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- Donovan Pasha And Some People Of Egypt, Volume 4. - 1/12 -
DONOVAN PASHA AND SOME PEOPLE OF EGYPT
By Gilbert Parker
A YOUNG LION OF DEDAN HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED THE FLOWER OF THE FLOCK THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS
A YOUNG LION OF DEDAN
Looking from the minaret the Two could see, far off, the Pyramids of Ghizeh and Sakkara, the wells of Helouan, the Mokattam Hills, the tombs of the Caliphs, the Khedive's palace at distant Abbasiyeh. Nearer by, the life of the city was spread out. Little green oases of palms emerged from the noisy desert of white stone and plaster. The roofs of the houses, turned into gardens and promenades, made of the huge superficial city one broken irregular pavement. Minarets of mosques stood up like giant lamp-posts along these vast, meandering streets. Shiftless housewives lolled with unkempt hair on the housetops; women of the harem looked out of the little mushrabieh panels in the clattering, narrow bazaars.
Just at their feet was a mosque--one of the thousand nameless mosques of Cairo. It was the season of Ramadan, and a Friday, the Sunday of the Mahommedan--the Ghimah.
The "Two" were Donovan Pasha, then English Secretary to the Khedive, generally known as "Little Dicky Donovan," and Captain Renshaw, of the American Consulate. There was no man in Egypt of so much importance as Donovan Pasha. It was an importance which could neither be bought nor sold.
Presently Dicky touched the arm of his companion. "There it comes!" he said.
His friend followed the nod of Dicky's head, and saw, passing slowly through a street below, a funeral procession. Near a hundred blind men preceded the bier, chanting the death-phrases. The bier was covered by a faded Persian shawl, and it was carried by the poorest of the fellaheen, though in the crowd following were many richly attired merchants of the bazaars. On a cart laden with bread and rice two fellaheen stood and handed, or tossed out, food to the crowd--token of a death in high places. Vast numbers of people rambled behind chanting, and a few women, near the bier, tore their garments, put dust on their heads, and kept crying: "Salem ala ahali!--Remember us to our friends!"
Walking immediately behind the bier was one conspicuous figure, and there was a space around him which none invaded. He was dressed in white, like an Arabian Mahommedan, and he wore the green turban of one who has been the pilgrimage to Mecca.
At sight of him Dicky straightened himself with a little jerk, and his tongue clicked with satisfaction. "Isn't he, though--isn't he?" he said, after a moment. His lips, pressed together, curled in with a trick they had when he was thinking hard, planning things.
The other forbore to question. The notable figure had instantly arrested his attention, and held it until it passed from view.
"Isn't he, though, Yankee?" Dicky repeated, and pressed a knuckle into the other's waistcoat.
"Isn't he what?"
"Isn't he bully--in your own language?"
"In figure; but I couldn't see his face distinctly."
"You'll see that presently. You could cut a whole Egyptian Ministry out of that face, and have enough left for an American president or the head of the Salvation Army. In all the years I've spent here I've never seen one that could compare with him in nature, character, and force. A few like him in Egypt, and there'd be no need for the money-barbers of Europe."
"He seems an ooster here--you know him?"
"Do I!" Dicky paused and squinted up at the tall Southerner. "What do you suppose I brought you out from your Consulate for to see--the view from Ebn Mahmoud? And you call yourself a cute Yankee?"
"I'm no more a Yankee than you are, as I've told you before," answered the American with a touch of impatience, yet smilingly. "I'm from South Carolina, the first State that seceded."
"Anyhow, I'm going to call you Yankee, to keep you nicely disguised. This is the land of disguises."
"Then we did not come out to see the view?" the other drawled. There was a quickening of the eye, a drooping of the lid, which betrayed a sudden interest, a sense of adventure.
Dicky laid his head back and laughed noiselessly. "My dear Renshaw, with all Europe worrying Ismail, with France in the butler's pantry and England at the front door, do the bowab and the sarraf go out to take air on the housetops, and watch the sun set on the Pyramids and make a rainbow of the desert? I am the bowab and the sarraf, the man-of-all- work, the Jack-of-all-trades, the 'confidential' to the Oriental spendthrift. Am I a dog to bay the moon--have I the soul of a tourist from Liverpool or Poughkeepsie?"
The lanky Southerner gripped his arm. "There's a hunting song of the South," he said, "and the last line is, 'The hound that never tires.' You are that, Donovan Pasha--"
"I am 'little Dicky Donovan,' so they say," interrupted the other.
"You are the weight that steadies things in this shaky Egypt. You are you, and you've brought me out here because there's work of some kind to do, and because--"
"And because you're an American, and we speak the same language."
"And our Consulate is all right, if needed, whatever it is. You've played a square game in Egypt. You're the only man in office who hasn't got rich out of her, and--"
"I'm not in office."
"You're the power behind the throne, you're--"
"I'm helpless--worse than helpless, Yankee. I've spent years of my life here. I've tried to be of some use, and play a good game for England; and keep a conscience too, but it's been no real good. I've only staved off the crash. I'm helpless, now. That's why I'm here."
He leaned forward, and looked out of the minaret and down towards the great locked gates of the empty mosque.
Renshaw put his hand on Dicky's shoulder. "It's the man in white yonder you're after?"
Dicky nodded. "It was no use as long as she lived. But she's dead--her face was under that old Persian shawl--and I'm going to try it on."
"Try what on?"
"Last night I heard she was sick. I heard at noon to-day that she was gone; and then I got you to come out and see the view!"
"What are you going to do with him?"
"Make him come back."
"From the native quarter and the bazaars. He was for years in Abdin Palace."
"What do you want him for?"
"It's a little gamble for Egypt. There's no man in Egypt Ismail loves and fears so much--"
"Except little Dicky Donovan!"
"That's all twaddle. There's no man Ismail fears so much, because he's the idol of the cafes and the bazaars. He's the Egyptian in Egypt to-day. You talk about me? Why, I'm the foreigner, the Turk, the robber, the man that holds the lash over Egypt. I'd go like a wisp of straw if there was an uprising."
"Will there be an uprising?" The Southerner's fingers moved as though they were feeling a pistol.
"As sure as that pyramid stands. Everything depends on the kind of uprising. I want one kind. There may be another."
"That's what you are here for?"
"Who is he?"
"What is his story?"
"She was." He nodded towards the funeral procession.
"Who was she?"
"She was a slave." Then, after a pause, "She was a genius too. She saw what was in him. She was waiting--but death couldn't wait, so . . . Every thing depends. What she asked him to do, he'll do."
"But if she didn't ask?"
"That's it. She was sick only seventeen hours--sick unto death. If she
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