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Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.—Expresses his love and admiration for her, and acknowledges her need to go (to Egypt) and gather wisdom.



‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.
Aug 8 1906 {1}


I have been longing for the time to come when I should be free to be able to write to you—not tht† I have any news to tell you but simply because I want to write to you so much & tell you how I love you.

You see Girlie you are so much more than all the other things in my life[—]you are the great rest, you are the great solvent in which all the other things of life become fluid. You are the great Ocean into which I flow, you you darling—ah I seem to understand sometimes the full measure of the divine law of the world that permeates all our being, and by that law I need you absolutely not merely to construct or achieve but simply to be.

Beloved it is difficult to tell my soul-thought in words & yet I know you will understand.

Beloved you said yesterday that you had once a store of wisdom & you had shared it with me, & now you needed to go & gather a further store lest haply you should be left behind: beloved I know that the thought which lay behind your words was true because your heart is so great & strong & beautiful, & yet the words are only true in part to me for though you have shared with me your store of wisdom, you are ever in front of me. And the very travail of your being, for which I reverence you, is the outward & visible sign of that union of you dear woman life with the Earth, with Nature, & with th† Holy Spirit which places you forever as my umbilical cord to keep me living.

Sweetheart the words upon paper will not reveal to you: but behind them is the loving heart of your laddie & the living fingers who know the tenderness & the delight of your being.

And I am just yours dependent on you for being




A couple of words are unconventionally abbreviated.

{1} The first three figures of the year are printed.

† Sic.

Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.—Sends a welcome to await her on her arrival in Egypt.



‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.
Oct 26 1904 {1}

So you will expect “a word of welcome from you boy to await you”—thts† what you said last night—Ah but your boy had it in his heart before tht†; you don’t suppose tht† when his Mums goes away, the laddie doesn’t make all preparations: you don’t suppose he doesn’t care do you girlie. Why course he does & a great hug “prevents” e & follows e.

“Mena House”. May it be a sweet place to e, little one, while you are there, and a dear memory afterwards. Here awaits your laddie’s Welcome.

Welcome girlie to Egypt, welcome to all the entrancing wonders of the East, & to the mysteries of ages, to the records of thousands of years of human thought & human toil & human love.

May this land hold for you joys & happiness & full delight till laddie comes himself to you and then just more still.

His heart is in your keeping & his life is just yours you darling.

Kiss Marie & Hetty for me & drink my health to night in the very best.

One more great hug



A few words are unconventionally abbreviated.

{1} The first three figures of the year are printed.

† Sic.

Letter from Lady Durning-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

13 Carlton House Terrace, S.W.—Invites her and Fred to spend a few days at Ascot before she (Emmeline) goes to Egypt. The differences between Fred’s views and those of herself and her husband have prevented them from being close in the past, but ‘time … has passed on’.



13 Carlton House Terrace, S.W.
Oct 27

My dear Emmeline

In response to your letter we shall be glad if you & Fred will come down to Ascot next Saturday & stay till Monday or the Saturday after or if neither of these proposals are possible can you run down for the day so that we may see you before you leave for Egypt—

If you come for the day do not come Monday or Tuesday as I am changing the monthly to the permanent nurse on those days

I shall always retain my love for Fred & so will his Uncle, but our thoughts & views have gone in such opposition† directions that intimate intercourse seemed difficult

Time however has passed on—Baby goes on well & you will like to see her & her surroundings before you leave

Believe me

Y[ou]rs affect[ionatel]y
Edith J. Durning-Lawrence


† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

(Place of writing not indicated.)—Describes her voyage to Egypt.



Sunday. Nov. 6

Beloved. Are your wishes, magicians? Why did you not tell me before you had this power to make smooth & radiant the way for those whom you love. All the days have been blue & serene—with lovely light, & all the nights sparkling with stars. The scent of Mimosa or of sweeter & more heavenly flowers has come morning by morning across the golden pathway of the risen sun & the great circle of life has been bounded only by the sky. Yes, the sea is wonderful, & to live in its breast & to feel the pulse & the breath of its being is wonderful. It brings a great forgetfulness—a release from personal life, a sense of the great stretch of universal being. It is Sunday, the sun nearing the horizon in the west, & another day will soon have passed—& all too soon this dream of contentment will be over. It has been quite unbroken. We have been just living in the warmth & light, almost grudging the hours of sleep, so sweet & dreamless & happy with the lullaby of the waves & the rythmic† pulse of the great heart whose throbbing speeds us on. We have been quiet, partly because the passengers are a somewhat sober lot, but perhaps because we have not gone out of our way to know people—there seems hardly time, for we shall be in port on Tuesday. They are not attractive, & oh so sordidly clothed; the women I mean. Motley flannel blouses on dark nondescript skirts, regardless of any sort of colour harmony—not one speck of brilliant beautiful colour—except in the lascar sailors! their scarlet caps & blue linen tunics are quite a relief. Mine is the only white suit, I have been so glad of it, I put it on the first thing & have worn nothing else except in the evening—& Marie & I have flaunted our orange & crimson scarves! The ‘officier’ I told you about {1} who came & sat down by us at breakfast turned out to be the Captain—he is such a nice man—an Irishman—I like him very much—he read prayers this morning. Last night at 11 o’clock we passed Stromboli & from its peak, red flames darted up to the stars at intervals. So you see we were not without our 5th of November fireworks.

At 2 o’clock this morning I woke with that fresh alertness, one owes to perfect sleep; & looked through my port hole, & saw that we were going through the Straits of Messina—we were very near; the mountains of Italy (at least the coast-line looked mountainous in the starlight) rose up against the sky like a land of imagination & dreams.

I said this morning I should like to take a picture of Marie in her berth in the morning, with the sparkle of delight in her eyes—looking in her excitement quite pretty. She & Hetty are very happy & we are all splendidly well, with great hunger! This is certainly a voyage “made easy for young beginners”. I must not expect that it will be always like this—must I?

The time that could be spared from the sea, & perhaps more time than ought to have been spared, has been given to my most fascinating book—“The Garden of Allah” {2}. You ought to bring it for the voyage. I don’t know whether you will get on with it; you will find the same physcholigal† detail that tried your patience rather in Felix {3}—but if you once get through that, I think you would get absorbed. I think it is quite one of those books that may be called “a miracle”. To me, it is quite superhuman, in truth & power & charm. Sentence by sentence it is a delight; one reads the very words again & again from sheer delight in them.

Sunday evening.

Never in my life have I known quite this sense so continued, of being lulled body & soul: laid to sleep in the arms of a great motherhood, as perhaps in the days before the memory was awake—so satisfied, as you say, it is “an eternity”, for “time” is not, nor past, nor future—only the song of the sea & the song of life. It is almost as if one had passed out of the body—I mean at times, when one sits hour after hour in the dark loath to stir or break the spell. I think of all I have left as if they belonged to another life—and of you as if you were coming coming† to me from the other side. We get a long evening—for we go down to dinner at 6 o’clock, as there was no room for us at the ordinary dinner at 7.30. It suits us well—we have the deck to ourselves from 7 o’clock till 9—it is par excellence the hour for dreams.

I heard some people talking today who have a very wretched cabin. “And we booked in June” they said. They are going to New Zealand & are hoping to change & get better berths at Port Said! How lucky we are! If we were on the other side of the boat, we should be very hot: but we could wish for nothing better in any way. We have no “places” except for dinner; breakfast & lunch are served during certain hours, & one just sits down where there is room. This means a new neighbour every time & rather tells against making friends. Some sports are arranged for tomorrow. But for such a very short voyage one wants nothing but—heaven!

I think of you & Carry tonight at The Sundial. How I hope you are having a good time & a ‘real’ time together. And dear Podger! You will have got my letter from Marseilles I hope. I keep thinking that you will be just where I am now in 5 weeks time. I could sail round & round the world for ever & aye, if the sea were always as it is now, & if you were always coming in 5 weeks’ time! I was so glad to get your dear telegram, it just came as if to say that you had prepared & made all this glory—& your darling letter—there never was such a fellerie† as you! Oh I want you to have all this rest & cessation, that we are having now & afterwards out there, an awakening, a revelation—the baptism of heavenly fire from the lands of the ardent sun.
Do you remember Swinburne’s lines from his Songs before Sunrise—

Out, under the moon & stars!
Out under the ardent sun!
Whose light, on prison bars
And mountain heads, is one.
Our march is everlasting, till time’s march is done! {4}


All too soon is our voyage coming to an end. Presently there will be packing—money-changing, bustle & then a train journey of 4 or 5 hours—landing us in Cairo about midnight. This part of the journey has been “bliss”, may the next part, as Marie says, not be “blister”! No—the fascination of Egypt together with a kind of awe & terror, the awe of the unknown & yet the near—grows upon one. Surely, surely the desert out there holds some gift for me & for you! How one longs for the power of song. At night in the dark looking out from the deck, I have thought what it would be to be able to sing, like the nightingale in Summer nights—it seems unnatural to be so dumb. In the life to come, there will be new powers of expression given to the soul. I begin to understand the conception of “Nirvana”. The wonderful East! One begins to——

Well, well, enough! There is a Burmese gentleman on board; he has been teaching us a little Arabic, & has given us his card—so that if we ever go to Burmah——

Where shall we not go? Oh Schatz what will be the end? Hetty was telling me wonderful things today out of a book called “The Dawn of Astronomy” by Sir Norman Lockyer—these old temples were so built that on one day of the year, the sun or the star in whose honour they were built shines right in to the inner shrine—the Holy of Holies. You could get it out of Mudie’s {5}—wouldn’t it be rather a lovely book for the journey.

But I expect you will not have much time for reading. We went in for the Sports yesterday—but did not get any prizes. I expect you will come to me laden with trophies. I am afraid we rather grudged the time! I want you to bring me Swinburne’s “Songs before Sunrise”, if you will—it will set me in tune for Mazzini: they are all inspired by Mazzini & the awakening of Italy.

