BLTC Press Titles

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Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

Incidents of travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land

by John Lloyd Stephens


almost imperceptibly, stern first, broadside first, not as the current carried them, but as the wind would let them. Our men had nothing to do; all day they lay strewed, about on deck; towards evening they gathered around a large pilau of rice, and, as the sun was setting, one after the other, turning his face towards the tomb of the Prophet, kneeled down upon the deck and prayed. And thus passed my first night upon the famous river.

In the morning I found things not quite so well ordered; the wind seemed to be giving " premonitory symptoms" of an intention to chop about, and towards noon it came in dead ahead. After my self-complacent observations of yesterday, I would hardly credit it; but when it became so strong that we were obliged to haul alongside the bank and lie to, in order to avoid being driven down the stream, I was perfectly satisfied and convinced. We saw no more of our friend Mr. Waghorn; he had a small boat rigged with oars, and while we were vainly struggling against the wind and tide, he kindly left us to our fate. My companion was a sportsman, and happened to have on board a couple of guns; we went on shore with them, and the principal incident of the day that I remember is, that instead of fowler's, I had fisherman's luck. Rambling carelessly along, we found ourselves on the bank of a stream which it was necessary to cross; on the other side we saw a strapping Arab, and called to him to come and carry us over. Like most of his tribe, he was not troubled with any superfluous clothing, and, slipping over his head the fragments of his frock, he was in a moment by our side, in all the majesty of nature. I started first, mounted upon his slippery shoulders, and went along very well until we had got more than half way over, when I began to observe an irregular tottering movement, and heard behind me the smothered laugh of my companion. I felt my Arab slowly and deliberately lowering his head; myfeet touched the water; but with one hand. I held my gun above my head, and with the other griped him by the throat. I found myself going, going, deeper and deeper, let down with the most studied deliberation, till all at once he gave his neck a sudden toss, jerked his head from under me, and left me standing up to my middle in the stream. I turned round upon him, hardly knowing whether to laugh or to strike him with the butt end of my gun; but one glance at the poor fellow was enough; the sweat stood in large drops on his face and ran down his naked breast; his knees shook, and he was just ready to drop himself. He had supported me as long as he could ; but, finding himself failing, and fearing we should both come down together, with a splash, at full length, he had lowered me as gently as possible.

The banks of the Nile from here to Cairo furnish nothing interesting. On one side is the Delta, an extensive tract of low rich land, well cultivated and watered, and on the other a narrow strip of fertile land, and then the Libyan desert. The ruined

cities which attract the traveller into Egypt, their temples and tombs, the enduring monuments of its former greatness, do not yet present themselves. The modern villages are all built of mud or of unburnt bricks, and sometimes, at a distance, being surrounded by palm-trees, make a pleasing appearance; but this vanishes the moment you approach them. The houses, or rather huts, are so low that a man can seldom stand up in them, with a hole in the front like the door of an oven, into which the miserable Arab crawls, more like a beast than a being made to walk in God's image. The same spectacle of misery and wretchedness, of poverty, famine, and nakedness, which I had seen in the suburbs of Alexandria, continued to afflict me at every village on the Nile, and soon suggested the interesting consideration whether all this came from country and climate, from the character of the people, or from the government of the great reformer. At one place I saw on the banks of the river forty or fifty men, chained together with iron bands around their wrists, and iron col- v lars around their necks. Yesterday they were peaceful Fellahs, cultivators of the soil, earning their scanty bread by hard and toilsome labour, but eating it at home in peace. Another day, and the stillness of their life is for ever broken; chased, run down, and caught, torn from their homes, from the sacred threshold of the mosque, the sword and musket succeed the implements of their quiet profession; they are carried away to fight battles in a

cause which does not concern them, and in which, if they conquer, they can never gain.

Returning to our boat on the brink of the river, a slight noise caught my ear; I turned, and saw a ragged mother kissing her naked child, while another of two years old, dirty and disgusting, was struggling to share its mother's embraces; their father I had just seen with an iron collar round his neck; and she loved these miserable children, and they loved their miserable mother, as if they were all clothed "in purple and fine raiment every day." But a few minutes after, a woman, knowing that we were " Franks," brought on board our boat a child, with a face and head so bloated with disease, that it was disgusting to look at. The rais took the child in his arms and brought it up to us, the whole crew following with a friendly interest. My companion gave them a bottle of brandy, with which the rais carefully bathed the face and head of the child, all the crew leaning over to help; and when they had finished to their satisfaction, these kind-hearted but clumsy nurses kissed the miserable bawling infant, and passed it, with as much care as if it had been a basket of crockery, into the hands of the grateful mother.

This scene was finely contrasted with one that immediately followed. The boat was aground, and in an instant, stripping their long gowns over their heads, a dozen large swarthy figures were standing naked on the deck; in a moment more they were splashing in the river, and with their

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