"I think you said this place was on the road to Syria," said the magnate. "People who go to the Holy Land from Egypt, and most of them do go that way, take a steamer from Alexandria to Joppa, or Jaffa as it is now generally called, and do not go by camel-back over this road."
"They do not; but they may go over it at some time in the near future," added Professor Giroud. "The Egypto-Syrian Railroad has been projected, and it is to pass over this route."
The travellers found quite a village at El Kantara, with a hotel, and other places for the refreshment of travellers. Passengers from the steamers seldom land here. The ship proceeded on her way, and the party caught a glimpse at a boat-load of camels crossing the canal. From this place to Fort Said the course had been perfectly straight through Lake Menzaleh, which ends here.
"If you will look to the left," said the commander after a time, "you will see a considerable body of water. That is the upper part of Lake Balah, through which the canal passes. About a mile and a half distant is a lot of sandstone rocks like that of the Memnon statues. They appear to belong to an altar, and the inscription informs the visitor who can read it that they were parts of a temple erected by Seti I. in honor of his father, Ramses I., and completed by Ramses II., his son. There may have been a city here, but there are no signs of it now."
The steamer passed through the Balah Lakes; for there are several of them, containing some islands. The canal is protected by high banks of yellow sand, and beyond is the desert, with hills in the distance. Coming out of the lakes, the canal passed through a deep cutting, which was the worst place encountered in doing the work. It is the highest ground on the isthmus, averaging fifty-two feet above the sea; and a ridge of this territory is from seventy to one hundred feet high, through which the digging had to be carried. There are some curves here, the canal is the narrowest in all its course, and vessels more frequently get aground here than in any other portion. The road to Syria passed over this elevation, which is called "the causeway" in Arabic.
The Ophir went through without sticking in the sand, and the Guardian-Mother was likely to do as well. A solitary mosque and a chalet of the Khedive were passed, and the ship was approaching Lake Timsah when the gong sounded for lunch, and the air of the desert had given the tourists an appetite which caused them to evacuate the promenade with hasty steps.
THE MYSTERIOUS ARAB IN A NEW SUIT
The cabin party of the Guardian-Mother were on the promenade in time to observe the entrance into Lake Timsah. It is near the seventy-five kilometre post from Port Said, or half way through the canal to the head of the Gulf of Suez, the most northern portion of the Red Sea. The city of Suez is several miles to the south-west of this point; for Lesseps, for some reason said to be political, avoided the old town, and carried the canal to the other side of the inlet, and below it.
Lake Timsah has an area of about six square miles. It is not a deep body of water, and the canal had to be built through it as through Lake Menzaleh. Its water is now of a pale blue, very pretty to look at. Before any work was done here, it was a mere pond, filled with reeds; but it has been cleaned out and made more healthy for the surrounding country.
On its northern shore is the town of Ismailia, having about two thousand inhabitants, which has become a place of some importance. The railroad from Cairo is extended to it by a branch, the main line following the canal to Suez. It has a couple of hotels; and its principal square, on which the best one is situated, has the name of Place Champollion, showing that the French remember their learned men.
While the canal was in process of construction, Ismailia was the centre of operations. It was handsomely laid out, not unlike the city of Washington, which is one of the handsomest in the world; but, like the new places in our great West, it was built in a hurry, under the pressure of a drive of business, and the sanitary conditions were neglected. The important fresh-water canal, which is near the railroad all the way from the Nile, furnishes the only drinking-water of this town and of Suez; but the sewers of the new town had no other outlet.
Of course the town was soon invaded by fever, which caused it to be deserted; and it has never recovered its former prosperity, though not wholly for this reason, for the completion of the canal destroyed its business basis. Ismailia was the focal point of the great ceremonials at the opening of the canal. The Empress Eugenie of France, the Emperor Frederick of Germany, then crown-prince, and other noted persons, were present; and the celebration is said to have cost the Khedive twenty million dollars.
The town has improved somewhat of late; the viceroy's chateau, which had become much dilapidated, has been restored, and portions of the desert, irrigated from the canal, have been transformed into fine gardens. Though the climate is agreeable and the air dry, it is not likely to become a pleasure resort. A couple of small steamers run from this port to Port Said, while the railroad connects it with Suez.
The steamer remained a couple of hours at the station, as did the Ophir; and the commander obtained permission for the ladies to pay her a visit. She is a magnificent specimen of naval architecture. Her saloon, staterooms, drawing-room on the upper deck, were magnificent apartments, most luxuriously furnished. Her appointments for second-class passengers were extensive and very comfortable, far better than on many Atlantic steamers.
The ubiquitous donkey, and especially the donkey-boy, were here; and the "Big Four," with the exception of Louis Belgrave, who attended Miss Blanche on the visit to the Ophir, accompanied by Don, went on a frolic to the town. They made a great noise and waked up the place, but they committed no excesses. When they returned to the ship, they found Louis and Miss Blanche showing the captain and the surgeon of the big steamer over the Guardian-Mother. The beautiful young lady had evidently fascinated them, and they had been extremely polite to the party, perhaps on her account. They appeared to be interested in the steam-yacht, and expressed their belief that nothing more comfortable and elegant floated.
The steamers got under way again, and proceeded through one of the two channels through the blue lake. The ladies waved their handkerchiefs to the officers and passengers of the Ophir; and their greetings were heartily reciprocated, for the American party had plainly made an impression upon the English people, partly perhaps by the style in which they travelled, but probably more by the beauty of the ladies, with Miss Blanche as princess, and the others were under forty and still good-looking. The lake is only five miles long, and the steamers soon passed into the cut at the south of it.
"Along this region many ruins have been found, some of them of Persian structures," said the commander after the ship had left the lake. "Pharaoh-Necho, 600 B.C., built a canal from Suez to Lake Timsah, with gates, which Herodotus describes, and informs us that the vessels of the period went through it in four days."
"I wish you would tell us something about Herodotus, Captain, for his name has been frequently mentioned in Egypt," said Mrs. Woolridge.
"And about Diodorus and Strabo, also mentioned in the lectures," added the magnate. "I have forgotten all that I ever knew about these gentlemen."
"I am in the same boat, Captain," the doctor responded.
"I shall leave those subjects to the professor. But we are approaching some objects of interest, and we will defer the matter to another time," replied the commander. "Do you see a white dome on the starboard? That is the tomb of Shekh Ennedek; and it is rather a picturesque affair here in the midst of the desert."
"Was he a fighting character?" asked Mrs. Belgrave.
"Not at all; far from it. He was a wealthy Arab chief. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is the duty of every faithful Mohammedan; and he seems to have been greatly impressed by it, for he gave his cattle and his lands to the poor, and spent the rest of his life on the greenish territory we have just passed through, in religious meditation."
"He was a good man if he was a Mohammedan," added the lady.
"We don't believe that all the good people in the world belong to our church," added the captain. "Do you all remember who Miriam was?"
More than half the party could not remember.
"She was the sister of Moses; and she first appears, doubtless as a young girl, watching the Nile-cradle of her infant brother. The land next south of Lake Timsah, made green by the water, is called Gebel Maryam, probably after the sister of Moses. She was a prophetess; but she found fault with the marriage of her brother, for which she was afflicted with Egyptian leprosy. As you find it in the Bible (Numbers xii.), Moses asked the Lord: 'Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again. And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days.' An Arab legend points out this spot as the place where she spent that time, and from which it gets the name of Maryam."
"That's nice, Captain Ringgold!" exclaimed Mrs. Blossom. "I wish you would tell us more Bible stories."
"Some people believe that the Mediterranean and the Red Seas were connected in some remote age of the world, or at least that the latter extended to the north as far as Lake Timsah," continued the commander, without noticing the suggestion of the amiable lady. "In proof of this supposition, certain shells found in the Mediterranean, but not in the Red Sea, have been thrown up in digging for the canal through Lake Timsah.
"We are approaching what is called the Serapeum," said the captain.
"What! more of them here? I thought we had used up all the Serapeums," said the magnate with a laugh.
"The present one is of a different sort," answered the commander. "But the ruins found in this vicinity were supposed to belong to a Serapeum such as several we have seen on the Nile; but Lepsius says they could not have been a part of a temple to Serapis, but were monuments built on the ancient canal by Darius.
"It is high ground here, comparatively speaking; and you observe that the cutting of the water-way is through a rocky formation, with rather high banks on each side. There is quite a little village above; and, as it is getting dark, we shall pass the night here in the siding-basin."
"Who is that man on the forecastle of the Maud?" asked Captain Scott as the little steamer came into the basin.
"I don't know," replied Captain Ringgold. "I had not noticed him before. He looks like an Arab, though he is taller than most of them."
A flight of steps ascended to the top of the embankment at the station of the little town. The Maud passed close to them on her way to her berth for the night. Abreast of them the Arab on the forecastle leaped ashore, but made a gesture as though the movement had given him pain. He went up the steps and disappeared.
"Who was that man, Knott?" asked the captain when the seaman came on board of the ship.
"I don't know, sir; I called upon him to give an account of himself as we were crossing Lake Timsah; but he could not understand me, pointed to his mouth, and shook his head, meaning that he could not speak English. He did not do any harm, so I let him alone; for Don was running the engine, and I did not like to call him from his duty. He kept his face covered up with a sort of veil, and would not say anything. I thought I would let him alone till we came to a stopping-place, and I could report to you."
