That Belgium is now one of the European kingdoms, living by its own
laws, resting on its own bottom, with a king and court, palaces and
parliament of its own, is known to all the world. And a very nice little
kingdom it is; full of old towns, fine Flemish pictures, and interesting
Gothic churches. But in the memory of very many of us who do not think
ourselves old men, Belgium, as it is now called–in those days it used
to be Flanders and Brabant–was a part of Holland; and it obtained its
own independence by a revolution. In that revolution the most important
military step was the siege of Antwerp, which was defended on the part
of the Dutch by General Chassé, with the utmost gallantry, but
nevertheless ineffectually.
After the siege Antwerp became quite a show place; and among the
visitors who flocked there to talk of the gallant general, and to see
what remained of the great effort which he had made to defend the place,
were two Englishmen. One was the hero of this little history; and the
other was a young man of considerably less weight in the world. The less
I say of the latter the better; but it is necessary that I should give
some description of the former.
The Rev. Augustus Horne was, at the time of my narrative, a beneficed
clergyman of the Church of England. The profession which he had graced
sat easily on him. Its external marks and signs were as pleasing to his
friends as were its internal comforts to himself. He was a man of much
quiet mirth, full of polished wit, and on some rare occasions he could
descend to the more noisy hilarity of a joke. Loved by his friends he
loved all the world. He had known no care and seen no sorrow. Always
intended for holy orders he had entered them without a scruple, and
remained within their pale without a regret. At twenty-four he had been
a deacon, at twenty-seven a priest, at thirty a rector, and at
thirty-five a prebendary; and as his rectory was rich and his prebendal
stall well paid, the Rev. Augustus Horne was called by all, and called
himself, a happy man. His stature was about six feet two, and his
corpulence exceeded even those bounds which symmetry would have
preferred as being most perfectly compatible even with such a height.
But nevertheless Mr. Horne was a well-made man; his hands and feet were
small; his face was handsome, frank, and full of expression; his bright
eyes twinkled with humour; his finely-cut mouth disclosed two marvellous
rows of well-preserved ivory; and his slightly aquiline nose was just
such a projection as one would wish to see on the face of a well-fed
good-natured dignitary of the Church of England. When I add to all this
that the reverend gentleman was as generous as he was rich–and the kind
mother in whose arms he had been nurtured had taken care that he should
never want–I need hardly say that I was blessed with a very pleasant
travelling companion.
I must mention one more interesting particular. Mr. Horne was rather
inclined to dandyism, in an innocent way. His clerical starched
neckcloth was always of the whitest, his cambric handkerchief of the
finest, his bands adorned with the broadest border; his sable suit never
degenerated to a rusty brown; it not only gave on all occasions glossy
evidence of freshness, but also of the talent which the artisan had
displayed in turning out a well-dressed clergyman of the Church of
England. His hair was ever brushed with scrupulous attention, and showed
in its regular waves the guardian care of each separate bristle. And all
this was done with that ease and grace which should be the
characteristics of a dignitary of the established English Church.
I had accompanied Mr. Horne to the Rhine; and we had reached Brussels on
our return, just at the close of that revolution which ended in
affording a throne to the son-in-law of George the Fourth. At that
moment General Chassé’s name and fame were in every man’s mouth, and,
like other curious admirers of the brave, Mr. Horne determined to devote
two days to the scene of the late events at Antwerp. Antwerp, moreover,
possesses perhaps the finest spire, and certainly one of the three or
four finest pictures, in the world. Of General Chassé, of the cathedral,
and of the Rubens, I had heard much, and was therefore well pleased that
such should be his resolution. This accomplished we were to return to
Brussels; and thence, viâ Ghent, Ostend, and Dover, I to complete my
legal studies in London, and Mr. Horne to enjoy once more the peaceful
retirement of Ollerton rectory. As we were to be absent from Brussels
but one night we were enabled to indulge in the gratification of
travelling without our luggage. A small sac-de-nuit was prepared;
brushes, combs, razors, strops, a change of linen, &c. &c., were
carefully put up; but our heavy baggage, our coats, waistcoats, and
other wearing apparel were unnecessary. It was delightful to feel
oneself so light-handed. The reverend gentleman, with my humble self by
his side, left the portal of the Hôtel de Belle Vue at 7 A.M., in good
humour with all the world. There were no railroads in those days; but a
cabriolet, big enough to hold six persons, with rope traces and
corresponding appendages, deposited us at the Golden Fleece in something
less than six hours. The inward man was duly fortified, and we started
for the castle.
It boots not here to describe the effects which gunpowder and grape-shot
had had on the walls of Antwerp. Let the curious in these matters read
the horrors of the siege of Troy, or the history of Jerusalem taken by
Titus. The one may be found in Homer, and the other in Josephus. Or if
they prefer doings of a later date there is the taking of Sebastopol, as
narrated in the columns of the “Times” newspaper. The accounts are
equally true, instructive, and intelligible. In the mean time allow the
Rev. Augustus Horne and myself to enter the private chambers of the
renowned though defeated general.
We rambled for a while through the covered way, over the glacis and
along the counterscarp, and listened to the guide as he detailed to us,
in already accustomed words, how the siege had gone. Then we got into
the private apartments of the general, and, having dexterously shaken
off our attendant, wandered at large among the deserted rooms.
“It is clear that no one ever comes here,” said I.
“No,” said the Rev. Augustus; “it seems not; and to tell the truth, I
don’t know why any one should come. The chambers in themselves are not
What he said was true. They were plain, ugly, square, unfurnished rooms,
here a big one, and there a little one, as is usual in most
houses;–unfurnished, that is, for the most part. In one place we did
find a table and a few chairs, in another a bedstead, and so on. But to
me it was pleasant to indulge in those ruminations which any traces of
the great or unfortunate create in softly sympathising minds. For a time
we communicated our thoughts to each other as we roamed free as air
through the apartments; and then I lingered for a few moments behind,
while Mr. Horne moved on with a quicker step.
At last I entered the bedchamber of the general, and there I overtook my
friend. He was inspecting, with much attention, an article of the great
man’s wardrobe which he held in his hand. It was precisely that virile
habiliment to which a well-known gallant captain alludes in his
conversation with the posthumous appearance of Miss Bailey, as
containing a Bank of England £5 note.
“The general must have been a large man, George, or he would hardly have
filled these,” said Mr. Horne, holding up to the light the respectable
leathern articles in question. “He must have been a very large man,–the
largest man in Antwerp, I should think; or else his tailor has done him
more than justice.”
They were certainly large, and had about them a charming regimental
military appearance. They were made of white leather, with bright metal
buttons at the knees and bright metal buttons at the top. They owned no
pockets, and were, with the exception of the legitimate outlet,
continuous in the circumference of the waistband. No dangling strings
gave them an appearance of senile imbecility. Were it not for a certain
rigidity, sternness, and mental inflexibility,–we will call it military
ardour,–with which they were imbued, they would have created envy in
the bosom of a fox-hunter.
Mr. Horne was no fox-hunter, but still he seemed to be irresistibly
taken with the lady-like propensity of wishing to wear them. “Surely,
George,” he said, “the general must have been a stouter man than I
am”–and he contemplated his own proportions with complacency–“these
what’s-the-names are quite big enough for me.”
I differed in opinion, and was obliged to explain that I thought he did
the good living of Ollerton insufficient justice.
“I am sure they are large enough for me,” he repeated, with considerable
obstinacy. I smiled incredulously; and then to settle the matter he
resolved that he would try them on. Nobody had been in these rooms for
the last hour, and it appeared as though they were never visited. Even
the guide had not come on with us, but was employed in showing other
parties about the fortifications. It was clear that this portion of the
building was left desolate, and that the experiment might be safely
made. So the sportive rector declared that he would for a short time
wear the regimentals which had once contained the valorous heart of
General Chassé.
With all decorum the Rev. Mr. Horne divested himself of the work of the
London artist’s needle, and, carefully placing his own garments beyond
the reach of dust, essayed to fit himself in military garb.
At that important moment–at the critical instant of the attempt–the
clatter of female voices was heard approaching the chamber. They must
have suddenly come round some passage corner, for it was evident by the
sound that they were close upon us before we had any warning of their
advent. At this very minute Mr. Horne was somewhat embarrassed in his
attempts, and was not fully in possession of his usual active powers of
movement, nor of his usual presence of mind. He only looked for escape;
and seeing a door partly open, he with difficulty retreated through it,
and I followed him. We found that we were in a small dressing-room; and
as by good luck the door was defended by an inner bolt, my friend was
able to protect himself.
“There shall be another siege, at any rate as stout as the last, before
I surrender,” said he.
As the ladies seemed inclined to linger in the room it became a matter
of importance that the above-named articles should fit, not only for
ornament but for use. It was very cold, and Mr. Horne was altogether
unused to move in a Highland sphere of life. But alas, alas! General
Chassé had not been nurtured in the classical retirement of Ollerton.
The ungiving leather would stretch no point to accommodate the divine,
though it had been willing to minister to the convenience of the
soldier. Mr. Horne was vexed and chilled; and throwing the now hateful
garments into a corner, and protecting himself from the cold as best he
might by standing with his knees together and his body somewhat bent so
as to give the skirts of his coat an opportunity of doing extra duty, he
begged me to see if those jabbering females were not going to leave him
in peace to recover his own property. I accordingly went to the door,
and opening it to a small extent I peeped through.
Who shall describe my horror at the sight which I then saw? The scene,
which had hitherto been tinted with comic effect, was now becoming so
decidedly tragic that I did not dare at once to acquaint my worthy
pastor with that which was occurring,–and, alas! had already occurred.
Five country-women of our own–it was easy to know them by their dress
and general aspect–were standing in the middle of the room; and one of
them, the centre of the group, the senior harpy of the lot, a maiden
lady–I could have sworn to that–with a red nose, held in one hand a
huge pair of scissors, and in the other–the already devoted goods of my
most unfortunate companion! Down from the waistband, through that goodly
expanse, a fell gash had already gone through and through; and in
useless, unbecoming disorder the broadcloth fell pendant from her arm on
this side and on that. At that moment I confess that I had not the
courage to speak to Mr. Horne,–not even to look at him.
I must describe that group. Of the figure next to me I could only see
the back. It was a broad back done up in black silk not of the newest.
The whole figure, one may say, was dumpy. The black silk was not long,
as dresses now are worn, nor wide in its skirts. In every way it was
skimpy, considering the breadth it had to cover; and below the silk I
saw the heels of two thick shoes, and enough to swear by of two woollen
stockings. Above the silk was a red and blue shawl; and above that a
ponderous, elaborate brown bonnet, as to the materials of which I should
not wish to undergo an examination. Over and beyond this I could only
see the backs of her two hands. They were held up as though in wonder at
that which the red-nosed holder of the scissors had dared to do.
Opposite to this lady, and with her face fully turned to me, was a
kindly-looking, fat motherly woman, with light-coloured hair, not in the
best order. She was hot and scarlet with exercise, being perhaps too
stout for the steep steps of the fortress; and in one hand she held a
handkerchief, with which from time to time she wiped her brow. In the
other hand she held one of the extremities of my friend’s property,
feeling–good, careful soul!–what was the texture of the cloth. As she
did so, I could see a glance of approbation pass across her warm
features. I liked that lady’s face, in spite of her untidy hair, and
felt that had she been alone my friend would not have been injured.