I promised to lend Mac. my fiddle. It is at The Mascotte. Next time you go to Holmwood will you bring it back. I want you here now. Beloved, dearest, dearest, I am ever yours, ever yours, your Woman.

P.S. I am sending you the first two sheets of my Journal {6, which I want you to circulate please. Marie said when she saw me writing to you, “What a waste it seems, all that for one man!!” She is developing into quite a ‘rascal’.

You might let Mary Neal see this Journal before fo[r]warding to Mother.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} Presumably in the letter from Marseilles referred to later in this letter, which is not extant.

{2} A novel by Robert Hitchens, first published in 1904.

{3} Probably Felix Holt, by George Eliot.

{4} A slight misquotation from Swinburne’s poem ‘A Marching Song’, from the collection Songs before Sunrise (1871), dedicated to Giuseppe Mazzini, who is referred to later in this letter. The published words are as follows:—

“Out under moon and stars
And shafts of the urgent sun
Whose face on prison-bars
And mountain-heads is one,
Our march is everlasting till time’s march be done.”

{5} i.e. Mudie’s circulating library.

{6} PETH 7/147, which in fact comprises three sheets.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Gives an account of her journey to Egypt with her sister Marie and Henrietta Lawes.



1st Letter

That important & long looked-for day has come at last, Nov. 3rd, which is to begin a new chapter of life, & marks the starting point of one more journey. “To follow the road wherever it leads”—whither will it lead? To lands of the ardent sun, to the wonderland of the East.

London is lightly veiled in a bright mist, the Thames glistens, there is a smell of the falling leaves: at Victoria station a little group of dear friends are gathered to bid us farewell, & speed us with good heart, upon our way. The whistle is blown, we are starting, now we leave behind those dear faces that we love—in that moment is concentrated that pain of parting that every journeying means. Oh how beautiful in the soft golden light, are the curves of field & upland, and the trees in their glowing colour: how more than beautiful at that time of lingering farewell—those smiles of our native land will be treasured till we return.

And the blue sea laughs a greeting at Dover, and all is sparkling bright. And now we are in the train for Marseilles rushing down to the sea all through the night, and at 7 o’Clock next morning we see our good ship Victoria in the Dock {1}: it is like a bit of our native land once more. With her, we shall be at home on a distant sea. Soon we are aboard, and the first question is “Where is our cabin? What will it be like?” Here it is—29 to 31! What a dear little place! a port-hole, which the Steward opens; three little berths; but oh how are we going to get all our luggage in?—“oh that will be all right”—we take it on trust, & presently find that everything has found its right niche—& the longer we live in this cabin, the more spacious it seems. It must have elastic sides! Breakfast is ready. The Captain comes & sits down by us & we have a talk. We find he knows Canning Town very well. On the Quay, there are fruit-sellers & flower sellers & gay stalls, covered with beads & shawls & as we pass up & down the gangway, these things are held out to us with beguiling smiles & “cheep, cheep, cheep”. There are acrobats—singers asking for pence—& lascars in scarlet caps & blue linen smocks & bare feet running up & down the gangways. At noon, we get under way & we steam out in the full sunshine, out into the midst of a shining sea, calm as a lake. It is quite hot, quite a relief to once more find summer clothes & put away all recollections of November! We are back in June. And now begins a time of delicious leisure and perfect well being: a voyage with all the conditions absolutely perfect: the cabin is on the North side of the ship & is cool by day & night. Day after day the sun rises in a wide clear sky & sets in radiant glory, sometimes with a pageant of clouds, suddenly called & marshalled out of the infinite.

And out of the glowing dusk, first Jupiter & then other stars appear, & later grand old Orion looks down upon us.

We have no set places at table, except for dinner, when the party is so large that it has to be divided. We dine at 6 o’Clock, just a few of us, the passengers from Marseilles. Breakfast & lunch we take between certain hours—they are moveable feasts. From some points of view this is a poor plan, but it suits us very well. For us the voyage is so short that we do not want to spend our time in making friends with men & women, but to enter into fellowship with other things—with the sea, whose breath we feel—above all with that.

About midnight on Friday, we pass the volcanic island of Stromboli, & from its peak, from time to time, a dull glow brightens into a flame that leaps to the stars & dies again in darkness.

On Saturday morning, I woke at 2 o’Clock, & on looking through my port hole saw that we were passing through the straits of Messina. We were very close to the Mainland. The coast line in the Starlight looked mountainous—it rose against the clear pale sky line like a dreamland.

Apart from that, we have had little incident. One day was given up to some amusing sports, & every day one makes a few more acquaintances. But for the most part one sits on the deck & it is hard to tell whether sleep or waking is sweetest. Now the meaning of Nirvana begins to dawn on my mind. To be thus at rest, released by the greatness of sea & sky & sun & stars from the limits of personality, to come to one’s spiritual inheritance in the earth & the universe, to realize no past & no future, only an eternal present. All too soon is this calm to be disturbed. The last day comes, & once more one has to think of packing of luggage & trains & tips!

Already there is a quiver in the air, & something more in the rays of the sun than hitherto. Something tells of the nearing East.

Once more there is a future & a near future that holds definite things, that depends on & calls for action. What are its hidden gifts?

For that answer we must wait.


This undated letter was evidently written on the last day of Emmeline’s sea voyage, Tuesday, 8 November. The events of the early part of her journey, as related herein, are misdated. A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original, which is erratic and often indistinct.

{1} For lists of the passengers see The Homeward Mail from India, China, and the East, 8 Oct. 1904, p. 1448, 15 Oct. 1904, p. 1486, 22 Oct. 1904, p. 1521, and 29 Oct. 1904, p. 1556.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Mena House Hotel (Cairo).—Describes her first few days in Egypt.



Mena House Hotel. Nov. 10. Wednesday evening {1}.

Beloved. I scarcely know how to sit down & write to you tonight. My heart is too full. I could sit still for hours wrapt in a garment of joy. Every sense satisfied to the uttermost—one’s whole being steeped in sensation. Nothing has ever been the least bit like it—light & colour & wonder. I don’t think I have ever felt so splendidly well, so vitalized, so filled with life. Your dear dear letter coming as the last touch of completeness to the day’s glory! My love for you & the possession of your great love is the glow behind the sunset—the glow that never fades. Bye & bye I shall sit down calmly & write something consecutive. But at this moment that is impossible. Still, I will tell you that we had a delightful 4 hours in Port Said {2}. Our boat arrived about 2 P.M. & the train left at 6.45. We strolled into the town & drank coffee on the arcade of the Hotel Continental, where we were infinitely amused by the street sellers who laid their wares before us. Hetty chaffed & chaffed with them all. We went round the shops too. Then—but oh, you darling I simply can’t write anything but my love to you & again & again tell you how happy I am—how happy we all are! I never saw Marie look like she looks now, her eyes shining with radiant happiness & excitement. She says she sends you ever so much love, & I am to tell you she will write, but not now, & to say—she simply does not know where she is, & can only walk round & smile! She & Hetty have made great plans about getting work here, & running a dahabehah together & I do believe something or other will open up to them. Hetty & Marie & I are speaking of you constantly & longing to have you here too. Freddy, I don’t want work to suffer, as you know, but if it is feasible do arrange to lengthen your stay as much as possible. I am sure you will want to stay.

Mena House is perfect—you will love the style of the place, I never saw anything to please me more—architecture, space—every detail. The curtains are just cotton, but perfectly charming—& the atmosphere of place & people is most harmonious: we have separate bedrooms & we pay 12/6 a day.

Freddy, I am absolutely ashamed of this letter—utterly ashamed of it: I have so much to say that I can’t say it. But tomorrow out in the desert—there I will write to you & tell you all. And I will send this to catch the mail. But I can only tell you this—there is something here that is quite different from anything I have ever known, though it is something I have guessed at—dreamed of—there is something here that fills up one’s mind with light & glory—& calls new things into being. Oh Freddy, if I were a man I should bring the woman I loved here—out of the Shadow into the light, out of the cold into the heart of the sun—where day lights its burning torches heralding the night.

I did not think, I hardly dared to this it would really be like this—that one’s flights of imagination could really be fulfilled. It’s just absolutely different from Europe—you might be one another planet.

Well Freddy. Goodbye now. Goodbye dear. And God bless you. Your very happy Woman.

Hetty is splendid—we could not possibly be more lucky in our little drago-woman. I would far rather have her from quite a business point of view than any courier, however good. She is in her element here & is a capital little manager & organizer. As we all three have exactly the same preferences, there could not possibly be a more mutually satisfied little party.

I will just add that we stayed at Shepheard’s Hotel last night, did a good deal of business in Cairo & had a fascinating time in the Bazaars & came out here at sunset. More anon.

Hetty asks me to enclose this letter.

This rambling incoherent letter of mine is for you alone of course—no one else. I shall write up my general letter tomorrow {3}. I hope you got my telegram sent off this morning. I thought “The Echo. London.” would find you. Did you think me reckless extravagant? I had to—& if it had cost 10 times as much would have been worth it!


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The day of the month is incorrect. The 10th was a Thursday.

{2} On Tuesday, the 8th.

{3} PETH 7/148.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Describes her arrival in Egypt and her first few days there.



2nd letter.

As we came into the harbour of Port Said on Nov. 8th we were all on deck—watching the various craft, straining eager eyes to see more of the movement on the shore. Goodbyes & good wishes had to be interchanged—the tried & the safe had once more to be left behind, the call of the untried & the new, had to be answered.

