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Between these angry disputants was seated the Moufettish, and at his side the chief sheikh, whose rich apparel and impassive demeanour I have already described. The villagers, it appeared, had contracted with the Moufettish to cut a certain amount of sugar-cane in a given time, and had engaged a number of Bedouins to supply camels, and otherwise assist in carrying out the operation,-making, in fact, a subcontract with them, to which it was complained that they had not adhered, and had even beaten those who ventured to expostulate. The quarrel turned upon the amount and nature of the work which practically had been divided between them, and I failed to follow its intricacies sufficiently to know who were in the right—probably the fellahin, but certainly, when Bedouin Arabs enter into contracts for harvesting cane for a steam sugarfactory, a change is coming over the spirit of their dream. To watch the eager and almost ferocious expression of their countenances as they argued their case with “beastly bellowings,” and wild gesticulations, it was evident that it would take a long course of peaceful avocations before the change went beyond the spirit of the dream to the spirit of the man. I afterwards visited one of their encampments, where the usual tents were supplemented with huts and enclosures made of straw and cane-leaves; but they retained, nevertheless, their general gipsy and nomadic aspect.
On my return journey to Medinet the following day, I had the divaned waggon all to myself, and we reversed the operation of our former experience. Starting with a long train of empty cane-trucks, we stopped at intervals and dropped them by twos and threes wherever the cane had been piled, to be picked up when the train went back the next day.
We tried, one afternoon, an experimental ride on camels, with a view of testing the merits of some saddles from the Soudan, which, we were assured, were especially comfortable. The object of our trip was to examine -a prostrate . obelisk, distant about three miles. The weather so far had been delightful, the thermometer seldom falling below 65°; and the gardens beneath our windows were redolent with the perfume of roses—for which the Fayoum was formerly so celebrated—in full bloom. On this afternoon, however, we had scarcely started when the weather changed, and, before we reached our destination, a cold wind set in, accompanied by smart showers of rain, which made the poor camels shiver and tremble with anxiety as they staggered slowly over the smooth slippery mud. The experience was by no means agreeable to the riders, as the prospect of coming down headlong, camel and all, is quite a different sensation from that which one feels under like conditions on horseback. It seems scarcely possible to fall from such a height without the certainty of breaking one's bones. When at last we reached the village of Biggig, we found our camel-men did not know the way, and we had to ask for a guide—a request which resulted in the greater proportion of the male population volunteering their services and accompanying us. We had quite a difficult ride across fields where there were no paths, and numerous ditches had to be crossed, before we found, half embedded in mud and water, the two huge fragments of this great monolith, one of which measures 264 feet, and the other 16 feet 3 inches long. The face of the lower half, which is covered with hieroglyphics, measures 6 feet 9 inches at its lower end, and the sides are about 4 feet in width. At the upper part of
the face are five compartments, one over the other, in each of which are figures of King Orsitarsen, also known as Amenemhat I., offering to two deities. This obelisk, which is of red porphyry, is contemporaneous with the one at Heliopolis, and was erected by the same king, the second of the twelfth dynasty, who reigned about 2440 years B.C., and about 140 years, therefore, before Amenemhat III., to whom I have already referred as the creator of the Labyrinth and the lake. It is evident, however, from the existence of this great monument, that the province was highly esteemed before his time; and the historical tradition is probably correct which attributes the reclaiming and conversion of the Fayoum to Phiops, the Moeris of the Greeks and Romans, who was the fourth king of the sixth dynasty, and lived about 3000 B.C. It is difficult to account for the isolated position of this obelisk. There is not a vestige of a ruin nearer than Arsinoë ; and it must either have been dropped here on its way to that city, or possibly was an ornament to gardens which were a place of resort. Had there been a temple in the immediate vicinity, it could scarcely have disappeared without leaving a trace. As it is, the flat surface of the black soil is unbroken by any mound or tumulus; nor are there any fragments of granite or stone in the neighbourhood. It differs from other obelisks inasmuch as its summit is rounded, and not pointed, and in the breadth of its faces and sides being so dissimilar. A groove has been cut in its apex, doubtless to hold an ornament like that at Heliopolis. In the hieroglyphics on the sides, the king is said to be beloved of Ptah and Mandoo, who, it is supposed, were the principal divinities of the place. Whatever may be its origin and meaning,