On either side of her there stood a flaxen-haired maiden, with long
curls, large blue eyes, fresh red cheeks, an undefined lumpy nose, and
large good-humoured mouth. They were as like as two peas, only that one
was half an inch taller than the other; and there was no difficulty in
discovering, at a moment’s glance, that they were the children of that
over-heated matron who was feeling the web of my friend’s cloth.
But the principal figure was she who held the centre place in the group.
She was tall and thin, with fierce-looking eyes, rendered more fierce by
the spectacles which she wore; with a red nose as I said before; and
about her an undescribable something which quite convinced me that she
had never known–could never know–aught of the comforts of married
life. It was she who held the scissors and the black garments. It was
she who had given that unkind cut. As I looked at her she whisked
herself quickly round from one companion to the other, triumphing in
what she had done, and ready to triumph further in what she was about to
do. I immediately conceived a deep hatred for that Queen of the Harpies.
“Well, I suppose they can’t be wanted again,” said the mother, rubbing
her forehead.
“Oh dear no!” said she of the red nose. “They are relics!”
I thought to leap forth; but for what purpose should I have leaped? The
accursed scissors had already done their work; and the symmetry, nay,
even the utility of the vestment was destroyed.
“General Chassé wore a very good article;–I will say that for him,”
continued the mother.
“Of course he did!” said the Queen Harpy. “Why should he not, seeing
that the country paid for it for him? Well, ladies, who’s for having a
“Oh my! you won’t go for to cut them up,” said the stout back.
“Won’t I,” said the scissors; and she immediately made another incision.
“Who’s for having a bit? Don’t all speak at once.”
“I should like a morsel for a pincushion,” said flaxen-haired Miss No.
1, a young lady about nineteen, actuated by a general affection for all
sword-bearing, fire-eating heroes. “I should like to have something to
make me think of the poor general!”
Snip, snip went the scissors with professional rapidity, and a round
piece was extracted from the back of the calf of the left leg. I
shuddered with horror; and so did the Rev. Augustus Horne with cold.
“I hardly think it’s proper to cut them up,” said Miss No. 2.
“Oh isn’t it?” said the harpy. “Then I’ll do what’s improper!” And she
got her finger and thumb well through the holes in the scissors’
handles. As she spoke resolution was plainly marked on her brow.
“Well, if they are to be cut up, I should certainly like a bit for a
pen-wiper,” said No. 2. No. 2 was a literary young lady with a
periodical correspondence, a journal, and an album. Snip, snip went the
scissors again, and the broad part of the upper right division afforded
ample materials for a pen-wiper.
Then the lady with the back, seeing that the desecration of the article
had been completed, plucked up heart of courage and put in her little
request; “I think I might have a needle-case out of it,” said she, “just
as a suvneer of the poor general”–and a long fragment cut rapidly out
of the waistband afforded her unqualified delight.
Mamma, with the hot face and untidy hair, came next. “Well, girls,” she
said, “as you are all served, I don’t see why I’m to be left out.
Perhaps, Miss Grogram”–she was an old maid, you see–“perhaps, Miss
Grogram, you could get me as much as would make a decent-sized
There was not the slightest difficulty in doing this. The harpy in the
centre again went to work, snip, snip, and extracting from that portion
of the affairs which usually sustained the greater portion of Mr.
Horne’s weight two large round pieces of cloth, presented them to the
well-pleased matron. “The general knew well where to get a bit of good
broadcloth, certainly,” said she, again feeling the pieces.
“And now for No. 1,” said she whom I so absolutely hated; “I think there
is still enough for a pair of slippers. There’s nothing so nice for the
house as good black cloth slippers that are warm to the feet and don’t
show the dirt.” And so saying, she spread out on the floor the lacerated
“There’s a nice bit there,” said young lady No. 2, poking at one of the
pockets with the end of her parasol.
“Yes,” said the harpy, contemplating her plunder. “But I’m thinking
whether I couldn’t get leggings as well. I always wear leggings in the
thick of the winter.” And so she concluded her operations, and there was
nothing left but a melancholy skeleton of seams and buttons.
All this having been achieved, they pocketed their plunder and prepared
to depart. There are people who have a wonderful appetite for relics. A
stone with which Washington had broken a window when a boy–with which
he had done so or had not, for there is little difference; a button that
was on a coat of Napoleon’s, or on that of one of his lackeys; a bullet
said to have been picked up at Waterloo or Bunker’s Hill; these, and
suchlike things are great treasures. And their most desirable
characteristic is the ease with which they are attained. Any bullet or
any button does the work. Faith alone is necessary. And now these
ladies had made themselves happy and glorious with “Relics” of General
Chassé cut from the ill-used habiliments of an elderly English
They departed at last, and Mr. Horne, for once in an ill humour,
followed me into the bedroom. Here I must be excused if I draw a veil
over his manly sorrow at discovering what fate had done for him.
Remember what was his position, unclothed in the Castle of Antwerp! The
nearest suitable change for those which had been destroyed was locked up
in his portmanteau at the Hôtel de Belle Vue in Brussels! He had nothing
left to him–literally nothing, in that Antwerp world. There was no
other wretched being wandering then in that Dutch town so utterly
denuded of the goods of life. For what is a man fit,–for what can he be
fit,–when left in such a position? There are some evils which seem
utterly to crush a man; and if there be any misfortune to which a man
may be allowed to succumb without imputation on his manliness, surely it
is such as this. How was Mr. Home to return to his hotel without
incurring the displeasure of the municipality? That was my first
He had a cloak, but it was at the inn; and I found that my friend was
oppressed with a great horror at the idea of being left alone; so that I
could not go in search of it. There is an old saying, that no man is a
hero to his valet de chambre,–the reason doubtless being this, that it
is customary for his valet to see the hero divested of those trappings
in which so much of the heroic consists. Who reverences a clergyman
without his gown, or a warrior without his sword and sabre-tasche? What
would even Minerva be without her helmet?
I do not wish it to be understood that I no longer reverenced Mr. Horne
because he was in an undress; but he himself certainly lost much of his
composed, well-sustained dignity of demeanour. He was fearful and
querulous, cold, and rather cross. When, forgetting his size, I offered
him my own, he thought that I was laughing at him. He began to be afraid
that the story would get abroad, and he then and there exacted a promise
that I would never tell it during his lifetime. I have kept my word; but
now my old friend has been gathered to his fathers, full of years.
At last I got him to the hotel. It was long before he would leave the
castle, cloaked though he was;–not, indeed, till the shades of evening
had dimmed the outlines of men and things, and made indistinct the
outward garniture of those who passed to and fro in the streets. Then,
wrapped in his cloak, Mr. Horne followed me along the quays and through
the narrowest of the streets; and at length, without venturing to return
the gaze of any one in the hotel court, he made his way up to his own
Dinnerless and supperless he went to his couch. But when there he did
consent to receive some consolation in the shape of mutton cutlets and
fried potatoes, a savory omelet, and a bottle of claret. The mutton
cutlets and fried potatoes at the Golden Fleece at Antwerp are–or were
then, for I am speaking now of well-nigh thirty years since–remarkably
good; the claret, also, was of the best; and so, by degrees, the look of
despairing dismay passed from his face, and some scintillations of the
old fire returned to his eyes.
“I wonder whether they find themselves much happier for what they have
got?” said he.
“A great deal happier,” said I. “They’ll boast of those things to all
their friends at home, and we shall doubtless see some account of their
success in the newspapers.”
“It would be delightful to expose their blunder,–to show them up. Would
it not, George? To turn the tables on them?”
“Yes,” said I, “I should like to have the laugh against them.”
“So would I, only that I should compromise myself by telling the story.
It wouldn’t do at all to have it told at Oxford with my name attached to
To this also I assented. To what would I not have assented in my anxiety
to make him happy after his misery?
But all was not over yet. He was in bed now, but it was necessary that
he should rise again on the morrow. At home, in England, what was
required might perhaps have been made during the night; but here, among
the slow Flemings, any such exertion would have been impossible. Mr.
Horne, moreover, had no desire to be troubled in his retirement by a
Now the landlord of the Golden fleece was a very stout man,–a very
stout man indeed. Looking at him as he stood with his hands in his
pockets at the portal of his own establishment, I could not but think
that he was stouter even than Mr. Horne. But then he was certainly much
shorter, and the want of due proportion probably added to his unwieldy
appearance. I walked round him once or twice wishfully, measuring him in
my eye, and thinking of what texture might be the Sunday best of such a
man. The clothes which he then had on were certainly not exactly suited
to Mr. Horne’s tastes.
He saw that I was observing him, and appeared uneasy and offended. I had
already ascertained that he spoke a little English. Of Flemish I knew
literally nothing, and in French, with which probably he was also
acquainted, I was by no means voluble. The business which I had to
transact was intricate, and I required the use of my mother-tongue.
It was intricate and delicate, and difficult withal. I began by
remarking on the weather, but he did not take my remarks kindly. I am
inclined to fancy that he thought I was desirous of borrowing money from
him. At any rate he gave me no encouragement in my first advances.
“Vat misfortune?” at last he asked, when I had succeeded in making him
understand that a gentleman up stairs required his assistance.
“He has lost these things,” and I took hold of my own garments. “It’s a
long story, or I’d tell you how; but he has not a pair in the world till
he gets back to Brussels,–unless you can lend him one.”
“Lost hees br—-?” and he opened his eyes wide, and looked at me with
“Yes, yes, exactly so,” said I, interrupting him. “Most astonishing
thing, isn’t it? But it’s quite true.”
“Vas hees money in de pocket?” asked my suspicious landlord.
“No, no, no. It’s not so bad as that. His money is all right. I had the
money, luckily.”
“Ah! dat is better. But he have lost hees b—-?”
“Yes, yes;” I was now getting rather impatient. “There is no mistake
about it. He has lost them as sure as you stand there.” And then I
proceeded to explain that as the gentleman in question was very stout,
and as he, the landlord, was stout also, he might assist us in this
great calamity by a loan from his own wardrobe.
When he found that the money was not in the pocket, and that his bill
therefore would be paid, he was not indisposed to be gracious. He would,
he said, desire his servant to take up what was required to Mr. Horne’s
chamber. I endeavoured to make him understand that a sombre colour would
be preferable; but he only answered that he would put the best that he
had at the gentleman’s disposal. He could not think of offering anything
less than his best on such an occasion. And then he turned his back and
went his way, muttering as he went something in Flemish, which I
believed to be an exclamation of astonishment that any man should,
under any circumstances, lose such an article.
It was now getting late; so when I had taken a short stroll by myself, I
went to bed without disturbing Mr. Horne again that night. On the
following morning I thought it best not to go to him unless he sent for
me; so I desired the boots to let him know that I had ordered breakfast
in a private room, and that I would await him there unless he wished to
see me. He sent me word back to say that he would be with me very
He did not keep me waiting above half an hour, but I confess that that
half hour was not pleasantly spent. I feared that his temper would be
tried in dressing, and that he would not be able to eat his breakfast in
a happy state of mind. So that when I heard his heavy footstep advancing
along the passage my heart did misgive me, and I felt that I was
That step was certainly slower and more ponderous than usual. There was
always a certain dignity in the very sound of his movements, but now
this seemed to have been enhanced. To judge merely by the step one would
have said that a bishop was coming that way instead of a prebendary.