Hardly had the Victoria dropped her anchor, when the coal barges began to move to her side. Large ferry boats crowded with black figures, covered in begrimed sacking made for her, & the men swarmed up her sides: they held their shovels above their heads & began to work at once, with a wild weird rhythmical chant. It was like a scene in the underworld. I hope I have some photographs which will come out well. We were carried off from the Boat in a little steam launch & landed at the Quay, when we quickly passed our luggage through the Customs, & made arrangements to have it taken to the station—& then having 4 hours to spare we wandered into the streets & bazaars, & sat on the Verandah of the Hotel Continental, drinking coffee, while the street sellers came round, showing fans, and beads & postcards, & jewelry—and a good deal of laughing & bargaining went on. We bought a few little things & got a vast amount of amusement out of it. The streets were planted with acacia trees which gave delightful shade—the whole scene was like Earls Court on a much larger scale, with the sharp lights & shadows of an Eastern sun, intensifying all the effect. The glamour of sunset began to fall, and from the station we saw our first Egyptian sunset—a sheet of burning amber. We reached Cairo about midnight after a very happy & comfortable journey. We rattled through the lighted streets in Shepheard’s van, were shown to our rooms at once, made our first bow to the mosquito curtains—slept, & woke in the morning to see that our windows opened upon a garden with tall palm trees & red paths, a black robed arab pacing up & down.

Cairo,—Well, no city I have ever yet seen is a bit like it, but the spirit of it, is the spirit of Paris—colour, light—animation that Europe knows nothing of—fascination every turn. After a certain amount of business had been accomplished we took a little carriage & drove down to the Bazaars—where we had a great time & great fun—they brought us coffee, & turkish delight—& perfumes—& spread out their wares: it was very hard to tear myself away but it had to be done, for we must send our luggage off to Mena House in a cart—and we ourselves must take the train & get there in time for dinner. The sun was setting, as we caught our first sight of the Pyramids—from this moment the fascination of the country deepens & deepens upon us. Mena House is perfectly beautiful, in design & architecture & in every detail. It is built in the style of a mosque & is in itself a work of art—& a museum of beautiful things: not one thing out of place—all absolutely harmonious. It opens right on the desert. Something unnameable & undescribable takes possession of our spirit, filling us with happiness & excitement, a sort of fulness & overflow of life. The next morning we go out on the desert & our lunch is sent out to us. The arabs come about us & sit down & talk—and show their scarabs & treasures—they show us their letters from English friends, of which they are very proud. A funeral winds its way over the desert to the little Arab cemetery in the sand, amid voices of wailing—camels pass—Arabs riding upon horses & donkeys. In the sun the heat is great but when we sit under the shadow of the Pyramid it is quite cool, even cold. Hetty is inquiring for her old friend, a Bedouin sheikh, Abdul Enani Hatab—presently he comes across the desert to greet her, a tall fine-looking Arab, in robes of silk, and a very beautiful turban of richest Damascus silk. This is the man who besought Hetty to become the queen of his tribe. He spent the day with us—in the afternoon we took camels & rode to the Sphynx—& watched the sunset & stayed until it was dark. An old Sheikh, a sand diviner came & sat down by Marie & talked to her. We were alone with the Arabs—our camels lying there waiting—and the glamour of the desert strong upon us all. The next day again we go out to the Sphinx at sunset & Abdul tells us a wonderful story of the desert—in low thrilling tones as the night darkens—he has “a great boxful of stories” he says. We are right in it all now, bathed in the desert, steeped in the desert. Only two days! It seems impossible—all too wonderful, like a dream. We are talking now of travelling further south in a dahabeah, with tents for camping out, & coming back on camels in caravan. Abdul & his brother come from Beni Mora, the scene of Hitchen’s new book—“The Garden of Allah”—they know Amara, & all the places in that book. It is just four weeks journey on camels through the desert. I should like to go that journey some day.

Circular letter.
Please follow the same order as before. In haste to catch mail.


This letter appears to have been written on 11 November, the date of the last events described in it. A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original, which is erratic and often indistinct.

Letter from Marie Pethick to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Mena House Hotel, Cairo.—Describes her activities with Emmeline and Hetty Lawes in Egypt. Is keen for him to join them.



Mena House.
Pyramids Cairo.

13. November 1904.

My dear old Fred. Do’ee hurry up & join us out here—and arrange to stay a long long time. We are having one of Emmeline’s own special times—everything as perfect as it can possibly be. Hetty makes an ideal courier—gives me a most delightful introduction to her beloved Bedowin sheikhs & we are going to become genuine Arabians before we have done. Emmeline & I are both very keen on learning the language as quickly as possible as we are missing so much every hour we do not understand it. By the time you come out we shall hope to speak quite fluently. We are all longing show you our charming daharbejeh & to introduce you to Enani & Latif—the dragomen. They are most patient & attentive in teaching us Arabic & are quite as keen as we are on our getting to know it. You ought to have been with us last night as we were watching the sunset afterglow by the side of the Sphynx—no other Europeans anywhere near—a few cloaked figures to be seen every here & there. I was wrapped up in a Sheikh’s cloak & he was singing Arabian songs to us & telling us about the manners & customs of his people. This was Abdul Latif Khattab—the brother of our special dragoman, Abdul Enani. He was begging Emmeline this morning that she should ask Enani if he could come with us on the daharbeyah. He didn’t want any money at all—only he wanted to help us & teach us Arabic. It would be very delightful if he came as well as Enani. Enani tells most wonderful stories but Latif sings these weird Arabic chants.

We have been busy this afternoon developing films—some have been most successful. We want to get them printed & ready to send home as soon as possible.

Emmeline is looking fine—so well & happy—I have never seen her looking better. Am longing for you to see her. Am sure we shall none of us ever want to settle down in England again. Every day is crammed full of interest—& such variety. The time flies & yet this week has held more than any other week in our life I should say. It is almost impossible to believe that it was only five days ago we got off the boat.

I see Emmeline is writing you pages & pages—with a full account of the program I expect. Shan’t we have a glorious time in the caravan—pitching our tents by the way. Am longing for your to join us but I don’t want so much of our time to have gone. I do so hope you will get a splendid man to take on your Echo so that you will not be obliged to hurry home.

Much love to you from us all—

Always your loving sis
Marie W A {1}


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The reading and significance of these letters are unclear.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Mena House Hotel (Cairo).—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Mena House Hotel. Nov. 12. 04 {1}.

Oh dear Man & husband of mine. The letter from you that I am longing for, will come tomorrow, but not before my greeting to you will have gone forth. This is my second Sunday evening away from you. I wonder where you are today & what you are doing & thinking of? It is sweet to think that the further days bring me from you, the nearer they bring you to me—as the Porpoise said to Alice, “The further off from England, the nearer ’tis to France.” {2} I am longing for you to come. Today for the first time I begin to accept my new surroundings with a little less of that surprise which is the joy of first acquaintance—but one gains more than one loses as that first acquaintance becomes a more familiar friendship. We were up at 5.30 this morning walking to the Sphinx to see the sunrise. The morning was cloudy & a sharp shower of rain drove us to take refuge in the Temple. The two Bedawin brothers, Abdul Enani & Abdul Latief Khattab, were with us of course—and they amused us while we were waiting, with story & song. We have been every day to the Sphinx, 3 times at sunset & today at sunrise—and every time we have been alone except for the Arabs. We are so early, no tourists are here yet. The Arabs tell delightful stories. Enani’s story the night before last was too delicious—I must get him to tell it over again to you. It was about a man who fell in love with a lovely little girl—“his head go all giddy & he get a pain in his stomach” (but I must not spoil it). Latif his brother is too sweetly & deliciously funny for words. Last evening we simply doubled up with uncontrollable laughter—till he said quite grieved, “You spoil my story.” He was telling us about a man who lived in the village who married one bea[u]tiful girl, and presently “he shift that one, & many another, he shift her & many another—beautiful girl—he shift her & many another—the fourth was a bad wife—he like to shift her, but he is afraid.” Abdul Latif thinks one wife is enough—one good wife. He made sure that he got a good one. “But you didn’t see her, Abdul, how could you know?” “Oh yes, I see her.” “How did you manage that, Abdul?” “Oh I manage that easy. I am the devil.” If I could paint the childlike innocence of the man’s expression! It was at this point he besought us not to spoil the story! There are such pictures, & so many funny delightful things I want to tell you. We are learning Arabic quite fast: and never had teachers such obvious delight in teaching. And never have I known such gracious willing service always eager & waiting—always ready. “Shepherd” in his palmiest days does not touch it.

I engaged Abdul Enani Khattab yesterday to take a Dahabeyah for us, which we had seen the day before. It has 2 single cabins & 1 double cabin—a little deck, a big upper deck, dining room & ‘domestic offices.’ I contracted with him, to pay him a fixed sum per day. I will enclose the copy of contract. He has just returned from an engagement of 8 months with a gentleman & his wife who paid him £5 a day & sometimes under specified conditions £8 a day, exclusive of wine & spirits & railway expenses—inclusive of all beside. I saw the contract. They gave him a beautiful gold watch with his name & theirs engraved & a book of amateur photos of the tour as a parting present, also splendid testimonials. I said I could not pay that money. He suggested £4. 10. per day for the 3 persons. I thought £1 per person per day was enough to pay. We finally agreed on £3. 10. for 3 persons per day. I don’t think that is a bad or unfair contract for either side. When I asked the Manager of the hotel to take charge of valuables while we were away, he said we need have no fear, as with Enani we should be absolutely safe from any trouble with any of the Arabs en route—he & his brothers & relations are attached to the hotel. The Manager says it is quite unnecessary to speak to Lord Cromer about it. Hetty suggested we should tell Lady Cromer when I call tomorrow, the name of the Dahabiyeh & the places of call—as the Shekhs of every village would, at a word from headquarters, become special guards: I shall speak to her about it anyway. I shall also see the Consul. A doctor at Cairo, I forget his name (it is Dr Murison) {3}, an old friend of Hetty’s, interviewed Enani & told him if the ladies were ill, they were to telegraph to him at once & he would come to them! So you see we have taken every reasonable step & every possible precaution—for though we all instinctively trust our Bedawin Shekh & feel very safe under his care, yet I wanted to be able to tell you that responsible people on the spot were prepared to vouch for his honesty & capacity as a dragoman. The Brother Abdul Latif has come coaxing to me several times; “I want to go with you, you ask my Brother Enani—he will do everything you want—you ask him.” I said this morning, “Well, but Abdul I cannot pay you any money. I am paying quite enough.” “I don’t want you to give me money. I want to go with you to keep you. I want to go for the fun!” After that, what can I do but speak to Enani: though I don’t see how there is going to be any room! Now I do so want you if possible, when you come, to stay 5 or 6 weeks—because then we can have 2 weeks with you in the Dahabeyah, & 3 weeks camping & caravanning back—& you ought to have 2 or 3 days with the Sphinx to finish up. You see if all goes well, & if Allah wills, we are going to have the very lov[e]liest time we have ever had in our lives—quite unique—& such as in all probability we shall never have again. And we can’t bear to have any little bit of it without you having at least a share in the experience. The contract includes 7 or 8 weeks—it was the very shortest I could make—to make the necessary arrangements worth while.