there is something solemn and suggestive in the aspect of this great fractured block of history, traced with the records of extreme an.. and lying here neglected in a bean-field, a mile from any human habitation, an object of mystery and awe to the ignorant peasantry, and of speculation to ourselves, which will probably never be satisfied. It, at all events, disposes finally of a popular theory, that all the pyramids were on one side of the Nile and all the obelisks on the other. As we were neither of us in a condition, so far as strength was concerned, to walk back through the mud and rain, our return journey on our lofty animals was not a little perilous, the more especially as darkness came on before we reached home. Our way for the most part was along the slippery edge of a gully which cut through soft country. Sometimes we took refuge in the young wheat-fields, to the intense indignation of the proprietors, who shouted angry remonstrances; sometimes we scrambled down into the bed of the wady, hoping to find safer travellingground. At last, wet and tired, after being four hours in the saddle, instead of two, as we expected, we reached the town just as our anxious friends had sent out their servants to look for us. After this experience we were obliged to give up our trip to Biahmu, a village about four miles to the north of Medinet, where the remains of two ancient monuments exist, the nature of which I was anxious to try and verify, as it is still a matter of dispute. Linant considers them the remains of the pyramids upon which were the statues of King Moeris and his consort, which Herodotus indicates as being in the middle of the lake. Lepsius describes them as built out of great massive blocks, the nucleus of each of which is still standing, but not in the centre of the almost square rectangle which, by their appearance, they seem to have originally occupied. While Linant makes these outside enclosures “square,” and Lepsius “almost square,” Murray's ‘Guide' makes them measure sixty-five feet by forty-five. Lepsius believes that their height was never greater than it is now—viz., twenty-three feet— to which must be added a peculiar and somewhat projecting base of seven feet. The foundations were on Nile mud, and the inclination of their angle 64°, which is steeper than that of ordinary pyramids, and hence he concludes against Linant Bey's hypothesis. On the other hand, the lower stones bear the traces of water—the Nile mud may have been Lake Moeris mud. There are no other remains within the area of the lake, and the remains of the dams would go to show that they stood in its extreme north-east angle. The fact that they were not ordinary pyramids, but rather pyramidal pedestals for statues, may account for the steeper inclination of their angles. At all events, the point is an interesting one, which a more thorough investigation would probably decide. We should gladly have lingered longer in the Fayoum had it been in our power to take our tents and camels and wander about in search of the antique and the picturesque. Unfortunately, our experience of camel-riding had proved too fatiguing, and we were obliged to substitute another project, which, however, proved scarcely less agreeable. We could not leave the Fayoum without wondering at the neglect of the tourist who has done Thebes, and Luxor, and the Second Cataract, and is looking for more worlds to conquer—of a region with so many attractions, and so accessible. The sportsman, the artist, and
the archaeologist will all find their tastes gratified in this charming oasis. The Birket el Kurtin offers, probably, better sport to the angler than he would find elsewhere in Egypt. In the thickets in some of the ravines are to be found wild boar; while lynxes, wolves, jackals, ichneumons, and hares are more or less abundant. Pelicans, wild geese, ducks, teal, and water-fowl of different varieties, frequent the marshy shores of the lake. The antiquarian would find Arsinoë, the Labyrinth, the Temple of Kasr Karoon, and the ruins on the western shores of the lake, full, not merely of interest, but of possible discoveries. At Senooris there are the graves of the early Christians who are said to have been martyred, and the peasantry have no scruple in exhuming them to satisfy the curiosity of the anthropologist who desires to have a specimen of an early Christian's skull, or the curious coffins in which their corpses were placed; while the fortress-like village of Tamiyeh, the thicket-clad gorge of Fidimin, and the broad precipitous wady at Nazlet, would offer subjects for the artist of a character not to be found elsewhere in Egypt. It is true that modern no less than ancient writers have in some respects exaggerated the luxuriance of the Fayoum. One writes of “a virgin forest,” and of “orangetrees as big as oaks;” and another of “a plantation of opuntia, the growth of which is so gigantic as almost to resemble a forest,” which I happened to see, and which certainly fell far short of this description: but in spite of all this, there can be no doubt that the Fayoum possesses a charm denied to any other section of the country, and its brawling streams and verdant recesses will well repay the traveller in search of “fresh fields and pastures new.”
THE PRIVATE SECRETARY. —PART IX.