"When did he go on board of the Maud?" asked the captain.
"I don't know, sir. The first time I saw him was on the lake. Spinner had the wheel, Don was in the engine-room, and the rest of the ship's company were on the upper deck looking at the sights. I inquired, but no one had seen him."
"Did you ever see him before?"
"I don't think I ever did, sir. He had on what looked like a new suit of Arab togs, and he kept his face covered up, as I said."
If Captain Ringgold was not troubled, he was perplexed. He had observed the stranger distinctly as he went up the steps, but he could not identify him as a person he had ever seen before. Of course it came into his head at once that the tall Arab was Captain Mazagan, and he said as much to Scott.
"We left him at the hotel at Port Said; how could he be here?" asked the captain of the Maud.
"He must have smuggled himself on board of the little steamer when we were at Ismailia; for he was first seen out in the lake."
"How could he have been at Ismailia?" Scott inquired.
The commander went to his cabin, and looked over his "Bradshaw," in which he found that a steamer left Port Said at seven o'clock every morning, and arrived at Ismailia at noon. It was possible that Mazagan had come by this conveyance; and he gave Scott the information.
"Probably he stopped at the station while we were on board of the Ophir, or your party had gone to the town," said the commander. "It was easy enough for him to stow himself away in the cabin of the Maud while no one but Philip was on board of her."
"I supposed we had got to the end of the pirate when I saw him trotted on shore to the hotel," added Scott.
"So did I, though he made some huge but very indefinite threats when I saw him last," mused the commander. "But why did he go on board of the Maud, when he could have gone to Suez by the railroad?"
"I don't see," replied Scott. "He is a Moor, and must be as revengeful as his 'noble master,' as he calls him. It was the Maud that did his business for him, and I was at the wheel of her when she smashed into the side of the Fatime. I only hope his grudge is against me and not against Louis Belgrave."
"You mention the idea I had in my mind when I asked why he went on board of the Maud, Captain Scott," said the commander. "Perhaps it is a lucky chance that I sent for the 'Big Four' so that they might hear all that was said about the scenes through which we were passing."
"You mean that it may have been a lucky chance for Louis or for me; but I believe it is a luckier chance for the pirate, for I think I should have thrown him overboard if I had seen him on our deck," said Scott.
"Then there would probably have been a fight on board of the Maud, and work made for our surgeon in your party. It may have been lucky for all that you were called on board of the ship. But we must take care that he does not resume his voyage in the morning with us."
Captain Ringgold took all necessary precautions. A watch was kept on board of both vessels; and when they started on the remainder of the trip through the canal in the morning, nothing had been seen or heard of Mazagan. It was agreed that nothing had better be said about the matter; and when the cabin party, with the "Big Four," gathered on the promenade at five o'clock in the morning, not one of them, except the big and the little captain, suspected that an enemy was near, if the stranger really was Mazagan, of which they could not be sure.
THE TOY OF THE TRANSIT MANAGER
The village of Serapeum has had an existence of over twenty years; and its pleasant little gardens looked very inviting in the fresh morning air to the members of the cabin party as they took their places on the promenade, which had come to be about as well defined as their seats at the table. The air was soft and agreeable; and after their refreshing sleep the tourists were in excellent condition to enjoy the continued passage through the canal, of which, however, there were only about forty-one miles left, and the commander expected to be at Suez by noon.
Captain Ringgold had not said anything to any person except Scott about the mysterious stranger with a veil over his face; but the ship and her consort had been well guarded over night, and a search for stowaways was made when the morning watch came on duty. Not even an Arab tramp could be found, and the commander was confident the tall Mussulman had not again found a hiding-place on board of either vessel.
"We shall soon have a change of scene," said Captain Ringgold, as he joined the party on the promenade. "We are still in the desert, though the fresh-water canal makes a streak of green along its banks, for it extends to Suez, and even across the bay to the entrance of the canal."
"The prospect is not very exciting just now," added Mr. Woolridge, as the screw began to turn, and the ship moved away from her moorings.
"We shall come to the larger of the Bitter Lakes in less than an hour," replied the captain. "There is nothing very exciting about them; but Brugsch identifies these lakes with the Marah of the Bible, though others do not agree with him. In Exodus xv. 23 we read," and the speaker took a paper from his pocket: "'And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters ... for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.' But the bitter spring which Moses sweetened by casting into it a tree is in the peninsula of Sinai."
"Shall we go there?" asked Mrs. Blossom, beginning to be excited, as she always was when scriptural subjects came up in connection with the journey; and she had studied the Bible more than any other book, and probably more than all others combined.
"At the proper time I shall have something to say about Mount Sinai, and I hope to place you in a position to see it in the distance; but at present we are not prepared to consider the matter. You can now see through the cutting an expanse of water, which is the great basin, as the larger lake is called.
"As stated before, the Red Sea formerly extended to Lake Timsah, over forty miles farther than now, and the lakes before us were then a part of the sea. The deepest water was twenty-four to forty feet below the Mediterranean, with a heavy crust of salt on the bottom, though the smaller basin required a great deal of dredging. In the spring of 1869 the Prince and Princess of Wales were present in this locality, and took part in the ceremonial of 'letting in the waters.'"
"'Wails for the multitude of Egypt,'" added Uncle Moses.
"Ezekiel, chapter and verse forgotten," replied the commander.
"Thirty-two, eighteen," said the bulky lawyer.
"Are there any whales in the lake?" asked Felix.
"You can fish for them, my lad; but the particular Waleses of whom I spoke were not 'in it,'" continued the captain. "These Wales did not spout, though they probably said something; but they let in the water instead of blowing it out, as respectable whales do at sea. The waters of the two seas came together, and notwithstanding the joyousness of the occasion, the meeting was not altogether amiable and pleasant at first. Each representative of the different bodies seemed to pitch into the other, and the onslaught created a great commotion for a time. If they were ever united before in the distant past, they appeared to have forgotten all about it.
"The war was short and decisive, and the waters soon settled down into a peaceful condition, as you will find them to-day. They have apparently shaken hands, and accepted the task of promoting the commerce of the world. But here we come to the great basin. The lake is about six miles wide. Here is the lighthouse, and there is another at the other end of it, each of them sixty-five feet high."
The shores of the lake are flat and sandy, and the water is of a bluish green hue. There is a well-defined channel through it. As there is no longer any danger of washing the banks of the canal, steamers increase their speed, and the Guardian-Mother made the next twenty miles in less than two hours. As the captain had promised, it was a change of scene, and it was very agreeable to the party. In the distance could be seen the Geneffeh range of hills, which were a relief in the landscape from the desert. In them are rich quarries of marble and limestone which are profitably worked.
The passage through the canal had become monotonous to the travellers after they had passed through the lakes, for it was a desert on both sides. Shortly after, the water-way was cut through sandstone, and after that the soil was clay, or a mixture of it with lime; but the last part of the course was through depths of sand again. The tide on the Red Sea rises from five to seven feet, and its flow extends about four miles up the canal.
"Looking ahead, you can see an expanse of water, which means that we are coming to the end of our canal travel," said the commander. "I suppose no one will be sorry for it; for we have had all our social arrangements as usual, and there has been something to see and much to learn all the way."
"It has not been at all like my canal travel at home," added Uncle Moses, who was the oldest person on board of the ship by one month, by which time Dr. Hawkes was his junior, and they were only fifty-four. "I went from Syracuse to Oswego by a canal boat when I was a young man. The trip was in the night, and I slept on a swinging shelf, held up by ropes; and we were bumping much of the time in the locks so that I did not sleep so well as I did last night. But what water have we ahead, Captain?"
"It is an arm of the Gulf of Suez, which is itself one of the two great arms of the Red Sea."
"It appears to be well armed," said Uncle Moses, who could be guilty of a pun on extreme provocation.
"Like yourself, it is provided with two arms, but it does not shoot with them," replied the captain. "On our left are the ruins of Arsinoe, which was an ancient port, once called Crocodilopolis; and, by the way, Lake Timsah was once Crocodile Lake, and doubtless the saurians formerly sported in its waters."
"About Arsinoe?" suggested the professor.
"Probably you know more about it than I do, Professor."
"I know little except that it was a commercial city of Egypt, built by Ptolemy II. The name is that of several females distinguished in one way or another in the ancient world, and the word is usually written with a diaeresis over the final e, so that it is pronounced as though it were written Arsinoey. The city thrived for a time, and was the emporium of eastern Egypt; but the perils of the navigation in the north of the Red Sea diverted the trade into other channels, and the place went to decay. It was named by Ptolemy after his sister, who was married at sixteen to the aged king of Thrace. There is a bloody story connected with her life, which I will not repeat; but in the end she fled to the protection of her brother in Egypt, and after the fashion of that age and country, he made her his wife."
"You have not been in Asia any of you yet, or even as near that continent before as you are at this moment," continued the commander, as the ship passed out of the canal into the gulf.
"I thought we had been in Asia," interposed Mrs. Belgrave.
"Certainly we have," added half a dozen others.
"Isn't Scutari in Asia, Captain?" asked the lady.
"To be sure it is, and we all went over there from Constantinople," replied the commander. "I had forgotten that, and you are not so innocent as I began to make it appear. But you have Asia on one side and Europe on the other."
"Well, we had that on the Bosporus, when we made that trip to the Black Sea in the Maud," added the lady, who seemed to be pleased because she had caught the captain in a blunder.
