe _manner_, which
gives so much of the impression of novelty.  My conclusion is the
heretical one: that to dream of converting here is absurd, and, I will
add, wrong.  All that is wanted is general knowledge and education, and
the religion will clear and develop itself.  The elements are identical
with those of Christianity, encumbered, as that has been, with asceticism
and intolerance.  On the other hand, the creed is simple and there are no
priests, a decided advantage.  I think the faith has remained wonderfully
rational considering the extreme ignorance of those who hold it.  I will
add Sally’s practical remark, that ‘The prayers are a fine thing for lazy
people; they must wash first, and the prayer is a capital drill.’

You would be amused to hear Sally when Omar does not wake in time to
wash, pray, and eat before daybreak now in Ramadán.  She knocks at his
door and acts as Muezzin.  ‘Come, Omar, get up and pray and have your
dinner’ (the evening meal is ‘breakfast,’ the early morning one
‘dinner’).  Being a light sleeper she hears the Muezzin, which Omar often
does not, and passes on the ‘Prayers is better than sleep’ in a prose
version.  Ramadán is a dreadful business; everybody is cross and lazy—no
wonder!  The camel-men quarrelled all day under my window yesterday, and
I asked what it was all about.  ‘All about nothing; it is Ramadán with
them,’ said Omar laughing.  ‘I want to quarrel with someone myself; it is
hot to-day, and thirsty weather.’  Moreover, I think it injures the
health of numbers permanently, but of course it is the thing of most
importance in the eyes of the people; there are many who never pray at
ordinary times, but few fail to keep Ramadán.  It answers to the Scotch
Sabbath, a comparison also borrowed from Sally.

_Friday_.—My friend Seleem Effendi has just been here talking about his
own affairs and a good deal of theology.  He is an immense talker, and I
just put _eywas_ (yes) and _là_ (no) and _sahé_ (very true), and learn
manners and customs.  He tells me he has just bought two black slave
women, mother and daughter, from a Copt for about £35 the two.  The
mother is a good cook, and the daughter is ‘for his bed,’ as his wife
does not like to leave Cairo and her boys at school there.  It does give
one a sort of start to hear a most respectable magistrate tell one such a
domestic arrangement.  He added that it would not interfere with the
_Sittel Kebeer_ (the great lady), the black girl being only a slave, and
these people never think they have children enough.  Moreover, he said he
could not get on with his small pay without women to keep house, which is
quite true here, and women are not respectable in a man’s house on other
terms.  Seleem has a high reputation, and is said not to ‘eat the
people.’  He is a hot Mussulman, and held forth very much as a very
superficial Unitarian might do, evidently feeling considerable contempt
for the absurdities, as he thinks them, of the Copts (he was too civil to
say Christians), but no hatred (and he is known to show no partiality),
only he ‘can’t understand how people can believe such nonsense.’  He is a
good specimen of the good, honest, steady-going man-of-the-world Muslim,
a strong contrast to the tender piety of dear Sheykh Yussuf, who has all
the feelings which we call Christian charity in the highest degree, and
whose face is like that of ‘the beloved disciple,’ but who has no
inclination for doctrinal harangues like worthy Seleem.  There is a very
general idea among the Arabs that Christians hate the Muslims; they
attribute to us the old Crusading spirit.  It is only lately that Omar
has let us see him at prayer, for fear of being ridiculed, but now he is
sure that is not so, I often find him praying in the room where Sally
sits at work, which is a clean, quiet place.  Yussuf went and joined him
there yesterday evening, and prayed with him, and gave him some religious
instruction quite undisturbed by Sally and her needlework, and I am
continually complimented on _not hating_ the Muslims.  Yussuf promises me
letters to some Alim in Cairo when I go there again, that I may be shown
the Azhar (the great college).  Omar had told him that I refused to go
with a janissary from the Consul for fear of giving offence to any very
strict Muslims, which astonished him much.  He says his friends shall
dress me in their women’s clothes and take me in.  I asked whether as a
concealment of my religion, and he said no, only there were ‘thousands’
of young men, and it would be ‘more delicate’ that they should not stare
and talk about my face.

Seleem told me a very pretty grammatical quibble about ‘son’ and
‘prophet’ (apropos of Christ) on a verse in the Gospel, depending on the
reduplicative sign [Arabic sign for sheddeh] (_sheddeh_) over one letter;
he was just as put out when I reminded him that it was written in Greek,
as our amateur theologians are if you say the Bible was not originally
composed in English.  However, I told him that many Christians in
England, Germany, and America did not believe that Seyyidna Eesa was God,
but only the greatest of prophets and teachers, and that I was myself of
that opinion.  He at once declared that that was sufficient, that all
such had ‘received guidance,’ and were not ‘among the rejected’; how
could they be, since such Christians only believed the teaching of Eesa,
which was true, and not the falsifications of the priests and bishops
(the bishops always ‘catch it,’ as schoolboys say).  I was curious to
hear whether on the strength of this he would let out any further
intolerance against the Copts, but he said far less and far less bitterly
than I have heard from Unitarians, and debited the usual most
commonplace, common-sense kind of arguments on the subject.  I fancy it
would not be very palatable to many Unitarians, to be claimed _mir nichts
dir nichts_ as followers of _el-Islam_; but if people really wish to
convert in the sense of improving, that door is open, and no other.

_Monday_, 7_th_.—The steamer is come down already and will, I suppose, go
on to-morrow, so I must finish this letter to go by it.  I have not
received any letter for some time, and am anxiously expecting the post.
We have now settled into quite warm weather ways, no more going out at
mid-day.  It is now broiling, and I have been watching eight tall fine
blacks swimming and capering about, their skins shining like otters’ fur
when wet.  They belong to a _gelláab_—a slave-dealer’s boat.  The
beautiful thing is to see the men and boys at work among the green corn,
the men half naked and the boys wholly so; in the sun their brown skins
look just like dark clouded amber—semi-transparent, so fine are they.

I rejoice to say that on Wednesday is Bairam, and to-morrow Ramadan
‘dies.’  Omar is very thin and yellow and headachy, and everyone is
cross.  How I wish I were going, instead of my letter, to see you all,
but it is evident that this heat is the thing that does me good, if
anything will.



March 7, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _March_ 7, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

The real hot weather (speaking after the manner of the English) has
begun, and the fine sun and clear air are delicious and reviving.  My
cough fades away, and my strength increases slowly.  One can no longer go
out in the middle of the day, and I mount my donkey early and late, with
little Achmet trotting beside me.  In the evenings comes my dear Sheykh
Yussuf, and I blunder through an hour’s dictation, and reading of the
story of the Barber’s fifth brother (he with the basket of glass).  I
presume that Yussuf likes me too, for I am constantly greeted with
immense cordiality by graceful men in green turbans, belonging, like him,
to the holy family of Sheykh Abu-’l-Hajjaj.  They inquire tenderly after
my health, and pray for me, and hope I am going to stay among them.

You would be much struck here with the resemblance to Spain, I think.
‘Cosas de España’ is exactly the ‘_Shogl-el-Arab_,’ and Don Fulano is the
Arabic word _foolan_ (such a one), as _Ojala_ is _Inshallah_ (please
God).  The music and dancing here, too, are Spanish, only ‘more so’ and
much more.

_March_ 10, 1864.—Yesterday was Bairam, and on Tuesday evening everybody
who possessed a gun or a pistol banged away, every drum and taraboukeh
was thumped, and all the children holloaed, _Ramadan Māt_, _Ramadan Māt_
(Ramadan’s dead) about the streets.  At daybreak Omar went to the early
prayer, a special ceremony of the day.  There were crowds of people, so,
as it was useless to pray and preach in the mosque, Sheykh Yussuf went
out upon a hillock in the burying-ground, where they all prayed and he
preached.  Omar reported the sermon to me, as follows (it is all
extempore): First Yussuf pointed to the graves, ‘Where are all those
people?’ and to the ancient temples, ‘Where are those who built them?  Do
not strangers from a far country take away their very corpses to wonder
at?  What did their splendour avail them? etc., etc.  What then, O
Muslims, _will_ avail that you may be happy when that comes which will
come for all?  Truly God is just and will defraud no man, and He will
reward you if you do what is right; and that is, to wrong no man, neither
in person, nor in his family, nor in his possessions.  _Cease then to
cheat one another, O men_, and to be greedy, and do not think that you
can make amends by afterwards giving alms, or praying, or fasting, or
giving gifts to the servants of the mosque.  _Benefits come from God; it
is enough for you if you do no injury to any man, and above all to any
woman or little one_.’  Of course it was much longer, but this was the
substance, Omar tells me, and pretty sound morality too, methinks, and
might be preached with advantage to a meeting of philanthropists in
Exeter Hall.  There is no predestination in _Islam_, and every man will
be judged upon his actions.  ‘Even unbelievers God will not defraud,’
says the Koran.  Of course, a belief in meritorious works leads to the
same sort of superstition as among Catholics, the endeavour to ‘make
one’s soul’ by alms, fastings, endowments, etc.; therefore Yussuf’s
stress upon doing no evil seems to me very remarkable, and really
profound.  After the sermon, all the company assembled rushed on him to
kiss his head, and his hands and his feet, and mobbed him so fearfully
that he had to lay about him with the wooden sword which is carried by
the officiating Alim.  He came to wish me the customary good wishes soon
after, and looked very hot and tumbled, and laughed heartily about the
awful kissing he had undergone.  All the men embrace on meeting on the
festival of Bairam.

The kitchen is full of cakes (ring-shaped) which my friends have sent me,
just such as we see offered to the gods in the temples and tombs.  I went
to call on the Maōhn in the evening, and found a lot of people all
dressed in their best.  Half were Copts, among them a very pleasing young
priest who carried on a religious discussion with Seleem Effendi, strange
to say, with perfect good-humour on both sides.  A Copt came up with his
farm labourer, who had been beaten and the field robbed.  The Copt stated
the case in ten words, and the Maōhn sent off his cavass with him to
apprehend the accused persons, who were to be tried at sunrise and
beaten, if found guilty, and forced to make good the damage.  General Hay
called yesterday—a fine old, blue-eyed soldier.  He found a lot of
Fellaheen sitting with me, enjoying coffee and pipes hugely, and they
were much gratified at our pressing them not to move or disturb
themselves, when they all started up in dismay at the entrance of such a
grand-looking Englishman and got off the carpet.  So we told them that in
our country the business of a farmer was looked upon as very respectable,
and that the General would ask his farmers to sit and drink wine with
him.  ‘_Mashallah, taib kateer_’ (It is the will of God, and most
excellent), said old Omar, my fellah friend, and kissed his hand to
General Hay quite affectionately.  We English are certainly liked here.
Seleem said yesterday evening that he had often had to do business with
them, and found them always _doghri_ (straight), men of one word and of
no circumlocutions, ‘and so unlike all the other Europeans, and
especially the French!’  The fact is that few but decent English come
here, I fancy our scamps go to the colonies, whereas Egypt is the sink
for all the iniquity of the South of Europe.

A worthy Copt here, one Todorus, took ‘a piece of paper’ for £20 for
antiquities sold to an Englishman, and after the Englishman was gone,
brought it to me to ask what sort of paper it was, and how he could get
it changed, or was he, perhaps, to keep it till the gentleman sent him
the money?  It was a circular note, which I had difficulty in explaining,
but I offered to send it to Cairo to Brigg’s and get it cashed; as to
when he would get the money I could not say, as they must wait for a safe
hand to send gold by.  I told him to put his name on the back of the
note, and Todorus thought I wanted it _as a receipt_ for the money which
was yet to come, and was going cheerfully to write me a receipt for the
£20 he was entrusting to me.  Now a Copt is not at all green where his
pocket is concerned, but they will take anything from the English.  I do
hope no swindler will find it out.  Mr. Close told me that when his boat
sank in the Cataract, and he remained half dressed on the rock, without a
farthing, four men came and offered to lend him anything.  While I was in
England last year an Englishman to whom Omar acted as _laquais de place_
went away owing him £7 for things bought.  Omar had money enough to pay
all the tradespeople, and kept it secret for fear any of the other
Europeans should say, ‘Shame for the English’ and did not even tell his
family.  Luckily, the man sent the money by the next mail from Malta, and
the Sheykh of the dragomans proclaimed it, and so Omar got it; but he
would never have mentioned it else.  This ‘concealing of evil’ is
considered very meritorious, and where women are concerned positively a
religious duty.  _Le scandale est ce qui fait l’offense_ is very much the
notion in Egypt, and I believe that very forgiving husbands are commoner
here than elsewhere.  The whole idea is founded on the verse of the
Koran, incessantly quoted, ‘The woman is made for the man, but the man is
made for the woman’; _ergo_, the obligations to chastity are equal;
_ergo_, as the men find it difficult, they argue that the women do the
same.  I have never heard a woman’s misconduct spoken of without a
hundred excuses; perhaps her husband had slave girls, perhaps he was old
or sick, or she didn’t like him, or she couldn’t help it.  Violent love
comes ‘by the visitation of God,’ as our juries say; the man or woman
must satisfy it or die.  A poor young fellow is now in the muristan (the
madhouse) of Cairo owing to the beauty and sweet tongue of an English
lady whose servant he was.  How could he help it?  God sent the calamity.

I often hear of Lady Ellenborough, who is married to the Sheykh-el-Arab
of Palmyra, and lives at Damascus.  The Arabs think it inhuman of English
ladies to avoid her.  Perhaps she has repented; at all events, she is
married and lives with her husband.  I asked Omar if he would tell his
brother if he saw his wife do anything wrong.  (N.B.—He can’t endure
her.)  ‘Certainly not, I must cover her with my cloak.’  I am told, also,
that among the Arabs of the desert (the _real_ Arabs), when a traveller,
tired and wayworn, seeks their tents, it is the duty of his host,
generally the Sheykh, to send him into the hareem, and leave him there
three days, with full permission to do as he will after the women have
bathed, and rubbed, and refreshed him.  But then he must never speak of
that Hareem; they are to him as his own, to be reverenced.  If he spoke,
the husband would kill him; but the Arab would never do it for a
European, ‘because all Europeans are so hard upon women,’ and do not fear
God and conceal their offences.  If a dancing-girl repents, the most
respectable man may and does marry her, and no one blames or laughs at
him.  I believe all this leads to a good deal of irregularity, but
certainly the feeling is amiable.  It is impossible to conceive how
startling it is to a Christian to hear the rules of morality applied with
perfect impartiality to both sexes, and to hear Arabs who know our
manners talk of the English being ‘jealous’ and ‘hard upon their women.’
Any unchastity is wrong and _haram_ (unlawful), but equally so in men and
women.  Seleem Effendi talked in this strain, and seemed to incline to
greater indulgence to women on the score of their ignorance and weakness.
Remember, I only speak of Arabs.  I believe the Turkish ideas are
different, as is their whole hareem system, and Egypt is not the rule for
all Muslims.

_Saturday_, 12_th_.—I dined last night with Mustapha, who again had the
dancing-girls for some Englishmen to see.  Seleem Effendi got the doctor,
who was of the party, to prescribe for him, and asked me to translate to
him all about his old stomach as coolly as possible.  He, as usual, sat
by me on the divan, and during the pause in the dancing called ‘el
Maghribeeyeh,’ the best dancer, to come and talk.  She kissed my hand,
sat on her heels before us, and at once laid aside the professional
_galliardise_ of manner, and talked very nicely in very good Arabic and
with perfect propriety, more like a man than a woman; she seemed very
intelligent.  What a thing we should think it for a worshipful magistrate
to call up a girl of that character to talk to a lady!

Yesterday we had a strange and unpleasant day’s business.  The evening
before I had my pocket picked in Karnac by two men who hung about me, one
to sell a bird, the other one of the regular ‘loafers’ who hang about the
ruins to beg, and sell water or curiosities, and who are all a lazy, bad
lot, of course.  I went to Seleem, who wrote at once to the
Sheykh-el-Beled of Karnac to say that we should go over next morning at
eight o’clock to investigate the affair, and to desire him to apprehend
the men.  Next morning Seleem fetched me, and Mustapha came to represent
English interests, and as we rode out of Luxor the Sheykh-el-Ababdeh
joined us, with four of his tribe with their long guns, and a lot more
with lances.  He was a volunteer, and furious at the idea of a lady and a
stranger being robbed.  It is the first time it has happened here, and
the desire to beat was so strong that I went to act as counsel for the
prisoner.  Everyone was peculiarly savage that it should have happened to
me, a person well known to be so friendly to _el Muslimeen_.  When we
arrived we went into a square enclosure, with a sort of cloister on one
side, spread with carpets where we sat, and the wretched fellows were
brought in chains.  To my horror, I found they had been beaten already.
I remonstrated, ‘What if you had beaten the wrong men?’  ‘_Maleysh_!
(Never mind!) we will beat the whole village until your purse is found.’
I said to Mustapha, ‘This won’t do; you must stop this.’  So Mustapha
ordained, with the concurrence of the Maōhn, that the Sheykh-el-Beled and
the _gefiyeh_ (the keeper of the ruins) should pay me the value of the
purse.  As the people of Karnac are very troublesome in begging and
worrying, I thought this would be a good lesson to the said Sheykh to
keep better order, and I consented to receive the money, promising to
return it and to give a napoleon over if the purse comes back with its
contents (3½ napoleons).  The Sheykh-el-Ababdeh harangued the people on
their ill-behaviour to Hareemát, called them _harámee_ (rascals), and was
very high and mighty to the Sheykh-el-Beled.  Hereupon I went away to
visit a Turkish lady in the village, leaving Mustapha to settle.  After I
was gone they beat eight or ten of the boys who had mobbed me, and begged
with the two men.  Mustapha, who does not like the stick, stayed to see
that they were not hurt, and so far it will be a good lesson to them.  He
also had the two men sent over to the prison here, for fear the
Sheykh-el-Beled should beat them again, and will keep them here for a
time.  So far so good, but my fear now is that innocent people will be
squeezed to make up the money, if the men do not give up the purse.  I
have told Sheykh Yussuf to keep watch how things go, and if the men
persist in the theft and don’t return the purse, I shall give the money
to those whom the Sheykh-el-Beled will assuredly squeeze, or else to the
mosque of Karnac.  I cannot pocket it, though I thought it quite right to
exact the fine as a warning to the Karnac _mauvais sujets_.  As we went
home the Sheykh-el-Ababdeh (such a fine fellow he looks) came up and rode
beside me, and said, ‘I know you are a person of kindness; do not tell
this story in this country.  If Effendina (Ismail Pasha) comes to hear,
he may “take a broom and sweep away the village.”’  I exclaimed in
horror, and Mustapha joined at once in the request, and said, ‘Do not
tell anyone in Egypt.  The Sheykh-el-Ababdeh is quite true; it might cost
many lives.’  The whole thing distressed me horribly.  If I had not been
there they would have beaten right and left, and if I had shown any
desire to have anyone punished, evidently they would have half killed the
two men.  Mustapha behaved extremely well.  He showed sense, decision,
and more feelings of humanity than I at all expected of him.  Pray do as
I begged you, try to get him paid.  Some of the Consuls in Cairo are
barely civil, and old Mustapha has all the bother and work of the whole
of the Nile boats (eighty-five this winter), and he is boundlessly kind
and useful to the English, and a real protection against cheating, etc.



March 16, 1864: Mr. Tom Taylor


                           _To Mr. Tom Taylor_.

                                                         _March_ 16, 1864.

DEAR TOM,

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to hear that all had gone well with
Laura and your little daughter.  _Mashallah_!  God bless her!  When I
told Omar that a friend ‘like my brother,’ as Arabs say, had got a baby,
he proposed to illuminate our house and fire off all the pistols in the
premises.  Pray give my kind love and best wishes to Laura.

I am living here a very quiet, dreamy sort of life in hot Thebes,
visiting a little among my neighbours and learning a little Arabic from a
most sweet, gentle young Sheykh who preaches on Fridays in the mosque of
Luxor.  I wish I could draw his soft brown face and graceful,
brown-draped figure; but if I could, he is too devout I believe, to
permit it.  The police magistrate—el-Maōhn—Seleem Effendi, is also a
great friend of mine, and the Kadee is civil, but a little scornful to
heretical Hareem, I think.  It is already very hot, and the few remaining
traveller’s dahabiehs are now here on their way down the river; after
that I shall not see a white face for many months, except Sally’s.

Sheykh Yussuf laughed so heartily over a print in an illustrated paper,
from a picture of Hilton’s, of Rebekah at the well, with the old _Vakeel_
of Sidi Ibraheem (Abraham’s chief servant) _kneeling_ before the girl he
was sent to fetch like an old fool without his turban, and Rebekah and
the other girls in queer fancy dresses, and the camels with snouts like
pigs.  ‘If the painter could not go to Es-Sham (Syria) to see how the
Arab (Bedaween) really look,’ said Sheykh Yussuf, ‘why did he not paint a
well in England with girls like English peasants?  At least it would have
looked natural to English people, and the _Vakeel_ would not seem so like
a _majnoon_ (a madman) if he had taken off a hat.’  I cordially agreed
with Yussuf’s art criticism.  Fancy pictures of Eastern things are
hopelessly absurd, and fancy poems too.  I have got hold of a stray copy
of Victor Hugo’s ‘_Orientales_,’ and I think I never laughed more in my
life.

The corn is now full-sized here, but still green; in twenty days will be
harvest, and I am to go to the harvest-home to a fellah friend of mine in
a village a mile or two off.  The crop is said to be unusually fine.  Old
Nile always pays back the damage he does when he rises so very high.  The
real disaster is the cattle disease, which still goes on, I hear, lower
down.  It has not at present spread above Minieh, but the destruction has
been fearful.

I more and more feel the difficulty of quite understanding a people so
unlike ourselves—the more I know them, I mean.  One thing strikes me,
that like children, they are not conscious of the great gulf which
divides educated Europeans from themselves; at least, I believe it is so.
We do not attempt to explain our ideas to them, but I cannot discover any
such reticence in them.  I wonder whether this has struck people who can
talk fluently and know them better than I do?  I find they appeal to my
sympathy in trouble quite comfortably, and talk of religious and other
feelings apparently as freely as to each other.  In many respects they
are more unprejudiced than we are, and very intelligent, and very good in
many ways; and yet they seem so strangely childish, and I fancy I detect
that impression even in Lane’s book, though he does not say so.

If you write to me, dear Tom, please address me care of Briggs and Co.,
Cairo.  I shall be so glad to hear of you and yours.  Janet is going to
England.  I wish I were going too, but it is useless to keep trying a
hopeless experiment.  At present I am very comfortable in health as long
as I do nothing and the weather is warm.  I suffer little pain, only I
feel weak and weary.

I have extensive practice in the doctoring line; bad eyes, of course,
abound.  My love to Watts, and give greetings to any other of my friends.
I grieve over Thackeray much, and more over his girls’ lonely sort of
position.

I think you would enjoy, as I do, the peculiar sort of social equality
which prevails here; it is the exact contrary of French _égalité_.  There
are the great and powerful people, much honoured (outwardly, at all
events), but nobody has _inferiors_.  A man comes in and kisses my hand,
and sits down _off_ the carpet out of respect; but he smokes his pipe,
drinks his coffee, laughs, talks and asks questions as freely as if he
were an Effendi or I were a fellahah; he is not my inferior, he is my
poor brother.  The servants in my friends’ houses receive me with
profound demonstrations of respect, and wait at dinner reverently, but
they mix freely in the conversation, and take part in all amusements,
music, dancing-girls, or reading of the Koran.  Even the dancing-girl is
not an outcast; she is free to talk to me, and it is highly irreligious
to show any contempt or aversion.  The rules of politeness are the same
for all.  The passer-by greets the one sitting still, or the one who
comes into a room those who are already there, without distinction of
rank.  When I have greeted the men they always rise, but if I pass
without, they take no notice of me.  All this is very pleasant and
graceful, though it is connected with much that is evil.  The fact that
any man may be a Bey or a Pasha to-morrow is not a good fact, for the
promotion is more likely to fall on a bad slave than on a good or
intelligent free man.  Thus, the only honourable class are those who have
nothing to hope from the great—I won’t say anything to fear, for all have
cause for that.  Hence the high respectability and _gentility_ of the
merchants, who are the most independent of the Government.  The English
would be a little surprised at Arab judgments of them; they admire our
veracity and honesty, and like us on the whole, but they blame the men
for their conduct to women.  They are shocked at the way Englishmen talk
about Hareem among themselves, and think the English hard and unkind to
their wives, and to women in general.  English Hareemát is generally
highly approved, and an Arab thinks himself a happy man if he can marry
an English girl.  I have had an offer for Sally from the chief man here
for his son, proposing to allow her a free exercise of her religion and
customs as a matter of course.  I think the influence of foreigners is
much more real and much more useful on the Arabs than on the Turks,
though the latter show it more in dress, etc.  But all the engineers and
physicians are Arabs, and very good ones, too.  Not a Turk has learnt
anything practical, and the dragomans and servants employed by the
English have learnt a strong appreciation of the value of a character for
honesty, deserved or no; but many do deserve it.  Compared to the
couriers and _laquais de place_ of Europe, these men stand very high.
Omar has just run in to say a boat is going, so good-bye, and God bless
you.



March 22, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _March_ 22, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

I am glad my letters amuse you.  Sometimes I think they must breathe the
unutterable dulness of Eastern life: not that it is dull to me, a curious
spectator, but how the men with nothing to do can endure it is a wonder.
I went yesterday to call on a Turk at Karnac; he is a gentlemanly man,
the son of a former Moudir, who was murdered, I believe, for his cruelty
and extortion.  He has 1,000 feddans (acres, or a little more) of land,
and lives in a mud house, larger but no better than any fellahs, with two
wives and the brother of one of them.  He leaves the farm to his
fellaheen altogether, I fancy.  There was one book, a Turkish one; I
could not read the title-page, and he did not tell me what it was.  In
short, there was no means of killing time but the narghile, no horse, no
gun, nothing, and yet they did not seem bored.  The two women are always
clamorous for my visits, and very noisy and school-girlish, but
apparently excellent friends and very good-natured.  The gentleman gave
me a _kufyeh_ (thick head kerchief for the sun), so I took the ladies a
bit of silk I happened to have.  You never heard anything like his
raptures over Maurice’s portrait, ‘_Mashallah_, _Mashallah_, _Wallahy zay
el ward_’ (It is the will of God, and by God he is like a rose).  But I
can’t ‘cotton to’ the Turks.  I always feel that they secretly dislike us
European women, though they profess huge admiration and pay _personal_
compliments, which an Arab very seldom attempts.  I heard Seleem Effendi
and Omar discussing English ladies one day lately while I was inside the
curtain with Seleem’s slave girl, and they did not know I heard them.
Omar described Janet, and was of the opinion that a man who was married
to her could want nothing more.  ‘By my soul, she rides like a Bedawee,
she shoots with the gun and pistol, and rows the boat; she speaks many
languages, works with the needle like an Efreet, and to see her hands run
over the teeth of the music-box (keys of piano) amazes the mind, while
her singing gladdens the soul.  How then should her husband ever desire
the coffee-shop?  _Wallahy_! she can always amuse him at home.  And as to
my lady, the thing is not that she does not know.  When I feel my stomach
tightened, I go to the divan and say to her, ‘Do you want anything, a
pipe, or sherbet, or so and so?’ and I talk till she lays down her book
and talks to me, and I question her and amuse my mind, and, by God! if I
were a rich man and could marry one English Hareem like that I would
stand before her and serve her like her memlook.  You see I am only this
lady’s servant, and I have not once sat in the coffee-shop because of the
sweetness of her tongue.  Is it not therefore true that the man who can
marry such Hareem is rich more than with money?’  Seleem seemed disposed
to think a little more of looks, though he quite agreed with all Omar’s
enthusiasm, and asked if Janet were beautiful.  Omar answered with
decorous vagueness that she was a ‘moon,’ but declined mentioning her
hair, eyes, etc. (it is a liberty to describe a woman minutely).  I
nearly laughed out at hearing Omar relate his manœuvres to make me ‘amuse
his mind’; it seems I am in no danger of being discharged for being dull.

The weather has set in so hot that I have shifted my quarters out of my
fine room to the south-west into one with only three sides looking over a
lovely green view to the north-east, with a huge sort of solid veranda,
as large as the room itself, on the open side; thus I live in the open
air altogether.  The bats and the swallows are quite sociable; I hope the
serpents and scorpions will be more reserved.  ‘_El Khamaseen_’ (the
fifty) has begun, and the wind is enough to mix up heaven and earth, but
it is not distressing like the Cape south-easter, and, though hot, not
choking like the Khamseen in Cairo and Alexandria.  Mohammed brought me a
handful of the new wheat just now.  Think of harvest in March and April!
These winds are as good for the crops here as a ‘nice steady rain’ is in
England.  It is not necessary to water so much when the wind blows
strong.  As I rode through the green fields along the dyke, a little boy
sang as he turned round on the musically-creaking Sakìah (the water-wheel
turned by an ox) the one eternal Sakìah tune—the words are _ad libitum_,
and my little friend chanted ‘Turn oh Sakìah to the right and turn to the
left—who will take care of me if my father dies?  Turn oh Sakìah, etc.,
pour water for the figs and the grass and for the watermelons.  Turn oh
Sakìah!’  Nothing is so pathetic as that Sakìah song.

I passed the house of the Sheykh-el-Ababdeh, who called out to me to take
coffee.  The moon was splendid and the scene was lovely.  The handsome
black-brown Sheykh in dark robes and white turban, Omar in a graceful
white gown and red turban, and the wild Ababdeh in all manner of dingy
white rags, and with every kind of uncouth weapon, spears, matchlocks,
etc., in every kind of wild and graceful attitude, with their long black
ringlets and bare heads, a few little black-brown children quite naked
and shaped like Cupids.  And there we sat and looked so romantic and
talked quite like ladies and gentlemen about the merits of Sakna and
Almás, the two great rival women-singers of Cairo.  I think the Sheykh
wished to display his experiences of fashionable life.

The Copts are now fasting and cross.  They fast fifty-five days for Lent;
no meat, fish, eggs, or milk, no exception for Sundays, no food till
after twelve at noon, and no intercourse with the hareem.  The only
comfort is lots of arrak, and what a Copt can carry decently is an
unknown quantity; one seldom sees them drunk, but they imbibe awful
quantities.  They offer me wine and arrak always, and can’t think why I
don’t drink it.  I believe they suspect my Christianity in consequence of
my preference for Nile water.  As to that, though, they scorn all
heretics, _i.e._, all Christians but themselves and the Abyssinians, more
than they do the Muslims, and dislike them more; the procession of the
Holy Ghost question divides us with the Gulf of Jehannum.  The gardener
of this house is a Copt, such a nice fellow, and he and Omar chaff one
another about religion with the utmost good humour; indeed they are
seldom touchy with the Moslems.  There is a pretty little man called
Michaïl, a Copt, vakeel to M. Mounier.  I wish I could draw him to show a
perfect specimen of the ancient Egyptian race; his blood must be quite
unmixed.  He came here yesterday to speak to Ali Bey, the Moudir of
Keneh, who was visiting me (a splendid handsome Turk he is); so little
Michaïl crept in to mention his business under my protection, and a few
more followed, till Ali Bey got tired of holding a durbar in my divan and
went away to his boat.  You see the people think the _courbash_ is not
quite so handy with an English spectator.  The other day Mustapha A’gha
got Ali Bey to do a little job for him—to let the people in the Gezeereh
(the island), which is Mustapha’s property, work at a canal there instead
of at the canal higher up for the Pasha.  Very well, but down comes the
Nazir (the Moudir’s _sub_.), and courbashes the whole Gezeereh, not
Mustapha, of course, but the poor _fellaheen_ who were doing his corvée
instead of the Pasha’s by the Moudir’s order.  I went to the Gezeereh and
thought that Moses was at work again and had killed a firstborn in every
house by the crying and wailing, when up came two fellows and showed me
their bloody feet, which their wives were crying over like for a death,
_Shorghl el Mizr_—things of Egypt—like _Cosas de España_.

_Wednesday_.—Last night I bored Sheykh Yussuf with Antara and Abou-Zeyd,
maintaining the greater valour of Antara who slew 10,000 for the love of
Ibla; you know Antara.  Yussuf looks down on such profanities, and
replied, ‘What are Antara and Abou-Zeyd compared to the combats of our
Lord Moses with Og and other infidels of might, and what is the love of
Antara for Ibla compared to that of our Lord Solomon for Balkees (Queen
of Sheba), or their beauty and attractiveness to that of our Lord
Joseph?’  And then he related the combat of _Seyyidna Mousa_ with Og; and
I thought, ‘hear O ye Puritans, and give ear O ye Methodists, and learn
how religion and romance are one to those whose manners and ideas are the
manners and ideas of the Bible, and how Moses was not at all a crop-eared
Puritan, but a gallant warrior!’  There is the Homeric element in the
religion here, the Prophet is a hero like Achilles, and like him directed
by God—Allah instead of Athene.  He fights, prays, teaches, makes love,
and is truly a _man_, not an abstraction; and as to wonderful events,
instead of telling one to ‘gulp them down without looking’ (as children
are told with a nasty dose, and as we are told about Genesis, etc.) they
believe them and delight in them, and tell them to amuse people.  Such a
piece of deep-disguised scepticism as _Credo quia impossibile_ would find
no favour here; ‘What is impossible to God?’ settles everything.  In
short, Mohammed has somehow left the stamp of romance on the religion, or
else it is in the blood of the people, though the Koran is prosy and
‘common-sensical’ compared to the Old Testament.  I used to think Arabs
intensely prosaic till I could understand a little of their language, but
now I can trace the genealogy of Don Quixote straight up to some
Sheykh-el-Arab.

A fine, handsome woman with a lovely baby came to me the other day.  I
played with the baby, and gave it a cotton handkerchief for its head.
The woman came again yesterday to bring me a little milk and some salad
as a present, and to tell my fortune with date stones.  I laughed, and so
she contented herself with telling Omar about his family, which he
believed implicitly.  She is a clever woman evidently, and a great sibyl
here.  No doubt she has faith in her own predictions.  She told Mme.
Mounier (who is a Levantine) that she would never have a child, and was
forbidden the house accordingly, and the prophecy has ‘come true.’
Superstition is wonderfully infectious here.  The fact is that the Arabs
are so intensely impressionable, and so cowardly about inspiring any
ill-will, that if a man looks askance at them it is enough to make them
ill, and as calamities are not infrequent, there is always some mishap
ready to be laid to the charge of somebody’s ‘eye.’  Omar would fain have
had me say nothing about the theft of my purse, for fear the Karnac
people should hate me and give me the eye.  A part of the boasting about
property, etc., is politeness, so that one may not be supposed to be
envious of one’s neighbours’ nice things.  My Sakka (water carrier)
admired my bracelet yesterday, as he was watering the verandah floor, and
instantly told me of all the gold necklaces and earrings he had bought
for his wife and daughters, that I might not be uneasy and fear his
envious eye.  He is such a good fellow.  For two shillings a month he
brings up eight or ten huge skins of water from the river a day, and
never begs or complains, always merry and civil.  I shall enlarge his
backsheesh.  There are a lot of camels who sleep in the yard under my
verandah; they are pretty and smell nice, but they growl and swear at
night abominably.  I wish I could draw you an Egyptian farm-yard, men,
women and cattle; but what no one can draw is the amber light, so
brilliant and so soft, not like the Cape diamond sunshine at all, but
equally beautiful, hotter and less dazzling.  There is no glare in Egypt
like in the South of France, and, I suppose, in Italy.

_Thursday_.—I went yesterday afternoon to the island again to see the
crops, and show Sally my friend farmer Omar’s house and Mustapha’s
village.  Of course we had to eat, and did not come home till the moon
had long risen.  Mustapha’s brother Abdurachman walked about with us,
such a noble-looking man, tall, spare, dignified and active, grey-bearded
and hard-featured, but as lithe and bright-eyed as a boy, scorning any
conveyance but his own feet, and quite dry while we ‘ran down.’  He was
like Boaz, the wealthy gentleman peasant—nothing except the Biblical
characters gave any idea of the rich _fellah_.  We sat and drank new milk
in a ‘lodge in a garden of cucumbers’ (the ‘lodge’ is a neat hut of palm
branches), and saw the moon rise over the mountains and light up
everything like a softer sun.  Here you see all colours as well by
moonlight as by day; hence it does not look as brilliant as the Cape
moon, or even as I have seen in Paris, where it throws sharp black
shadows and white light.  The night here is a tender, subdued, dreamy
sort of enchanted-looking day.  My Turkish acquaintance from Karnac has
just been here; he boasted of his house in Damascus, and invited me to go
with him after the harvest here, also of his beautiful wife in Syria, and
then begged me not to mention her to his wives here.

It is very hot now; what will it be in June?  It is now 86° in my shady
room at noon; it will be hotter at two or three.  But the mornings and
evenings are delicious.  I am shedding my clothes by degrees; stockings
are unbearable.  Meanwhile my cough is almost gone, and the pain is quite
gone.  I feel much stronger, too; the horrible feeling of exhaustion has
left me; I suppose I must have salamander blood in my body to be made
lively by such heat.  Sally is quite well; she does not seem at all the
worse at present.

_Saturday_.—This will go to-morrow by some travellers, the last winter
swallows.  We went together yesterday to the Tombs of the Kings on the
opposite bank.  The mountains were red-hot, and the sun went down into
Amenti all on fire.  We met Mr. Dümmichen, the German, who is living in
the temple of Dayr el-Bahree, translating inscriptions, and went down
Belzoni’s tomb.  Mr. Dümmichen translated a great many things for us
which were very curious, and I think I was more struck with the beauty of
the drawing of the figures than last year.  The face of the Goddess of
the Western shore, Amenti, Athor, or Hecate, is ravishing as she welcomes
the King to her regions; death was never painted so lovely.  The road is
a long and most wild one—truly through the valley of the shadow of
death—not an insect nor a bird.  Our moonlight ride home was beyond
belief beautiful.  The Arabs who followed us were immensely amused at
hearing me interpret between German and English, and at my speaking
Arabic; they asked if I was dragoman of all the languages in the world.
One of them had droll theories about ‘Amellica’ (America), as they
pronounce it always.  Was the King very powerful that the country was
called ‘_Al Melekeh_’ (the Kings)?  I said, ‘No: all are Kings there: you
would be a King like the rest.’  My friend disapproved utterly: ‘If all
are Kings they must all be taking away every man the other’s money’—a
delightful idea of the kingly vocation.

When we landed on the opposite shore, I told little Achmet to go back in
the ferry-boat, in which he had brought me over my donkey; a quarter of
an hour after I saw him by my side.  The guide asked why he had not gone
as I told him.  ‘Who would take care of the lady?’ the monkey is Rainie’s
size.  Of course he got tired, and on the way home I told him to jump up
behind me _en croupe_ after the Fellah fashion.  I thought the Arabs
would never have done laughing and saying _Wallah_ and _Mashallah_.
Sheykh Yussuf talked about the excavations, and is shocked at the way the
mummies are kicked about.  One boy told him they were not Muslims as an
excuse, and he rebuked him severely, and told him it was _haraam_
(accursed) to do so to the children of Adam.  He says they have learned
it very much of Mariette Bey, but I suspect it was always so with the
fellaheen.  To-day a tremendous wind is blowing; excellent for the corn.
At Mustapha’s farm they are preparing for the harvest, baking bread and
selecting a young bull to be killed for the reapers.  It is not hot
to-day; only 84° in a cool room.  The dust is horrid with this high wind;
everything is gritty, and it obscures the sun.  I am desired to eat a raw
onion every day during the Khamseen for health and prosperity.  This too
must be a remnant of ancient Egypt.  How I do long to see you and the
children.  Sometimes I feel rather down-hearted, but it is no good to say
all that.  And I am much better and stronger.  I stood a long ride and
some scrambling quite well last evening.



April 6, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _April_ 6, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

I received yours of March 10 two days ago; also one from Hekekian Bey,
much advising me to stay here the summer and get my disease ‘evaporated.’
Since I last wrote the great heat abated, and we now have 76° to 80°,
with strong north breezes up the river—glorious weather—neither too hot
nor chilly at any time.  Last evening I went out to the threshing-floor
to see the stately oxen treading out the corn, and supped there with
Abdurachman on roasted corn, sour cream, and eggs, and saw the reapers
take their wages, each a bundle of wheat according to the work he had
done—the most lovely sight.  The graceful, half-naked, brown figures
loaded with sheaves; some had earned so much that their mothers or wives
had to help to carry it, and little fawn-like, stark-naked boys trudged
off, so proud of their little bundles of wheat or of _hummuz_ (a sort of
vetch much eaten both green and roasted).  The _sakka_ (water-carrier),
who has brought water for the men, gets a handful from each, and drives
home his donkey with empty waterskins and a heavy load of wheat, and the
barber who has shaved all these brown heads on credit this year past gets
his pay, and everyone is cheerful and happy in their gentle, quiet way;
here is no beer to make men sweaty and noisy and vulgar; the harvest is
the most exquisite pastoral you can conceive.  The men work seven hours
in the day (_i.e._, eight, with half-hours to rest and eat), and seven
more during the night; they go home at sunset to dinner, and sleep a bit,
and then to work again—these ‘lazy Arabs’!  The man who drives the oxen
on the threshing-floor gets a measure and a half for his day and night’s
work, of threshed corn, I mean.  As soon as the wheat, barley, _addas_
(lentils) and _hummuz_ are cut, we shall sow _dourrah_ of two kinds,
common maize and Egyptian, and plant sugar-cane, and later cotton.  The
people work very hard, but here they eat well, and being paid in corn
they get the advantage of the high price of corn this year.

I told you how my purse had been stolen and the proceedings thereanent.
Well, Mustapha asked me several times what I wished to be done with the
thief, who spent twenty-one days here in irons.  With my absurd English
ideas of justice I refused to interfere at all, and Omar and I had quite
a tiff because he wished me to say, ‘Oh, poor man, let him go; I leave
the affair to God.’  I thought Omar absurd, but it was I who was wrong.
The authorities concluded that it would oblige me very much if the poor
devil were punished with a ‘rigour beyond the law,’ and had not Sheykh
Yussuf come and explained the nature of the proceedings, the man would
have been sent up to the mines in Fazogloo _for life_, out of civility to
me, by the Moudir of Keneh, Ali Bey.  There was no alternative between my
‘forgiving him for the love of God’ or sending him to a certain death by
a climate insupportable to these people.  Mustapha and Co. tried hard to
prevent Sheykh Yussuf from speaking to me, for fear I should be angry and
complain at Cairo, if my vengeance were not wreaked on the thief, but he
said he knew me better, and brought the _procès verbal_ to show me.
Fancy my dismay!  I went to Seleem Effendi and to the Kádee with Sheykh
Yussuf, and begged the man might be let go, and not sent to Keneh at all.
Having settled this, I said that I had thought it right that the people
of Karnac should pay the money I had lost, as a fine for their bad
conduct to strangers, but that I did not require it for the sake of the
money, which I would accordingly give to the poor of Luxor in the mosque
and in the church (great applause from the crowd).  I asked how many were
Muslimeen and how many Nazranee, in order to divide the three napoleons
and a half, according to the numbers.  Sheykh Yussuf awarded one napoleon
to the church, two to the mosque, and the half to the water-drinking
place—the _Sebeel_—which was also applauded.  I then said, ‘Shall we send
the money to the bishop?’ but a respectable elderly Copt said,
‘_Malcysh_! (never mind) better give it all to Sheykh Yussuf; he will
send the bread to the church.’  Then the Cadi made me a fine speech, and
said I had behaved like a great _Emeereh_, and one that feared God; and
Sheykh Yussuf said he knew the English had mercy in their stomachs, and
that I especially had Mussulman feelings (as we say, Christian charity).
Did you ever hear of such a state of administration of justice.  Of
course, sympathy here, as in Ireland, is mostly with the ‘poor man’ in
prison—‘in trouble,’ as we say.  I find that accordingly a vast number of
disputes are settled by private arbitration, and Yussuf is constantly
sent for to decide between contending parties, who abide by his decision
rather than go to law; or else five or six respectable men are called
upon to form a sort of amateur jury, and to settle the matter.  In
criminal cases, if the prosecutor is powerful, he has it all his own way;
if the prisoner can bribe high, he is apt to get off.  All the appealing
to my compassion was quite _en règle_.  Another trait of Egypt.

The other day we found all our water-jars empty and our house
unsprinkled.  On enquiry it turned out that the _sakkas_ had all run
away, carrying with them their families and goods, and were gone no one
knew whither, in consequence of some ‘persons having authority,’ one, a
Turkish _cawass_ (policeman), having forced them to fetch water for
building purposes at so low a price that they could not bear it.  My poor
_sakka_ is gone without a whole month’s pay—two shillings!—the highest
pay by far given in Luxor.  I am interested in another story.  I hear
that a plucky woman here has been to Keneh, and threatened the Moudir
that she will go to Cairo and complain to Effendina himself of the unfair
drafting for soldiers—her only son taken, while others have bribed off.
She’ll walk in this heat all the way, unless she succeeds in frightening
the Moudir, which, as she is of the more spirited sex in this country,
she may possibly do.  You see these Saeedes are a bit less patient than
Lower Egyptians.  The _sakkas_ can strike, and a woman can face a Moudir.

You would be amused at the bazaar here.  There is a barber, and on
Tuesdays some beads, calico, and tobacco are sold.  The only artizan is—a
jeweller!  We spin and weave our own brown woollen garments, and have no
other wants, but gold necklaces and nose and earrings are indispensable.
It is the safest way of hoarding, and happily combines saving with
ostentation.  Can you imagine a house without beds, chairs, tables, cups,
glasses, knives—in short, with nothing but an oven, a few pipkins and
water-jars, and a couple of wooden spoons, and some mats to sleep on?
And yet people are happy and quite civilized who live so.  An Arab cook,
with his fingers and one cooking-pot, will serve you an excellent dinner
quite miraculously.  The simplification of life possible in such a
climate is not conceivable unless one has seen it.  The Turkish ladies
whom I visit at Karnac have very little more.  They are very fond of me,
and always want me to stay and sleep, but how could I sleep in my clothes
on a mat-divan, poor spoiled European that I am?  But they pity and
wonder far more at the absence of my ‘master.’  I made a bad slip of the
tongue and said ‘my husband’ before Abdul Rafiah, the master of the
house.  The ladies laughed and blushed tremendously, and I felt very
awkward, but they turned the tables on me in a few minutes by some
questions they asked quite coolly.

I hardly know what I shall have to do.  If the heat does not turn out
overpowering, I shall stay here; if I cannot bear it, I must go down the
river.  I asked Omar if he could bear a summer here, so dull for a young
man fond of a little coffee-shop and gossip, for that, if he could not,
he might go down for a time and join me again, as I could manage with
some man here.  He absolutely cried, kissed my hands, and declared he was
never so happy as with me, and he could not rest if he thought I had not
all I wanted.  ‘I am your _memlook_, not your servant—your _memlook_.’  I
really believe that these people sometimes love their English masters
better than their own people.  Omar certainly has shown the greatest
fondness for me on all occasions.



April 7, 1864: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _April_ 7, 1864.

DEAREST JANET,

I have continued very fairly well.  We had great heat ten days ago; now
it is quite cool.  Harvesting is going on, and never did I see in any
dream so lovely a sight as the whole process.  An acquaintance of mine,
one Abdurachman, is Boaz, and as I sat with him on the threshing-floor
and ate roasted corn, I felt quite puzzled as to whether I were really
alive or only existing in imagination in the Book of Ruth.  It is such a
_kief_ that one enjoys under the palm-trees, with such a scene.  The
harvest is magnificent here; I never saw such crops.  There is no cattle
disease, but a good deal of sickness among the people; I have to practise
very extensively, and often feel very anxious, as I cannot refuse to go
to the poor souls and give them medicine, with sore misgivings all the
while.  Fancy that Hekekian Bey can’t get me an Arabic dictionary in
Cairo.  I must send to London, I suppose, which seems hardly worth while.
I wish you could see my teacher, Sheykh Yussuf.  I never before saw a
pious person amiable and good like him.  He is intensely devout, and not
at all bigoted—a difficult combination; and, moreover, he is lovely to
behold, and has the prettiest and merriest laugh possible.  It is quite
curious to see the mixture of a sort of learning with utter ignorance and
great superstition, and such perfect high-breeding and beauty of
character.  It is exactly like associating with St. John.

I want dreadfully to be able to draw, or to photograph.  The group at the
Sheykh-el-Ababdeh’s last night was ravishing, all but my ugly hat and
self.  The black ringlets and dirty white drapery and obsolete
weapons—the graceful splendid Sheykh ‘black but beautiful’ like the
Shulamite—I thought of Antar and Abou Zeyd.

Give my salaam to Mme. Tastu and ask her whether I may stay on here, or
if I go down stream during the heat whether I may return next winter, in
which case I might leave some of my goods.  Hekekian strongly advises me
to remain here, and thinks the heat will be good.  I will try; 88° seemed
to agree with me wonderfully, my cough is much better.



April 14, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _April_ 14, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have but this moment received your letter of the 18th March, which went
after Janet, who was hunting at Tel-el-Kebir.  We have had a tremendous
Khamseen wind, and now a strong north wind quite fresh and cool.  The
thermometer was 92° during the Khamseen, but it did me no harm.  Luckily
I am very well for I am worked hard, as a strange epidemic has broken
out, and I am the _Hakeemeh_ (doctress) of Luxor.  The _Hakeem_ Pasha
from Cairo came up and frightened the people, telling them it was
catching, and Yussuf forgot his religion so far as to beg me not to be
all day in the people’s huts; but Omar and I despised the danger, I
feeling sure it was not infectious, and Omar saying _Min Allah_.  The
people get stoppage of the bowels and die in eight days unless they are
physicked; all who have sent for me in time have recovered.
_Alhamdulillah_, that I can help the poor souls.  It is harvest, and the
hard work, and the spell of intense heat, and the green corn, beans,
etc., which they eat, brings on the sickness.  Then the Copts are fasting
from all animal food, and full of green beans and salad, and green corn.
Mustapha tried to persuade me not to give physick, for fear those who
died should pass for being poisoned, but both Omar and I are sure it is
only to excuse his own selfishness.  Omar is an excellent assistant.  The
bishop tried to make money by hinting that if I forbade my patients to
fast, I might pay for their indulgence.  One poor, peevish little man
refused the chicken-broth, and told me that we Europeans had _our_ heaven
in _this_ world; Omar let out _kelb_ (dog), but I stopped him, and said,
‘Oh, my brother, God has made the Christians of England unlike those of
Egypt, and surely will condemn neither of us on that account; mayest thou
find a better heaven hereafter than I now enjoy here.’  Omar threw his
arms round me and said, ‘Oh, thou good one, surely our Lord will reward
thee for acting thus with the meekness of a Muslimeh, and kissing the
hand of him who strikes thy face.’  (See how each religion claims
humility.)  Suleyman was not pleased at his fellow-christian’s display of
charity.  It does seem strange that the Copts of the lower class will not
give us the blessing, or thank God for our health like the Muslimeen.
Most of my patients are Christians, and some are very nice people indeed.
The people here have named me Sittee (Lady) _Noor-ala-Noor_.  A poor
woman whose only child, a young man, I was happy enough to cure when
dreadfully ill, kissed my feet and asked by what name to pray for me.  I
told her my name meant _Noor_ (light—_lux_), but as that was one of the
names of God I could not use it.  ‘Thy name is _Noor-ala-Noor_,’ said a
man who was in the room.  That means something like ‘God is upon thy
mind,’ or ‘light from the light,’ and _Noor-ala-Noor_ it remains; a
combination of one of the names of God is quite proper, like Abdallah,
Abdurachman, etc.  I begged some medicines from a Countess Braniscki, who
went down the other day; when all is gone I don’t know what I shall do.
I am going to try to make castor oil; I don’t know how, but I shall try,
and Omar fancies he can manage it.  The cattle disease has also broken
out desperately up in Esneh, and we see the dead beasts float down all
day.  Of course we shall soon have it here.