Copy of Contract, between Mrs Lawrence & Party & Abdul Enani Khattab.

We sign that we engage with the dragoman Enani Khattab a journey in dahabeyeh from Cairo to Luxor for £3. 10. per day for 3 persons. All the expenses of the journey as well as all the food & breakfast, lunch, tea & dinner are to paid by Enani except wine & spirits.

The boatmen undertake to pull the boat with the towing rope if there is not enough wind.

When we leave the boat at Luxor, we take the train to Assouan {4}; the expenses on the railway will be at our charge—also the railway tickets of Enani, cook & waiter. When we leave the boat the contract for the caravan will be £4 a day for £4† persons for 21 days; dromadaries, tents, food, cuisine, servants, etc., are all paid for by Enani.

Assouan to Ouasta {5} we take the train at our own expense. From Ouasta through the Fayoum {6} to Mena, we take luggage camels & caravan at Enani’s expense. The contract to date from Nov. 17. 1904.

Signed & sealed,
E. P. L(awrence).
H. L(awes).
M. L. P(ethick).
A. E. K(hattab). {7}

That is rather a lovely programme, isn’t it? I fancy there are not many people who visit Egypt for 10 weeks get as much into it & out of it. I think this caravan life is just what you want—there is so much to do, & oh so much to learn—& all you do & all you learn is saturated in sunshine! But the spirit of hurry & rush would spoil it all. They have a proverb here—“El agela minesh shaitan.” (Haste is from the devil.) I want the sense of leisure to steal into your life & take possession of it. I am quite sure that after these years of close, arduous & absorbing work, 8 or 9 weeks of absolute leisure would be time well invested—& would yield you rich returns. I know what January is—a month of low ebb in everything. I believe you could be well spared—how I wish you could get a good man to take charge while you are away—but you have tried that, I know. Well, you must do just what you feel is for the best—if we have to shorten our time a little, “ma’laish”! “Malaish” is like that Russian word that Bismarck had engraved on his ring. It means “It signifies nothing” or “Nothing matters”! & is the spirit of the life in the desert. It makes everything go with a laugh.

My own darling Laddie, I hope that you are well & happy & that everything is going well. You are always in my heart. I often think how eager you were that I should come here—how you went & took those tickets & sent us off in the very right time. You knew I should love the East—you always said so. I did not know or imagine half the fascination of it. I have never felt anything a bit like it. There is something in my blood that responds to it all: the Arab people seem less foreign to me than the majority of the people of my own race—and we have a language in common—which is gradually extending! The Europeans out here look at them quite differently—they hold them in great disdain & order them about—and trust an Arab!—no, they would not dream of it! The visitors here illustrate the great gulf between East & West—they are totally different & a complete want of understanding separates them. But Hetty—I don’t know where she gets it from—can do anything she likes with these Arabs who know her—they simply worship her. She is like a little queen amongst them. You should have seen Enani laugh when she told him we must all have our baths every day in the desert. “Where is the water to come from, Sit? the camels drink only once a week!” “Where the water is to come from I know not; that is your business, Abdul Enani. You must get it.” The talk between them in Arabic sounds like one long happy chuckle: Naharach seid Embarak. (Light shine on thee, may thy day be blessed.)

Dearest, ever yours,

Monday morning. Just had your darling letter. Oh but it makes me want you awful bad. Enani very happy today—has got a much bigger & better dayabeyeh—just going off to look at it now.

In haste,


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The day of the month is incorrect, since the letter is said to have been written on a Sunday evening and the 12th was a Saturday. Moreover, the abortive excursion to the Sphinx to watch the sun rise is mentioned in PETH 7/149 as having taken place on Sunday morning. It was probably the present letter that Marie described Emmeline writing in her own letter of the 13th (PETH 7/164).

{2} A quotation, of course, from the Mock Turtle’s song in the tenth chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; but these words were in fact uttered by the whiting.

{3} The words in brackets were interlined later.

{4} Aswân.

{5} El Wasta.

{6} El Faiyûm.

{7} The letters in brackets were added later in pencil.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

The Pyramids (Cairo).—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



The Pyramids. Nov. 15th 1904.

My darling. Your letters of yesterday—I had two letters[,] one written on the way to Dorking—the other on the Sunday morning from The Sundial—they have brought me very near to you & have filled my heart with love & with sweet thoughts & with happy thoughts of your coming. I have been trying to picture that today. I wonder where we shall be? I expect at Luxor. Unless I hear that you can’t spare more than 3 or 4 weeks. If that is so, I shall leave the boat as soon as we reach Luxor & set up the Camp at once—so that we may get all the programme finished. But I should like you to have a week on the houseboat with us—oh so much, for we are going to be such a happy party. An old friend of Hetty’s—Ali—has turned up today. He got Hetty’s letter & started at once from 75 miles away & was quite overcome with happiness. Abdul Enani engages him to be our servant & he has gone right back to fetch his clothes—& to join the boat Il Bolbol—“The Nightingale”—on Thursday. He can sing too, & he brings his fishing net,—if the ladies like fish, he will promise them as much as they can eat. He can speak no English at all: we are daily struggling with the arabic language & a little friend of Hetty’s, “Ibrahim” came today & gave us a lesson in the arabic writing. I have learnt all the letters in the printed alphabet. He sat with us on the desert this evening & told us about his journey to the sacred city of Mecca. If the will to learn were all, we should soon be able to read, write & speak arabic, or if the will to teach were all—one is impatient with one’s own mind & memory—one learns, & forgets the next minute. We called on Lady Cromer yesterday—she is in Alexandria just now—we left cards—we also called on Mr Cope’s friend Mrs Vere Alston, but she was not at home. She & Judge Alston are coming today to stay at Mena House for a week—so we shall soon know them. We shall be in Cairo all day tomorrow, many things to see & to do there—the days need to be twice as long. There seems no time at all for photographs, or letters, or lessons (Books have been put aside altogether) {1}: so many claims upon eye & mind & interest all at once. This week has spelt but one word—fascination. Here is a little prayer I often say—

“Ya moufeta el abouab
Ifta linna el bab.”

“Oh Keeper of doors, open the door to us.” Open the door—one cries in one’s head—give us to understand this wonderful new world insight into the secret & source of it. It is all so new,—so new—founded on fundamental conceptions so different from all we have learnt before.

Dearest, I was so glad to hear of your happy time at The Sundial—the sunny weather, the lovely motor rides—& of the opportunity given you of being a comfort to your dear little Carry—I was thinking of you much. It was a capital idea asking Marion too. So glad to hear all going well at Holmwood. Dear Podger! give him my love. What a great deal we shall have to talk about. That transfer of the ‘Standard’ “gives one furiously to think”. I am very very sorry. The fight against material resources is a very desperate one & a very long one. It is the history of the 20th century which has just begun & I doubt if the end of the century will see the victory of the good cause, though I am sure that victory will ultimately emerge. Even here, one sees the terrible evil of money divorced from human relationship or human responsibility. Dear, this battle that you speak of, God help us to be wise & courageous. God leave us one another, if it be his will, & leave us our great love, & make us able to fulfil to the uttermost his will concerning us. We will ask nothing more. We will cling to nothing more. I thank God that in these days when there is so much that is unstable—I have in my husband, a rock. I have faith in life, but that is not surprising, when I live my daily life with a man to which right & honour come before every thing else in the world. My rock & my fortress—my sword & my shield.

I have been thinking that we make far too small a claim on our God. These Arabs who for a whole month keep a fast all day & who say so simply “My God helps me, so that I have no hunger or thirst, no wish to eat or drink. I do His will & He gives me the strength”, teach us much. They seem to miss the wear & tear, the strain—they throw that on the God whose command they obey & are saved physically.

God bless you my darling.

Ever yours.
Your wife.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The words in brackets were added above the line.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



3rd Letter

Nov. 13th 1904. Monday.

How strange to think that we have been barely 6 days in this country! Every day one seems to live a life time in interest & happiness. So much to see, so much to learn. That first morning in Cairo—the excitement & ever new delight of the Bazaars, the glory of colour, the interest everywhere. We very soon entered into the fun of bargaining. It is a game—carried on with laughter & good humour on both sides—no one is angry or displeased whether the wares are accepted or not (they always are accepted) and everybody is pleased. We were very pleased with our own bargaining: I bought a dress length of very pretty washing silk for 15 shillings—and another lovely delicate silk for 18 shillings—and several other things with which I am delighted: a string of prayer beads of cut amber & antique silver is the most beautiful, although a ring with a green mecca stone, set with a dozen little sunset-purple opals I would not lose for many times over the sum I paid for it. It is a Mascot ring I am sure. The first moment I saw it, I knew it was meant for me to bring good luck: Marie picked out a very pretty blue scareb† & asked how much. “Oh nothing—you take it if you like it.” Meanwhile all the beautiful things in the shop are spread out before you & you sit, drinking coffee, or making an occasional snap shot, laughing & talking—& enjoying the moving panorama. A visit to the perfume bazaar is delightful to all the senses at once—the booths are lined with lovely Turkey rugs—every little booth, a scheme of colour & a joy to the eyes. You choose your man, & sit down on the rugs, & he gives you samples of all his perfumes—touching your arm, your hand with a little glass stopper with a pad of cotton wool—then you choose violet, banana, attar of roses, or what you will & you choose your bottle. I bought sandalwood & amber. It was great fun examining all the bottles to make sure that they gave room for the perfumes—the seller enjoys it as much as you—& he seems all the better pleased that you don’t mean to be cheated. I could spend days in the bazaars, they are so fascinating. And yet in the evening it was good to get out to the calm & quiet of the Pyramids, & to catch our first sight of them glowing against a sky of amber & gold. The road from Cairo to Mena stretches for 5 miles & is a long avenue of beautiful acacia trees. The Nile water still floods both sides of the road, it seemed like crossing a long straight bridge over a lake of liquid light. This is the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen—it is a perfect work of art—perfect from design to the merest detail: quite the very best style: the spirit of the whole management too is very harmonious and happy—so that from the first moment we settle down & feel quite at home.