"Then you have been in all the grand divisions of the earth except South America, and I have no doubt you will go there before we come to the finish of this voyage. Here is the station; and you observe that there is a bridge across the canal by which the traveller can proceed to Suez, which you can see upon the point on the other side. The donkeys and donkey-boys abound here as everywhere in Egypt, and boats can be obtained to ferry you over to the town. But as we shall remain here a day or two, I think we had better go into the basin. We can then go where we please in the Maud."
It was lunch time when the two vessels had been secured, and the party adjourned to the cabin. As soon as the meal was disposed of they returned to the upper deck, and seated themselves in the arm-chairs, for there was much to be seen. Port Tewfik is the proper name of the place at the station, but most of the people are Frenchmen, and they all call it Terreplein.
"At this station the office of the canal company, which you can see from the deck, is located. It has a garden in front of it, on an avenue adorned with lebbec trees. You see that tall tower with balls and flags on it; and it is from this point that all the movements of vessels in the canal are controlled. But I think we had better land, and see it for ourselves."
The company went on shore, and proceeded to promenade the environs. One of the first things that attracted their attention was a colossal bronze bust of Lieutenant Waghorn, who had been presented to them by Captain Ringgold in one of his talks. It was erected to his memory by the canal company, and is a graceful tribute of the French to the originator of the overland route. The inscription was in French, and Louis translated it for the benefit of the observers.
"But I cannot translate the bass-relief on the bronze," he added.
"That represents Lieutenant Waghorn embarking with the mails in an open boat at Suez, an incident that actually occurred. It is said that this gentleman, after spending the best years of his life in his efforts to establish a quicker route between England and her vast colonies, died in poverty in London in 1850; but I hope it is not true," the commander explained. "We will now apply for admission to the office of the manager."
The permission was obtained, and the party ascended to the upper room of the building. Monsieur Chartrey, the superintendent of the transit department of the canal, was very polite to them, and explained everything to them in English. On a low table which occupied all one side of the apartment was what looked like a metal trough about fifteen feet long. A model of this apparatus was exhibited in England, and there it was called "the toy," a name which is still retained.
On a shelf above the table are about fifty models of ships, each bearing the flag of some nation. The toy is a model of the canal, with its sidings, stations, and the lakes. When a ship enters the canal at either end, a little ship is placed in the relative position it occupies; and when one sails out of it, its representative in the trough is removed. All the stations are connected with this office by telegraph, just as the railroads are controlled in modern times; and when a vessel passes from one section, or block, it is reported to the manager. A man is always watching; and as news comes in, he makes the proper changes in the model ships. Where a steamer is to tie up for the night is ordered from this office.
Monsieur Chartrey was very heartily thanked for his courtesy and kindness, and the party left to look at the docks, quays, and basins of Terreplein; but they were precisely the same as they had seen in various ports of Europe, especially at Havre. The commander had ordered the Maud to be in readiness for a trip, and it was decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at Suez.
The first question the captain put on his return to the ship was as to whether anything had been seen of the mysterious Arab stranger; for the officers had been cautioned not to admit any person on board. Mr. Gaskette had remained on board of the Maud, and made the same report. With the four seamen who had attended the company up the Nile on board, and with the second officer and Don, the little steamer left her landing-place, provided with a pilot, and steamed by the channel over to the city of the desert, as it has been called.
A VISIT TO THE SPRINGS OF MOSES
The utility of the Maud was fully demonstrated at Suez, if there had been any doubt of it before, as a tender, and Captain Ringgold recognized it especially at this time; for the question of taking her out of the water, and giving her a place on the upper deck, had been referred to this point in the voyage, and it was yet to be settled.
Port Ibrahim is the walled basin south-west of Port Tewfik, or Terreplein as the French call it, extending out to the deep water of the Gulf of Suez. The shores are bordered with a shoal in every part. To a practical person the motive of De Lesseps in avoiding the city of Suez was probably to strike the water at the deepest point, rather than political.
The party took their places in the standing-room of the Maud, which had been prepared for their reception. The "Big Four" were again in their element, though the pilot had everything his own way. A channel describes about a quarter of a circle from the deep water and the very end of the canal to the north side of the city, in which there is depth enough for the smaller class of vessels engaged in its commerce.
Most of these crafts were dhows, similar to the felucca with which the party had become familiar in the Archipelago, and the boys observed one just astern of them with great interest. They are used on the Malabar Coast in the East Indies as well as in the Red Sea, where it is called a baggala, though dhow is the more common name in the far East. They are over two hundred tons burden, and of all sizes below that. They have been used for commerce and piracy, which is also true of the felucca of the Mediterranean.
"She sails like the wind," said Captain Scott, after they had looked the craft over.
"She is bigger than the Samothraki, whose acquaintance we made in Pournea Bay," added Morris.
"I have read something of the craft in stories about the Malays; and a craft of that sort suggests piracy to me every time, especially since our experience in the Archipelago," replied Scott.
"There are no pirates up here," said the pilot with a laugh, for he spoke English and understood all that was said.
"What do those dhows bring up here?" asked Louis.
"Coffee from the ports of Arabia, spices, gums, senna, rose-leaves, and other drugs and perfumes," replied the pilot.
"What becomes of these articles then?"
"Some of them are used in Suez; but most of them go by the railroad to Cairo, or other parts of Egypt, and I suppose some of them get to Europe and America."
"They are all rather costly merchandise, and one of those dhows can carry a big freight of them," added Louis, as he went aft, for Miss Blanche was there.
The pilot brought the Maud up to the custom-house quay; and the dhow, which was not far behind the little steamer, came alongside the pier near her. The company landed, and proceeded to do the town. The pilot appeared to be a Frenchman, and he volunteered to act as a guide for the strangers. They found the streets very narrow, and not in the best condition. They passed over to the south side of the city, where they obtained a fine view of the Gulf of Suez.
"Across the water you see the Ataka Mountains, about 2,700 feet high; and sometimes they show the colors of the garnet and amethyst. A fine view is obtained from the top of them, but it would give you a hard climb," said the guide. "On the other side of the bay it is Asia, Arabia Petraea."
"We shall go down to the Springs of Moses to-morrow," added the commander. "Are you a pilot in that direction?"
"In all directions, Captain," answered the pilot. "Here is the Hotel Suez quite near us, if you wish to visit it."
"We have no occasion to do so."
"It is a first-class house, fitted up in English style, and kept by a German."
"What is the price there by the day?" asked the captain from curiosity.
"Sixteen shillings for the best fare."
"Four dollars a day."
"But they have two prices. I have been to New York, and over some of America, as I have over the rest of the world, and I know your money. For people like yourself, who want the best, breakfast or tiffin is one dollar."
"Breakfast or what?" asked Mrs. Belgrave.
"Tiffin," the commander explained. "It means luncheon, and is used by English people in India."
"Dinner a dollar and a half. The rooms are at different prices. For the second-class fare the prices are just half as much as the first."
"There are a couple of the waiters," said Mrs. Woolridge. "They are nice-looking men, not very black."
"They come from India, and make better servants than Arabs," added the guide.
"How slender their forms, and what delicate features they have!" exclaimed the New York lady.
"You are likely to see a good many of them in the course of the next month or two," suggested the captain, as the walk was continued in the town. "The houses are about the same as they were in other parts of Egypt, and they have the same ornamented lattices behind which the ladies inside can see you without being seen."
The party looked into the quarters of the Arabian sailors, consisting of low hovels, but did not enter. The population of the town is now about 15,000. Before the time of the canal, it was an Arab village of 1,500, with low mud shanties. It was like the desert around it; for no water was there to brighten the foliage, if there was any, for not a tree or a plant was to be seen. The water used was of poor quality, brought from the Springs of Moses by camels and donkeys. It was a poverty-stricken place. But the opening of the fresh-water canal from the Nile vivified everything, and vegetation has come into being since this event.
The party examined this canal, to which the place is so much indebted for its present appearance, as well as no little of its prosperity. It is six and a half feet above the level of the Red Sea, and its flow into the conduits for the supply of the city, as well as the waste into the sea, is regulated by a large lock, with gates. Near this they found the camel-camp, and not less than five hundred of these animals were there at the time; and the pilot said he had seen as many as a thousand of them there at once. They form the caravans to and from Arabia and Egypt, as well as into Syria.
The tourists climbed a little hill near the chateau of the Khedive, from which they obtained a fine view of the surroundings, which included parts of Asia and of Africa. This elevation is said to be the site of the ancient Clysma, a fortified place, built to protect the ancient canal of Darius. The party, especially the "Cupids," were beginning to be fatigued; and the guide conducted them to the pier, which is a notable feature of the locality.
"This pier is a mile and three-quarters in length, and reaches over to Port Ibrahim, conveying there a conduit from the fresh-water canal," said the pilot in a perfunctory manner, as though he had had considerable experience as a guide. "It is forty-eight feet wide, and is built of artificial stone, like the great piers at Fort Said. It is erected on a sand-bank, which curves around in the shape you see the pier. The land you observe at the end of it, about fifty acres of it, was made out of the earth dug out of the canal. The building you see near the shore is a mosque; and there are several others. We will walk along the shore to the little steamer."
The travellers were occasionally assailed by a mob of donkey-boys; but no notice of them was taken, and they reached the Hotel Suez near the landing-place. The guide pointed out an island near the shore on which was located the English Cemetery. There are at the west of the town an English and a French hospital. The party embarked, and the guide went to the pilot house. In a few minutes more they were on board of the ship.