_Sunday_, _April_ 17.—The epidemic seems to be over, but there is still a
great deal of gastric fever, etc., about.  The _hakeem_ from Keneh has
just been here—such a pleasing, clever young man, speaking Italian
perfectly, and French extremely well.  He is the son of some fellah of
Lower Egypt, sent to study at Pisa, and has not lost the Arab gentility
and elegance by a _Frenghi_ education.  We fraternized greatly, and the
young _hakeem_ was delighted at my love for his people, and my high
opinion of their intelligence.  He is now gone to inspect the sick, and
is to see me again and give me directions.  He was very unhappy that he
could not supply me with medicines; none are to be bought above Cairo,
except from the hospital doctors, who sell the medicines of the
Government, as the Italian at Siout did.  But Ali Effendi is too honest
for that.  The old bishop paid me a visit of three and a half hours
yesterday, and _pour me tirer une carotte_ he sent me a loaf of sugar, so
I must send a present ‘for the church’ to be consumed in raki.  The old
party was not very sober, and asked for wine.  I coolly told him it was
_haraam_ (forbidden) to us to drink during the day—only with our dinner.
I never will give the Christians drink here, and now they have left off
pressing me to drink spirits at their houses.  The bishop offered to
alter the hour of prayer for me, and to let me into the _Heykel_ (where
women must not go) on Good Friday, which will be eighteen days hence.
All of which I refused, and said I would go on the roof of the church and
look down through the window with the other _Hareemat_.  Omar kissed the
bishop’s hand, and I said: ‘What! do _you_ kiss his hand like a Copt?’
‘Oh yes, he is an old man, and a servant of my God, but dreadful dirty,’
added Omar; and it was too true.  His presence diffused a fearful
monastic odour of sanctity.  A Bishop must be a monk, as priests are
married.

_Monday_.—To-day Ali Effendi-_el-Hakeem_ came to tell me how he had been
to try to see my patients and failed; all the families declared they were
well and would not let him in.  Such is the deep distrust of everything
to do with the Government.  They all waited till he was gone away, and
then came again to me with their ailments.  I scolded, and they all said,
‘_Wallah, ya Sitt, ya Emeereh_; that is the _Hakeem_ Pasha, and he would
send us off to hospital at Keneh, and then they would poison us; by thy
eyes do not be angry with us, or leave off from having compassion on us
on this account.’  I said, ‘Ali Effendi is an Arab and a Muslim and an
_Emeer_ (gentleman), and he gave me good advice, and would have given
more,’ etc.  No use at all.  He is the Government doctor, and they had
rather die, and will swallow anything from _el-Sittee Noor-ala-Noor_.
Here is a pretty state of things.

I gave Sheykh Yussuf £4 for three months’ daily lessons last night, and
had quite a contest to force it upon him.  ‘It is not for money, oh
Lady;’ and he coloured crimson.  He had been about with Ali Effendi, but
could not get the people to see him.  The Copts, I find, _have_ a
religious prejudice against him, and, indeed, against all heretics.  They
consider themselves and the Abyssinians as the only true believers.  If
they acknowledge _us_ as brethren, it is for money.  I speak only of the
low class, and of the priests; of course the educated merchants are very
different.  I had two priests and two deacons, and the mother of one,
here to-day for physic for the woman.  She was very pretty and pleasing;
miserably reduced and weak from the long fast.  I told her she must eat
meat and drink a little wine, and take cold baths, and gave her quinine.
She will take the wine and the quinine, but neither eat nor wash.  The
Bishop tells them they will die if they break the fast, and half the
Christians are ill from it.  One of the priests spoke a little English;
he fabricates false antiques very cleverly, and is tolerably sharp; but,
Oh _mon Dieu_, it is enough to make one turn Muslim to compare these
greasy rogues with such high-minded charitable _shurafa_ (noblemen) as
Abd-el-Waris and Sheykh Yussuf.  A sweet little Copt boy who is very ill
will be killed by the stupid bigotry about the fast.  My friend Suleyman
is much put out, and backs my exhortations to the sick to break it.  He
is a capital fellow, and very intelligent, and he and Omar are like
brothers; it is the priests who do all they can to keep alive religious
prejudice.  _Alhamdulillah_, they are only partially successful.
Mohammed has just heard that seventy-five head of cattle are dead at
El-Moutaneh.  Here only a few have died as yet, and Ali Effendi thinks
the disease less virulent than in Lower Egypt.  I hope he is right; but
dead beasts float down the river all day long.

To turn to something more amusing—but please don’t tell it—such a joke
against my gray hairs.  I have had a proposal, or at least an attempt at
one.  A very handsome Sheykh-el-Arab (_Bedawee_) was here for a bit, and
asked Omar whether I were a widow or divorced, as in either case he would
send a _dellaleh_ (marriage brokeress) to me.  Omar told him that would
never do.  I had a husband in England; besides, I was not young, had a
married daughter, my hair was gray, etc.  The Sheykh swore he didn’t
care; I could dye my hair and get a divorce; that I was not like stupid
modern women, but like an ancient Arab _Emeereh_, and worthy of Antar or
Abou Zeyd—a woman for whom men killed each other or themselves—and he
would pay all he could afford as my dowry.  Omar came in in fits of
laughter at the idea, and the difficulty he had had in stopping the
_dellaleh’s_ visit.  He told the Sheykh I should certainly beat her I
should be so offended.  The disregard of differences of age here on
marriage is very strange.  My adorer was not more than thirty, I am sure.
Don’t tell people, my dear Alick; it is so very absurd; I should be
‘ashamed before the people.’

_Saturday_, _April_ 23.—_Alhamdulillah_! the sickness is going off.  I
have just heard Suleyman’s report as follows: Hassan Abou-Achmet kisses
the Emeereh’s feet, and the bullets have cleaned his stomach six times,
and he has said the _Fathah_ for the Lady.  The two little girls who had
diarrhœa are well.  The Christian dyer has vomited his powder and wants
another.  The mother of the Christian cook who married the priest’s
sister has got dysentery.  The hareem of Mustapha Abou-Abeyd has two
children with bad eyes.  The Bishop had a quarrel, and scolded and fell
down, and cannot speak or move; I must go to him.  The young-deacon’s
jaundice is better.  The slave girl of Kursheed A’gha is sick, and
Kursheed is sitting at her head in tears; the women say I must go to her,
too.  Kursheed is a fine young Turk, and very good to his _Hareemat_.
That is all; Suleyman has nothing on earth to do, and brings me a daily
report; he likes the gossip and the importance.

The reis of a cargo-boat brought me up your Lafontaine, and some papers
and books from Hekekian Bey.  Sheykh Yussuf is going down to Cairo, to
try to get back some of the lands which Mahommed Ali took away from the
mosques and the Ulema without compensation.  He asked me whether Ross
would speak for him to Effendina!  What are the Muslimeen coming to?  As
soon as I can read enough he offers to read in the Koran with me—a most
unusual proceeding, as the ‘noble Koran’ is not generally put into the
hands of heretics; but my ‘charity to the people in sickness’ is looked
upon by Abd-el-Waris the Imam, and by Yussuf, as a proof that I have
‘received direction,’ and am of those Christians of whom _Seyyidna_
Mohammed (upon whose name be peace) has said ‘that they have no pride,
that they rival each other in good works, and that God will increase
their reward.’  There is no _arrière pensée_ of conversion that they
think hopeless, but charity covers all sins with Muslimeen.  Next Friday
is the _Djuma el-Kebeer_ (Good Friday) with the Copts, and the prayers
are in the daytime, so I shall go to the church.  Next moon is the great
Bairam, _el-Eed el-Kebeer_ (the great festival), with the Muslimeen—the
commemoration of the sacrifice of Isaac or Ishmael (commentators are
uncertain which)—and Omar will kill a sheep for the poor for the benefit
of his baby, according to custom.  I have at length compassed the
destruction of mine enemy, though he has not written a book.  A fanatical
Christian dog (quadruped), belonging to the Coptic family who live on the
opposite side of the yard, hated me with such virulent intensity that,
not content with barking at me all day, he howled at me all night, even
after I had put out the lantern and he could not see me in bed.  Sentence
of death has been recorded against him, as he could not be beaten into
toleration.  Michaïl, his master’s son, has just come down from
El-Moutaneh, where he is _vakeel_ to M. Mounier.  He gives a fearful
account of the sickness there among men and cattle—eight and ten deaths a
day; here we have had only four a day, at the worst, in a population of
(I guess) some 2,000.  The Mouniers have put themselves in quarantine,
and allow no one to approach their house, as Mustapha wanted me to do.
One hundred and fifty head of cattle have died at El-Moutaneh; here only
a few calves are dead, but as yet no full-grown beasts, and the people
are healthy again.  I really think I did some service by not showing any
fear, and Omar behaved manfully.  By-the-by, will you find out whether a
_passaporto_, as they call it, a paper granting British protection, can
be granted in England.  It is the object of Omar’s highest ambition to
belong as much as possible to the English, and feel safe from being
forced to serve a Turk.  If it can be done by any coaxing and jobbing,
pray do it, for Omar deserves any service I can render him in return for
all his devotion and fidelity.  Someone tried to put it into his head
that it was _haraam_ to be too fond of us heretics and be faithful, but
he consulted Sheykh Yussuf, who promised him a reward hereafter for good
conduct to me, and who told me of it as a good joke, adding that he was
_raghil ameen_, the highest praise for fidelity, the sobriquet of the
Prophet.  Do not be surprised at my lack of conscience in desiring to
benefit my own follower _in qualunque modo_; justice is not of Eastern
growth, and _Europeo_ is ‘your only wear,’ and here it is only base not
to stick by one’s friends.  Omar kisses the hands of the _Sidi-el-Kebeer_
(the great master), and desires his best salaam to the little master and
the little lady, whose servant he is.  He asks if I, too, do not kiss
Iskender Bey’s hand in my letter, as I ought to do as his Hareem, or
whether ‘I make myself big before my master,’ like some French ladies he
has seen?  I tell him I will do so if Iskender Bey will get him his
_warak_ (paper), whereupon he picks up the hem of my gown and kisses
that, and I civilly expostulate on such condescension to a woman.  Yussuf
is quite puzzled about European women, and a little shocked at the want
of respect to their husbands they display.  I told him that the outward
respect shown to us by our men was _our veil_, and explained how
superficial the difference was.  He fancied that the law gave us the
upper hand.  Omar reports yesterday’s sermon ‘on toleration,’ it appears.
Yussuf took the text of ‘Thou shalt love thy brother as thyself, and
never act towards him but as thou wouldest he should act towards thee.’
I forget chapter and verse; but it seems he took the bull by the horns
and declared _all men_ to be brothers, not Muslimeen only, and desired
his congregation to look at the good deeds of others and not at their
erroneous faith, for God is all-knowing (_i.e._, He only knows the
heart), and if they saw aught amiss to remember that the best man need
say _Astafer Allah_ (I beg pardon of God) seven times a day.

I wish the English could know how unpleasant and mischievous their manner
of talking to their servants about religion is.  Omar confided to me how
bad it felt to be questioned, and then to see the Englishman laugh or put
up his lip and say nothing.  ‘I don’t want to talk about his religion at
all, but if he talks about mine he ought to speak of his own, too.  You,
my Lady, say, when I tell you things, that is the same with us, or that
is different, or good, or not good in your mind, and that is the proper
way, not to look like thinking “all nonsense.”’

                                                                    ESNEH,
                                                   _Saturday_, _April_ 30.

On Thursday evening as I was dreamily sitting on my divan, who should
walk in but Arthur Taylor, on his way, all alone in a big dahabieh, to
Edfou.  So I offered to go too, whereupon he said he would go on to
Assouan and see Philæ as he had company, and we went off to Mustapha to
make a bargain with his Reis for it; thus then here we are at Esneh.  I
embarked on Wednesday evening, and we have been two days _en route_.
Yesterday we had the thermometer at 110; I was the only person awake all
day in the boat.  Omar, after cooking, lay panting at my feet on the
deck.  Arthur went fairly to bed in the cabin; ditto Sally.  All the crew
slept on the deck.  Omar cooked amphibiously, bathing between every meal.
The silence of noon with the _white heat_ glowing on the river which
flowed like liquid tin, and the silent Nubian rough boats floating down
without a ripple, was magnificent and really awful.  Not a breath of wind
as we lay under the lofty bank.  The Nile is not quite so low, and I see
a very different scene from last year.  People think us crazy to go up to
Assouan in May, but I do enjoy it, and I really wanted to forget all the
sickness and sorrow in which I have taken part.  When I went to
Mustapha’s he said Sheykh Yussuf was ill, and I said ‘Then I won’t go.’
But Yussuf came in with a sick headache only.  Mustapha repeated my words
to him, and never did I see such a lovely expression in a human face as
that with which Yussuf said _Eh, ya Sitt_!  Mustapha laughed, and told
him to thank me, and Yussuf turned to me and said, in a low voice, ‘my
sister does not need thanks, save from God.’  Fancy a Shereef, one of the
Ulema, calling a _Frengeeyeh_ ‘sister’!  His pretty little girl came in
and played with me, and he offered her to me for Maurice.  I cured
Kursheed’s Abyssinian slave-girl.  You would have laughed to see him
obeying my directions, and wiping his eyes on his gold-embroidered
sleeve.  And then the Coptic priest came for me for his wife who was ill.
He was in a great quandary, because, if she died, he, as a priest, could
never marry again, as he loudly lamented before her; but he was truly
grieved, and I was very happy to leave her convalescent.

Verily we are sorely visited.  The dead cattle float down by thousands.
M. Mounier buried a thousand at El-Moutaneh alone, and lost forty men.  I
would not have left Luxor, but there were no new cases for four days
before, and the worst had been over for full ten days.  Two or three poor
people brought me new bread and vegetables to the boat when they saw me
going, and Yussuf came down and sat with us all the evening, and looked
quite sad.  Omar asked him why, and he said it made him think how it
would seem when ‘_Inshallah_ should be well and should leave my place
empty at Luxor and go back with the blessing of God to my own place and
to my own people.’  Whereupon Omar grew quite sentimental too, and nearly
cried.  I don’t know how Arthur would have managed without us, for he had
come with two Frenchmen who had proper servants and who left the boat at
Girgeh, and he has a wretched little dirty idiotic Coptic tailor as a
servant, who can’t even sew on a button.  It is becoming quite a calamity
about servants here.  Arthur tells me that men, not fit to light Omar’s
pipe, asked him £10 a month in Cairo and would not take less, and he
gives his Copt £4.  I really feel as if I were cheating Omar to let him
stay on for £3; but if I say anything he kisses my hand and tells me ‘not
to be cross.’

I have letters from Yussuf to people at Assouan.  If I want anything I am
to call on the Kadee.  We have a very excellent boat and a good crew, and
are very comfortable.  When the Luxor folk heard the ‘son of my uncle’
was come, they thought it must be my husband.  I was diverted at Omar’s
propriety.  He pointed out to Mustapha and Yussuf how _he_ was to sleep
in the cabin between Arthur’s and mine, which was considered quite
satisfactory apparently, and it was looked upon as very proper of Omar to
have arranged it so, as he had been sent to put the boat in order.
Arthur has been all along the Suez Canal, and seen a great many curious
things.  The Delta must be very unlike Upper Egypt from all he tells me.
The little troop of pilgrims for Mecca left Luxor about ten days ago.  It
was a pretty and touching sight.  Three camels, five donkeys, and about
thirty men and women, several with babies on their shoulders, all
uttering the _zaghareet_ (cry of joy).  They were to walk to Koseir
(eight days’ journey with good camels), babies and all.  It is the
happiest day of their lives, they say, when they have scraped together
money enough to make the _hajj_.

This minute a poor man is weeping beside our boat over a pretty heifer
decked with many _hegabs_ (amulets), which have not availed against the
sickness.  It is heart-rending to see the poor beasts and their
unfortunate owners.  Some dancing girls came to the boat just now for
cigars which Arthur had promised them, and to ask after their friend el
Maghribeeyeh, the good dancer at Luxor, whom they said was very ill.
Omar did not know at all about her, and the girls seemed much distressed.
They were both very pretty, one an Abyssinian.  I must leave off to send
this to the post; it will cost a fortune, but you won’t grudge it.



May 15, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                           _May_ 15, 1864,
                                                 _Day before Eed-el-Kebir_
                                                               (_Bairam_).

DEAREST ALICK,

We returned to Luxor the evening before last just after dark.  The salute
which Omar fired with your old horse-pistols brought down a lot of
people, and there was a chorus of _Alhamdulilah Salaameh ya Sitt_, and
such a kissing of hands, and ‘Welcome home to your place’ and ‘We have
tasted your absence and found it bitter,’ etc., etc.  Mustapha came with
letters for me, and Yussuf beaming with smiles, and Mahommed with new
bread made of new wheat, and Suleyman with flowers, and little Achmet
rushing in wildly to kiss hands.  When the welcome had subsided, Yussuf,
who stayed to tea, told me all the cattle were dead.  Mustapha lost
thirty-four, and has three left; and poor farmer Omar lost all—forty
head.  The distress in Upper Egypt will now be fearful.  Within six weeks
_all_ our cattle are dead.  They are threshing the corn with donkeys, and
men are turning the sakiahs (water-wheels) and drawing the ploughs, and
dying by scores of overwork and want of food in many places.  The whole
agriculture depended on the oxen, and they are all dead.  At El-Moutaneh
and the nine villages round Halim Pasha’s estate 24,000 head have died;
four beasts were left when we were there three days ago.

We spent two days and nights at Philæ and _Wallahy_! it was hot.  The
basalt rocks which enclose the river all round the island were burning.
Sally and I slept in the Osiris chamber, on the roof of the temple, on
our air-beds.  Omar lay across the doorway to guard us, and Arthur and
his Copt, with the well-bred sailor Ramadan, were sent to bivouac on the
Pylon.  Ramadan took the hareem under his special and most respectful
charge, and waited on us devotedly, but never raised his eyes to our
faces, or spoke till spoken to.  Philæ is six or seven miles from
Assouan, and we went on donkeys through the beautiful Shellaleeh (the
village of the cataract), and the noble place of tombs of Assouan.  Great
was the amazement of everyone at seeing Europeans so out of season; we
were like swallows in January to them.  I could not sleep for the heat in
the room, and threw on an _abbayeh_ (cloak) and went and lay on the
parapet of the temple.  What a night!  What a lovely view!  The stars
gave as much light as the moon in Europe, and all but the cataract was
still as death and glowing hot, and the palm-trees were more graceful and
dreamy than ever.  Then Omar woke, and came and sat at my feet, and
rubbed them, and sang a song of a Turkish slave.  I said, ‘Do not rub my
feet, oh brother—that is not fit for thee’ (because it is below the
dignity of a free Muslim altogether to touch shoes or feet), but he sang
in his song, ‘The slave of the Turk may be set free by money, but how
shall one be ransomed who has been paid for by kind actions and sweet
words?’  Then the day broke deep crimson, and I went down and bathed in
the Nile, and saw the girls on the island opposite in their summer
fashions, consisting of a leathern fringe round their slender
hips—divinely graceful—bearing huge saucer-shaped baskets of corn on
their stately young heads; and I went up and sat at the end of the
colonnade looking up into Ethiopia, and dreamed dreams of ‘Him who sleeps
in Philæ,’ until the great Amun Ra kissed my northern face too hotly, and
drove me into the temple to breakfast, and coffee, and pipes, and _kief_.
And in the evening three little naked Nubians rowed us about for two or
three hours on the glorious river in a boat made of thousands of bits of
wood, each a foot long; and between whiles they jumped overboard and
disappeared, and came up on the other side of the boat.  Assouan was full
of Turkish soldiers, who came and took away our donkeys, and stared at
our faces most irreligiously.  I did not go on shore at Kom Ombos or El
Kab, only at Edfou, where we spent the day in the temple; and at Esneh,
where we tried to buy sugar, tobacco, etc., and found nothing at all,
though Esneh is a _chef-lieu_, with a Moudir.  It is only in winter that
anything is to be got for the travellers.  We had to ask the Nazir in
Edfou to _order_ a man to sell us charcoal.  People do without sugar, and
smoke green tobacco, and eat beans, etc., etc.  Soon we must do likewise,
for our stores are nearly exhausted.

We stopped at El-Moutaneh, and had a good dinner in the Mouniers’
handsome house, and they gave me a loaf of sugar.  Mme. Mounier described
Rachel’s stay with them for three months at Luxor, in my house, where
they then lived.  She hated it so, that on embarking to leave she turned
back and spat on the ground, and cursed the place inhabited by savages,
where she had been _ennuyée a mort_.  Mme. Mounier fully sympathized with
her, and thought no _femme aimable_ could live with Arabs, who are not at
all _galants_.  She is Levantine, and, I believe, half Arab herself, but
hates the life here, and hates the Muslims.  As I write this I laugh to
think of _galanterie_ and _Arab_ in one sentence, and glance at ‘my
brother’ Yussuf, who is sleeping on a mat, quite overcome with the Simoom
(which is blowing) and the fast which he is keeping to-day, as the eve of
the _Eed-el-Kebir_ (great festival).  This is the coolest place in the
village.  The glass is only 95½° now (eleven a.m.) in the darkened divan.
The Kádee, and the Maōhn, and Yussuf came together to visit me, and when
the others left he lay down to sleep.  Omar is sleeping in the passage,
and Sally in her room.  I alone don’t sleep—but the Simoom is terrible.
Arthur runs about all day, sight-seeing and drawing, and does not suffer
at all from the heat.  I can’t walk now, as the sand blisters my feet.

_Tuesday_, _May_ 17.—Yesterday the Simoom was awful, and last night I
slept on the terrace, and was very hot.  To-day the north wind sprang up
at noon and revived us, though it is still 102° in my divan.  My old
‘great-grandfather’ has come in for a pipe and coffee; he was Belzoni’s
guide, and his eldest child was born seven days before the French under
Bonaparte marched into Luxor.  He is superbly handsome and erect, and
very talkative, but only remembers old times, and takes me for Mme.
Belzoni.  He is grandfather to Mahommed, the guard of this house, and
great-grandfather to my little Achmet.  His grandsons have married him to
a tidy old woman to take care of him; he calls me ‘My lady
grand-daughter,’ and Omar he calls ‘Mustapha,’ and we salute him as
‘grandfather.’  I wish I could paint him; he is so grand to look at.  Old
Mustapha had a son born yesterday—his tenth child.  I must go and wish
him joy, after which I will go to Arthur’s boat and have a bathe; the
sailors rig me out a capital awning.  We had a good boat, and a capital
crew; one man Mahommed, called Alatee (the singer), sang beautifully, to
my great delight, and all were excellent fellows, quiet and obliging;
only his servant was a lazy beast, dirty and conceited—a Copt, spoiled by
an Italian education and Greek associates, thinking himself very grand
because he was a Christian.  I wondered at the patience and good-nature
with which Omar did all his work and endured all his insolence.  There
was one stupendous row at Assouan, however.  The men had rigged out a
sort of tent for me to bathe in over the side of the boat, and Ramadan
caught the Copt trying to peep in, and half strangled him.  Omar called
him ‘dog,’ and asked him if he was an infidel, and Macarius told him I
was a Christian woman, and not _his Hareem_.  Omar lost his temper, and
appealed to the old reis and all the sailors, ‘O Muslims, ought not I to
cut his throat if he had defiled the noble person of the lady with his
pig’s eyes?  God forgive me for mentioning her in such a manner.’  Then
they all cursed him for a pig and an infidel, and threatened to put him
ashore and leave him for his vile conduct towards noble _Hareem_.  Omar
sobbed with passion, saying that I was to him like the ‘back of his
mother,’ and how ‘dare Macarius take my name in his dirty mouth,’ etc.
The Copt tried to complain of being beaten afterwards, but I signified to
him that he had better hold his tongue, for that I understood Arabic,
upon which he sneaked off.



May 23, 1864: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                 _Monday_, _May_ 23, 1864.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I meant to have written to you by Arthur Taylor, who left for Cairo
yesterday morning, but the Simoom made me so stupid that I could hardly
finish a letter to Alick.  So I begin one to-day to recount the wonders
of the season here.  I went over to Mustapha’s island to spend the day in
the tent, or rather the hut, of dourrah-stalks and palm-branches, which
he has erected there for the threshing and winnowing.  He had invited me
and ‘his worship’ the Maōhn to a picnic.  Only imagine that it _rained_!
all day, a gentle slight rain, but enough to wet all the desert.  I
laughed and said I had brought English weather, but the Maōhn shook his
head and opined that we were suffering the anger of God.  Rain in
summer-time was quite a terror.  However, we consoled ourselves, and
Mustapha called a nice little boy to recite the ‘noble Koran’ for our
amusement, and out of compliment to me he selected the chapter of the
family of Amran (the history of Jesus), and recited it with marvellous
readiness and accuracy.  A very pleasant-mannered man of the Shourafa of
Gurneh came and joined us, and was delighted because I sent away a pipe
which Abdurachman brought me (it is highly improper to smoke while the
Koran is being read or recited).  He thanked me for the respect, and I
told him I knew he would not smoke in a church, or while I prayed; why
should I?  It rather annoys me to find that they always expect from us
irreverence to their religion which they would on no account be guilty of
to ours.  The little boy was a _fellah_, the child of my friend Omar, who
has lost all his cattle, but who came as pleasant and smiling as ever to
kiss my hand and wait upon me.  After that the Maōhn read the second
chapter, ‘the Cow,’ in a rather nasal, quavering chant.  I perceived that
no one present understood any of it, except just a few words here and
there—not much more than I could follow myself from having read the
translation.  I think it is not any nearer spoken Arabic than Latin is to
Italian.  After this, Mustapha, the Maōhn, Omar, Sally and I, sat down
round the dinner-tray, and had a very good dinner of lamb, fowls and
vegetables, such as bahmias and melucheeah, both of the mallow order, and
both excellent cooked with meat; rice, stewed apricots (mish-mish), with
nuts and raisins in it, and cucumbers and water-melons strewed the
ground.  One eats all _durcheinander_ with bread and fingers, and a spoon
for the rice, and green limes to squeeze over one’s own bits for sauce.
We were very merry, if not very witty, and the Maōhn declared,
‘_Wallahi_! the English are fortunate in their customs, and in the
enjoyment of the society of learned and excellent _Hareemat_;’ and Omar,
lying on the rushes, said: ‘This is the happiness of the Arab.  Green
trees, sweet water, and a kind face, make the “garden”’ (paradise), an
Arab saying.  The Maōhn joked him as to how a ‘child of Cairo’ could
endure _fellah_ life.  I was looking at the heaps of wheat and thinking
of Ruth, when I started to hear the soft Egyptian lips utter the very
words which the Egyptian girl spake more than a thousand years ago:
‘Behold my mother! where she stays I stay, and where she goes I will go;
her family is my family, and if it pleaseth God, nothing but the
Separator of friends (death) shall divide me from her.’  I really could
not speak, so I kissed the top of Omar’s turban, Arab fashion, and the
Maōhn blessed him quite solemnly, and said: ‘God reward thee, my son;
thou hast honoured thy lady greatly before thy people, and she has
honoured thee, and ye are an example of masters and servants, and of
kindness and fidelity;’ and the brown labourers who were lounging about
said: ‘Verily, it is true, and God be praised for people of excellent
conduct.’  I never expected to feel like Naomi, and possibly many English
people might only think Omar’s unconscious repetition of Ruth’s words
rather absurd, but to me they sounded in perfect harmony with the life
and ways of this country and these people, who are so full of tender and
affectionate feelings, when they have not been crushed out of them.  It
is not humbug; I have seen their actions.  Because they use grand
compliments, Europeans think they are never sincere, but the compliments
are not meant to deceive, they only profess to be forms.  Why do the
English talk of the beautiful sentiment of the Bible and pretend to feel
it so much, and when they come and see the same life before them they
ridicule it.

                 [Picture: Omar, 1864, from a photograph]

_Tuesday_.—We have a family quarrel going on.  Mohammed’s wife, a girl of
eighteen or so, wanted to go home on Bairam day for her mother to wash
her head and unplait her hair.  Mohammed told her not to leave him on
that day, and to send for a woman to do it for her; whereupon she cut off
her hair, and Mohammed, in a passion, told her to ‘cover her face’ (that
is equivalent to a divorce) and take her baby and go home to her father’s
house.  Ever since he has been mooning about the yard and in and out of
the kitchen very glum and silent.  This morning I went into the kitchen
and found Omar cooking with a little baby in his arms, and giving it
sugar.  ‘Why what is that?’ say I.  ‘Oh don’t say anything.  I sent
Achmet to fetch Mohammed’s baby, and when he comes here he will see it,
and then in talking I can say so and so, and how the man must be good to
the _Hareem_, and what this poor, small girl do when she big enough to
ask for her father.’  In short, Omar wants to exercise his diplomacy in
making up the quarrel.  After writing this I heard Mohammed’s low, quiet
voice, and Omar’s boyish laugh, and then silence, and went to see the
baby and its father.  My kitchen was a pretty scene.  Mohammed, in his
ample brown robes and white turban, lay asleep on the floor with the
baby’s tiny pale face and little eyelids stained with kohl against his
coffee-brown cheek, both fast asleep, baby in her father’s arms.  Omar
leant against the _fournaise_ in his house-dress, a white shirt open at
the throat and white drawers reaching to the knees, with the red tarboosh
and red and yellow _kufyeh_ (silk handkerchief) round it turban-wise,
contemplating them with his great, soft eyes.  The two young men made an
excellent contrast between Upper and Lower Egypt.  Mohammed is the true
Arab type—coffee-brown, thin, spare, sharp-featured, elegant hands and
feet, bright glittering small eyes and angular jaw—not a handsome Arab,
but _bien charactérisé_.  Omar, the colour of new boxwood or old ivory,
pale, with eyes like a cow, full lips, full chin and short nose, not the
least negro, but perfectly Egyptian, the eyes wide apart—unlike the
Arab—moustache like a woman’s eyebrow, curly brown hair, bad hands and
feet and not well made, but graceful in movement and still more in
countenance, very inferior in beauty to the pure Arab blood which
prevails here, but most sweet in expression.  He is a true _Akh-ul-Benât_
(brother of girls), and truly chivalrous to _Hareem_.  How astonished
Europeans would be to hear Omar’s real opinion of their conduct to women.
He mentioned some Englishman who had divorced his wife and made her
frailty public.  You should have seen him spit on the floor in
abhorrence.  Here it is quite blackguard not to forfeit the money and
take all the blame in a divorce.

_Friday_.—We have had better weather again, easterly wind and pretty
cool, and I am losing the cough and languor which the damp of the Simoom
brought me.  Sheykh Yussuf has just come back from Keneh, whither he and
the Kadee went on their donkeys for some law business.  He took our
saddle bags at Omar’s request, and brought us back a few pounds of sugar
and some rice and tobacco (isn’t it like Fielding’s novels?).  It is two
days’ journey, so they slept in the mosque at Koos half way.  I told
Yussuf how Suleyman’s child has the smallpox and how Mohammed only said
it was _Min Allah_ (from God) when I suggested that his baby should be
vaccinated at once.  Yussuf called him in and said: ‘Oh man, when thou
wouldst build a house dost thou throw the bricks in a heap on the ground
and say the building thereof is from God, or dost thou use the brains and
hands which God has given thee, and then pray to Him to bless thy work?
In all things do the best of thy understanding and means, and then say
_Min Allah_, for the end is with Him!’  There is not a pin to choose in
fatalism here between Muslim and Christian, the lazy, like Mohammed and
Suleyman (one Arab the other Copt), say _Min Allah_ or any form of dawdle
you please; but the true Muslim doctrine is just what Yussuf laid
down—‘do all you can and be resigned to whatever be the result.’  _Fais
ce que dois advienne qui pourra_ is good doctrine.  In fact, I am very
much puzzled to discover the slightest difference between Christian and
Muslim morality or belief—if you exclude certain dogmas—and in fact, very
little is felt here.  No one attempts to apply different standards of
morals or of piety to a Muslim and a Copt.  East and West is the
difference, not Muslim and Christian.  As to that difference I could tell
volumes.  Are they worse?  Are they better?  Both and neither.  I am,
perhaps, not quite impartial, because I am _sympathique_ to the Arabs and
they to me, and I am inclined to be ‘kind’ to their virtues if not
‘blind’ to their faults, which are visible to the most inexperienced
traveller.  You see all our own familiar ‘bunkum’ (excuse the vulgarity)
falls so flat on their ears, bravado about ‘honour,’ ‘veracity,’ etc.,
etc., they look blank and bored at.  The schoolboy morality as set forth
by Maurice is current here among grown men.  Of course we tell lies to
Pashas and Beys, why shouldn’t we?  But shall I call in that ragged
sailor and give him an order to bring me up £500 in cash from Cairo when
he happens to come?  It would not be an unusual proceeding.  I sleep
every night in a _makaab_ (sort of verandah) open to all Luxor, and
haven’t a door that has a lock.  They bother me for backsheesh; but oh
how poor they are, and how rich must be a woman whose very servants drink
sugar to their coffee! and who lives in the _Kasr_ (palace) and is
respectfully visited by Ali Bey—and, come to that, Ali Bey would like a
present even better than the poorest fellah, who also loves to give one.
When I know, as I now do thoroughly, all Omar’s complete
integrity—without any sort of mention of it—his self-denial in going
ragged and shabby to save his money for his wife and child (a very great
trial to a good-looking young Arab), and the equally unostentatious love
he has shown to me, and the delicacy and real nobleness of feeling which
come out so oddly in the midst of sayings which, to our ideas, seem very
shabby and time-serving, very often I wonder if there be anything as good
in the civilized West.  And as Sally most justly says, ‘All their
goodness is quite their own.  God knows there is no one to teach anything
but harm!’

_Tuesday_.—Two poor fellows have just come home from the Suez Canal work
with gastric fever, I think.  I hope it won’t spread.  The wife of one
said to me yesterday, ‘Are there more _Sittat_ (ladies) like you in your
village?’  ‘Wallah,’ said I, ‘there are many better, and good doctors,
Alhamdullillah!’  ‘Alhamdullillah,’ said she, ‘then the poor people don’t
want you so much, and by God you must stay here for _we_ can’t do without
you, so write to your family to say so, and don’t go away and leave us.’

_Thursday_, _June_ 2,—A steamer has just arrived which will take this
letter, so I can only say good-bye, my dearest Mutter, and God bless you.
I continue very fairly well.  The epidemic here is all but over; but my
medical fame has spread so, that the poor souls come twenty miles (from
Koos) for physic.  The constant phrase of ‘Oh our sister, God hath sent
thee to look to us!’ is so sad.  _Such_ a little help is a wonder to my
poor fellaheen.  It is not so hot as it was I think, except at night, and
I now sleep half the night outside the house.  The cattle are all dead;
perhaps five are left in all Luxor.  _Allah kereem_! (God is merciful)
said fellah Omar, ‘I have one left from fifty-four.’  The grain is
unthreshed, and butter three shillings a pound!  We get nothing here but
by post; no papers, no nothing.  I suppose the high Nile will bring up
boats.  Now the river is down at its lowest, and now I really know how
Egyptians live.



June 12, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                _Sunday_, _June_ 12, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

Three letters have I received from you within a few days, for the post of
the Saeed is not that of the Medes and Persians.  I have had an
abominable toothache, which quite floored me, and was aggravated by the
Oriental custom, namely, that all the _beau monde_ of Thebes _would_ come
and sit with me, and suggest remedies, and look into my mouth, and make
quite a business of my tooth.  Sheykh Yussuf laid two fingers on my cheek
and recited verses from the Koran, I regret to say with no effect, except
that while his fingers touched me the pain ceased.  I find he _is_
celebrated for soothing headaches and other nervous pains, and I daresay
is an unconscious mesmeriser.  The other day our poor Maōhn was terrified
by a communication from Ali Bey (Moudir of Keneh) to the effect that he
had heard from Alexandria that someone had reported that the dead cattle
had lain about the streets of Luxor and that the place was pestilential.
The British mind at once suggested a counter-statement, to be signed by
the most respectable inhabitants.  So the Cadi drew it up, and came and
read it to me, and took my deposition and witnessed my signature, and the
Maōhn went his way rejoicing, in that ‘the words of the Englishwoman’
would utterly defeat Ali Bey.  The truth was that the worthy Maōhn worked
really hard, and superintended the horrible dead cattle business in
person, which is some risk and very unpleasant.  To dispose of three or
four hundred dead oxen every day with a limited number of labourers is no
trifle, and if a travelling Englishman smells one a mile off he calls us
‘lazy Arabs.’  The beasts could not be buried deep enough, but all were
carried a mile off from the village.  I wish some of the dilettanti who
stop their noses at us in our trouble had to see or to do what I have
seen and done.

_June_ 17.—We have had four or five days of such fearful heat with a
Simoom that I have been quite knocked up, and literally could not write.
Besides, I sit in the dark all day, and am now writing so—and at night go
out and sit in the verandah, and can’t have candles because of the
insects.  I sleep outside till about six a.m., and then go indoors till
dark again.  This fortnight is the hottest time.  To-day the drop falls
into the Nile at its source, and it will now rise fast and cool the
country.  It has risen one cubit, and the water is green; next month it
will be blood colour.  My cough has been a little troublesome again, I
suppose from the Simoom.  The tooth does not ache now.  _Alhamdulillah_!
for I rather dreaded the _muzeyinn_ (barber) with his _tongs_, who is the
sole dentist here.  I was amused the other day by the entrance of my
friend the Maōhn, attended by Osman Effendi and his cawass and
pipe-bearer, and bearing a saucer in his hand, wearing the look, half
sheepish, half cocky, with which elderly gentlemen in all countries
announce what he did, _i.e._, that his black slave-girl was three months
with child and longed for olives, so the respectable magistrate had
trotted all over the bazaar and to the Greek corn-dealers to buy some,
but for no money were they to be had, so he hoped I might have some and
forgive the request, as I, of course, knew that a man must beg or even
steal for a woman under these circumstances.  I called Omar and said, ‘I
trust there are olives for the honourable Hareem of Seleem Effendi—they
are needed there.’  Omar instantly understood the case, and ‘Praise be to
God a few are left; I was about to stuff the pigeons for dinner with
them; how lucky I had not done it.’  And then we belaboured Seleem with
compliments.  ‘Please God the child will be fortunate to thee,’ say I.
Omar says, ‘Sweeten my mouth, oh Effendim, for did I not tell thee God
would give thee good out of this affair when thou boughtest her?’  While
we were thus rejoicing over the possible little mulatto, I thought how
shocked a white Christian gentleman of our Colonies would be at our
conduct to make all this fuss about a black girl—‘_he_ give her sixpence’
(under the same circumstances I mean) ‘he’d see her d---d first,’ and my
heart warmed to the kind old Muslim sinner (?) as he took his saucer of
olives and walked with them openly in his hand along the street.  Now the
black girl is free, and can only leave Seleem’s house by her own good
will and probably after a time she will marry and he will pay the
expenses.  A man can’t sell his slave after he has made known that she is
with child by him, and it would be considered unmanly to detain her if
she should wish to go.  The child will be added to the other eight who
fill the Maōhn’s quiver in Cairo and will be exactly as well looked on
and have equal rights if he is as black as a coal.

A most quaint little half-black boy a year and a half old has taken a
fancy to me and comes and sits for hours gazing at me and then dances to
amuse me.  He is Mahommed our guard’s son by a jet-black slave of his and
is brown-black and very pretty.  He wears a bit of iron wire in one ear
and iron rings round his ankles, and that is all—and when he comes up
little Achmet, who is his uncle, ‘makes him fit to be seen’ by emptying a
pitcher of water over his head to rinse off the dust in which of course
he has been rolling—that is equivalent to a clean pinafore.  You would
want to buy little Said I know, he is so pretty and so jolly.  He dances
and sings and jabbers baby Arabic and then sits like a quaint little idol
cross-legged quite still for hours.

I am now writing in the kitchen, which is the coolest place where there
is any light at all.  Omar is diligently spelling words of six letters,
with the wooden spoon in his hand and a cigarette in his mouth, and Sally
is lying on her back on the floor.  I won’t describe our costume.  It is
now two months since I have worn stockings, and I think you would wonder
at the fellaha who ‘owns you,’ so deep a brown are my face, hands and
feet.  One of the sailors in Arthur’s boat said: ‘See how the sun of the
Arabs loves her; he has kissed her so hotly that she can’t go home among
English people.’

_June_ 18.—I went last night to look at Karnac by moonlight.  The giant
columns were overpowering.  I never saw anything so solemn.  On our way
back we met the Sheykh-el-Beled, who ordered me an escort of ten men
home.  Fancy me on my humble donkey, guarded most superfluously by ten
tall fellows, with oh! such spears and venerable matchlocks.  At
Mustapha’s house we found a party seated before the door, and joined it.
There was a tremendous Sheykh-el-Islam from Tunis, a Maghribee, seated on
a carpet in state receiving homage.  I don’t think he liked the heretical
woman at all.  Even the Maōhn did not dare to be as ‘politeful’ as usual
to me, but took the seat above me, which I had respectfully left vacant
next to the holy man.  Mustapha was in a stew, afraid not to do the
respectful to me, and fussing after the Sheykh.  Then Yussuf came fresh
from the river, where he had bathed and prayed, and then you saw the real
gentleman.  He salaamed the great Sheykh, who motioned to him to sit
before him, but Yussuf quietly came round and sat _below_ me on the mat,
leaned his elbow on my cushion, and made more demonstration of regard for
me than ever, and when I went came and helped me on my donkey.  The holy
Sheykh went away to pray, and Mustapha hinted to Yussuf to go with him,
but he only smiled, and did not stir; he had prayed an hour before down
at the Nile.  It was as if a poor curate had devoted himself to a rank
papist under the eye of a scowling Shaftesbury Bishop.  Then came Osman
Effendi, a young Turk, with a poor devil accused in a distant village of
stealing a letter with money in it addressed to a Greek money-lender.
The discussion was quite general, the man, of course, denying all.  But
the Nazir had sent word to beat him.  Then Omar burst out, ‘What a shame
to beat a poor man on the mere word of a Greek money-lender who eats the
people; the Nazir shouldn’t help him.’  There was a Greek present who
scowled at Omar, and the Turk gaped at him in horror.  Yussuf said, with
his quiet smile, ‘My brother, thou art talking English,’ with a glance at
me; and we all laughed, and I said, ‘Many thanks for the compliment.’
All the village is in good spirits; the Nile is rising fast, and a star
of most fortunate character has made its appearance, so Yussuf tells me,
and portends a good year and an end to our afflictions.  I am much better
to-day, and I think I too feel the rising Nile; it puts new life into all
things.  The last fortnight or three weeks have been very trying with the
Simoom and intense heat.  I suppose I look better for the people here are
for ever praising God about my amended looks.  I am too hot, and it is
too dark to write more.



June 26, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _June_ 26, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have just paid a singular visit to a political _detenu_ or exile
rather.  Last night Mustapha came in with a man in great grief who said
his boy was very ill on board a cangia just come from Cairo and going to
Assouan.  The watchman on the river-bank had told him that there was an
English Sitt ‘who would not turn her face from anyone in trouble’ and
advised him to come to me for medicine, so he went to Mustapha and begged
him to bring him to me, and to beg the cawass (policeman) in charge of
El-Bedrawee (who was being sent to Fazoghlou in banishment) to wait a few
hours.  The cawass (may he not suffer for his humanity) consented.  He
described his boy’s symptoms and I gave him a dose of castor oil and said
I would go to the boat in the morning.  The poor fellow was a Cairo
merchant but living at Khartoum, he poured out his sorrow in true Eastern
style.  ‘Oh my boy, and I have none but he, and how shall I come before
his mother, a Habbesheeyeh, oh Lady, and tell her “thy son is dead”?’  So
I said, ‘_Allah kereem ya Seedee_, and _Inshallah tayib_,’ etc., etc.,
and went this morning early to the boat.  It was a regular old Arab
cangia lumbered up with corn, sacks of matting, a live sheep, etc., and
there I found a sweet graceful boy of fifteen or so in a high fever.  His
father said he had visited a certain Pasha on the way and evidently meant
that he had been poisoned or had the evil eye.  I assured him it was only
the epidemic and asked why he had not sent for the doctor at Keneh.  The
old story!  He was afraid, ‘God knows what a government doctor might do
to the boy.’  Then Omar came in and stood before El-Bedrawee and said,
‘Oh my master, why do we see thee thus?  Mashallah, I once ate of thy
bread when I was of the soldiers of Said Pasha, and I saw thy riches and
thy greatness, and what has God decreed against thee?’  So El-Bedrawee
who is (or was) one of the wealthiest men of Lower Egypt and lived at
Tantah, related how Effendina (Ismail Pasha) sent for him to go to Cairo
to the Citadel to transact some business, and how he rode his horse up to
the Citadel and went in, and there the Pasha at once ordered a cawass to
take him down to the Nile and on board a common cargo boat and to go with
him and take him to Fazoghlou.  Letters were given to the cawass to
deliver to every Moudir on the way, and another despatched by hand to the
Governor of Fazoghlou with orders concerning El-Bedrawee.  He begged
leave to see his son once more before starting, or any of his family.
‘No, he must go at once and see no one.’  But luckily a fellah, one of
his relations had come after him to Cairo and had £700 in his girdle; he
followed El-Bedrawee to the Citadel and saw him being walked off by the
cawass and followed him to the river and on board the boat and gave him
the £700 which he had in his girdle.  The various Moudirs had been civil
to him, and friends in various places had given him clothes and food.  He
had not got a chain round his neck or fetters, and was allowed to go
ashore with the cawass, for he had just been to the tomb of Abou-l-Hajjaj
and had told that dead Sheykh all his affliction and promised, if he came
back safe, to come every year to his _moolid_ (festival) and pay the
whole expenses (_i.e._ feed all comers).  Mustapha wanted him to dine
with him and me, but the cawass could not allow it, so Mustapha sent him
a fine sheep and some bread, fruit, etc.  I made him a present of some
quinine, rhubarb pills, and sulphate of zinc for eye lotion.  Here you
know we all go upon a more than English presumption and believe every
prisoner to be innocent and a victim—as he gets no trial he _never_ can
be proved guilty—besides poor old El-Bedrawee declared he had not the
faintest idea what he was accused of or how he had offended Effendina.

I listened to all this in extreme amazement, and he said, ‘Ah!  I know
you English manage things very differently; I have heard all about your
excellent justice.’

He was a stout, dignified-looking fair man, like a Turk, but talking
broad Lower Egypt fellah talk, so that I could not understand him, and
had to get Mustapha and Omar to repeat his words.  His father was an
Arab, and his mother a Circassian slave, which gave the fair skin and
reddish beard.  He must be over fifty, fat and not healthy; of course he
is _meant_ to die up in Fazoghlou, especially going at this season.  He
owns (or owned, for God knows who has it now) 12,000 feddans of fine land
between Tantah and Samanhoud, and was enormously rich.  He consulted me a
great deal about his health, and I gave him certainly very good advice.
I cannot write in a letter which I know you will show what drugs a
Turkish doctor had furnished him with to ‘strengthen’ him in the trying
climate of Fazoghlou.  I wonder was it intended to kill him or only given
in ignorance of the laws of health equal to his own?

After a while the pretty boy became better and recovered consciousness,
and his poor father, who had been helping me with trembling hands and
swimming eyes, cried for joy, and said, ‘By God the most high, if ever I
find any of the English, poor or sick or afflicted up in Fazoghlou, I
will make them know that I Abu Mahommed never saw a face like the pale
face of the English lady bent over my sick boy.’  And then El-Bedrawee
and his fellah kinsman, and all the crew blessed me and the Captain, and
the cawass said it was time to sail.  So I gave directions and medicine
to Abu Mahommed, and kissed the pretty boy and went out.  El-Bedrawee
followed me up the bank, and said he had a request to make—would I pray
for him in his distress.  I said, ‘I am not of the Muslimeen,’ but both
he and Mustapha said, _Maleysh_ (never mind), for that it was quite
certain I was not of the _Mushkireen_, as they hate the Muslimeen and
their deeds are evil—but blessed be God, many of the English begin to
repent of their evil, and to love the Muslims and abound in kind actions.
So we parted in much kindness.  It was a strange feeling to me to stand
on the bank and see the queer savage-looking boat glide away up the
stream, bound to such far more savage lands, and to be exchanging kind
farewells quite in a homely manner with such utter ‘aliens in blood and
faith.’  ‘God keep thee Lady, God keep thee Mustapha.’  Mustapha and I
walked home very sad about poor El-Bedrawee.

_Friday_, _July_ 7.—It has been so ‘awfully’ hot that I have not had
pluck to go on with my letter, or indeed to do anything but lie on a mat
in the passage with a minimum of clothes quite indescribable in English.
_Alhamdulilah_! laughs Omar, ‘that I see the clever English people do
just like the lazy Arabs.’  The worst is not the positive heat, which has
not been above 104° and as low as 96° at night, but the horrible storms
of hot wind and dust which are apt to come on at night and prevent one’s
even lying down till twelve or one o’clock.  Thebes is bad in the height
of summer on account of its expanse of desert, and sand and dust.  The
Nile is pouring down now gloriously, and _really_ red as blood—more
crimson than a Herefordshire lane—and in the distance the reflection of
the pure blue sky makes it deep violet.  It had risen five cubits a week
ago; we shall soon have it all over the land here.  It is a beautiful and
inspiriting sight to see the noble old stream as young and vigorous as
ever.  No wonder the Egyptians worshipped the Nile: there is nothing like
it.  We have had all the plagues of Egypt this year, only the lice are
commuted for bugs, and the frogs for mice; the former have eaten me and
the latter have eaten my clothes.  We are so ragged!  Omar has one shirt
left, and has to sleep without and wash it every night.  The dust, the
drenching perspiration, and the hard-fisted washing of Mahommed’s
slave-women destroys everything.

Mustapha intends to give you a grand _fantasia_ if you come, and to have
the best dancing girls down from Esneh for you; but I am consternated to
hear that you can’t come till December.  I hoped you would have arrived
in Cairo early in November, and spent a month there with me, and come up
the river in the middle of December when Cairo gets very cold.

I remain very well in general health, but my cough has been troublesome
again.  I do not feel at all like breathing cold damp air again.  This
depresses me very much as you may suppose.  You will have to divorce me,
and I must marry some respectable Kadee.  I have been too ‘lazy Arab,’ as
Omar calls it, to go on with my Arabic lessons, and Yussuf has been very
busy with law business connected with the land and the crops.  Every
harvest brings a fresh settling of the land.  Wheat is selling at £1 the
ardeb {188} here _on the threshing-floor_, and barley at one hundred and
sixteen piastres; I saw some Nubians pay Mustapha that.  He is in comic
perplexity about saying _Alhamdulillah_ about such enormous gains—you see
it is rather awkward for a Muslim to thank God for dear bread—so he
compounds by very lavish almsgiving.  He gave all his fellaheen clothes
the other day—forty calico shirts and drawers.  Do you remember my
describing an Arab _emancipirtes Fraülein_ at Siout?  Well, the other day
I saw as I thought a nice-looking lad of sixteen selling corn to my
opposite neighbour, a Copt.  It was a girl.  Her father had no son and is
infirm, so she works in the field for him, and dresses and does like a
man.  She looked very modest and was quieter in her manner than the
veiled women often are.

I am so glad to hear such good accounts of my Rainie and Maurice.  I can
hardly bear to think of another year without seeing them.  However it is
fortunate for me that ‘my lines have fallen in pleasant places,’ so long
a time at the Cape or any Colony would have become intolerable.  Best
love to Janet, I really can’t write, it’s too hot and dusty.  Omar
desires his salaam to his great master and to that gazelle Sittee Ross.