And then he entered. In the upper half of his august person no
alteration was perceptible. The hair was as regular and as graceful as
ever, the handkerchief as white, the coat as immaculate; but below his
well-filled waistcoat a pair of red plush began to shine in unmitigated
splendour, and continued from thence down to within an inch above his
knee; nor, as it appeared, could any pulling induce them to descend
lower. Mr. Horne always wore black silk stockings,–at least so the
world supposed, but it was now apparent that the world had been wrong in
presuming him to be guilty of such extravagance. Those, at any rate,
which he exhibited on the present occasion were more economical. They
were silk to the calf, but thence upwards they continued their career in
white cotton. These then followed the plush; first two snowy, full-sized
pillars of white, and then two jet columns of flossy silk. Such was the
appearance, on that well-remembered morning, of the Rev. Augustus Horne,
as he entered the room in which his breakfast was prepared.
I could see at a glance that a dark frown contracted his eyebrows, and
that the compressed muscles of his upper lip gave a strange degree of
austerity to his open face. He carried his head proudly on high,
determined to be dignified in spite of his misfortunes, and advanced two
steps into the room without a remark, as though he were able to show
that neither red plush nor black cloth could disarrange the equal poise
of his mighty mind!
And after all what are a man’s garments but the outward husks in which
the fruit is kept, duly tempered from the wind?
“The rank is but the guinea stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.”
And is not the tailor’s art as little worthy, as insignificant as that
of the king who makes
“A marquis, duke, and a’ that”?
Who would be content to think that his manly dignity depended on his
coat and waistcoat, or his hold on the world’s esteem on any other
garment of usual wear? That no such weakness soiled his mind Mr. Horne
was determined to prove; and thus he entered the room with measured
tread, and stern dignified demeanour.
Having advanced two steps his eye caught mine. I do not know whether he
was moved by some unconscious smile on my part;–for in truth I
endeavoured to seem as indifferent as himself to the nature of his
dress;–or whether he was invincibly tickled by some inward fancy of his
own, but suddenly his advancing step ceased, a broad flash of comic
humour spread itself over his features, he retreated with his back
against the wall, and then burst out into an immoderate roar of loud
And I–what else could I then do but laugh? He laughed, and I laughed.
He roared, and I roared. He lifted up his vast legs to view till the
rays of the morning sun shone through the window on the bright hues
which he displayed; and he did not sit down to his breakfast till he had
in every fantastic attitude shown off to the best advantage the red
plush of which he had so recently become proud.
An Antwerp private cabriolet on that day reached the yard of the Hôtel
de Belle Vue at about 4 P.M., and four waiters, in a frenzy of
astonishment, saw the Reverend Augustus Horne descend from the vehicle
and seek his chamber dressed in the garments which I have described. But
I am inclined to think that he never again favoured any of his friends
with such a sight.
It was on the next evening after this that I went out to drink tea with
two maiden ladies, relatives of mine, who kept a seminary for English
girls at Brussels. The Misses Macmanus were very worthy women, and
earned their bread in an upright, painstaking manner. I would not for
worlds have passed through Brussels without paying them this
compliment. They were, however, perhaps a little dull, and I was aware
that I should not probably meet in their drawing-room many of the
fashionable inhabitants of the city. Mr. Horne had declined to accompany
me; but in doing so he was good enough to express a warm admiration for
the character of my worthy cousins.
The elder Miss Macmanus, in her little note, had informed me that she
would have the pleasure of introducing me to a few of my “compatriots.”
I presumed she meant Englishmen; and as I was in the habit of meeting
such every day of my life at home, I cannot say that I was peculiarly
elevated by the promise. When, however, I entered the room, there was no
Englishman there;–there was no man of any kind. There were twelve
ladies collected together with the view of making the evening pass
agreeably to me, the single virile being among them all. I felt as
though I were a sort of Mohammed in Paradise; but I certainly felt also
that the Paradise was none of my own choosing.
In the centre of the amphitheatre which the ladies formed sat the two
Misses Macmanus;–there, at least, they sat when they had completed the
process of shaking hands with me. To the left of them, making one wing
of the semicircle, were arranged the five pupils by attending to whom
the Misses Macmanus earned their living; and the other wing consisted of
the five ladies who had furnished themselves with relics of General
Chassé. They were my “compatriots.”
I was introduced to them all, one after the other; but their names did
not abide in my memory one moment. I was thinking too much of the
singularity of the adventure, and could not attend to such minutiæ. That
the red-rosed harpy was Miss Grogram, that I remembered;–that, I may
say, I shall never forget. But whether the motherly lady with the
somewhat blowsy hair was Mrs. Jones, or Mrs. Green, or Mrs. Walker, I
cannot now say. The dumpy female with the broad back was always called
Aunt Sally by the young ladies.
Too much sugar spoils one’s tea; I think I have heard that even
prosperity will cloy when it comes in overdoses; and a schoolboy has
been known to be overdone with jam. I myself have always been peculiarly
attached to ladies’ society, and have avoided bachelor parties as things
execrable in their very nature. But on this special occasion I felt
myself to be that schoolboy;–I was literally overdone with jam. My tea
was all sugar, so that I could not drink it. I was one among twelve.
What could I do or say? The proportion of alloy was too small to have
any effect in changing the nature of the virgin silver, and the
conversation became absolutely feminine.
I must confess also that my previous experience as to these compatriots
of mine had not prejudiced me in their favour. I regarded them with,–I
am ashamed to say so, seeing that they were ladies,–but almost with
loathing. When last I had seen them their occupation had reminded me of
some obscene feast of harpies, or almost of ghouls. They had brought
down to the verge of desperation the man whom of all men I most
venerated. On these accounts I was inclined to be taciturn with
reference to them;–and then what could I have to say to the Misses
Macmanus’s five pupils?
My cousin at first made an effort or two in my favour, but these efforts
were fruitless. I soon died away into utter unrecognised insignificance,
and the conversation, as I have before said, became feminine. And indeed
that horrid Miss Grogram, who was, as it were, the princess of the
ghouls, nearly monopolised the whole of it. Mamma Jones–we will call
her Jones for the occasion–put in a word now and then, as did also the
elder and more energetic Miss Macmanus. The dumpy lady with the broad
back ate tea-cake incessantly; the two daughters looked scornful, as
though they were above their company with reference to the five pupils;
and the five pupils themselves sat in a row with the utmost propriety,
each with her hands crossed on her lap before her.
Of what they were talking at last I became utterly oblivious. They had
ignored me, going into realms of muslin, questions of maid-servants,
female rights, and cheap under-clothing; and I therefore had ignored
them. My mind had gone back to Mr. Horne and his garments. While they
spoke of their rights, I was thinking of his wrongs; when they mentioned
the price of flannel, I thought of that of broadcloth.
But of a sudden my attention was arrested. Miss Macmanus had said
something of the black silks of Antwerp, when Miss Grogram replied that
she had just returned from that city and had there enjoyed a great
success. My cousin had again asked something about the black silks,
thinking, no doubt, that Miss Grogram had achieved some bargain; but
that lady had soon undeceived her.
“Oh no,” said Miss Grogram, “it was at the castle. We got such beautiful
relics of General Chassé! Didn’t we, Mrs. Jones?”
“Indeed we did,” said Mrs. Jones, bringing out from beneath the skirts
of her dress and ostensibly displaying a large black bag.
“And I’ve got such a beautiful needle-case,” said the broad-back,
displaying her prize. “I’ve been making it up all the morning.” And she
handed over the article to Miss Macmanus.
“And only look at this duck of a pen-wiper,” simpered flaxen-hair No. 2.
“Only think of wiping one’s pens with relics of General Chassé!” and she
handed it over to the other Miss Macmanus.
“And mine’s a pin-cushion,” said No. 1, exhibiting the trophy.
“But that’s nothing to what I’ve got,” said Miss Grogram. “In the first
place, there’s a pair of slippers,–a beautiful pair;–they’re not made
up yet, of course; and then–”
The two Misses Macmanus and their five pupils were sitting open-eared,
open-eyed, and open-mouthed. How all these sombre-looking articles could
be relics of General Chassé did not at first appear clear to them.
“What are they, Miss Grogram?” said the elder Miss Macmanus, holding the
needle-case in one hand and Mrs. Jones’s bag in the other. Miss Macmanus
was a strong-minded female, and I reverenced my cousin when I saw the
decided way in which she intended to put down the greedy arrogance of
Miss Grogram.
“They are relics.”
“But where do they come from, Miss Grogram?”
“Why, from the castle, to be sure;–from General Chasse’s own rooms.”
“Did anybody sell them to you?”
“Or give them to you?”
“Why, no;–at least not exactly give.”
“There they were, and she took ’em,” said the broad-back.
Oh, what a look Miss Grogram gave her! “Took them! of course I took
them. That is, you took them as much as I did. They were things that we
found lying about.”
“What things?” asked Miss Macmanus, in a peculiarly strong-minded tone.
Miss Grogram seemed to be for a moment silenced. I had been ignored, as
I have said, and my existence forgotten; but now I observed that the
eyes of the culprits were turned towards me,–the eyes, that is, of four
of them. Mrs. Jones looked at me from beneath her fan; the two girls
glanced at me furtively, and then their eyes fell to the lowest flounces
of their frocks. Miss Grogram turned her spectacles right upon me, and
I fancied that she nodded her head at me as a sort of answer to Miss
Macmanus. The five pupils opened their mouths and eyes wider; but she of
the broad back was nothing abashed. It would have been nothing to her
had there been a dozen gentlemen in the room. “We just found a pair of
black —-.” The whole truth was told in the plainest possible language.
“Oh, Aunt Sally!” “Aunt Sally, how can you?” “Hold your tongue, Aunt
“And then Miss Grogram just cut them up with her scissors,” continued
Aunt Sally, not a whit abashed, “and gave us each a bit, only she took
more than half for herself.” It was clear to me that there had been some
quarrel, some delicious quarrel, between Aunt Sally and Miss Grogram.
Through the whole adventure I had rather respected Aunt Sally. “She took
more than half for herself,” continued Aunt Sally. “She kept all
“Jemima,” said the elder Miss Macmanus, interrupting the speaker and
addressing her sister, “it is time, I think, for the young ladies to
retire. Will you be kind enough to see them to their rooms?” The five
pupils thereupon rose from their seats and courtesied. They then left
the room in file, the younger Miss Macmanus showing them the way.
“But we haven’t done any harm, have we?” asked Mrs. Jones, with some
tremulousness in her voice.
“Well, I don’t know,” said Miss Macmanus. “What I’m thinking of now is
this;–to whom, I wonder, did the garments properly belong? Who had been
the owner and wearer of them?”
“Why, General Chassé of course,” said Miss Grogram.
“They were the general’s,” repeated the two young ladies; blushing,
however, as they alluded to the subject.
“Well, we thought they were the general’s, certainly; and a very
excellent article they were,” said Mrs. Jones.
“Perhaps they were the butler’s?” said Aunt Sally. I certainly had not
given her credit for so much sarcasm.
“Butler’s!” exclaimed Miss Grogram, with a toss of her head.
“Oh, Aunt Sally, Aunt Sally! how can you?” shrieked the two young
“Oh laws!” ejaculated Mrs. Jones.