It was not yet dinner time, and the arrangements for the trip to the Springs of Moses were made. In the evening, attended by the pilot, Felix and Captain Scott went over to the town again, instructed to visit the hotels and ascertain, if they could, whether the veiled Arab was lodging at any of them. While they were absent the company in the cabin reviewed the pilgrimage of the Israelites, and the events which led to the receiving of the Law by Moses on Mount Sinai, in which the commander conducted the inquiry, and read many passages from Exodus and Numbers.
About ten o'clock in the evening Captain Scott and Felix reported the result of their mission. The pilot was well acquainted with the keeper of the Hotel Suez, and the information desired had been readily obtained. A person answering to the description, though he wore no veil, had come to the hotel. He was suffering much pain from a lame shoulder, and had gone to the French hospital for treatment. They had inquired about "Monsieur Abdelkhalik," as he had given his name at the hotel, and were informed that he was "comfortable," which was all the attendants would say.
The commander sent for Dr. Hawkes, and told him about his former patient. Mazagan had been very imprudent and even reckless, and his present condition was simply what might have been expected, was the doctor's reply. He might be out again in a week, not sooner, and might not for a month. The captain was satisfied there would be no further movement on the part of the pirate while he remained at Suez.
After breakfast the party embarked again in the Maud. Four sailors in charge of Knott were sent on board, and the first cutter of the ship was taken in tow, to be used in making the landing. The men remained on the forecastle, and the pilot and Knott were already good friends. But the "Big Four" were requested to stay with the party at the stern. The little steamer went out of the basin and down the canal to the bay. As soon as she came into the open water, the commander took the floor.
"On your right is Africa; on your left is Asia. You have probably had enough of Egypt, and now we will confine our attention to Asia; and we have pleasant Asiatic breezes from the east this morning. The country on your left is Arabia, and nearest to you is the Peninsula of Sinai. It has the Gulf of Suez on its west shore, and the Gulf of Akaba on its east coast. I spoke to you of Brugsch's theory that the Israelites journeyed east, with some diversions by divine command, till they came to the Sarbonic Lake, in which he said that Pharaoh and his host perished.
"Now you are on that portion of the Red Sea where it is more generally believed that the fugitives crossed and Pharaoh's army was ingulfed. The king heard that the wanderers had not passed the fortifications on the isthmus, and he believed they were 'entangled in the land.' Then he began the pursuit, with 'the six hundred chosen chariots.' The Israelites fled before him, and crossed the waters in the manner described in the Scriptures.
"Setting aside the miracle of the parted waves, there are still doubting critics who affirm that they crossed the gulf at low tide on these sands where the pier is built, as was frequently done by caravans before the canal was built. The Egyptians continued the pursuit, reaching the gulf before the tide turned, and attempted to follow them; but a strong south-west gale sprang up, driving the waters furiously before it, to the utter destruction of the whole army and its chariots.
"But I accept the narrative as it is written (Exodus xiv.); and I should like to argue the case with any one who takes the view of Brugsch, or other critics who try to explain the miracle on natural grounds."
The pilot anchored the Maud as near the shore as the depth would permit, and the party were taken ashore by the sailors in the cutter. The springs are about a mile from the landing, and the walk through the sand of the desert was trying to the ladies and to the fat gentlemen. The pilot acted as guide.
"Ain Musa, as it is called, is an oasis a mile and a quarter in circumference. As you see, it is covered with date-palms, tamarisks, and acacias, and everything grows luxuriantly," the Frenchman began. "The Arabs who live in the mud hovels you see, raise fine vegetables here; and, like all Arabs, they will expect a bakshish."
The springs were found to consist of several pools of rather muddy water. The largest of them, shut in by an old wall, is said to be the one called forth by the rod of Moses from the rock; but the tradition is accommodating, and, if you choose, it is the one whose bitter waters were sweetened by the casting in of the tree.
The party had brought a luncheon with them, and it was served by Sparks at the usual hour. They had a delightful time under the trees, and listened to an explanation by the professor of the natural formation of the springs. In the middle of the afternoon they embarked, and returned to the ship in the canal basin.
THE VARIOUS ROUTES TO MOUNT SINAI
The next day was Sunday; and, in accordance with the custom from the beginning of the voyage, no unnecessary work was required to be done by any person, and the business of sight-seeing was discontinued. But all were at liberty to observe the day in their own way. Religious services were conducted by the commander on the deck or in the cabin, which were usually attended by all. Most of them went to church on shore when it was convenient; but going to see the edifice or the pictures they did not regard as a devotional exercise.
It was a warm and pleasant day for the seventeenth of January, in latitude 30 deg., about the same as New Orleans or the northern part of Florida; and the service was held in Conference Hall, as the carpeted section of the promenade deck had come to be called. The captain began the exercises by reading selections from Exodus xv.:—
"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.... Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone."
Several "Gospel Hymns" were sung, and the sermon read by the commander was as nearly fitted to the surroundings as any he could find in his collection. After the service Mrs. Blossom struck up "Turn back Pharaoh's Army, Hallelu!" in which those who knew this Jubilee Singers' melody joined. The conversation that followed naturally turned in the direction of the Peninsula of Sinai, which they could see from the deck.
"Are we going to Mount Sinai, Captain Ringgold?" asked Mrs. Belgrave, in a rather decided tone for her, as though she intended to have the question settled this time.
A great deal had been said by the ladies from Von Blonk Park in relation to this proposed excursion; but for some reason of his own the commander had not yet given a definite answer. They all attended the same church at home, and the captain and the two ladies were members of it. While the others of the party were deeply interested in the Biblical history, they were not so enthusiastic as the two ladies mentioned.
"Are we going to Mount Sinai?" replied the commander, repeating the question of the owner's mother, "No!"
It was a decided "no" this time, and the jaws of the two Von Blonk Parkites suddenly dropped. Everybody in the company knew that the commander would do anything, even to swimming across the gulf where the children of Israel had walked over, to oblige her, and they were very much surprised at the emphatic negative.
"I shall not finally decide this interesting question without giving my reasons," continued Captain Ringgold. "It would be an extremely interesting excursion to me, as well as to the others. Though I have been to Suez before, I have not made the trip, and I should be as glad to go as any person present. Many travellers go there, especially clergymen, to whom it is in a sense professional, aside from the interest their studies would naturally create in the subject, and the excursion finds a place in many excellent books of travel. I do not consult my own personal desires so much as the situation and circumstances in which we are placed.
"Although we call our voyage an All-Over-the-World affair, the title is considerably exaggerated in the truest and most literal sense; for if we devoted the rest of our natural lives to the work, we could not go everywhere. It is impossible to visit every country on the earth even, and we must use judgment and discretion in determining where we will go. We are travelling by sea, making only such excursions inland as the facilities of the country we visit will conveniently permit. Such trips as we make of this kind must be regulated or controlled by conditions over which we have no influence.
"Times and seasons form an important consideration. We are going to India, and the season is advancing. The southern end of the Red Sea is in latitude 12 deg. north, where you are likely to see some hot weather; and the longer we delay, the hotter it will be. We shall sail from here Tuesday morning; and if we do not make a run up into the Persian Gulf, we shall probably be at Bombay by the first of next month. That city is in latitude 19 deg., or about that of the south side of Cuba, of which you know something. We shall see plenty of extremely hot weather, but we wish to avoid it as much as possible.
"There are several routes to Mount Sinai, three from Suez, and two from ports south of it. It will take from two weeks by the shortest route to four by the others. It is a very fatiguing journey if made with due diligence, and it would require a full month for us to see the country properly. My first objection is the time it would require.
"In the next place, the expense is from forty to fifty francs a day, eight to ten dollars, for each person, over a hundred dollars a day. If the result justified it, I should not object to the expense, and I don't think Uncle Moses would. There are no hotels in this region, and you would have to camp out, live in hovels, or at best in the monastery; and the trip would involve a great deal of discomfort to persons not accustomed to roughing it. The 'Big Four' might make a pleasant affair of it, but most of the others would not.
"All the preparations for the excursion have to be made at Cairo, where dragomans who contract to supply tents, camels, food, and everything required are to be found, and I was approached by three of them at Shepheard's Hotel."
"Then the trip seems to be impossible now, and it is useless to talk about it," suggested Mr. Woolridge; and the captain thought he could perceive an expression of relief on his face.
"It is not impossible," added the commander with a smile. "We can go to Tur, 140 miles south of Suez, and there we shall find camels and a contractor, though perhaps not for so large a company. I do not think our party would enjoy the trip whichever way we might go. It is a rough country, a group of mountains. The Monastery is 5,014 feet high, and it must be cold weather up there in January. The Jebel Musa, which is usually regarded as the Holy Mountain, is 7,363 feet high; but even Mount Sinai itself is disputed ground, and the question 'Is Mount Serbal the Sinai of Scripture?' is discussed by the critics. Serbal is 8,712 feet high, the loftiest, I believe, on the peninsula, and is nearer to the gulf than the others.