The next morning—Wednesday—we are up early & out under the shadow of the 2nd pyramid. The wind is cool & we need our coats—though in the sun, it is hot. So far however we have never felt the heat unpleasantly—the weather is like a very fresh clear day in early June. We have taken letters & books—but we might as well have left them at home. Very soon we have the Arab boys about us, showing us treasures & bringing us letters from their former clients now in England. Very proud of these letters they are, & they like to hear them read aloud. The Fast of Ramadan has begun, for 1 month religion forbids the Arab to eat, or drink, or smoke from sunrise to sunset: they must look to Allah & pray five times a day. They tell us Allah helps them so that they feel no hunger & no thirst. Allah makes them strong & takes all desire away. In the city it is easy to forget Allah, & many there do not keep the fast at all, but here in the desert, Allah is so near that you cannot forget, but you want to pray, & to live a good life. Meanwhile, Hetty has sent word to her Arab Shekh Abdul Enani Khattab that she is here & presently he is seen striding over the desert, he sees us & begins to run, salutes her & us with the right hand touching his brow, his lips & heart in token of submission, devotion & truth—& the Eastern Good Morning—“Naharak saiid Embarak” (“May the Light shine upon thee—may thy day be blessed”.) His face is lighted up with joy & he becomes from that moment our servant, carries our things & follows us, & is ready to render with eagerness any possible service. Josephine Plunkett (Hetty’s sister) joins us with her three children & we spend the day together—send to the hotel for a lunch basket, & return about 4 o’clock to have tea in the Verandah. Then we see Josephine drive off in the dogcart—& meanwhile Abdul has got our camels waiting & we have our first experience of mounting & riding a camel. It has been described often, but it was very funny: the camel kneels down & then one takes ones seat, the beast groaning & swearing horribly—he then gets up & quickly strides along—it is (to me) a comfortable & easy motion. I felt quite happy both when the camel was walking or running—& the others were quite happy & easy too. The sun had already set when we reached the Sphinx, and the sky & desert were rosy with the wonderful afterglow. No tourists were about. We dismounted, and we watched in silence that wonderful monument, hewn out of the desert rock six thousand years ago: looked in silence until there seemed a stir in the colossal figure, until a soul dawned in those wonderful eyes & held us fascinated as if by a spell. The Arabs, who with a kind of instinctive perception had left us alone, now joined us & we soon found that we had each a servant, only too ready to talk & entertain us. It grew dark. I could not see Marie or Hetty—they were each the centre of a separate little group: within call; and when, all too soon we were warned by the hour that [we] must must† return to the hotel, we mounted our camels & rode back under the stars, with a delicious night wind in our faces.

Now follows day after day with something in each of repetition, and yet full of ever new & ever changing aspects of delight. Evening by evening finds us by the Sphinx. Sometimes listening to a story or a song—no one in sight except sometimes a few silent black figures squatting in the sand or sometimes a passing camel—our two Arabs ready to do anything to please us. Here we sat one evening, while all the hills & all the desert glowed rosy & then purple, Marie lying on the sand wrapped in a Shekh’s black cloak, & the other two wrapped in our thick coats—listening to stories fascinated and amused. No description can give the charm of that atmosphere or of that moment. One might come to Egypt a dozen times again & miss it. One {1} Sunday morning we were up early to see the sunrise—but for once, the sun failed us & a sharp patter of rain made us take refuge in the temple.

Wednesday. Nov. 16th.

The last day of our stay at the Pyramids. Arrangements have been going on all this time & our dear little houseboat, which is to be our home for the next four weeks is nearly ready. We are looking forward to a new life & a new experience with great delight. We seem to start with everything perfect. “Enani,” and “Latief” & “Ali” for our servants—men devoted to Hetty, & all ready to vie with each other to please us—everything very comfortable—a boat big enough for a party twice our number & yet not too big to move quickly before the wind.

All letters can be sent to Cooks Office Cairo—as we keep in continual touch with that office all the way—& letters will duly reach us with small delay.

Think of us, dear Friends for the next month in our little dahabeyah “Bolbol”—flying the English flag, & gliding up stream through all the changing lights of day & night.

Thursday. Nov. 17th.

Farewell to Mena House Hotel! We leave with feelings of goodwill to all. Never was there a more delightfully managed hotel—waiters, servants and all the officials ready to help & serve in every way—everything refined & gracious & free from any sense of commercialism. It is a great pleasure to think that we are coming back. And our dragoman the Shekh Enani is waiting, attired in his most gorgeous array—tussore silk robe, flowing blue coat, with purple silk lining—new shoes of the brightest yellow, new turban & sash of richly coloured silk, & prayer beads of white moonstones. And the boat is waiting—and our first lunch is ready. Josephine Plunkett & her boy & the baby are coming to lunch. Everything is deliciously cooked & served, a bottle is champagne is opened, healths are drunk, all is gay. Who cares that there is scarcely any wind, & what there is of it blows from South instead of from North. Are there not plenty of things to be done in Cairo? We all start of[f] after lunch and spend an afternoon in the very most dreadfully quick way, any time can be spent—shopping in Cairo. Home, that is The Bolbol—for the sunset, & for dinner—turkish coffee on deck, & then a Fantaseheh by the crew. The crew proper numbers 8, cook, waiter & 2 servants makes 12, not counting the Shekh or ourselves. A little open fire of wood is burning on the lower deck, one lamp is hung above, & the men sing round in a circle, chanting, & beating the tom-tom, & the cymbals—or clapping with their hands—till one after another is moved to take the floor & gives a native dance—Nubian, Ethiopian, Abyssinian, Soudanese. The sight is grotesque, & fascinating beyond words. How one longs for the pencil of a Mortimer Memphis. Moonlight, & lapping of the water, the cry of a water bird, the faint breath of night, make a charm that keeps one from sleep for very delight—then—heaven let loose, & the dawn, & the great sun, & the best omelette I have ever tasted, almost converting me to omelettes—& still no favouring wind. Another day in Cairo, a call on Josephine—purchase of a filter, flags & various little things. Another sunset, another merry evening, more new dances—& sleep. Another glorious dawn—& another day without wind. We write a French letter for Enani to his last—what shall I call them, patients?—children?—the people with whom he travelled for 8 months—they were believers in spirits—& oh what stories Enani tells & how we laugh. We ask them to send some spirits quickly to blow the boat up the river; Mussi the waiter comes in & hears something about it & almost falls on the floor with fright—if the spirits come he goes! At last he believes that we are joking. We had better go & see the Museum at Cairo. The things we have not seen would make a long list: but one or two very last purchases—we must first make curtains to replace the half tumbled ones in the boat, Japanese lanterns—a guitar, which we hire for 2 months—which they insist on our taking away without paying—“it will do when you come back”—& lo & behold the time has gone & we are due back at the boat for lunch.

A little breeze in the afternoon brings all the little boats out on the other side—oh so pretty—with crossed sails like two wings—but the breeze soon dies away. We write our letters as well as we can for the distraction of the eye—such a silvery sunny sky & river—the sun sets—the gun goes from the citadel—the arabs may take their first bit of food & drink for the day. An audible “grace” goes up at the welcome sound—wonderful the patience & endurance & good spirits, of these people during the last & trying fast:

Goodbye to our friends. Goodnight. We are going to pay another call on the Sphinx tonight. Think of us all as we think of you. God bless you all.


Some of the dates in this letter are clearly incorrect. For instance, the date at the beginning of the letter, 13 November, was a Sunday and not a Monday. A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original, which is erratic and often indistinct.

{1} Probably a slip for ‘on’.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabijeh Bolbol.

My darling. Here we are in our little dahabijeh Bolbol—everything so sweet, so cosy, so happy. We have just had a very nicely served lunch—Josephine (Pops) Lawes has been with us, & her two children—we have had a bottle of champagne for good luck. Josephine wants to meet you very much & we have made the following provisional plan. You probably arrive in Port Said on Tuesday & have a few hours there, as we did. Will you telegraph to “Plunkett, Military School, Abbassiyeh, Cairo”? You can send 8 words for 2 piastres—“arrive 11.20 train tonight”. You will stay at Shepheard’s Hotel next door to Cook’s Office. At Cook’s Office you will find the very latest news from me. Josephine will come in to see you with her two boys, & will take you to the bazaars or wherever you like—& if she has a nurse for her baby at home, will stay to lunch with you or take you home with her. You will come on by the night train in sleeping carriage—starts about 8.30 from Cairo—& we shall meet you at the station on Thursday at Luxor or at Assouan—whichever it may be. Oh Freddy dear, how lovely it will be—how happy we shall all be! There is a good dining car in the train from Port Said to Cairo—you get a very nice dinner. I am giving this to Josephine to post from here tomorrow. I have already sent off letters today & it will be a day or two before you can get another letter from Wasta. We had a wonderful time with the Sphinx last night, by the moon. I must go—have to run into Cairo to call for letters & do one or two little things. In great haste—with great love—

Ever yours,


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabijeh Bolbol. Nov. 23rd 1904

My darling Laddie. Almost a week gone by—but we have not yet come more than 20 miles out of 600. We have only had the North wind twice for a few hours in the afternoon—though it is the reputed one wind for November, December & January! When you get this we shall have reached Ouasta (I spelt it “Wasta” {1}) about 57 miles from Cairo. But you must not think that it is a disappointment. If only it were not a question of time limit, one would not care how long one loitered on the way. If we were to get a steady North wind we should be at Luxor in 14 days: a week before you come. I can hardly believe how happy we are! It seems ridiculous to go on day after day & night after night in one long dream of delight. We have everything to make us happy—a very contented & happy crew—everybody pleased—and our every wish & whim gratified. Talk about Mammy-babies! As for the little lady Hetty, it is most amusing—she won’t stir foot or finger for herself! It is “Abdul!” or “Ali!” or “Mursi!” if she wants a fly brushed off her noes. So different from the Hetty at Caversham!