“I don’t think that they could have belonged to the butler,” said Miss
Macmanus, with much authority, “seeing that domestics in this country
are never clad in garments of that description; so far my own
observation enables me to speak with certainty. But it is equally sure
that they were never the property of the general lately in command at
Antwerp. Generals, when they are in full dress, wear ornamental lace
upon their–their regimentals; and when–” So much she said, and
something more, which it may be unnecessary that I should repeat; but
such were her eloquence and logic that no doubt would have been left on
the mind of any impartial hearer. If an argumentative speaker ever
proved anything, Miss Macmanus proved that General Chassé had never been
the wearer of the article in question.
“But I know very well they were his!” said Miss Grogram, who was not an
impartial hearer. “Of course they were; whose else’s should they be?”
“I’m sure I hope they were his,” said one of the young ladies, almost
“I wish I’d never taken it,” said the other.
“Dear, dear, dear!” said Mrs. Jones.
“I’ll give you my needle-case, Miss Grogram,” said Aunt Sally.
I had sat hitherto silent during the whole scene, meditating how best I
might confound the red-nosed harpy. Now, I thought, was the time for me
to strike in.
“I really think, ladies, that there has been some mistake,” said I.
“There has been no mistake at all, sir!” said Miss Grogram.
“Perhaps not,” I answered, very mildly; “very likely not. But some
affair of a similar nature was very much talked about in Antwerp
“Oh laws!” again ejaculated Mrs. Jones.
“The affair I allude to has been talked about a good deal, certainly,” I
continued. “But perhaps it may be altogether a different circumstance.”
“And what may be the circumstance to which you allude?” asked Miss
Macmanus, in the same authoritative tone.
“I dare say it has nothing to do with these ladies,” said I; “but an
article of dress, of the nature they have described, was cut up in the
Castle of Antwerp on the day before yesterday. It belonged to a
gentleman who was visiting the place; and I was given to understand that
he is determined to punish the people who have wronged him.”
“It can’t be the same,” said Miss Grogram; but I could see that she was
“Oh laws! what will become of us?” said Mrs. Jones.
“You can all prove that I didn’t touch them, and that I warned her not,”
said Aunt Sally. In the mean time the two young ladies had almost
fainted behind their fans.
“But how had it come to pass,” asked Miss Macmanus, “that the gentleman
“I know nothing more about it, cousin,” said I; “only it does seem that
there is an odd coincidence.”
Immediately after this I took my leave. I saw that I had avenged my
friend, and spread dismay in the hearts of those who had injured him. I
had learned in the course of the evening at what hotel the five ladies
were staying; and in the course of the next morning I sauntered into the
hall, and finding one of the porters alone, asked if they were still
there. The man told me that they had started by the earliest diligence.
“And,” said he, “if you are a friend of theirs, perhaps you will take
charge of these things, which they have left behind them?” So saying, he
pointed to a table at the back of the hall, on which were lying the
black bag, the black needle-case, the black pincushion, and the black
pen-wiper. There was also a heap of fragments of cloth which I well knew
had been intended by Miss Grogram for the comfort of her feet and
I declined the commission, however. “They were no special friends of
mine,” I said; and I left all the relics still lying on the little table
in the back hall.
“Upon the whole, I am satisfied!” said the Rev. Augustus Horne, when I
told him the finale of the story.
In the happy days when we were young, no description conveyed to us so
complete an idea of mysterious reality as that of an Oriental city. We
knew it was actually there, but had such vague notions of its ways and
looks! Let any one remember his early impressions as to Bagdad or Grand
Cairo, and then say if this was not so. It was probably taken from the
“Arabian Nights,” and the picture produced was one of strange,
fantastic, luxurious houses; of women who were either very young and
very beautiful, or else very old and very cunning; but in either state
exercising much more influence in life than women in the East do now; of
good-natured, capricious, though sometimes tyrannical monarchs; and of
life full of quaint mysteries, quite unintelligible in every phasis, and
on that account the more picturesque.
And perhaps Grand Cairo has thus filled us with more wonder even than
Bagdad. We have been in a certain manner at home at Bagdad, but have
only visited Grand Cairo occasionally. I know no place which was to me,
in early years, so delightfully mysterious as Grand Cairo.
But the route to India and Australia has changed all this. Men from all
countries going to the East, now pass through Cairo, and its streets and
costumes are no longer strange to us. It has become also a resort for
invalids, or rather for those who fear that they may become invalids if
they remain in a cold climate during the winter months. And thus at
Cairo there is always to be found a considerable population of French,
Americans, and of English. Oriental life is brought home to us,
dreadfully diluted by western customs, and the delights of the “Arabian
Nights” are shorn of half their value. When we have seen a thing it is
never so magnificent to us as when it was half unknown.
It is not much that we deign to learn from these Orientals,–we who
glory in our civilisation. We do not copy their silence or their
abstemiousness, nor that invariable mindfulness of his own personal
dignity which always adheres to a Turk or to an Arab. We chatter as much
at Cairo as elsewhere, and eat as much and drink as much, and dress
ourselves generally in the same old, ugly costume. But we do usually
take upon ourselves to wear red caps, and we do ride on donkeys.
Nor are the visitors from the West to Cairo by any means confined to the
male sex. Ladies are to be seen in the streets, quite regardless of the
Mahommedan custom which presumes a veil to be necessary for an
appearance in public; and, to tell the truth, the Mahommedans in general
do not appear to be much shocked by their effrontery.
A quarter of the town, has in this way become inhabited by men wearing
coats and waistcoats, and by women who are without veils; but the
English tongue in Egypt finds its centre at Shepheard’s Hotel. It is
here that people congregate who are looking out for parties to visit
with them the Upper Nile, and who are generally all smiles and courtesy;
and here also are to be found they who have just returned from this
journey, and who are often in a frame of mind towards their companions
that is much less amiable. From hence, during the winter, a cortége
proceeds almost daily to the Pyramids, or to Memphis, or to the
petrified forest, or to the City of the Sun. And then, again, four or
five times a month the house is filled with young aspirants going out to
India, male and female, full of valour and bloom; or with others coming
home, no longer young, no longer aspiring, but laden with children and
The party with whom we are at present concerned is not about to proceed
further than the Pyramids, and we shall be able to go with them and
return in one and the same day.
It consisted chiefly of an English family, Mr. and Mrs. Damer, their
daughter, and two young sons;–of these chiefly, because they were the
nucleus to which the others had attached themselves as adherents; they
had originated the journey, and in the whole management of it Mr. Damer
regarded himself as the master.
The adherents were, firstly, M. Delabordeau, a Frenchman, now resident
in Cairo, who had given out that he was in some way concerned in the
canal about to be made between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. In
discussion on this subject he had become acquainted with Mr. Damer; and
although the latter gentleman, true to English interests, perpetually
declared that the canal would never be made, and thus irritated M.
Delabordeau not a little–nevertheless, some measure of friendship had
grown up between them.
There was also an American gentleman, Mr. Jefferson Ingram, who was
comprising all countries and all nations in one grand tour, as American
gentlemen so often do. He was young and good-looking, and had made
himself especially agreeable to Mr. Damer, who had declared, more than
once, that Mr. Ingram was by far the most rational American he had ever
met. Mr. Ingram would listen to Mr. Damer by the half-hour as to the
virtue of the British Constitution, and had even sat by almost with
patience when Mr. Damer had expressed a doubt as to the good working of
the United States’ scheme of policy,–which, in an American, was most
wonderful. But some of the sojourners at Shepheard’s had observed that
Mr. Ingram was in the habit of talking with Miss Damer almost as much as
with her father, and argued from that, that fond as the young man was of
politics, he did sometimes turn his mind to other things also.
And then there was Miss Dawkins. Now Miss Dawkins was an important
person, both as to herself and as to her line of life, and she must be
described. She was, in the first place, an unprotected female of about
thirty years of age. As this is becoming an established profession,
setting itself up as it were in opposition to the old world idea that
women, like green peas, cannot come to perfection without
supporting-sticks, it will be understood at once what were Miss
Dawkins’s sentiments. She considered–or at any rate so expressed
herself–that peas could grow very well without sticks, and could not
only grow thus unsupported, but could also make their way about the
world without any incumbrance of sticks whatsoever. She did not intend,
she said, to rival Ida Pfeiffer, seeing that she was attached in a
moderate way to bed and board, and was attached to society in a manner
almost more than moderate; but she had no idea of being prevented from
seeing anything she wished to see because she had neither father, nor
husband, nor brother available for the purpose of escort. She was a
human creature, with arms and legs, she said; and she intended to use
them. And this was all very well; but nevertheless she had a strong
inclination to use the arms and legs of other people when she could make
them serviceable.
In person Miss Dawkins was not without attraction. I should exaggerate
if I were to say that she was beautiful and elegant; but she was good
looking, and not usually ill mannered. She was tall, and gifted with
features rather sharp and with eyes very bright. Her hair was of the
darkest shade of brown, and was always worn in bandeaux, very neatly.
She appeared generally in black, though other circumstances did not lead
one to suppose that she was in mourning; and then, no other travelling
costume is so convenient! She always wore a dark broad-brimmed straw
hat, as to the ribbons on which she was rather particular. She was very
neat about her gloves and boots; and though it cannot be said that her
dress was got up without reference to expense, there can be no doubt
that it was not effected without considerable outlay,–and more
considerable thought.
Miss Dawkins–Sabrina Dawkins was her name, but she seldom had friends
about her intimate enough to use the word Sabrina–was certainly a
clever young woman. She could talk on most subjects, if not well, at
least well enough to amuse. If she had not read much, she never showed
any lamentable deficiency; she was good-humoured, as a rule, and could
on occasions be very soft and winning. People who had known her long
would sometimes say that she was selfish; but with new acquaintance she
was forbearing and self-denying.
With what income Miss Dawkins was blessed no one seemed to know. She
lived like a gentlewoman, as far as outward appearance went, and never
seemed to be in want; but some people would say that she knew very well
how many sides there were to a shilling, and some enemy had once
declared that she was an “old soldier.” Such was Miss Dawkins.
She also, as well as Mr. Ingram and M. Delabordeau, had laid herself out
to find the weak side of Mr. Damer. Mr. Damer, with all his family, was
going up the Nile, and it was known that he had room for two in his boat
over and above his own family. Miss Dawkins had told him that she had
not quite made up her mind to undergo so great a fatigue, but that,
nevertheless, she had a longing of the soul to see something of Nubia.
To this Mr. Damer had answered nothing but “Oh!” which Miss Dawkins had
not found to be encouraging.
But she had not on that account despaired. To a married man there are
always two sides, and in this instance there was Mrs. Damer as well as
Mr. Damer. When Mr. Damer said “Oh!” Miss Dawkins sighed, and said,
“Yes, indeed!” then smiled, and betook herself to Mrs. Damer.
Now Mrs. Damer was soft-hearted, and also somewhat old-fashioned. She
did not conceive any violent affection for Miss Dawkins, but she told
her daughter that “the single lady by herself was a very nice young
woman, and that it was a thousand pities she should have to go about so
much alone like.”
Miss Damer had turned up her pretty nose, thinking, perhaps, how small
was the chance that it ever should be her own lot to be an unprotected
female. But Miss Dawkins carried her point at any rate as regarded the
expedition to the Pyramids.
Miss Damer, I have said, had a pretty nose. I may also say that she had
pretty eyes, mouth, and chin, with other necessary appendages, all
pretty. As to the two Master Damers, who were respectively of the ages
of fifteen and sixteen, it may be sufficient to say that they were
conspicuous for red caps and for the constancy with which they raced
their donkeys.
