+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

it not a very disgraceful circumstance that
such a man as So and So should be acquiring
a large property by the most infamous and
odious means; and, notwithstanding all the
crimes of which he has been guilty, should be
tolerated and abetted by your Citizens? He
is a public nuisance, is he not? '' Yes, sir.'
' A convicted liar? '' Yes, sir.'—' He has
been kicked and cuffed and caned ? '' Yes,
sir.'—' And he is utterly dishonourable,
debased, and profligate ? '' Yes, sir."—' In
the name of wonder, then, what is his
merit ? '' Well, sir, he is a smart man.'"

That other Public of our own bore their
full share, and more, of bowing down before
the Dwarf aforesaid, in despite of his obviously
being too young a child to speak plainly: and
we, the Public who are never taken in, will
not excuse their folly. So, if John on this
shore, and Jonathan over there, could each
only get at that troublesome other Public of
his, and brighten them up a little, it would
be very much the better for both brothers.


OUTSIDE the gate of Sitt Zeyneb, leading
from New Cairo to the old city was
a cluster of buildings that became
celebrated in their day. They wore the aspect
rather of a fortress than of the habitations
of quiet peaceable people; and were
principally occupied by sly Copts and very
poor Muslems. The backs of the houses were
turned towards the fields, and exhibited
nothing but great bare walls with a few
windows pierced high up. The fronts looked upon
an irregular court and a few blind alleys,
some of which were vaulted over. A low
gateway, closed at night and in times of
disturbance, admitted those who had business
there from the dirty road. Other mode of
ingress there was none; so that when, what
you may call the little garrison was united,
even collectors of taxes sometimes in vain
demanded admittance. By agreement based
on mutual interest, importunate creditors
were either locked out by common consent;
or, so ill-received, that they never cared to
return again. The children and the dogs that
lay together all day long on the only spot
where the sun shone upon the court, were
sufficient to worry an ordinary man to

From time immemorial there had been a
large house to let in this out-of-the-way place.
The family to whom it belonged must have
had some other good source of revenue; for
generation after generation passed and no
tenant appeared. Once every twenty years or
soprobably when son succeeded to father
some one came from the city with the keys,
went in, remained a little while, made
inquiries about the salubrity of the place as if
debating whether to live there or not, and
went away with vague talk, never fulfilled, of
returning. The neighbours, not very inquisitive
people, had learned that the owners were
Copts, but nothing more. As to the fact
that the house remained empty, no one
wondered at it. The cluster of habitations
contained many deserted dwelling-places besides,
and several single old men occupied premises
capable of containing five families. What
slightly astonished the gossips was, that any
one should ever recur to the idea of letting
that great tottering house.

It was situated in the extensive depths of
the Cassar, as the place was called; and the
lane leading to its great arched doorway,
being half choked with rubbish, was seldom
visited, save by some sulky boytruant from
the morning school of Dando the Copt barber
or by some young couple who had contrived,
Heaven knows how, to give one another
rendezvous there. On all sides it rose high
and vast above the other dwellings, with not
a window by which light could penetrate into
the interior. Those who took the trouble to
reflect on this circumstance guessed that its
great circuit contained a court-yard, or, if not,
that the chambers were dark. But in general
the good folks of the Cassar lived as indifferently
by the side of that vast mysterious,
edifice as the fox between the stones that
have tumbled from the great Pyramid. It
was part of the natural order of things.

As the court of the Cassar contained three
shops, it was called the bazaar. By the side
of Dando, barber and schoolmaster, was
Sohmed, the Muslem tobacco merchant, who
also dealt in ready-made clothes; and over
the way Ibn Daood kept a sort of general
warehouse, in which most necessary things,
from pumpkins to pistols, from water-melons
to coffee-pots, could be obtained. It seemed
to be the refuge of all rejected furniture and
unsold provisions. Strangers who wandered
into the place positively avowed that they
never saw a single customer at any one of
these shops; and it is certain that Sohmed
and Daood spent the chief part of their time
on the bench in front of Dando's shop, on
what conversing it is difficult to say, for one
of the party being a Christian, controversial
topics and sacred legends were necessarily
excluded. In the East no propagandism is
allowed in private life; and theological fisticuffs
are not exchanged over a cup of coffee.

From the little I have said it may be
imagined, that life in the Cassar was a
steady hum-drum sort of thing. The people
got up with the sun and went forth to the
city or field to work, and came back with the
sun to go to bed. They ate as they were able,
and dressed with perfect indifference to the
world's opinion. Their sons and daughters
grew, and loved, and married, much like other
folk. Now and then there was a wedding;
and now and then a funeral. But it seemed
never likely that the whole of that sober
population could suddenly be roused into painful
anxiety, disturbed with horrid fears perpetually
increasing, and hurried day after day,