"I believe the discomfort and exposure of the trip render it impracticable at the present time and at the present season. The guide-books indicate the months of March and April as the best for the excursion; and it is too early to go now with comfort, not to say enjoyment. Of course I do not know what Mr. Belgrave, under the advice of his guardian and trustee, will do with the Guardian-Mother when our present voyage shall be completed; but if he should retain the steamer, I should recommend him to make a trip across the ocean at the right time, and up the Mediterranean, by the Gulf of Iskanderun to Alexandretta, which is near the head waters of the Euphrates River, a proposed route to India by the Persian Gulf, of which I may have something to say another day.
"From this city the steamer could take in the ports of the Holy Land, or her passengers could journey through Syria by land, with tents and dragoman. The ship could then be left at Port Said, the party could come through the canal to Suez in the Maud, or by some other conveyance, and then make a business of exploring the Peninsula of Sinai," said the commander in conclusion.
"That arrangement would suit me much better," added Mrs. Belgrave. "I have been groaning at the necessity of going home without seeing the Holy Land. I shall keep this plan in my mind as one to be carried out in a couple of years if my son does not object to it."
"The Guardian-Mother shall not go out of commission until this voyage is completed," replied Louis promptly. "Captain Ringgold is engaged as commander for life, and he will attend to the accomplishment of my mother's wishes."
"I thank you, Mr. Belgrave, for the confidence thus reposed in me, and I shall be most happy to command the steamer on such a voyage," replied the captain. "We cannot calculate on events of the future with too much assurance."
The day passed away quietly with reading and singing, and very early in the morning the passengers heard an unusual sound of activity on the part of the ship's company. The captain had given orders the night before to have everything made ready for hoisting on deck the Maud. He had announced his intention to the "Big Four" in his cabin, and given his reasons for his decision. Scott and Felix regretted this change in the programme of the voyage more than the other two.
"The Red Sea is sometimes a very stormy place," said the commander. "I have feared more than anything else when you have been sailing in the Maud that she might get separated from the ship in a fog, or in some other manner, and that the little steamer might come to grief, however well she might be handled; for she certainly is not large enough for an independent voyage.
"In the very last paper I received from New York, I read of a new steam-yacht to be built by a millionaire for the voyage around the world which has lately become the fad of millionaires. One item struck my attention; that she was to be armed with four cannon whose calibre was not given, as well as with a supply of small arms. The wealthy voyager was afraid of pirates, or some other freebooters on the Malabar and Malay coasts, as well as among the islands of the Indian Ocean and those of the Pacific.
"As you are aware, I took the same precautions myself; and I only regret now that I did not take on board more guns and small arms. We have had occasion to use our twelve-pounders on one occasion, and perhaps, if the ship had reached the coast of Cyprus at the time I expected, I might have found them useful. I do not anticipate any trouble from native pirates wherever we may go; but I think the Maud is a temptation to Arabs and other natives.
"In 1882 Edward Henry Palmer, an Englishman, while on a peaceful mission with two officers of the British service, was murdered by the natives, with his two companions, near Suez, but on the other side of the gulf. If I were sure that the ship could always be near enough to defend the little steamer if attacked, I should feel different about it. Then we are liable to encounter fearful storms, cyclones, in the Indian Ocean, and I think it is more prudent to have the little craft on our deck, rather than in the water."
Neither Captain Scott nor Felix was disposed to argue the question, and they said nothing. Early in the morning the work of preparation began with the removal of everything heavy from the Maud that was not a fixture. She was a large steam-launch to be hoisted on the deck of a steamer no larger than the Guardian-Mother; but the task was satisfactorily accomplished by lunch-time. The afternoon was used in bracing the craft in her position, and putting everything around her in ship-shape condition.
The space occupied by Conference Hall had been taken; but the captain had set the carpenter at work to extend the promenade six feet aft, and the work was completed before night. The carpet was laid, and the arm-chairs removed to the new Conference Hall. The awning overhead was to be lengthened out by the sailmakers among the crew.
Mr. Shafter had always insisted that his force was too small, and the captain admitted the truth of his position. Felipe Garcias had stood on the books of the ship as third engineer for several months; and John Donald was made fourth engineer. The chief was entirely satisfied with the appointments. Pitts returned to his place on the forecastle as a seaman. The "Big Four" had staterooms in the cabin. After all, the change was only the restoration of the old order of things before the ship arrived at Gibraltar.
At daylight the next morning the Guardian-Mother hauled out of the basin, and started on her voyage for the other extremity of the Red Sea.
THE CONFERENCE ON THE PROMENADE
The promenade did not wholly change its name after it became Conference Hall, and had been enlarged and improved. It was as popular a resort as it had ever been when the ship was under way and there was anything to be seen. The place was occupied when the ship hauled out of the basin in the early morning of January 19; for the passengers had all asked to be called at five o'clock.
It seemed a little strange to go to sea without the Maud astern, and with the principal members of her ship's company seated with the others on the promenade. The commander had engaged a pilot for the whole length of the Red Sea; for it is full of rocks and reefs, making the navigation difficult and dangerous, though it has been thoroughly surveyed, and the chart is speckled with small islands and coral reefs.
"I could give you the Arabic names of some of the surroundings as we proceed," said the captain, who had taken a position where he could observe the movements of the vessel, and it enabled him to look into the pilot-house through the after windows when he desired to do so.
"Please don't, Captain Ringgold!" exclaimed Mrs. Belgrave. "It makes my jaws ache even to hear them."
"But there are some things which have no other names, and they must sometimes be used. That buoy on the starboard has no English name; but it is of no consequence, and I will not try to speak it. On the opposite shore is the Gebel Ataka, which you have noticed before. By this time you have learned that gebel is a mountain, and jebel, as you will find it on your map of the Peninsula of Sinai, means the same thing. Ras is a cape. Formerly I knew many more words than now; for it is very easy to forget a foreign language."
"There is a lightship on the starboard," said Louis, who was seated between his mother and Miss Blanche.
"That is the Zenobia, on Newport Rock," added the captain. "Now look to the shore on the left, which is called Abu Darraj. Perhaps you had better write it down and remember it; for the people in this vicinity believe the Israelites crossed the Red Sea where the ship is at this moment. The water was formerly very shallow here, and a passage for vessels had to be dredged through it. Napoleon and some of his generals were here, and tried to cross over on horseback; but the sea served him as it did Pharaoh and his army; the wind changed, and the tide rolled in so that he was compelled to retreat."
There was nothing more to be explained, and the commander went to the pilot-house; but the air was delightfully pleasant, and the sun rising over the mountains of the peninsula was a beautiful sight. The ladies were in raptures, and some of the gentlemen shared the enthusiasm. The boys left their seats, and walked about the upper deck. Then Miss Blanche thought she had better walk for a time before breakfast, and very soon the whole party were occupied in the same manner. The commander had appointed a conference at nine o'clock, and several interesting subjects were to be considered.
Captain Ringgold was not disposed to drive his ship at her best speed, which was over sixteen knots an hour; but he had instructed Mr. Shafter, the chief engineer, to give her about fourteen knots, for she was more comfortable at this rate than when forced to do her utmost, to say nothing of the saving of coal. At this rate she would arrive at Bombay in ten days, including a stop of one day at Aden. In this time he expected to accomplish a great deal in the school of the conference.
The weather was fortunately all that could be desired, though the Red Sea sometimes behaves very badly; and at the time appointed the members of the party were all in their places on the promenade. The little table, with its vase of flowers brought from the gardens of the Terreplein, was in position. Mr. Woolridge was one of the first to take his arm-chair. He had at first been rather indifferent in regard to the instruction element of the ship, but had become quite interested since he had been called to the platform as a speaker.
The commander was the first to take the platform; and he appeared with a rose in the lappel of his coat, which probably would not have been there if Mrs. Belgrave had not placed it there. She was very fond of flowers, and had arranged quite a collection of potted plants, as well as filled all the vases on board with cut flowers from the village.
"The subject first in order seems to be the Red Sea; and we have not yet spoken of it in detail, though we have had considerable to say about it. I shall purposely omit some things which will be explained when we come to them. I am glad to see that you have brought your diaries or note-books with you, as I suggested, and you can write down the names of notable sights and the figures I shall give. I wish to say that I have always prepared myself for these occasions, and do not talk to you at random.
"The Red Sea is an arm of the Indian Ocean, with the Gulf of Aden, about 800 miles long, as a connection between them. The Persian Gulf, with the Gulf of Oman, forms a similar body of water, and they will probably render the same service to England and India that the Red Sea does at the present time. Arabia lies between them. The sea on which we are now sailing is 1,200 miles long."
"Badaeker gives the length as 1,400 miles," said Louis.
"He gives it in English miles," replied the commander. "A degree of a great circle is 69.07 English, or statute miles as we call them, or 60 geographical sea miles or knots. This distinction has been fully explained to you before. For ordinary purposes the number of sea miles is to the number of statute miles in the ratio of six to seven. In other words, there will be six-sevenths as many knots as statute miles, and conversely, seven-sixths as many statute as sea miles. Six-sevenths of 1,400 is 1,200; and thus we agree.
"The Red Sea varies in width from 100 to 200 miles, and in the broadest part it is 205 sea miles. We are still in the Gulf of Suez, and shall be till about five this afternoon. On the African side you will see mountains all the way to the strait, with only sand between them and the water. There is nothing that can be called a town between Suez and Koser, over 300 statute miles. All around the sea are coral-reefs; and we shall pass a lighthouse on one right in the middle of it. Not a single river flows into the Red Sea, for there are no rains in Egypt; and if there were on either side, the desert would absorb all the water.