We have a splendid cook, everything served so nicely—piping hot—& so nice. I have realized the possibilities of an omelette. The Turkish coffee is delicious & is served as often as one wants it. Toast for breakfast—& apricot jam! The waiter “Moorsi” always at hand, reading one’s wishes from one’s face before the word, & the fly-wisk† in his hands, always ready to brush the flies away. They keep every thing nicely covered up, even the salt & pepper pots have sliding glass covers. I have never seen the flies on any food—I wish folks would be as careful in England. We have a bath & a shower bath—& a tap of water in each room—every luxury! We shall have this cook & waiter in the desert, so I need not worry about your not getting the right food or being properly looked after! Though I find it next to impossible to look either forward or back—I think that Camp in the desert will be the very best part of all. You & I have a little tent for ourselves: oh Freddy how we shall love the whole thing. I don’t want you to sleep in hotels at all, except the first night & the last night you are in Egypt. I want to know just how much time you have to give: what seems a long time when you think of it at home is nothing at all when you are living this life—the sense of division of time seems to vanish. If you can spare 5 weeks you will be able to have at least two or three days with us on the Bolbol—but if you can spare only 4, we shall have to get on to Assouan first. We are all looking forward tremendously to your coming—the men are most interested in you—& you will get a great welcome. I think of you, not as though you were in London, but as though you were waiting at Luxor or Assouan. I simply cannot turn my thoughts Northward—they won’t go. I have never before been away without being able to look forward to going home. But now I feel no wish at all except to keep on—the days are not long enough & they follow each other all too quickly—I want weeks & months just going on like this. I am sure you will have noticed in my letters that I am quite rambling & incoherent. I don’t seem able to put words together—one is receiving impressions so quickly; one wants to stop & feel—to shut out the light & reconstruct in the dark. Even at night-time, there is the full goblet right to the second when one falls asleep. At first I was too happy to sleep—but now I sleep 8 or 9 hours right away. And yet the charm is so elusive & made up of such constantly shifting small things.

At this moment for instance—here moored alongside the bank, sitting under this awning on the deck—a delicious breeze blowing, the blue sky reflected in each ripple of the river—the opal gleam of the water as a whole—the rosy hills in the East—the big barges of hay in front of our bows, with their great curved masts, the barefooted, blue robed arabs at their various tasks—our crew squatting on the bank gossipping with the peasants—bargaining sometimes—laughing—telling stories—one of the men roasting the coffee over a little fire—men, women, children & animals passing—& light & colour, atmosphere & incident changing every minute. One wants nothing more than to sit in one’s chair dreaming oneself into this life & this world. Then when one thinks of all the wonderful past! We were walking this morning—such a perfect day—we felt we could easily have done the 30 miles to Ouasta.

And now I have to tell you how I got your dear letters on Monday—three of them. As we had not started, I went into Cairo & found out from Cook’s that a mail from England was expected that afternoon. So I asked them to keep back the letters until a certain hour & sent Ali in to fetch them. While he was away, the North wind came & they spread the sails—we could not go far of course. We left another man on the bank to tell Ali where to catch us up—& all too soon we had to anchor & wait. He came at dark bringing the letters & oh how glad I was—for Sweetheart, I was getting hungry—it was the 5th day. I read your letters & read them again—so glad. I am sending you a little list of some little things I should like you to bring out. Three weeks tomorrow! & a fortnight tomorrow you will be starting. Oh I do hope you will find everything as we find it—that you will feel the same enchantment. It will all be so very different from anything you have ever done before. I can’t imagine anything better for a holiday—to forget, to have to forget everything—to leave the whole world behind. You must try & read “The Garden of Allah” on your way out. You can skip a great deal, leave out the descriptions & go on to the main points of the story. I found every word fascinating—not one too many, but mere words do not delight you as they delight me. Don’t think you will read it after you come: you must read it now before you start, or else on the journey.

I told you in my last letter {2}, that I want to have 6 months with you camping & journeying in the desert: another time we will have a dahabijeh—but no! I don’t think that would suit you quite so well—& though I love this, I love the other life still more. Enani wants to teach me to ride when we get on the desert—“to gallop like the wind”. I want to ride like that. Don’t you see how very very short the time is for all we want to do? I shall feel when I have to go home as I used to feel on summer evenings when I was playing in the garden—& they took me in to bed before the sun had set!

I am asking you, (see my modest list) to bring me some packets of self toning printing papers. I also want you to send me by post ½ packets of printing paper self-toning. I could not get any in Cairo.

The Kodak & developer have turned out a great success, though there have been some failures & the conditions of developing have not been quite ideal in some ways: our first were spoilt a bit with the Nile mud—yesterday something awful happened, I don’t know what—we had a whole roll of a dozen films—the day’s history—all total blanks.

Nov. 24th. But yesterday’s the films {3} were splendid. I have printed one of each & fixed them to send in my circular letter {4}. I am glad to hear that things are moving along at home. What a lot you will have to tell me! I do not yet know the name of your boat. I think you will like Josephine Plunkett very much. I don’t want you to meet her husband—he stands for everything we are fighting against—an honorable & upright man, but his outlook on life comprises everything we hate. Some of her ideas Josephine gets from him—her contempt & fear of the Arabs. Bullying is their one idea of governing, and the relationship is war—always war, with the big guns on our side—& big guns our only safety. She cannot understand Hetty’s relationship with them at all. She besought me to buy a revolver & have it loaded under my pillow! I said I would rather spend the money on a good filter! She was really very conscious about us. Of course it is absolutely ridiculous. There are at least two men who would die before any harm came to us. This time three weeks, if all is well—you will be here with us. We passed about 4 o’clock this afternoon, the village where we had intended passing the first night on the boat—a week ago! We have been going well today though. The moon-rise this evening was like another dawn—a tawny shadowy dawn. It has been a wonderful day. Marie says I look as I used to look when I was still going to school & in truth this life suits me right well. I should like to see two more moons come to the full in Egypt.

If you could get a small portable volume of Heroditus† I should like to have it out here.

I am sending the photos in the circular letter—you had better take possession of the “Peace, perfect peace” one—it might shock some of our good folks.

We began a story today, which is to last for many days—Enani told us Chapter 1. It was quite easy today to understand the arabic—we hardly had to pull up at all. Every day it opens a little more to one. . .

And now my best & dearest, my one great thing, I send you back my heart. Come, come quickly, for everything is ready for you. Come to the heart of the sun & to the heart of the woman to whom you belong. Come, live, taste the forgetfulness which is the sleep & re-creation of the soul—& carry back the might & beneficence of the sun-lord. God keep you & bless you & hold safely in his hand in store for me, the happy day when I shall see again your face.

Your Littley Patz


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} See PETH 7/161.

{2} Not extant.

{3} Presumably a slip for either ‘yesterday’s films’ or ‘yesterday the films’.

{4} PETH 7/150.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



4th Letter.

Nov. 19.

Radiant sunset, calm & serene, afterglow of flame & then the silver light of the moon almost at the full. We think of the desert & the Sphinx—we must see her once again. Here, to wish is to have your wish fulfilled. Nobody says—it is impossible. If it comes into your mind to have dinner at 6 instead of 7 o’clock—you say so, that is all! We set out, we three, the dragoman Abdul Enani, & our ‘big dog’ Ali, and reaching the edge of the desert we walk under the mighty shadows of the pyramids—& the sand is soft & warm under our feet. The light that never was on sea or land is on the desert tonight—it is the eternal life. No stories tonight, only the subdued musical voices of the men susceptible to every change of mood.

Nov. 20.

A visit to Cairo in the morning—a quiet afternoon listening to stories from the Koran—the most delightful way of learning arabic that can possibly be imagined. The only drawback, from that point of view, is that the face & voice & gestures of the narrator are themselves a study so fascinating as to make me at times quite oblivious to everything else—at the harrowing or exciting points of the story the words drop to a dramatic whisper or flash in rapid emphasis. This is one of the stories from the Koran. “The Lord said once to his servant the Prince Moses—“I do not like that black dog there; he has not a single white hair on him”. Then the Prince Moses sought to serve the Lord & he said—“I will kill this dog”. So he put a collar round his neck & led him away to the desert & there he tied him up, thinking that without food or drink he would surely die. After three days he went to see if the dog were dead. He found that a river of water ran beside him & fish leaped from the river into his mouth—and the dog was not dead—for he drank of the water of the river & ate of the fish in the river. Then Moses was astonished & said—“Lord, didst thou not say that thou likest not this black dog without one white hair”. And the Lord said—“It is true, oh Moses, that I like not this black dog without one white hair—but I have no wish to kill him”. Then Moses went to his home puzzled, for he understood not the way of the Lord.”

