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Frank Leward: Memorials

Frank to Bampton

Frank to Bampton.

Cairo, June, 1856.

Dear old B. Im awfully sorry you couldnt manage to come to see me here its the jolliest place to spend the winter in there is I feel sorry to go away and leave it. The Arabs you meet in the town and about it are as different to what you generally imagine Arabs to be as anything can be they are as quiet and peaceable as possible and dont seem to think about much except making a little money or getting backshish. All the Egyptians want that from one end to the other they are like the Turks in that. They cant do a thing for you without yelling out for it. Its the most corrupt government you ever saw. I have made friends with an English merchant here an awfully rich man. He went in for buying all the government sugar for the year and bid a million for it and got it, then he said began the bother though page 270he had got the contract he wasnt allowed to have the sugar till every one of the Pashas had got his whack out of him. It took him months arranging the amount. Every day he had to go to their houses and was up half the night bargaining with them trying to see what he could get off for and they trying to see how much they could get out of him. As fast as he settled with one another came on and made more demands. Of course as he said if it hadnt been for all this time and money he could have afforded to tender a lot more for the sugar. So its the unfortunate people who have to pay after all.

Youll never do any good in this place till you get rid of the Pashas. If the people had any go in them they would turn them out or hang them up and have no more bother with them. I suppose some day some one will rise up to do it. The Viceroy isnt much better he squeezes as much as he can out of the people and builds tremendous palaces he doesnt want and some of them he hasnt ever seen.

Its the unfortunate country people who suffer most what they call the feelahs. They work small bits of ground and have tremendous taxes to pay and if they plant a few palm trees or do anything to make the land a little better down comes the tax man and makes them pay double taxes for it. Yet they seem a happy jolly sort of people on the whole and live in sort of mud villages and wear awfully pretty dresses. I dont think I should ever be tired of sitting about in Cairo looking at the people in the bazaars. Thats what I did chiefly when I first got here from the Crimea. I was awfully page 271bad when I got here hardly able to do anything I thought it was all up on the voyage the Crimea took it out of me fearfully. A beastly fool of a Greek doctor here made me stop in bed for nearly a month and said if I got up I should kick. So when I did get up I was as weak as a cat. When I first got up I could only manage to go about the streets at a walk on old Bango I brought him here because I knew hed be so badly off if I left him behind. The Arabs were awfully astonished at him hes such a rough looking blaguard. Its mostly donkeys here some awfully fine well groomed sleek ones with splendid harness and things and saddles something like the Mexicans have in California. I had a dragoman who went about with me on a donkey. Bango didnt like the donkey at first but hes used to it now. I could hardly get along at first and had to go at a walk but the jolly weather soon put me to rights and I could go all over the place. It was jolly when I began to get all right like a new life. I thought at first Id send to tell you I was bad just to make you come but I thought it would be a shame because I knew you would come and you might be busy so I didnt. I wanted you awfully or old Saunders or best of all both to be here all the same.

I dont think there can be anything jollier than a ride in the morning when your just getting better I felt as if I could do anything. It would have been jollier if you had been here you would like this country tremendously. What do you think when I was ill I began to read Herodotus again I found I hadnt forgot so much as I page 272expected Greek seems to have stuck to me somehow. I like him better than I used to although I was supposed to be awfully bad I couldnt help laughing at some of the things he says. Hes much better than most of your new histories.

The Arabs in the desert are awfully fine fellows splendidly dressed some of them and splendid horses. When I went to the pyramids a tremendous lot of beggars came and bothered me they begin long before you get there but I put Bango at them and kept scattering them. I didnt care much about the pyramids I couldnt see any use in them but I could fancy the poor brutes who had to work at them for nothing being licked if they got ill or couldnt work hard enough. The sphinx is different I liked that theres something in it looks cool and indifferent looking over the desert goodness knows how long and will go on looking till goodness knows when I suppose.

Then I went up the Nile as far as the first cataract in an extraordinary Arab boat it just suited me as I wasnt up to much and still rather weak on my pins. We went awfully slowly and I could land now and then and have a shot at the quail awfully good shooting. We passed along by a tremendous lot of old places temples and things I was tremendously interested what a wonderful country it must have been. The ruins of Thebes beat them all. Theres a sort of town up on a sort of hill. I cant describe all the things I saw there. The two statues of Memnon sitting by themselves in the desert look something like the Sphinx calm and sedate page 273and colossal. They are said to be statues of Pharoah I dont know.

Its about the richest country along the Nile I suppose in the world if it was properly governed. What with the land and the river the people would be very well off and prosperous if they only had a chance they are very industrious too and want precious little to eat except rice. Poor beggars they often cant get even that they are so robbed.

Its very fine in winter and hardly ever rains and they dont know what snow is and Ive almost forgotten its so many years since I saw any I used to like a jolly English winter I wonder whether I should now. Its getting too hot now and I must clear out I want to come back some day and get right up the Nile to see where it really does come from. I dont like coming home so I shall go to Italy I think and stay there a little. I always wanted to go there and theres such a lot of Italian talked here I can get on in it pretty well now Good-bye old man for the present

F. Leward.