August 13, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                        _August_ 13, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

For the last month we have had a purgatory of hot wind and dust, such as
I never saw—impossible to stir out of the house.  So in despair I have
just engaged a return boat—a _Gelegenheit_—and am off to Cairo in a day
or two, where I shall stop till _Inshallah_! you come to me.  Can’t you
get leave to come at the beginning of November?  Do try, that is the
pleasant time in Cairo.

I am a ‘stupid, lazy Arab’ now, as Omar says, having lain on a mat in a
dark stone passage for six weeks or so, but my chest is no worse—better I
think, and my health has not suffered at all—only I am stupid and lazy.
I had a pleasant visit lately from a great doctor from Mecca—a man so
learned that he can read the Koran in seven different ways, he is also a
physician of European _Hekmeh_ (learning).  Fancy my wonder when a great
Alim in gorgeous Hegazee dress walked in and said: ‘_Madame, tout ce
qu’on m’a dit de vous fait tellement l’éloge de votre cœur et de votre
esprit que je me suis arreté pour tacher de me procurer le plaisir de
votre connaissance_!’  A lot of Luxor people came in to pay their
respects to the great man, and he said to me that he hoped I had not been
molested on account of religion, and if I had I must forgive it, as the
people here were so very ignorant, and _barbarians were bigots
everywhere_.  I said, ‘_Wallahy_, the people of Luxor are my brothers!’
and the Maōhn said, ‘True, the fellaheen are like oxen, but not such
swine as to insult the religion of a lady who has served God among them
like this one.  She risked her life every day.’  ‘And if she _had_ died,’
said the great theologian, ‘her place was made ready among the martyrs of
God, because she showed more love to her brothers than to herself!’

Now if this was humbug it was said in Arabic before eight or ten people,
by a man of great religious authority.

Omar was _aux anges_ to hear his Sitt spoken of ‘in such a grand way for
the religion.’  I believe that a great change is taking place among the
Ulema, that Islam is ceasing to be a mere party flag, just as occurred
with Christianity, and that all the moral part is being more and more
dwelt on.  My great Alim also said I had practised the precepts of the
Koran, and then laughed and added, ‘I suppose I ought to say the Gospel,
but what matters it, _el Hakh_ (the truth) is one, whether spoken by Our
Lord Jesus or by Our Lord Mahommed!’  He asked me to go with him to Mecca
next winter for my health, as it was so hot and dry there.  I found he
had fallen in with El-Bedrawee and the Khartoum merchant at Assouan.  The
little boy was well again, and I had been outrageously extolled by them.
We are now sending off all the corn.  I sat the other evening on
Mustapha’s doorstep and saw the Greeks piously and zealously attending to
the divine command to spoil the Egyptians.  Eight months ago a Greek
bought up corn at 60 piastres the ardeb (he follows the Coptic
tax-gatherer like a vulture after a crow), now wheat is at 170 piastres
the ardeb here, and the fellah has paid 3½ _per cent. a month_ besides.
Reckon the profit!  Two men I know are quite ruined, and have sold all
they had.  The cattle disease forced them to borrow at these ruinous
rates, and now alas, the Nile is sadly lingering in its rise, and people
are very anxious.  Poor Egypt! or rather, poor Egyptians!  Of course, I
need not say that there is great improvidence in those who can be fleeced
as they are fleeced.  Mustapha’s household is a pattern of muddling
hospitality, and Mustapha is generous and mean by turns; but what chance
have people like these, so utterly uncivilized and so isolated, against
Europeans of unscrupulous characters.

I can’t write more in the wind and dust.  You shall hear again from
Cairo.



October 9, 1864: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                        _October_ 9, 1864.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have not written for a long time because I have had a fever.  Now I am
all right again, only weak.  If you can come please bring the books in
enclosed list for an American Egyptologist at Luxor—a friend of mine.  My
best love to Janet and my other chicks.  I wish I could see my Maurice.
Tell Janet that Hassan donkey boy, has married a girl of eleven, and
Phillips that Hassan remembers him quite tenderly and is very proud of
having had his ‘face’ drawn by him, ‘certainly he was of the friends if
not a brother of the Sitt, he so loved the things of the Arabs.’  I went
to the Hareem _soirée_ at Hassan’s before the wedding—at that event I was
ill.  My good doctor was up the river, and Hekekian Bey is in Italy, so I
am very lonely here.  The weather is bad, so very damp; I stream with
perspiration more than in June at Luxor, and I don’t like civilization so
very much.  It keeps me awake at night in the grog shops and rings horrid
bells and fights and quarrels in the street, and disturbs my Muslim
nerves till I utter such epithets as _kelb_ (dog) and _khanseer_ (pig)
against the Frangi, and wish I were in a ‘beastly Arab’ quarter.



October 21, 1864: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                       _October_ 21, 1864.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I got your letter yesterday.  I hope Alick got mine of two weeks ago
before leaving, and told you I was better.  I am still rather weak,
however I ride my donkey and the weather has suddenly become gloriously
dry and cool.  I rather shiver with the thermometer at 79°—absurd is it
not, but I got so used to real heat.

I never wrote about my leaving Luxor or my journey, for our voyage was
quite tempestuous after the three first days and I fell ill as soon as I
was in my house here.  I hired the boat for six purses (£18) which had
taken Greeks up to Assouan selling groceries and strong drinks, but the
reis would not bring back their cargo of black slaves to dirty the boat
and picked us up at Luxor.  We sailed at daybreak having waited all one
day because it was an unlucky day.

As I sat in the boat people kept coming to ask whether I was coming back
very anxiously and bringing fresh bread, eggs and things as presents, and
all the quality came to take leave and hope, _Inshallah_, I should soon
‘come home to my village safe and bring the Master, please God, to see
them,’ and then to say the _Fattah_ for a safe journey and my health.  In
the morning the balconies of my house were filled with such a group to
see us sail—a party of wild Abab’deh with their long Arab guns and
flowing hair, a Turk elegantly dressed, Mohammed in his decorous brown
robes and snow-white turban, and several fellaheen.  As the boat moved
off the Abab’deh blazed away with their guns and Osman Effendi with a
sort of blunderbuss, and as we dropped down the river there was a general
firing; even Todoros (Theodore), the Coptic Mallim, popped off his
American revolver.  Omar keeping up a return with Alick’s old horse
pistols which are much admired here on account of the excessive noise
they make.

Poor old Ismain, who always thought I was Mme. Belzoni and wanted to take
me up to Abou Simbel to meet my husband, was in dire distress that he
could not go with me to Cairo.  He declared he was still _shedeed_
(strong enough to take care of me and to fight).  He is ninety-seven and
only remembers fifty or sixty years ago and old wild times—a splendid old
man, handsome and erect.  I used to give him coffee and listen to his old
stories which had won his heart.  His grandson, the quiet, rather
stately, Mohammed who is guard of the house I lived in, forgot all his
Muslim dignity, broke down in the middle of his set speech and flung
himself down and kissed and hugged my knees and cried.  He had got some
notion of impending ill-luck, I found, and was unhappy at our
departure—and the backsheesh failed to console him.  Sheykh Yussuf was to
come with me, but a brother of his just wrote word that he was coming
back from the Hejaz where he had been with the troops in which he is
serving his time; I was very sorry to lose his company.  Fancy how
dreadfully irregular for one of the Ulema and a heretical woman to travel
together.  What would our bishops say to a parson who did such a thing?
We had a lovely time on the river for three days, such moonlight nights,
so soft and lovely; and we had a sailor who was as good as a professional
singer, and who sang religious songs, which I observe excite people here
far more than love songs.  One which began ‘Remove my sins from before
thy sight Oh God’ was really beautiful and touching, and I did not wonder
at the tears which ran down Omar’s face.  A very pretty profane song was
‘Keep the wind from me Oh Lord, I fear it will hurt me’ (_wind_ means
_love_, which is like the Simoom) ‘Alas! it has struck me and I am sick.
Why do ye bring the physician?  Oh physician put back thy medicine in the
canister, for only he who has hurt can cure me.’  The masculine pronoun
is always used instead of _she_ in poetry out of decorum—sometimes even
in conversation.

_October_ 23.—Yesterday I met a Saedee—a friend of the brother of the
Sheykh of the wild Abab’deh, and as we stood handshaking and kissing our
fingers in the road, some of the Anglo-Indian travellers passed and gazed
with fierce disgust; the handsome Hassan, being black, was such a
flagrant case of a ‘native.’  Mutter dear, it is heart-breaking to see
what we are sending to India now.  The mail days are dreaded, we never
know when some outrage may not excite ‘Mussulman fanaticism.’  The
English tradesmen here complain as much as anyone, and I, who as the
Kadee of Luxor said am ‘not outside the family’ (of Ishmael, I presume),
hear what the Arabs really think.  There are also crowds ‘like lice’ as
one Mohammed said, of low Italians, French, etc., and I find my stalwart
Hassan’s broad shoulders no superfluous _porte-respect_ in the Frangee
quarter.  Three times I have been followed and insolently stared at (_à
mon age_)!! and once Hassan had to speak.  Fancy how dreadful to Muslims!
I hate the sight of a hat here now.

I can’t write more now my eyes are weak still.  Omar begs me to give you
his best salaam and say, _Inshallah_, he will take great care of your
daughter, which he most zealously and tenderly does.



December 23, 1864: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                              ON THE NILE,
                                            _Friday_, _December_ 23, 1864.

DEAREST MUTTER,

Here I am again between Benisouef and Minieh, and already better for the
clear air of the river and the tranquil boat life; I will send you my
Christmas Salaam from Siout.  While Alick was with me I had as much to do
as I was able and could not write for there was much to see and talk
about.  I think he was amused but I fear he felt the Eastern life to be
very poor and comfortless.  I have got so used to having nothing that I
had quite forgotten how it would seem to a stranger.

I am quite sorry to find how many of my letters must have been lost from
Luxor; in future I shall trust the Arab post which certainly is safer
than English travellers.  I send you my long plaits by Alick, for I had
my hair cut short as it took to falling out by handfuls after my fever,
and moreover it is more convenient Turkish hareem fashion.

Please tell Dean Stanley how his old dragoman Mahommed Gazawee cried with
pleasure when he told me he had seen Sheykh Stanley’s sister on her way
to India, and the ‘little ladies’ _knew his name_ and shook hands with
him, which evidently was worth far more than the backsheesh.  I wondered
who ‘Sheykh’ Stanley could be, and Mahommed (who is a darweesh and very
pious) told me he was the _Gassis_ (priest) who was _Imám_ (spiritual
guide) to the son of our Queen, ‘and in truth,’ said he, ‘he is _really_
a Sheykh and one who teaches the excellent things of religion, why he was
kind even to his horse! and it is of the mercies of God to the English
that such a one is the Imám of your Queen and Prince.’  I said laughing,
‘How dost thou, a darweesh among Muslims, talk thus of a Nazarene
priest?’  ‘Truly oh Lady,’ he answered, ‘one who loveth all the creatures
of God, him God loveth also, there is no doubt of that.’  Is any one
bigot enough to deny that Stanley has done more for real religion in the
mind of that Muslim darweesh than if he had baptised a hundred savages
out of one fanatical faith into another?

There is no hope of a good understanding with Orientals until Western
Christians can bring themselves to recognise the common faith contained
in the two religions, the _real_ difference consists in all the class of
notions and feelings (very important ones, no doubt) which we derive—not
from the Gospels at all—but from Greece and Rome, and which of course are
altogether wanting here.

Alick will tell you how curiously Omar illustrated the patriarchal
feelings of the East by entirely dethroning me in favour of the ‘Master.’
‘That _our Master_, we all eat bread from his hand, and he work for
_us_.’  Omar and I were equal before _our Seedee_.  He can sit at his
ease at my feet, but when the Master comes in he must stand reverently,
and gave me to understand that I too must be respectful.

I have got the boat of the American Mission at an outrageous price, £60,
but I could get nothing under; the consolation is that the sailors
profit, poor fellows, and get treble wages.  My crew are all Nubians.
Such a handsome reis and steersman—brothers—and there is a black boy, of
fourteen or so, with legs and feet so sweetly beautiful as to be quite
touching—at least I always feel those lovely round young innocent forms
to be somehow affecting.  Our old boat of last summer (Arthur Taylor’s)
is sailing in company with us, and stately old reis Mubharak hails me
every morning with the Blessing of God and the Peace of the Prophet.
Alee Kuptan, my steamboat captain will announce our advent at Thebes; he
passed us to-day.  This boat is a fine sailer, but iron built and
therefore noisy, and not convenient.  The crew encourage her with ‘Get
along, father of three,’ because she has three sails, whereas two is the
usual number.  They are active good-humoured fellows—my men—but lack the
Arab courtesy and _simpatico_ ways, and then I don’t understand their
language which is pretty and sounds a little like Caffre, rather
bird-like and sing-song, instead of the clattering guttural Arabic.  I
now speak pretty tolerably for a stranger, _i.e._ I can keep up a
conversation, and understand all that is said to me much better than I
can speak, and follow about half what people say to each other.  When I
see you, _Inshallah_, next summer I shall be a good scholar, I hope.



January 2, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                        _January_ 2, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I posted a letter for you at Girgeh, as we passed Siout with a good wind,
I hope you will get it.  My crew worked as I never saw men work, they
were paid to get to Luxor, and for eighteen days they never rested or
slept day or night, and all the time were merry and pleasant.  It shows
what power of endurance these ‘lazy Arabs’ have when there is good money
at the end of a job, instead of the favourite panacea of ‘stick.’

We arrived at midnight and next morning my boat had the air of being
pillaged.  A crowd of laughing, chattering fellows ran off to the house
laden with loose articles snatched up at random, loaves of sugar, pots
and pans, books, cushions, all helter-skelter.  I feared breakages, but
all was housed safe and sound.  The small boys of an age licensed to
penetrate into the cabin, went off with the oddest cargoes of dressing
things and the like—of backsheesh not one word.  _Alhamdulillah
salaameh_!  ‘Thank God thou art in peace,’ and _Ya Sitt, Ya Emeereh_,
till my head went round.  Old Ismaeen fairly hugged me and little Achmet
hung close to my side.  I went up to Mustapha’s house while the unpacking
took place and breakfasted there, and found letters from all of you, from
you to darling Rainie, Sheykh Yussuf was charmed with her big writing and
said he thought the news in that was the best of all.

The weather was intensely hot the first two days.  Now it is heavenly, a
fresh breeze and gorgeous sunshine.  I brought two common Arab lanterns
for the tomb of Abu-l-Hajjaj and his _moolid_ is now going on.  Omar took
them and lighted them up and told me he found several people who called
on the rest to say the _Fathah_ for me.  I was sitting out yesterday with
the people on the sand looking at the men doing _fantasia_ on horseback
for the Sheykh, and a clever dragoman of the party was relating about the
death of a young English girl whom he had served, and so _de fil en
aiguille_ we talked about the strangers buried here and how the bishop
had extorted £100.  I said, ‘_Maleysh_ (never mind) the people have been
hospitable to me alive and they will not cease if I die, but give me a
tomb among the Arabs.’  One old man said, ‘May I not see thy day, oh
Lady, and indeed thou shouldest be buried as a daughter of the Arabs, but
we should fear the anger of thy Consul and thy family, but thou knowest
that wherever thou art buried thou wilt assuredly lie in a Muslim grave.’
‘How so?’ said I.  ‘Why, when a bad Muslim dies the angels take him out
of his tomb and put in one of the good from among the Christians in his
place.’  This is the popular expression of the doctrine that the good are
sure of salvation.  Omar chimed in at once, ‘Certainly there is no doubt
of it, and I know a story that happened in the days of Mahommed Ali Pasha
which proves it.’  We demanded the story and Omar began.  ‘There was once
a very rich man of the Muslims so stingy that he grudged everybody even
so much as a “bit of the paper inside the date” (Koran).  When he was
dying he said to his wife, “Go out and buy me a lump of pressed dates,”
and when she had brought it he bade her leave him alone.  Thereupon he
took all his gold out of his sash and spread it before him, and rolled it
up two or three pieces at a time in the dates, and swallowed it piece
after piece until only three were left, when his wife came in and saw
what he was doing and snatched them from his hand.  Presently after he
fell back and died and was carried out to the burial place and laid in
his tomb.  When the Kadee’s men came to put the seal on his property and
found no money they said, “Oh woman, how is this? we know thy husband was
a rich man and behold we find no money for his children and slaves or for
thee.”  So the woman told what had happened, and the Kadee sent for three
other of the Ulema, and they decided that after three days she should go
herself to her husband’s tomb and open it, and take the money from his
stomach; meanwhile a guard was put over the tomb to keep away robbers.
After three days therefore the woman went, and the men opened the tomb
and said, “Go in O woman and take thy money.”  So the woman went down
into the tomb alone.  When there, instead of her husband’s body she saw a
box (coffin) of the boxes of the Christians, and when she opened it she
saw the body of a young girl, adorned with many ornaments of gold
necklaces, and bracelets, and a diamond _Kurs_ on her head, and over all
a veil of black muslin embroidered with gold.  So the woman said within
herself, “Behold I came for money and here it is, I will take it and
conceal this business for fear of the Kadee.”  So she wrapped the whole
in her _melayeh_ (a blue checked cotton sheet worn as a cloak) and came
out, and the men said “Hast thou done thy business?”’ and she answered
“Yes” and returned home.

‘In a few days she gave the veil she had taken from the dead girl to a
broker to sell for her in the bazaar, and the broker went and showed it
to the people and was offered one hundred piastres.  Now there sat in one
of the shops of the merchants a great Ma-allim (Coptic clerk) belonging
to the Pasha, and he saw the veil and said, “How much asketh thou?” and
the broker said “Oh thine honour the clerk whatever thou wilt.”  “Take
from me then five hundred piastres and bring the person that gave thee
the veil to receive the money.”  So the broker fetched the woman and the
Copt, who was a great man, called the police and said, “Take this woman
and fetch my ass and we will go before the Pasha,” and he rode in haste
to the palace weeping and beating his breast, and went before the Pasha
and said, “Behold this veil was buried a few days ago with my daughter
who died unmarried, and I had none but her and I loved her like my eyes
and would not take from her her ornaments, and this veil she worked
herself and was very fond of it, and she was young and beautiful and just
of the age to be married; and behold the Muslims go and rob the tombs of
the Christians and if thou wilt suffer this we Christians will leave
Egypt and go and live in some other country, O Effendina, for we cannot
endure this abomination.”

‘Then the Pasha turned to the woman and said, “Woe to thee O woman, art
thou a Muslimeh and doest such wickedness?”  And the woman spoke and told
all that had happened and how she sought money and finding gold had kept
it.  So the Pasha said, “Wait oh Ma-allim, and we will discover the truth
of this matter,” and he sent for the three Ulema who had desired that the
tomb should be opened at the end of three days and told them the case;
and they said, “Open now the tomb of the Christian damsel.”  And the
Pasha sent his men to do so, and when they opened it behold it was full
of fire, and within it lay the body of the wicked and avaricious
Mussulman.’  Thus it was manifest to all that on the night of terror the
angels of God had done this thing, and had laid the innocent girl of the
Christians among those who have received direction, and the evil Muslim
among the rejected.  Admire how rapidly legends arise here.  This story
which everybody declared was quite true is placed no longer ago than in
Mahommed Ali Pasha’s time.

There are hardly any travellers this year, instead of a hundred and fifty
or more boats, perhaps twenty.  A son of one of the Rothschilds, a boy of
fourteen, has just gone up like a royal prince in one of the Pasha’s
steamers—all his expenses paid and crowds of attendants.  ‘All that
honour to the money of the Jew,’ said an old fellah to me with a tone of
scorn which I could not but echo in my heart.  He has turned out his
dragoman—a respectable elderly man, very sick, and paid him his bare
wages and the munificent sum of £5 to take him back to Cairo.  On board
there was a doctor and plenty of servants, and yet he abandons the man
here on Mustapha’s hands.  I have brought Er-Rasheedee here (the sick
man) as poor Mustapha is already overloaded with strangers.  I am sorry
the name of _Yahoodee_ (Jew) should be made to stink yet more in the
nostrils of the Arabs.  I am very well, indeed my cough is almost gone
and I can walk quite briskly and enjoy it.  I think, dear Mutter, I am
really better.  I never felt the cold so little as this winter since my
illness, the chilly mornings and nights don’t seem to signify at all now,
and the climate feels more delicious than ever.

Mr. Herbert, the painter, went back to Cairo from Farshoot below Keneh;
so I have no ‘Frangee’ society at all.  But Sheykh Yussuf and the Kadee
drop in to tea very often and as they are agreeable men I am quite
content with my company.

Bye the bye I will tell you about the tenure of land in Egypt which
people are always disputing about, as the Kadee laid it down for me.  The
_whole_ land belongs to the Sultan of Turkey, the Pasha being his vakeel
(representative), nominally of course as we know.  Thus there are no
owners, only tenants paying from one hundred piastres tariff (£1) down to
thirty piastres yearly per feddan (about an acre) according to the
quality of the land, or the favour of the Pasha when granting it.  This
tenancy is hereditary to children only—not to collaterals or
ascendants—and it may be sold, but in that case application must be made
to the Government.  If the owner or tenant dies childless the land
reverts to the Sultan, _i.e._ to the Pasha, and _if the Pasha chooses to
have any man’s land he can take it from him on payment—or without_.
Don’t let any one tell you that I exaggerate; I have known it happen: I
mean the _without_, and the man received feddan for feddan of desert, in
return for his good land which he had tilled and watered.

To-morrow night is the great night of Sheykh Abu-l-Hajjaj’s _moolid_ and
I am desired to go to the mosque for the benefit of my health, and that
my friends may say a prayer for my children.  The kind hearty welcome I
found here has been a real pleasure, and every one was pleased because I
was glad to come home to my _beled_ (town), and they all thought it so
nice of ‘my master’ to have come so far to see me because I was sick—all
but one Turk, who clearly looked with pitying contempt on so much trouble
taken about a sick old woman.

I have left my letter for a long while.  You will not wonder—for after
some ten days’ fever, my poor guest Mohammed Er-Rasheedee died to-day.
Two Prussian doctors gave me help for the last four days, but left last
night.  He sank to sleep quietly at noon with his hand in mine, a good
old Muslim sat at his head on one side and I on the other.  Omar stood at
his head and his black boy Khayr at his feet.  We had laid his face to
the Kibleh and I spoke to him to see if he knew anything and when he
nodded the three Muslims chanted the _Islamee La Illáhá_, etc., etc.,
while I closed his eyes.  The ‘respectable men’ came in by degrees, took
an inventory of his property which they delivered to me, and washed the
body, and within an hour and a half we all went out to the burial place;
I following among a troop of women who joined us to wail for ‘the brother
who had died far from his place.’  The scene as we turned in between the
broken colossi and the pylons of the temple to go to the mosque was
over-powering.  After the prayer in the mosque we went out to the
graveyard, Muslims and Copts helping to carry the dead, and my Frankish
hat in the midst of the veiled and wailing women; all so familiar and yet
so strange.  After the burial the Imám, Sheykh Abd-el-Waris, came and
kissed me on the shoulders and the Shereef, a man of eighty, laid his
hands on my shoulders and said, ‘Fear not my daughter, neither all the
days of thy life nor at the hour of thy death, for God is with thee.’  I
kissed the old man’s hand and turned to go, but numberless men came and
said ‘A thousand thanks, O our sister, for what thou hast done for one
among us,’ and a great deal more.  Now the solemn chanting of the
_Fikees_, and the clear voice of the boy reciting the Koran in the room
where the man died are ringing through the house.  They will pass the
night in prayer, and to-morrow there will be the prayer of deliverance in
the mosque.  Poor Khayr has just crept in to have a quiet cry—poor boy.
He is in the inventory and to-morrow I must deliver him up to _les
autorités_ to be forwarded to Cairo with the rest of the property.  He is
very ugly with his black face wet and swollen, but he kisses my hand and
calls me his mother quite ‘natural like’—you see colour is no barrier
here.

The weather is glorious this year, and in spite of some fatigue I am
extremely well and strong, and have hardly any cough at all.  I am so
sorry that the young Rothschild was so hard to Er-Rasheedee and that his
French doctor refused to come and see him.  It makes bad blood naturally.
However, the German doctors were most kind and helpful.

The festival of Abu-l-Hajjaj was quite a fine sight, not splendid at
all—_au contraire_—but spirit-stirring; the flags of the Sheykh borne by
his family chanting, and the men tearing about in mimic fight on
horseback with their spears.  My acquaintance of last year,
Abd-el-Moutovil, the fanatical Sheykh from Tunis was there.  At first he
scowled at me.  Then someone told him how Rothschild had left
Er-Rasheedee, and he held forth about the hatred of all the unbelievers
to the Muslims, and ended by asking where the sick man was.  A quaint
little smile twinkled in Sheykh Yussuf’s soft eyes and he curled his
silky moustache as he said demurely, ‘Your Honour must go and visit him
at the house of the English Lady.’  I am bound to say that the Pharisee
‘executed himself handsomely, for in a few minutes he came up to me and
took my hand and even hoped I would visit the tomb of Abu-l-Hajjaj with
him!!

Since I wrote last I have been rather poorly—more cough, and most wearing
sleeplessness.  A poor young Englishman died here at the house of the
Austrian Consular agent.  I was too ill to go to him, but a kind, dear
young Englishwoman, a Mrs. Walker, who was here with her family in a
boat, sat up with him three nights and nursed him like a sister.  A young
American lay sick at the same time in the house, he is now gone down to
Cairo, but I doubt whether he will reach it alive.  The Englishman was
buried on the first day of Ramadan where they bury strangers, on the site
of a former Coptic church.  Archdeacon Moore read the service; Omar and I
spread my old flag over the bier, and Copts and Muslims helped to carry
the poor stranger.  It was a most impressive sight.  The party of
Europeans, all strangers to the dead but all deeply moved; the group of
black-robed and turbaned Copts; the sailors from the boats; the gaily
dressed dragomans; several brown-shirted fellaheen and the thick crowd of
children—all the little Abab’deh stark naked and all behaving so well,
the expression on their little faces touched me most of all.  As Muslims,
Omar and the boatmen laid him down in the grave, and while the English
prayer was read the sun went down in a glorious flood of light over the
distant bend of the Nile.  ‘Had he a mother, he was young?’ said an
Abab’deh woman to me with tears in her eyes and pressing my hand in
sympathy for that far-off mother of such a different race.

Passenger steamboats come now every fortnight, but I have had no letter
for a month.  I have no almanack and have lost count of European
time—to-day is the 3 of Ramadan, that is all I know.  The poor black
slave was sent back from Keneh, God knows why—because he had no money and
the Moudir could not ‘eat off him’ as he could off the money and
property—he believes.  He is a capital fellow, and in order to compensate
me for what he eats he proposed to wash for me, and you would be amused
to see Khayr with his coal-black face and filed teeth doing laundry-maid
out in the yard.  He fears the family will sell him and hopes he may
fetch a good price for ‘his boy’—only on the other hand he would so like
me to buy him—and so his mind is disturbed.  Meanwhile the having all my
clothes washed clean is a great luxury.

The steamer is come and I must finish in haste.  I have corrected the
proofs.  There is not much to alter, and though I regret several lost
letters I can’t replace them.  I tried, but it felt like a forgery.  Do
you cut out and correct, dearest Mutter, you will do it much better than
I.



January 8, 1865: Dowager Lady Duff Gordon


                    _To the Dowager Lady Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                        _January_ 8, 1865.

DEAR OLD LADY,

I received your kind letter in the midst of the drumming and piping and
chanting and firing of guns and pistols and scampering of horses which
constitute a religious festival in Egypt.  The last day of the _moolid_
of Abu-l-Hajjaj fell on the 1st January so you came to wish me ‘May all
the year be good to thee’ as the people here were civil enough to do when
I told them it was the first day of the _Frankish_ year.  (The
_Christian_ year here begins in September.)

I was very sorry to hear of poor Lady Theresa’s (Lady Theresa Lewis)
death.  I feel as if I had no right to survive people whom I left well
and strong when I came away so ill.  As usual the air of Upper Egypt has
revived me again, but I am still weak and thin, and hear many
lamentations at my altered looks.  However, ‘_Inshallah_, thou wilt soon
be better.’

Why don’t you make Alexander edit your letters from Spain?  I am sure
they would be far more amusing than mine can possibly be—for you _can_
write letters and I never could.  I wish I had Miss Berry’s though I
never did think her such a genius as most people, but her letters must be
amusing from the time when they were written.  Alexander will tell you
how heavy the hand of Pharaoh is upon this poor people.  ‘My father
scourged you with whips but I will scourge you with scorpions,’ did not
Rehoboam say so? or I forget which King of Judah.  The distress here is
frightful in all classes, and no man’s life is safe.

Ali Bey Rheda told me the other day that Prince Arthur is coming here and
that he was coming up with him after taking a Prince of Hohenzollern back
to Cairo.  There will be all the _fantasia_ possible for him here.  Every
man that has a horse will gallop him to pieces in honour of the son of
the Queen of the English, and not a charge of powder will be spared.  If
you see Layard tell him that Mustapha A’gha had the whole Koran read for
his benefit at the tomb of Abu-l-Hajjaj besides innumerable _fathahs_
which he said for him himself.  He consulted me as to the propriety of
sending Layard a backsheesh, but I declared that Layard was an Emeer of
the Arabs and a giver, not a taker of backsheesh.



January 9, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                        _January_ 9, 1865.

I gave Sheykh Yussuf your knife to cut his _kalem_ (reed pen) with, and
to his little girl the coral waistband clasp you gave me _as from you_.
He was much pleased.  I also brought the Shereef the psalms in Arabic to
his great delight.  The old man called on all ‘our family’ to say a
_fathah_ for their sister, after making us all laugh by shouting out
‘_Alhamdulillah_! here is our darling safe back again.’

I wish you could have seen me in the crowd at Keneh holding on to the
Kadee’s _farageeyeh_ (a loose robe worn by the Ulema).  He is the real
original Kadee of the Thousand and One Nights.  Did ever Kadee tow an
Englishwoman round a Sheykh’s tomb before? but I thought his
determination to show the people that he considered a Christian not out
of place in a Muslim holy place very edifying.

I find an exceedingly pleasant man here, an Abab’deh, a very great Sheykh
from beyond Khartoum, a man of fifty I suppose, with manners like an
English nobleman, simple and polite and very intelligent.  He wants to
take me to Khartoum for two months up and back, having a tent and a
_takhterawan_ (camel-litter) and to show me the Bishareen in the desert.
We traced the route on my map which to my surprise he understood, and I
found he had travelled into Zanzibar and knew of the existence of the
Cape of Good Hope and the English colony there.  He had also travelled in
the Dinka and Shurook country where the men are seven feet and over high
(Alexander saw a Dinka girl at Cairo three inches taller than himself!).
He knows Madlle. Tiné and says she is ‘on everyone’s head and in their
eyes’ where she has been.  You may fancy that I find Sheykh Alee very
good company.

To-day the sand in front of the house is thronged with all the poor
people with their camels, of which the Government has made a new levy of
eight camels to every thousand feddans.  The poor beasts are sent off to
transport troops in the Soudan, and not being used to the desert, they
all die—at all events their owners never see one of them again.  The
discontent is growing stronger every day.  Last week the people were
cursing the Pasha in the streets of Assouan, and every one talks aloud of
what they think.

_January_ 11.—The whole place is in desolation, the men are being beaten,
one because his camel is not good enough, another because its saddle is
old and shabby, and the rest because they have not money enough to pay
two months’ food and the wages of one man, to every four camels, to be
paid for the use of the Government beforehand.  The _courbash_ has been
going on my neighbours’ backs and feet all the morning.  It is a new
sensation too when a friend turns up his sleeve and shows the marks of
the wooden handcuffs and the gall of the chain on his throat.  The system
of wholesale extortion and spoliation has reached a point beyond which it
would be difficult to go.  The story of Naboth’s vineyard is repeated
daily on the largest scale.  I grieve for Abdallah-el-Habbashee and men
of high position like him, sent to die by disease (or murder), in
Fazoghou, but I grieve still more over the daily anguish of the poor
fellaheen, who are forced to take the bread from the mouths of their
starving families and to eat it while toiling for the private profit of
one man.  Egypt is one vast ‘plantation’ where the master works his
slaves without even feeding them.  From my window now I see the men
limping about among the poor camels that are waiting for the Pasha’s
boats to take them, and the great heaps of maize which they are forced to
bring for their food.  I can tell you the tears such a sight brings to
one’s eyes are hot and bitter.  These are no sentimental grievances;
hunger, and pain, and labour without hope and without reward, and the
constant bitterness of impotent resentment.  To you all this must sound
remote and almost fabulous.  But try to imagine Farmer Smith’s team
driven off by the police and himself beaten till he delivered his hay,
his oats and his farm-servant for the use of the Lord Lieutenant, and his
two sons dragged in chains to work at railway embankments—and you will
have some idea of my state of mind to-day.  I fancy from the number of
troops going up to Assouan that there is another rising among the blacks.
Some of the black regiments revolted up in the Soudan last summer, and
now I hear Shaheen Pasha is to be here in a day or two on his way up, and
the camels are being sent off by hundreds from all the villages every
day.  But I am weary of telling, and you will sicken of hearing my
constant lamentations.

Sheykh Hassan dropped in and dined with me yesterday and described his
mother and her high-handed rule over him.  It seems he had a ‘jeunesse
orageuse’ and she defended him against his father’s displeasure, but when
the old Sheykh died she informed her son that if he ever again behaved in
a manner unworthy of a Sheykh-el-Arab she would not live to see it.  ‘Now
if my mother told me to jump into the river and drown I should say
_hader_ (ready), for I fear her exceedingly and love her above all people
in the world, and have left everything in her hand.’  He was good enough
to tell me that I was the only woman he knew like his mother and that was
why he loved me so much.  I am to visit this Arab Deborah at the Abab’deh
village two days ride from the first Cataract.  She will come and meet me
at the boat.  Hassan was splendid when he said how he feared his mother
exceedingly.

To my amazement to-day in walked the tremendous Alim from Tunis, Sheykh
Abd-el-Moutovil, who used to look so black at me.  He was very civil and
pleasant and asked no end of questions about steam engines, and
telegraphs and chemistry; especially whether it was true that the
Europeans still fancied they could make gold.  I said that no one had
believed that for nearly two hundred years, and he said that the Arabs
also knew it was ‘a lie,’ and he wondered to hear that Europeans, who
were so clever, believed it.  He had just been across the Nile to see the
tombs of the Kings and of course ‘improved the occasion’ and uttered a
number of the usual fine sayings about the vanity of human things.  He
told me I was the only Frank he had ever spoken to.  I observed he did
not say a word about religion, or use the usual pious phrases.  By the
bye, Sheykh Yussuf filled up my inkstand for me the other evening and in
pouring the ink said ‘Bismillah el-Rachman el-Racheem’ (In the name of
God, the merciful, the compassionate).  I said ‘I like that custom, it is
good to remind us that ink may be a cruel poison or a good medicine.’

I am better, and have hardly any cough.  The people here think it is
owing to the intercession of Abu-l-Hajjaj who specially protects me.  I
was obliged to be wrapped in the green silk cover of his tomb when it was
taken off to be carried in procession, partly for my health and general
welfare, and as a sort of adoption into the family.  I made a feeble
resistance on the score of being a Nazraneeyeh but was told ‘Never fear,
does not God know thee and the Sheykh also? no evil will come to thee on
that account but good.’  And I rather think that general goodwill and
kindness is wholesome.



February 7, 1865: Miss Austin


                            _To Miss Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _February_ 7, 1865.

MY DEAREST CHARLEY,

I am tolerably well, but I am growing very homesick—or rather
children-sick.  As the time slips on I get more and more the feeling of
all I am losing of my children.  We have delicious weather here and have
had all the time; there has been no cold at all this winter here.

M. Prévost Paradol is here for a few days—a very pleasant man indeed, and
a little good European talk is a very agreeable interlude to the Arab
prosiness, or rather _enfantillage_, on the part of the women.  I have
sought about for shells and a few have been brought me from the Cataract,
but of snails I can learn no tidings nor have I ever seen one, neither
can I discover that there are any shells in the Nile mud.  At the first
Cataract they are found sticking to the rocks.  The people here are very
stupid about natural objects that are of no use to them.  Like with the
French small birds are all sparrows, and wild flowers there are none, and
only about five varieties of trees in all Egypt.

This is a sad year—all the cattle are dead, the Nile is now as low as it
was last July, and the song of the men watering with the _shadoofs_
sounds sadly true as they chant _Ana ga-ahn_, etc.  ‘I am hungry, I am
hungry for a piece of dourrah bread,’ sings one, and the other chimes in,
_Meskeen_, _meskeen_ ‘Poor man, poor man,’ or else they sing a song about
Seyyidna Iyoob ‘Our master Job’ and his patience.  It is sadly
appropriate now and rings on all sides as the _shadoofs_ are greatly
multiplied for lack of oxen to turn the _sakiahs_ (waterwheels).  All is
terribly dear, and many are sick from sheer weakness owing to poor food;
and then I hear fifty thousand are to be taken to work at the canal from
Geezeh to Siout through the Fayoum.  The only comfort is the enormous
rise of wages, which however falls heavy on the rich.  The sailors who
got forty to fifty piastres five years ago now get three to five hundred
piastres a month.  So I fear I must give up my project of a dahabieh.  If
the new French Consul-General ‘knows not Joseph’ and turns me out, I am
to live in a new house which Sheykh Yussuf is now building and of which
he would give me the terrace and build three rooms on it for me.  I wish
I got better or worse, and could go home.  I do get better, but _so_
slowly, I cough a good deal at times, and I am very thin, but not so weak
as I was or so breathless.



February 7, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _February_ 7, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

I am enjoying a ‘great indulgence of talk’ with M. Prévost Paradol as
heartily as any nigger.  He is a delightful person.  This evening he is
coming with Arakel Bey, his Armenian companion, and I will invite a few
Arabs to show him.  I sent off the proofs yesterday per passenger
steamer.  I trust they will arrive safe.  It is too disheartening about
letters, so many are lost.  I am dreadfully disappointed in my letters, I
_really_ don’t think them good—you know I don’t _blaguer_ about my own
performances.  I am very glad people like my Cape letters which I
forget—but honestly I don’t think the Egyptian good.  You know I don’t
‘pretend’ if I think I have done something well and I was generally
content with my translations, but I feel these all to be poor and what
Maurice calls ‘dry’ when I know how curious and interesting and poetical
the country really is.

I paid Fadil Pasha a visit on his boat, and it was just like the middle
ages.  In order to amuse me he called up a horrid little black boy of
about four to do tricks like a dancing dog, which ended in a performance
of the Mussulman prayer.  The little beast was dressed in a Stamboulee
dress of scarlet cloth.

All the Arab doctors come to see me now as they go up and down the river
to give me help if I want it.  Some are very pleasant men.  Mourad
Effendi speaks German exactly like a German.  The old Sheykh-el-Beled of
Erment who visits me whenever he comes here, and has the sweetest voice I
ever heard, complained of the climate of Cairo.  ‘There is no sun there
at all, it is no brighter or warmer than the moon.’  What do you think
our sun must be now you know Cairo.  We have had a glorious winter, like
the finest summer weather at home only so much finer.

Janet wishes to go with me if I go to Soden, I must make enquiries about
the climate.  Ross fears it is too cold for an Egyptian like me.  I
should enjoy to have all the family _au grand complet_.  I will leave
Luxor in May and get to you towards the latter part of June, if that
pleases you, _Inshallah_!



February 7, 1865: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _February_ 7, 1865.

DEAREST JANET,

It is quite heartrending about my letters.  I have ‘got the eye’
evidently.  The black slave of the poor dragoman who died in my house is
here still, and like a dog that has lost his master has devoted himself
to me.  It seems nobody’s business to take him away—as the Kadee did the
money and the goods—and so it looks as if I should quietly inherit poor
ugly Khayr.  He is of a degree of ugliness quite transcendent, with teeth
filed sharp ‘in order to eat people’ as he says, but the most
good-humoured creature and a very fair laundry-maid.  It is evidently no
concern of mine to send him to be sold in Cairo, so I wait the event.  If
nobody ever claims him I shall keep him at whatever wages may seem fit,
and he will subside into liberty.  _Du reste_, the Maōhn here says he is
legally entitled to his freedom.  If the new French Consul-General will
let me stay on here I will leave my furniture and come down straight to
your hospitable roof in Alexandria _en route_ for Europe.  I fear my plan
of a dahabieh of my own would be too expensive, the wages of common
boatmen now are three napoleons a month.  M. Prévost Paradol, whose
company has been a real _bonne fortune_ to me, will speak to the
Consul-General.  I know all Thebes would sign a round-robin in my favour
if they only knew how, for I am very popular here, and the only _Hakeen_.
I have effected some brilliant cures, and get lots of presents.  Eggs,
turkeys, etc., etc., it is quite a pleasure to see how the poor people
instead of trying to sponge on one are anxious to make a return for
kindness.  I give nothing whatever but my physick.  These country people
are very good.  A nice young Circassian Cawass sat up with a stranger, a
dying Englishman, all night because I had doctored his wife.  I have also
a pupil, Mustapha’s youngest boy, a sweet intelligent lad who is pining
for an education.  I wish he could go to England.  He speaks English very
well and reads and writes indifferently, but I never saw a boy so wild to
learn.  Is it difficult to get a boy into the Abbassieh college? as it is
gratuitous I suppose it is.  I quite grieve over little Ach met forced to
dawdle away his time and his faculties here.



March 13, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _March_ 13, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I hope your mind has not been disturbed by any rumours of ‘battle, murder
and sudden death’ up in our part of the world.  A week ago we heard that
a Prussian boat had been attacked, all on board murdered, and the boat
burned; then that ten villages were in open revolt, and that Effendina
(the Viceroy) himself had come up and ‘taken a broom and swept them
clean’ _i.e._—exterminated the inhabitants.  The truth now appears to be
that a crazy darweesh has made a disturbance—but I will tell it as I
heard it.  He did as his father likewise did thirty years ago, made
himself _Ism_ (name) by repeating one of the appellations of God, like
_Ya Latif_ three thousand times every night for three years which
rendered him invulnerable.  He then made friends with a Jinn who taught
him many more tricks—among others, that practised in England by the
Davenports of slipping out of any bonds.  He then deluded the people of
the desert by giving himself out as _El-Mahdi_ (he who is to come with
the Lord Jesus and to slay Antichrist at the end of the world), and
proclaimed a revolt against the Turks.  Three villages below Keneh—Gau,
Rayanaeh and Bedeh took part in the disturbance, and Fodl Pasha came up
with steamboats, burnt the villages, shot about one hundred men and
devastated the fields.  At first we heard one thousand were shot, now it
is one hundred.  The women and children will be distributed among other
villages.  The darweesh some say is killed, others that he is gone off
into the desert with a body of bedaween and a few of the fellaheen from
the three ravaged villages.  Gau is a large place—as large, I think as
Luxor.  The darweesh is a native of Salamieh, a village close by here,
and yesterday his brother, a very quiet man, and his father’s
father-in-law old Hajjee Sultan were carried off prisoners to Cairo, or
Keneh, we don’t know which.  It seems that the boat robbed belonged to
Greek traders, but no one was hurt, I believe, and no European boat has
been molested.

Baron Kevenbrinck was here yesterday with his wife, and they saw all the
sacking of the villages and said no resistance was offered by the people
whom the soldiers shot down as they ran, and they saw the sheep etc.
being driven off by the soldiers.  You need be in no alarm about me.  The
darweesh and his followers could not pounce on us as we are eight good
miles from the desert, _i.e._ the mountain, so we must have timely
notice, and we have arranged that if they appear in the neighbourhood the
women and children of the outlying huts should come into my house which
is a regular fortress, and also any travellers in boats, and we muster
little short of seven hundred men able to fight including Karnac,
moreover Fodl Pasha and the troops are at Keneh only forty miles off.

Three English boats went down river to-day and one came up.  The
Kevenbrincks went up last night.  I dined with them, she is very lively
and pleasant.  I nearly died of laughing to-day when little Achmet came
for his lesson.  He pronounced that he was sick of love for her.  He
played at cards with her yesterday afternoon and it seems lost his heart
(he is twelve and quite a boyish boy, though a very clever one) and he
said he was wishing to play a game for a kiss as the stake.  He had put
on a turban to-day, on the strength of his passion, to look like a man,
and had neglected his dress otherwise because ‘when young men are sick of
love they always do so.’  The fact is the Baroness was kind and amiable
and tried to amuse him as she would have done to a white boy, hence
Achmet’s susceptible heart was ‘on fire for her.’  He also asked me if I
had any medicine to make him white, I suppose to look lovely in her eyes.
He little knows how very pretty he is with his brown face—as he sits
cross-legged on the carpet at my feet in his white turban and blue shirt
reading aloud—he was quite a picture.  I have grown very fond of the
little fellow, he is so eager to learn and to improve and so remarkably
clever.

My little Achmet, who is donkey-boy and general little slave, the
smallest slenderest quietest little creature, has implored me to take him
with me to England.  I wish Rainie could see him, she would be so
‘arprized’ at his dark brown little face, so _fein_, and with eyes like a
dormouse.  He is a true little Arab—can run all day in the heat, sleeps
on the stones and eats anything—quick, gentle and noiseless and fiercely
jealous.  If I speak to any other boy he rushes at him and drives him
away, and while black Khayr was in the house, he suffered martyrdom and
the kitchen was a scene of incessant wrangle about the coffee.  Khayr
would bring me my coffee and Achmet resented the usurpation of his
functions—of course quite hopelessly, as Khayr was a great stout black of
eighteen and poor little Achmet not bigger than Rainie.  I am really
tempted to adopt the vigilant active little creature.

_March_ 15.—Sheykh Yussuf returned from a visit to Salamieh last night.
He tells me the darweesh Achmet et-Tayib is not dead, he believes that he
is a mad fanatic and a communist.  He wants to divide all property
equally and to kill all the Ulema and destroy all theological teaching by
learned men and to preach a sort of revelation or interpretation of the
Koran of his own.  ‘He would break up your pretty clock,’ said Yussuf,
‘and give every man a broken wheel out of it, and so with all things.’

One of the dragomans here had been urging me to go down but Yussuf
laughed at any idea of danger, he says the people here have fought the
bedaween before and will not be attacked by such a handful as are out in
the mountain now; _du reste_ the Abu-l-Hajjajieh (family of Abu-l-Hajjaj)
will ‘put their seal’ to it that I am their sister and answer for me with
a man’s life.  It would be foolish to go down into whatever disturbance
there may be alone in a small country boat and where I am not known.  The
Pasha himself we hear is at Girgeh with steamboats and soldiers, and if
the slightest fear should arise steamers will be sent up to fetch all the
Europeans.  What I grieve over is the poor villagers whose little
property is all confiscated, guilty and innocent alike, and many shot as
they ran away.  Hajjee Ali tells me privately that he believes the
discontent against the Government is very deep and universal and that
there will be an outbreak—but not yet.  The Pasha’s attempt to regulate
the price of food by edicts has been very disastrous, and of course the
present famine prices are laid to his charge—if a man will be omnipotent
he must take the consequences when he fails.  I don’t believe in an
outbreak—I think the people are too thoroughly accustomed to suffer and
to obey, besides they have no means of communication, and the steamboats
can run up and down and destroy them _en détail_ in a country which is
eight hundred miles long by from one to eight wide, and thinly peopled.
Only Cairo could do anything, and everything is done to please the
Cairenes at the expense of the fellaheen.

The great heat has begun these last three days.  My cough is better and I
am grown fatter again.  The Nile is so low that I fancy that six weeks or
two months hence I shall have to go down in two little boats—even now the
dahabiehs keep sticking fast continually.  I have promised some
neighbours to bring back a little seed corn for them, some of the best
English wheat without beard.  All the wheat here is bearded and they have
an ambition for some of ours.  I long to bring them wheelbarrows and
spades and pickaxes.  The great folks get steamploughs, but the labourers
work with their bare hands and a rush basket _pour tout potage_, and it
takes six to do the work of one who has got good tools.



March 25, 1865: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _March_ 25, 1865.

DEAREST JANET,

I hope you have not had visions of me plundered and massacred by the
crazy darweesh who has caused the destruction of Gau and three other
villages.  I assure you we are quite quiet here and moreover have
arranged matters for our defence if Achmet et Tayib should honour us with
a visit.  The heat has just set in, thermometer 89° to-day, of course I
am much better, fatter and cough less.

Many thanks to Henry about Achmet Ibn-Mustapha, but his father is going
to send him to England into Mr. Fowler’s workshop, which will be a much
better training I think.  Mr. Fowler takes him without a premium most
kindly.  Lord Dudley will tell you what a splendid entertainment I gave
him; I think he was quite frightened at the sight of the tray and the
black fingers in the dishes.

The Abab’deh Sheykh and his handsome brother propose to take me to the
moolid of Sheykh-el-Shadhilee (the coffee saint) in the desert to see all
the wild Abab’deh and Bishareeyeh.  It is very tempting, if I feel pretty
well I must go I think and perhaps the change might do me good.  They
believe no European ever went to that festival.  There are camel-races
and a great show of pretty girls says the handsome Hassan.  A fine young
Circassian cawass here has volunteered to be my servant anywhere and to
fight anybody for me because I have cured his pretty wife.  You would
love Kursheed with his clear blue eyes, fair face and brisk neat
soldierly air.  He has a Crimean medal and such a lot of daggers and
pistols and is such a tremendous Muslim, but never-the-less he loves me
and tells me all his affairs and how tiresome his wife’s mother is.  I
tell him all wives’ mothers always are, but he swears _Wallahi_,
_Howagah_ (Mr.) Ross don’t say so, _Wallahi_, _Inshallah_!



March 30, 1865: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _March_ 30, 1865.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have just received your letter of March 3 with one from Janet, which
shows of how little moment the extermination of four villages is in this
country, for she does not allude to our revolt and evidently has not
heard of it.

In my last letter to Mutter I told how one Achmet et Tayib, a mad
darweesh had raised a riot at Gau below Keneh and how a boat had been
robbed and how we were all rather looking out for a _razzia_ and
determined to fight Achmet et Tayib and his followers.  Then we called
them _harámee_ (wicked ones) and were rather blood-thirstily disposed
towards them and resolved to keep order and protect our property.  But
now we say _nas messakeen_ (poor people) and whisper to each other that
God will not forget what the Pasha has done.  The truth of course we
shall never know.  But I do know that one Pasha said he had hanged five
hundred, and another that he had sent three hundred to Fazoghlou (_comme
qui dirait Cayenne_) and all for the robbery of one Greek boat in which
only the steersman was killed.  I cannot make out that anything was done
by the ‘insurgents’ beyond going out into the desert to listen to the
darweesh’s nonsense, and ‘see a reed shaken by the wind;’ the party that
robbed the boat was, I am told, about forty strong.  But the most horrid
stories are current among the people of the atrocities committed on the
wretched villagers by the soldiers.  Not many were shot, they say, and
they attempted no resistance, but the women and girls were outraged and
murdered and the men hanged and the steamers loaded with plunder.  The
worst is that every one believes that the Europeans aid and abet, and all
declare that the Copts were spared to please the _Frangees_.  Mind I am
not telling you _facts_ only what the people are saying—in order to show
you their feelings.  One most respectable young man sat before me on the
floor the other day and told me what he had heard from those who had come
up the river.  Horrible tales of the stench of the bodies which are left
unburied by the Pasha’s order—of women big with child ripped open, etc.,
etc.  ‘Thou knowest oh! our Lady, that we are people of peace in this
place, and behold now if one madman should come and a few idle fellows go
out to the mountain (desert) with him, Effendina will send his soldiers
to destroy the place and spoil our poor little girls and hang us—is that
right, oh Lady and Achmet el-Berberi saw Europeans with hats in the
steamer with Effendina and the soldiers.  Truly in all the world none are
miserable like us Arabs.  The Turks beat us, and the Europeans hate us
and say _quite right_.  By God, we had better lay down our heads in the
dust (die) and let the strangers take our land and grow cotton for
themselves.  As for me I am tired of this miserable life and of fearing
for my poor little girls.’