And now the donkeys, and the donkey boys, and the dragomans were all
standing at the steps of Shepheard’s Hotel. To each donkey there was a
donkey-boy, and to each gentleman there was a dragoman, so that a goodly
cortége was assembled, and a goodly noise was made. It may here be
remarked, perhaps with some little pride, that not half the noise is
given in Egypt to persons speaking any other language that is bestowed
on those whose vocabulary is English.
This lasted for half an hour. Had the party been French the donkeys
would have arrived only fifteen minutes before the appointed time. And
then out came Damer père and Damer mère, Damer fille, and Damer fils.
Damer mère was leaning on her husband, as was her wont. She was not an
unprotected female, and had no desire to make any attempts in that line.
Damer fille was attended sedulously by Mr. Ingram, for whose
demolishment, however, Mr. Damer still brought up, in a loud voice, the
fag ends of certain political arguments which he would fain have poured
direct into the ears of his opponent, had not his wife been so
persistent in claiming her privileges. M. Delabordeau should have
followed with Miss Dawkins, but his French politeness, or else his fear
of the unprotected female, taught him to walk on the other side of the
mistress of the party.
Miss Dawkins left the house with an eager young Damer yelling on each
side of her; but nevertheless, though thus neglected by the gentlemen of
the party, she was all smiles and prettiness, and looked so sweetly on
Mr. Ingram when that gentleman stayed a moment to help her on to her
donkey, that his heart almost misgave him for leaving her as soon as she
was in her seat.
And then they were off. In going from the hotel to the Pyramids our
party had not to pass through any of the queer old narrow streets of the
true Cairo–Cairo the Oriental. They all lay behind them as they went
down by the back of the hotel, by the barracks of the Pasha and the
College of the Dervishes, to the village of old Cairo and the banks of
the Nile.
Here they were kept half an hour while their dragomans made a bargain
with the ferryman, a stately reis, or captain of a boat, who declared
with much dignity that he could not carry them over for a sum less than
six times the amount to which he was justly entitled; while the
dragomans, with great energy on behalf of their masters, offered him
only five times that sum. As far as the reis was concerned, the contest
might soon have been at an end, for the man was not without a
conscience; and would have been content with five times and a half; but
then the three dragomans quarrelled among themselves as to which should
have the paying of the money, and the affair became very tedious.
“What horrid, odious men!” said Miss Dawkins, appealing to Mr. Damer.
“Do you think they will let us go over at all?”
“Well, I suppose they will; people do get over generally, I believe.
Abdallah! Abdallah! why don’t you pay the man? That fellow is always
striving to save half a piastre for me.”
“I wish he wasn’t quite so particular,” said Mrs. Damer, who was already
becoming rather tired; “but I’m sure he’s a very honest man in trying to
protect us from being robbed.”
“That he is,” said Miss Dawkins. “What a delightful trait of national
character it is to see these men so faithful to their employers.” And
then at last they got over the ferry, Mr. Ingram having descended among
the combatants, and settled the matter in dispute by threats and shouts,
and an uplifted stick.
They crossed the broad Nile exactly at the spot where the nilometer, or
river guage, measures from day to day, and from year to year, the
increasing or decreasing treasures of the stream, and landed at a
village where thousands of eggs are made into chickens by the process of
artificial incubation.
Mrs. Damer thought that it was very hard upon the maternal hens–the
hens which should have been maternal–that they should be thus robbed of
the delights of motherhood.
“So unnatural, you know,” said Miss Dawkins; “so opposed to the
fostering principles of creation. Don’t you think so, Mr. Ingram?”
Mr. Ingram said he didn’t know. He was again seating Miss Damer on her
donkey, and it must be presumed that he performed this feat clumsily;
for Fanny Damer could jump on and off the animal with hardly a finger to
help her, when her brother or her father was her escort; but now, under
the hands of Mr. Ingram, this work of mounting was one which required
considerable time and care. All which Miss Dawkins observed with
“It’s all very well talking,” said Mr. Damer, bringing up his donkey
nearly alongside that of Mr. Ingram, and ignoring his daughter’s
presence, just as he would have done that of his dog; “but you must
admit that political power is more equally distributed in England than
it is in America.”
“Perhaps it is,” said Mr. Ingram; “equally distributed among, we will
say, three dozen families,” and he made a feint as though to hold in his
impetuous donkey, using the spur, however, at the same time on the side
that was unseen by Mr. Damer. As he did so, Fanny’s donkey became
equally impetuous, and the two cantered on in advance of the whole
party. It was quite in vain that Mr. Damer, at the top of his voice,
shouted out something about “three dozen corruptible demagogues.” Mr.
Ingram found it quite impossible to restrain his donkey so as to listen
to the sarcasm.
“I do believe papa would talk politics,” said Fanny, “if he were at the
top of Mont Blanc, or under the Falls of Niagara. I do hate politics,
Mr. Ingram.”
“I am sorry for that, very,” said Mr. Ingram, almost sadly.
“Sorry, why? You don’t want me to talk politics, do you?”
“In America we are all politicians, more or less; and, therefore, I
suppose you will hate us all.”
“Well, I rather think I should,” said Fanny; “you would be such bores.”
But there was something in her eye, as she spoke, which atoned for the
harshness of her words.
“A very nice young man is Mr. Ingram; don’t you think so?” said Miss
Dawkins to Mrs. Damer. Mrs. Damer was going along upon her donkey, not
altogether comfortably. She much wished to have her lord and legitimate
protector by her side, but he had left her to the care of a dragoman
whose English was not intelligible to her, and she was rather cross.
“Indeed, Miss Dawkins, I don’t know who are nice and who are not. This
nasty donkey stumbles at ever step. There! I know I shall be down
“You need not be at all afraid of that; they are perfectly safe, I
believe, always,” said Miss Dawkins, rising in her stirrup, and handling
her reins quite triumphantly. “A very little practice will make you
quite at home.”
“I don’t know what you mean by a very little practice. I have been here
six weeks. Why did you put me on such a bad donkey as this?” and she
turned to Abdallah, the dragoman.
“Him berry good donkey, my lady; berry good,–best of all. Call him Jack
in Cairo. Him go to Pyramid and back, and mind noting.”
“What does he say, Miss Dawkins?”
“He says that that donkey is one called Jack. If so I’ve had him myself
many times, and Jack is a very good donkey.”
“I wish you had him now with all my heart,” said Mrs. Damer. Upon which
Miss Dawkins offered to change; but those perils of mounting and
dismounting were to Mrs. Damer a great deal too severe to admit of this.
“Seven miles of canal to be carried out into the sea, at a minimum depth
of twenty-three feet, and the stone to be fetched from Heaven knows
where! All the money in France wouldn’t do it.” This was addressed by
Mr. Damer to M. Delabordeau, whom he had caught after the abrupt flight
of Mr. Ingram.
“Den we will borrow a leetle from England,” said M. Delabordeau.
“Precious little, I can tell you. Such stock would not hold its price in
our markets for twenty-four hours. If it were made, the freights would
be too heavy to allow of merchandise passing through. The heavy goods
would all go round; and as for passengers and mails, you don’t expect to
get them, I suppose, while there is a railroad ready made to their
“Ve vill carry all your ships through vidout any transportation. Think
of that, my friend.”
“Pshaw! You are worse than Ingram. Of all the plans I ever heard of it
is the most monstrous, the most impracticable, the most—-” But here he
was interrupted by the entreaties of his wife, who had, in absolute deed
and fact, slipped from her donkey, and was now calling lustily for her
husband’s aid. Whereupon Miss Dawkins allied herself to the Frenchman,
and listened with an air of strong conviction to those arguments which
were so weak in the ears of Mr. Damer. M. Delabordeau was about to ride
across the Great Desert to Jerusalem, and it might perhaps be quite as
well to do that with him, as to go up the Nile as far as the second
cataract with the Damers.
“And so, M. Delabordeau, you intend really to start for Mount Sinai?”
“Yes, mees; ve intend to make one start on Monday week.”
“And so on to Jerusalem. You are quite right. It would be a thousand
pities to be in these countries, and to return without going over such
ground as that. I shall certainly go to Jerusalem myself by that route.”
“Vot, mees! you? Vould you not find it too much fatigante?”
“I care nothing for fatigue, if I like the party I am with,–nothing at
all, literally. You will hardly understand me, perhaps, M. Delabordeau;
but I do not see any reason why I, as a young woman, should not make any
journey that is practicable for a young man.”
“Ah! dat is great resolution for you, mees.”
“I mean as far as fatigue is concerned. You are a Frenchman, and belong
to the nation that is at the head of all human civilisation—-”
M. Delabordeau took off his hat and bowed low, to the peak of his donkey
saddle. He dearly loved to hear his country praised, as Miss Dawkins was
“And I am sure you must agree with me,” continued Miss Dawkins, “that
the time is gone by for women to consider themselves helpless animals,
or to be so considered by others.”
“Mees Dawkins vould never be considered, not in any times at all, to be
one helpless animal,” said M. Delabordeau civilly.
“I do not, at any rate, intend to be so regarded,” said she. “It suits
me to travel alone; not that I am averse to society; quite the contrary;
if I meet pleasant people I am always ready to join them. But it suits
me to travel without any permanent party, and I do not see why false
shame should prevent my seeing the world as thoroughly as though I
belonged to the other sex. Why should it, M. Delabordeau?”
M. Delabordeau declared that he did not see any reason why it should.
“I am passionately anxious to stand upon Mount Sinai,” continued Miss
Dawkins; “to press with my feet the earliest spot in sacred history, of
the identity of which we are certain; to feel within me the
awe-inspiring thrill of that thrice sacred hour!”
The Frenchman looked as though he did not quite understand her, but he
said that it would be magnifique.
“You have already made up your party I suppose, M. Delabordeau?”
M. Delabordeau gave the names of two Frenchmen and one Englishman who
were going with him.
“Upon my word it is a great temptation to join you,” said Miss Dawkins,
“only for that horrid Englishman.”
“Vat, Mr. Stanley?”
“Oh, I don’t mean any disrespect to Mr. Stanley. The horridness I speak
of does not attach to him personally, but to his stiff, respectable,
ungainly, well-behaved, irrational, and uncivilised country. You see I
am not very patriotic.”
“Not quite so moch as my friend, Mr. Damer.”
“Ha! ha! ha! an excellent creature, isn’t he? And so they all are, dear
creatures. But then they are so backward. They are most anxious that I
should join them up the Nile, but—-,” and then Miss Dawkins shrugged
her shoulders gracefully, and, as she flattered herself, like a
Frenchwoman. After that they rode on in silence for a few moments.
“Yes, I must see Mount Sinai,” said Miss Dawkins, and then sighed
deeply. M. Delabordeau, notwithstanding that his country does stand at
the head of all human civilisation, was not courteous enough to declare
that if Miss Dawkins would join his party across the desert, nothing
would be wanting to make his beatitude in this world perfect.
Their road from the village of the chicken-hatching ovens lay up along
the left bank of the Nile, through an immense grove of lofty palm-trees,
looking out from among which our visitors could ever and anon see the
heads of the two great Pyramids;–that is, such of them could see it as
felt any solicitude in the matter.
It is astonishing how such things lose their great charm as men find
themselves in their close neighbourhood. To one living in New York or
London, how ecstatic is the interest inspired by these huge structures.