HILDA waited for a minute, not to appear in a hurry, and to recover from the agitation into which the message had thrown her, and then passing out of the office, walked down the little passage towards Clifford's room. As she did so, Jane passed out by the outer door with her bonnet and scarf on, as if bound on an errand. Mrs. Simmonds Hilda had not seen that morning. Clifford rose from his chair as she entered his room, and advancing, offered his hand, but without betraying any excitement in his manner, and, indeed, turning away his eyes to avoid her glances. His “Good morning, Hilda; pray take a seat,” was spoken in his ordinary way, without any sign of emotion. Hilda, for her part, felt calmer than she had expected to be, and her composure returned entirely when he began to talk about her brother's departure, inquiring with a friendly interest into all the particulars. And yet it was evident that Clifford was not quite at his ease. His calmness was simulated; he was trying to lead the conversation into another direction. At last he changed it abruptly. “What do you think of my cousin, Hilda f" He spoke as if in jest, but yet watched her face eagerly to see how she would take it. “Is that a fair question to ask?” she replied. The tone of her voice was a little scornful, but expressed also reproach and entreaty. “Hilda,” he continued, rising and taking his stand before the fireplace, the position he had occupied on the day of her first visit, while
she was now just before him in the chair, sitting in which she had written her introductory essay—a day separated from the present by a few weeks only, yet which now seemed a very long way off“Hilda, I have something to tell you which you ought to know. It is not what you expect to hear, at least,” he added in confusion at his clumsiness, “I should say it mainly concerns my cousin and myself. Hilda, the world believes me to be rich, and thinks me a fortunate fellow; and, as you know, I have been spending money freely without let or hindrance. But I am little better than an impostor, so far at least as I have been imposing—on you. I have not even a life-interest in my fortune. I have only a temporary use of it, subject to a certain condition, the time for fulfilling which is now fast approaching, and if I refuse to accept it, why, then, I am released from my golden fetters, but I become a beggar. Hilda, cannot you guess what that condition is?” Hilda sat with folded hands and eyes turned away from him, looking straight in front of her, but a gleam of joy passed across her face. She understood what the condition was, and could not doubt that he was going to refuse it; and for the moment the thought of the consequences to him was hidden by the sweet consciousness that the sacrifice would be made for her sake. “Although this necessity,” he continued, “has always been before me, ever since I first came into possession of my income, it was present only in a faint, indefinite sort of way. The years passed on. I heard nothing of my relatives, except by report. Blanche's father was reputed to be very rich; he does not care to secure my money for her, I thought; my fortune appears insignificant to him; he is not going to hold me to the bargain; we shall both be free. The time approached when his part of the conditions had to be acted on ; when either they must come and seek me out, or else in six months more I should be free and my own master. But I heard nothing of them, and had hardly taken count of the time that was so near at hand, when suddenly—on that day you must remember, the day you first graced this room with your sweet resence — I got the fatal news. lanche and her mother had arrived in London. “I could not doubt what their purpose was. I remembered now that there were just the six months remaining before the completion of the time specified in the will, which were to be allowed me for making my cousin's acquaintance. She and her mother had come to seek me out, according to the clause which required them to do so. The other side intended to fulfil their part of the compact; I was challenged to fulfil mine.” Still his listener made no answer, but her face assumed a graver aspect. “At one time,” continued the speaker, looking down, and speaking in a low voice, “the condition did not seem so very difficult. I was heart-whole then. I tried hard to fancy myself in love with my cousin—you know how beautiful she is—and I might perhaps have succeeded, although I should never have been so infatuated as to believe that she would return the feeling; but something came in the way: you know what I mean. I would not marry my cousin now,
supposing she would still care to e me, even were I in despair at not being able to gain what m heart is set upon. Hilda, I don't want to make much of the sacrifice, such as it is. After all, there is not much sacrifice involved in giving up what costs too much to keep. Besides, it is only stripping myself of what is adventitious about myself, that I can find out whether I have gained that which alone I prize, to be loved for my own sake. Hilda,” he continued, in a voice hoarse with emotion, his words coming with difficulty, “beggared as I am, and with nothing but myself to offer, I shall deem myself still rich beyond count if I have gained that which I seek.” Still she did not speak. But he needed no answer in words. Her face was now turned upwards towards his, and the frank loving glance she gave him told him all. It seemed to say that his sacrifice should be repaid. This sweet and tender creature, whose virtues and graces he had come to know so well, had given him her heart in return for his. He longed to seize her in his arms, to allow himself one lover's embrace, but was kept back by the knowledge that even yet she might turn from him with horror. He had not yet told her all. She should not have cause to feel sullied by even one kiss, till she gave it of her own free will, knowing all. “But do you realise all that is implied in this?” he continued, in a low earnest voice, looking at her fondly, but still standing in his old place. “It means absolute beggary. I have not saved a shilling. What an idiot I have been, to be sure, not to have put by my income while it was mine ! I should have saved quite enough by this time for my simple wants. But I went on,