Mahommed was really eloquent, and when he threw his _melayeh_ over his
face and sobbed, I am not ashamed to say that I cried too.  I know very
well that Mahommed was not quite wrong in what he says of the Europeans.
I know the cruel old platitudes about governing Orientals by fear which
the English pick up like mocking birds from the Turks.  I know all about
‘the stick’ and ‘vigour’ and all that—but—‘I sit among the people’ and I
know too that Mohammed feels just as John Smith or Tom Brown would feel
in his place, and that men who were very savage against the rioters in
the beginning, are now almost in a humour to rise against the Turks
themselves just exactly as free-born Britons might be.  There are even
men of the class who have something to lose who express their disgust
very freely.

I saw the steamer pass up to Fazoghlou but the prisoners were all below.
The Sheykh of the Abab’deh here has had to send a party of his men to
guard them through the desert.  Altogether this year is miserable in
Egypt.  I have not once heard the _zaghareet_.  Every one is anxious and
depressed, and I fear hungry, the land is parched from the low Nile, the
heat has set in six weeks earlier than usual, the animals are scarecrows
for want of food, and now these horrid stories of bloodshed and cruelty
and robbery (for the Pasha takes the lands of these villages for his own)
have saddened every face.  I think Hajjee Ali is right and that there
will be more disturbances.  If there are they will be caused by the
cruelty and oppression at Gau and the three neighbouring villages.  From
Salamieh, two miles above Luxor, every man woman and child in any degree
kin to Achmet et-Tayib has been taken in chains to Keneh and no one here
expects to see one of them return alive.  Some are remarkably good men, I
hear, and I have heard men say ‘if Hajjee Sultan is killed and all his
family we will never do a good action any more, for we see it is of no
use.’

There was a talk among the three or four Europeans here at the beginning
of the rumours of a revolt of organizing a defence among Christians only.
Conceive what a silly and gratuitous provocation!  There was no religion
in the business at all and of course the proper person to organize
defence was the Maōhn, and he and Mustapha and others had planned using
my house as a castle and defending that in case of a visit from the
rioters.  I have no doubt the true cause of the row is the usual
one—hunger—the high price of food.  It was like our Swing, or bread
riots, nothing more and a very feeble affair too.  It is curious to see
the travellers’ gay dahabiehs just as usual and the Europeans as far
removed from all care or knowledge of the distresses as if they were at
home.  When I go and sit with the English I feel almost as if they were
foreigners to me too, so completely am I now _Dint el-Beled_ (daughter of
the country) here.

I dined three days running with the Kevenbrincks and one day after dinner
we sent for a lot of Arab Sheykhs to come for coffee—the two Abab’deh and
a relation of theirs from Khartoum, the Sheykh of Karnac, one Mohammed a
rich fellah, and we were joined by the A’gha of Halim Pasha’s Hareem, and
an ugly beast he is.  The little Baroness won all hearts.  She is a
regular _vif argent_ or as we say _Efreeteh_ and to see the dark faces
glittering with merry smiles as they watched her was very droll.  I never
saw a human being so thoroughly amused as the black Sheykh from the
Soudan.  Next day we dined at the Austrian agent’s and the Baroness at
last made the Maōhn dance a polka with her while the agent played the
guitar.  There were a lot of Copts about who nearly died of laughing and
indeed so did I.  Next day we had a capital dinner at Mustapha’s, and the
two Abab’deh Sheykhs, the Sheykh of Karnac, the Maōhn and Sheykh Yussuf
dined with us.  The Sheykh of Karnac gave a grand performance of eating
like a Bedawee.  I have heard you talk of _tripas elasticas_ in Spain but
_Wallahi_! anything like the performance of Sheykh Abdallah none but an
eyewitness could believe.  How he plucked off the lamb’s head and handed
it to me in token of the highest respect, and how the bones cracked
beneath his fingers—how huge handfuls of everything were chucked right
down his throat all scorching hot.  I encouraged him of course, quoting
the popular song about ‘doing deeds that Antar did not’ and we all grew
quite uproarious.  When Sheykh Abdallah asked for drink, I cried ‘bring
the _ballaree_ (the big jar the women fetch water in) for the Sheykh,’
and Sheykh Yussuf compared him to Samson and to Og, while I more
profanely told how Antar broke the bones and threw them about.  The
little Baroness was delighted and only expressed herself hurt that no one
had crammed anything into her mouth.  I told the Maōhn her disappointment
which caused more laughter as such a custom is unknown here, but he of
course made no end of sweet speeches to her.  After dinner she showed the
Arabs how ladies curtsey to the Queen in England, and the Abab’deh acted
the ceremonial of presentation at the court of Darfour, where you have to
rub your nose in the dust at the King’s feet.  Then we went out with
lanterns and torches and the Abab’deh did the sword dance for us.  Two
men with round shields and great straight swords do it.  One dances a
_pas seul_ of challenge and defiance with prodigious leaps and pirouettes
and Hah! Hahs!  Then the other comes and a grand fight ensues.  When the
handsome Sheykh Hassan (whom you saw in Cairo) bounded out it really was
heroic.  All his attitudes were alike grand and graceful.  They all
wanted Sheykh Yussuf to play _el-Neboot_ (single stick) and said he was
the best man here at it, but his sister was not long dead and he could
not.  Hassan looks forward to Maurice’s coming here to teach him ‘the
fighting of the English.’  How Maurice would pound him!

On the fourth night I went to tea in Lord Hopetoun’s boat and their
sailors gave a grand _fantasia_ excessively like a Christmas pantomime.
One danced like a woman, and there was a regular pantaloon only ‘more
so,’ and a sort of clown in sheepskin and a pink mask who was duly
tumbled about, and who distributed _claques_ freely with a huge wooden
spoon.  It was very good fun indeed, though it was quite as well that the
ladies did not understand the dialogue, or that part of the dance which
made the Maōhn roar with laughter.  The Hopetouns had two handsome boats
and were living like in May Fair.  I am so used now to our poor shabby
life that it makes quite a strange impression on me to see all that
splendour—splendour which a year or two ago I should not even have
remarked—and thus out of ‘my inward consciousness’ (as Germans say), many
of the peculiarities and faults of the people of Egypt are explained to
me and accounted for.

_April_ 2.—It is so dreadfully hot and dusty that I shall rather hasten
my departure if I can.  The winds seem to have begun, and as all the land
which last year was green is now desert and dry the dust is four times as
bad.  If I hear that Ross has bought and sent up a dahabieh I will wait
for that, if not I will go in three weeks if I can.



April 3, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _April_ 3, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have just finished a letter to Alick to go by a steamer to-day.  You
will see it, so I will go on with the stories about the riots.  Here is a
thing happening within a few weeks and within sixty miles, and already
the events assume a legendary character.  Achmet et-Tayib is not dead and
where the bullets hit him he shows little marks like burns.  The affair
began thus: A certain Copt had a Muslim slave-girl who could read the
Koran and who served him.  He wanted her to be his Hareem and she refused
and went to Achmet et-Tayib who offered money for her to her master.  He
refused it and insisted on his rights, backed by the Government, and
thereupon Achmet proclaimed a revolt and the people, tired of taxes and
oppressions, said ‘we will go with thee.’  This is the only bit of
religious legend connected with the business.  But Achmet et-Tayib still
sits in the Island, invisible to the Turkish soldiers who are still
there.

Now for a little fact.  The man who told me fourteen hundred had been
beheaded was Hassan Sheykh of the Abab’deh who went to Gau to bring up
the prisoners.  The boat stopped a mile above Luxor, and my Mohammed, a
most quiet respectable man and not at all a romancer went up in her to
El-Moutaneh.  I rode with him along the Island.  When we came near the
boat she went on as far as the point of the Island, and I turned back
after only looking at her from the bank and smelling the smell of a
slave-ship.  It never occurred to me, I own, that the Bey on board had
fled before a solitary woman on a donkey, but so it was.  He told the
Abab’deh Sheykh on board not to speak to me or to let me on board, and
told the Captain to go a mile or two further.  Mohammed heard all this.
He found on board ‘one hundred prisoners less two’ (ninety-eight).  Among
them the Moudir of Souhaj, a Turk, in chains and wooden handcuffs like
the rest.  Mohammed took him some coffee and was civil to him.  He says
the poor creatures are dreadfully ill-used by the Abab’deh and the
Nubians (Berberi) who guard them.

It is more curious than you can conceive to hear all the people say.  It
is just like going back four or five centuries at least, but with the
heterogeneous element of steamers, electric telegraphs and the Bey’s
dread of the English lady’s pen—at least Mohammed attributed his flight
to fear of that weapon.  It was quite clear that European eyes were
dreaded, as the boat stopped three miles above Luxor and its dahabiehs,
and had all its things carried that distance.

Yussuf and his uncle want to take me next year to Mecca, the good folks
in Mecca would hardly look for a heretical face under the green veil of a
_Shereefateh_ of Abu-l-Hajjaj.  The Hajjees (pilgrims) have just started
from here to Cosseir with camels and donkeys, but most are on foot.  They
are in great numbers this year.  The women chanted and drummed all night
on the river bank, and it was fine to see fifty or sixty men in a line
praying after their Imám with the red glow of the sunset behind them.
The prayer in common is quite a drill and very stately to see.  There are
always quite as many women as men; one wonders how they stand the march
and the hardships.

My little Achmet grows more pressing with me to take him.  I will take
him to Alexandria, I think, and leave him in Janet’s house to learn more
house service.  He is a dear little boy and very useful.  I don’t suppose
his brother will object and he has no parents.  Achmet ibn-Mustapha also
coaxes me to take him with me to Alexandria, and to try again to persuade
his father to send him to England to Mr. Fowler.  I wish most heartily I
could.  He is an uncommon child in every way, full of ardour to learn and
do something, and yet childish and winning and full of fun.  His pretty
brown face is quite a pleasure to me.  His remarks on the New Testament
teach me as many things as I can teach him.  The boy is pious and not at
all ill taught, he is much pleased to find so little difference between
the teaching of the Koran and the _Aangeel_.  He wanted me, in case Omar
did not go with me, to take him to serve me.  Here there is no idea of
its being derogatory for a gentleman’s son to wait on one who teaches
him, it is positively incumbent.  He does all ‘menial offices’ for his
mother, hands coffee, waits at table or helps Omar in anything if I have
company, nor will he eat or smoke before me, or sit till I tell him—it is
like service in the middle ages.



April 3, 1865: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _April_ 3, 1865.

DEAREST JANET,

The weather has set in so horrid, as to dust, that I shall be glad to get
away as soon as I can.  If you have bought a dahabieh for me of course I
will await its arrival.  If not I will have two small boats from Keneh,
whereby I shall avoid sticking in this very low water.  Sheykh Hassan
goes down in his boat in twenty days and urges me to travel under his
escort, as of course the poor devils who are ‘out on their keeping’ after
the Gau business have no means of living left but robbery, and Sheykh
Hassan’s party is good for seven or eight guns.  You will laugh at my
listening to such a cowardly proposition (on my part) but my friends here
are rather bent upon it, and Hassan is a capital fellow.  If therefore
the dahabieh is _in rerum naturæ_ and can start at once, well and good.

_April_ 14.—The dahabieh sounds an excellent bargain to me and good for
you also to get your people to Assouan first.  Many thanks for the
arrangement.

Your version of our massacre is quite curious to us here.  I know very
intimately the Sheykh-el-Arab who helped to catch the poor people and
also a young Turk who stood by while Fadil Pasha had the men laid down by
ten at a time and chopped with pioneers’ axes.  My Turkish friend (a very
good-humoured young fellow) quite admired the affair and expressed a
desire to do likewise to all the fellaheen in Egypt.  I have seen with my
own eyes a second boatload of prisoners.  I wish to God the Pasha knew
the deep exasperation which his subordinates are causing.  I do not like
to say all I hear.  As to the Ulema, Kadees, Muftis, etc., I know many
from towns and villages, and all say ‘We are Muslims, but we should thank
God to send Europeans to govern us,’ the feeling is against the
Government and the Turks up here—not against Christians.  A Coptic friend
of mine has lost all his uncle’s family at Gau, all were shot down—Copt
and Christian alike.  As to Hajjee Sultan, who lies in chains at Keneh
and his family up at Esneh, a better man never lived, nor one more
liberal to Christians.  Copts ate of his bread as freely as Muslims.  He
lies there because he is distantly related by marriage to Achmet
et-Tayib, the real reason is because he is wealthy and some enemy covets
his goods.

Ask M. Mounier what he knows.  Perhaps I know even more of the feeling as
I am almost adopted by the Abu-l-Hajjajeeah, and sit every evening with
some party or another of decent men.  I assure you I am in despair at all
I see—and if the soldiers do come it will be worse than the cattle
disease.  Are not the cawasses bad enough?  Do they not buy in the market
at their own prices and beat the sakkas in sole payment for the skins of
water?  Who denies it here?  Cairo is like Paris, things are kept sweet
there, but up here—!  Of course Effendina hears the ‘smooth prophecies’
of the tyrants whom he sends up river.  When I wrote before I knew
nothing certain but now I have eye-witnesses’ testimony, and I say that
the Pasha deceives or is deceived—I hope the latter.  An order from him
did stop the slaughter of women and children which Fadil Pasha was about
to effect.

To turn to less wretched matters.  I will come right down Alexandria with
the boat, I shall rejoice to see you again.

Possibly the Abab’deh may come with me and I hope Sheykh Yussuf, ‘my
chaplain’ as Arthur Taylor called him.  We shall be quite a little fleet.



April, 1865: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                            _April_, 1865.

DEAREST ALEXANDER,

Yesterday was the Bairam I rejoice to say and I have lots of physic to
make up, for all the stomachs damaged by Ramadan.

I have persuaded Mr. Fowler the engineer who was with Lord Dudley to take
my dear little pupil Achmet son of Ibn Mustapha to learn the business at
Leeds instead of idling in his father’s house here.  I will give the
child a letter to you in case he should go to London.  He has been
reading the gospels with me at his own desire.  I refused till I had
asked his father’s consent, and Sheykh Yussuf who heard me begged me by
all means to make him read it carefully so as to guard him against the
heretical inventions he might be beset with among the English ‘of the
vulgar sort.’  What a poser for a missionary!

I sent down the poor black lad with Arakel Bey.  He took leave of me with
his ugly face all blubbered like a sentimental hippopotamus.  He said
‘for himself, he wished to stay with me, but then what would his boy, his
little master do—there was only a stepmother who would take all the
money, and who else would work for the boy?’  Little Achmet was charmed
to see Khayr go, of whom he chose to be horribly jealous, and to be wroth
at all he did for me.  Now the Sheykh-el-Beled of Baidyeh has carried off
my watchman, and the Christian Sheykh-el-Hara of our quarter of Luxor has
taken the boy Yussuf for the Canal.  The former I successfully resisted
and got back Mansoor, not indeed _incolumes_ for _he_ had been handcuffed
and bastinadoed to make _me_ pay 200 piastres, but he bore it like a man
rather than ask me for the money and was thereupon surrendered.  But the
Copt will be a tougher business—he will want more money and be more
resolved to get it.  _Veremus_.  I must I suppose go to the Nazir at the
Canal—a Turk—and beg off my donkey boy.

  [Picture: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon, from sketch by G. F. Watts, R.A.]

I saw Hassan Sheykh-el-Abab’deh yesterday, who was loud in praise of your
good looks and gracious manners.  ‘Mashallah, thy master is a sweet man,
O Lady!’

Yesterday was Bairam, and lots of Hareem came in their best clothes to
wish me a happy year and enjoyed themselves much with sweet cakes,
coffee, and pipes.  Kursheed’s wife (whom I cured completely) looked very
handsome.  Kursheed is a Circassian, a fine young fellow much shot and
hacked about and with a Crimean medal.  He is cawass here and a great
friend of mine.  He says if I ever want a servant he will go with me
anywhere and fight anybody—which I don’t doubt in the least.  He was a
Turkish memlook and his condescension in wishing to serve a Christian
woman is astounding.  His fair face and clear blue eyes, and brisk, neat,
soldier-like air contrast curiously with the brown fellaheen.  He is like
an Englishman only fairer and like them too fond of the courbash.  What
would you say if I appeared in Germany attended by a memlook with
pistols, sword, dagger, carbine and courbash, and with a decided and
imperious manner the very reverse of the Arab softness—and such a Muslim
too—prays five times a day and extra fasts besides Ramadan.  ‘I beat my
wife’ said Kursheed, ‘oh!  I beat her well! she talked so, and I am like
the English, I don’t like too many words.’  He was quite surprised that I
said I was glad _my_ master didn’t dislike talking so much.

I was talking the other day with Yussuf about people trying to make
converts and I said that eternal bêtise, ‘Oh they mean well.’  ‘True, oh
Lady! perhaps they do mean well, but God says in the Noble Koran that he
who injures or torments those Christians whose conduct is not evil,
merely on account of religion, shall never smell the fragrance of the
Garden (paradise).  Now when men begin to want to make others change
their faith it is extremely hard for them _not_ to injure or torment them
and therefore I think it better to abstain altogether and to wish rather
to see a Christian a good Christian and a Muslim a good Muslim.’

No wonder a most pious old Scotchman told me that the truth which
undeniably existed in the Mussulman faith was the work of Satan and the
Ulema his _meenesters_.  My dear saint of a Yussuf a _meenester_ of
Satan!  I really think I _have_ learnt some ‘Muslim humility’ in that I
endured the harangue, and accepted a two-penny tract quite mildly and
politely and didn’t argue at all.  As his friend ‘Satan’ would have it,
the Fikees were reading the Koran in the hall at Omar’s expense who gave
a Khatmeh that day, and Omar came in and politely offered him some sweet
prepared for the occasion.  I have been really amazed at several
instances of English fanaticism this year.  Why do people come to a
Mussulman country with such bitter hatred ‘in their stomachs’ as I have
seen three or four times.  I feel quite hurt often at the way the people
here thank me for what the poor at home would turn up their noses at.  I
think hardly a dragoman has been up the river since Rashedee died but has
come to thank me as warmly as if I had done himself some great
service—and many to give some little present.  While the man was ill
numbers of the fellaheen brought eggs, pigeons, etc. etc. even a turkey,
and food is worth money now, not as it used to be.  I am quite weary too
of hearing ‘Of all the Frangee I never saw one like thee.’  Was no one
ever at all humane before?  For remember I give no money—only a little
physic and civility.  How the British cottagers would ‘thank ye for
nothing’—and how I wish my neighbours here could afford to do the same.

After much wrangling Mustapha has got back my boy Yussuf but the
Christian Sheykh-el-Hara has made his brother pay £2 whereat Mohammed
looks very rueful.  Two hundred men are gone out of our village to the
works and of course the poor Hareem have not bread to eat as the men had
to take all they had with them.  I send you a very pretty story like
Tannhäuser.

There was once a man who loved a woman that lived in the same quarter.
But she was true to her husband, and his love was hopeless, and he
suffered greatly.  One day as he lay on his carpet sick with love, one
came to him and said, O, such-a-one, thy beloved has died even now, and
they are carrying her out to the tomb.  So the lover arose and followed
the funeral, and hid himself near the tomb, and when all were gone he
broke it open, and uncovered the face of his beloved, and looked upon
her, and passion overcame him, and he took from the dead that which when
living she had ever denied him.

But he went back to the city and to his house in great grief and anguish
of mind, and his sin troubled him.  So he went to a Kadee, very pious and
learned in the noble Koran, and told him his case, and said, ‘Oh my
master the Kadee, can such a one as I obtain salvation and the
forgiveness of God?  I fear not.’  And the Kadee gave him a staff of
polished wood which he held in his hand, and said ‘Who knoweth the mercy
of God and his justice, but God alone—take then this staff and stick it
in the sand beside the tomb where thou didst sin and leave it the night,
and go next morning and come and tell me what thou shalt find, and may
the Lord pardon thee, for thy sin is great.’

And the man went and did as the Kadee had desired, and went again at
sunrise, and behold the staff had sprouted and was covered with leaves
and fruit.  And he returned and told the Kadee what had happened, and the
Kadee replied, ‘Praise be to God, the merciful, the compassionate.’



April 29, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _April_ 29, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

Since I wrote last I have received the box with the cheese quite fresh
(and very good it tastes), and the various things.  Nothing called forth
such a shout of joy from me as your photo of the village pothouse.  How
green and fresh and tidy!  Many Mashallah’s have been uttered over the
_beyt-el-fellaheen_ (peasant’s house) of England.  The railings,
especially, are a great marvel.  I have also heard from Janet that Ross
has bought me a boat for £200 which is to take four of his agents to
Assouan and then come back for me.  So all my business is settled, and,
_Inshallah_! I shall depart in another three or four weeks.

The weather is quite cool and fresh again but the winds very violent and
the dust pours over us like water from the dried up land, as well as from
the Goomeh mountain.  It is miserably uncomfortable, but my health is
much better again—spite of all.

The Hakeem business goes on at a great rate.  I think on an average I
have four sick a day.  Sometimes a dozen.  A whole gipsy camp are great
customers—the poor souls will bring all manner of gifts it goes to my
heart to eat, but they can’t bear to be refused.  They are astounded to
hear that people of their blood live in England and that I knew many of
their customs—which are the same here.

Kursheed Agha came to take final leave being appointed to Keneh.  He had
been at Gau and had seen Fadil Pasha sit and make the soldiers lay sixty
men down on their backs by ten at a time and _chop_ them to death with
the pioneers’ axes.  He estimated the people killed—men, women, and
children at 1,600—but Mounier tells me it was over 2,000.  Sheykh Hassan
agreed exactly with Kursheed, only the Arab was full of horror and the
Circassian full of exultation.  His talk was exactly what we all once
heard about ‘Pandies,’ and he looked and talked and laughed so like a
fine young English soldier, that I was ashamed to call him the kelb (dog)
which rose to my tongue, and I bestowed it on Fadil Pasha instead.  I
must also say in behalf of my own countrymen that they _had_ provocation
while here there was none.  Poor Haggee Sultan lies in chains at Keneh.
One of the best and kindest of men!  I am to go and take secret messages
to him, and money from certain men of religion to bribe the Moudir with.
The Shurafa who have asked me to do this are from another place, as well
as a few of the Abu-l-Hajjajieh.  A very great Shereef indeed from lower
Egypt, said to me the other day, ‘Thou knowest if I am a Muslim or no.
Well, I pray to the most Merciful to send us Europeans to govern us, and
to deliver us from these wicked men.’  We were all sitting after the
funeral of one of the Shurafa and I was sitting between the Shereef of
Luxor and the Imám—and this was said before thirty or forty men, all
Shurafa.  No one said ‘No,’ and many assented aloud.

The Shereef asked me to lend him the New Testament, it was a pretty copy
and when he admired it I said, ‘From me to thee, oh my master the
Shereef, write in it as we do in remembrance of a friend—the gift of a
Nazraneeyeh who loves the Muslimeen.’  The old man kissed the book and
said ‘I will write moreover—to a Muslim who loves all such
Christians’—and after this the old Sheykh of Abou Ali took me aside and
asked me to go as messenger to Haggee Sultan for if one of them took the
money it would be taken from them and the man get no good by it.

Soldiers are now to be quartered in the Saeed—a new plague worse than all
the rest.  Do not the cawasses already rob the poor enough?  They fix
their own price in the market and beat the sakkas as sole payment.  What
will the soldiers do?  The taxes are being illegally levied on lands
which are _sheragi_, _i.e._ totally unwatered by the last Nile and
therefore exempt _by law_—and the people are driven to desperation.  I
feel sure there will be more troubles as soon as there arises any other
demagogue like Achmet et-Tayib to incite the people and now every Arab
sympathises with him.  Janet has written me the Cairo version of the
affair cooked for the European taste—and monstrous it is.  The Pasha
accuses some Sheykh of the Arabs of having gone from Upper Egypt to India
to stir up the Mutiny against us!  _Pourquoi pas_ to conspire in Paris or
London?  It is too childish to talk of a poor Saeedee Arab going to a
country of whose language and whereabouts he is totally ignorant, in
order to conspire against people who never hurt him.  You may suppose how
Yussuf and I talk by ourselves of all these things.  He urged me to try
hard to get my husband here as Consul-General—assuming that he would feel
as I do.  I said, my master is not young, and to a just man the wrong of
such a place would be a martyrdom.  ‘Truly thou hast said it, but it is a
martyr we Arabs want; shall not the reward of him who suffers daily
vexation for his brethren’s sake be equal to that of him who dies in
battle for the faith?  If thou wert a man, I would say to thee, take the
labour and sorrow upon thee, and thine own heart will repay thee.’  He
too said like the old Sheykh, ‘I only pray for Europeans to rule us—now
the fellaheen are really worse off than any slaves.’  I am sick of
telling of the daily oppressions and robberies.  If a man has a sheep,
the Moodir comes and eats it, if a tree, it goes to the Nazir’s kitchen.
My poor sakka is beaten by the cawasses in sole payment of his skins of
water—and then people wonder my poor friends tell lies and bury their
money.

I now know everybody in my village and the ‘cunning women’ have set up
the theory that my eye is lucky; so I am asked to go and look at young
brides, visit houses that are building, inspect cattle, etc. as a bringer
of good luck—which gives me many a curious sight.

I went a few days ago to the wedding of handsome Sheykh Hassan the
Abab’deh, who married the butcher’s pretty little daughter.  The group of
women and girls lighted by the lantern which little Achmet carried up for
me was the most striking thing I have seen.  The bride—a lovely girl of
ten or eleven all in scarlet, a tall dark slave of Hassan’s blazing with
gold and silver necklaces and bracelets, with long twisted locks of coal
black hair and such glittering eyes and teeth, the wonderful wrinkled old
women, and the pretty, wondering, yet fearless children were beyond
description.  The mother brought the bride up to me and unveiled her and
asked me to let her kiss my hand, and to look at her, I said all the
usual _Bismillah Mashallah’s_, and after a time went to the men who were
eating, all but Hassan who sat apart and who begged me to sit by him, and
whispered anxious enquiries about his _aroosah’s_ looks.  After a time he
went to visit her and returned in half an hour very shy and covering his
face and hand and kissed the hands of the chief guests.  Then we all
departed and the girl was taken to look at the Nile, and then to her
husband’s house.  Last night he gave me a dinner—a very good dinner
indeed, in his house which is equal to a very poor cattle shed at home.
We were only five.  Sheykh Yussuf, Omar, an elderly merchant and I.
Hassan wanted to serve us but I made him sit.

The merchant, a well-bred man of the world who has enjoyed life and
married wives everywhere—had arrived that day and found a daughter of his
dead here.  He said he felt very miserable—and everyone told him not to
mind and consoled him oddly enough to English ideas.  Then people told
stories.  Omar’s was a good version of the man and wife who would not
shut the door and agreed that the first to speak should do it—very funny
indeed.  Yussuf told a pretty tale of a Sultan who married a Bint el-Arab
(daughter of the Bedawee) and how she would not live in his palace, and
said she was no fellaha to dwell in houses, and scorned his silk clothes
and sheep killed for her daily, and made him live in the desert with her.
A black slave told a prosy tale about thieves—and the rest were more long
than pointed.

Hassan’s Arab feelings were hurt at the small quantity of meat set before
me.  (They can’t kill a sheep now for an honoured guest.)  But I told him
no greater honour could be paid to us English than to let us eat lentils
and onions like one of the family, so that we might not feel as strangers
among them—which delighted all the party.  After a time the merchant told
us his heart was somewhat dilated—as a man might say his toothache had
abated—and we said ‘Praise be to God’ all round.

A short time ago my poor friend the Maōhn had a terrible ‘tile’ fall on
his head.  His wife, two married daughters and nine miscellaneous
children arrived on a sudden, and the poor man is now tasting the
pleasures which Abraham once endured between Sarah and Hagar.  I visited
the ladies and found a very ancient Sarah and a daughter of wonderful
beauty.  A young man here—a Shereef—has asked me to open negotiations for
a marriage for him with the Maōhn’s grand daughter a little girl of
eight—so you see how completely I am ‘one of the family.’

My boat has not yet made its appearance.  I am very well indeed now, in
spite, or perhaps because of, the great heat.  But there is a great deal
of sickness—chiefly dysentery.  I never get less than four new patients a
day and my ‘practice’ has become quite a serious business.  I spent all
day on Friday in the Abab’deh quarters where Sheykh Hassan and his slave
Rahmeh were both uncommonly ill.  Both are ‘all right’ now.  Rahmeh is
the nicest negro I ever knew, and a very great friend of mine.  He is a
most excellent, honest, sincere man, and an Effendi (_i.e._ writes and
reads) which is more than his master can do.  He has seen all the queer
people in the interior of Africa.

The Sheykh of the Bishareen—eight days’ journey from Assouan has invited
me and promises me all the meat and milk I can eat, they have nothing
else.  They live on a high mountain and are very fine handsome people.
If only I were strong I could go to very odd places where Frangees are
not.  Read a very stupid novel (as a story) called ‘_le Secret du
Bonheur_’—it gives the truest impression of the manners of Arabs that I
have read—by Ernest Feydeau.  According to his book _achouat_ (we are
brothers).  The ‘caressant’ ways of Arabs are so well described.

It is the same here.  The people come and pat and stroke me with their
hands, and one corner of my brown abbaieh is faded with much kissing.  I
am hailed as _Sitt Betaana_ ‘Our own Lady,’ and now the people are really
enthusiastic because I refused the offer of some cawasses as a guard
which a Bimbashee made me.  As if I would have such fellows to help to
bully my friends.  The said Bimbashee (next in rank to a Bey) a coarse
man like an Arnoout, stopped here a day and night and played his little
Turkish game, telling me to beware—for the Ulema hated all Franks and set
the people against us—and telling the Arabs that Christian Hakeems were
all given to poison Muslims.  So at night I dropped in at the Maōhn’s
with Sheykh Yussuf carrying my lantern—and was loudly hailed with a
_Salaam Aleykee_ from the old Shereef himself—who began praising the
Gospel I had given him, and me at the same time.  Yussuf had a little
reed in his hand—the _kalem_ for writing, about two feet long and of the
size of a quill.  I took it and showed it to the Bimbashee and
said—‘Behold the _neboot_ wherewith we are all to be murdered by this
Sheykh of the Religion.’  The Bimbashee’s bristly moustache bristled
savagely, for he felt that the ‘Arab dogs’ and the Christian _khanzeereh_
(feminine pig) were laughing at it together.

Another steam boat load of prisoners from Gau has just gone up.  A little
comfort is derived here from the news that, ‘Praise be to God, Moussa
Pasha (Governor of the Soudan) is dead and gone to Hell.’  It must take
no trifle to send him there judging by the quiet way in which Fadil Pasha
is mentioned.

You will think me a complete rebel—but I may say to you what most people
would think ‘like my nonsense’—that one’s pity becomes a perfect passion,
when one _sits among the people_—as I do, and sees it all; least of all
can I forgive those among Europeans and Christians who can help to ‘break
these bruised reeds.’  However, in Cairo and more still in Alexandria,
all is quite different.  There, the same system which has been so
successfully copied in France prevails.  The capital is petted at the
expense of the fellaheen.  Prices are regulated in Cairo for meat and
bread as they are or were in Paris, and the ‘dangerous classes’ enjoy all
sorts of exemptions.  Just like France!  The Cairenes eat the bread and
the fellaheen eat the stick.

The people here used to dislike Mounier who arrived poor and grew rich
and powerful, but they all bless him now and say at El-Moutaneh a man
eats his own meat and not the courbash of the Moudir—and Mounier has
refused soldiers (as I refused them on my small account) and ‘Please
God,’ he will never repent it.  Yussuf says ‘What the Turkish Government
fears is not for _your_ safety, but lest we should learn to love you too
well,’ and it is true.  Here there is but one voice.  ‘Let the Franks
come, let us have the laws of the Christians.’

In Cairo the Franks have dispelled this _douce illusion_ and done the
Turk’s work as if they were paid for it.  But here come only travellers
who pay with money and not with stick—a degree of generosity not enough
to be adored.

I perceive that I am a bore—but you will forgive my indignant sympathy
with the kind people who treat me so well.  Yussuf asked me to let the
English papers know about the Gau business.  An Alim ed Deen ul-Islam
would fain call for help to the Times!  Strange changes and signs of the
times—these—are they not so?

I went to Church on Good Friday with the Copts.  The scene was very
striking—the priest dressed like a beautiful Crusader in white robes with
crimson crosses.  One thing has my hearty admiration.  The few children
who are taken to Church are allowed to play!  Oh my poor little
Protestant fellow Christians, can you conceive a religion so delightful
as that which permits Peep-bo behind the curtain of the sanctuary!  I saw
little Butrus and Scendariah at it all church time—and the priest only
patted their little heads as he carried the sacrament out to the Hareem.
Fancy the parson kindly patting a noisy boy’s head, instead of the beadle
whacking him!  I am entirely reconciled to the Coptic rules.



May, 1865: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                      NILE BOAT, _URANIA_,
                                                              _May_, 1865.

Happy as I was in the prospect of seeing you all and miserable as poor
Upper Egypt has become, I could not leave without a pang.  Our Bairam was
not gay.  There was horse riding for Sheykh Gibreel (the cousin of Abu’l
Haggag) and the scene was prettier than ever I saw.  My old friend Yunis
the Shereef insisted on showing me that at eighty-five he could still
handle a horse and throw a Gereed ‘for Sheykh Gibreel and the Lady’ as he
said.  Then arrived the Mufettish of Zenia with his gay attendants and
filled the little square in front of the Cadi’s castellated house where
we were sitting.  The young Sheykh of Salamieh rode beautifully and there
was some excellent Neboot play (sort of very severe quarterstaff peculiar
to the Fellaheen).

Next day was the great dinner given by Mohammed and Mustapha outside
Mohammed’s house opposite Sheykh Gibreel’s tomb—200 men ate at his gate.
I went to see it and was of course asked to eat.  ‘Can one like thee eat
the Melocheea of the Fellaheen?’  So I joined a party of five round a
little wooden tray, tucked up my sleeve and ate—dipping the bread into
the Melocheea which is like very sloppy spinach but much nicer.  Then
came the master and his servants to deal the pieces of meat out of a
great basket—sodden meat—and like Benjamin my piece was the largest, so I
tore off a bit and handed it to each of my companions, who said ‘God take
thee safe and happy to thy place and thy children and bring thee back to
us in safety to eat the meat of the festival together once more.’

The moon rose clear and bright behind the one tall palm tree that
overhangs the tomb of Sheykh Gibreel.  He is a saint of homely tastes and
will not have a dome over him or a cover for his tomb, which is only
surrounded by a wall breast-high, enclosing a small square bit of ground
with the rough tomb on one side.  At each corner was set up a flag, and a
few dim lanterns hung overhead.  The 200 men eating were quite
noiseless—and as they rose, one by one washed their hands and went, the
crowd melted away like a vision.  But before all were gone, came the
Bulook, or sub-magistrate—a Turkish Jack in office with the manners of a
Zouave turned parish beadle.  He began to sneer at the _melocheea_ of the
fellaheen and swore he could not eat it if he sat before it 1,000 years.
Hereupon, Omar began to ‘chaff’ him.  ‘Eat, oh Bulook Pasha and if it
swells thy belly the Lady will give thee of the physick of the English to
clean thy stomach upwards and downwards of all thou hast eaten of the
food of the fellaheen.’  The Bulook is notorious for his exactions—his
‘eating the people’—so there was a great laugh.  Poor Omar was very ill
next day—and every one thought the Bulook had given him the eye.

Then came the Mufettish in state to pay his _devoirs_ to the Sheykh in
the tomb.  He came and talked to Mustapha and Yussuf and enumerated the
people taken for the works, 200 from Luxor, 400 from Carnac, 310 from
Zenia, 320 from Byadyeh, and 380 from Salamieh—a good deal more than half
the adult men to go for sixty days leaving their fields uncultivated and
their Hareem and children hungry—for they have to take all the food for
themselves.

I rose sick at heart from the Mufettish’s harsh voice, and went down to
listen to the Moonsheeds chanting at the tomb and the Zikheers’ strange
sobbing, Allah, Allah.

I leaned on the mud wall watching the slender figures swaying in the
moonlight, when a tall, handsome fellah came up in his brown shirt, felt
_libdeh_ (scull cap), with his blue cotton _melaya_ tied up and full of
dried bread on his back.  The type of the Egyptian.  He stood close
beside me and prayed for his wife and children.  ‘Ask our God to pity
them, O Sheykh, and to feed them while I am away.  Thou knowest how my
wife worked all night to bake all the wheat for me and that there is none
left for her and the children.’  He then turned to me and took my hand
and went on, ‘Thou knowest this lady, oh Sheykh Gibreel, take her happy
and well to her place and bring her back to us—_el Fathah, yah
Beshoosheh_!’ and we said it together.  I could have laid my head on
Sheykh Gibreel’s wall and howled.  I thanked him as well as I could for
caring about one like me while his own troubles were so heavy.  I shall
never forget that tall athletic figure and the gentle brown face, with
the eleven days’ moon of Zulheggeh, and the shadow of the palm tree.
That was my farewell.  ‘The voice of the miserable is with thee, shall
God not hear it?’

Next day Omar had a sharp attack of fever and was delirious—it lasted
only two days but left him very weak and the anxiety and trouble was
great—for my helping hands were as awkward as they were willing.

In a few days arrived the boat Urania.  She is very nice indeed.  A small
saloon, two good berths—bath and cabinet, and very large _kasneh_ (stern
cabin).  She is dirty, but will be extremely comfortable when cleaned and
painted.  On the 15th we sailed.  Sheykh Yussuf went with me to Keneh,
Mustapha and Seyd going by land—and one of Hajjee Sultan’s disciples and
several Luxor men were deck passengers.  The Shereef gave me the bread
and jars of butter for his grandsons in Gama’l Azhar, and came to see me
off.  We sat on the deck outside as there was a crowd to say good-bye and
had a lot of Hareem in the cabin.  The old Shereef made me sit down on
the carpet close to him and then said ‘we sit here like two lovers’—at
eighty-five _even_ an Arab and a Shereef may be “_gaillard_”—so I cried,
‘Oh Shereef, what if Omar tells my master the secret thou hast let out—it
is not well of thee.’  There was a great laugh which ended in the Shereef
saying ‘no doubt thy master is of the best of the people, let us say the
_Fathah_ for him,’ and he called on all the people ‘_El Fathah_ for the
master of the lady!’  I hope it has benefited you to be prayed for at
Luxor.

I had written so far and passed Minieh when I fell ill with pleurisy—I’ve
lots more to tell of my journey but am too weak after two weeks in bed
(and unable to lie down from suffocation)—but I am _much_ better now.  A
man from the Azhar is reading the Koran for me outside—while another is
gone with candles to Seyeedele Zeynet ‘the fanatics!’



June 16, 1865: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                          _June_ 16, 1865.

DEAREST ALICK,

I will go down to Alexandria in the boat and Omar will work at her.  She
wants a great deal of repairing I find, and his superintendence will save
much money—besides he will do one man’s work as he is a much better
carpenter than most here having learnt of the English workmen on the
railroad—but the Reis says the boat must come out of the water as her
bottom is unsound.  She is a splendid sailer I hear and remarkably
comfortable.  The beds in the _kasneh_ would do for Jacob Omnium.  So
when you ‘honour our house’ you will be happy.  The saloon is small, and
the berths as usual.  Also she is a very handsome shape—but she wants no
end of repairs.  So Omar is consoled at being left because he will ‘save
our money’ a great deal by piecing sails, and cutting and contriving, and
scraping and painting himself.  Only he is afraid for me.  However,
_Allah Kereem_.

I have a very good Reis I think.  The usual tight little black fellow
from near Assouan—very neat and active and good tempered—the same cross
steersman that we had up to Bedreshayn—but he knows his work well.  We
had contrary gales the whole way.  My men worked all they possibly could,
and pulled the rope all day and rowed all night, day after day—but we
were twenty-eight days getting down.

I can’t write any more.



October 28, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                               ALEXANDRIA,
                                                       _October_ 28, 1865.

I am truly grieved to hear of your wrist and to see your writing look
cramped.  I arrived here on Thursday after a splendid passage and was
very comfortable on board.  I found M. Olagnier waiting for me, and Omar,
of course, and am _installé_ at Ross’s till my boat gets done which I am
told will be in six days.  She will be remarkably comfortable.  Omar had
caused a sort of divan with a roof and back to be constructed just
outside the cabin-door where I always sat every evening, which will be
the most delightful little nest one can conceive.  I shall sit like a
Pasha there.

My cough is still very harassing, but my chest less tight and painful,
and I feel less utterly knocked down.  The weather is beautiful here just
now—warm and not nearly so damp as usual.

Lord Edward St. Maur was on board, he has much of his aunt’s
pleasantness.  Also a very young Bombay Merchant—a Muslim who uttered not
one syllable to any one but to me.  His talk was just like that of a
well-bred and intelligent young Englishman.  I am glad to say that his
views of the state of India were very encouraging—he seemed convinced
that the natives were gradually working their way up to more influence,
and said ‘We shall have to thank you for a better form of government by
far than any native one ever would have been’—he added, ‘We Muslims have
this advantage over the Hindus—that our religion is no barrier at all,
socially or politically—between us and you—as theirs is.  I mean it ought
not to be when both faiths are cleared of superstition and fanaticism.’
He spoke very highly of Sir Bartle Frere but said ‘I wish it were
possible for more English _gentlemen_ to come out to India.’  He had been
two years in England on mercantile business and was going back to his
brother Ala-ed-deen much pleased with the English in England.  It is one
of the most comforting _Erscheinungen_ I have seen coming from India—if
that sort of good sense is pretty common among the very young men they
certainly will work their way up.

I should like to see Bayley’s article though I am quite sick of my
book—it is very ungracious of me, but I can’t help it.



November 2, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                               ALEXANDRIA,
                                                       _November_ 2, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

The boat like all other things goes but slowly—however the weather here
is unusually dry and fine.

I have just been to see my poor friend Sittee Zubeydeh, widow of
Hassaneyn Effendi who died in England—and I am filled with admiration at
her good sense and courage.  She has determined to carry on her husband’s
business of letting boats herself, and to educate her children to the
best of her power in habits of independence.  I hope she will be
successful, and receive the respect such rare conduct in a Turkish woman
deserves from the English.  I was much gratified to hear from her how
kindly she had been treated in Glasgow.  She said that nothing that could
be done for her was left undone.  She arrived this morning and I went to
see her directly and was really astonished at all she said about her
plans for herself and her children.  Poor thing! it is a sad blow—for she
and Hassaneyn were as thoroughly united as any Europeans could be.

I went afterwards to my boat, which I hope will be done in five or six
days.  I am extremely impatient to be off.  She will be a most charming
boat—both comfortable and pretty.  The boom for the big sail is new—and I
exclaimed, ‘why you have broken the new boom and mended it with leather!’
Omar had put on a _sham splice_ to avert the evil eye from such a fine
new piece of wood!  Of course I dare not have the blemish renewed or
_gare_ the first puff of wind—besides it is too characteristic.

There is some cholera about again, I hear—ten deaths yesterday—so
Olagnier tells me.  I fancy the rush of Europeans back again, each
bringing ‘seven other devils worse than himself’ is the cause of it.

I think I am beginning to improve a little; my cough has been terribly
harassing especially at night—but the weather is very good, cool, and not
damp.



November 27, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                            _Monday_, _November_ 27, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I arrived here last night and found a whole heap of letters—and yours I
will answer first.  I had no heart to write any more from Alexandria
where I was worried out of all courage and strength.  At last after
endless delays and vexations the dahabieh was _tant bien que mal_ ready.

Talk of Arab dawdle! after what I went through—and now I have to wait
here for fresh repairs, as we came up baling all the way and I fear
cursing the Christian workmen who had bungled so shamefully.

However that is over, and I am much better as to my cough—indeed it is
all but gone.  Omar was very ill having had dysentery for two months, but
he too is well again.  He is very grateful for your kind mention of him
and says, ‘Send the Great Mother my best Salaam, and tell her her
daughter’s people are my people, and where she goes I will go too, and
please God I will serve her rich or poor till “He who separates us” shall
take me from her.’  The words of Ruth came after all these centuries
quite fresh from the soft Egyptian lips.

The ‘He who separated us’ I must explain to you.  It is one of the
attributes of God, _The Separator of Religions_ implies toleration and
friendship by attributing the two religions alike to God—and is never
used towards one whose religion is not to be respected.

I have got a levee of former reis’s, sailors, etc. some sick—but most
come to talk.

The climate changes quite suddenly as one leaves the Delta, and here I
sit at eight in the evening with open doors and windows.

I am so glad to hear of the great success of my dear Father’s book, and
to think of your courage in working at it still.

I suppose I shall be here a week longer as I have several jobs to do to
my boat, and I shall try to get towed up so as to send back the boat as
soon as possible in order to let her.  Ali will give £80 a month for her
if he gets a party of four to take up.  I pay my Reis five napoleons a
month while travelling and three while lying still.  He is a good, active
little fellow.

We were nearly smashed under the railway bridge by an iron barge—and
_Wallah_! how the Reis of the bridge did whack the Reis of the barge.  I
thought it a sad loss of time, but Reis Ali and my Reis Mohammed seemed
to look on the stick as the most effective way of extricating my anchor
from the Pasha’s rudder.  My crew can’t say ‘Urania’ so they sing ‘go
along, oh darling bride’ _Arooset er-ralee_, as the little Sitt’s best
description, and ‘Arooset er-ralee’ will be the dahabieh’s exoteric
name—as ‘_El Beshoosheeh_, is my popular name.



December 5, 1865: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                       _December_ 5, 1865.

DEAREST MUTTER,

_Alhamdulillah_—now I am at rest.  I have got all the boat in order.  My
captain, Reis Mohammed, is very satisfactory, and to-day we sail as soon
as Omar comes back with the meat, etc. from market.

I received Meadow’s review; I wish he had not said so much about me in
it.

Mohammed Gazowee begs to give his best Salaam to Sheykh Stanley whom he
longs to see again.  He says that all the people said he was not a
Christian, for he was not proud ever towards them as Christians are, but
a real Sheykh, and that the Bedaween still talk of Sheykh Stanley and of
his piety.  The old half-witted jester of Luxor has found me out—he has
wandered down here to see his eldest son who is serving in the army.  He
had brought a little boy with him, but is ‘afraid for him’ here, I don’t
know why, and has begged me to take the child up to his mother.  These
licensed _possenreisser_ are like our fools in old times—but less witty
than we fancy them to have been—thanks to Shakespeare, I suppose.  Each
district has one who attends all _moolids_ and other gatherings of the
people, and picks up a living.  He tells me that the Turkish Názir of
Zeneea has begun some business against our Kadee, Sheykh Ibraheem, and
Sheykh Yussuf, accused them of something—he does not know what—_perhaps
of being friends of Hajjee Sultan, or of stealing wood_!!  If all the
friends of Hajjee Sultan are to be prosecuted that will include the whole
Saeed.

Of course I am anxious about my friends.  All Haleem Pasha Oghdee’s
villages have been confiscated (those tributary to him for work) _sous
prétexte_ that he ill-used the people, _n.b._ he alone paid them—a bad
example.  Pharoah is indeed laying intolerable burthens—not on the
Israelites—but on the fellaheen.

Omar said of the great dinner to-day, ‘I think all the food will taste of
blood, it is the blood of the poor, and more _haram_ than any pork or
wine or blood of beasts.’  Of course such sentiments are not to be
repeated—but they are general.  The _meneggets_ who picked and made ten
mattrasses and fourteen cushions for me in half a day, were laughing and
saying, ‘for the Pasha’s boat we work also, at so much a day and we
should have done it in four days.’  ‘And for me if I paid by the day
instead of by the piece, how long?’  ‘One day instead of half, O Lady,
for fear thou shouldest say to us, you have finished in half a day and
half the wages is enough for you.’  That is the way in which all the work
is done for _Effendeena_—no wonder his steamers don’t pay.

I saw Ross yesterday—he tells me the Shereef of Mecca has sent him a
horse.



December 25, 1865: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   THEBES,
                           _From December_ 25, 1865, _to January_ 3, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

I wish you all, ‘may the year be good to thee’ as we say here—and now for
my history.  We left Cairo on the 5th Decr.  I was not well.  No wind as
usual, and we were a week getting to Benisonef where the Stamboolee Greek
lady who was so kind to me last summer in my illness came on board with a
very well-bred Arab lady.  I was in bed, and only stayed a few hours.  On
to Minieh another five or six days—walked about and saw the preparations
for the Pasha’s arrival.  Nothing so flat as these affairs here.  Not a
creature went near the landing-place but his own servants, soldiers, and
officials.  I thought of the arrival of the smallest of German princes,
which makes ten times the noise.  Next on to Siout.  Ill again, and did
not land or see anyone.  On to Girgeh, where we only stayed long enough
to deliver money and presents which I had been begged to take for some
old sailors of mine to their mothers and wives there.

Between Siout and Girgeh an Abyssinian slave lad came and wanted me to
steal him; he said his master was a Copt and ill-used him, and the lady
beat him.  But Omar sagely observed to the sailors, who were very anxious
to take him, that a bad master did not give his slave such good clothes
and even a pair of shoes—_quel luxe_!—and that he made too much of his
master being a Copt; no doubt he was a lazy fellow, and perhaps had run
away with other property besides himself.  Soon after I was sitting on
the pointed prow of the boat with the Reis, who was sounding with his
painted pole (_vide_ antique sculptures and paintings), and the men
towing, when suddenly something rose to the surface close to us: the men
cried out _Beni Adam_! and the Reis prayed for the dead.  It was a woman:
the silver bracelets glittered on the arms raised and stiffened in the
agony of death, the knees up and the beautiful Egyptian breasts floated
above the water.  I shall never forget the horrid sight.  ‘God have mercy
on her,’ prayed my men, and the Reis added to me, ‘let us also pray for
her father, poor man: you see, no robber has done this (on account of the
bracelets).  We are in the Saeed now, and most likely she has blackened
her father’s face, and he has been forced to strangle her, poor man.’  I
said ‘Alas!’ and the Reis continued, ‘ah, yes, it is a heavy thing, but a
man must whiten his face, poor man, poor man.  God have mercy on him.’
Such is Saeedee _point d’honneur_.  However, it turned out she was
drowned bathing.

Above Girgeh we stopped awhile at Dishné, a large village.  I strolled up
alone, _les mains dans les poches_, ‘_sicut meus est mos_:’ and was soon
accosted with an invitation to coffee and pipes in the strangers’ place,
a sort of room open on one side with a column in the middle, like two
arches of a cloister, and which in all the villages is close to the
mosque: two or three cloaks were pulled off and spread on the ground for
me to sit on, and the milk which I asked for, instead of the village
coffee, brought.  In a minute a dozen men came and sat round, and asked
as usual, ‘Whence comest thou, and whither goest thou?’ and my gloves,
watch, rings, etc. were handed round and examined; the gloves always call
forth many _Mashallah’s_.  I said, ‘I come from the Frank country, and am
going to my place near Abu’l Hajjaj.’  Hereupon everyone touched my hand
and said, ‘Praise be to God that we have seen thee.  Don’t go on: stay
here and take 100 feddans of land and remain here.’  I laughed and asked,
‘Should I wear the _zaboot_ (brown shirt) and the _libdeh_, and work in
the field, seeing there is no man with me?’  There was much laughing, and
then several stories of women who had farmed large properties well and
successfully.  Such undertakings on the part of women seem quite as
common here as in Europe, and more common than in England.