One feels that no price would be too high to pay for seeing them as long
as time and distance, and the world’s inexorable task-work, forbid such
a visit. How intense would be the delight of climbing over the wondrous
handiwork of those wondrous architects so long since dead; how thrilling
the awe with which one would penetrate down into their interior
caves–those caves in which lay buried the bones of ancient kings, whose
very names seem to have come to us almost from another world!
But all these feelings become strangely dim, their acute edges
wonderfully worn, as the subjects which inspired them are brought near
to us. “Ah! so those are the Pyramids, are they?” says the traveller,
when the first glimpse of them is shown to him from the window of a
railway carriage. “Dear me; they don’t look so very high, do they? For
Heaven’s sake put the blind down, or we shall be destroyed by the dust.”
And then the ecstasy and keen delight of the Pyramids has vanished for
Our friends, therefore, who for weeks past had seen from a distance,
though they had not yet visited them, did not seem to have any strong
feeling on the subject as they trotted through the grove of palm-trees.
Mr. Damer had not yet escaped from his wife, who was still fretful from
the result of her little accident.
“It was all the chattering of that Miss Dawkins,” said Mrs. Damer. “She
would not let me attend to what I was doing.”
“Miss Dawkins is an ass,” said her husband.
“It is a pity she has no one to look after her,” said Mrs. Damer.
M. Delabordeau was still listening to Miss Dawkins’s raptures about
Mount Sinai. “I wonder whether she has got any money,” said M.
Delabordeau to himself. “It can’t be much,” he went on thinking, “or she
would not be left in this way by herself.” And the result of his
thoughts was that Miss Dawkins, if undertaken, might probably become
more plague than profit. As to Miss Dawkins herself, though she was
ecstatic about Mount Sinai–which was not present–she seemed to have
forgotten the poor Pyramids, which were then before her nose.
The two lads were riding races along the dusty path, much to the disgust
of their donkey-boys. Their time for enjoyment was to come. There were
hampers to be opened; and then the absolute climbing of the Pyramids
would actually be a delight to them.
As for Miss Damer and Mr. Ingram, it was clear that they had forgotten
palm-trees, Pyramids, the Nile, and all Egypt. They had escaped to a
much fairer paradise.
“Could I bear to live among Republicans?” said Fanny, repeating the last
words of her American lover, and looking down from her donkey to the
ground as she did so. “I hardly know what Republicans are, Mr. Ingram.”
“Let me teach you,” said he.
“You do talk such nonsense. I declare there is that Miss Dawkins looking
at us as though she had twenty eyes. Could you not teach her, Mr.
And so they emerged from the palm-tree grove, through a village crowded
with dirty, straggling Arab children, on to the cultivated plain,
beyond which the Pyramids stood, now full before them; the two large
Pyramids, a smaller one, and the huge sphynx’s head all in a group
“Fanny,” said Bob Damer, riding up to her, “mamma wants you; so toddle
“Mamma wants me! What can she want me for now?” said Fanny, with a look
of anything but filial duty in her face.
“To protect her from Miss Dawkins, I think. She wants you to ride at her
side, so that Dawkins mayn’t get at her. Now, Mr. Ingram, I’ll bet you
half-a-crown I’m at the top of the big Pyramid before you.”
Poor Fanny! She obeyed, however; doubtless feeling that it would not do
as yet to show too plainly that she preferred Mr. Ingram to her mother.
She arrested her donkey, therefore, till Mrs. Damer overtook her; and
Mr. Ingram, as he paused for a moment with her while she did so, fell
into the hands of Miss Dawkins.
“I cannot think, Fanny, how you get on so quick,” said Mrs. Damer. “I’m
always last; but then my donkey is such a very nasty one. Look there,
now; he’s always trying to get me off.”
“We shall soon be at the Pyramids now, mamma.”
“How on earth I am ever to get back again I cannot think. I am so tired
now that I can hardly sit.”
“You’ll be better, mamma, when you get your luncheon and a glass of
“How on earth we are to eat and drink with those nasty Arab people
around us, I can’t conceive. They tell me we shall be eaten up by them.
But, Fanny, what has Mr. Ingram been saying to you all the day?”
“What has he been saying, mamma? Oh! I don’t know;–a hundred things, I
dare say. But he has not been talking to me all the time.”
“I think he has, Fanny, nearly, since we crossed the river. Oh, dear!
oh, dear! this animal does hurt me so! Every time he moves he flings his
head about, and that gives me such a bump.” And then Fanny commiserated
her mother’s sufferings, and in her commiseration contrived to elude any
further questionings as to Mr. Ingram’s conversation.
“Majestic piles, are they not?” said Miss Dawkins, who, having changed
her companion, allowed her mind to revert from Mount Sinai to the
Pyramids. They were now riding through cultivated ground, with the vast
extent of the sands of Libya before them. The two Pyramids were standing
on the margin of the sand, with the head of the recumbent sphynx
plainly visible between them. But no idea can be formed of the size of
this immense figure till it is visited much more closely. The body is
covered with sand, and the head and neck alone stand above the surface
of the ground. They were still two miles distant, and the sphynx as yet
was but an obscure mount between the two vast Pyramids.
“Immense piles!” said Miss Dawkins, repeating her own words.
“Yes, they are large,” said Mr. Ingram, who did not choose to indulge in
enthusiasm in the presence of Miss Dawkins.
“Enormous! What a grand idea!–eh, Mr. Ingram? The human race does not
create such things as those nowadays!”
“No, indeed,” he answered; “but perhaps we create better things.”
“Better! You do not mean to say, Mr. Ingram, that you are an
utilitarian. I do, in truth, hope better things of you than that. Yes!
steam mills are better, no doubt, and mechanics’ institutes and penny
newspapers. But is nothing to be valued but what is useful?” And Miss
Dawkins, in the height of her enthusiasm, switched her donkey severely
over the shoulder.
“I might, perhaps, have said also that we create more beautiful things,”
said Mr. Ingram.
“But we cannot create older things.”
“No, certainly; we cannot do that.”
“Nor can we imbue what we do create with the grand associations which
environ those piles with so intense an interest. Think of the mighty
dead, Mr. Ingram, and of their great homes when living. Think of the
hands which it took to raise those huge blocks–”
“And of the lives which it cost.”
“Doubtless. The tyranny and invincible power of the royal architects add
to the grandeur of the idea. One would not wish to have back the kings
of Egypt.”
“Well, no; they would be neither useful nor beautiful.”
“Perhaps not; and I do not wish to be picturesque at the expense of my
“I doubt, even, whether they would be picturesque.”
“You know what I mean, Mr. Ingram. But the associations of such names,
and the presence of the stupendous works with which they are connected,
fill the soul with awe. Such, at least, is the effect with mine.”
“I fear that my tendencies, Miss Dawkins, are more realistic than your
“You belong to a young country, Mr. Ingram, and are naturally prone to
think of material life. The necessity of living looms large before you.”
“Very large, indeed, Miss Dawkins.”
“Whereas with us, with some of us at least, the material aspect has
given place to one in which poetry and enthusiasm prevail. To such among
us the associations of past times are very dear. Cheops, to me, is more
than Napoleon Bonaparte.”
“That is more than most of your countrymen can say, at any rate, just at
“I am a woman,” continued Miss Dawkins.
Mr. Ingram took off his hat in acknowledgment both of the announcement
and of the fact.
“And to us it is not given–not given as yet–to share in the great
deeds of the present. The envy of your sex has driven us from the paths
which lead to honour. But the deeds of the past are as much ours as
“Oh, quite as much.”
“‘Tis to your country that we look for enfranchisement from this
thraldom. Yes, Mr. Ingram, the women of America have that strength of
mind which has been wanting to those of Europe. In the United States
woman will at last learn to exercise her proper mission.”
Mr. Ingram expressed a sincere wish that such might be the case; and
then wondering at the ingenuity with which Miss Dawkins had travelled
round from Cheops and his Pyramid to the rights of women in America, he
contrived to fall back, under the pretence of asking after the ailments
of Mrs. Damer.
And now at last they were on the sand, in the absolute desert, making
their way up to the very foot of the most northern of the two Pyramids.
They were by this time surrounded by a crowd of Arab guides, or Arabs
professing to be guides, who had already ascertained that Mr. Damer was
the chief of the party, and were accordingly driving him almost to
madness by the offers of their services, and their assurance that he
could not possibly see the outside or the inside of either structure, or
even remain alive upon the ground, unless he at once accepted their
offers made at their own prices.
“Get away, will you?” said he. “I don’t want any of you, and I won’t
have you! If you take hold of me I’ll shoot you!” This was said to one
specially energetic Arab, who, in his efforts to secure his prey, had
caught hold of Mr. Damer by the leg.
“Yes, yes, I say! Englishmen always take me;–me–me, and then no break
him leg. Yes–yes–yes;–I go. Master, say yes. Only one leetle ten
“Abdallah!” shouted Mr. Damer, “why don’t you take this man away? Why
don’t you make him understand that if all the Pyramids depended on it, I
would not give him sixpence!”
And then Abdallah, thus invoked, came up, and explained to the man in
Arabic that he would gain his object more surely if he would behave
himself a little more quietly; a hint which the man took for one minute,
and for one minute only.
And then poor Mrs. Damer replied to an application for backsheish by the
gift of a sixpence. Unfortunate woman! The word backsheish means, I
believe, a gift; but it has come in Egypt to signify money, and is
eternally dinned into the ears of strangers by Arab suppliants. Mrs.
Damer ought to have known better, as, during the last six weeks she had
never shown her face out of Shepheard’s Hotel without being pestered for
backsheish; but she was tired and weak, and foolishly thought to rid
herself of the man who was annoying her.
No sooner had the coin dropped from her hand into that of the Arab, than
she was surrounded by a cluster of beggars, who loudly made their
petitions as though they would, each of them, individually be injured if
treated with less liberality than that first comer. They took hold of
her donkey, her bridle, her saddle, her legs, and at last her arms and
hands, screaming for backsheish in voices that were neither sweet nor
In her dismay she did give away sundry small coins–all, probably, that
she had about her; but this only made the matter worse. Money was going,
and each man, by sufficient energy, might hope to get some of it. They
were very energetic, and so frightened the poor lady that she would
certainly have fallen, had she not been kept on her seat by the pressure
around her.
“Oh, dear! oh, dear! get away,” she cried. “I haven’t got any more;
indeed I haven’t. Go away, I tell you! Mr. Damer! oh, Mr. Damer!” and
then, in the excess of her agony, she uttered one loud, long, and
continuous shriek.
Up came Mr. Damer; up came Abdallah; up came M. Delabordeau; up came Mr.
Ingram, and at last she was rescued. “You shouldn’t go away and leave me
to the mercy of these nasty people. As to that Abdallah, he is of no use
to anybody.”
“Why you bodder de good lady, you dem blackguard?” said Abdallah,
raising his stick, as though he were, going to lay them all low with a
blow. “Now you get noting, you tief!”
The Arabs for a moment retired to a little distance, like flies driven
from a sugar-bowl; but it was easy to see that, like the flies, they
would return at the first vacant moment.
And now they had reached the very foot of the Pyramids and proceeded to
dismount from their donkeys. Their intention was first to ascend to the
top, then to come down to their banquet, and after that to penetrate
into the interior. And all this would seem to be easy of performance.