"This sea has the reputation of being a hot region. The thermometer ranges from 70 deg. to 94 deg., and sometimes the mercury mounts to over 100 deg., always in the daytime, and it may fall to the freezing point at night, though rarely. As on the Nile, the rule is hot days and cool nights, though you may find some of the latter uncomfortable farther south, for the water has shown a temperature of 100 deg.
"The water is somewhat salter than the ocean, because no rivers empty into it, and because of excessive evaporation. It has been said by some scientists that, if the Red Sea were entirely enclosed, it would become a solid body of salt in less than two thousand years. I suppose they mean that all the fluid would evaporate, and the salt in it would remain at the bottom. We will not worry about it.
"The average depth of this sea is 2,250 feet, and the greatest 7,200. I have nothing more to say about it; but while I am up I will say a few words about the new route to India of which I have spoken before. The Gulf of Iskanderun, sometimes called Scanderoon, is the north-east corner of the Mediterranean. Its eastern shore is within a hundred miles of the headwaters of the Euphrates River, which is navigable for small craft to Bir. Sixty years ago some preferred it to the Suez route. A grant of money was made by Parliament, two iron steamers of small size were put into the river; and though one of them was sunk, the other went through to the Persian Gulf.
"It was shown that this route was about a thousand miles less in distance than any other to Kurrachee, the nearest port in India. But political influences were at work against it, first from Egypt, and then from some of the Powers, in the belief that it would give England an advantage in the affairs of Asia, and the scheme was dropped. Now we will take a walk of half an hour about the ship; for school-children need rest and recreation.
"But I wish to remind you again that you are now near the ancient world; for Arabia is in sight all the time, and Assyria, Babylonia, Syria are beyond it. The professor will have the floor after the intermission."
During the recess the party walked about the deck and observed the mountains, which were still in sight on both sides. Four bells, or ten o'clock, was the signal for them to come together again. Whatever might be anticipated farther south, the air was soft and pleasant, and not over warm, about 70 deg. in the shade.
"My excellent friend, Mr. Woolridge, has just reminded me of the promise made by the commander that certain ancient travellers over the world should be taken up, as we have frequent occasion to quote them," Professor Giroud began. "There are only three of them of any especial note, the first of whom is Herodotus, 'the Father of History,' as he is often called, and was worthy of the title.
"He was born about 485 years before the time of Christ, at Helicarnassus, a Greek colony of Asia. This was about the time the Persians were invading Greece. When this city obtained its freedom, there was a dispute about the method of government, in which he was involved, and which caused him to leave his native place. For the ancient time, over two thousand years ago, when they had no railroads and steamboats, his travels are remarkable for their extent. He went all over Asia Minor and Greece proper, as well as the islands of the AEgean Sea. He visited Macedonia, Thrace, and the coasts of the Black Sea.
"What was more remarkable, he penetrated to the Persian Empire and Babylon, and toured Egypt more thoroughly than most modern travellers. Then he extended his wanderings to Sicily and lower Italy. He was alive at the first of the Peloponnesian War; but what became of him, when or where he died, is not known.
"He spent the greater part of his life in travel, though not for pleasure, but in acquiring knowledge which he intended to make useful to the world. He was the most eminent geographer of his time, and he may father that science as appropriately as that of history. But he treated many other branches of knowledge, like the races of men and their peculiarities, mythology, archaeology, and, in fact, everything that came within the range of his observation. He was a man of a high order of intellect, a philosopher in his criticism of governments. Modern scholars are greatly indebted to him, and his works are still extant. He did not have the highest style of composition; but he was an honest man, and he wrote as he talked. You can understand the frequent references to him in modern books of travel.
"Not as favorable a notice can be given of Strabo, who was an ancient geographer. He was born about sixty-four years before Christ, at Amasia in Pontus."
"Where was that?" asked the magnate, who was taking the deepest interest in the exercise.
"It is a name given to a country in the north-eastern corner of Asia Minor, on the Black Sea, the ancient name of which was Pontus Euxinus, or Euxine Sea, from which it got its name. His mother was of Greek descent, and nothing is known of his father. I suppose you all know what strabismus means."
"I am sure I don't," replied Mrs. Blossom; and probably she was the only one who could answer in the negative.
"In plain terms, it means cross-eyed; and doubtless Strabo obtained his name from having this defect in his eyes. Whether any of his family were called so before him is not known. He studied with various learned men in Greece, Rome, and Alexandria. It does not appear that he had any occupation, but devoted all his time to study and travel. He wrote forty-seven books, and those on geography were very valuable; for he wrote from his own observation, though sometimes he is very full, at others very meagre. He is regarded as by no means the equal of Herodotus.
"The third of whom I am to speak is Diodorus Siculus."
"You have put a tail on his name, Professor," added the magnate.
"That is as much a part of his name as the rest of it, as used by scholars. It means that he was born in Sicily. Very little is known about him beyond what he told himself. He lived in the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus, and for a long time in Rome. He travelled in Europe and Asia for material. He wrote a history of the world from the creation to the time of Julius Caesar. Some of the volumes are lost, and some of them are still read.
"Diodorus was deficient in the qualifications of a historian; and about all that is valuable in his writings is the mass of facts he gives, from which he was not competent to make the proper deductions. The material he gathered is valuable; but the thirty years he spent in the composition of his works have not purchased for him the literary reputation of Herodotus, or even of Strabo."
"I am very much obliged to you for your lecture, and I hope others besides myself have profited by it," said Mr. Woolridge.
The professor bowed, and took some manuscript from his pocket.
THE ANCIENT KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD
When the promenade had been transformed into Conference Hall, the arrangement for the maps had not been forgotten, and the frame had been set up against the after end of the pilot-house. It covered the two windows; but they were not needed when the ship was at sea. When the professor made his bow, Mr. Gaskette exposed to the view of the audience a map which had been completed before the steamer arrived at Port Said; and all the way through the canal he and his assistants had been busy upon others.
"Perhaps I ought to apologize for this map, Captain Ringgold," said Mr. Gaskette, when he had unrolled the huge sheet; "for the boundaries of these ancient countries are so indefinite in the great atlas that I have not been able to lay down all of them."
"You have done exceedingly well, Mr. Gaskette, and I think the professor can ask for nothing better than you have given him," replied the commander.
"Certainly not," added the learned gentleman. "I can give the boundaries no more definitely than they are presented on this beautiful map. I am extremely delighted to have the assistance which it will afford me. The artist might have guessed at some of the division lines, as others have done. He has given us Mesopotamia, Susiana, and the region between them, and that is all I desire.
"Perhaps I shall disappoint you, Mr. Commander, by the meagreness of my description of these ancient countries; for these subjects in detail would be very tiresome to the company under present circumstances, and I propose to bring out only a few salient points in regard to them," said the professor.
"The only thing I feared, Professor, was that you would go into them too diffusely, forgetting that your audience are not savants, or even college students, such as you have been in the habit of addressing. I am very glad to find that you have just the right idea in regard to the situation," replied Captain Ringgold.
"It is fortunate that we agree," continued the instructor, as he took the pointer and turned to the map. "This map lays before you the region lying to the north-east of Arabia, on the port hand of the ship, as the commander would say; and with your imagination you can look over these mountains and sands and see it. You observe that Syria is on the west of the northern part of it, with Armenia just where it is now, on the north of it, though there was more of it then than now; for in ancient times it reached to the Caspian Sea. An old lady in the country at whose house I used to spend my vacation used to call things that could not be changed as fixed as the laws of the 'Medes and Parsicans.' She meant the Medes and Persians; and Media, now a part of Persia, was the eastern boundary of the region mapped out On the south-east is Susiana, now a large portion of Persia.
"This beautiful map tempts me to be more diffuse than I should have been without it; but it gives you a bit of ancient geography which will do you no harm. There are two great rivers which extend through this territory, the Euphrates and the Tigris, though both of them unite and flow into the Persian Gulf. Of the former of them the commander has spoken to you this morning. Scholars have not been able to locate Paradise, or the Garden of Eden, with anything like precision; but it is generally supposed to have been between these two great streams. Some think it was not a place at all, but only a location given to a moral idea; others place it in the mountains of Armenia or Northern Mesopotamia."
"The pesky Bible critics!" exclaimed Mrs. Blossom; but Mrs. Belgrave "hunched her" as the good lady expressed it.
"All this region has been in the possession of various masters, and even the countries themselves are very much mixed. Assyria was the eastern portion of the northern part," continued the professor, indicating the location with his wand. "In the British Museum and elsewhere you have seen bass-reliefs and figures brought from the ruins of Assyrian cities, and in these the country is called Assur. In Genesis x. 11, we read: 'Out of that land [Shinar] went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh.' This was said of Nimrod; Shinar was a name of Babylonia.
"The history becomes complicated, and is a record of the achievements of the Assyrian kings, Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib, and others. It would not be profitable to go over them. The Babylonian monarchy was before Assyria was founded. The government was a despotism with nothing to soften it, and the religion was the worship of many gods. Its history dates back from 913 to 659 years before the birth of Christ, though there are tablets which carry it back to 2330 A.D. The empire began to decay in the reign of Sardanapalus, when the governor of Babylon and the king of Media conspired against it; and Nineveh was captured and destroyed a little more than 600 years before Christ."