I took leave of my new friends who had given me the first welcome home to
the Saeed, and we went on to Keneh, which we reached early in the
morning, and I found my well-known donkey-boys putting my saddle on.  The
father of one, and the two brothers of the other, were gone to work on
the railway for sixty days’ forced labour, taking their own bread, and
the poor little fellows were left alone to take care of the Hareem.  As
soon as we reached the town, a couple of tall young soldiers in the Nizam
uniform rushed after me, and greeted me in English; they were Luxor lads
serving their time.  Of course they attached themselves to us for the
rest of the day.  We then bought water jars (the _specialité_ of Keneh);
_gullehs_ and _zees_—and I went on to the Kadee’s house to leave a little
string of beads, just to show that I had not forgotten the worthy Kadee’s
courtesy in bringing his little daughter to sit beside me at dinner when
I went down the river last summer.  I saw the Kadee giving audience to
several people, so I sent in the beads and my salaam; but the jolly Kadee
sallied forth into the street and ‘fell upon my neck’ with such ardour
that my Frankish hat was sent rolling by contact with the turban of
Islam.  The Kadee of Keneh is the real original Kadee of our early days;
sleek, rubicund, polite—a puisne judge and a dean rolled into one,
combining the amenities of the law and the church—with an orthodox
stomach and an orthodox turban, both round and stately.  I was taken into
the hareem, welcomed and regaled, and invited to the festival of Seyd Abd
er-Racheem, the great saint of Keneh.  I hesitated, and said there were
great crowds, and some might be offended at my presence; but the Kadee
declared ‘by Him who separated us’ that if any such ignorant persons were
present it was high time they learnt better, and said that it was by no
means unlawful for virtuous Christians, and such as neither hated nor
scorned the Muslimeen, to profit by, or share in their prayers, and that
I should sit before the Sheykh’s tomb with him and the Mufti; and that
_du reste_, they wished to give thanks for my safe arrival.  Such a
demonstration of tolerance was not to be resisted.  So after going back
to rest, and dine in the boat, I returned at nightfall into the town and
went to the burial-place.  The whole way was lighted up and thronged with
the most motley crowd, and the usual mixture of holy and profane, which
we know at the Catholic _fêtes_ also; but more _prononcé_ here.  Dancing
girls, glittering with gold brocade and coins, swaggered about among the
brown-shirted fellaheen, and the profane singing of the _Alateeyeh_
mingled with the songs in honour of the Arab prophet chanted by the
Moonsheeds and the deep tones of the ‘Allah, Allah’ of the Zikeers.
Rockets whizzed about and made the women screech, and a merry-go-round
was in full swing.  And now fancy me clinging to the skirts of the Cadi
ul Islam (who did not wear a spencer, as the Methodist parson threatened
his congregation he would do at the Day of Judgement) and pushing into
the tomb of the Seyd Abd er-Racheem, through such a throng.  No one
seemed offended or even surprised.  I suppose my face is so well known at
Keneh.  When my party had said a _Fattah_ for me and another for my
family, we retired to another _kubbeh_, where there was no tomb, and
where we found the Mufti, and sat there all the evening over coffee and
pipes and talk.  I was questioned about English administration of
justice, and made to describe the process of trial by jury.  The Mufti is
a very dignified gentlemanly man, and extremely kind and civil.  The
Kadee pressed me to stay next day and dine with him and the Mufti, but I
said I had a lantern for Luxor, and I wanted to arrive before the
_moolid_ was over, and only three days remained.  So the Kadee
accompanied me back to the boat, looked at my maps, which pleased him
very much, traced out the line of the railway as he had heard it, and had
tea.

Next morning we had the first good wind, and bowled up to Luxor in one
day, arriving just after sunset.  Instantly the boat was filled.  Of
course Omar and the Reis at once organized a procession to take me and my
lantern to the tomb of Abu-l-Hajjaj—it was the last night but one of his
moolid.  The lantern was borne on a pole between two of my sailors, and
the rest, reinforced by men from a steamer which was there with a
Prussian prince, sung and thumped the tarabookeh, and we all marched up
after I had undergone every variety of salutation, from Sheykh Yussuf’s
embrace to the little boys’ kissing of hands.  The first thing I heard
was the hearty voice of the old Shereef, who praised God that ‘our
darling’ was safe back again, and then we all sat down for a talk; then
more _Fattahs_ were said for me, and for you, and for the children; and I
went back to bed in my own boat.  I found the guard of the French house
had been taken off to Keneh to the works, after lying eight days in
chains and wooden handcuffs for resisting, and claiming his rights as a
French _protégé_.  So we waited for his return, and for the keys which he
had taken with him, in hopes that the Keneh authorities would not care to
keep me out of the house.  I wrote to the French Consular agent at Keneh,
and to the Consul at Alexandria, and got him back the third day.  What
would you think in Europe to see me welcome with enthusiasm a servant
just out of chains and handcuffs?  At the very moment, too, that Mohammed
and I were talking, a boat passed up the river with musick and singing on
board.  It was a Sheykh-el-Beled, of a place above Esneb, who had lain in
prison three years in Cairo, and whose friends were making all the
fantasia they could to celebrate the end of his misfortune, of disgrace,
_il n’en est pas question_; and why should it?  So many honest men go to
prison that it is no presumption at all against a man.

The day after my arrival was the great and last day.  The crowd was but
little and not lively—times are too hard.  But the riding was beautiful.
Two young men from Hegaz performed wonderful feats.

I dined with the Maōhn, whose wife cooked me the best dinner I ever ate
in this country, or almost anywhere.  Marie, who was invited, rejoiced
the kind old lady’s heart by her Belgian appreciation of the excellent
cookery.  ‘Eat, my daughter, eat,’ and even I managed to give
satisfaction.  Such Bakloweh I never tasted.  We removed to the house
yesterday, and I have had company ever since.

One Sheykh Alee—a very agreeable man from beyond Khartoom, offers to take
me up to Khartoom and back with a Takhterawan (camel litter) in company
with Mustapha A’gha, Sheykh Yussuf and a troop of his own Abab’deh.  It
is a terrible temptation—but it would cost £50—so I refused.  Sheykh Alee
is so clever and well-bred that I should enjoy it much, and the climate
at this season is delightful.  He has been in the Denka country where the
men are a cubit taller than Sheykh Hassan whom you know, and who enquires
tenderly after you.

Now let me describe the state of things.  From the Moudeeriat of Keneh
only, 25,000 men are taken to work for sixty days without food or pay;
each man must take his own basket, and each third man a hoe, not a
basket.  If you want to pay a substitute for a beloved or delicate son,
it costs 1,000 piastres—600 at the lowest; and about 300 to 400 for his
food.  From Luxor only, 220 men are gone; of whom a third will very
likely die of exposure to the cold and misery (the weather is unusually
cold).  That is to say that this little village, of at most 2,000 souls
male and female (we don’t usually count women, from decorum), will pay in
labour at least £1,320 in sixty days.  We have also already had eleven
camels seized to go up to the Soudan; a camel is worth from £18 to £40.

Last year Mariette Bey made excavations at Gourneh forcing the people to
work but promising payment at the rate of—Well, when he was gone the four
Sheykhs of the village at Gourneh came to Mustapha and begged him to
advance the money due from Government, for the people were starving.
Mustapha agrees and gives above 300 purses—about £1,000 in _current_
piastres on the understanding that he is to get the money from Government
in _tariff_—and to keep the difference as his profit.  If he cannot get
it at all the fellaheen are to pay him back without interest.  Of course
at the rate at which money is here, his profit would be but small
interest on the money unless he could get the money directly, and he has
now waited six months in vain.

Abdallah the son of el-Habbeshee of Damankoor went up the river in chains
to Fazoghlou a fortnight ago and Osman Bey ditto last week—El-Bedrawee is
dead there, of course.

Shall I tell you what became of the hundred prisoners who were sent away
after the Gau business?  As they marched through the desert the Greek
memlook looked at his list each morning, and said, ‘Hoseyn, Achmet,
Foolan (like the Spanish Don Fulano, Mr. so and so), you are free; take
off his chains.’  Well, the three or four men drop behind, where some
arnouts strangle them out of sight.  This is banishment to Fazoghlou.  Do
you remember _le citoyen est élargi_ of the September massacres of Paris?
Curious coincidence, is it not?  Everyone is exasperated—the very Hareem
talk of the government.  It is in the air.  I had not been five minutes
in Keneh before I knew all this and much more.  Of the end of Hajjee
Sultan I will not speak till I have absolute certainty, but, I believe
the proceeding was as I have described—set free in the desert and
murdered by the way.  I wish you to publish these facts, it is no secret
to any but to those Europeans whose interests keep their eyes tightly
shut, and they will soon have them opened.  The blind rapacity of the
present ruler will make him astonish the Franks some day, I think.

Wheat is now 400 piastres the ardeb up here; the little loaf, not quite
so big as our penny roll, costs a piastre—about three-half-pence—and all
in proportion.  I need not say what the misery is.  Remember that this is
the second levy of 220 men within six months, each for sixty days, as
well as the second seizure of camels; besides the conscription, which
serves the same purpose, as the soldiers work on the Pasha’s works.  But
in Cairo they are paid—and well paid.

It is curious how news travels here.  The Luxor people knew the day I
left Alexandria, and the day I left Cairo, long before I came.  They say
here that Abu-l-Hajjaj gave me his hand from Keneh, because he would not
finish his moolid without me.  I am supposed to be specially protected by
him, as is proved by my health being so far better here than anywhere
else.

By the bye, Sheykh Alee Abab’deh told me that all the villages _close_ on
the Nile escaped the cholera almost completely, whilst those who were
half or a quarter of a mile inland were ravaged.  At Keneh 250 a day
died; at Luxor one child was supposed to have died of it, but I know he
had diseased liver for a year or more.  In the desert the Bishareen and
Abab’deh suffered more than the people at Cairo, and you know the desert
is usually the place of perfect health; but fresh Nile water seems to be
_the_ antidote.  Sheykh Yussuf laid the mortality at Keneh to the canal
water, which the poor people drink there.  I believe the fact is as
Sheykh Alee told me.

Now I will say good-bye, for I am tired, and will write anon to the rest.
Let Mutter have this.  I was very poorly till I got above Siout, and then
gradually mended—constant blood spitting and great weakness and I am very
thin, but, by the protection of Abu-l-Hajjaj I suppose I am already much
better, and begin to eat again.  I have not been out yet since the first
day, having much to do in the house to get to rights.  I felt very dreary
on Christmas-day away from you all, and Omar’s plum-pudding did not cheer
me at all, as he hoped it would.  He begs me to kiss your hand for him,
and every one sends you salaam, and all lament that you are not the new
Consul at Cairo.

Kiss my chicks, and love to you all.  Janet, I hope is in Egypt ere this.



January 3, 1866: Maurice Duff Gordon


                        _To Maurice Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                        _January_ 3, 1866.

MY DARLING MAURICE,

I was delighted to get your note, which arrived on New Year’s day in the
midst of the hubbub of the great festival in honour of the Saint of
Luxor.  I wish you could have seen two young Arabs (real Arabs from the
Hedjaz, in Arabia) ride and play with spears and lances.  I never saw
anything like it—a man who played the tom-fool stood in the middle, and
they galloped round and round him, with their spears crossed and the
points resting on the ground, in so small a circle that his clothes
whisked round with the wind of the horses’ legs.  Then they threw jereeds
and caught them as they galloped: the beautiful thing was the perfect
mastery of the horses: they were ‘like water in their hands,’ as Sheykh
Hassan remarked.  I perceived that I had never seen _real_ horsemanship
in my life before.

I am now in the ‘palace’ at Luxor with my dahabieh, ‘Arooset er-Ralee’
(the Darling Bride), under my windows; quite like a Pasha.

In coming up we had an alarm of robbers.  Under the mountain called Gebel
Foodah, we were entangled in shoals, owing to a change in the bed of the
river, and forced to stay all night; and at three in the morning, the
Reis sent in the boy to say he had seen a man creeping on all fours—would
I fire my pistol?  As my revolver had been stolen in Janet’s house, I was
obliged to beg him to receive any possible troop of armed robbers very
civilly, and to let them take what they pleased.  However, Omar blazed
away with your father’s old cavalry pistols (which had no bullets) and
whether the robbers were frightened, or the man was only a wolf, we heard
no more of the affair.  My crew were horribly frightened, and kept awake
till daybreak.

The last night before reaching Keneh, the town forty miles north of
Luxor, my men held a grand fantasia on the bank.  There was no wind, and
we found a lot of old maize stalks; so there was a bonfire, and no end of
drumming, singing and dancing.  Even Omar relaxed his dignity so far as
to dance the dance of the Alexandria young men; and very funny it all
was.  I laughed consumedly; especially at the modest airs and graces of a
great lubberly fellow—one Hezayin, who acted the bride—in a
representation of a Nubian wedding festivity.  The new song of this year
is very pretty—a declaration of love to a young Mohammed, sung to a very
pretty tune.  There is another, rather like the air of ‘Di Provenza al
mar’ in the ‘Traviata,’ with extremely pretty words.  As in England,
every year has its new song, which all the boys sing about the streets.

I hope, darling, you are sapping this year, and intend to make up a bit
for lost time.  I hear you have lost no time in growing tall at all
events—‘ill weeds, etc.’—you know Omar desires all sorts of messages to
you.



January 15, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                             _Monday_, _January_ 15, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

I hear that Mr. and Miss North are to be here in a day or two.  I hope
you may have sent my saddle by them, for I want it sadly—mine is just
possible for a donkey, but quite too broken for a horse.

Two great Sheykhs of Bishareen and Abab’deh came here and picked me up
out walking alone.  We went and sat in a field, and they begged me to
communicate to the Queen of England that they would join her troops if
she would invade Egypt.  One laid my hand on his hand and said ‘Thou hast
3,000 men in thy hand.’  The other rules 10,000.  They say there are
30,000 Arabs (bedaween) ready to join the English, for they fear that the
Viceroy will try to work and rob them like the fellaheen, and if so they
will fight to the last, or else go off into Syria.  I was rather
frightened—for them, I mean, and told them that our Queen could do
nothing till 600 Sheykhs and 400 Ameers had talked in public—all whose
talk was printed and read at Stambool and Cairo, and that they must not
think of such a thing from our Queen, but if things became bad, it would
be better for them to go off into Syria.  I urged great caution upon
them, and I need not repeat that to you, as the lives of thousands may be
endangered.  It might be interesting to be known in high places and in
profound secret, as one of the indications of what is coming here.

If the saddle comes, as I hope, I may very likely go up to Assouan, and
leave the boat and servants, and go into the desert for a few days to see
the place of the Bishareen.  They won’t take anyone else: but you may be
quite easy about me ‘in the face’ of a Sheykh-el-Arab.  Handsome Sheykh
Hassan, whom you saw at Cairo, will go with me.  But if my saddle does
not appear, I fear I should be too tired with riding a camel.

The little district of Koos, including Luxor, has been mulcted of camels,
food for them and drivers, to the amount of 6,000 purses—last
week—£18,000, _fact_.  I cast up the account, and it tallied with what I
got from a sub _employé_, nor is the discontent any longer whispered.
Everyone talks aloud—and well they may.



February 7, 1886: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                   _Tuesday_, 7 _Ramadan_.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have just received your letter of Christmas-day, and am glad to answer
it with a really amended report of myself.  I had a very slight return a
week ago, but for the last five or six days the daily flushing and fever
has also ceased.  I sent for one of the Arab doctors of the Azizeeyeh
steamer to see Omar, and myself also, and he was very attentive, and took
a note of medicines to send me from Cairo by a _confrère_: and when I
offered a fee he said, ‘God forbid—it is only our duty to do anything in
the world for you.’  Likewise a very nice Dr. Ingram saw some of my worst
cases for me, and gave me good advice and help; but I want better
books—Kesteven is very useful, as far as it goes, but I want something
more _ausführlich_ and scientific.  Ramadan is a great trouble to me,
though Sheykh Yussuf tells the people not to fast, if I forbid it: but
many are ill from having begun it, and one fine old man of about
fifty-five died of apoplexy on the fourth night.  My Christian patient is
obstinate, and fasts, in spite of me, and will, I think, seal his fate;
he was so much better after the blistering and Dr. Ingram’s mixture.  I
wish you could have seen a lad of eighteen or so, who came here to-day
for medicine.  I think I never saw such sweet frank, engaging manners, or
ever heard any one express himself better: quite _une nature distinguée_,
not the least handsome, but the most charming countenance and way of
speaking.

My good friend the Maōhn spent the evening with me, and told me all the
story of his marriage, though quite ‘unfit to meet the virtuous eyes of
British propriety—’ as I read the other day in some paper apropos of I
forget what—it will give you an idea of the feelings of a Muslim _honnête
homme_, which Seleem is through and through.  He knew his wife before he
married her, she being twenty-five or twenty-six, and he a boy; she fell
in love with him, and at seventeen he married her, and they have had ten
children, all alive but two, and a splendid race they are.  He told me
how she courted him with glasses of sherbet and trays of sweatmeats, and
how her mother proposed the marriage, and how she hesitated on account of
the difference of age, but, of course, at last consented: all with the
naïvest vanity in his own youthful attractions, and great extolling of
her personal charms, and of her many virtues.  When he was sent up here
she would not, or could not, leave her children.  On the Sitt’s arrival
his slave girl was arrogant, and refused to kiss her hand, and spoke
saucily of her age, whereupon Seleem gave her in marriage to a black man
and pays for her support, as long as she likes to suckle the child he
(Seleem) had by her, which child will in due time return to his house.
_Kurz_, the fundamental idea in it all, in the mind of an upright man,
is, that if a man ‘takes up’ with a woman at all, he must make himself
responsible for her before the world; and above all for the fate of any
child he may have by her (you see the Prophet of the Arabs did not
contemplate ladies _qui savent nager_ so well in the troubled waters of
life as we are now blessed with.  I don’t mean to say that many men are
as scrupulous as my excellent friend Seleem, either here or even in our
own moral society).  All this was told with expressions quite
incompatible with our manners, though not at all _leste_—and he
expatiated on his wife’s personal charms in a very quaint way; the good
lady is now hard upon sixty and looks it fully; but he evidently is as
fond of her as ever.  As a curious trait of primitive manners, he told me
of her piety and boundless hospitality; how when some friends came late
one evening, unexpectedly, and there was only a bit of meat, she killed a
sheep and cooked it for them with her own hands.  And this is a Cairene
lady, and quite a lady too, in manners and appearance.  The day I dined
there she was dressed in very ragged, old cotton clothes, but spotlessly
clean; and she waited on me with a kind, motherly pleasure, that quite
took away the awkwardness I felt at sitting down while she stood.  In a
few days she and her husband are to dine with me, a thing which no Arab
couple ever did before (I mean dine out together), and the old lady was
immensely amused at the idea.  Omar will cook and all male visitors will
be sent to the kitchen.  Now that I understand all that is said to me,
and a great deal of the general conversation, it is much more amusing.
Seleem Effendi jokes me a great deal about my blunders, especially my
lack of _politikeh_, the Greek word for what we should call flummery; and
my saying _lazim_ (you must, or rather _il faut_), instead of humble
entreaties.  I told him to teach me better, but he laughed heartily, and
said, ‘No, no, when you say _lazim_, it is _lazim_, and nobody wants the
stick to force him to say _Hadr_ (ready) O Sheykh-el-Arab, O Emeereh.’

Fancy my surprise the other day just when I was dictating letters to
Sheykh Yussuf (letters of introduction for Ross’s inspecting agent) with
three or four other people here, in walked Miss North (Pop) whom I have
not seen since she was a child.  She and her father were going up the
second cataract.  She has done some sketches which, though rather
unskilful, were absolutely true in colour and effect, and are the very
first that I have seen that are so.  I shall see something of them on
their return.  She seemed very pleasant.  Mr. North looked rather
horrified at the turbaned society in which he found himself.  I suppose
it did look odd to English eyes.

We have had three days of the south wind, which the ‘Saturday Review’
says I am not to call Samoom; and I was poorly, and kept in bed two days
with a cold.  Apropos, I will give you the Luxor contribution towards the
further confusion of the Samoom (or Simoom) controversy.  I told Sheykh
Yussuf that an English newspaper, written by particularly clever people,
said that I was wrong to call the bad wind here ‘Samoom,’ (it was in an
article on Palgrave’s book, I think).  Sheykh Yussuf said, ‘True, oh
lady, no doubt those learned gentlemen’ (politely saluting them with his
hand) ‘thought one such as thou shouldest have written classical Arabic
(_Arabi fossieh_), and have called it “_al Daboor_;” nevertheless, it is
proper to write it “Samoom,” not, as some do “Simoom,” which is the
plural of _sim_ (poison).’  I shook my head, and said, I did not
recollect _al Daboor_.  Then my Reis, sitting at the door, offered his
suggestion.  ‘Probably the English, who it is well known are a nation of
sailors, use the name given to the land wind by _el-baharieh_ (the
boatmen), and call it _el-mereeseh_.’  ‘But,’ said I, ‘the clever
gentlemen say that I am wrong altogether, and never can have seen a
_real_ Samoom, for that would have killed me in ten minutes.’  Hereupon
Sheykh Mohammed el-Abab’deh, who is not nearly so polished as his brother
Hassan, burst into a regular bedawee roar of laughter, and said, ‘Yah! do
the _Ganassil_ (Europeans) take thee for a rat, oh lady?  Whoever heard
of _el Beni Adam_ (the children of Adam) dying of the wind?  Men die of
thirst quicker when the Samoom blows and they have no water.  But no one
ever died of the wind alone, except the rats—they do.’  I give you the
opinion of three ‘representative men—’ scholar, sailor, and bedawee; if
that helps you to a solution of the controversy.

We have just had a scene, rather startling to notions about fatalism,
etc.  Owing to the importation of a good deal of cattle from the Soudan,
there is an expectation of the prevalence of small-pox, and the village
barbers are busy vaccinating in all directions to prevent the infection
brought, either by the cattle or, more likely, by their drivers.  Now, my
maid had told me she had never been vaccinated, and I sent for Hajjee
Mahmood to cut my hair and vaccinate her.  To my utter amazement the
girl, who had never shown any religious bigotry, and does not fast, or
make any demonstrations, refused peremptorily.  It appears that the
priests and sisters appointed by the enlightened administration of
Prussia instil into their pupils and penitents that vaccination is a
‘tempting of God.’  _Oh oui_, she said, _je sais bien que chez nous mes
parents pouvaient recevoir un procès verbal, mais il vaut mieux cela que
d’aller contre la volonté de Dieu.  Si Dieu le veut, j’aurai la
petite-vérole, et s’il ne veut pas, je ne l’aurai pas_.  I scolded her
pretty sharply, and said it was not only stupid, but selfish.  ‘But what
can one do?’ as Hajjee Mahmood said, with a pitying shake of his head;
‘these Christians are so ignorant!’  He blushed, and apologized to me,
and said, ‘It is not their fault; all this want of sense is from the
priests who talk folly to them for money, and to keep them afraid before
themselves.  Poor things, _they_ don’t know the Word of God.—“Help
thyself, oh my servant, and I will help thee.”’  This is the second
contest I have had on this subject.  Last year it was with a Copt, who
was all _Allah kereem_ and so on about his baby, with his child of four
dying of small-pox.  ‘Oh, man,’ said Sheykh Yussuf, ‘if the wall against
which I am now sitting were to shake above my head, should I fold my feet
under me and say _Allah kereem_, or should I use the legs God has given
me to escape from it?’

I had a visit the other day from a lady who, as I was informed, had been
a harlot in Siout.  She has repented, and married a converted Copt.  They
are a droll pair of penitents, so very smart in their dress and manner.
But no one _se scandalise_ at their antecedents—neither is it proper to
repent in sackcloth and ashes, or to confess sins, except to God alone.
You are not to _indulge_ in telling them to others; it is an offence.
Repent inwardly, and be ashamed to show it before the people—ask pardon
of God only.  A little of this would do no harm in Europe, methinks.

Here is a pretty story for you from the _Hadeth en-Nebbee_ (sayings of
the Prophet).  ‘Two prophets were sitting together, and discoursing of
prayer and the difficulty of fixing the attention entirely on the act.
One said to the other, “Not even for the duration of two _rekahs_
(prayers ending with the prostration and _Allah akbar_) can a man fix his
mind on God alone.”  The other said, “Nay, but I can do it!”  “Say then
two _rekahs_,” replied the elder of the two; “I will give thee my cloak.”
Now he wore two cloaks—a new handsome red one and an old shabby blue one.
The younger prophet rose, raised his hands to his head, said _Allah
akbar_, and bent to the ground for his first _rekah_; as he rose again he
thought “Will he give me the red cloak or the blue, I wonder?”’  It is
very stupid of me not to write down all the pretty stories I hear, but
this one is a capital specimen of Arab wit.  Some day I must bring over
Omar with me, Inshallah, to England, and he will tell you stories like
Scheherazade herself.  A jolly Nubian Alim told me the other night how in
his village no man ever eats meat, except on Bairam day: but one night a
woman had a piece of meat given her by a traveller; she put it in the
oven and went out.  During her absence her husband came in and smelt it,
and as it was just the time of the _eshé_ (first prayers one hour after
sunset), he ran up to the hill outside the village, and began to chaunt
forth the _tekbeer_ with all his might—_Allah akbar_, _Allah akbar_, etc.
etc., till the people ran to see what was the matter.  ‘Why, to-day is
Bairam,’ says he.  ‘Where is thy witness, O man?’  ‘The meat in the
oven—the meat in the oven.’



February 15, 1866: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _February_ 15, 1866.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have only time for a short letter to say that the cold weather is over
and that I continue to improve, not very fast, but still very sensibly.

My young Frenchman turns out to be a M. Brune _grand prix de Rome_, an
architect, and is a very nice fellow indeed, and a thorough gentleman.
His odd awkward manner proved to be mere vexation at finding himself
quartered _nolens volens_ on a stranger, and a woman; but we have made
great friends, and I have made him quite happy by telling him that he
shall pay his share of the food.  He was going to hurry off from shyness
though he had begun a work here by which I fancy he hopes to get _Kudos_.
I see he is poor and very properly proud.  He goes out to the temple at
sunrise, and returns to dinner at dark, and works well, and his drawings
are very clever.  In short, I am as much obliged to the French Consul for
sending me such an intelligent man as I was vexed at first.  An _homme
sérieux_ with an absorbing pursuit is always good company in the long
run.  Moreover M. Brune behaves like a perfect gentleman in every way.
So _tout est pour le mieux_.

I am sorry to say that Marie has become so excessively bored,
dissatisfied, and, she says, ill, that I am going to send her back rather
than be worried so—and _damit hats eine ende_ of European maids.  Of
course an ignorant girl _must_ be bored to death here—a land of no
amusements and no flirtation _is_ unbearable.  I shall borrow a slave of
a friend here, an old black woman who is quite able and more than willing
to serve me, and when I go down to Cairo I will get either a ci-devant
slave or an elderly Arab woman.  Dr. Patterson strongly advised me to do
so last year.  He had one who has been thirteen years his housekeeper, an
old bedaweeyeh, I believe, and as I now am no longer looked upon as a
foreigner, I shall be able to get a respectable Arab woman, a widow or a
divorced woman of a certain age who will be too happy to have ‘a good
home,’ as our maids say.  I think I know one, a certain Fatoomeh, a widow
with no children who does washing and needlework in Cairo.  You need not
be at all uneasy.  I shall be taken good care of if I fall ill, much
better than I should get from a European in a sulky frame of mind.
Hajjee Ali has very kindly offered to take Marie down to Cairo and start
her off to Alexandria, whence Ross’s people can send her home.  If she
wants to stay in Alexandria and get placed by the nuns who piously
exhorted her to extort ninety francs a month from me, so much the better
for me.  Ali refuses to take a penny from me for her journey—besides
bringing me potatoes and all sorts of things: and if I remonstrate he
says he and all his family and all they have is mine, in consequence of
my treatment of his brother.

You will be amused and pleased to hear how Sheykh Yussuf was utterly
puzzled and bewildered by the civilities he received from the travellers
this year, till an American told Mustapha I had written a book which had
made him (the American) wish well to the poor people of this country, and
desire to behave more kindly to them than would have been the case
before.

To-morrow is the smaller Bairam, and I shall have all the Hareem here to
visit me.

Two such nice Englishmen called the other day and told me they lived in
Hertford Street opposite Lady D. G.’s and saw Alexander go in and out,
and met Maurice in the gardens.  It gave me a terrible twinge of
_Heimweh_, but I thought it so kind and pretty and _herzlich_ of them to
come and tell me how Alexander and Maurice looked as they went along the
street.



February 22, 1866: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                      _February_ 22, 1866.

DEAREST JANET,

I received your letter of the 4th inst. yesterday.  I am much distressed
not to hear a better account of you.  Why don’t you go to Cairo for a
time?  Your experience of your German confirms me (if I needed it) in my
resolution to have no more Europeans unless I should find one ‘seasoned.’
The nuisance is too great.  I shall borrow a neighbour’s slave for my
stay here and take some one in Cairo.  My dress will do very well in
native hands.

I am at last getting really better again, I hope.  We have had a cold
winter, but not trying.  There has not been much wind, and the weather
has been very steady and clear.  I wish I had Palgrave’s book.  Hajjee
Ali was to bring up my box, but it had not arrived when he sailed.  I
will send down the old saddle whenever I can find a safe opportunity and
have received the other.

Many thanks for all the various detachments of newspapers, which were a
great solace.  I wish you would give me your photo—large size—to hang up
with Rainie and Maurice here and in the boat.  Like the small one you
gave me at Soden, you said you had some copies big.

My doctoring business has become quite formidable.  I should like to sell
my practice to any ‘rising young surgeon.’  It brings in a very fair
income of vegetables, eggs, turkeys pigeons, etc.

How is the Shereef of Mecca’s horse?  I ambition to ride that holy
animal.



February 22, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _February_ 22, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

The weather here is just beginning to get warm, and I of course to get
better.  There has been a good deal of nervous headache here this
Ramadan.  I had to attend the Kadee, and several more.  My Turkish
neighbour at Karnac has got a _shaitan_ (devil), _i.e._ epileptic fits,
and I was sent for to exorcise him, which I am endeavouring to do with
nitrate of silver, etc.; but I fear imagination will kill him, so I
advise him to go to Cairo, and leave the devil-haunted house.  I have
this minute killed the first snake of this year—a sign of summer.

I was so pleased to see two Mr. Watsons—your opposite neighbours—who said
they saw you every morning go down the street—_ojala_! that I did so too!
I liked Mr. and Mrs. Webb of Newstead Abbey very much; nice, hearty,
pleasant, truly English people.

There have not been above twenty or thirty boats up this year—mostly
Americans.  There are some here now, very nice people, with four little
children, who create quite an excitement in the place, and are
‘mashallahed’ no end.  Their little fair faces do look very pretty here,
and excite immense admiration.

Seyd has just come in to take my letter to the steamer which is now going
down.  So _addio_, dearest Alick.  I am much better but still weakish,
and very _triste_ at my long separation.



March 6, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                               _Tuesday_, _March_ 6, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

I write to be ready for the last _down_ steamer which will be here in a
few days.  Mr. and Miss North are here working hard at sketching, and M.
Brune will take a place in their Dahabieh (my old Zint el Bahreyn), and
leave me in six or seven days.  I shall quite grieve to lose his company.
If ever you or yours fall in with him, pray cultivate his acquaintance,
he is very clever, very hard working, and a ‘thorough-bred gentleman’ as
Omar declares.  We are quite low-spirited at parting after a month spent
together at Thebes.

I hear that Olagnier has a big house in Old Cairo and will lodge me.  The
Norths go to-day (Thursday) and M. Brune does not go with them as he
intended, but will stay on and finish a good stroke of work and take his
chance of a conveyance.

I spent yesterday out in Mustapha’s tent among the bean gatherers, and
will go again.  I think it does me good and is not too long a ride.  The
weather has set in suddenly very hot, which rather tries everybody, but
gloriously fine clear air.  I hope you will get this, as old fat Hassan
will take it to the office in Cairo himself—for the post is very insecure
indeed.  I have written very often, if you don’t get my letters I suppose
they interest the court of Pharaoh.



March 17, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   THEBES,
                                                         _March_ 17, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

The high winds have begun with a vengeance and a great bore they are.

I went a few days ago out to Medarnoot, and lunched in Mustapha’s tent,
among his bean harvest.  I was immensely amused by the man who went with
me on to Medarnoot, one Sheriff, formerly an illustrious robber, now a
watchman and very honest man.  He rode a donkey, about the size of
Stirling’s wee pony, and I laughed, and said, ‘The man should carry the
ass.’  No sooner said than done, Sheriff dismounted, or rather let his
beast down from between his legs, shouldered the donkey, and ran on.  His
way of keeping awake is original; the nights are still cold, so he takes
off all his clothes, rolls them up and lays them under his head, and the
cold keeps him quite lively.  I never saw so powerful, active and healthy
an animal.  He was full of stories how he had had 1,000 stripes of the
courbash on his feet and 500 on his loins at one go.  ‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Why, I stuck a knife into a cawass who ordered me to carry water-melons;
I said I was not his donkey; he called me worse: my blood got up, and
so!—and the Pasha to whom the cawass belonged beat me.  Oh, it was all
right, and I did not say “ach” once, did I?’ (addressing another).  He
clearly bore no malice, as he felt no shame.  He has a grand romance
about a city two days’ journey from here, in the desert, which no one
finds but by chance, after losing his way; and where the ground is
strewed with valuable _anteekehs_ (antiquities).  I laughed, and said,
‘Your father would have seen gold and jewels.’  ‘True,’ said he, ‘when I
was young, men spit on a statue or the like, when they turned it up in
digging, and now it is a fortune to find one.’



March 31, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                         _March_ 31, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

As for me I am much better again; the cough has subsided, I really think
the Arab specific, camel’s milk, has done me great good.  I have mended
ever since I took it.  It has the merit of being quite delicious.
Yesterday I was much amused when I went for my afternoon’s drink, to find
Sheriff in a great taking at having been robbed by a woman, under his
very nose.  He saw her gathering hummuz from a field under his charge,
and went to order her off, whereupon she coolly dropped the end of her
_boordeh_ which covered the head and shoulders, effectually preventing
him from going near her; made up her bundle and walked off.  His respect
for the Hareem did not, however, induce him to refrain from strong
language.

M. Brune has made very pretty drawings of the mosque here, both outside
and in; it is a very good specimen of modern Arab architecture; and he
won’t believe it could be built without ground plan, elevations, etc.,
which amuses the people here, who build without any such inventions.

The harvest here is splendid this year, such beans and wheat, and prices
have fallen considerably in both: but meat, butter, etc., remain very
dear.  My fame as a Hakeemeh has become far too great, and on market-days
I have to shut up shop.  Yesterday a very handsome woman came for
medicine to make her beautiful, as her husband had married another who
teazed her, and he rather neglected her.  And a man offered me a camel
load of wheat if I would read something over him and his wife to make
them have children.  I don’t try to explain to them how very irrational
they are but use the more intelligible argument that all such practices
savour of the _Ebu er Rukkeh_ (equivalent to black art), and are _haram_
to the greatest extent; besides, I add, being ‘all lies’ into the
bargain.  The applicants for child-making and charm-reading are Copts or
Muslims, quite in equal numbers, and appear alike indifferent as to what
‘Book’: but all but one have been women; the men are generally perfectly
rational about medicine and diet.

I find there is a good deal of discontent among the Copts with regard to
their priests and many of their old customs.  Several young men have let
out to me at a great rate about the folly of their fasts, and the badness
and ignorance of their priests.  I believe many turn Muslim from a real
conviction that it is a better religion than their own, and not as I at
first thought merely from interest; indeed, they seldom gain much by it,
and often suffer tremendous persecution from their families; even they do
not escape the rationalizing tendencies now abroad in Christendom.  Then
their early and indissoluble marriages are felt to be a hardship: a boy
is married at eight years old, perhaps to his cousin aged seventeen (I
know one here in that case), and when he grows up he wishes it had been
let alone.  A clever lad of seventeen propounded to me his
dissatisfaction, and seemed to lean to Islam.  I gave him an Arabic New
Testament, and told him to read that first, and judge for himself whether
he could not still conform to the Church of his own people, and inwardly
believe and try to follow the Gospels.  I told him it was what most
Christians had to do, as every man could not make a sect for himself,
while few could believe everything in any Church.  I suppose I ought to
have offered him the Thirty-nine Articles, and thus have made a Muslim of
him out of hand.  He pushed me a little hard about several matters, which
he says he does not find in ‘the Book’: but on the whole he is well
satisfied with my advice.

                                          _Coptic Palm Sunday_, _April_ 1.

We hear that Fadil Pasha received orders at Assouan to go up to Khartoum
in Giaffar Pasha’s place: it is a civil way of killing a fat old Turk, if
it is true.  He was here a week or two ago.  My informant is one of my
old crew who was in Fadil Pasha’s boat.

I shall wait to get a woman-servant till I go to Cairo, the women here
cannot iron or sew; so, meanwhile, the wife of Abd el-Kader, does my
washing, and Omar irons; and we get on capitally.  Little Achmet waits,
etc., and I think I am more comfortable so than if I had a maid,—it would
be no use to buy a slave, as the trouble of teaching her would be greater
than the work she would do for me.

My medical reputation has become far too great, and all my common
drugs—Epsom salts, senna, aloes, rhubarb, quassia—run short.  Especially
do all the poor, tiresome, ugly old women adore me, and bore me with
their aches and pains.  They are always the doctor’s greatest plague.
The mark of confidence is that they now bring the sick children, which
was never known before, I believe, in these parts.  I am sure it would
pay a European doctor to set up here; the people would pay him a little,
and there would be good profit from the boats in the winter.  I got
turkeys when they were worth six or eight shillings apiece in the market,
and they were forced upon me by the fellaheen.  I must seal up this for
fear the boat should come; it will only pick up M. Brune and go on.



April, 1866: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                            EED EL KEBEER,
                                               _Wednesday_, _April_, 1866.

DEAREST JANET,

I had not heard a word of Henry’s illness till Mr. Palgrave arrived and
told me, and also that he was better.  Alhamdulillah!  I only hope that
you are not knocked up, my darling.  I am not ill, but still feel
unaccountably weak and listless.  I don’t cough much, and have got fatter
on my _régime_ of camel’s milk,—so I hope I may get over the languor.
The box has not made its appearance.  What a clever fellow Mr. Palgrave
is!  I never knew such a hand at languages.  The folks here are in
admiration at his Arabic.  I hope you will see M. Brune.  I am sure you
would like him.  He is a very accomplished and gentlemanly man.

You have never told me your plans for this year or whether I shall find
you when I go down.  The last three days the great heat has begun and I
am accordingly feeling better.  I have just come home from the Bairam
early prayer out in the burial-place, at which Palgrave also assisted.
He is unwell, and tells me he leaves Luxor to-morrow morning.  I shall
stay on till I am too hot here, as evidently the summer suits me.

Many thanks for Miss Berry and for the wine, which makes a very pleasant
change from the rather bad claret I have got.  Palgrave’s book I have
read through hard, as he wished to take it back for you.  It is very
amusing.

If you come here next winter Mustapha hopes you will bring a saddle, and
ride ‘all his horses.’  I think I could get you a very good horse from a
certain Sheykh Abdallah here.

Well, I must say good-bye.  _Kulloo sana intee tayib_, love to Henry.



April, 1866: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                   BAIRAM,
                                                            _April_, 1866.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I write this to go down by Mr. Palgrave who leaves to-morrow.  He has
been with Mustapha Bey conducting an enquiry into Mustapha A’gha’s
business.  Mariette Bey struck Mustapha, and I and some Americans took it
ill and wrote a very strong complaint to our respective Consuls.
Mariette denied the blow and the words ‘liar, and son of a dog’—so the
American and English Consuls sent up Palgrave as commissioner to enquire
into the affair, and the Pasha sent Mustapha Bey with him.  Palgrave is
very amusing of course, and his knowledge of languages is wonderful,
Sheykh Yussuf says few _Ulema_ know as much of the literature and
niceties of grammar and composition.  Mustapha Bey is a darling; he knew
several friends of mine, Hassan Effendi, Mustapha Bey Soubky, and others,
so we were friends directly.

I have not yet got a woman-servant, but I don’t miss it at all; little
Achmet is very handy, Mahommed’s slave girl washes, and Omar irons and
cleans the house and does housemaid, and I have kept on the meek cook,
Abd el-Kader, whom I took while the Frenchman was here.  I had not the
heart to send him away; he is such a _meskeen_.  He was a smart
travelling waiter, but his brother died, leaving a termagant widow with
four children, and poor Abd el-Kader felt it his duty to bend his neck to
the yoke, married her, and has two more children.  He is a most worthy,
sickly, terrified creature.

I have heard that a decent Copt here wants to sell a black woman owing to
reverses of fortune, and that she might suit me.  Sheykh Yussuf is to
negotiate the affair and to see if the woman herself likes me for a
mistress, and I am to have her on trial for a time, and if I like her and
she me, Sheykh Yussuf will buy her with my money in his name.  I own I
have very little scruple about the matter, as I should consider her price
as an advance of two or three years’ wages and tear the paper of sale as
soon as she had worked her price out, which I think would be a fair
bargain.  But I must see first whether Feltass (the Copt) really wants to
sell her or only to get a larger price than is fair, in which case I will
wait till I go to Cairo.  Anything is better than importing a European
who at once thinks one is at her mercy on account of the expense of the
journey back.

I went out this morning to the early prayer of Bairam day, held in the
burial-place.  Mahmoud ibn-Mustapha preached, but the boys and the Hareem
made such a noise behind us that I could not hear the sermon.  The
weather has set in hot these last days, and I am much the better.  It
seems strange that what makes others languid seems to strengthen me.  I
have been very weak and languid all the time, but the camel’s milk has
fattened me prodigiously, to Sherayeff’s great delight; and the last hot
days have begun to take away the miserable feeling of fatigue and
languor.

Palgrave is not well at all, and his little black boy he fears will die,
and several people in the steamer are ill, but in Luxor there is no
sickness to speak of, only chronic old women, so old and ugly and _achy_,
that I don’t know what to do with them, except listen to their
complaints, which begin, ‘_Ya ragleh_.’  _Ragel_ is man, so _ragleh_ is
the old German _Männin_, and is the civil way of addressing a Saeedee
woman.  To one old body I gave a powder wrapped up in a fragment of a
_Saturday Review_.  She came again and declared Mashallah! the _hegab_
(charm) was a powerful one, for though she had not been able to wash off
all the fine writing from the paper, even that little had done her a deal
of good.  I regret that I am unable to inform you what the subject of the
article in the _Saturday_ which had so drastic an effect.

Good-bye, dearest Mutter, I must go and take a sleep before the time of
receiving the visits of to-day (the great festival).  I was up before
sunrise to see the prayer, so must have a siesta in a cool place.
To-morrow morning early this will go.  I hope you got a letter I sent ten
days or so ago.



May 10, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                           _May_ 10, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

The real summer heat—the _Skems el-Kebeer_ (big sun) has fairly set in,
and of course I am all the better.  You would give my camel a good
backsheesh if you saw how prodigiously fat I have grown on her milk; it
beats codliver-oil hollow.  You can drink a gallon without feeling it, it
is so easy of digestion.

I have lent the dahabieh to Mustapha and to one or two more, to go to
Keneh on business, and when she returns (which will be to-day) I shall
make ready to depart too, and drop down stream.  Omar wants me to go down
to Damietta, to ‘amuse my mind and dilate my stomach’ a little; and I
think of doing so.

Palgrave was here about a fortnight ago, on Mustapha’s and Mariette’s
business.  ‘By God! this English way is wonderful,’ said a witness, ‘that
English Bey questioned me till my stomach came out.’  I loved Mustapha
Bey, who was with him; such a nice, kind, gentle creature, and very
intelligent and full of good sense.  I rejoice to hear that he returns my
liking, and has declared himself ‘one of my darweeshes.’  Talking of
darweeshes reminds me of the Festival of Sheykh Gibrieel this year.  I
had forgotten the day, but in the evening some people came for me to go
and eat some of the meat of the Sheykh, who is also a good patron of
mine, they say; being a poor man’s saint, and of a humble spirit, it is
said he favours me.  There was plenty of meat and _melocheea_ and bread;
and then _zikrs_ of different kinds, and a _Gama el Fokara_ (assembly of
the poor).  _Gama_ is the true word for Mosque—_i.e._, Meeting, which
consists in a great circle of men seated thick on the ground, with two
poets facing each other, who improvise religious verses.  On this
occasion the rule of the game was to end each stanza with a word having
the sound of _wahed_ (one), or _el Had_ (the first).  Thus one sung: ‘Let
a man take heed how he walks,’ etc., etc.; and ‘pray to God not to let
him fall,’ which sound like _Had_.  And so they went on, each chanting a
verse alternately.  One gesticulated almost as much as an Italian and
pronounced beautifully; the other was quiet, but had a nice voice, and
altogether it was very pretty.  At the end of each verse the people made
a sort of chorus, which was sadly like the braying of asses.  The _zikr_
of the Edfoo men was very curious.  Our people did it quietly, and the
_moonsheed_ sang very sweetly—indeed ‘the song of the moonsheed is the
sugar in the sherbet to the Zikkeer,’ said a man who came up when it was
over, streaming with perspiration and radiant with smiles.  Some day I
will write to you the whole ‘_grund Idee_’ of a _zikr_, which is, in
fact, an attempt to make present ‘the communion of saints,’ dead or
living.  As I write arrives the Arooset er-rallee, and my crew furl her
big sail quite ‘Bristol fashion.’  My men have come together again, some
from Nubia and some from the Delta; and I shall go down with my old lot.

Omar and Achmet have implored me not to take another maid at all; they
say they live like Pashas now they have only the lady to please; that it
will be a pleasure to ‘lick my shoes clean,’ whereas the boots of the
_Cameriera_ were intolerable.  The feeling of the Arab servants towards
European colleagues is a little like that of ‘niggers’ about ‘mean
whites’—mixed hatred, fear, and scorn.  The two have done so well to make
me comfortable that I have no possible reason for insisting on
encumbering myself with ‘an old man of the sea,’ in the shape of a maid;
and the difference in cost is immense.  The one dish of my dinner is
ample relish to their bread and beans, while the cooking for a maid, and
her beer and wine, cost a great deal.  Omar irons my clothes very tidily,
and little Achmet cleans the house as nicely as possible.  I own I am
quite as much relieved by the absence of the ‘civilized element’ as my
retainers are.

Did I describe the Coptic Good Friday?  Imagine 450 _Rekahs_ in church!
I have seen many queer things, but nothing half so queer as the bobbing
of the Copts.

I went the other day to the old church six or eight miles off, where they
buried the poor old Bishop who died a week ago.  Abu Khom, a Christian
_shaheed_ (martyr), is buried there.  He appeared to Mustapha’s father
when lost in the desert, and took him safe home.  On that occasion he was
well mounted, and robed all in white, with a _litham_ in over his face.
No one dares to steal anything near his tomb, not one ear of corn.  He
revealed himself long ago to one of the descendants of Abu-l-Hajjaj, and
to this day every Copt who marries in Luxor gives a pair of fowls to the
family of that Muslim in remembrance of Abu Khom.

I shall leave Luxor in five or six days—and write now to stop all letters
in Cairo.

I don’t know what to do with my sick; they come from forty miles off, and
sometimes twenty or thirty people sleep outside the house.  I dined with
the Maōhn last night—‘pot luck’—and was much pleased.  The dear old lady
was so vexed not to have a better dinner for me that she sent me a
splendid tray of _baklaweh_ this morning to make up for it.



June 22, 1866: Maurice Duff Gordon


                        _To Maurice Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                          _June_ 22, 1866.

MAURICE MY DARLING,

I send you a Roman coin which a man gave me as a fee for medical
attendance.  I hope you will like it for your watch-chain.  I made our
Coptic goldsmith bore a hole in it.  Why don’t you write to me, you young
rascal?  I am now living in my boat, and I often wish for you here to
donkey ride about with me.  I can’t write you a proper letter now as Omar
is waiting to take this up to Mr. Palgrave with the drawings for your
father.  Omar desires his best salaam to you and to Rainie, and is very
much disappointed that you are not coming out in the winter to go up to
Luxor.  We had a hurricane coming down the Nile, and a boat behind us
sank.  We only lost an anchor, and had to wait and have it fished up by
the fishermen of a neighbouring village.  In places the water was so
shallow that the men had to push the boat over by main force, and all
went into the river.  The captain and I shouted out, _Islam el Islam_,
equivalent to, ‘Heave away, boys.’  There are splendid illuminations
about to take place here, because the Pasha has got leave to make his
youngest boy his successor, and people are ordered to rejoice, which they
do with much grumbling—it will cost something enormous.



July 10, 1866: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                        OFF BOULAK, CAIRO,
                                                          _July_ 10, 1866.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I am much better again.  My cold went off without a violent illness and I
was only weak and nervous.  I am very comfortable here, anchored off
Boulak, with my Reis and one sailor who cleans and washes my clothes
which Omar irons, as at Luxor, as he found the washerwomen here charged
five francs a dozen for all small things and more for dresses.  A bad
_hashash_ boy turned Achmet’s head, who ran away for two days and spent a
dollar in riotous living; he returned penitent, and got no fatted calf,
but dry bread and a confiscation of his new clothes.

The heat, when I left Luxor, was prodigious.  I was detained three days
by the death of Sheykh Yussuf’s poor little wife and baby (in childbirth)
so I was forced to stay and eat the funeral feast, and be present at the
_Khatmeh_ (reading of the Koran on the third night), or it would not have
seemed kind.  The Kadee gave me a very curious prayer-book, the Guide of
the Faithful, written in Darfour! in beautiful characters, and with very
singular decorations, and in splendid binding.  It contains the names of
all the prophets and of the hundred appellations of Mohammed, and is
therefore a powerful _hegab_ or talisman.  He requested me never to give
it away and always to keep it with me.  Such books cannot be bought with
money at all.  I also bought a most beautiful _hegab_ of cornelian set in
enamel, the verse of the throne splendidly engraved, and dated 250 years
ago.  I sent over by Palgrave to Alick M. Brune’s lovely drawings of
Luxor and Karnac, and to Maurice a gold coin which I received as a fee
from an old Bedawee.

It was so hot that I could not face the ride up to Keneh, when all my
friends there came to fetch me, nor could I go to Siout.  I never felt
such heat.  At Benisouef I went to see our Maōhn’s daughter married to
another Maōhn there; it was a pleasant visit.  The master of the house
was out, and his mother and wife received me like one of the family; such
a pretty woman and such darling children!—a pale, little slight girl of
five, a sturdy boy of four, and a baby of one year old.  The eager
hospitality of the little creatures was quite touching.  The little girl
asked to have on her best frock, and then she stood before me and fanned
me seriously and diligently, and asked every now and then, ‘Shall I make
thee a sherbet?’  ‘Shall I bring thee a coffee?’ and then questions about
grandpapa and grand mamma, and Abd el-Hameed and Abd el-Fattah; while the
boy sat on his heels before me and asked questions about my family in his
baby talk, and assured me it was a good day to him, and wanted me to stay
three days, and to sleep with them.  Their father came in and gave each
an ashara (10 foddahs, ½ piastre) which, after consulting together, they
tied in the corner of my handkerchief; ‘to spend on my journey.’  The
little girl took such care of my hat and gloves and shoes, all very
strange garments to her, but politeness was stronger than curiosity with
the little things.  I breakfasted with them all next day, and found much
cookery going on for me.  I took a doll for my little friend Ayoosheh,
and some sugar-plums for Mohammed, but they laid them aside in order to
devote themselves to the stranger, and all quietly, and with no sort of
show-off or obtrusiveness.  Even the baby seemed to have the instinct of
hospitality, and was full of smiles.  It was all of a piece with the good
old lady, their grandmother at Luxor, who wanted to wash my clothes for
me herself, because I said the black slave of Mohammed washed badly.
Remember that to do ‘menial offices’ for a guest is an honour and
pleasure, and not derogatory at all here.  The ladies cook for you, and
say, ‘I will cook my best for thee.’  The worst is that they stuff one
so.  Little Ayoosheh asked after my children, and said, ‘May God preserve
them for thee!  Tell thy little girl that Mohammed and I love her from
afar off.’  Whereupon Mohammed declared that in a few years, please God,
when he should be _balal_ (marriageable) he would marry her and live with
me.  When I went back to the boat the Effendi was ill with asthma, and I
would not let him go with me in the heat (a polite man accompanies an
honoured guest back to his house or boat, or tent).  So the little boy
volunteered, and we rode off on the Effendi’s donkey, which I had to
bestride, with Mohammed on the hump of the saddle before me.  He was
delighted with the boat, of course, and romped and played about till we
sailed, when his slave took him home.  Those children gave me a happy day
with their earnest, gracious hospitality.