The Pyramid is undoubtedly high, but it is so constructed as to admit of
climbing without difficulty. A lady mounting it would undoubtedly need
some assistance, but any man possessed of moderate activity would
require no aid at all.
But our friends were at once imbued with the tremendous nature of the
task before them. A sheikh of the Arabs came forth, who communicated
with them through Abdallah. The work could be done, no doubt, he said;
but a great many men would be wanted to assist. Each lady must have four
Arabs, and each gentlemen three; and then, seeing that the work would be
peculiarly severe on this special day, each of these numerous Arabs must
be remunerated by some very large number of piastres.
Mr. Damer, who was by no means a close man in his money dealings, opened
his eyes with surprise, and mildly expostulated; M. Delabordeau, who was
rather a close man in his reckonings, immediately buttoned up his
breeches pocket and declared that he should decline to mount the Pyramid
at all at that price; and then Mr. Ingram descended to the combat.
The protestations of the men were fearful. They declared, with loud
voices, eager actions, and manifold English oaths, that an attempt was
being made to rob them. They had a right to demand the sums which they
were charging, and it was a shame that English gentlemen should come and
take the bread out of their mouths. And so they screeched, gesticulated,
and swore, and frightened poor Mrs. Damer almost into fits.
But at last it was settled and away they started, the sheikh declaring
that the bargain had been made at so low a rate as to leave him not one
piastre for himself. Each man had an Arab on each side of him, and Miss
Dawkins and Miss Damer had each, in addition, one behind. Mrs. Damer was
so frightened as altogether to have lost all ambition to ascend. She sat
below on a fragment of stone, with the three dragomans standing around
her as guards; but even with the three dragomans the attacks on her were
so frequent, and as she declared afterwards she was so bewildered, that
she never had time to remember that she had come there from England to
see the Pyramids, and that she was now immediately under them.
The boys, utterly ignoring their guides, scrambled up quicker than the
Arabs could follow them. Mr. Damer started off at a pace which soon
brought him to the end of his tether, and from, that point was dragged
up by the sheer strength of his assistants; thereby accomplishing the
wishes of the men, who induce their victims to start as rapidly as
possible, in order that they may soon find themselves helpless from want
of wind. Mr. Ingram endeavoured to attach himself to Fanny, and she
would have been nothing loth to have him at her right hand instead of
the hideous brown, shrieking, one-eyed Arab who took hold of her. But it
was soon found that any such arrangement was impossible. Each guide felt
that if he lost his own peculiar hold he would lose his prey, and held
on, therefore, with invincible tenacity. Miss Dawkins looked, too, as
though she had thought to be attended to by some Christian cavalier, but
no Christian cavalier was forthcoming. M. Delabordeau was the wisest,
for he took the matter quietly, did as he was bid, and allowed the
guides nearly to carry him to the top of the edifice.
“Ha! so this is the top of the Pyramid, is it?” said Mr. Damer, bringing
out his words one by one, being terribly out of breath. “Very wonderful,
very wonderful, indeed!”
“It is wonderful,” said Miss Dawkins, whose breath had not failed her in
the least, “very wonderful, indeed! Only think, Mr. Damer, you might
travel on for days and days, till days became months, through those
interminable sands, and yet you would never come to the end of them. Is
it not quite stupendous?”
“Ah, yes, quite,–puff, puff”–said Mr. Damer striving to regain his
Mr. Damer was now at her disposal; weak and worn with toil and travel,
out of breath, and with half his manhood gone; if ever she might prevail
over him so as to procure from his mouth an assent to that Nile
proposition, it would be now. And after all, that Nile proposition was
the best one now before her. She did not quite like the idea of starting
off across the Great Desert without any lady, and was not sure that she
was prepared to be fallen in love with by M. Delabordeau, even if there
should ultimately be any readiness on the part of that gentleman to
perform the rôle of lover. With Mr. Ingram the matter was different, nor
was she so diffident of her own charms as to think it altogether
impossible that she might succeed, in the teeth of that little chit,
Fanny Damer. That Mr. Ingram would join the party up the Nile she had
very little doubt; and then, there would be one place left for her. She
would thus, at any rate, become commingled with a most respectable
family, who might be of material service to her.
Thus actuated she commenced an earnest attack upon Mr. Damer.
“Stupendous!” she said again, for she was fond of repeating favourite
words. “What a wondrous race must have been those Egyptian kings of
“I dare say they were,” said Mr. Damer, wiping his brow as he sat upon a
large loose stone, a fragment lying on the flat top of the Pyramid, one
of those stones with which the complete apex was once made, or was once
about to be made.
“A magnificent race! so gigantic in their conceptions! Their ideas
altogether overwhelm us poor, insignificant, latter-day mortals. They
built these vast Pyramids; but for us, it is task enough to climb to
their top.”
“Quite enough,” ejaculated Mr. Damer.
But Mr. Damer would not always remain weak and out of breath, and it was
absolutely necessary for Miss Dawkins to hurry away from Cheops and his
tomb, to Thebes and Karnac.
“After seeing this it is impossible for any one with a spark of
imagination to leave Egypt without going farther a-field.”
Mr. Damer merely wiped his brow and grunted. This Miss Dawkins took as a
signal of weakness, and went on with her task perseveringly.
“For myself, I have resolved to go up, at any rate, as far as Asouan and
the first cataract. I had thought of acceding to the wishes of a party
who are going across the Great Desert by Mount Sinai to Jerusalem; but
the kindness of yourself and Mrs. Damer is so great, and the prospect of
joining in your boat is so pleasurable, that I have made up my mind to
accept your very kind offer.”
This, it will be acknowledged, was bold on the part of Miss Dawkins; but
what will not audacity effect? To use the slang of modern language,
cheek carries everything nowadays. And whatever may have been Miss
Dawkins’s deficiencies, in this virtue she was not deficient.
“I have made up my mind to accept your very kind offer,” she said,
shining on Mr. Damer with her blandest smile.
What was a stout, breathless, perspiring, middle-aged gentleman to do
under such circumstances? Mr. Damer was a man who, in most matters, had
his own way. That his wife should have given such an invitation without
consulting him, was, he knew, quite impossible. She would as soon have
thought of asking all those Arab guides to accompany them. Nor was it to
be thought of that he should allow himself to be kidnapped into such an
arrangement by the impudence of any Miss Dawkins. But there was, he
felt, a difficulty in answering such a proposition from a young lady
with a direct negative, especially while he was so scant of breath. So
he wiped his brow again, and looked at her.
“But I can only agree to this on one understanding,” continued Miss
Dawkins, “and that is, that I am allowed to defray my own full share of
the expense of the journey.”
Upon hearing this Mr. Damer thought that he saw his way out of the wood.
“Wherever I go, Miss Dawkins, I am always the paymaster myself,” and
this he contrived to say with some sternness, palpitating though he
still was; and the sternness which was deficient in his voice he
endeavoured to put into his countenance.
But he did not know Miss Dawkins. “Oh, Mr. Damer,” she said, and as she
spoke her smile became almost blander than it was before; “oh, Mr.
Damer, I could not think of suffering you to be so liberal; I could not,
indeed. But I shall be quite content that you should pay everything, and
let me settle with you in one sum afterwards.”
Mr. Damer’s breath was now rather more under his own command. “I am
afraid, Miss Dawkins,” he said, “that Mrs. Damer’s weak state of health
will not admit of such an arrangement.”
“What, about the paying?”
“Not only as to that, but we are a family party, Miss Dawkins; and great
as would be the benefit of your society to all of us, in Mrs. Damer’s
present state of health, I am afraid–in short, you would not find it
agreeable.–And therefore–” this he added, seeing that she was still
about to persevere–“I fear that we must forego the advantage you
And then, looking into his face, Miss Dawkins did perceive that even her
audacity would not prevail.
“Oh, very well,” she said, and moving from the stone on which she had
been sitting, she walked off, carrying her head very high, to a corner
of the Pyramid from which she could look forth alone towards the sands
of Libya.
In the mean time another little overture was being made on the top of
the same Pyramid,–an overture which was not received quite in the same
spirit. While Mr. Damer was recovering his breath for the sake of
answering Miss Dawkins, Miss Damer had walked to the further corner of
the square platform on which they were placed, and there sat herself
down with her face turned towards Cairo. Perhaps it was not singular
that Mr. Ingram should have followed her.
This would have been very well if a dozen Arabs had not also followed
them. But as this was the case, Mr. Ingram had to play his game under
some difficulty. He had no sooner seated himself beside her than they
came and stood directly in front of the seat, shutting out the view, and
by no means improving the fragrance of the air around them.
“And this, then, Miss Damer, will be our last excursion together,” he
said, in his tenderest, softest tone.
“De good Englishman will gib de poor Arab one little backsheish,” said
an Arab, putting out his hand and shaking Mr. Ingram’s shoulder.
“Yes, yes, yes; him gib backsheish,” said another.
“Him berry good man,” said a third, putting up his filthy hand, and
touching Mr. Ingram’s face.
“And young lady berry good, too; she give backsheish to poor Arab.”
“Yes,” said a fourth, preparing to take a similar liberty with Miss
This was too much for Mr. Ingram. He had already used very positive
language in his endeavour to assure his tormentors that they would not
get a piastre from him. But this only changed their soft persuasions
into threats. Upon hearing which, and upon seeing what the man attempted
to do in his endeavour to get money from Miss Damer, he raised his
stick, and struck first one and then the other as violently as he could
upon their heads.
Any ordinary civilised men would have been stunned by such blows, for
they fell on the bare foreheads of the Arabs; but the objects of the
American’s wrath merely skulked away; and the others, convinced by the
only arguments which they understood, followed in pursuit of victims who
might be less pugnacious.
It is hard for a man to be at once tender and pugnacious–to be
sentimental, while he is putting forth his physical strength with all
the violence in his power. It is difficult, also, for him to be gentle
instantly after having been in a rage. So he changed his tactics at the
moment, and came to the point at once in a manner befitting his present
state of mind.
“Those vile wretches have put me in such a heat,” he said, “that I
hardly know what I am saying. But the fact is this, Miss Damer, I cannot
leave Cairo without knowing—-. You understand what I mean, Miss
“Indeed I do not, Mr. Ingram; except that I am afraid you mean
“Yes, you do; you know that I love you. I am sure you must know it. At
any rate you know it now.”
“Mr. Ingram, you should not talk in such a way.”
“Why should I not? But the truth is, Fanny, I can talk in no other way.
I do love you dearly. Can you love me well enough to go and be my wife
in a country far away from your own?”
Before she left the top of the Pyramid Fanny Damer had said that she
would try.
Mr. Ingram was now a proud and happy man, and seemed to think the steps
of the Pyramid too small for his elastic energy. But Fanny feared that
her troubles were to come. There was papa–that terrible bugbear on all
such occasions. What would papa say? She was sure her papa would not
allow her to marry and go so far away from her own family and country.
For herself, she liked the Americans–always had liked them; so she
said;–would desire nothing better than to live among them. But papa!
And Fanny sighed as she felt that all the recognised miseries of a young
lady in love were about to fall upon her.
Nevertheless, at her lover’s instance, she promised, and declared, in
twenty different loving phrases, that nothing on earth should ever make
her false to her love or to her lover.
“Fanny, where are you? Why are you not ready to come down?” shouted Mr.
Damer, not in the best of tempers. He felt that he had almost been
unkind to an unprotected female, and his heart misgave him. And yet it
would have misgiven him more had he allowed himself to be entrapped by
Miss Dawkins.