The commander announced another recess at this time, though the party appeared to be very much interested in the story of these ancient countries, closely connected with Bible history. Half an hour was spent in walking the deck and gazing at the shores, which were still the same, for the ship was yet in the Gulf of Suez. After this rest the professor resumed his place on the rostrum.
"This is Babylonia, as it is now called to distinguish it from Babylon, the city," said the instructor, as he pointed to the region along the shores of the southern Euphrates, and to the city on both sides of it. "In the Scripture it is called Shinar, Babel, and 'the Land of the Chaldees.' It was and is a very rich and fertile country, extensively irrigated in modern times. Susiana is now a part of Persia, and the rest of the territory represented on the map is included in Turkey in Asia.
"The people were of the Semitic race; in other words, they were descended from Shem, the son of Noah; but Babylonia in the past and present is a land of many races and languages, and the readers of the inscriptions have been bothered by the variety of tongues. The British and the New York Museum have figures and tablets revealing the history of Babylonia. But it takes an archaeologist to translate their discoveries. The relations of the monuments indicate that the antiquity of Babylonia reaches back about as far as that of Egypt. A stone in the British Museum brought from this locality has the name of Sargon I., king of Akkad, is reliably vouched for as coming down from the year 3800 B.C.
"The ancient tablets inform us that Narbonassar ascended his throne in 747 (all these dates are B.C.). He reigned fourteen years, which were taken up in wars with Assyria, in which the latter got the best of it in the end. Then, in 625, invasions from the east afforded the Babylonians the opportunity of throwing off the yoke of Assyria, and Nabopolassar became king. In 604 he was succeeded by his son Nebuchadnezzar, who was accounted one of the greatest monarchs that ever ruled the empire.
"In the forty-three years of his reign he recovered the lost provinces of the kingdom, and made his country the queen of the nations of his time. He rebuilt the city of Babylon, and restored all the temples and public edifices. It is said that not a single mound has been opened in this territory in which were not found bricks, cylinders, or tablets on which his name was inscribed. He captured Jerusalem, and a year later destroyed it, sending most of its people to Chaldea. He died in 561, and was succeeded by his son.
"This son was murdered; and there was confusion again till 556, when the throne was usurped by Nabonidus, the son of a soothsayer, who became a wise and active prince, and his reign ranks next in importance to that of Nebuchadnezzar. His name is found in almost all the temples unearthed. After he had ruled seventeen years, all Babylonia revolted against him because he neglected his religious duties, as well as those of the court, leaving all the business to be done by his son Belshazzar.
"At this point the historians get mixed again. Some say that Belshazzar was the last king of Babylonia. In Daniel v. 30, we read: 'In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom.' Xenophon informs us that Babylon was taken in the night while the inhabitants were engaged in feasting and revelry, and that the king was killed. To this extent sacred and profane history agree. The country became a Persian province. Then it was conquered by Alexander the Great, who died in Babylon in 323. It was also a part of the Roman Empire at two different times.
"In 650 the successors of Mohammed overthrew the Persian monarchy, and the province was the seat of the caliphs till A.D. 1258. On the Tigris in this region is the city of Bagdad, the capital of a province of the same name. Here lived and reigned the Caliph Haroun al-Raschid, or Haroun 'the Orthodox,' who is more famous in story than in history, though he was a wise ruler, a poet, and a scholar, and built up his domain. I have disposed of the two principal empires of this region, pictured on the map; and the next in order is Persia."
"You haven't told us about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, said to be one of the great wonders of the world," suggested Mrs. Belgrave.
"They are hardly historical; but I will give you what I recall in relation to them. One writer says they were built by Queen Semiramis, the wife of Ninus, an alleged founder of Nineveh. She was a beautiful girl, brought up by Simmas, a shepherd, from whom her name is derived. One of the king's generals fell in love with her and married her. Then he himself was smitten by her beauty, and wanted her himself; the husband was good-natured enough to commit suicide, and she became queen. Ninus soon died in a very accommodating manner, and Semiramis reigned alone for over forty years.
"Others regard the wonderful gardens as the work of Nebuchadnezzar. Diodorus Siculus and Strabo have described them. They are said to have covered about four acres, built on terraces, supported by arches of brick or stone, and were seventy-five feet high. They were watered from a reservoir at the top, to which water was forced from the Euphrates. Fountains and banquet halls were placed on the various terraces, as well as gardens of flowers. Trees, groves, and avenues gave a variety to the scene, and the view of the vast city was magnificent."
The professor retired; and another recess followed at the word of the commander, who thought his school was doing admirably, and he was anxious not to overdo the matter.
"I am afraid it will take all day for me to dispose of the subjects assigned to me," said the professor, as he took his place again.
"I hope it will," replied Mr. Woolridge. "Very much to my surprise, I have become deeply interested in the subjects you present, Professor."
"It is better than the theatre," added Miss Blanche in a low tone to Louis.
"I shall give you only a few fragments in regard to Persia, and leave Syria to be considered when the Guardian-Mother makes her trip to Palestine. Persia is called Iran by the natives, and it is the largest and most powerful native kingdom of Western Asia. It includes the provinces of Susiana, Persis, and Media on the map, and extends from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea, with Afghanistan and Beloochistan on the east, and Asia Minor on the west.
"A considerable portion of the country is mountainous, and between the Elburz range and the Caspian Sea is an extinct volcano 18,600 feet high. About three-fourths of Persia is practically a desert for want of rain or artificial irrigation. In California, Colorado, and other States, our people have transformed just such regions into fertile districts. But in spite of the fact that such a large portion of the country is a desert, some parts are exceedingly fertile and beautiful. Some immense valleys, even a hundred miles wide, are of this character, and the productions of the country are varied and valuable. It has no navigable rivers, though many of large size and volume, some of which are beginning to be used for purposes of irrigation. There are many salt lakes.
"The climate is varied; as Cyrus said to Xenophon, 'The people perish with cold at one extremity, and are suffocated with heat at the other.' The population has been estimated from forty down to eight millions; and the latter is probably about correct. Roads are utterly neglected, and the people live in mean houses, generally of earth or mud, and the wealthy are not much better housed than the poorer class. The trade is of little importance. There are silk manufactures in nearly every province. Cotton and woollen fabrics, carpets, shawls, and felt goods are largely produced; and the trade is carried on between the chief towns of Persia with the interior of Asia by caravans. They exchange these goods for cloth, printed calico, tea, coffee, and fancy goods. Teheran in the north is the capital and the most important place; Ispahan is in the centre, Shiraz in the south, and Bushire is the principal seaport on the gulf.
"The government is an absolute monarchy of the most pronounced kind, though somewhat influenced by the priests, the dread of private vengeance, and insurrection. Taxation is heavy, and very burdensome to the subjects. Persia has a standing army of 200,000, but it is said to exist largely on paper. Incidentally you have learned considerable about the history of the country, and I shall not go over it. The present shah, as he is called, is Nasr ed-din, born in 1831. He ought to be a progressive monarch, for he has visited England and France several times."
The professor retired, and the conference adjourned till afternoon.
VIEW OF MOUNT SINAI IN THE DISTANCE
When the professor concluded his lecture for the forenoon, the audience scattered, some of them feeling the need of more exercise; but Captain Ringgold went to the pilot-house. Like the cabin passengers, he immediately gave his attention to the mountains of the peninsula; for the African shore was little better than a blank, with nothing there worthy of notice. The pilot was an intelligent man, and he proceeded to question him in regard to the peaks in sight.
Just then there was nothing difficult in the navigation; and Twist, the quartermaster, was at the wheel, steering the course which had been given out, south south-west half west. The pilot knew the mountains as though they had been old friends of his for a lifetime. It did not take the commander long to learn his lesson; and he returned to the deck, where the passengers were gazing at the lofty points, thirty to forty miles distant, but still very distinctly seen in the clear air of the day. As soon as the captain appeared they gathered around him. He had ordered all the spy-glasses on board to be brought out, and those who had opera or field glasses had been to their staterooms for them.
"Isn't it time to see something, Captain Ringgold?" asked Mrs. Belgrave, to whom he had directed his steps.
"There is always something to be seen in a narrow gulf like this, though we shall be out of sight of land to-morrow morning when you come on deck. We are now abreast of a plateau 1,600 feet high, which extends for about thirty miles along the coast. It is a part of the desert of Kaa, which extends to the southern point of the peninsula, over which you would have had to travel first by camel for nearly twenty miles, if we had gone to Mount Sinai by the only route open to us.
"We have seen about deserts enough," added the lady.
"Then you are the better prepared for the immense contrast between plains of sand and the rich lands of India, covered with the most luxuriant foliage. Now we have it at its best!" exclaimed the commander.
"What do we have? I don't see anything."
"We have Mount Serbal, which some believe is the genuine Mount Sinai," continued the commander, as he pointed out the loftiest peak in sight, and which was readily distinguished from all others.
All the passengers had by this time gathered near him; for all of them were anticipating a sight at the lofty height which had given a name to the peninsula, though its real name is Arabia Petraea, as we used to read about it in "Stephens's Travels" sixty years ago.
"That mountain is the highest on the peninsula; and if it is not the real Mount Sinai, where the law was delivered to Moses, some insist that it ought to be, for they say it is loftier, grander, nobler, and more worthy the great event than the one which is generally assigned as its location," said the captain. "As you have been informed before, Serbal is 8,712 feet high."
