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Pages (PDF): 142
Publication Date: 1876
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Not to trouble the reader with an account of the route to India, viâ Brindisi, I will commence the narrative of my adventures at Cairo, where most of the party who were going to shoot in Abyssinia were assembled.
We had a very jolly time of it at Cairo, and amused ourselves in the usual way, by riding donkeys through the bazaars and trying to win money from the Greeks, who keep all the gambling-houses. Of course most of the time was employed in making preparations for the journey to, and for travelling in, Abyssinia.
We all went and paid our respects to the Khedive, being introduced by Her Majesty's Consul, Major-General Staunton. His Highness the Khedive was very civil and courteous, and said he would give us letters to the different Governors of the Egyptian Provinces through which we were likely to pass. He also provided all of us with firmans.
A day or two afterwards we received invitations to a soirée théâtrale, given at the Palace of Kasr-el-Nil. This lordly "palace" is simply a large wooden structure on the banks of the Nile, close to the great barracks in which most of the troops of Cairo are quartered.
The entertainment was particularly dull, and the only thing that enlivened us at all was the excessive crush of the company going up the wooden stairs, which made the whole place shake. Just as we were entering the room the floor creaked loudly, and the company parted as if a shell had burst in the midst of them; I thought the whole place was coming down. Luckily, there was no panic, or I do not know what would have happened, as we were at the top of the house, having gone up about six flights of stairs, and the room was full. There was an elaborate supper afterwards, for which I did not stop. I was only too glad during the first pause to leave so hot an entertainment.
One Sunday afternoon we drove out to the Pyramids, and ate lunch under some trees, sitting on one of those broken Egyptian wheels which are used for raising water. Afterwards we went inside the Pyramids; it was very warm work, and we were forced to buy quantities of antiquities, which, I believe, are manufactured in Birmingham.
I found I had to take off my boots in scrambling down a labyrinth of narrow passages inside of the Pyramid to get to the King's Chamber, for I had twice been thrown on my back through having nails in my boots.
After having spent ten days at Cairo, I resolved to start for Suez in order to make arrangements, and to gain information about Abyssinia. By great luck I met an Abyssinian merchant, quite a young fellow, in the bazaar at Suez, who said he would go to Abyssinia as my servant, and he turned out to be very useful, as he could speak Amharic, Arabic, and Hindustanee, as well as English. Petros, such was his name, followed me through Abyssinia, and nursed me with great care when I fell very ill on my return to the coast. I arrived at Suez just before H., who was to go to Abyssinia with me; he had come from Southampton by the P. and O. steamer, and I was delighted to have arranged so nicely with him as to suit our mutual convenience.
I learnt that my provisions had all arrived safely by the P. and O., but not my heavy guns nor ammunition. What had become of them I could not make out, as Rigby, of St. James's Street, had most distinct orders in writing to send them to Suez. It turned out afterwards that the P. and O. Company, through carelessness, had sent the guns on to Pointe de Galle; they arrived in Abyssinia the day before we started for the Tackazzee, where the big game is to be found. H. and I were hard at work for two days shifting the provisions from the big boxes in which they had come out into smaller ones, in order that these might be carried on camels and mules. I bought a few necessary articles at the P. and O. stores, such as a large frying-pan, a common kettle, etc., for rough camping work; most of the other things I had purchased in London, and I would recommend all other travellers to do the same. I bought all my provisions from the Army and Navy Co-operative Stores, Victoria Street; and I take this opportunity of stating that, not only were they so well packed that nothing was broken, but also that during the very great heat and exceedingly dry cold winds in Abyssinia not one thing failed, and every article of the provisions came out as fresh as if I had sent for and got it that day from the stores. The boxes in which the stores were packed I had made from an army pattern; it is the one used in the infantry to carry the carpenters' tools.