“I am quite ready, papa,” said Fanny, running up to him–for it may be
understood that there is quite room enough for a young lady to run on
the top of the Pyramid.
“I am sure I don’t know where you have been all the time,” said Mr.
Damer; “and where are those two boys?”
Fanny pointed to the top of the other Pyramid, and there they were,
conspicuous with their red caps.
“And M. Delabordeau?”
“Oh! he has gone down, I think;–no, he is there with Miss Dawkins.”
And in truth Miss Dawkins was leaning on his arm most affectionately, as
she stooped over and looked down upon the ruins below her.
“And where is that fellow, Ingram?” said Mr. Damer, looking about him.
“He is always out of the way when he’s wanted.”
To this Fanny said nothing. Why should she? She was not Mr. Ingram’s
And then they all descended, each again with his proper number of Arabs
to hurry and embarrass him; and they found Mrs. Damer at the bottom,
like a piece of sugar covered with flies. She was heard to declare
afterwards that she would not go to the Pyramids again, not if they were
to be given to her for herself, as ornaments for her garden.
The picnic lunch among the big stones at the foot of the Pyramid was not
a very gay affair. Miss Dawkins talked more than any one else, being
determined to show that she bore her defeat gallantly. Her conversation,
however, was chiefly addressed to M. Delabordeau, and he seemed to think
more of his cold chicken and ham than he did of her wit and attention.
Fanny hardly spoke a word. There was her father before her and she could
not eat, much less talk, as she thought of all that she would have to go
through. What would he say to the idea of having an American for a
Nor was Mr. Ingram very lively. A young man when he has been just
accepted, never is so. His happiness under the present circumstances
was, no doubt, intense, but it was of a silent nature.
And then the interior of the building had to be visited. To tell the
truth none of the party would have cared to perform this feat had it not
been for the honour of the thing. To have come from Paris, New York, or
London, to the Pyramids, and then not to have visited the very tomb of
Cheops, would have shown on the part of all of them an indifference to
subjects of interest which would have been altogether fatal to their
character as travellers. And so a party for the interior was made up.
Miss Damer when she saw the aperture through which it was expected that
she should descend, at once declared for staying with her mother. Miss
Dawkins, however, was enthusiastic for the journey. “Persons with so
very little command over their nerves might really as well stay at
home,” she said to Mr. Ingram, who glowered at her dreadfully for
expressing such an opinion about his Fanny.
This entrance into the Pyramids is a terrible task, which should be
undertaken by no lady. Those who perform it have to creep down, and then
to be dragged up, through infinite dirt, foul smells, and bad air; and
when they have done it, they see nothing. But they do earn the
gratification of saying that they have been inside a Pyramid.
“Well, I’ve done that once,” said Mr. Damer, coming out, “and I do not
think that any one will catch me doing it again. I never was in such a
filthy place in my life.”
“Oh, Fanny! I am so glad you did not go; I am sure it is not fit for
ladies,” said poor Mrs. Damer, forgetful of her friend Miss Dawkins.
“I should have been ashamed of myself,” said Miss Dawkins, bristling up,
and throwing back her head as she stood, “if I had allowed any
consideration to have prevented my visiting such a spot. If it be not
improper for men to go there, how can it be improper for women?”
“I did not say improper, my dear,” said Mrs. Damer, apologetically.
“And as for the fatigue, what can a woman be worth who is afraid to
encounter as much as I have now gone through for the sake of visiting
the last resting-place of such a king as Cheops?” And Miss Dawkins, as
she pronounced the last words, looked round her with disdain upon poor
Fanny Damer.
“But I meant the dirt,” said Mrs. Damer.
“Dirt!” ejaculated Miss Dawkins, and then walked away. Why should she
now submit her high tone of feeling to the Damers, or why care longer
for their good opinion? Therefore she scattered contempt around her as
she ejaculated the last word, “dirt.”
And then the return home! “I know I shall never get there,” said Mrs.
Damer, looking piteously up into her husband’s face.
“Nonsense, my dear; nonsense; you must get there.” Mrs. Damer groaned,
and acknowledged in her heart that she must,–either dead or alive.
“And, Jefferson,” said Fanny, whispering–for there had been a moment
since their descent in which she had been instructed to call him by his
Christian name–“never mind talking to me going home. I will ride by
mamma. Do you go with papa and put him in good humour; and if he says
anything about the lords and the bishops, don’t you contradict him, you
What will not a man do for love? Mr. Ingram promised. And in this way
they started; the two boys led the van; then came Mr. Damer and Mr.
Ingram, unusually and unpatriotically acquiescent as to England’s
aristocratic propensities; then Miss Dawkins riding, alas! alone; after
her, M. Delabordeau, also alone,–the ungallant Frenchman! And the rear
was brought up by Mrs. Damer and her daughter, flanked on each side by a
dragoman, with a third dragoman behind them.
And in this order they went back to Cairo, riding their donkeys, and
crossing the ferry solemnly, and, for the most part, silently. Mr.
Ingram did talk, as he had an important object in view,–that of putting
Mr. Damer into a good humour.
In this he succeeded so well that by the time they had remounted, after
crossing the Nile, Mr. Damer opened his heart to his companion on the
subject that was troubling him, and told him all about Miss Dawkins.
“I don’t see why we should have a companion that we don’t like for eight
or ten weeks, merely because it seems rude to refuse a lady.”
“Indeed, I agree with you,” said Mr. Ingram; “I should call it
weak-minded to give way in such a case.”
“My daughter does not like her at all,” continued Mr. Damer.
“Nor would she be a nice companion for Miss Damer; not according to my
way of thinking,” said Mr. Ingram.
“And as to my having asked her, or Mrs. Damer having asked her! Why, God
bless my soul, it is pure invention on the woman’s part!”
“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed Mr. Ingrain; “I must say she plays her game well;
but then she is an old soldier, and has the benefit of experience.” What
would Miss Dawkins have said had she known that Mr. Ingram called her an
old soldier?
“I don’t like the kind of thing at all,” said Mr. Damer, who was very
serious upon the subject. “You see the position in which I am placed. I
am forced to be very rude, or—-”
“I don’t call it rude at all.”
“Disobliging, then; or else I must have all my comfort invaded and
pleasure destroyed by, by, by—-” And Mr. Damer paused, being at a loss
for an appropriate name for Miss Dawkins.
“By an unprotected female,” suggested Mr. Ingram.
“Yes, just so. I am as fond of pleasant company as anybody; but then I
like to choose it myself.”
“So do I,” said Mr. Ingram, thinking of his own choice.
“Now, Ingram, if you would join us, we should be delighted.”
“Upon my word, sir, the offer is too flattering,” said Ingram,
hesitatingly; for he felt that he could not undertake such a journey
until Mr. Damer knew on what terms he stood with Fanny.
“You are a terrible democrat,” said Mr. Damer, laughing; “but then, on
that matter, you know, we could agree to differ.”
“Exactly so,” said Mr. Ingram, who had not collected his thoughts or
made up his mind as to what he had better say and do, on the spur of the
“Well, what do you say to it?” said Mr. Damer, encouragingly. But Ingram
paused before he answered.
“For Heaven’s sake, my dear fellow, don’t have the slightest hesitation
in refusing, if you don’t like the plan.”
“The fact is, Mr. Damer, I should like it too well.”
“Like it too well?”
“Yes, sir, and I may as well tell you now as later. I had intended this
evening to have asked for your permission to address your daughter.”
“God bless my soul!” said Mr. Damer, looking as though a totally new
idea had now been opened to him.
“And under these circumstances, I will now wait and see whether or no
you will renew your offer.”
“God bless my soul!” said Mr. Damer, again. It often does strike an old
gentleman as very odd that any man should fall in love with his
daughter, whom he has not ceased to look upon as a child. The case is
generally quite different with mothers. They seem to think that every
young man must fall in love with their girls.
“And have you said anything to Fanny about this?” asked Mr. Damer.
“Yes, sir, I have her permission to speak to you.”
“God bless my soul!” said Mr. Damer; and by this time they had arrived
at Shepheard’s Hotel.
“Oh, mamma,” said Fanny, as soon as she found herself alone with her
mother that evening, “I have something that I must tell you.”
“Oh, Fanny, don’t tell me anything to-night, for I am a great deal too
tired to listen.”
“But oh, mamma, pray;–you must listen to this; indeed you must.” And
Fanny knelt down at her mother’s knee, and looked beseechingly up into
her face.
“What is it, Fanny? You know that all my bones are sore, and I am so
tired that I am almost dead.”
“Mamma, Mr. Ingram has—-”
“Has what, my dear? has he done anything wrong?”
“No, mamma: but he has;–he has proposed to me.” And Fanny, bursting
into tears, hid her face in her mother’s lap.
And thus the story was told on both sides of the house. On the next day,
as a matter of course, all the difficulties and dangers of such a
marriage as that which was now projected were insisted on by both father
and mother. It was improper; it would cause a severing of the family not
to be thought of; it would be an alliance of a dangerous nature, and not
at all calculated to insure happiness; and, in short, it was impossible.
On that day, therefore, they all went to bed very unhappy. But on the
next day, as was also a matter of course, seeing that there were no
pecuniary difficulties, the mother and father were talked over, and Mr.
Ingram was accepted as a son-in-law. It need hardly be said that the
offer of a place in Mr. Damer’s boat was again made, and that on this
occasion it was accepted without hesitation.
There was an American Protestant clergyman resident in Cairo, with whom,
among other persons, Miss Dawkins had become acquainted. Upon this
gentleman or upon his wife Miss Dawkins called a few days after the
journey to the Pyramid, and finding him in his study, thus performed her
duty to her neighbour,–
“You know your countryman Mr. Ingram, I think?” said she.
“Oh, yes; very intimately.”
“If you have any regard for him, Mr. Burton,” such was the gentleman’s
name, “I think you should put him on his guard.”
“On his guard against what?” said Mr. Burton with a serious air, for
there was something serious in the threat of impending misfortune as
conveyed by Miss Dawkins.
“Why,” said she, “those Damers, I fear, are dangerous people.”
“Do you mean that they will borrow money of him?”
“Oh, no; not that, exactly; but they are clearly setting their cap at
“Setting their cap at him?”
“Yes; there is a daughter, you know; a little chit of a thing; and I
fear Mr. Ingram may be caught before he knows where he is. It would be
such a pity, you know. He is going up the river with them, I hear. That,
in his place, is very foolish. They asked me, but I positively refused.”
Mr. Burton remarked that “In such a matter as that Mr. Ingram would be
perfectly able to take care of himself.”
“Well, perhaps so; but seeing what was going on, I thought it my duty to
tell you.” And so Miss Dawkins took her leave.
Mr. Ingram did go up the Nile with the Damers, as did an old friend of
the Damers who arrived from England. And a very pleasant trip they had
of it. And, as far as the present historian knows, the two lovers were
shortly afterwards married in England.
Poor Miss Dawkins was left in Cairo for some time on her beam ends. But
she was one of those who are not easily vanquished. After an interval of
ten days she made acquaintance with an Irish family–having utterly
failed in moving the hard heart of M. Delabordeau–and with these she
proceeded to Constantinople. They consisted of two brothers and a
sister, and were, therefore, very convenient for matrimonial purposes.
But nevertheless, when I last heard of Miss Dawkins, she was still an
unprotected female.