_July_ 14_th_.—Since I wrote this, I have had the boat topsy-turvy, with
a carpenter and a _menegget_ (cushion-stuffer), and had not a corner even
to write in.  I am better, but still cough every morning.  I am, however,
much better, and have quite got over the nervous depression which made me
feel unable and ashamed to write.  My young carpenter—a Christian—half
Syrian, half Copt, of the Greek rite, and altogether a Cairene—would have
pleased you.  He would not work on Sunday, but instead, came mounted on a
splendid tall black donkey, and handsomely dressed, to pay me a visit,
and go out with me for a ride.  So he, I, and Omar went up to the Sittee
(Lady) Zeyneb’s mosque, to inquire for Mustapha Bey Soubky, the Hakeem
Pasha, whom I had known at Luxor.  I was told by the porter of the mosque
to seek him at the shop of a certain grocer, his particular friend, where
he sits every evening.  On going there we found the shop with its lid
shut down (a shop is like a box laid on its side with the lid pulled up
when open and dropped when shut; as big as a cobbler’s stall in Europe).
The young grocer was being married, and Mustapha Bey was ill.  So I went
to his house in the quarter—such narrow streets!—and was shown up by a
young eunuch into the hareem, and found my old friend very poorly, but
spent a pleasant evening with him, his young wife—a Georgian slave whom
he had married,—his daughter by a former wife—whom he had married when he
was fourteen, and the female dwarf buffoon of the Valideh Pasha (Ismail’s
mother) whose heart I won by rising to her, because she was so old and
deformed.  The other women laughed, but the little old dwarf liked it.
She was a Circassian, and seemed clever.  You see how the ‘Thousand and
One Nights’ are quite true and real; how great Beys sit with grocers, and
carpenters have no hesitation in offering civility to _naas omra_ (noble
people).  This is what makes Arab society quite unintelligible and
impossible to most Europeans.

My carpenter’s boy was the son of a _moonsheed_ (singer in the Mosque),
and at night he used to sit and warble to us, with his little baby-voice,
and little round, innocent face, the most violent love-songs.  He was
about eight years old, and sang with wonderful finish and precision, but
no expression, until I asked him for a sacred song, which begins, ‘I
cannot sleep for longing for thee, O Full Moon’ (the Prophet), and then
the little chap warmed to his work, and the feeling came out.

Palgrave has left in my charge a little black boy of his, now at Luxor,
where he left him very ill, with Mustapha A’gha.  The child told me he
was a _nyan-nyan_ (cannibal), but he did not look ogreish.  I have
written to Mustapha to send him me by the first opportunity.  Achmet has
quite recovered his temper, and I do so much better without a maid that I
shall remain so.  The difference in expense is enormous, and the peace
and quiet a still greater gain; no more grumbling and ‘exigencies’ and
worry; Omar irons very fairly, and the sailor washes well enough, and I
don’t want toilette—anyhow, I would rather wear a sack than try the
experiment again.  An uneducated, coarse-minded European is too
disturbing an element in the family life of Easterns; the sort of filial
relation, at once familiar and reverential of servants to a master they
like, is odious to English and still more to French servants.  If I fall
in with an Arab or Abyssinian woman to suit me I will take her; but of
course it is rare; a raw slave can do nothing, nor can a fellaha, and a
Cairo woman is bored to death up in the Saeed.  As to care and attention,
I want for nothing.  Omar does everything well and with pride and
pleasure, and is delighted at the saving of expense in wine, beer, meat,
etc. etc.  One feeds six or eight Arabs well with the money for one
European.

While the carpenter, his boy, and two _meneggets_ were here, a very
moderate dish of vegetables, stewed with a pound of meat, was put before
me, followed by a chicken or a pigeon for me alone.  The stew was then
set on the ground to all the men, and two loaves of a piastre each, to
every one, a jar of water, and, _Alhamdulillah_, four men and two boys
had dined handsomely.  At breakfast a water-melon and another
loaf-a-piece, and a cup of coffee all round; and I pass for a true Arab
in hospitality.  Of course no European can live so, and they despise the
Arabs for doing it, while the Arab servant is not flattered at seeing the
European get all sorts of costly luxuries which he thinks unnecessary;
besides he has to stand on the defensive, in order not to be made a
drudge by his European fellow-servant, and despised for being one; and so
he leaves undone all sorts of things which he does with alacrity when it
is for ‘the master’ only.  What Omar does now seems wonderful, but he
says he feels like the Sultan now he has only me to please.

_July_ 15_th_.—Last night came the two _meneggets_ to pay a friendly
visit, and sat and told stories; so I ordered coffee, and one took his
sugar out of his pocket to put in his cup, which made me laugh inwardly.
He told a fisherman, who stopped his boat alongside for a little
conversation, the story of two fishermen, the one a Jew, the other a
Muslim, who were partners in the time of the Arab Prophet (upon whom be
blessing and peace!).  The Jew, when he flung his nets called on the
Prophet of the Jews, and hauled it up full of fish every time; then the
Muslim called on our Master Mohammed etc., etc., and hauled up each time
only stones, until the Jew said, ‘Depart, O man, thou bringest us
misfortune; shall I continue to take half thy stones, and give thee half
my fish?  Not so.’  So the Muslim went to our Master Mohammed and said,
‘Behold, I mention thy name when I cast my net, and I catch only stones
and calamity.  How is this?’  But the blessed Prophet said to him,
‘Because thy stomach is black inwardly, and thou thoughtest to sell thy
fish at an unfair price, and to defraud thy partner and the people, while
the Jew’s heart was clean towards thee and the people, and therefore God
listened to him rather than to thee.’  I hope our fisherman was edified
by this fine moral.  I also had good stories from the chief diver of
Cairo, who came to examine the bottom of my boat, and told me, in a
whisper, a long tale of his grandfather’s descent below the waters of the
Nile, into the land of the people who lived there, and keep tame
crocodiles to hunt fish for them.  They gave him a sleeve-full of fishes’
scales, and told him never to return, and not to tell about them: and
when he got home the scales had turned to money.  But most wonderful of
all was Haggi Hannah’s story of her own life, and the journey of Omar’s
mother carrying her old mother in a basket on her head from Damietta to
Alexandria, and dragging Omar then a very little boy, by the hand.  The
energy of many women here is amazing.

The Nile is rising fast, and the _Bisheer_ is come (the messenger who
precedes the Hajj, and brings letters).  _Bisheer_ is ‘good tidings,’ to
coin a word.  Many hearts are lightened and many half-broken to-day.  I
shall go up to the Abassia to meet the Mahmal and see the Hajjees arrive.

Next Friday I must take my boat out of the water, or at least heel her
over, to repair the bad places made at Alexandria.  It seems I once cured
a Reis of the Pasha’s of dysentery at Minieh, and he has not forgotten
it, though I had; so Reis Awad will give me a good place on the Pasha’s
bank, and lend ropes and levers which will save a deal of expense and
trouble.  I shall move out all the things and myself into a boat of
Zubeydeh’s for four or five days, and stay alongside to superintend my
caulkers.

Miss Berry _is_ dull no doubt, but few books seem dull to me now, I can
tell you, and I was much delighted with such a _pièce de résistance_.
Miss Eden I don’t wish for—that sort of theatre burlesque view of the
customs of a strange country is inexpressibly tedious to one who is
familiar with one akin to it.  There is plenty of _real_ fun to be had
here, but that sort is only funny to cockneys.  I want to read Baker’s
book very much.  I am much pleased with Abd el-Kader’s book which Dozon
sent me, and want the original dreadfully for Sheykh Yussuf, to show him
that he and I are supported by such an authority as the great Ameer in
our notions about the real unity of the Faith.  The book is a curious
mixture of good sense and credulity—quite ‘Arab of the Arabs.’  I will
write a paper on the popular beliefs of Egypt; it will be curious, I
think.  By the way, I see in the papers and reviews speculations as to
some imaginary Mohammedan conspiracy, because of the very great number of
pilgrims last year from all parts to Mecca.  _C’est chercher midi à
quatorze heures_.  Last year the day of Abraham’s sacrifice,—and
therefore _the_ day of the pilgrimage—(the sermon on Mount Arafat) fell
on a Friday, and when that happens there is always a rush, owing to the
popular notion that the _Hajj el-Gumma_ (pilgrimage of the Friday) is
seven times blessed, or even equivalent to making it seven times in
ordinary years.  As any beggar in the street could tell a man this, it
may give you some notion of how absurdly people make theories out of
nothing for want of a little commonsense.

The _Moolid en-Nebbee_ (Festival of the Prophet) has just begun.  I am to
have a place in the great Derweesh’s tent to see the Doseh.

The Nile is rising fast; we shall kill the poor little Luxor black lamb
on the day of the opening of the canal, and have a _fantasia_ at night;
only I grieve for my little white pussy, who sleeps every night on
Ablook’s (the lamb’s) woolly neck, and loves him dearly.  Pussy (‘Bish’
is Arabic for puss) was the gift of a Coptic boy at Luxor, and is
wondrous funny, and as much more active and lissom than a European cat as
an Arab is than an Englishman.  She and Achmet and Ablook have fine games
of romps.  Omar has set his heart on an English signet ring with an oval
stone to engrave his name on, here you know they sign papers with a
signet, not with a pen.  It must be _solid_ to stand hard work.

Well, I must finish this endless letter.  Here comes _such_ a bouquet
from the Pasha’s garden (somebody’s sister’s son is servant to the chief
eunuch and brings it to me), a great round of scarlet, surrounded with
white and green and with tall reeds, on which are threaded single
tube-rose flowers, rising out of it so as to figure a huge flower with
white pistils.  Arab gardeners beat French flower-girls in bouquets.



July 17, 1866: Alick


                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                          _July_ 17, 1866.

Dearest Alick,

I am perfectly comfortable now with my aquatic _ménage_.  The Reis is
very well behaved and steady and careful, and the sort of Caliban of a
sailor is a very worthy savage.  Omar of course is hardworked—what with
going to market, cooking, cleaning, ironing, and generally keeping
everything in nice order but he won’t hear of a maid of any sort.  No
wonder!

A clever old Reis has just come and over-hauled the bottom of the boat,
and says he can mend her without taking her out of the water.  We shall
see; it will be great luck if he can.  As I am the river doctor, all the
sailoring men are glad to do me a civility.

We have had the hottest of summers; it is now 98 in the cabin.  I have
felt very unwell, but my blue devils are quite gone, and I am altogether
better.  What a miserable war it is in Europe!  I am most anxious for the
next papers.  Here it is money misery; the Pasha is something like
bankrupt, and no one has had a day’s pay these three months, even
pensions of sixty piastres a month (seven shillings) to poor old female
slaves of Mahommed Ali’s are stopped.

_August_ 4.—The heat is and has been something fearful: we are all
panting and puffing.  I can’t think what Palgrave meant about my being
tired of poor old Egypt; I am very happy and comfortable, only I felt
rather weak and poorly this year, and sometimes, I suppose, rather
_wacham_, as the Arabs say, after you and the children.  The heat, too,
has made me lazy—it is 110 in the cabin, and 96 at night.

I saw the _Moolid en-Nebbee_ (Festival of the Prophet), and the wonderful
_Dóseh_ (treading); it is an awful sight; so many men drunk with
religious ardour. {293}  I also went to a Turkish Hareem, where my
darweesh friends sent me; it is just like a tea-party at Hampton Court,
only handsomer, not as to the ladies, but the clothes, furniture and
jewels, and not a bit like the description in Mrs. Lott’s most
extraordinary book.  Nothing is so clean as a Turkish hareem, the
furniture is Dutch as to cleanliness, and their persons only like
themselves—but oh! how dull and _triste_ it all seemed.  One nice lady
said to me, ‘If I had a husband and children like thee, I would die a
hundred times rather than leave them for an hour,’ another envied me the
power of going into the street and seeing the _Dóseh_.  She had never
seen it, and never would.

To-morrow Olagnier will dine and spend the night here, to see the cutting
of the canal, and the ‘Bride of the Nile’ on Monday morning.  We shall
sail up to old Cairo in the evening with the Bride’s boat; also Hajjee
Hannah is coming for the fantasia; after the high Nile we shall take the
boat out and caulk her and then, if the excessive heat continues, I
rather think of a month’s jaunt to Beyrout just to freshen me up.  Hajjee
Ali is there, with all his travelling materials and tents, so I need only
take Omar and a bath and carpet-bag.  If the weather gets cool I shall
stay in my boat.  The heat is far more oppressive here than it was at
Luxor two years ago; it is not so dry.  The Viceroy is afraid of cholera,
and worried the poor Hajjees this year with most useless quarantine.  The
_Mahmal_ was smuggled into Cairo before sunrise, without the usual
honours, and all sightseers and holiday makers disappointed, and all good
Muslims deeply offended.  The idea that the Pasha has turned Christian or
even Jew is spreading fast; I hear it on all sides.  The new firman
illegitimatising so many of his children is of course just as agreeable
to a sincere Moslem as a law sanctioning polygamy for our royal family
would be with us.



August 20, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               OFF BOULAK,
                                                        _August_ 20, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

Since I wrote I have had a bad bilious attack, which has of course
aggravated my cough.  Everyone has had the same, and most far worse than
I, but I was very wretched and most shamefully cross.  Omar said, ‘That
is not you but the sickness,’ when I found fault with everything, and it
was very true.  I am still seedy.  Also I am beyond measure exasperated
about my boat.  I went up to the _Ata el-Khalig_ (cutting of the canal)
to see the great sight of the ‘Bride of the Nile,’ a lovely spectacle;
and on returning we all but sank.  I got out into a boat of Zubeydeh’s
with all my goods, and we hauled up my boat, and found her bottom rotten
from stem to stern.  So here I am in the midst of wood merchants,
sawyers, etc., etc., rebuilding her bottom.  My Reis said he had ‘carried
her on his head all this time’ but ‘what could such a one as he say
against the word of a Howagah, like Ross’s storekeeper?’  When the
English cheat each other there remains nothing but to seek refuge with
God.  Omar buys the wood and superintends, together with the Reis, and
the builders seem good workmen and fair-dealing.  I pay day by day, and
have a scribe to keep the accounts.  If I get out of it for £150 I shall
think Omar has done wonders, for every atom has to be new.  I never saw
anything so rotten afloat.  If I had gone up the Cataract I should never
have come down alive.  It is a marvel we did not sink long ago.

Mahbrook, Palgrave’s boy, has arrived, and turns out well.  He is a stout
lubberly boy, with infinite good humour, and not at all stupid, and
laughs a good real nigger yahyah, which brings the fresh breezes and
lilac mountains of the Cape before me when I hear it.  When I tell him to
do anything he does it with strenuous care, and then asks, _tayib_? (is
it well) and if I say ‘Yes’ he goes off, as Omar says, ‘like a cannon in
Ladyship’s face,’ in a guffaw of satisfaction.  Achmet, who is half his
size, orders him about and teaches him, with an air of extreme dignity
and says pityingly to me, ‘You see, oh Lady, he is quite new, quite
green.’  Achmet, who had never seen a garment or any article of European
life two years ago, is now a smart valet, with very distinct ideas of
waiting at table, arranging my things etc. and cooks quite cleverly.
Arab boys are amazing.  I have promoted him to wages—one napoleon a
month—so now he will keep his family.  He is about a head taller than
Rainie.

I intend to write a paper on the various festivals and customs of Copts
and Muslims; but I must wait to see Abu Seyfeyn, near Luxor, the great
Christian Saint, where all go to be cured of possession—all mad people.
The Viceroy wages steady war against all festivals and customs.  The
_Mahmal_ was burked this year, and the fair at Tantah forbidden.  Then
the Europeans spoil all; the Arabs no longer go to the _Ata el-Khalig_,
and at the _Dóseh_, the Frangee carriages were like the Derby day.  It is
only up country that the real thing remains.

To-morrow my poor black sheep will be killed over the new prow of the
boat; his blood ‘straked’ upon her, and his flesh sodden and eaten by all
the workmen, to keep off the evil eye; and on the day she goes into the
water, some _Fikees_ will read the Koran in the cabin, and again there
will be boiled mutton and bread.  The Christian _Ma-allimeen_ (skilled
workmen) hold to the ceremony of the sheep quite as much as the others,
and always do it over a new house, boat, mill, waterwheel etc.

Did I tell you Omar has another girl—about two months ago?  His wife and
babies are to come up from Alexandria to see him, for he will not leave
me for a day, on account of my constantly being so ailing and weak.  I
hope if I die away from you all, you will do something for Omar for my
sake, I cannot conceive what I should do without his faithful and loving
care.  I don’t know why he is so devotedly fond of me, but he certainly
does love me as he says ‘like his mother,’ and moreover as a very
affectionate son loves his other.  How pleasant it would be if you could
come—but please don’t run any risks of fatigue or exposure to cold on
your return.  If you cannot come I shall go to Luxor early in October and
send back the boat to let.  I hear from Luxor that the people are all
running away from the land, unable to pay triple taxes and eat bread: the
ruin is universal.  The poor Sheykhs el-Beled, who had the honour of
dining with the Viceroy at Minieh have each had a squeeze politely
administered.  One poor devil I know had to ‘make a present’ of 50
purses.

How is my darling Rainie?  I do so long for her earnest eyes at times,
and wonder if I shall ever be able to get back to you all again.  I fear
that break down at Soden sent me down a great terrace.  I have never lost
the pain and the cough for a day since.  I have not been out for an age,
or seen anyone.  Would you know the wife of your bosom in a pair of pink
trousers and a Turkish _tob_?  Such is my costume as I write.  The woman
who came to sew could not make a gown, so she made me a pair of trousers
instead.  Farewell, dearest, I dare hardly say how your hint of possibly
coming has made me wish it, and yet I dread to persuade you.  The great
heat is quite over with the high Nile, and the air on the river fresh and
cool—cold at night even.



August 27, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                OFF BOULAK
                                                        _August_ 27, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

Your letter of the 18th has this moment arrived.  I am very glad to hear
you are so much better.  I am still seedy-ish, but no worse.  Everybody
is liver-sick this year, I give calomel and jalep all round—except to
myself.

The last two or three days we have been in great tribulation about the
boat.  On Saturday all her ribs were finished, and the planking and
caulking ready to be put on, when in the night up came the old Nile with
a rush, and threatened to carry her off; but by the favour of
Abu-l-Hajjaj and Sheykh el-Bostawee she was saved in this wise.  You
remember the tall old steersman who went with us to Bedreeshayn, and whom
we thought so ill-conditioned; well, he was in charge of a dahabieh close
by, and he called up all the Reises and steermen to help.  ‘Oh men of
el-Bostawee, this is _our_ boat (_i.e._ we are the servants of her owner)
and she is in our faces;’ and then he set the example, stripped and
carried dust and hammered in piles all night, and by the morning she was
surrounded by a dyke breast-high.  The ‘long-shore’ men of Boulak were
not a little surprised to see dignified Reises working for nothing like
fellaheen.  Meanwhile my three _Ma-allimeen_, the chief builder, caulker
and foreman, had also stayed all night with Omar and my Reis, who worked
like the rest, and the Sheykh of all the boat-builders went to visit one
of my _Ma-allimeen_, who is his nephew, and hearing the case came down
too at one in the morning and stayed till dawn.  Then as the workmen
passed, going to their respective jobs, he called them, and said, ‘Come
and finish this boat; it must be done by to-morrow night.’  Some men who
objected and said they were going to the Pasha’s dockyard, got a beating
_pro forma_ and the end of it was that I found forty-six men under my
boat working ‘like Afreets and Shaitans,’ when I went to see how all was
going in the morning.  The old Sheykh marked out a piece to each four
men, and then said, ‘If that is not done to-night, Oh dogs! to-morrow
I’ll put on the hat’—_i.e._ ‘To-day I have beaten moderately, like an
Arab, but to-morrow, please God, I’ll beat like a Frank, and be mad with
the stick.’  _Kurz und gut_, the boat which yesterday morning was a
skeleton, is now, at four p.m. to-day, finished, caulked, pitched and all
capitally done; if the Nile carries off the dyke, she will float safe.
The shore is covered with débris of other people’s half-finished boats I
believe.  I owe the ardour of the _Ma-allims_ and of the Sheykh of the
builders to one of my absurd pieces of Arab civility.  On the day when
Omar killed poor Ablook, my black sheep, over the bows and ‘straked’ his
blood upon them, the three _Ma-allimeen_ came on board this boat to eat
their dish, and I followed the old Arab fashion and ate out of the wooden
dish with them and the Reis ‘for luck,’ or rather ‘for a blessing’ as we
say here; and it seems that this gave immense satisfaction.

My Reis wept at the death of the black sheep, which used to follow him to
the coffee-shop and the market, and ‘was to him as a son,’ he said, but
he ate of him nevertheless.  Omar surreptitiously picked out the best
pieces for my dinner for three days, with his usual eye to economy; then
lighted a fire of old wood, borrowed a cauldron of some darweeshes, cut
up the sheep, added water and salt, onions and herbs, and boiled the
sheep.  Then the big washing copper (a large round flat tray, like a
sponging bath) was filled with bread broken in pieces, over which the
broth was slowly poured till the bread was soaked.  Next came a layer of
boiled rice, on the top of that the pieces of boiled meat, and over all
was poured butter, vinegar and garlic boiled together.  This is called a
_Fettah_, and is the orthodox dish of darweeshes and given at all
_Khatmehs_ and other semi-religious, semi-festive, semi-charitable
festivities.  It is excellent and not expensive.  I asked how many had
eaten and was told one hundred and thirty men had ‘blessed my hand.’  I
expended 160 piastres on bread, butter and vinegar, etc. and the sheep
was worth two napoleons; three napoleons in all, or less—for I ate for
two days of the mutton.

The three _Ma-allims_ came on board this boat, as I said and ate; and it
was fine to hear us—how polite we were.  ‘A bit more, oh _Ma-allim_?’
‘Praise be to God, we have eaten well—we will return to our work’; ‘By
the Prophet, coffee and a pipe.’  ‘Truly thou art of the most noble
people.’  ‘Oh _Ma-allim_, ye have honoured us and rejoiced us,’ ‘Verily
this is a day white among days,’ etc.  A very clever Egyptian engineer, a
pupil of Whitworth’s, who is living in a boat alongside mine, was much
amused, and said, ‘Ah you know how to manage ’em.’

I have learnt the story of the two dead bodies that hitched in my
anchor-chain some time ago.  They were not Europeans as I thought, but
Circassians—a young man and his mother.  The mother used to take him to
visit an officer’s wife who had been brought up in the hareem of the
Pasha’s mother.  The husband caught them, killed them, tied them together
and flung them into the Nile near Rhoda, and gave himself into the hands
of the police.  All was of course hushed up.  He goes to Fazoghlou; and I
don’t know what becomes of the slave-girl, his wife.  These sort of
things happen every day (as the bodies testify) among the Turks, but the
Europeans never hear it.  I heard it by a curious chance.

_September_ 4.—My boat will soon be finished, and now will be as good as
new.  Omar has worked like a good one from daybreak till night,
overlooking, buying all the materials, selling all the old wood and iron,
etc., and has done capitally.  I shall take a paper from my _Ma-allims_
who are all first class men, to certify what they have done and that the
boat is as good as new.  Goodah Effendi has kindly looked at her several
times for me and highly approves the work done.  I never saw men do a
better day’s work than those at the boat.  It is pretty to see the
carpenter holding the wood with one hand and one foot while he saws it,
sitting on the ground—just like the old frescoes.  Do you remember the
picture of boat-building in the tomb at Sakkara?  Well, it is just the
same; all done with the adze; but it is stout work they put into it, I
can tell you.

If you do not come (and I do not like to press you, I fear the fatigue
for you and the return to the cold winter) I shall go to Luxor in a month
or so and send back the boat to let.  I have a neighbour now, Goodah
Effendi, an engineer, who studied and married in England.  His wife is
gone there with the children, and he is living in a boat close by; so he
comes over of an evening very often, and I am glad of his company: he is
a right good fellow and very intelligent.

My best love to all at home.  I’ve got a log from the cedars of Lebanon,
my Moslem carpenter who smoothed the broken end, swallowed the sawdust,
because he believed ‘Our Lady Mary’ had sat under the tree with ‘Our Lord
Jesus.’



September 21, 1886: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               OFF BOULAK,
                                                     _September_ 21, 1886.

I am better again now and go on very comfortably with my two little boys.
Omar is from dawn till night at work at my boat, so I have only Mahbrook
and Achmet, and you would wonder to see how well I am served.  Achmet
cooks a very good dinner, serves it and orders Mahbrook about.  Sometimes
I whistle and hear _hader_ (ready) from the water and in tumbles Achmet,
with the water running ‘down his innocent nose’ and looking just like a
little bronze triton of a Renaissance fountain, with a blue shirt and
white skull-cap added.  Mahbrook is a big lubberly lad of the
laugh-and-grow-fat breed, clumsy, but not stupid, and very good and
docile.  You would delight in his guffaws, and the merry games and hearty
laughter of my _ménage_ is very pleasant to me.  Another boy swims over
from Goodah’s boat (his Achmet), and then there are games at piracy, and
much stealing of red pots from the potter’s boats.  The joke is to snatch
one under the owner’s very nose, and swim off brandishing it, whereupon
the boatman uses eloquent language, and the boys out-hector him, and
everybody is much amused.  I only hope Palgrave won’t come back from
Sookum Kaleh to fetch Mahbrook just as he has got clever—not at stealing
jars, but in his work.  He already washes my clothes very nicely indeed;
his stout black arms are made for a washer-boy.  Achmet looked forward
with great eagerness to your coming.  He is mad to go to England, and in
his heart planned to ingratiate himself with you, and go as a ‘general
servant.’  He is very little, if at all, bigger than a child of seven,
but an Arab boy ‘_ne doute de rien_’ and does serve admirably.  What
would an English respectable cook say to seeing ‘two dishes and a sweet’
cooked over a little old wood on a few bricks, by a baby in a blue shirt?
and very well cooked too, and followed by incomparable coffee.

You will be pleased to hear that your capital story of the London cabman
has its exact counterpart here.  ‘Oh gracious God, what aileth thee, oh
Achmet my brother, and why is thy bosom contracted that thou hast not
once said to me d------n thy father, or son of a dog or pig, as thou art
used to do.’

Can’t you save up your holidays and come for four months next winter with
my Maurice?  However perhaps you would be bored on the Nile.  I don’t
know.  People either enjoy it rapturously or are bored, I believe.  I am
glad to hear from Janet that you are well.  I am much better.  The
carpenter will finish in the boat to-day, then the painter begins and in
a week, Inshallah, I shall get back into her.



September 21, 1886: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                               OFF BOULAK,
                                                     _September_ 21, 1886.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I am a good deal better again; the weather is delightful, and the Nile in
full flood, which makes the river scenery from the boat very beautiful.
Alick made my mouth water with his descriptions of his rides with Janet
about the dear old Surrey country, having her with him seems to have
quite set him up.  I have seen nothing and nobody but my ‘next boat’
neighbour, Goodah Effendi, as Omar has been at work all day in the boat,
and I felt lazy and disinclined to go out alone.  Big Hassan of the
donkeys has grown too lazy to go about and I don’t care to go alone with
a small boy here.  However I am out in the best of air all day and am
very well off.  My two little boys are very diverting and serve me very
well.  The news from Europe is to my ignorant ideas _désolant_, a
_dégringolade back_ into military despotism, which would have excited
indignation with us in our fathers’ days, I think.  I get lots of
newspapers from Ross, which afterwards go to an Arab grocer, who reads
the _Times_ and the _Saturday Review_ in his shop in the bazaar! what
next?  The cargo of books which Alick and you sent will be most
acceptable for winter consumption.  If I were a painter I would take up
the Moslem traditions of Joseph and Mary.  He was not a white-bearded old
gentleman at all you must know, but young, lovely and pure as Our Lady
herself.  They were cousins, brought up together; and she avoided the
light conversation of other girls, and used to go to the well with her
jar, hand in hand with Joseph carrying his.  After the angel Gabriel had
announced to her the will of God, and blown into her sleeve, whereby she
conceived ‘the Spirit of God,’ Joseph saw her state with dismay, and
resolved to kill her, as was his duty as her nearest male relation.  He
followed her, knife in hand, meaning always to kill her at the next tree,
and each time his heart failed him, until they reached the well and the
tree under which the Divine messenger stood once more and said, ‘Fear not
oh Joseph, the daughter of thy uncle bears within her Eesa, the Messiah,
the Spirit of God.’  Joseph married his cousin without fear.  Is it not
pretty? the two types of youthful purity and piety, standing hand in hand
before the angel.  I think a painter might make something out of the
soft-eyed Syrian boy with his jar on his shoulder (hers on the head), and
the grave, modest maiden who shrank from all profane company.

I now know all about Sheykh Seleem, and why he sits naked on the river
bank; from very high authority—a great Sheykh to whom it has been
revealed.  He was entrusted with the care of some of the holy she camels,
like that on which the Prophet rode to Jerusalem in one night, and which
are invisible to all but the elect, and he lost one, and now he is God’s
prisoner till she is found.

A letter from aunt Charley all about her own and Rainie’s country life,
school feasts etc., made me quite cry, and brought before me—oh, how
vividly—the difference between East and West, not quite _all_ to the
advantage of home however, though mostly.  What is pleasant here is the
primitive ways.  Three times since I have been here lads of most
respectable families of Luxor have come to ask hospitality, which
consists in a place on the deck of the boat, and liberty to dip their
bread in the common dish with my slave boy and Achmet.  The bread they
brought with them, ‘bread and shelter’ were not asked, as they slept _sub
dio_.  In England I must have refused the hospitality, on account of
_gêne_ and expense.  The chief object to the lads was the respectability
of being under my eye while away from their fathers, as a satisfaction to
their families; and while they ate and slept like beggars, as we should
say, they read their books and chatted with me, when I was out on the
deck, on perfectly equal terms, only paying the respect proper to my age.
I thought of the ‘orphanages and institutions’ and all the countless
difficulties of that sort, and wondered whether something was not to be
said for this absence of civilization in knives, forks, beds, beer, and
first and second tables above all.  Of course climate has a good deal to
do with the facility with which widows and orphans are absorbed here.

Goodbye dearest Mutter: to-day is post day, and Reis Mohammed is about to
trudge into town in such a dazzling white turban and such a grand black
robe.  His first wife, whom he was going to divorce for want of children,
has brought him a son, and we jeer him a little about what he may find in
Luxor from the second, and wish him a couple of dozen.



October 15, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                       _October_ 15, 1866.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have been back in my own boat four days, and most comfortable she is.
I enlarged the saloon, and made a good writing table, and low easy divans
instead of benches, and added a sort of pantry and sleeping cabin in
front; so that Omar has not to come through the saloon to sleep; and I
have all the hareem part to myself.  Inside there is a good large stern
cabin, and wash-closet and two small cabins with beds long enough even
for you.  Inshallah, you and Maurice will come next winter and go up the
Nile and enjoy it with me.  I intend to sail in ten days and to send back
the ‘Urania’ to seek work for the winter.  We had a very narrow escape of
being flooded this year.  I fear a deal of damage has been done to the
dourrah and cotton crops.  It was sad to see the villagers close by here
trying to pull up a little green dourrah as the Nile slowly swallowed up
the fields.

I was forced to flog Mabrook yesterday for smoking on the sly, a grave
offence here on the part of a boy; it is considered disrespectful; so he
was ordered, with much parade, to lie down, and Omar gave him two cuts
with a rope’s end, an apology for a flogging which would have made an
Eton boy stare.  The stick here is quite nominal, except in official
hands.  I can’t say Mabrook seemed at all impressed, for he was laughing
heartily with Omar in less than ten minutes; but the affair was conducted
with as much solemnity as an execution.

‘Sheykh’ Stanley’s friend, Gezawee, has married his negro slave to his
own sister, on the plea that he was the best young man he knew.  What
would a Christian family say to such an arrangement?

My boat is beautifully buoyant now, and has come up by the bows in fine
style.  I have not sailed her yet, but have doubt she will ‘walk well’ as
the Arabs say.  Omar got £10 by the sale of old wood and nails, and also
gave me 2000 piastres, nearly £12, which the workmen had given him as a
sort of backsheesh.  They all pay one, two or three piastres daily to any
_wakeel_ (agent) who superintends; that is his profit, and it is enormous
at that rate.  I said, ‘Why did you not refuse it?’  But Omar replied
they had pay enough after that reduction, which is always made from them,
and that in his opinion therefore, it came out of the master’s pocket,
and was ‘cheatery.’  How people have been talking nonsense about Jamaica
_chez vous_.  I have little doubt Eyre did quite right, and still less
doubt that the niggers have had enough of the sort of provocation which I
well know, to account for the outbreak.  Baker’s effusion is a very poor
business.  There may be blacks like tigers (and whites too in London for
that matter).  I myself have seen at least five sorts of blacks (negroes,
not Arabs), more unlike each other than Swedes are unlike Spaniards; and
many are just like ourselves.  Of course they want governing with a
strong hand, like all ignorant, childish creatures.  But I am fully
convinced that custom and education are the only real differences between
one set of men and another, their inner nature is the same all the world
over.

My Reis spoke such a pretty parable the other day that I must needs write
it.  A Coptic Reis stole some of my wood, which we got back by force and
there was some reviling of the Nazarenes in consequence from Hoseyn and
Ali; but Reis Mohammed said: ‘Not so; Girgis is a thief, it is true, but
many Christians are honest; and behold, all the people in the world are
like soldiers, some wear red and some blue; some serve on foot, others on
horseback, and some in ships; but all serve one Sultan, and each fights
in the regiment in which the Sultan has placed him, and he who does his
duty best is the best man, be his coat red or blue or black.’  I said,
‘Excellent words, oh Reis, and fit to be spoken from the best of
pulpits.’  It is surprising what happy sayings the people here hit upon;
they cultivate talk for want of reading, and the consequence is great
facility of narration and illustration.  Everybody enforces his ideas
like Christ, in parables.  Hajjee Hannah told me two excellent fairy
tales, which I will write for Rainie with some Bowdlerizing, and several
laughable stories, which I will leave unrecorded, as savouring too much
of Boccaccio’s manner, or that of the Queen of Navarre.  I told Achmet to
sweep the floor after dinner just now.  He hesitated, and I called again:
‘What manner is this, not to sweep when I bid thee?’  ‘By the most high
God,’ said the boy, ‘my hand shall not sweep in thy boat after sunset, oh
Lady; I would rather have it cut off than sweep thee out of thy
property.’  I found that you must not sweep at night, nor for three days
after the departure of a guest whose return you desire, or of the master
of the house.  ‘Thinkest thou that my brother would sweep away the dust
of thy feet from the floors at Luxor,’ continued Achmet, ‘he would fear
never to see thy fortunate face again.’  If you don’t want to see your
visitor again you break a _gulleh_ (water-jar) behind him as he leaves
the house, and sweep away his footsteps.

What a canard your papers have in Europe about a constitution here.  I
won’t write any politics, it is all too dreary; and Cairo gossip is
odious, as you may judge by the productions of Mesdames Odouard and Lott.
Only remember this, there is no law nor justice but the will, or rather
the caprice, of one man.  It is nearly impossible for any European to
conceive such a state of things as really exists.  Nothing but perfect
familiarity with the governed, _i.e._ oppressed, class will teach it;
however intimate a man may be with the rulers he will never fully take it
in.  I am _à l’index_ here, and none of the people I know dare come to
see me; Arab I mean.  It was whispered in my ear in the street by a
friend I met.  Ismael Pasha’s chief pleasure is gossip, and a certain
number of persons, chiefly Europeans, furnish him with it daily, true or
false.  If the farce of the constitution ever should be acted here it
will be superb.  Something like the Consul going in state to ask the
fellaheen what wages they got.  I could tell you a little of the value of
consular information; but what is the use?  Europe is enchanted with the
enlightened Pasha who has ruined this fine country.

I long so to see you and Rainie!  I don’t like to hope too much, but
Inshallah, next year I shall see you all.



October 19, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                               OFF BOULAK,
                                                       _October_ 19, 1866.

I shall soon sail up the river.  Yesterday Seyd Mustapha arrived, who
says that the Greeks are all gone, and the poor Austrian at Thebes is
dead, so I shall represent Europe in my single person from Siout to, I
suppose, Khartoum.

You would delight in Mabrook; a man asked him the other day after his
flogging, if he would not run away, to see what he would say as he
alleged, I suspect he meant to steal and sell him.  ‘I run away, to eat
lentils like you? when _my_ Effendi gives me meat and bread every day,
and _I eat such a lot_.’  Is not that a delicious practical view of
liberty?  The creature’s enjoyment of life is quite a pleasure to
witness, and he really works very well and with great alacrity.  If
Palgrave claims him I think I must buy him.

I hear sad accounts from the Saeed: the new taxes and the new levies of
soldiers are driving the people to despair and many are running away from
the land, which will no longer feed them after paying all exactions, to
join the Bedaween in the desert, which is just as if our peasantry turned
gipsies.  A man from Dishné visited me: the people there want me to
settle in their village and offer me a voluntary _corvée_ if I will buy
land, so many men to work for me two days a month each, I haven’t a
conception why.  It is a place about fifty miles below Luxor, a large
agricultural village.

Omar’s wife Mabrookah came here yesterday, a nice young woman, and the
babies are fine children and very sweet-tempered.  She told me that the
lion’s head, which I sent down to Alexandria to go to you, was in her
room when a neighbour of hers, who had never had a child, saw it, and at
once conceived.  The old image worship survives in the belief, which is
all over Egypt, that the ‘Anteeks’ (antiques) can cure barrenness.
Mabrookah was of course very smartly dressed, and the reckless way in
which Eastern women treat their fine clothes gives them a grand air,
which no Parisian Duchess could hope to imitate—not that I think it a
virtue mind you, but some vices are genteel.

Last night was a great Sheykh’s fête, such drumming and singing, and
ferrying across the river.  The Nile is running down unusually fast, and
I think I had better go soon, as the mud of Cairo is not so sweet as the
mud of the upper land.



October 25, 1866: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                               OFF BOULAK,
                                                       _October_ 25, 1866.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have got all ready, and shall sail on Saturday.  My men have baked the
bread, and received their wages to go to Luxor and bring the boat back to
let.  It is turning cold, but I feel none the worse for it, though I
shall be glad to go.  I’ve had a dreary, worrying time here, and am tired
of hearing of all the meannesses and wickedness which constitute the _on
dits_ here.  Not that I hear much, but there is nothing else.  I shall be
best at Luxor now the winter has set in so early.  You would laugh at
such winter when one sits out all day under an awning in English summer
clothes, and wants only two blankets at night; but all is comparative
_ici bas_, and I call it cold, and Mabrook ceases to consider his clothes
such a grievance as they were to him at first, and takes kindly to a
rough _capote_ for the night.  I have just been interrupted by my Reis
and one of my men, who came in to display the gorgeous printed calico
they have bought; one for his Luxor wife and the other for his betrothed
up near Assouan.  (The latter is about eight years old, and Hosein has
dressed her and paid her expenses these five years, as is the custom up
in that district.)  The Reis has bought a silk head-kerchief for nine
shillings, but that was in the marriage contract.  So I must see, admire
and wish good luck to the finery, and to the girls who are to wear it.
Then we had a little talk about the prospects of letting the boat, and,
Inshallah, making some money for _el gamma_, _i.e._, ‘all our company,’
or ‘all of us together.’  The Reis hopes that the _Howagat_ will not be
too outrageous in their ways or given to use the stick, as the solution
of every difficulty.

The young Shurafa of Abu-l-Hajjaj came from Gama’l Azhar to-day to bid me
goodbye and bring their letters for Luxor.  I asked them about the
rumours that the Ulema are preaching against the Franks (which is always
being said), but they had heard nothing of the sort, and said they had
not heard of anything the Franks had done lately which would signify to
the Muslims at all.  It is not the Franks who press so many soldiers, or
levy such heavy taxes three months in advance!  I will soon write again.
I feel rather like the wandering Jew and long for home and rest, without
being dissatisfied with what I have and enjoy, God knows.  If I _could_
get better and come home next summer.



November 21, 1866: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _November_ 21, 1866

DEAREST ALICK,

I arrived here on the morning of the 11th.  I am a beast not to have
written, but I caught cold after four days and have really not been well,
so forgive me, and I will narrate and not apologize.  We came up best
pace, as the boat is a flyer now, only fourteen days to Thebes, and to
Keneh only eleven.  Then we had bad winds, and my men pulled away at the
rope, and sang about the _Reis el-Arousa_ (bridegroom) going to his
bride, and even Omar went and pulled the rope.  We were all very merry,
and played practical jokes on a rascal who wanted a pound to guide me to
the tombs: we made him run miles, fetch innumerable donkeys, and then
laughed at his beard.  Such is boatmen fun.  On arriving at Luxor I heard
a _charivari_ of voices, and knew I was ‘at home,’ by the shrill pipe of
the little children, _el Sitt_, _el Sitt_.  Visitors all day of course,
at night comes up another dahabieh, great commotion, as it had been
telegraphed from Cairo (which I knew before I left, and was to be
stopped).  So I coolly said, ‘Oh Mustapha, the Indian saint (Walee) is in
thine eye, seeing that an Indian is all as one with an Englishman.’  ‘How
did I know there was an Indian and a Walee?’ etc.  Meanwhile the Walee
had a bad thumb, and some one told his slave that there was a wonderful
English doctress, so in the morning he sent for me, and I went inside the
hareem.  He was very friendly, and made me sit close beside him, told me
he was fourth in descent from Abd el-Kader Gylamee of Bagdad, but his
father settled at Hyderabad, where he has great estates.  He said he was
a Walee or saint, and would have it that I was in the path of the
darweeshes; gave me medicine for my cough; asked me many questions, and
finally gave me five dollars and asked if I wanted more?  I thanked him
heartily, kissed the money politely, and told him I was not poor enough
to want it and would give it in his name to the poor of Luxor, but that I
would never forget that the Indian Sheykh had behaved like a brother to
an English woman in a strange land.  He then spoke in great praise of the
‘laws of the English,’ and said many more kind things to me, adding
again, ‘I tell thee thou art a Darweesh, and do not thou forget me.’
Another Indian from Lahore, I believe the Sheykh’s tailor, came to see
me—an intelligent man, and a Syrian doctor; a manifest scamp.  The people
here said he was a _bahlawar_ (rope-dancer).  Well, the authorities
detained the boat with fair words till orders came from Keneh to let them
go up further.  Meanwhile the Sheykh came out and performed some
miracles, which I was not there to see, perfuming people’s hands by
touching them with his, and taking English sovereigns out of a pocketless
jacket, and the doctor told wonders of him.  Anyhow he spent £10 in one
day here, and he is a regular darweesh.  He and all the Hareem were
poorly dressed and wore no ornaments whatever.  I hope Seyd Abdurachman
will come down safe again, but no one knows what the Government wants of
him or why he is so watched.  It is the first time I ever saw an Oriental
travelling for pleasure.  He had about ten or twelve in the hareem, among
them his three little girls, and perhaps twenty men outside, Indians, and
Arabs from Syria, I fancy.

Next day I moved into the old house, and found one end in ruins, owing to
the high Nile and want of repair.  However there is plenty more safe and
comfortable.  I settled all accounts with my men, and made an inventory
in Arabic, which Sheykh Yussuf wrote for me, which we laughed over
hugely.  How to express a sauce-boat, a pie-dish, etc. in Arabic, was a
poser.  A genteel Effendi, who sat by, at last burst out in
uncontrollable amazement; ‘There is no God but God: is it possible that
four or five Franks can use all these things to eat, drink and sleep on a
journey?’  (N.B. I fear the Franks will think the stock very scanty.)
Whereupon master Achmet, with the swagger of one who has seen cities and
men, held forth.  ‘Oh Effendim, that is nothing; Our Lady is almost like
the children of the Arabs.  One dish or two, a piece of bread, a few
dates, and Peace, (as we say, there is an end of it).  But thou shouldst
see the merchants of Escandarieh, (Alexandria), three tablecloths, forty
dishes, to each soul seven plates of all sorts, seven knives and seven
forks and seven spoons, large and small, and seven different glasses for
wine and beer and water.’  ‘It is the will of God,’ replied the Effendi,
rather put down: ‘but,’ he added, ‘it must be a dreadful fatigue to them
to eat their dinner.’  Then came an impudent merchant who wanted to go
down with his bales and five souls in my boat for nothing.  But I said,
‘Oh man, she is my property, and I will eat from her of thy money as of
the money of the Franks.’  Whereupon he offered £1, but was bundled out
amid general reproaches for his avarice and want of shame.  So all the
company said a _Fattah_ for the success of the voyage, and Reis Mohammed
was exhorted to ‘open his eyes,’ and he should have a tarboosh if he did
well.

Then I went to visit my kind friend the Maōhn’s wife, and tell her all
about her charming daughter and grandchildren.  I was, of course, an hour
in the streets salaaming, etc.  ‘_Sheerafteenee Beledna_, thou hast
honoured our country on all sides.’  ‘Blessings come with thee,’ etc.

Everything is cheaper than last year, but there is no money to buy with,
and the taxes have grown beyond bearing, as a fellah said, ‘a man can’t
(we will express it “blow his nose,” if you please; the real phrase was
less parliamentary, and expressive of something at once _ventose_ and
valueless) without a cawass behind him to levy a tax on it.’  The
ha’porth of onions we buy in the market is taxed on the spot, and the
fish which the man catches under my window.  I paid a tax on buying
charcoal, and another on having it weighed.  People are terribly beaten
to get next year’s taxes out of them, which they have not the money to
pay.

The Nubian M.P.’s passed the other day in three boats, towed by a
steamer, very frightened and sullen.  I fell in with some Egyptians on my
way, and tried the European style of talk.  ‘Now you will help to govern
the country, what a fine thing for you,’ etc.  I got such a look of
rueful reproach.  ‘Laugh not thou at our beards O Effendim!  God’s mercy,
what words are these? and who is there on the banks of the Nile who can
say anything but _hader_ (ready), with both hands on the head, and a
salaam to the ground even to a Moudir; and thou talkest of speaking
before Effendina!  Art thou mad, Effendim?’  Of all the vexations none
are more trying than the distinctions which have been inflicted on the
unlucky Sheykhs el-Beled.  In fear and trembling they ate their
Effendina’s banquet and sadly paid the bill: and those who have had the
_Nishan_ (the order of the Mejeedee) have had to disburse fees whereat
the Lord Chamberlain’s staff’s mouths might water, and now the wretched
delegates to the Egyptian Chambers (God save the mark) are going down
with their hearts in their shoes.  The Nubians say that the Divan is to
be held in the Citadel and that the road by which the Memlook Beys left
it is not stopped up, though perhaps it goes underground nowadays. {315}

_November_ 27.—The first steamer full of travellers has just arrived, and
with it the bother of the ladies all wanting my saddle.  I forbade
Mustapha to send for it, but they intimidate the poor old fellow, and he
comes and kisses my hand not to get him into trouble with one old woman
who says she is the relation of a Consul and a great lady in her own
country.  I am what Mrs. Grote called ‘cake’ enough to concede to
Mustapha’s fears what I had sworn to refuse henceforth.  Last year five
women on one steamer all sent for my saddle, besides other
things—campstools, umbrellas, beer, etc., etc.  This year I’ll bolt the
doors when I see a steamer coming.  I hear the big people are so angry
with the Indian saint because he treated them like dirt everywhere.  One
great man went with a Moudir to see him, and asked him to sell him a
memlook (a young slave boy).  The Indian, who had not spoken or saluted,
burst forth, ‘Be silent, thou wicked one! dost thou dare to ask me to
sell thee a soul to take it with thee to hell?’  Fancy the surprise of
the ‘distinguished’ Turk.  Never had he heard such language.  The story
has travelled all up the river and is of course much enjoyed.

Last night Sheykh Yussuf gave an entertainment, killed a sheep, and had a
reading of the _Sirat er-Russoul_ (Chapter on the Prophet).  It was the
night of the Prophet’s great vision, and is a great night in Islam.  I
was sorry not to be well enough to go.  Now that there is no Kadee here,
Sheykh Yussuf has lots of business to settle; and he came to me and said,
‘Expound to me the laws of marriage and inheritance of the Christians,
that I may do no wrong in the affairs of the Copts, for they won’t go and
be settled by the priest out of the Gospels, and I can’t find any laws,
except about marriage in the Gospels.’  I set him up with the text of the
tribute money, and told him to judge according to his own laws, for that
Christians had no laws other than those of the country they lived in.
Poor Yussuf was sore perplexed about a divorce case.  I refused to
‘expound,’ and told him all the learned in the law in England had not yet
settled which text to follow.

Do you remember the German story of the lad who travelled _um das Grüseln
zu lernen_?  Well, I, who never _grüselte_ before, had a touch of it a
few evenings ago.  I was sitting here quietly drinking tea, and four or
five men were present, when a cat came to the door.  I called ‘biss,
biss,’ and offered milk, but pussy, after looking at us, ran away.  ‘Well
dost thou, oh Lady,’ said a quiet, sensible man, a merchant here, ‘to be
kind to the cat, for I dare say he gets little enough at home; _his_
father, poor man, cannot cook for his children every day.’  And then in
an explanatory tone to the company, ‘That is Alee Nasseeree’s boy
Yussuf—it must be Yussuf, because his fellow twin Ismaeen is with his
mule at Negadeh.’  _Mir grüselte_, I confess, not but what I have heard
things almost as absurd from gentlemen and ladies in Europe; but an
‘extravagance’ in a _kuftan_ has quite a different effect from one in a
tail coat.  ‘What my butcher’s boy who brings the meat—a cat?’ I gasped.
‘To be sure, and he knows well where to look for a bit of good cookery,
you see.  All twins go out as cats at night if they go to sleep hungry;
and their own bodies lie at home like dead meanwhile, but no one must
touch them, or they would die.  When they grow up to ten or twelve they
leave it off.  Why your boy Achmet does it.  Oh Achmet! do you go out as
a cat at night?’  ‘No,’ said Achmet tranquilly, ‘I am not a twin—my
sister’s sons do.’  I inquired if people were not afraid of such cats.
‘No, there is no fear, they only eat a little of the cookery, but if you
beat them they will tell their parents next day, “So-and-so beat me in
his house last night,” and show their bruises.  No, they are not Afreets,
they are _beni Adam_ (sons of Adam), only twins do it, and if you give
them a sort of onion broth and camel’s milk the first thing when they are
born, they don’t do it at all.’  Omar professed never to have heard of
it, but I am sure he had, only he dreads being laughed at.  One of the
American missionaries told me something like it as belonging to the
Copts, but it is entirely Egyptian, and common to both religions.  I
asked several Copts who assured me it was true, and told it just the
same.  Is it a remnant of the doctrine of transmigration?  However the
notion fully accounts for the horror the people feel at the idea of
killing a cat.