From stories we fall into conversation—of travel & different countries & customs. Enani could not believe that my husband had not paid any money for me! He wished he could get his wives so cheap. He had paid £200 each & they were both lazy & not even good looking! He has sent away the first & is going to send away the second & buy another. “If I came to live in England I would have six wives! English men must live very cheap—wives not cost them nothing!” “No Enani, if you came to England you could only have one wife.” “One wife! Only one wife!! No that is impossible. What does the English man do when he sees somebody he loves, prettier than his one wife?” It is strange to think what an utterly different conception of life these Arabs have. Not less moral! They never touch strong drink, they keep the fast of Ramadan most strictly—they pray devoutly several times a day—they have a code of honour which when once understood is no less sacred & binding than our own: but when I thought of telling our western stories to this Bedawin, I saw how impossible they would be. Grim’s fairy tales were the only ones I could think of.

Nov. 21.

Monday. Still in Cairo—my letters sent on to Ouasta! But a mail was due I knew & I sent a messenger into Cairo to wait & bring me back that day’s tidings from home. While he was away the right wind suddenly sprang up! We were in the middle of a story, at the most exciting point, when in dashed one of the crew—with the cry—“The wind”. In a moment all is bustle & noise—such a commotion—the great sail is hoisted to a chorus in which all the crew join—& the boat spreads its great wings & away we go—the most delicious motion in the world. Not only our boat, but all the boats large & small wake up & the river is full of life. One boat in front of us, turning broadside looks like a huge butterfly just pitching. We cannot go far as we have left two men behind & have to wait for them to pick us up. Presently after we have anchored for the night, they pick us up—bringing a goodly packet of letters—& we have some music & dancing from the crew, to celebrate the return of the wind.

Nov. 22.

Really one never gets a minute. Our curtains are all made now though & are put up—the flags are made—it is like setting up house! We get a little walk on the bank before starting—then the wind has dropped again. But about 1 o’clock, the chorus begins, the cries of Allah! Allah! and sails are set & once more we are flying before the wind. It is the most delicious movement in the world—free & swift, with no sense of limitation or friction—we pass groups of peasants—we see camels running against the skyline, here close at hand are the dates growing upon the palm trees—barks in full sail swish past us, laden with sacks or with cattle, & each with its group of squatting figures: the afternoon is all too short—the sun sets, the moon rises—and we moor again for the night. Dark craft in full sail creep up silently & pass on wrapt in the mystery of the night.

We begin our evening task. When the sun has set, Marie & I get into the little rowing boat & develop our Kodak films—a great disappointment tonight: a clean dozen films, not a mark on them—as the result of the day’s selection. What has happened? We cannot imagine. Better luck tomorrow.

After dinner Ali says—“I go a fishing”. He is dressed now in a short blue cotton petticoat, with legs bare from the knees—& he has his net & basket. Very strange is it, & very lovely in the stillness of the night, no sound but the soft lapping of the water & the swish of the net as it is thrown by the fisherman.

[Nov. 23.]

Another night of long delicious sleep—one is generally waked by the dawn, only to fall asleep again at once, until the full day has come. But oh how quickly the days fly by. It is Wednesday already—nearly one week out of our four on the Nile gone! No wind again—we go walking along the bank, Ali fishes again, we stop & talk with the charming little groups we meet. Sunshine, absolute well being, constant entertainment, perfect content—what can one want more. What a world, where the sun shines every day & the moon every night. Perhaps there will be another “holy man” presently to give us his blessing & bring the wind. That was the cause of the good luck the other day. We were lying moored to the bank, and he passed along—& wished us well. We gave him a coin & soon were sailing merrily.

In the afternoon we have visitors from the village & from the barges lying just ahead. Enani entertains them with stories on the bank—the picturesque groups arrange & rearrange themselves—now they are playing a game with squares marked in the sand & pebbles. Marie wants to understand—& “Ali” is only too happy to show her, & is very much impressed with the intelligence of the lady—an impression which is presently deepened & shared by all the crew when the lady takes an oar in the rowing boat! Books, letters, photo printing compete for one’s attention—but everything fares badly except “tea”. It is enough, to dream oneself into the centre of the life going on around & to pick up a few new words of arabic. However at sunset we develop our films again in the boat—& anxiously await the result. Every one of them splendid—a great success. The moon rises big & golden—we take the rowing boat & a lamp & row out on the river. On one of the barges some one is playing the flute. We row in & are greeted with smiles of welcome. The flute—oh yes we are welcome to that—it is nothing. With thanks for the gift & salaams we push off into the river again, & Enani takes the flute; which is simply a reed made of the sugar cane—& its long drawn out notes float back to our dahabiyeh—& are answered by tom-toms on the barges.

In the evening the circle of arabs on our lower deck is much larger—not only our own crew are gathered but visitors from the barges—& the music & dancing is very spirited—the long pipe of hashish is passed round, the tom-toms are passed from hand to hand to be heated by the wood fire, which thickens the atmosphere on the tented deck with curling smoke—the flute sounds like the Scotch bagpipes—the dandes are more & more wonderful—the dancers make themselves taller & shorter, the head held quite still, the muscles undulating like those of a snake. Then farewells are said & the visitors troop silently away. Marie & Hetty sit down on one of the sails on the upper deck to talk—after a little while they feel their seat move under them.—Horror! They have been sitting on the Captain who has already retired for the night!

Nov. 24.

And so here we go again before the wind, over dancing waves & this for the next three weeks will be our life—hour after hour & day after day the same yet not the same for two minutes together.

This day three weeks Fred will be coming—& we shall leave the boat & take to tents—but before then, there will be all the wonderful things between here & Luxor to see. Up to now, the study of Arabic has proved much more fascinating than hieroglyphs—and though it may shock erudite friends—the Egyptian sky & sunshine are better than the temples of the ages gone by—for they are older than all, yet vital—& divinity yet dwells in them & diffuses from them, and there is but one tense in the verb “To be”.

Southward! Southward! All the North behind—right into the heart of the noon sun—to the centre of light. Oh the joy of it—the delight! The sense of being unmoored at last! The sense of movement without friction, of life without limitation. Perhaps it is even so, when the soul passes the portals of death, leaves the gloom & the shadow & the cold which we call life, knowing nothing better & emerges into the God-lighted life radiating universe. But there is only one tense, I said. The sunbeams are dancing from the water ripples right into my heart. Greeting & love to all our dear ones. Think of us well & happier than words can tell. Joy be with you all.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabeah Bolbol. Nov. 26. 04.

Schatz—here are your dear letters just come. Mursi ran to the Post-office & fetched them. There are two, the ones {1} with the dear violets from The Mascotte, & the one with a letter in 2 parts & enclosures, from Stead, from W. I. C. {2} & from Edith Ellis. How glad I am to have word from you again & to know you are happy. Last night I could scarcely sleep again, for thinking of everything—for thinking of the day coming so soon now, when I shall come to meet you & you will be one of our merry party. This is, I suppose, the last letter that you will receive from me in England, though I shall probably have a try for another. It depends on the wind! on my getting on to postal stations!

Business first. I certainly did not wish the pillars of The Mascotte painted green—I said “all white—everything”. I should like to resign from the Women’s Industrial Council Committee—I never attend & have no faith in the organization. I should be glad if you can let Shepherd write to the effect that I am away from England for this winter—& that as I am away from London in the summer & not able to attend, I wish to resign. Now I want to tell you about a little plan.

I have had a very cordial note from Lady Cromer—it has been waiting for me for a week here. She asks us to go to tea with her. I am writing to tell her we have left Cairo—but that we shall be camping close to the Sphinx in January—& to invite herself & Lord Cromer to dinner with us in the desert. I have talked to Enani about it, & he enters with spirit into the plan. He says he has a beautiful ‘salon’ tent—& we will have everything very very nice indeed & make a great feast. Lady Cromer has never been in the desert, he says—and I believe she would love to come & see us in that way. It ought to be at the time of the January full moon—& we ought to have a great “Fantasie”—the best music & dancing that Enani’s village can do—a great great time. I am sure it will be like everything else a great success, great than one imagines. We have everything—every single thing that heart or mind can wish for—not one single contretemps—everything quite quite perfect. I hope you are going to say that we will see two moons after you come—i.e. the one that you come with, & one more. Then I will be content. But oh it is all so very new & so very big. I still feel sometimes that is {3} is all one dream—the life here belongs to the life of wonderland & fairy tale—it is too radiant to be of this earth. I feel as [if] I can never never be ready to go back. My mind refuses to remember anything. I feel a passionate clinging to each day as it passes—the days are beautiful angels & one clings to their radiant robes entreating them not to go yet. I have never yet felt so greedy of the moments. Don’t take me back too soon!

We are nearing Beni Suef—& in half an hour I shall post this letter. I have told all about our life in the other letter. I want you to bring half a dozen graduated copy books—we are teaching Enani to write in return for his teaching us Arabic. Put that down on the postcard I sent you. I am getting sweets for the children at Beni Suef—also tobacco for the crew. I have written to Lady Cromer & given her the invitation I spoke of.

I hope to get letters at Minieh & to be in time to send you a greeting to Marseilles, (if I know your boat). If you don’t get another letter, you will know that I have been prevented by circumstances. I am afraid to think how much I shall love you when you come—though I have taken the precaution to give half of my heart to the desert! Even the other half may prove to be too much.


I shall send letter & probably telegram to Shepheard’s Hotel. Telegram should be addressed to the Dahabeah Bolbol & sent to the Post Office of the place where we may happen to be.

Whether we are at Luxor or not when you come, I shall be at some station & post office en route. {4}


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} This should read ‘one’. The letter referred to is PETH 6/99.

{2} The Women’s Industrial Council. See the next paragraph.

{3} A slip for ‘it’.

{4} The two postscripts were added on the first sheet.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



5th Letter.

Nov. 25. Dahabijeh Bolbol.