Mrs. Blossom did not appear to be satisfied. Evidently she desired to "gush" over the Holy Mountain; but the doubt as to "which was which," as she stated it, bothered her very seriously, and she was not at all friendly to the "pesky Bible critics," who had raised the doubt as to its identity.
"Jebel Musa!" shouted the commander a couple of hours later; and the party gathered around him again.
"What on earth is that?" demanded the good lady.
"Keep cool, Sarah," said Mrs. Belgrave to her. "The captain will tell you all about it in due time."
"Jebel, or gebel, means a mountain in Arabic; Musa is sometimes spelled Moosa; and the whole name, I suppose, is 'Mountain of Moses,'" the commander explained as soon as he had enabled every one to see the peak that went by this name. "In other words, that is what nearly everybody who knows anything about the matter believes to be the true Mount Sinai."
"Mount Sinai!" almost screamed Mrs. Blossom, who had apparently determined not to be harassed by any more doubts, for what everybody believed to be true must be so. "I should like to die on that mountain," she declared, wringing her hands in a sort of rapture.
"Don't make yourself ridiculous, Sarah," interposed Mrs. Belgrave in a whisper.
"How can a body look on Mount Sinai without being stirred up?" demanded the good woman.
But whether it was Jebel Serbal or Jebel Musa, Mount Sinai was there; and doubtless most of the company were as much impressed by the fact as the excellent lady from Von Blonk Park, though they were less demonstrative about it. Mrs. Belgrave was silent for a time; and then she struck up one of Watts's familiar hymns, in which the others joined her:—
"Not to the terrors of the Lord, The tempest, fire, and smoke, Not to the thunder of that word Which God on Sinai spoke; But we are come to Zion's hill, The city of our God, Where milder words declare his will, And spread his love abroad."
As the gong sounded for lunch the ship was off Tur, but too far off to see the place, if there was anything there to see; and the commander mentioned it only as the port to which they would have sailed if they had gone to Mount Sinai. The "Big Four" were more interested in the Arabian craft they saw near the shore, for they always keep close to the land. Their captains are familiar with all the intricate reefs where large vessels never go. They are very cautious sailors, and on the least sign of foul weather they run into one of the creeks which indent the coast. They never sail at night; and if they have to cross the sea, they wait for settled weather.
At the hour appointed for the afternoon conference the passengers were all in their places; and however the report of his lectures may read, the listeners were deeply interested, partly because they were inspired by a desire for knowledge, and partly on account of their proximity to the countries described. A map of the peninsula of Arabia had been unrolled on the frame, with enough of its surroundings to enable the audience to fix its location definitely in their minds. The professor came up smiling and pleasant as he always was, and the boys saluted him with a round of applause.
"My subject this time is Arabia, which the natives call Jezirat-al-Arab, and the Turks and Persians Arabistan. It is a peninsula, the isthmus of which reaches across from the south-eastern corner of the Mediterranean to the head of the Persian Gulf," the professor began, indicating on the map the localities mentioned with the pointer. "Asia abounds in peninsulas, and Arabia is the great south-western one. From north-west to south-east it extends 1800 miles, and is about 600 wide. It has an area of 1,230,000 square miles, which is a very indefinite statement to the mind, though given in figures, and I will adopt the commander's method of giving a better idea by comparison with some of the States of your own country.
"It is nearly five times as large as the State of Texas, the most extensive of the Union, and almost twenty-six times as large as the State of New York. They do not take a census here; and estimates from the best information that could be obtained make the population five millions, which is less than that of the State of New York. Mr. Gaskette has colored a strip of it along the Red Sea, about a hundred miles wide, in green, as he has Palestine and the other parts of Turkey in Asia shown before you. A large portion of Arabia consists of deserts, the principal of which is the Syrian in the north.
"Ptolemy, not the king but the geographer, divided Arabia into three sections,—Arabia Petraea, after the city of Petra; Arabia Deserta, the interior; and Arabia Felix (Arabie Heureuse in French), which does not mean 'the happy land,' as generally translated. Milton says, 'Sabean odors from the spicy shores of Araby the blest.' The words meant the land lying to the right, or south of Mecca, the Oriental principal point of the compass being the east and not the north.
"The proper divisions at the present time are the Sinai peninsula, Hedjaz, which is the northern part of the green strip; Yemen, the south part (formerly Arabia Felix); Hadramaut, which borders the Arabian Gulf, the ante-sea of the Red; and Oman, a mountainous region at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, an independent country, under the government of the sultan or imam of Muscat, as the territory is also called.
"We do not know much about the interior of Arabia, one-third of which is a desert, part of a zone reaching over all of Africa and Asia. El-Hasa, along the Persian Gulf in the east, for such a country, is level and fertile, and is really a Turkish province, like those on the west coast. A short rainy season occurs on the west coast, which only fills up the low places; and there is hardly a river, if there is anything entitled to the name, which is strong enough to go alone to the sea from any distance inland. Fine fruits are raised, especially in Yemen, as well as coffee, grain, tobacco, cotton, spices, aloes, frankincense, and myrrh.
"Sheep, goats, oxen, camels, and horses are raised for domestic use. Gazelles and ostriches live in some of the oases, where also the lion, panther, hyena, and jackal seek their prey. The magnificent Arabian horse has been raised here for a thousand years. The camel is one of the most useful animals of this country; and some suppose he is an original native, for his likeness is not found among Egyptian drawings and sculptures. There are plenty of fish and turtle along the coast.
"The original Arab is found here, and there is something about him to challenge our admiration. He is muscular, though of medium height, and is sharp and quick-witted by nature. He has some leading virtues, such as hospitality and good faith; he is courageous and temperate, perhaps because wine and spirits are forbidden in the Koran. But he is a sort of a natural robber, and seeks a terrible revenge for serious injuries. His wife, and there are often several of her, does the work, keeps house, and educates the children. Some Arabs are settled in towns or oases, and others lead a wandering life.
"'Blessed is the country that has no history,' for it is usually the record of wars. Arabia has nothing that can properly be called history; but it has been concerned in the wars of Turkey and Egypt. What there is relates to the birth and life of Mohammed, and his wars to promote the increase of his followers; and I shall tell you the story of the Prophet at another time."
The professor retired after the usual applause. Some walked the deck, watching whatever was to be seen, especially the Arabian dhows, and occasionally a large steamer passed; and some went to sleep in their staterooms. The course of the Guardian-Mother had been varied as much as the soundings would permit as she approached the Jubal Strait, which is the entrance to the Gulf of Suez, in order to give the passengers a view of some interesting scenery.
"There is the Jebel Zeyt," said the commander, as he pointed out a group of hills, called mountains by courtesy, of a reddish hue. "Those hills are 1,530 feet high, and this locality is famous in story. The material of the elevations is haematite, which Dr. Hawkes can explain better than I can."
"It is a native sesquioxide of a reddish color, with a blood-like streak," added the surgeon, laughing.
"Do you understand it, Mrs. Blossom?" asked the captain, turning to that worthy lady.
"I am sure I don't," protested she, blushing.
"The sesquipedality of that word is trying to all of us, I fancy, and I am in the same box as the lady; for I am as sure as she is that I don't know the meaning of the word," added the professor.
"Of course you don't, for it is a technical term," replied the doctor. "It means an oxide in which two atoms of a metal combine with three atoms of oxygen. Please to remember it, Mrs. Blossom."
"I don't even know what an ox-hide is," returned the lady promptly; for the professor had vindicated her by not understanding a definition himself.
"We will settle that another time, if you please," interposed the commander. "These rocks are said to be so powerfully magnetic as to affect the compasses of ships passing them. The water is sometimes marked about here with patches of oil. Large sums were expended in this vicinity in boring for petroleum; but none of any account was found. Probably the red mountain has given its name to the sea, though that is not known."
"Possibly Sinbad the Sailor was in this strait when the loadstone drew out the bolts in his ship, though he does not give the latitude and longitude of the place in the story of his adventure," suggested Louis. In the evening the passengers looked at the lights, and retired at a seasonable hour.
SOME ACCOUNT OF MOHAMMED THE PROPHET
The passengers of the Guardian-Mother fell back into their former sea habits when there was nothing particular to be seen, and only the young men appeared on deck before seven o'clock. Mrs. Belgrave and Louis were the first to meet the commander on the second morning. He had been to the pilot-house several times during the night; but he was an early riser, and had already looked over the log slate, and visited every part of the ship.
"Good-morning, Mrs. Belgrave; good-morning, Louis; I hope you have both slept well," said the captain, saluting them.
"I have slept like a rock all night long," replied the lady.
"I have fallen into sailors' ways, so that I go to sleep whenever I lie down," added Louis. "I could sleep my four hours on board of the Maud, and wake at the right time without being called. But where are we now, sir?"
"You see the lighthouse ahead; that is in latitude 25 deg. We are now nearly as far south as the first cataract on the Nile, as far south as we went in Africa."
"I can understand that better than simple figures," said Mrs. Belgrave.
"But we went a little farther south than that off Cuba," suggested Louis.
"We shall cross the Tropic of Cancer while we are at luncheon," added the commander. "You learned at school that this boundary was at twenty-three and a half degrees north of the equator, and it is generally so stated, though it is not quite accurate."
"I wish you would explain this at the next conference, Captain Ringgold, for what you say is a surprise to me," said Louis.
"I will do it in a general way, though I am not an astronomer in the scientific sense of the word," answered the captain. "We are approaching the Daedalus lightship. I suppose you remember the name."