A poor pilgrim from the black country was taken ill yesterday at a
village six miles from here, he could speak only a few words of Arabic
and begged to be carried to the Abab’deh.  So the Sheykh el-Beled put him
on a donkey and sent him and his little boy, and laid him in Sheykh
Hassan’s house.  He called for Hassan and begged him to take care of the
child, and to send him to an uncle somewhere in Cairo.  Hassan said, ‘Oh
you will get well Inshallah, etc., and take the boy with you.’  ‘I cannot
take him into the grave with me,’ said the black pilgrim.  Well in the
night he died and the boy went to Hassan’s mat and said, ‘Oh Hassan, my
father is dead.’  So the two Sheykhs and several men got up and went and
sat with the boy till dawn, because he refused to lie down or to leave
his father’s corpse.  At daybreak he said, ‘Take me now and sell me, and
buy new cloth to dress my father for the tomb.’  All the Abab’deh cried
when they heard it, and Hassan went and bought the cloth, and some sweet
stuff for the boy who remains with him.  Such is death on the road in
Egypt.  I tell it as Hassan’s slave told it to me, and somehow we all
cried again at the poor little boy rising from his dead father’s side to
say, ‘Come now sell me to dress my father for the tomb.’  These strange
black pilgrims always interest me.  Many take four years to Mecca and
home, and have children born to them on the road, and learn a few words
of Arabic.



December 5, 1866: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _December_ 5, 1866.

DEAREST JANET,

I write in answer to yours by the steamer, to go down by the same.  I
fancy I should be quite of your mind about Italy.  I hate the return of
Europe to

    ‘The good old rule and ancient plan,
    That he should take who has the power,
    And he should keep who can.’

Nor can I be bullied into looking on ‘might’ as ‘right.’  Many thanks for
the papers, I am anxious to hear about the Candia business.  All my
neighbours are sick at heart.  The black boy Palgrave left with me is a
very good lad, only he can’t keep his clothes clean, never having been
subject to that annoyance before.  He has begun to be affectionate ever
since I did not beat him for breaking my only looking-glass.  I wish an
absurd respect for public opinion did not compel him to wear a blue shirt
and a tarboosh (his suit), I see it is misery to him.  He is a very
gentle cannibal.

I have been very unwell indeed and still am extremely weak, but I hope I
am on the mend.  A eunuch here who is a holy man tells me he saw my boat
coming up heavily laden in his sleep, which indicates a ‘good let.’  I
hope my reverend friend is right.  If you sell any of your things when
you leave Egypt let me have some blankets for the boat; if she is let to
a friendly dragoman he will supply all deficiencies out of his own
canteen, but if to one ‘who knows not Joseph’ I fear many things will be
demanded by rightminded British travellers, which must be left to the
Reis’s discretion to buy for them.  I hope all the _fattahs_ said for the
success of the ‘Urania’s’ voyage will produce a due effect.  Here we rely
a good deal on the favour of Abu-l-Hajjaj in such matters.  The _naïveté_
with which people pray here for money is very amusing—though really I
don’t know why one shouldn’t ask for one’s daily sixpence as well as
one’s daily bread.

An idiot of a woman has written to me to get her a place as governess in
an ‘European or Arabian family in the neighbourhood of Thebes!’
Considering she has been six years in Egypt as she says, she must be well
fitted to teach.  She had better learn to make _gilleh_ and spin wool.
The young Americans whom Mr. Hale sent were very nice.  The Yankees are
always the best bred and best educated travellers that I see here.



December 31, 1886: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _December_ 31, 1886.

DEAREST ALICK,

I meant to have sent you a long yarn by a steamer which went the other
day, but I have been in my bed.  The weather set in colder than I ever
felt it here, and I have been very unwell for some time.  Dr. Osman
Ibraheem (a friend of mine, an elderly man who studied in Paris in
Mohammed Ali’s time) wants me to spend the summer up here and take sand
baths, _i.e._ bury myself up to the chin in the hot sand, and to get a
Dongola slave to rub me.  A most fascinating derweesh from Esneh gave me
the same advice; he wanted me to go and live near him at Esneh, and let
him treat me.  I wish you could see Sheykh Seleem, he is a sort of
remnant of the Memlook Beys—a Circassian—who has inherited his master’s
property up at Esneh, and married his master’s daughter.  The master was
one of the Beys, also a slave inheriting from his master.  Well after
being a terrible _Shaitan_ (devil) after drink, women, etc.  Seleem has
repented and become a man of pilgrimage and prayer and perpetual fasting;
but he has retained the exquisite grace and charm of manner which must
have made him irresistible in his _shaitan_ days, and also the
beautifully delicate style of dress—a dove-coloured cloth _sibbeh_ over a
pale blue silk _kuftan_, a turban like a snow-drift, under which flowed
the silky fair hair and beard, and the dainty white hands under the long
muslin shirt sleeve made a picture; and such a smile, and such ready
graceful talk.  Sheykh Yussuf brought him to me as a sort of doctor, and
also to try and convert me on one point.  Some Christians had made Yussuf
quite miserable, by telling him of the doctrine that all unbaptized
infants went to eternal fire; and as he knew that I had lost a child very
young, it weighed on his mind that perhaps I fretted about this, and so
he said he could not refrain from trying to convince me that God was not
so cruel and unjust as the Nazarene priests represented Him, and that all
infants whatsoever, as well as all ignorant persons, were to be saved.
‘Would that I could take the cruel error out of the minds of all the
hundreds and thousands of poor Christian mothers who must be tortured by
it,’ said he, ‘and let them understand that their dead babies are with
Him who sent and who took them.’  I own I did not resent this
interference with my orthodoxy, especially as it is the only one I ever
knew Yussuf attempt.

Dr. Osman is a lecturer in the Cairo school of medicine, a Shereef, and
eminently a gentleman.  He came up in the passenger steamer and called on
me and spent all his spare time with me.  I liked him better than the
bewitching derweesh Seleem; he is so like my old love Don Quixote.  He
was amazed and delighted at what he heard here about me.  ‘_Ah Madame, on
vous aime comme une sœur, et on vous respecte comme une reine; cela
rejouit le cœur des honnêtes gens de voir tous les préjugés oubliés et
détruits à ce point_.’  We had no end of talk.  Osman is the only Arab I
know who has read a good deal of European literature and history and is
able to draw comparisons.  He said, ‘_Vous seule dans toute l’Egypte
connaissez le peuple et comprenez ce qui se passe, tous les autres
Européens ne savent absolument rien que les dehors; il n’y a que vous qui
ayez inspiré la confiance qu’il faut pour connaître la vénté_.’  Of
course this is between ourselves, I tell you, but I don’t want to boast
of the kind thoughts people have of me, simply because I am decently
civil to them.

In Egypt we are eaten up with taxes; there is not a penny left to anyone.
The taxes for the whole year _eight months in advance_ have been levied,
as far as they can be beaten out of the miserable people.  I saw one of
the poor dancing girls the other day, (there are three in Luxor) and she
told me how cruel the new tax on them is.  It is left to the discretion
of the official who farms it to make each woman pay according to her
presumed gains, _i.e._ her good looks, and thus the poor women are
exposed to all the caprices and extortions of the police.  This last new
tax has excited more disgust than any.  ‘We now know the name of our
ruler,’ said a fellah who had just heard of it, ‘he is _Mawas_ Pasha.’  I
won’t translate—but it is a terrible epithet when uttered in a tone which
gives it the true meaning, though in a general way the commonest word of
abuse to a donkey, or a boy, or any other cattle.  The wages of
prostitution are unclean, and this tax renders all Government salaries
unlawful according to strict law.  The capitation tax too, which was
remitted for three years on the pasha’s accession to the people of Cairo,
Alexandria, Damietta and Rascheed, is now called for.  Omar will have to
pay about £8 back tax, which he had fondly imagined himself excused from.
You may conceive the distress this must cause among artisans, etc., who
have spent their money and forgotten it, and feel cheated out of the
blessings they then bestowed on the Pasha—as to that they will take out
the change in curses.

There was a meeting here the other day of the Kadee, Sheykh el-Beled, and
other notables to fix the amount of tax each man was to pay towards the
increased police tax; and the old Shereef at the end spoke up, and said
he had heard that one man had asked me to lend him money, and that he
hoped such a thing would not happen again.  Everyone knew I had had heavy
expenses this year, and most likely had not much money; that my heart was
soft, and that as everyone was in distress it would be ‘breaking my
head,’ and in short that he should think it unmanly if anyone tried to
trouble a lone woman with his troubles.  I did offer one man £2 that he
might not be forced to run away to the desert, but he refused it and
said, ‘I had better go at once and rob out there, and not turn rogue
towards thee—never could I repay it.’  The people are running away in all
directions.

When the Moolid of the Sheykh came the whole family Abu-l-Hajjaj could
only raise six hundred and twenty piastres among them to buy the buffalo
cow, which by custom—strong as the laws of the Medes and Persians—must be
killed for the strangers who come; and a buffalo cow is worth one
thousand piastres.  So the stout old Shereef (aged 87) took his staff and
the six hundred and twenty piastres, and sallied forth to walk to Erment
and see what God would send them; and a charitable woman in Erment did
give a buffalo cow for the six hundred and twenty piastres, and he drove
her home the twenty miles rejoicing.

There has been a burglary over at Gourneh, an unheard-of event.  Some men
broke into the house of the Coptic _gabit_ (tax-gatherer) and stole the
money-box containing about sixty purses—over £150.  The _gabit_ came to
me sick with the fright which gave him jaundice, and about eight men are
gone in chains to Keneh on suspicion.  Hajjee Baba too, a Turkish cawass,
is awfully bilious; he says he is ‘sick from beating men, and it’s no
use, you can’t coin money on their backs and feet when they haven’t a
para in the world.’  Altogether everyone is gloomy, and many desperate.
I never saw the aspect of a population so changed.

January 1, 1867.  God bless you, dearest Alick, and grant you many good
years more.  I must finish this to go to-morrow by the steamer.  I would
give a great deal to see you again, but when will that be?



January 12, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _January_ 12, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

Only two days ago I received letters from you of the 17 September and the
19 November.  I wonder how many get lost and where?  Janet gives me hopes
of a visit of a few days in March and promises me a little terrier dog,
whereat Omar is in raptures.  I have made no plans at all, never having
felt well enough to hope to be able to travel.  The weather has changed
for the better, and it is not at all old now; we shall see what the
warmth does for me.  You make my bowels yearn with your account of
Rainie.  If only we had Prince Achmet’s carpet, and you could all come
here for a few months.

We were greatly excited here last week; a boy was shot out in the
sugar-cane field: he was with four Copts, and at first it looked ugly for
the Copts.  But the Maōhn tells me he is convinced they are innocent, and
that they only prevaricated from fear—it was robbers shot the poor child.
What struck and surprised me in the affair was the excessive horror and
consternation it produced; the Maōhn had not had a murder in his district
at all in eight years.  The market-place was thronged with wailing women,
Omar was sick all day, and the Maōhn pale and wretched.  The horror of
killing seems greater here than ever I saw it.  Palgrave says the same of
the Arabian Arabs in his book: it is not one’s notion of Oriental
feeling, but a murder in England is taken quite as a joke compared with
the scene here.  I fear there will be robberies, owing to the distress,
and the numbers who are running away from the land unable to pay their
taxes.  Don’t fear for me, for I have two watchmen in the house every
night—the regular guard and an amateur, a man whose boy I took down to
Cairo to study in Gama’l Azhar.

Palgrave has written to Ross wanting Mabrook back.  I am very sorry, the
more so as Mabrook is recalcitrant.  ‘I want to stay with thee, I don’t
want to go back to the Nazarene.’  A boy who heard him said, ‘but the
Lady is a Nazarene too;’ whereupon Mabrook slapped his face with great
vigour.  He will be troublesome if he does turn restive, and he is one
who can only be managed by kindness.  He is as good and quiet as possible
with us, but the stubborn will is there and he is too ignorant to be
reasoned with.

_January_ 14.—To-day the four Copts have again changed their story, and
after swearing that the robbers were strangers, have accused a man who
has shot birds for me all this winter: and the poor devil is gone to
Keneh in chains.  The weather seems to have set in steadily for fine.  I
hope soon to get out, but my donkey has grown old and shaky and I am too
weak to walk, so I sit in the balcony.



January 14, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _January_ 14, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

We have had a very cold winter and I have been constantly ailing, luckily
the cough has transferred itself from the night to the day, and I get
some good sleep.  The last two days have been much warmer and I hope
matters will mend.  I am beginning to take cod-liver oil, as we can’t
find a milch camel anywhere.

My boat has been well let in Cairo and is expected here every day.  The
gentlemen shoot, and tell the crew not to row, and in short take it easy,
and give them £2 in every place.  Imagine what luxury for my crew.  I
shall have to dismiss the lot, they will be so spoilt.  The English
Consul-General came up in a steamer with Dr. Patterson and Mr. Francis.
I dined with them one day; I wish you could have seen me carried in my
armchair high up on the shoulders of four men, like a successful
candidate, or more like one of the Pharaohs in an ancient bas-relief,
preceded by torch bearers and other attendants and followers, my
procession was quite regal.  I wish I could show you a new friend of
mine, Osman Ibraheem, who studied medicine five years in Paris.  My heart
warmed to him directly, because like most high-bred Arabs, he is so like
Don Quixote—only Don Quixote quite in his senses.  The sort of innocent
sententiousness, and perfectly natural love of fine language and fine
sentiments is unattainable to any European, except, I suppose, a
Spaniard.  It is quite unlike Italian fustian or French _sentiment_.  I
suppose to most Europeans it is ridiculous, but I used to cry when the
carriers beat the most noble of all knights, when I was a little girl and
read Don Quixote; and now I felt as it were like Sancho, when I listened
to Osman reciting bits of heroic poetry, or uttering ‘wise saws’ and
‘modern instances,’ with the peculiar mixture of strong sense of
‘exultation’ which stamps the great Don.  I may not repeat all I heard
from him of the state of things here, and the insults he had to endure—a
Shereef and an educated man—from coarse Turkish Pashas; it was the
carriers over again.  He told me he had often cried like a woman, at
night in his own room, at the miseries he was forced to witness and could
do nothing to relieve; all the men I have particularly liked I find are
more or less pupils of the Sheykh el-Bagooree now dead, who seems to have
had a gift of inspiring honourable feeling.  Our good Maōhn is one; he is
no conjuror, but the honesty and goodness are heroic which lead a man to
starve on £15 a month, when he is expected to grow rich on plunder.

The war in Crete saddens many a household here.  Sheykh Yussuf’s brother,
Sheykh Yooris, is serving there, and many more.  People are actually
beginning to say ‘We hope the English and French won’t fight for the
Sultan if the Moscovites want to eat him—there will be no good for us
till the Turks are driven out.’  All the old religious devotion to the
Sultan seems quite gone.

Poor Mustapha has been very unwell and I stopped his Ramadan, gave him
some physic and ordered him not to fast, for which I think he is rather
grateful.  The Imaam and Mufti always endorse my prohibitions of fasting
to my patients.  Old Ismaeen is dead, aged over a hundred; he served
Belzoni, and when he grew doting was always wanting me to go with him to
join Belzoni at Abu Simbel.  He was not at all ill—he only went out like
a candle.  His grandson brought me a bit of the meat cooked at his
funeral, and begged me to eat it, that I might live to be very old,
according to the superstition here.  When they killed the buffalo for the
Sheykh Abu-l-Hajjaj, the man who had a right to the feet kindly gave them
to Omar, who wanted to make calves’ foot jelly for me.  I had a sort of
profane feeling, as if I were eating a descendant of the bull Apis.

I am reading Mme. du Deffand’s letters.  What a repulsive picture of a
woman.  I don’t know which I dislike most, Horace Walpole or herself: the
conflict of selfishness, vanity and _ennui_ disguised as sentiment is
quite hateful: to her Turgot was _un sot animal_,—so much for her great
gifts.

Remember me kindly to William and tell him how much I wish I could see
his ‘improvements,’ Omar also desires his salaam to him, having a sort of
fellow feeling for your faithful henchman.  I need not say he kisses your
hand most dutifully.



January 22, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _January_ 22, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

The weather has been lovely, for the last week, and I am therefore
somewhat better.  My boat arrived to-day, with all the men in high
good-humour, and Omar tells me all is in good order, only the people in
Cairo gave her the evil eye, and broke the iron part of the rudder which
had to be repaired at Benisouef.  Mr. Lear has been here the last few
days, and is just going up to the second cataract; he has done a little
drawing of my house for you—a new view of it.  He is a pleasant man and I
was glad to see him.

[Picture: Lady Duff Gordon, from oil portrait by Henry W. Phillips, about
                                  1851]

Such a queer fellow came here the other day—a tall stalwart Holsteiner, I
should think a man of fifty, who has been four years up in the Soudan and
Sennaar, and being penniless, had walked all through Nubia begging his
way.  He was not the least ‘down upon his luck’ and spoke with enthusiasm
of the hospitality and kindness of Sir Samuel Baker’s ‘tigers.’  _Ja, das
sind die rechten Kerls, dass ist das glückliche Leben_.  His account is
that if you go with an armed party, the blacks naturally show fight, as
men with guns, in their eyes, are always slave hunters; but if you go
alone and poor, they kill an ox for you, unless you prefer a sheep, give
you a hut, and generally anything they have to offer, _merissey_ (beer)
to make you as drunk as a lord, and young ladies to pour it out for
you—and—you need not wear any clothes.  If you had heard him you would
have started for the interior at once.  I gave him a dinner and a bottle
of common wine, which he emptied, and a few shillings, and away he
trudged merrily towards Cairo.  I wonder what the Nubians thought of a
_howagah_ begging.  He said they were all kind, and that he was sure he
often ate what they pinched themselves to give—dourrah bread and dates.

In the evening we were talking about this man’s stories, and of
‘anthropophagi and men whose heads do grow’ to a prodigious height, by
means of an edifice woven of their own hair, and other queer things, when
Hassan told me a story which pleased me particularly.  ‘My father,’ said
he, ‘Sheykh Mohammed (who was a taller and handsomer man than I am), was
once travelling very far up in the black country, and he and the men he
was with had very little to eat, and had killed nothing for many days;
presently they heard a sort of wailing from a hole in the rock, and some
of the men went in and dragged out a creature—I know not, and my father
knew not, whether a child of Adam or a beast.  But it was like a very
foul and ill-shaped woman, and had six toes on its feet.  The men wished
to slay it, according to the law declaring it to be a beast and lawful
food, but when it saw the knife, it cried sadly and covered its face with
its hands in terror, and my father said, ‘By the Most High God, ye shall
not slay the poor woman-beast which thus begs its life; I tell you it is
unlawful to eat one so like the children of Adam.’  And the beast or
woman clung to him and hid under his cloak; and my father carried her for
some time behind him on his horse, until they saw some creatures like
her, and then he sent her to them, but he had to drive her from him by
force, for she clung to him.  Thinkest thou oh Lady, it was really a
beast, or some sort of the children of Adam?’

‘God knows, and He only,’ said I piously, ‘but by His indulgent name, thy
father, oh Sheykh, was a true nobleman.’  Sheykh Yussuf chimed in and
gave a decided opinion that a creature able to understand the sight of
the knife and to act so, was not lawful to kill for food.  You see what a
real Arab Don Quixote was.  It is a picture worthy of him,—the tall,
noble-looking Abab’deh sheltering the poor ‘woman-beast,’ most likely a
gorilla or chimpanzee, and carrying her _en croupe_.



January 26, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                                                         _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _January_ 26, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I must betray dear Sheykh Yussuf’s confidence, and tell you his love
story.

A young fellow ran away with a girl he loved a short time ago, she having
told him that her parents wanted to marry her to another, and that she
would go to such a spot for water, and he must come on a horse, beat her
and carry her off (the beating saves the maiden’s blushes).  Well, the
lad did it, and carried her to Salamieh where they were married, and then
they went to Sheykh Yussuf to get him to conciliate the family, which he
did.  He told me the affair, and I saw he sympathized much with the
runaways.  ‘Ah,’ he said ‘Lady, it is love, and that is terrible, I can
tell thee love is dreadful indeed to bear.’  Then he hesitated and
blushed, and went on, ‘I felt it once, Lady, it was the will of God that
I should love her who is now my wife.  Thirteen years ago I loved her and
wished to marry her, but my father, and her grandfather my uncle the
Shereef, had quarrelled, and they took her and married her to another
man.  I never told anyone of it, but my liver was burning and my heart
ready to burst for three years; but when I met her I fixed my eyes on the
ground for fear she should see my love, and I said to myself, Oh Yussuf,
God has afflicted thee, praise be unto Him, do thou remember thy blood
(Shereef) and let thy conduct be that of the Beni Azra who when they are
thus afflicted die rather than sin, for they have the strongest passion
of love and the greatest honour.  And I did not die but went to Cairo to
the Gama el-Azhar and studied, and afterwards I married twice, as thou
knowest, but I never loved any but that one, and when my last wife died
the husband of this one had just divorced her to take a younger and
prettier one and my father desired me then to take her, but I was half
afraid not knowing whether she would love me; but, Praise be to God I
consented, and behold, poor thing, she also had loved me in like manner.’
I thought when I went to see her that she was unusually radiant with
new-married happiness, and she talked of ‘el-Sheykh’ with singular pride
and delight, and embraced me and called me ‘mother’ most affectionately.
Is it not a pretty piece of regular Arab romance like Ghamem?

My boat has gone up to-day with two very nice Englishmen in her.  Their
young Maltese dragoman, aged twenty-four, told me his father often talked
of ‘the Commissioners’ and all they had done, and how things were changed
in the island for the better.  (1) Everything spiritual and temporal has
been done for the boat’s safety in the Cataract—urgent letters to the
Maōhn el Baudar, and him of Assouan to see to the men, and plenty of
prayers and vows to Abu-l-Hajjaj on behalf of the ‘property of the Lady,’
or _kurzweg_ ‘our boat’ as she is commonly called in Luxor.

Here we have the other side of the misery of the Candian business; in
Europe, of course, the obvious thing is the sufferings of the Cretans,
but really I am more sorry for the poor fellah lads who are dragged away
to fight in a quarrel they had no hand in raising, and with which they
have no sympathy.  The _Times_ suggests that the Sultan should relinquish
the island, and that has been said in many an Egyptian hut long before.
The Sultan is worn out, and the Muslims here know it, and say it would be
the best day for the Arabs if he were driven out; that after all a Turk
never was the true _Ameer el-Moomeneen_ (Commander of the Faithful).
Only in Europe people talk and write as if it were all Muslim _versus_
Christian, and the Christians were all oppressed, and the Muslims all
oppressors.  I wish they could see the domineering of the Greeks and
Maltese as Christians.  The Englishman domineers as a free man and a
Briton, which is different, and that is the reason why the Arabs wish for
English rule, and would dread that of Eastern Christians.  Well they may;
for if ever the Greeks do reign in Stamboul the sufferings of the Muslims
will satisfy the most eager fanatic that ever cursed Mahound.  I know
nothing of Turkey, but I have seen and heard enough to know that there
are plenty of other divisions besides that of Christian and Muslim.  Here
in Egypt it is clear enough: it is Arab _versus_ Turk and the Copt siding
with the stronger for his interest, while he rather sympathizes with his
brother fellah.  At all events the Copt don’t want other Christians to
get power; he would far rather have a Muslim than a heretic ruler, above
all the hated Greek.  The Englishman he looks on as a variety of Muslim—a
man who washes, has no pictures in his church, who has married bishops,
and above all, who does not fast from all that has life for half the
year, and this heresy is so extreme as not to give offence, unless he
tries to convert.

The Pasha’s sons have just been up the river: they ordered a reading of
the Koran at the tomb of Abu-l-Hajjaj and gave every Alim sixpence.  We
have not left off chaffing (as Maurice would say) Sheykh Allah-ud-deen,
the Muezzin, and sundry others on this superb backsheesh, and one old
Fikee never knows whether to laugh, to cry, or to scold, when I ask to
see the shawl and tarboosh he has bought with the presents of Pashas.
Yussuf and the Kadee too had been called on to contribute baskets of
bread to the steamer so that their sixpences were particularly absurd.

The little boy whose father died is still with the Abab’deh, who will not
let him travel to Cairo till the weather is warmer and they find a safe
person to be kind to him.  Rachmeh says ‘Please God, he will go with the
Sitt, perhaps.’  Hassan has consoled him with sugar-cane and indulgence,
and if I lose Mabrook, and the little boy takes to me, he may fall into
my hands as Achmet has done.  I hear he is a good boy but a perfect
savage; that however, I find makes no difference—in fact, I think they
learn faster than those who have ways of their own.  So I see Terence was
a nigger!  I would tell Rachmeh so if I could make him understand who
Terence was, and that he, Rachmeh, stood in need of any encouragement,
but the worthy fellow never imagines that his skin is in any way inferior
to mine.



February 3, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                       _February_ 3, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

The boat goes down to-morrow and I have little to add to Mutter’s letter,
only that I am better.

There is a man here from Girgeh, who says he is married to a Ginneeyeh
(fairy) princess.  I have asked to be presented to her, but I suspect
there will be some hitch about it.  It will be like Alexis’s _Allez,
Madame, vous êtes trop incrédule_. {334}  The unintelligible thing is the
motive which prompts wonders and miracles here, seeing that the wonder
workers do not get any money by it; and indeed, very often give, like the
Indian saint I told you of who gave me four dollars.  His miracles were
all gratis, which was the most miraculous thing of all in a saint.  I am
promised that the Ginneeyeh shall come through the wall.  If she should
do so I shall be compelled to believe in her, as there are no mechanical
contrivances in Luxor.  All the Hareem here believe it, and the man’s
human wife swears she waits on her like a slave, and backs her husband’s
lie or delusion fully.  I have not seen the man, but I should not wonder
if it were a delusion—real _bona fide_ visions and revelations are so
common, and I think there is but little downright imposture.  Meanwhile
familiarity breeds contempt.  Jinns, Afreets and Shaitans inspire far
less respect than the stupidest ghost at home, and the devil (Iblees) is
reduced to deplorable insignificance.  He is never mentioned in the
pulpit, or in religious conversation, with the respect he enjoys in
Christian countries.  I suppose we may console ourselves with the hope
that he will pay off the Muslims for their neglect of him hereafter.

I cannot describe to you the misery here now, indeed it is wearisome even
to think of: every day some new tax.  Now every beast; camel, cow, sheep,
donkey, horse, is made to pay.  The fellaheen can no longer eat bread,
they are living on barley meal, mixed with water and new green stuff,
vetches etc., which to people used to good food is terrible, and I see
all my acquaintances growing seedy and ragged and anxious.  Yussuf is
clear of debt, his religion having kept him from borrowing, but he wants
to sell his little slave girl, and has sold his donkey, and he is the
best off.  The taxation makes life almost impossible—100 piastres per
feddan, a tax on every crop, on every annual fruit, and again when it is
sold in the market; on every man, on charcoal, on butter, on salt, on the
dancing girls.  I wonder I am not tormented for money—not above three
people have tried to beg or borrow.

Thanks for the Westminster epilogue; it always amuses me much.  So
Terence was a nigger.  There is no trace of the negro ‘boy’ in his Davus.
My nigger has grown huge, and has developed a voice of thunder.  He is of
the elephantine rather than the tiger species, a very mild young savage.
I shall be sorry when Palgrave takes him.  I am tempted to buy Yussuf’s
nice little Dinka girl to replace him, only a girl is such an
impossibility where there is no regular hareem.  In the boat Achmet is
enough under Omar; but in this large dusty house, and with errands to
run, and comers and goers to look after, pipes and coffee and the like,
it takes two boys to be comfortable.  Mabrook too washes very well.  It
is surprising how fast the boys learn, and how well they do their work.
Achmet, who is quite little, would be a perfectly sufficient servant for
a man alone; he can cook, wash, clean the rooms, make the beds, do all
the table service, knife and plate cleaning, all fairly well, and I
believe now he would get along even without Omar’s orders.  Mabrook is
slower, but he has the same merit our poor Hassan had, {336} he never
forgets what he has been once told to do, and he is clean in his work,
though hopelessly dirty as to his clothes.  He cannot get used to them,
and takes a roll in the dust, or leans against a dirty wall, oblivious of
his clean-washed blue shirt.  Achmet is quicker and more careless, but
they both are good boys and very fond of Omar.  ‘Uncle Omar’ is the form
of address, though he scolds them pretty severely if they misbehave; and
I observe that the high jinks take place chiefly when only I am in the
way, and Omar gone to market or to the mosque.  The little rogues have
found out that their laughing does not ‘affect my nerves,’ and I am often
treated to a share in the joke.  How I wish Rainie could see the
children: they would amuse her.  Yussuf’s girl, ‘Meer en Nezzil,’ is a
charming child, and very clever; her emphatic way of explaining
everything to me, and her gestures, would delight you.  Her cousin and
future husband, age five (she is six), broke the doll which I had given
her, and her description of it was most dramatic, ending with a wheedling
glance at the cupboard and ‘of course there are no more dolls there; oh
no, no more.’  She is a fine little creature, far more Arab than fellaha;
quite a _Shaitan_, her father says.  She came in full of making cakes for
Bairam, and offered her services; ‘Oh my aunt, if thou wantest anything I
can work,’ said she, tucking up her sleeves.



March 6, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                          _March_ 6, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

The warm weather has set in, and I am already as much the better for it
as usual.  I had a slight attack, not nearly so bad as that at Soden, but
it lingered and I kept my bed as a measure of precaution.  Dear Yussuf
was with me the evening I was attacked, and sat up all night to give me
my medicine every hour.  At the prayer of dawn, an hour and a half before
sunrise, I heard his supplications for my life and health, and for you
and all my family; and I thought of what I had lately read, how the
Greeks massacred their own patriots because the Turks had shown them
mercy—a display of temper which I hope will enlighten Western Christendom
as to what the Muslims have to expect, if they (the Western Christians)
help the Eastern Christians to get the upper hand.  Yussuf was asking
about a lady the other day who has turned Catholic.  ‘Poor thing,’ said
he, ‘the priests have drawn out her brains through her ears, no doubt:
but never fear, her heart is good and her charity is great, and God will
not deal hardly with those who serve Him with their hearts, though it is
sad she should bow down before images.  But look at thy slave Mabrook,
can he understand one hundredth part of the thoughts of thy mind?
Never-the-less he loves thee, and obeys thee with pleasure and alacrity;
and wilt thou punish him because he knows not all thy ways?  And shall
God, who is so much higher above us as thou art above thy slave, be less
just than thou?’  I pinned him at once, and insisted on knowing the
orthodox belief; but he quoted the Koran and the decisions of the Ulema
to show that he stretched no point as far as Jews and Christians are
concerned, and even that idolaters are not to be condemned by man.
Yussuf wants me to write a short account of the faith from his dictation.
Would anyone publish it?  It annoys him terribly to hear the Muslims
constantly accused of intolerance, and he is right—it is not true.  They
show their conviction that their faith is the best in the world with the
same sort of naïveté that I have seen in very innocent and ignorant
English women; in fact, display a sort of religious conceit; but it is
not often bitter or _haineux_, however much they are in earnest.

I am going to write to Palgrave and ask him to let me send another boy or
the money for Mabrook, who can’t endure the notion of leaving me.
Achmet, who was always hankering after the fleshpots of Alexandria, got
some people belonging to the boats to promise to take him, and came home
and picked a quarrel and departed.  Poor little chap; the Sheykh el-Beled
‘put a spoke in his wheel’ by informing him he would be wanted for the
Pasha’s works and must stay in his own place.  Since he went Mabrook has
come out wonderfully and does his own work and Achmet’s with the greatest
satisfaction.  He tells me he likes it best so; he likes to be quiet.  He
just suits me and I him, it is humiliating to find how much more I am to
the taste of savages than of the ‘polite circles.’

The old lady of the Maōhn proposed to come to me, but I would not let her
leave her home, which would be quite an adventure to her.  I knew she
would be exclamatory, and lament over me, and say every minute, ‘Oh my
liver.  Oh my eyes!  The name of God be upon thee, and never mind!
to-morrow please God, thou wilt be quite well,’ and so forth.  People
send me such odd dishes, some very good.  Yussuf’s wife packed two
calves’ feet tight in a little black earthern pan, with a seasoning of
herbs, and baked it in the bread oven, and the result was excellent.
Also she made me a sort of small macaroni, extremely good.  Now too we
can get milk again, and Omar makes _kishta_, alias clotted cream.

Do send me a good edition of the ‘Arabian Nights’ in Arabic, and I should
much like to give Yussuf Lane’s Arabic dictionary.  He is very anxious to
have it.  I can’t read the ‘Arabian Nights,’ but it is a favourite
amusement to make one of the party read aloud; a stray copy of ‘Kamar
ez-Zeman and Sitt Boodoora’ went all round Luxor, and was much coveted
for the village _soirées_.  But its owner departed, and left us to mourn
over the loss of his MSS.

I must tell you a black standard of respectability (it is quite equal to
the English one of the gig, or the ham for breakfast).  I was taking
counsel with my friend Rachmeh, a negro, about Mabrook, and he urged me
to buy him of Palgrave, because he saw that the lad really loved me.
‘Moreover,’ he said, ‘the boy is of a respectable family, for he told me
his mother wore a cow’s tail down to her heels (that and a girdle to
which the tail is fastened, and a tiny leathern apron in front,
constituted her whole wardrobe), and that she beat him well when he told
lies or stole his neighbours eggs.’  Poor woman; I wish this abominable
slave trade had spared her and her boy.  What folly it is to stop the
Circassian slave trade, if it is stopped, and to leave this.  The
Circassians take their own children to market, as a way of providing for
them handsomely, and both boys and girls like being sold to the rich
Turks; but the blacks and Abyssinians fight hard for their own liberty
and that of their cubs.  Mabrook swears that there were two Europeans in
the party which attacked his village and killed he knew not how many, and
carried him and others off.  He was not stolen by Arabs, or by Barrabias,
like Hassan, but taken in war from his home by the seaside, a place
called Bookee, and carried in a ship to Jedda, and thence back to Koseir
and Keneh, where Palgrave bought him.  I must say that once here the
slaves are happy and well off, but the waste of life and the misery
caused by the trade must be immense.  The slaves are coming down the
river by hundreds every week, and are very cheap—twelve to twenty pounds
for a fine boy, and nine pounds and upwards for a girl.  I heard that the
last _gellab_ offered a woman and baby for anything anyone would give for
them, on account of the trouble of the baby.  By-the-bye, Mabrook
displays the negro talent for babies.  Now that Achmet is gone, who
scolded them and drove them out, Mohammed’s children, quite babies, are
for ever trotting after ‘Maboo,’ as they pronounce his name, and he talks
incessantly to them.  It reminds me so of Janet and poor Hassan, but
Mabrook is not like Hassan, he is one of the sons of Anak, and already as
big and strong as a man, with the most prodigious chest and limbs.

Don’t be at all uneasy about me as to care.  Omar knows exactly what to
do as he showed the other day when I was taken ill.  I had shown him the
medicines and given him instructions so I had not even to speak, and if I
were to be ill enough to want more help, Yussuf would always sit up
alternate nights; but it is not necessary.  Arabs make no grievance about
broken rest; they don’t ‘go to bed properly,’ but lie down half dressed,
and have a happy faculty of sleeping at odd times and anyhow, which
enables them to wait on one day and night, without distressing themselves
as it distresses us.

_Thursday_.—A telegram has just come announcing that Janet will leave
Cairo to-morrow in a steamer, and therefore be here, Inshallah, this day
week.  I enclose a note from a Copt boy, which will amuse you.  He is
‘sapping’ at English, and I teach him whenever I am able.  I am a special
favourite with all the young lads; they must not talk much before grown
men, so they come and sit on the floor round my feet, and ask questions
and advice, and enjoy themselves amazingly.  Hobble-de-hoy-hood is very
different here from what it is with us; they care earlier for the affairs
of the grown-up world, and are more curious and more polished, but lack
the fine animal gaiety of our boys.  The girls are much more _gamin_ than
the boys, and more romping and joyous.

It is very warm now.  I fear Janet will sigh terribly over the heat.
They have left their voyage too late for such as do not love the Shems
el-Kebeer (the big sun), which has just begun.  I who worship Ammun Ra,
love to feel him in his glory.  It is long since I had any letters, I
want so to hear how you all are.



March 7, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                          _March_ 7, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have written a long yarn to Mutter and am rather tired, so I only write
to say I am much better.  The heat has set in, and, of course with it my
health has mended, but I am a little shaky and afraid to tire myself.
Moreover I want to nurse up and be stronger by next Thursday when Janet
and Ross are expected.

What a queer old fish your Dublin antiquary is, who wants to whitewash
Miss Rhampsinitus, and to identify her with the beloved of Solomon (or
Saleem); my brain spun round as I read it.  Must I answer him, or will
you?  A dragoman gave me an old broken travelling arm-chair, and Yussuf
sat in an arm-chair for the first time in his life.  ‘May the soul of the
man who made it find a seat in Paradise,’ was his exclamation, which
strikes me as singularly appropriate on sitting in a very comfortable
armchair.  Yussuf was thankful for small mercies in this case.

I am afraid Janet may be bored by all the people’s civility; they will
insist on making great dinners and fantasias for her I am sure.  I hope
they will go on to Assouan and take me with them; the change will do me
good, and I should like to see as much of her as I can before she leaves
Egypt for good.

The state of business here is curious.  The last regulations have stopped
all money lending, and the prisons are full of Sheykh el-Beled whose
villages can’t pay the taxes.  Most respectable men have offered me to go
partners with them now in their wheat, which will be cut in six weeks, if
only I would pay their present taxes, I to take half the crop and half
the taxes, with interest out of their half—some such trifle as 30 per
cent, per month.  Our prison is full of men, and we send them their
dinner _à tour de rôle_.  The other day a woman went with a big wooden
bowl on her head, full of what she had cooked for them, accompanied by
her husband.  One Khaleel Effendi, a new vakeel here, was there, and
said, ‘What dost thou ask here thou harlot?’  Her husband answered, ‘That
is no harlot, oh Effendim, but my wife.’  Whereupon he was beaten till he
fainted, and then there was a lamentation; they carried him down past my
house, with a crowd of women all shrieking like mad creatures, especially
his wife, who yelled and beat her head and threw dust over it, _more
majorum_, as you see in the tombs.  The humours of tax-gathering in this
country are quite _impayable_ you perceive—and ought to be set forth on
the escutcheon of the new Knight of the Bath whom the Queen hath
delighted to honour.  Cawass battant, Fellah rampant, and Fellaha
pleurant would be the proper blazon.  Distress in England is terrible,
but, at least, it is not the result of extortion, as it is here, where
everything from nature is so abundant and glorious, and yet mankind so
miserable.  It is not a little hunger, it is the cruel oppression which
maddens the people now.  They never complained before, but now whole
villages are deserted.  The boat goes to-morrow morning so I must say
goodbye.



April 12, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _April_ 12, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have just received your letters, including the one for Omar which I
read to him, and which he kissed and said he should keep as a _hegab_
(talisman).  I have given him an order on Coutts’ correspondents for the
money, in case I die.  Omar proposes to wait till we get to Cairo and
then to buy a little house, or a floor in one.  I am to keep all the
money till the house is found, so he will in no way be tempted to do
anything foolish with it.  I hope you approve?

Janet’s visit was quite an _Eed_ (festival), as the people said.  When I
got up on the morning she was expected, I found the house decked with
palm branches and lemon blossoms, and the holy flags of Abu-l-Hajjaj
waving over my balcony.  The mosque people had brought them, saying all
the people were happy to-day, because it was a fortunate day for me.  I
suppose if I had had a mind to _testify_, I ought to have indignantly
torn down the banners which bore the declaration, ‘There is no God but
God, and Mohammed is His Prophet.’  But it appeared to me that if Imaams
and Muezzins could send their banners to decorate a Christian house, the
Christian might manage to endure the kindness.  Then there was fantasia
on horseback, and all the notables to meet the boat, and general welcome
and jubilation.  Next day I went on with Henry and Janet in the steamer,
and had a very pleasant time to Assouan and back, and they stayed another
day here, and I hired a little dahabieh which they towed down to Keneh
where they stayed a day; after which Sheykh Yussuf and I sailed back
again to Luxor.  As bad luck would have it we had hot weather just the
week they were up here: since then it has been quite cool.

Janet has left me her little black and tan terrier, a very nice little
dog, but I can’t hope to rival Omar in his affections.  He sleeps in
Omar’s bosom, and Omar spoils and pets him all day, and boasts to the
people how the dog drinks tea and coffee and eats dainty food, and the
people say Mashallah! whereas I should have expected them to curse the
dog’s father.  The other day a scrupulous person drew back with an air of
alarm from Bob’s approach, whereupon the dog stared at him, and forthwith
plunged into Sheykh Yussuf’s lap, from which stronghold he ‘yapped’
defiance at whoever should object to him.  I never laughed more heartily,
and Yussuf went into _fou rire_.  The mouth of the dog only is unclean,
and Yussuf declares he is a very well-educated dog, and does not attempt
to lick; he pets him accordingly, and gives him tea in his own saucer,
only _not_ in the cup.

I am to inherit another little blackie from Ross’s agency at Keneh: the
funniest little chap.  I cannot think why I go on expecting so-called
savages to be different from other people.  Mabrook’s simple talk about
his village, and the animals and the victuals; and how the men of a
neighbouring village stole him in order to sell him for a gun (the price
of a gun is a boy), but were prevented by a razzia of Turks, etc. who
killed the first aggressors and took all the children—all this he tells
just as an English boy might tell of bird-nesting—delights me.  He has
the same general notion of right and wrong; and yet his tribe know
neither bread nor any sort of clothes, nor cheese nor butter, nor even
drink milk, nor the African beer; and it always rains there, and is
always deadly cold at night, so that without a fire they would die.  They
have two products of civilization—guns and tobacco, for which they pay in
boys and girls, whom they steal.  I wonder where the country is, it is
called Sowaghli, and the next people are Mueseh, on the sea-coast, and it
is not so hot as Egypt.  It must be in the southern hemisphere.  The new
_négrillon_ is from Darfoor.  Won’t Maurice be amused by his attendants,
the Darfoor boy will trot after him, as he can shoot and clean guns, tiny
as he is Maurice seems to wish to come and I hope Alexander will let him
spend the winter here, and I will take him up to the second Cataract; I
really think he would enjoy it.

My boat will not return I think for another six weeks.  Mr. Eaton and Mr.
Baird were such nice people! their dragoman, a Maltese, appeared to hate
the Italians with ferocity.  He said all decent people in Malta would ten
times rather belong to the Mahommedans than to the Italians—after all
blood tells.  He was a very respectable young man, and being a dragoman
and the son of a dragoman, he has seen the world, and particularly the
Muslims.  I suppose it is the Pope that makes the Italians so hateful to
them.

The post here is dreadful, I would not mind their reading one’s letters
if they would only send them on.  Omar begs we to say that he and his
children will pray for you all his life, please God, not for the money
only but still more for the good words and the trusting him.  But he
says, ‘I can’t say much _politikeh_, Please God she shall see, only I
kiss her hand now.’  You will hear from Janet about her excursion.  What
I liked best was shooting the Cataract in a small boat; it was fine
fantasia.



April 19, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                         _April_ 19, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have been much amused lately by a new acquaintance, who, in romances of
the last century, would be called an ‘Arabian sage.’  Sheykh Abdurrachman
lives in a village half a day’s journey off, and came over to visit me
and to doctor me according to the science of Galen and Avicenna.  Fancy a
tall, thin, graceful man, with a grey beard and liquid eyes, absorbed in
studies of the obsolete kind, a doctor of theology, law, medicine and
astronomy.  We spent three days in arguing and questioning; I consented
to swallow a potion or two which he made up before me, of very innocent
materials.  My friend is neither a quack nor superstitious, and two
hundred years ago would have been a better physician than most in Europe.
Indeed I would rather swallow his physic now than that of many a M.D.  I
found him like all the learned theologians I have known, extremely
liberal and tolerant.  You can conceive nothing more interesting and
curious than the conversation of a man learned and intelligent, and
utterly ignorant of all our modern Western science.  If I was pleased
with him, he was enchanted with me, and swore by God that I was a Mufti
indeed, and that a man could nowhere spend time so delightfully as in
conversation with me.  He said he had been acquainted with two or three
Englishmen who had pleased him much, but that if all Englishwomen were
like me the power must necessarily be in our hands, for that my _akl_
(brain, intellect) was far above that of the men he had known.  He
objected to our medicine that it seemed to consist in palliatives, which
he rather scorned, and aimed always at a radical cure.  I told him that
if he had studied anatomy he would know that radical cures were difficult
of performance, and he ended by lamenting his ignorance of English or
some European language, and that he had not learned our _Ilm_ (science)
also.  Then we plunged into sympathies, mystic numbers, and the occult
virtues of stones, etc., and I swallowed my mixture (consisting of
liquorice, cummin and soda) just as the sun entered a particular house,
and the moon was in some favourable aspect.  He praised to me his friend,
a learned Jew of Cairo.  I could have fancied myself listening to Abu
Suleyman of Cordova, in the days when we were the barbarians and the
Arabs were the learned race.  There is something very winning in the
gentle, dignified manners of all the men of learning I have seen here,
and their homely dress and habits make it still more striking.  I longed
to photograph my Sheykh as he sat on the divan pulling MSS. out of his
bosom to read me the words of _El-Hakeem Lokman_, or to overwhelm me with
the authority of some physician whose very name I had never heard.

The hand of the Government is awfully heavy upon us.  All this week the
people have been working night and day cutting their unripe corn, because
three hundred and ten men are to go to-morrow to work on the railroad
below Siout.  This green corn is, of course, valueless to sell and
unwholesome to eat; so the magnificent harvest of this year is turned to
bitterness at the last moment.  From a neighbouring village all the men
are gone, and seven more are wanted to make up the _corvée_.  The
population of Luxor is 1,000 males of all ages, so you can guess how many
strong men are left after three hundred and ten are taken.

I don’t like to think too much about seeing you and Maurice next winter
for fear I should be disappointed.  If I am too sick and wretched I can
hardly wish you to come because I know what a nuisance it is to be with
one always coughing and panting, and unable to do like other people.  But
if I pick up tolerably this summer I shall indeed be glad to see you and
him once more.

This house is falling sadly to decay, which produces snakes and
scorpions.  I sent for the _hawee_ (snake-catcher) who caught a snake,
but who can’t conjure the scorpions out of their holes.  One of my fat
turkeys has just fallen a victim, and I am in constant fear for little
Bob, only he is always in Omar’s arms.  I think I described to you the
festival of Sheykh Gibrieel: the dinner, and the poets who improvised;
this year I had a fine piece of declamation in my honour.  A real
calamity is the loss of our good Maōhn, Seleem Effendi.  The Mudir hailed
him from his steamer to go to Keneh directly, with no further notice.  We
hoped some good luck for him, and so it would have been to a Turk.  He is
made overseer over the poor people at the railway work, and only gets two
pounds five shillings per month additional, he has to keep a horse and a
donkey, and to buy them and to hire a sais, and he does _not_ know how to
squeeze the fellaheen.  It is true ‘however close you skin an onion, a
clever man can always peel it again,’ which means that even the poorest
devils at the works can be beaten into giving a little more; but our dear
Seleem, God bless him, will be ruined and made miserable by his
promotion.  I had a very woeful letter from him yesterday.



May 15, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                           _May_ 15, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

All the Christendom of Upper Egypt is in a state of excitement, owing to
the arrival of the Patriarch of Cairo, who is now in Luxor.  My
neighbour, Mikaeel, entertains him, and Omar has been busily decorating
his house and arranging the illumination of his garden, and to-day is
gone to cook the confectionery, he being looked upon as the person best
acquainted with the customs of the great.  Last night the Patriarch sent
for me, and I went to kiss his hand, but I won’t go again.  It was a very
droll caricature of the thunders of the Vatican.  Poor Mikaeel had
planned that I was to dine with the Patriarch, and had borrowed my silver
spoons, etc., etc., in that belief.  But the representative of St. Mark
is furious against the American missionaries who have converted some
twenty Copts at Koos, and he could not bring himself to be decently civil
to a Protestant.  I found a coarse-looking man seated on a raised divan
smoking his chibouk, on his right were some priests on a low divan; I
went up and kissed his hand and was about to sit by the priests, but he
roughly ordered a cawass to put a wooden chair _off the carpet_ to his
left, at a distance from him, and told me to sit there.  I looked round
to see whether any of my neighbours were present, and I saw the
consternation in their faces so, not wishing to annoy them, I did as if I
did not perceive the affront, and sat down and talked for half an hour to
the priests, and then took leave.  I was informed that the Catholics were
_naas mesakeen_ (poor inoffensive people), and that the Muslims at least
were of an old religion, but that the Protestants ate meat all the year
round, ‘like dogs’—‘or Muslims,’ put in Omar, who stood behind my chair
and did not relish the mention of dogs and the ‘English religion’ in one
sentence.  As I went the Patriarch called for dinner, it seems he had
told Mikaeel he would not eat with me.  It is evidently ‘a judgment’ of a
most signal nature that I should be snubbed for the offences of
missionaries, but it has caused some ill blood; the Kadee and Sheykh
Yussuf and the rest, who all intended to do the civil to the Patriarch,
now won’t go near him on account of his rudeness to me.  He has come up
in a steamer, at the Pasha’s expense, with a guard of cawasses, and, of
course, is loud in praise of the Government, though he failed in getting
the Moudir to send all the Protestants of Koos to the public works, or
the army.

From what he said before me about the Abyssinians, and still more, from
what he said to others about the English prisoners up there, I am
convinced that the place to put the screw on is the _Batrarchane_
(Patriarch’s palace) at Cairo, and that the priests are at the bottom of
that affair. {350}  He boasted immensely of the obedience and piety of
_El Habbesh_ (the Abyssinians).

_Saturday_.—Yesterday I heard a little whispered grumbling about the
money demanded by the ‘Father.’  One of my Copt neighbours was forced to
sell me his whole provision of cooking butter to pay his quota.  This a
little damps the exultation caused by seeing him so honoured by the
Effendina.  One man who had heard that he had called the American
missionaries ‘beggars,’ grumbled to me, ‘Ah yes, beggars, beggars, they
didn’t beg of me for money.’  I really do think that there must be
something in this dread of the Protestant movement.  Evidently the Pasha
is backing up the Patriarch who keeps his church well apart from all
other Christians, and well under the thumb of the Turks.  It was pretty
to hear the priests talk so politely of Islam, and curse the Protestants
so bitterly.  We were very nearly having a row about a woman, who
formerly turned Moslimeh to get rid of an old blind Copt husband who had
been forced upon her, and was permitted to recant, I suppose in order to
get rid of the Muslim husband in his turn.  However he said, ‘I don’t
care, she is the mother of my two children, and whether she is Muslim or
Christian she is my wife, and I won’t divorce her, but I’ll send her to
church as much as she likes.’  Thereupon the priests of course dropped
the wrangle, much to the relief of Sheykh Yussuf, in whose house she had
taken up her quarters after leaving the church, and who was afraid of
being drawn into a dispute.

My new little Darfour boy is very funny and very intelligent.  I hope he
will turn out well, he seems well disposed, though rather lazy.  Mabrook
quarrelled with a boy belonging to the quarter close to us about a bird,
and both boys ran away.  The Arab boy is missing still I suppose, but
Mabrook was brought back by force, swelling with passion, and with his
clothes most scripturally ‘rent.’  He had regularly ‘run amuck.’  Sheykh
Yussuf lectured him on his insolence to the people of the quarter, and I
wound up by saying, ‘Oh my son! whither dost thou wish to go?  I cannot
let thee wander about like a beggar, with torn clothes and no money, that
the police may take thee and put thee in the army; but say where thou
desirest to go, and we will talk about it with discretion.’  It was at
once borne in upon him that he did not want to go anywhere, and he said,
‘I repent; I am but an ox, bring the courbash, beat me, and let me go to
finish cooking the Sitt’s dinner.’  I remitted the beating, with a threat
that if he bullied the neighbours again he would get it at the police,
and not from Omar’s very inefficient arm.  In half an hour he was as
merry as ever.  It was a curious display of negro temper, and all about
nothing at all.  As he stood before me, he looked quite grandly tragic;
and swore he only wanted to run outside and die; that was all.

