I went up the Pyramids yesterday and I am very sore today. It sounds easy because so many people do it, but they do it because they don't know. I have been putting it off, and putting it off, until I felt ashamed to such a degree that I had to go. Little had never been either, so we went out together and met Stanford White and the Emmetts there, and we all went up. I would rather go into Central Africa than do it again. I am getting fat and that's about it--and I had to half pull a much fatter man than myself who pretended to help me. I finally told them I'd go alone unless the fat man went away, so the other two drove him off. Going down is worse. It's like looking over a precipice all the time. I was so glad when I got down that I sang with glee. I hate work like that, and to make it worse I took everybody's picture on top of the Pyramid, and forgot to have one of them take me, so there is no way to prove I ever went up. Little and I hired two donkeys and called them "Gallegher" and "Van Bibber" and raced them. My donkey was so little that they couldn't see him--only his ears. Gallegher won. The donkey-boys called it Von Bebey, so I don't think it will help the sale of the book.
Today we went to call on the Khedive. It was very informal and too democratic to suit my tastes. We went through a line of his bodyguard in the hall, and the master of ceremonies took us up several low but wide stairways to a hall. In the hall was a little fat young man in a frock coat and a fez, and he shook hands with us, and walked into another room and we all sat down on chairs covered with white muslin. I talked and Little talked about me and the Khedive pretended to be very much honored, and said the American who had come over after our rebellion had done more for the officers in his army than had anyone else, meaning the English. He did not say that because we were Americans, but because he hates the English. He struck me as being stubborn, which is one side of stupidness and yet not stupid, and I occasionally woke him to bursts of enthusiasm over the Soudanese. His bursts were chiefly "Ali." Little seemed to amuse him very much, and Little treated him exactly like a little boy who needed to be cheered up. I think in one way it was the most curious contrast I ever saw. "Ed" Little of Abilene, Kansas, telling the ruler of Egypt not to worry, that he had plenty of years in which to live and that he would get ahead of them all yet. Those were not his words, but that was the tone, he was perfectly friendly and sincere about it.
This place appeals to me as about the best place with which to get mixed up with that I know, and I've gone over a great many maps since I left home and know just how small the world is. So, I sent the Khedive my books after having asked his permission, and received the most abject thanks. And as Cromer called on me, I am going to drop around on him with a few of them. Some day there will be fine things going on here, and there is only one God, and Lord Cromer is his Prophet in this country. They think that Mohammed is but they are wrong. He is a very big man. The day he sent his ultimatum to the Khedive telling him to dismiss Facta Pasha and put back Riaz Pasha, he went out in full view of the Gezerik drive and played lawn tennis. Any man who can cable for three thousand more troops to Malta and stop a transport full of two thousand more at Aden with one hand, and bang tennis balls about with the other, is going in the long run to get ahead of a stout little boy in a red fez. It is getting awfully hot here, almost hot enough for me, and I can lay aside my overcoat by ten o'clock in the morning. Everyone else has been in flannels and pith helmets, but as they had to wear overcoats at night I could not see the advantage of the costume.
I open this to say that ALL of your letters have just come, so I have intoxicated myself with them for the last hour and can go over them again tomorrow. I cannot tell you, dearest, what a delight your letters are and how I enjoy the clippings. I think of you all the time and how you would love this Bible land and seeing the places where Pharaoh's daughter found Moses, and hearing people talk of St. Paul and the plagues of Egypt and Joseph and Mary just as though they had lived yesterday. I have seen two St. Johns already, with long hair and melancholy wild eyes and bare breasts and legs, with sheepskin covering, eating figs and preaching their gospel. Yesterday two men came running into town and told one of the priests that they had seen the new moon in a certain well, and the priest proclaimed a month of fasting, and the men who pulled us up the Pyramid had to rest because they had not eaten or drunk all day. At six a sheik called from the village and all the donkey--boys and guides around the Sphinx ran to get water and coffee and food. Think of that--of two men running through the street to say that they had seen the new moon in a well, when every shop sells Waterbury watches and the people who passed them were driving dogcarts with English coachmen in top-boots behind. Is there any other place as incongruous as this, as old and as new?
ATHENS, March 30, 1893. DEAR MOTHER:
I am now in Athens, how I got here is immaterial. Suffice it to say that never in all my life was I so ill as I was in the two days crossing from Alexandria to Piraeus, which I did with two other men in the same cabin more ill than I and praying and swearing and groaning all the time. "It was awful."
"I have crossed in many ships upon the seas And some of them were good and some were not; In German, P & O's and Genoese, But the Khedive's was the worst one of the lot. We never got a moment's peace in her For everybody'd howl or pray or bellow; She threw us on our heads or on our knees, And turned us all an unbecoming yellow."
Athens is a small town but fine. It is chiefly yellow houses with red roofs, and mountains around it, which remind you of pictures you have seen when a youth. Also olive trees and straight black pines and the Acropolis. There is not much of it left as far as I can see from the city, but what there is is enough to make you wish you had brushed up your Greek history. I have now reached the place where Pan has a cave, where the man voted against Aristides because he was humanly tired of hearing him called the Just and where the Minotaur ate young women.