I wish you could have heard (and understood) my _soirées, au clair de la
lune_, with Sheykh Yussuf and Sheykh Abdurrachman.  How Abdurrachman and
I wrangled, and how Yussuf laughed, and egged us on.  Abdurrachman was
wroth at my want of faith in physic generally, as well as in particular,
and said I talked like an infidel, for had not God said, ‘I have made a
medicine for every disease?’  I said, ‘Yes, but He does not say that He
has told the doctors which it is; and meanwhile I say, _hekmet Allah_,
(God will cure) which can’t be called an infidel sentiment.’  Then we got
into alchemy, astrology, magic and the rest; and Yussuf vexed his friend
by telling gravely stories palpably absurd.  Abdurrachman intimated that
he was laughing at _El-Ilm el-Muslimeen_ (the science of the Muslims),
but Yussuf said, ‘What is the _Ilm el-Muslimeen_?  God has revealed
religion through His prophets, and we can learn nothing new on that
point; but all other learning He has left to the intelligence of men, and
the Prophet Mohammed said, “All learning is from God, even the learning
of idolaters.”  Why then should we Muslims shut out the light, and want
to remain ever like children?  The learning of the Franks is as lawful as
any other.’  Abdurrachman was too sensible a man to be able to dispute
this, but it vexed him.

I am tired of telling all the _plackereien_ of our poor people, how three
hundred and ten men were dragged off on Easter Monday with their bread
and tools, how in four days they were all sent back from Keneh, because
there were no orders about them, and made to _pay their boat hire_.  Then
in five days they were sent for again.  Meanwhile the harvest was cut
green, and the wheat is lying out unthreshed to be devoured by birds and
rats, and the men’s bread was wasted and spoiled with the hauling in and
out of boats.  I am obliged to send camels twenty miles for charcoal,
because the Abab’deh won’t bring it to market any more, the tax is too
heavy.  Butter too we have to buy secretly, none comes into the market.
When I remember the lovely smiling landscape which I first beheld from my
windows, swarming with beasts and men, and look at the dreary waste now,
I feel the ‘foot of the Turk’ heavy indeed.  Where there were fifty
donkeys there is but one; camels, horses, all are gone; not only the
horned cattle, even the dogs are more than decimated, and the hawks and
vultures seem to me fewer; mankind has no food to spare for hangers-on.
The donkeys are sold, the camels confiscated, and the dogs dead (the one
sole advantage).  Meat is cheap, as everyone must sell to pay taxes and
no one has money to buy.  I am implored to take sheep and poultry for
what I will give.



May 23, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                           _May_ 23, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I have only time for a few words by Giafar Pasha, who goes early
to-morrow morning.  My boat arrived all right and brought your tin box.
The books and toys are very welcome.  The latter threw little Darfour
into ecstasies, and he got into disgrace for ‘playing with the Sitt’
instead of minding some business on hand.  I fear I shall spoil him, he
is so extremely engaging and such a baby.  He is still changing his
teeth, so cannot be more than eight; at first I did not like him, and
feared he was sullen, but it was the usual _khoss_ (fear), the word that
is always in one’s ears, and now that is gone, he is always coming
hopping in to play with me.  He is extremely intelligent and has a pretty
baby nigger face.  The Darfour people are, as you know, an independent
and brave people, and by no means ‘savages.’  I can’t help thinking how
pleased Rainie would be with the child.  He asked me to give him the
picture of the English Sultaneh out of the _Illustrated London News_, and
has pasted it inside the lid of his box.

I am better as usual, since the hot weather has begun, the last six days.
I shall leave this in a week, I think, and Mustapha and Yussuf will go
with me to Cairo.  Yussuf was quite enchanted with your note to him; his
eyes glistened, and he took an envelope to keep it carefully.  Omar said
such a letter is like a _hegab_ (amulet) and Yussuf said, ‘Truly it is,
and I could never have one with more _baraka_ (blessing) or more like the
virtue which went out of Jesus, if ever I wore one at all; I will never
part with it.’

We had a very pretty festival for the Sheykh, whose tomb you have a
photograph of, and I spent a very pleasant evening with Sheykh Abd
el-Mootooal, who used to scowl at me, but now we are ‘like brothers.’  I
found him very clever, and better informed than any Arab I have met, who
is quite apart from all Franks.  I was astonished to find that he
_abondait dans man sens_ in my dispute with Sheykh Abdurrachman, and said
that it was the duty of Muslims to learn what they could from us, and not
to stick to the old routine.

On Sunday the Patriarch snubbed me, and would not eat with me, and on
Monday a _Walee_ (saint) picked out tit-bits for me with his own fingers,
and went with me inside the tomb.  The Patriarch has made a blunder with
his progress.  He has come ostentatiously as the _protegé_ and _pronem_
of the Pasha, and he has ‘eaten’ and beaten the fellaheen.  The Copts of
Luxor have had to pay fifty pounds for the honour of his presence,
besides no end of sheep, poultry, butter, etc.  If I were of a
proselytising mind I could make converts of several whose pockets and
backs are smarting, and the American missionaries will do it.  Of course
the Muslims sympathize with the converts to a religion which has no
‘idols,’ and no monks, and whose priests marry like other folk, so they
are the less afraid.  I hear there are now fifty Protestants at Koos, and
the Patriarch was furious because he could not beat them.  Omar cooked a
grand dinner for him last night for our neighbour Mikaeel, and the eating
was not over till two in the morning.  Our Government should manage to
put the screw on him about our Abyssinian prisoners.  I dare not say who
told me all he said, but he was a truthful man and a Christian.  The
Patriarch answered me sharply when I asked about the state of religion in
Abyssinia that, ‘they were lovers of the faith, and his obedient
children.’  Whenever there is mischief among the Copts, the priests are
at the bottom of it.  If the Patriarch chose those people would be let
go; and so it would be but he hates all Europeans bitterly.

I should like to have the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ of all things, but I
don’t know how it is to come here, or what the postage would cost.  They
send nothing but letters above Cairo by post, as all goes on men’s backs.
‘Inshallah!  I am the bearer of good news,’ cries the postman, as he
flings the letter over the wall.  I am so glad of the chance of getting
news to you quick by Giafar Pasha, who came here like a gentleman, alone,
without a retinue; he is on his way from two years in the Soudan, where
he was absolute Pasha.  He is very much liked and respected, and seems a
very sensible and agreeable man, quite unlike any Turkish big-wig I have
seen.  Great potentate as he is, he made Yussuf Mustapha and Abdallah sit
down, and was extremely civil and simple in his manners.



June 30, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                BENISOUEF,
                                                          _June_ 30, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

I write on the chance that this may go safe by post so that you may not
think me lost.  I left Luxor on May 31, got to Siout (half-way) in a
week, and have ever since been battling with an unceasing furious north
and north-east wind.  I feel like the much travelled Odysseus, and have
seen ‘villages and men,’ unlike him, however ‘my companions’ have neither
grumbled nor deserted, though it is a bad business for them, having
received their money at the rate of about twenty days’ pay, for which
they must take me to Cairo.  They have eaten all, and are now obliged to
stop and make bread here, but they are as good-humoured as if all were
well.  My fleet consisted of my dahabieh, flag ship; tender, a _kyasseh_
(cargo boat) for my horse and sais, wherein were packed two extremely
poor shrivelled old widows, going to Cairo to see their sons, now in
garrison there; lots of hard bread, wheat, flour, jars of butter, onions
and lentils for all the lads of ‘my family’ studying at Gama’l Azhar,
besides in my box queer little stores of long hoarded money for those
_megowareen_ (students of Gama’l Azhar).  Don’t you wish you could
provide for Maurice with a sack of bread, a basket of onions and one
pound sixteen shillings?

The handsome brown Sheykh el-Arab, Hassan, wanted me to take him, but I
knew him to be a ‘fast’ man, and asked Yussuf how I could avoid it
without breaking the laws of hospitality, so my ‘father,’ the old
Shereef, told Hassan that he did not choose his daughter to travel with a
wine-bibber and a frequenter of loose company.  Under my convoy sailed
two or three little boats with family parties.  One of these was very
pretty, whose steersman was a charming little fat girl of five years old.
All these hoped to escape being caught and worried by the way, by
belonging to me, and they dropped off at their several villages.  I am
tolerably well, better than when I started, in spite of the wind.

Poor Reis Mohammed had a very bad attack of ophthalmia, and sat all of a
heap, groaning all day and night, and protesting ‘I am a Muslim,’
equivalent to ‘God’s will be done.’  At one place I was known, and had a
lot of sick to see, and a civil man killed a sheep and regaled us all
with meat and _fateereh_.  The part of the river in which we were kept by
the high wind is made cheerful by the custom of the Hareem being just as
free to mix with men as Europeans, and I quite enjoyed the pretty girls’
faces, and the gossip with the women who came to fill their water-jars
and peep in at the cabin windows, which, by the way, they always ask
leave to do.  The Sheykh el-Hawara gave me two sheep which are in the
cargo-boat with four others—all presents—which Omar intends you to eat at
Cairo.  The Sheykh is very anxious to give you an entertainment at his
palace, if you come up the river, with horse-riding, feasting and dancing
girls.  In fact I am charged with many messages to _el-Kebir_ (the great
master).



July 8, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    CAIRO,
                                                           _July_ 8, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

I arrived to-day, after thirty-eight days’ voyage, one month of ceaseless
furious wind.  My poor men had a hard pull down against it.  However I am
feeling better than when I left Luxor.

Omar has just brought a whole cargo of your letters, the last of the 26
June.  Let me know your plans.  If you can go up the river I might send
the boat beforehand to Minieh, so far there is a railway now, which would
break the neck of the tedious part of the voyage for you if you are
pressed for time.  I must send this off at once to catch early post
to-morrow.  Excuse haste, I write in all the bustle of arrival.



July 28, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                          _July_ 28, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

I know I can write nothing more sure to please you than that I am a good
deal better.  It has been intensely hot, and the wind very worrying, but
my cough has greatly abated and I do not feel so weak as I did.  I am
anchored here in the river at my old quarters, and have not yet been
ashore owing to the hot wind and the dust, which of course are far less
troublesome here on the river.  I have seen but very few people and have
but one neighbour, in a boat anchored near mine, a very bewitching
Circassian, the former slave of a rich Pasha, now married to a
respectable dragoman, and staying in his boat for a week or two.  She is
young and pretty, and very amiable, and we visit each other often and get
on very well indeed.  She is a very religious little lady, and was much
relieved when I assured her it was not part of my daily devotions to
curse the Prophet, and revile the noble Koran.

I am extremely glad that the English have given a hearty welcome to the
Ameer el-Moornemeen (Commander of the Faithful); it will have an
excellent effect in all Mussulman countries.  A queer little Indian from
Delhi who had been converted to Islam, and spent four years at Mecca
acting as dragoman to his own countrymen, is now settled at Karnac.  I
sent for him, and he carne shaking in his shoes.  I asked why he was
afraid?  ‘Oh, perhaps I was angry about something, and he was my _rayah_,
and I might have him beaten.’  I cried out at him, ‘Ask pardon of God, O
man.  How could I beat thee any more than thou couldst beat me?  Have we
not laws? and art thou not my brother, and the _rayah_ of our Queen, as I
am and no more?’  ‘Mashallah!’ exclaimed the six or eight fellaheen who
were waiting for physic, in prodigious admiration and wonder; ‘and did we
not tell thee that the face of the Sitt brings good fortune and not
calamity and stick?’  I found the little Indian had been a hospital
servant in Calcutta, and was practising a little physic on his own
account.  So I gave him a few drugs especially for bad eyes, which he
knew a good deal about, and we became very good friends; he was miserable
when I left and would have liked me to have taken him as a volunteer
servant.

I have come to a curious honour.  _Ich bin beim lebendigem Leibe
besungen_.  Several parties of real Arabs came with their sick on camels
from the desert above Edfou.  I asked at last what brought them, and they
told me that a _Shaer_ (bard or poet) had gone about singing my praises,
as how the daughter of the English was a flower on the heads of the
Arabs, and those who were sick should go and smell the perfume of the
flower and rejoice in the brightness of the light (_nooreen_)—my name.
Rather a highflown way of mentioning the ‘exhibition’ of a black dose.
But we don’t feel that a man makes a fool of himself here when he is
romantic in his talk even about an old woman.

It is no use to talk of the state of things here; all classes are
suffering terribly under the fearful taxation, the total ruin of the
fellaheen, and the destruction of trade brought about by this much
extolled Pasha.  My grocer is half ruined by the ‘improvements’ made a
_l’instar de Paris_—long military straight roads cut through the heart of
Cairo.  The owners are expropriated, and there is an end of it.  Only
those who have half a house left are to be pitied, because they are
forced to build a new front to the street on a Frankish model which
renders it uninhabitable to them and unsaleable.

The river men are excited about the crews gone to Paris, for fear they
should be forcibly detained by the _Sultaneh Franzaweeh_, I assured them
that they will all come home safe and happy, with a good backsheesh.
Many of them think it a sort of degradation to be taken for the Parisians
to stare at like an anteeka, a word which here means what our people call
a ‘curiosity.’

I go on very well with my two boys.  Mabrook washes very well and acts as
_marmiton_.  Darfour is housemaid and waiter in his very tiny way.  He is
only troublesome as being given to dirty his clothes in an incredibly
short time.  His account of the school system of Darfour is curious.  How
when the little boy has achieved excellence he is carried home in triumph
to his father’s house, who makes a festival for the master and boys.  I
suppose you will be surprised to hear that the Darfour ‘niggers’ can
nearly all read and write.  Poor little Darfour apologised to me for his
ignorance, he was stolen he said, when he had only just begun to go to
school.  I wish an English or French servant could hear the instructions
given by an Alim here to serving men.  How he would resent them!  ‘When
thou hast tired out thy back do not put thy hand behind it (do not shirk
the burden).  Remember that thou art not only to obey, but to please thy
master, whose bread thou eatest;’ and much more of the like.  In short, a
standard of religious obedience and fidelity fit for the highest Catholic
idea of the ‘religious life.’  Upon the few who seek instruction it does
have an effect (I am sure that Omar looks on his service as a religious
duty), but of course they are few; and those who don’t seek it themselves
get none.  It is curious how all children here are left utterly without
any religious instruction.  I don’t know whether it is in consequence of
this that they grow up so very devout.



July 29, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                          _July_ 29, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

Your letter has arrived to my great relief—only I fear you are not at all
well.  About Maurice.  If he wishes to see the Nile let him come, but if
he is only to be sent because of me, let it alone.  I know I am
oppressive company now, and am apt, like Mr. Wodehouse in ‘Emma,’ to say,
‘Let us all have some gruel.’

We know nothing here of a prohibition of gunpowder, at this moment some
Europeans are popping away incessantly at Embabeh just opposite.
Evidently the Pasha wants to establish a right of search on the Nile.
That absurd speech about slaves he made in Paris shows that.  With 3,000
in his hareem, several slave regiments, and lots of gangs on all his
sugar plantations, his impudence is wonderful.  He is himself the
greatest living slave trader as well as owner.  My lads are afraid to go
out alone for fear of being snapped up by cawasses and taken to the army
or the sugar works.  You will be sorry to hear that your stalwart friend
Hassan has had fifty blows on each foot-sole, and had to pay six pounds.
He was taking two donkeys to Shepheard’s hotel before sunrise for a
French lady and gentleman to go to the Pyramids, when a cawass met him,
seized the donkeys, and on Hassan’s refusal to give them up, spat on the
side-saddle and reviled Hassan’s own Hareem and began to beat him with
his courbash.  Hassan got impatient, took the cawass up in his arms and
threw him on the ground, and went on.  Presently four cawasses came after
him, seized him and took him to the Zaptieh (police office), where they
all swore he had beaten them, torn their clothes, and robbed one of an
imaginary gold watch—all valued at twenty-four pounds.  After the beating
he was carried to prison in chains, and there sentenced to be a soldier.
A friend however interfered and settled the matter for six pounds.
Hassan sends you his best salaam.

Last night was very pretty—all the boats starting for the _moolid_ of
Seyd el-Bedawee at Tanta.  Every boat had a sort of pyramid of lanterns,
and the derweeshes chanted, and the worldly folks had profane music and
singing, and I sat and looked and listened, and thought how many thousand
years ago just the same thing was going on in honour of Bubastis.



August 7, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                         _August_ 7, 1867.

MY DEAREST ALICK,

Two sailors of mine of last year went to Paris in the dahabieh for the
Empress, and are just come back.  When I see them I expect I shall have
some fun out of their account of their journey.  Poor Adam’s father died
of grief at his son’s going, nothing would persuade him that Adam would
come back safe, and having a heart complaint, he died.  And now the lad
is back, well and with fine clothes, but is much cut up, I hear, by his
father’s death.  Please send me a tremendous whistle; mine is not loud
enough to wake Omar at the other end of the cabin; a boatswain’s whistle
or something in the line of the ‘last trump’ is needed to wake sleeping
Arabs.

My pretty neighbour has gone back into the town.  She was a nice little
woman, and amused me a good deal.  I see that a good respectable Turkish
hareem is an excellent school of useful accomplishments—needlework,
cookery, etc.  But I observed that she did not care a bit for the Pasha,
by whom she had a child, but was extremely fond of ‘her lady,’ as she
politely called her, also that like every Circassian I ever knew, she
regarded being sold as quite a desirable fate, and did not seem sorry for
her parents, as the negroes always are.

The heat has been prodigious, but I am a good deal better.  Yesterday the
Nile had risen above ten cubits, and the cutting of the Kalig took place.
The river is pretty full now, but they say it will go down fast this
year.  I don’t know why.  It looks very beautiful, blood-red and tossed
into waves by the north wind fighting the rapid stream.

Good-bye dear Alick, I hope to hear a better account of your health soon.



August 8, 1867: Mrs. Austin


                            _To Mrs. Austin_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                         _August_ 8, 1867.

DEAREST MUTTER,

Two of my sailors were in Paris and have just come home.  I hear they are
dreadfully shocked by the dancing, and by the French women of the lower
class generally.  They sit in the coffee-shops like _shaers_ (poets), and
tell of the wonders of Paris to admiring crowds.  They are enthusiastic
about the courtesy of the French police, who actually did not beat them
when they got into a quarrel, but scolded the Frankish man instead, and
accompanied them back to the boat quite politely.  The novelty and
triumph of not being beaten was quite intoxicating.  There is such a
curious sight of a crowd of men carrying huge blocks of stone up out of a
boat.  One sees exactly how the stones were carried in ancient times;
they sway their bodies all together like one great lithe animal with many
legs, and hum a low chant to keep time.  It is quite unlike any carrying
heavy weights in Europe.

It is getting dusk and too windy for candles, so I must say goodnight and
eat the dinner which Darfour has pressed upon me two or three times, he
is a pleasant little creature, so lively and so gentle.  It is washing
day.  I wish you could see Mabrook squatting out there, lathering away at
the clothes with his superb black arms.  He is a capital washer and a
fair cook, but an utter savage.

[The foregoing letter reached England the day after the death of my
grandmother, Mrs. Austin, which was a great shock to my mother and made
her ill and unhappy; so it was settled that my brother Maurice should go
out and spend the winter with her on the Nile.]



September 7, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                      _September_ 7, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

Many thanks for your letter and for all the trouble you have taken.  I
wish you were better.

There is such a group all stitching away at the big new sail; Omar, the
Reis, two or three volunteers, some old sailors of mine, and little
Darfour.  If I die I think you must have that tiny nigger over; he is
such a merry little soul, I am sure you would love him, he is quite a
civilized being and has a charming temper, and he seems very small to be
left alone in the world.

I hope Maurice is not of the faction of the _ennuyés_ of this generation.
I am more and more of Omar’s opinion, who said, with a pleased sigh, as
we sat on the deck under some lovely palm-trees in the bright moon-light,
moored far from all human dwellings, ‘how sweet are the quiet places of
the world.’

I wonder when Europe will drop the absurd delusion about Christians being
persecuted by Muslims.  It is absolutely the other way,—here at all
events.  The Christians know that they will always get backed by some
Consul or other, and it is the Muslims who go to the wall invariably.
The brute of a Patriarch is resolved to continue his persecution of the
converts, and I was urged the other day by a Sheykh to go to the Sheykh
ul-Islam himself and ask him to demand equal rights for all religions,
which is the law, on behalf of these Coptic Protestants.  Everywhere the
Ulema have done what they could to protect them, even at Siout, where the
American missionaries had caused them (the Ulemas) a good deal of
annoyance on a former occasion.  No one in Europe can conceive how much
the Copts have the upper hand in the villages.  They are backed by the
Government, and they know that the Europeans will always side with them.

_September_ 13.—Omar is crazy with delight at the idea of Maurice’s
arrival, and Reis Mohammed is planning what men to take who can make
fantasia, and not ask too much wages.  Let me know what boat Maurice
comes by that I may send Omar to Alexandria to meet him.  Omar begs me to
give you and Sitti Rainie his best salaam, and his assurance that he will
take great care of the young master and ‘keep him very tight.’  I think
Maurice will be diverted with small Darfour.  Mabrook now really cooks
very fairly under Omar’s orders, but he is beyond belief uncouth, and
utters the wildest howls now that his voice is grown big and strong like
himself.  Moreover he ‘won’t be spoken to,’ as our servants say; but he
is honest, clean, and careful.  I should not have thought any human
creature could remain so completely a savage in a civilized community.  I
rather respect his savage _hauteur_, especially as it is combined with
truth and honesty.



October 17, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                      BOAT _MARIE LOUISE_,
                                                       _October_ 17, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

You must not be wroth with me because I have not written for a long
time—I have been ill, but am much better.  Omar will go down to
Alexandria to meet Maurice on Monday.

My boat is being painted, but is nearly finished; as soon as it is done I
shall move back into her.  I got out into a little cangia but it swarmed
with bugs and wasps, and was too dirty, so I moved yesterday into a good
boat belonging to a dragoman, and hope to be back in my own by Sunday.
But oh Lord!  I got hold of the Barber himself turned painter; and as the
little cangia was moored alongside the _Urania_ in order to hold all the
mattresses, carpets, etc. I was his victim.  First, it was a request for
‘three pounds to buy paint.’  ‘None but the best of paint is fitting for
a noble person like thee, and that thou knowest is costly, and I am thy
servant and would do thee honour.’  ‘Very well,’ say I, ‘take the money,
and see, oh man, that the paint is of the best, or thy backsheesh will be
bad also.’  Well, he begins and then rushes in to say: ‘Come oh Bey, oh
Pasha! and behold the brilliancy of the white paint, like milk, like
glass, like the full moon.’  I go and say, ‘Mashallah! but now be so good
as to work fast, for my son will be here in a few days, and nothing is
ready.’  Fatal remark.  ‘Mashallah!  Bismillah! may the Lord spare him,
may God prolong thy days, let me advise thee how to keep the eye from
him, for doubtless thy son is beautiful as a memlook of 1,000 purses.
Remember to spit in his face when he comes on board, and revile him aloud
that all the people may hear thee, and compel him to wear torn and dirty
clothes when he goes out:—and how many children hast thou, and our
master, thy master, and is he well?’ etc. etc.  ‘_Shukr Allah_! all is
well with us,’ say I; ‘but, by the Prophet, paint, oh _Ma-alim_ (exactly
the German _Meister_) and do not break my head any more.’  But I was
forced to take refuge at a distance from Hajj’ Alee’s tongue.  Read the
story of the Barber, and you will know exactly what Ma-alim Hajj’ Alee
is.  Also just as I got out of my boat and he had begun, the painter whom
I had last year and with whom I was dissatisfied, went to the Sheykh of
the painters and persuaded him to put my man in prison for working too
cheap—that was at daybreak.  So I sent up my Reis to the Sheykh to inform
him that if my man did not return by next day at daybreak, I would send
for an European painter and force the Sheykh to pay the bill.  Of course
my man came.

My steersman Hassan, and a good man, Hoseyn, who can wash and is
generally nice and pleasant, arrived from el-Bastowee a few days ago, and
are waiting here till I want them.  Poor little ugly black Hassan has had
his house burnt down in his village, and lost all the clothes which he
had bought with his wages; they were very good clothes, some of them, and
a heavy loss.  He is my Reis’s brother, and a good man, clean and careful
and quiet, better than my Reis even—they are a respectable family.  Big
stout Hazazin owes me 200 piastres which he is to work out, so I have
still five men and a boy to get.  I hope a nice boy, called Hederbee (the
lizard), will come.  They don’t take pay till the day before we sail,
except the Reis and Abdul Sadig, who are permanent.  But Hassan and
Hoseyn are working away as merrily as if they were paid.  People growl at
the backsheesh, but they should also remember what a quantity of service
one gets for nothing here, and for which, oddly enough, no one dreams of
asking backsheesh.  Once a week we shift the anchors, for fear of their
silting over, and six or eight men work for an hour; then the mast is
lowered—twelve or fourteen men work at this—and nobody gets a farthing.

The other day Omar met in the market an ‘agreeable merchant,’ an
Abyssinian fresh from his own country, which he had left because of the
tyranny of Kassa, alias Todoros, the Sultan.  The merchant had brought
his wife and concubines to live here.  His account is that the mass of
the people are delighted to hear that the English are coming to conquer
them, as they hope, and that everyone hates the King except two or three
hundred scamps who form his bodyguard.  He had seen the English
prisoners, who, he says, are not ill-treated, but certainly in danger, as
the King is with difficulty restrained from killing them by the said
scamps, who fear the revenge of the English; also that there is one woman
imprisoned with the native female prisoners.  Hassan the donkeyboy, when
he was a _marmiton_ in Cairo, knew the Sultan Todoros, he was the only
man who could be found to interpret between the then King of Abyssinia
and Mohammed Ali Pasha, whom Todoros had come to visit.  The merchant
also expressed a great contempt for the Patriarch, and for their
_Matraam_ or Metropolitan, whom the English papers call the _Abuna_.
_Abuna_ is Arabic for ‘our father.’  The man is a Cairene Copt and was a
hanger-on of two English missionaries (they were really Germans) here,
and he is more than commonly a rascal and a hypocrite.  I know a
respectable Jew whom he had robbed of all his merchandise, only Ras Alee
forced the _Matraam_ to disgorge.  Pray what was all that nonsense about
the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem writing to Todoros? what could he
have to do with it?  The Coptic Patriarch, whose place is Cairo, could do
it if he were forced.

At last my boat is finished, so to-morrow Omar will clean the windows,
and on Saturday move in the cushions, etc. and me, and on Sunday go to
Alexandria.  I hear the dreadful voice of Hajj’ Alee, the painter,
outside, and will retire before he gets to the cabin door, for fear he
should want to bore me again.  I do hope Maurice will enjoy his journey;
everyone is anxious to please him.  The Sheykh of the Hawara sent his
brother to remind me to stop at his ‘palace’ near Girgeh, that he might
make a fantasia for my son.  So Maurice will see real Arab riding, and
jereed, and sheep roasted whole and all the rest of it.  The Sheykh is
the last of the great Arab chieftains of Egypt, and has thousands of
fellaheen and a large income.  He did it for Lord Spencer and for the
Duke of Rutland and I shall get as good a fantasia, I have no doubt.
Perhaps at Keneh Maurice had better not see the dancing, for Zeyneb and
Latefeeh are terribly fascinating, they are such pleasant jolly girls as
well as pretty and graceful, but old Oum ez-Zeyn (mother of beauty),
so-called on account of his hideousness, will want us to eat his good
dinner.



October 21, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                         _URANIA_, BOULAK,
                                                       _October_ 21, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

So many thanks for the boxes and their contents.  My slaves are enchanted
with all that the ‘great master’ has sent.  Darfour hugged the horsecloth
in ecstasy that he should never again be cold at night.  The waistcoats
of printed stuff, and the red flannel shirts are gone to be made up, so
my boys will be like Pashas this winter, as they told the Reis.  He is
awfully perturbed about the evil eye.  ‘Thy boat, _Mashallah_, is such as
to cause envy from all beholders; and now when they see a son with thee,
_Bismillah_!  _Mashallah_! like a flower, verily.  I fear, I fear greatly
from the eye of the people.’  We have bought a tambourine and a
tarabouka, and are on the look-out for a man who can sing well, so as to
have fantasia on board.

_October_ 22.—I hear to-day that the Pasha sent a telegram _hochst
eigenhändig_ to Koos, in consequence whereof one Stefanos, an old Copt of
high character, many years in Government employ, was put in chains and
hurried off within twenty minutes to Fazoghlou with two of his friends,
for no other crime than having turned Presbyterian.  This is quite a new
idea in Egypt, and we all wonder why the Pasha is so anxious to ‘brush
the coat’ of the Copt Patriarch.  We also hear that the people up in the
Saaed are running away by wholesale, utterly unable to pay the new taxes
and to do the work exacted.  Even here the beating is fearful.  My Reis
has had to send all his month’s wages to save his aunt and his
sister-in-law, both widows, from the courbash.  He did not think so much
of the blows, but of the ‘shame’; ‘those are women, lone women, from
whence can they get the money?’



November 3, 1867: Mrs. Ross


                             _To Mrs. Ross_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                       _November_ 3, 1867.

DEAREST JANET,

Maurice arrived on Friday week, and is as happy as can be, he says he
never felt so well and never had such good snipe shooting.  Little
Darfour’s amusement at Maurice is boundless; he grins at him all the time
he waits at table, he marvels at his dirty boots, at his bathing, at his
much walking out shooting, at his knowing no Arabic.  The dyke burst the
other day up at Bahr Yussuf, and we were nearly all swept away by the
furious rush of water.  My little boat was upset while three men in her
were securing the anchor, and two of them were nearly drowned, though
they swim like fish; all the dahabiehs were rattled and pounded awfully;
and in the middle of the _fracas_, at noonday, a steamer ran into us
quite deliberately.  I was rather frightened when the steamer bumped us,
and carried away the iron supports of the awning; and they cursed our
fathers into the bargain, which I thought needless.  The English have
fallen into such contempt here that one no longer gets decent civility
from anything in the _Miri_ (Government).

Olagnier has lent us a lovely little skiff, and I have had her repaired
and painted, so Maurice is set up for shooting and boating.  Darfour
calls him the ‘son of a crocodile’ because he loves the water, and
generally delights in him hugely, and all my men are enchanted with him.



December 20, 1867: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                      _December_ 20, 1867.

DEAREST ALICK,

We arrived here all safe three days ago.  I think of starting for Nubia
directly after Christmas Day, which we must keep here.  We have lovely
weather.  Maurice is going with a friend of my friends, a Bedawee, to
shoot, I hope among the Abab’deh he will get some gazelle shooting.  I
shall stop at Syaleh to visit the Sheykh’s mother, and with them Maurice
could go for some days into the desert.  As to crocodiles, Inshallah, we
will eat their hearts, and not they ours.  You may rely on it that
Maurice is ‘on the head and in the eye’ of all my crew, and will not be
allowed to bathe in ‘unclean places.’  Reis Mohammed stopped him at Gebel
Abu’l Foda.  You would be delighted to see how different he looks; all
his clothes are too tight now.  He says he is thoroughly happy, and that
he was never more amused than when with me, which I think very
flattering.

Half of the old house at Luxor fell down into the temple beneath six days
before I arrived; so there is an end of the _Maison de France_, I
suppose.  It might be made very nice again at a small expense, but I
suppose the Consul will not do it, and certainly I shall not unless I
want it again.  Nothing now remains solid but the three small front rooms
and the big hall with two rooms off it.  All the part I lived in is gone,
and the steps, so one cannot get in.  Luckily Yussuf had told Mohammed to
move my little furniture to the part which is solid, having a misgiving
of the rest.  He has the most exquisite baby, an exact minature of
himself.  He is in a manner my godson, being named Noor ed-Deen Hishan
Abu-l-Hajjaj, to be called _Noor_ like me.



January, 1868: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                    ON BOARD THE _URANIA_,
                                                          _January_, 1868.

DEAREST ALICK,

Your letter of the 10 December most luckily came on to Edfoo by the
American Consul-General, who overtook us there in his steamer and gave me
a lunch.  Maurice was as usual up to his knees in a distant swamp trying
to shoot wild geese.  Now we are up close to Assouan, and there are no
more marshes; but _en revanche_ there are quails and _kata_, the
beautiful little sand grouse.  I eat all that Maurice shoots, which I
find very good for me; and as for Maurice he has got back his old round
boyish face; he eats like an ogre, walks all day, sleeps like a top,
bathes in the morning and has laid on flesh so that his clothes won’t
button.  At Esneh we fell in with handsome Hassan, who is now Sheykh of
the Abab’deh, as his elder brother died.  He gave us a letter to his
brother at Syaleh, up in Nubia; ordering him to get up a gazelle hunt for
Maurice, and I am to visit his wife.  I think it will be pleasant, as the
Bedaween women don’t veil or shut up, and to judge by the men ought to be
very handsome.  Both Hassan and Abu Goord, who was with him, preached the
same sermon as my learned friend Abdurrachman had done at Luxor.  ‘Why,
in God’s name, I left my son without a wife?’  They are sincerely shocked
at such indifference to a son’s happiness.

                                                                  ASSOUAN,
                                                             10 _Ramadan_.

I have no almanach, but you will be able to know the date by your own red
pocketbook, which determined the beginning of Ramadan at Luxor this year.
They received a telegram fixing it for Thursday, but Sheykh Yussuf said
that he was sure the astronomers in London knew best, and made it Friday.
To-morrow we shall make our bargain, and next day go up the
Cataract—Inshallah, in safety.  The water is very good, as Jesus the
black pilot tells me.  He goes to the second Cataract and back, as I
intend to stay nearly two months in Nubia.  The weather here is perfect
now, we have been lucky in having a lovely mild winter hitherto.  We are
very comfortable with a capital crew, who are all devoted to Maurice.
The Sheykh of the Abab’deh has promised to join us if he can, when he has
convoyed some 400 Bashibazouks up to Wady Halfa, who are being sent up
because the English are in Abyssinia.



April, 1868: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                    LUXOR,
                                                            _April_, 1868.

DEAREST ALICK,

I have been too weak to write, but the heat set in three days ago and
took away my cough, and I feel much better.  Maurice also flourishes in
the broil, and protests against moving yet.  He speaks a good deal of
Arabic and is friends with everyone.  It is _Salaam aleykoum ya maris_ on
all sides.  A Belgian has died here, and his two slaves, a very nice
black boy and an Abyssinian girl, got my little varlet, Darfour, to coax
me to take them under my protection, which I have done, as there appeared
a strong probability that they would be ‘annexed’ by a rascally Copt who
is a Consular agent at Keneh.  I believe the Belgian has left money for
them, which of course they would never get without someone to look after
it, and so I have Ramadan, the boy, with me, and shall take the girl when
I go, and carry them both to Cairo, settle their little business, and let
them present a sealed-up book which they have to their Consul there,
according to their master’s desire, and then marry the girl to some
decent man.  I have left her in Mustapha’s hareem till I go.

I enjoyed Nubia immensely, and long to go and live with the descendants
of a great _Ras_ (head, chief,) who entertained me at Ibreem, and who
said, like Ravenswood, ‘Thou art come to a fallen house, and there is
none to serve thee left save me.’  It was a paradise of a place, and the
Nubian had the grand manners of a very old, proud nobleman.  I had a
letter to him from Sheykh Yussuf.

Since I wrote the above it has turned quite chilly again, so we agreed to
stay till the heat really begins.  Maurice is so charmed with Luxor that
he does not want to go, and we mean to let the boat and live here next
winter.  I think another week will see us start down stream.  Janet talks
of coming up the Nile with me next year, which would be pleasant.  I am a
little better than I have been the last two months.  I was best in Nubia
but I got a cold at Esneh, second hand from Maurice, which made me very
seedy.  I cannot go about at all for want of breath.  Could you send me a
chair such as people are carried in by two men?  A common chair is
awkward for the men when the banks are steep, and I am nervous, so I
never go out.  I wish you could see your son bare-legged and footed, in a
shirt and a pair of white Arab drawers, rushing about with the fellaheen.
He is everybody’s ‘brother’ or ‘son.’



May, 1868: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   MINIEH,
                                                              _May_, 1868.

DEAREST ALICK,

We are just arriving at Minieh whence the railway will take letters
quickly.  We dined at Keneh and at Siout with some friends, and had
fantasia at Keneh.  Omar desires his dutiful salaams to you and hopes you
will be satisfied with the care he has taken of ‘the child.’  How you
would have been amused to hear the girl who came to dance for us at Esneh
lecture Maurice about evil ways, but she was an old friend of mine, and
gave good and sound advice.

Everyone is delighted about Abyssinia.  ‘Thank God our Pasha will fear
the English more than before, and the Sultan also,’ and when I lamented
the expense, they all exclaimed, ‘Never mind the expense, it is worth
more than ten millions to you; your faces are whitened and your power
enlarged before all the world; but why don’t you take us on your way
back.’

I saw a very interesting man at Keneh, one Faam, a Copt, who has turned
Presbyterian, and has induced a hundred others at Koos to do likewise: an
American missionary is their minister.  Faam was sent off to the Soudan
by the Patriarch, but brought back.  He is a splendid old fellow, and I
felt I looked on the face of a Christian martyr, a curious sight in the
nineteenth century: the calm, fearless, rapt expression was like what you
see in noble old Italian pictures, and he had the perfect absence of
‘doing pious’ which shows the undoubting faith.  He and the Mufti, also a
noble fellow, sparred about religion in a jocose and friendly tone which
would be quite unintelligible in Exeter Hall.  When he was gone the Mufti
said, ‘Ah! we thank them, for though they know not the truth of Islam,
they are good men, and walk straight, and would die for their religion:
their example is excellent; praise be to God for them.’



June 14, 1868: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                          _June_ 14, 1868.

DEAREST ALICK,

The climate has been odious for Egypt—to shiver in cold winds of June on
the Nile seems hard.  Maurice inherits my faculty for getting on with
‘d------d niggers’; all the crew kissed him on both cheeks and swore to
come back again in the winter; and up the country he was hand and glove
with all the fellaheen, eating a good deal of what he called ‘muck’ with
great enjoyment, walking arm in arm with a crazy derweesh, fetching home
a bride at night and swearing lustily by the Prophet.  The good manners
of the Arab _canaille_, have rubbed off the very disagreeable varnish
which he got at Brussels.

Dr. Patterson wants me to go to Beyrout or one of the Greek isles for a
change.  I am very feeble and short of breath—but I will try the
experiment.  Would you be shocked if a nigger taught Maurice?  One Hajjee
Daboos I know to be a capital Arabic scholar and he speaks French like a
Parisian, and Italian also, only he is a real nigger and so is the best
music-master in Cairo.  _Que faire_? it’s not catching, as Lady Morley
said, and I won’t present you with a young mulatto any more than with a
young _brave Belge_.  I may however find someone at Beyrout.  Cairo is in
such a state of beggary that all educated young men have fled.  Maurice
has no sort of idea why a nigger should not be as good as anyone else,
but thinks perhaps you might not approve.

You would have stared to see old Achmet Agha Abd el-Sadig, a very good
friend of ours at Assouan, coaxing and patting the _weled_ (boy) when he
dined here the other day, and laughing immoderately at Maurice’s
nonsense.  He is one of the M.P.’s for Assouan, and a wealthy and much
respected man in the Saeed.  The Abyssinian affair is an awful
disappointment to the Pasha; he had laid his calculations for something
altogether different, and is furious.  The Coptic clergy are ready to
murder us.  The Arabs are all in raptures.  ‘God bless the English
general, he has frightened our Pasha.’

Giafar Pasha backsheeshed me an _abbayeh_ of crimson silk and gold, also
a basket of coffee.  I was obliged to accept them as he sent his son with
them, and to refuse would have been an insult, and as he is the one Turk
I do think highly of I did not wish to affront him.  It was at Luxor on
his way to Khartoum.  He also invited Maurice to Khartoum, and proposed
to send a party to fetch him from Korosko, on the Nile.  Giafar is
Viceroy of the Soudan, and a very quiet man, who does not ‘eat the
people.’

My best love to Janet, I’ll write soon to her, but I am _lazy_ and
Maurice is worse.  Omar nearly cried when Maurice went to Alexandria for
a week.  ‘I seem to feel how dull we shall be without him when he goes
away for good,’ said he, and Darfour expresses his intention of going
with Maurice.  ‘Thou must give me to the young man backsheesh,’ as he
puts it, ‘because I have plenty of sense and shall tell him what to do.’
That is the little rascal’s sauce.  Terence’s slaves are true to the life
here.



October 22, 1868: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                       _October_ 22, 1868.

DEAREST ALICK,

The unlucky journey to Syria almost cost me my life.  The climate is
absolute poison to consumptive people.  In ten days after I arrived the
doctor told me to settle my affairs, for I had probably only a few days
to live, and certainly should never recover.  However I got better, and
was carried on board the steamer, but am too weak for anything.  We were
nearly shipwrecked coming back owing to the Russian captain having his
bride on board and not minding his ship.  We bumped and scraped and
rolled very unpleasantly.  At Beyrout the Sisters of Charity wouldn’t
nurse a Protestant, nor the Prussians a non-Lutheran.  But Omar and
Darfour nursed me better than Europeans ever do.  Little Blackie was as
sharp about the physic as a born doctor’s boy when Omar was taking his
turn of sleep.  I did not like the few Syrians I saw at all.



November 6, 1868: Alick


                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                       _November_ 6, 1868.

DEAREST ALICK,

I am sure you will rejoice to hear that I am really better.  I now feel
so much like living on a bit longer that I will ask you to send me a
cargo of medicines.  I didn’t think it worth while before to ask for
anything to be sent to me that could not be forwarded to Hades, but my
old body seems very tough and I fancy I have still one or two of my nine
lives left.

I hope to sail in a very few days, Maurice is going up to Cairo so I send
this by him.  Yesterday was little Rainie’s birthday, and I thought very
longingly of her.  The photo, of Leighton’s sketch of Janet I like very
much.



January 25, 1869: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                  ASSOUAN,
                                                       _January_ 25, 1869.

DEAREST ALICK,

We have been here ten days, and I find the air quite the best for me.  I
cough much less, only I am weak and short of breath.  I have got a most
excellent young Reis for my boat, and a sailor who sings like a
nightingale, indeed he is not a sailor at all, but a professional Cairo
singer who came up with me for fun.  He draws crowds to hear him, and at
Esneh the congregation prayed for me in the mosque that God might reward
me for the pleasure I had provided for them.  Fancy desiring the prayers
of this congregation for the welfare of the lady who gave me her
opera-box last Saturday.  If prayers could avail to cure I ought to get
well rapidly.  At Luxor Omar killed the sheep he had vowed, and Mustapha
and Mohammed each killed two, as thank-offerings for my life, and all the
derweeshes held two great _Zikrs_ in a tent pitched behind the boat, and
drummed and chanted and called on the Lord for two whole nights; and
every man in my boat fasted Ramadan severely, from Omar and the crew to
the little boys.  I think Darfour was the most meritorious of all,
because he has such a Gargantuan appetite, but he fasted his thirty days
bravely and rubbed his little nose in the dust energetically in prayer.

On Christmas day I was at Esneh, it was warm and fine, and I made
fantasia and had the girls to dance.  Zeyneb and Hillaleah claim to be my
own special _Ghazawee_, so to speak my _Ballerine da camera_, and they
did their best.  How I did long to transport the whole scene before your
eyes—Ramadan warbling intense lovesongs, and beating on a tiny
tambourine, while Zeyneb danced before him and gave the pantomime to his
song; and the sailors, and girls, and respectable merchants sat
_pêle-mêle_ all round on the deck, and the player on the rabab drew from
it a wail like that of Isis for dead Osiris.  I never quite know whether
it is now or four thousand years ago, or even ten thousand, when I am in
the dreamy intoxication of a real Egyptian fantasia; nothing is so
antique as the Ghazawee—the _real_ dancing girls.  They are still subject
to religious ecstasies of a very curious kind, no doubt inherited from
the remotest antiquity.  Ask any learned pundit to explain to you the
_Zar_—it is really curious.

Now that I am too ill to write I feel sorry that I did not persist and
write on the beliefs of Egypt in spite of your fear that the learned
would cut me up, for I honestly believe that knowledge will die with me
which few others possess.  You must recollect that the learned know
books, and I know men, and what is still more difficult, women.

The Cataract is very bad this year, owing to want of water in the Nile,
and to the shameful conduct of the Maohn here.  The cataract men came to
me, and prayed me to ‘give them my voice’ before the Mudir, which I will
do.  Allah ed-deen Bey seems a decent man and will perhaps remove the
rascal, whose robberies on travellers are notorious, and his oppression
of the poor savages who pull the boats up odious.  Two boats have been
severely damaged, and my friend the Reis of the Cataract (the one I
threatened to shoot last year, and who has believed in me ever since)
does not advise me to go up, though he would take me for nothing, he
swears, if I wished.  So as the air is good here and Maurice is happy
with his companions, I will stay here.

I meant to have discharged my men, but I have grown so fond of them
(having so good a set), that I can’t bring myself to save £20 by turning
them adrift when we are all so happy and comfortable, and the poor
fellows are just marrying new wives with their wages.  Good-bye dearest
Alick, forgive a scrawl, for I am very weak all over, fingers and all.
Best love to my darling Rainie.  Three boats have little girls of five to
eight on board, and I do envy them so.  I think Maurice had better go
home to you, when we get to Cairo.  He ought to be doing something.



June 15, 1869: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   BOULAK,
                                                          _June_ 15, 1869.

DEAREST ALICK,

Do not think of coming here.  Indeed it would be almost too painful to me
to part from you again; and as it is, I can patiently wait for the end
among people who are kind and loving enough to be comfortable, without
too much feeling of the pain of parting.  The leaving Luxor was rather a
distressing scene, as they did not think to see me again.

The kindness of all the people was really touching, from the Kadee who
made ready my tomb among his own family, to the poorest fellaheen.  Omar
sends you his most heartfelt thanks, and begs that the boat may remain
registered at the Consulate in your name for his use and benefit.  The
Prince has appointed him his own dragoman.  But he is sad enough, poor
fellow, all his prosperity does not console him for the loss of ‘the
mother he found in the world.’  Mohammed at Luxor wept bitterly and said,
‘poor I, my poor children, poor all the people,’ and kissed my hand
passionately, and the people at Esneh, asked leave to touch me ‘for a
blessing,’ and everyone sent delicate bread, and their best butter, and
vegetables and lambs.  They are kinder than ever now that I can no longer
be of any use to them.

If I live till September I will go up to Esneh, where the air is softest
and I cough less.  I would rather die among my own people in the Saeed
than here.

You must forgive this scrawl, dearest.  Don’t think please of sending
Maurice out again, he must begin to work now or he will never be good for
anything.

Can you thank the Prince of Wales for Omar, or shall I write?  He was
most pleasant and kind, and the Princess too.  She is the most perfectly
simple-mannered girl I ever saw.  She does not even try to be civil like
other great people, but asks blunt questions, and looks at one so
heartily with her clear, honest eyes, that she must win all hearts.  They
were more considerate than any people I have seen, and the Prince,
instead of being gracious, was, if I may say so, quite respectful in his
manner: he is very well bred and pleasant, and has the honest eyes that
makes one sure he has a kind heart.

My sailors were so proud at having the honour of rowing him _in our own
boat_, and of singing to him.  I had a very good singer in the boat.
Please send some little present for my Reis: he is such a good man; he
will be pleased at some little thing from you.  He is half Turk, and
seems like whole one.  Maurice will have told you all about us.  Good-bye
for the present, dearest Alick.



July 9, 1869: Sir Alexander Duff Gordon


                     _To Sir Alexander Duff Gordon_.

                                                                   HELWAN,
                                                      OPPOSITE BEDRESHAYN,
                                                           _July_ 9, 1869.

DEAREST ALICK,

Don’t make yourself unhappy, and don’t send out a nurse.  And above all
don’t think of coming.  I am nursed as well as possible.  My two Reises,
Ramadan and Yussuf, are strong and tender and Omar is admirable as ever.
The worst is I am so strong.

I repeat I could not be better cared for anywhere than by my good and
loving crew.  Tell Maurice how they all cried and how Abd el-Haleem
forswore drink and hasheesh.  He is very good too.  But my Reises are
incomparable.  God bless you.  I wish I had seen your dear face once
more—but not now.  I would not have you here now on any account.



Footnotes:


{1}  See my ‘Three Generations of English Women.’

{4}  See ‘Three Generations of English Women.’

{48}  A smoker or eater of _hasheeshs_ (hemp).

{55}  Lady Mary and Lord Jesus.

{188}  About 7½ bushels.

{293}  Now, I believe, abolished.  The Sheykh of the Saadeeyeh
darweeshes, passing part of the night in solitude, reciting prayers and
passages of the Koran, went to the mosque, preached and said the noonday
prayer; then, mounting his horse, proceeded to the Ezbekeeyeh.  Many
darweeshes with flags accompanied him to the house of the Sheykh of all
the darweeshes where he stayed for some time, whilst his followers were
engaged in packing the bodies of those who wished to be trampled under
the hoofs of the Sheykh’s horse as closely together as they could in the
middle of the road.  Some eighty or a hundred, or more men lay side by
side flat on the ground on their stomachs muttering, Allah Allah! and to
try if they were packed close enough about twenty darweeshes ran over
their backs, beating little drums and shouting Allah! and now and then
stopping to arrange an arm or leg.  Then appeared the Sheykh, his horse
led by two grooms, while two more rested their hands on his croup.  By
much pulling and pushing they at last induced the snorting, frightened
beast to amble quickly over the row of prostrate men.  The moment the
horse had passed the men sprang up, and followed the Sheykh over the
bodies of the others.  It was said that on the day before the Dóseh they,
and the Sheykh, repeated certain prayers which prevented the horse’s
hoofs from hurting them, and that sometimes a man, overcome by religious
enthusiasm, had thrown himself down with the rest and been seriously
hurt, or even killed.

{315}  Mohammed Ali Pasha, who was an illiterate coffee-house keeper in
Salonica, first came to Egypt at the head of a body of Albanians and
co-operated with the English against the French.  By his extraordinary
vigour and intelligence he became the ruler of Lower Egypt, and succeeded
in attaching the Mameluke Beys to his person.  But finding that they were
beginning to chafe under his firm rule, he invited them, in 1811, to a
grand dinner in the Citadel of Cairo.  The gates were closed, and
suddenly fire was opened upon them from every side.  Only one man, Elfy
Bey, spurred his horse and jumped over the battlements into the square
below (some 80 or 90 feet).  His horse was killed and he broke his leg,
but managed to crawl to a friend’s house and was saved.  This same Elfy
Bey, on the death of Abbas Pasha, held the Citadel for his son, El Hamy,
against his uncle, Said Pasha, and it was only by the intervention of the
English Consul-General, who rode up to the Citadel, that Elfy was induced
to acknowledge Said as Viceroy of Egypt.

{334}  Alexis was a clair-voyant who created some sensation in London
about fifty years ago.  One evening at Lansdowne House he was reading
people’s thoughts and describing their houses from the lines in their
hands, and a few leading questions.  The old Marquess asked my mother to
let Alexis read her thoughts, and, I suppose, impressed by her _grand
air_ and statuesque beauty, imagining that she would think about some
great hero of ancient days, he said, after careful inspection of her
hand, ‘Madame vous pensez a Jules Cesar.’  She shook her head and told
him to try again.  His next guess was Alexander the Great.  She smiled
and said, ‘Non, Monsieur, je pensais a mon fidèle domestique nègre,
Hassan.’  He then described her house as something akin to Lansdowne
House—vast rooms, splendid pictures, etc.  She laughed and told him she
lived in ‘une maison fort modeste et tant soi peu bourgeois,’ which
elicited his angry exclamation that she had not faith enough, _i.e._ that
she did not help him.

{336}  See Introduction, p. 6.

{350}  According to tradition, the first Christian church in Egypt was
built by St. Mark the Evangelist at Baucalis near Alexandria, and
Christianity was introduced into Abyssinia under Athanasius Patriarch of
Alexandria from 236 to 273.  The authority of the Egyptian Coptic
Patriarch is still paramount in Abyssinia, where he counts his adherents
by the million.





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