Here we are at Ouasta at last—where letters have been waiting for me already for a week—we have passed an hour or two ago the village where 8 days ago we intended spending our first night—so contrary have the winds been. The good stupid old Mursi is despatched for the letters & told to run to the post & back as we do not want to stop & lose the wind: he bears my card, with a written request to the postmaster to deliver the letters to him & he brings me back such a very polite kind note from the postmaster, wishing me a pleasant journey—hoping my letters will be full of good news—saying that he will post forward to Minieh any belated dispatches. Amongst my letters is a very cordial one from Lady Cromer which has been waiting a week—asking us to tea with her & saying how great a pleasure it will be to see me & hear news of Fitzroy Sq. She often “looks back” to those days & would like to come back & see all again. There is also a kind little note from Mr Cope’s friend Mrs Vere Alston—hoping that she may meet us on our return. The letters from home fulfil the good wishes of the postmaster & add to our happiness. Abdul Enani is full of a new idea. He has just built a beautiful new house—it has a big “salon”, & a well, & a bathroom!—everything nice: now, won’t we go & live in it for the summer & he will be our servant? At first we do not take the project seriously but he is in earnest. He finds Hetty alone. Does she think “the great lady” (es Sitt gebir) will come. But Hetty says—“No, because the heart of the great lady is with her husband & where he is, she must be.” He shakes his head gloomily. Presently he renews the subject. “It is beautiful in the summer—you sit in the shade & feel the beautiful cool wind—& the wind from the desert smells so beautiful in the summer.” “But Enani, what would you do if we got ill?” “I would take you into the desert—no one is ever ill in the desert: you know that is true, Sitt” (appealing to Hetty). “You should live one week in the desert—& one week in the house, & you should ride horses in the desert.”

Presently he comes to Hetty again. “Would not the husband of the great lady stay with her if she wished it very much.

“No, Enani, I am afraid he could not.”


“Because he is like a great sheyk in his country & he must stay with the people in his country.”

Another gloomy shake of the head.

“Well then, you & the other lady, won’t you stay?”

“We should like to stay, but I am afraid it cannot be.”

“Why not? I would take care of you—you would be as safe with me as if you were at home—I never leave you.”

“Yes Enani, we should be safe with you I know. We can trust you entirely.”

“Then why not come?”

“There are many reasons.”

“What are they?”

“Well, Enani, for one thing it costs a great deal of money to live in your country—much more than it costs to live in our own.”

“What does that matter? English ladies are all rich.”

“No Enani—not all.”

“Oh but when they want money, they have only to go to the bank & get it. Well perhaps you will think about it—perhaps you will come.”

Enani himself is quite “a duke”. Smokes only the best cigarettes—dresses with magnificence & is lordly in all his ways.

When it was pointed out to him that if he became our servant he could not go with any tourists & would lose a lot of money, his reply was—“I have money enough”.

We are all very very happy—all the servants & all the crew as well as ourselves. “If you are happy, then all are happy” is often said to us. The men seem to find so much pleasure in pleasing. Tonight sitting on the bank close beside the boat I tell my first story, every word in arabic! The men are quite as pleased as I am & greet me as I return to the boat with “Es Sitte shrata”—“the wise lady”. Enani is a walking “Thousand & one nights”—& now we can understand most of all he says without stopping him for the meaning. One of his stories that fascinate me is about a fisherman who went to the river & caught a great big fish; it had no eyes—only a long head standing up like a tower & at the top of it a great mouth. And the fisherman said—“Never have I seen a fish like this—no eyes, only a mouth—how does he get food?” Then he looked again & saw a little ant climbing up the head with a grain of food, & after him another & another, & another, each ant with a grain of food, each dropped his grain into the mouth of the fish. Then the fisherman said—“Why does the Lord care for an ugly fish like this, & send him his food, & I have to work hard? I will not work any more, but will go home & prya the Lord to send food to me as he does to the fish.” The rest of the story is too long to tell & is not of importance. How many people one knows,—let me say rather, how all too easy it is to be that fish—to know no more of life than the bit that is pushed down one’s throat by the little circumstances & surroundings of every day.

Marie says—“I feel like that great big fish—the ants are coming too quickly & I can’t make room for all they are bringing every minute.”

Nov. 26th. Another day—blue, blue, blue—no wind except a breath from the South west—all the sails in the river flapping idly—the water like glass—the hills jagged in outline, limned in delicate lavendar against the sky. We have been for a walk—& now whilst I am writing in the saloon, Hetty & Ali are sitting on the bank—Hetty painting & Ali holding the umbrella. Marie, Enani & a circle of women & girls & children are laughing & talking on the bank. I have taken a photo of each group & hope they will give something of the spirit of the scene.

Now the girls come to the side of the boat & peep in at me through the windows of the saloon—full of admiration for everything—& delighted with some biscuits I give them. They ask for nothing. We have had no begging at all: no cries for backsheesh! A little boy comes with some spinning & Marie is taught how to do it, a little married girl about twelve years old strokes her velvet shoes tenderly & brushes the dust off them: presently they shyly invite Marie & Hetty to have a romp with them on the bank. But it is nearly noon & too hot for romping—otherwise of course we should all be delighted! {1}

There seems no hope of the wind waking up today—we have waited till nearly noon—now the men begin to tow the boat. It looks hard work—but how cheerfully they do it, singing the while. All through the afternoon “Kula na’im” (everything sleeps)—the winds sleep in the heavens, the light sleeps in the waters, the shadows sleep in the hills of gold, and the heart sleeps—a living sleep of light.

The sun slowly sinks towards the west, burnished gold are the sandbanks now, & the jagged mountains behind dream a purple dream. The supreme colour drama begins—this evening it is different from anything we have yet seen—more supernatural—the hills are nearer—they burn with light, a flame that is of rose & blue & mauve & lambent gold. We are moored now, & the soft contralto voices of the men sitting on the bank, waiting for the moment when they may break their fast, make a soft music. On the Eastern bank, two children, dots of purple & scarlet, lead their flock of sheep—& chant—a curious rhythm something like a yodelling. Absolute radiance, utter peace, beauty that makes the heart gasp! Complete & perfect happiness—a new revelation of the riches of the earth. Surely heaven & hell are included in this planet.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The ink changes at this point. The passage which follows was probably added in the evening.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



6th Letter.

Nov. 27.

The men towing & wading, sometimes having to swim—until suddenly the North wind springs up & wafts us to Beni Sueff. Here the stores are to be replenished—& the crew are to buy a sheep for themselves & some tobacco & presently they will have a feast. They have not tasted meat since they left Cairo: their frugal fare consisting of soaked black bread & lentils. All are in great spirits. Marketing has to be done quickly as the North wind is blowing now & we do not want to lose our chance of getting on. So Ali & Muhammed are left to be our guard, while the others do the business. Beni Suef is a squalid town—the people seem very poor & everything is very dirty. We are followed by a great crowd, mostly children, & feel like a trio of Pied Pipers. Presently a lad who has been walking with us all the way opens a conversation in English. “Do not be angry”, he says. “Do not be angry with the Children.” We assure him that on the contrary we are amused & pleased—another boy joins the conversation. They have learnt English in the school—& from that moment we have a delighted escort—indeed, such naive expressions of open appreciation would be embarrassing if not so amusing. “The first moment I saw your face,” said the smaller boy to Marie, “my heart was moved.” “I have never spoken to an English lady before, I have followed the English always, but I did not speak to them & they did not speak to me. It is a great joy to speak to such a good lady as you!” They wrote their names down & gave them to us, begging for ours in exchange & the big boy took an old coin out of his clothes & begged us to have it as a remembrance & we must promise never never to forget him, as he would never never forget this day. And, said the little boy to Marie, “if I come to London when I am a man I shall go all over the country till I find you!” We gave them some English coins & parted at the boat-side. “Mursi” is waiting to welcome us, with tea ready—we are received back like long-lost children. It is amusing to think of all our packets of tea & Nestle’s milk & arrowroot & bovril etc that we brought out with us. We have only to ask for the Moon to have half a dozen men climbing the sky to get it. I verily believe that if Enani, or Mursi or Ali were to see us making tea, they would be as surprised as we should be to see a baby warming the milk for its own bottle. Anything we want, at any minute is there at once, if we call Ya Enani! Ya Ali! or Ya Mursi!

Soon Enani & the men are seen striding along with their big basket & parcels, & in five minutes more we are off. But the wind already begins to sleep— {1} & soon after dark we moor for the night—and the evening is spent in telling stories & in watching the Fantasia, which the men make for us. They are very much pleased when I take the tom tom & beat it for them to dance.

Nov. 28th

A walk after breakfast & then the start. A good day’s journey—for we have the wind all day. Now the sun sets & we we† steer right into the cloudless glory. Two stars are burning in the burning sky. The days are like a necklace of opals which I saw in the bazaar at Cairo—each opal separated by a white sapp[h]ire from the next. The days are opals & the nights are the white sapphires—& this day has held the heart of fire. The light fades—it is time for Enani to bring his flute & play to us. Hetty is touching her Spanish guitar with the soft sweet tones so suited to this world, where a piano would seem an absurdity, almost an outrage. {1} The night falls softly. Presently we are listening to a most dramatic & exciting story told by Enani. After dinner tonight, Marie reads an arabic story which she has carefully written out. It is received with enthusiasm. It is perfect arabic! Dark eyes shine with pride & delight. Afterwards Enani has his first lesson in writing English.

Nov. 29.

Awake with the dawn. A little walk before breakfast. We come across an encampment—a happy family—donkeys, sheep, goats, dogs. If I had my camera! The words are scarcely said before feet are flying over the sand back to the boat. The camera is brought—the picture is taken. “Kulu mabsut” (“Everybody happy!”)

My whole morning is spent writing out the story of Big Claws & Little Claws in arabic—to read to the men tonight. This night there is a sunset of passionate peace, glowing into passionate intensity. Water & wind quiet—the world a deep blue well of peace, a purple well of peace, the palm trees along the edge of the Eastern bank reflected in the water. Then the purple glows in the west—& becomes a fire, wonderful beyond words. {1} The wind has dropped again & the men are punting with long poles. Suddenly there comes just a breath—the men throw down their poles & begin to sing & to dance—caper in a circle—it is a sort of incantation to keep the wind. This is such a land of rites & incantations & prayers. This morning I woke before the dawn—there was a great stillness. Just one dark barge was gliding silently downstream, & silhoutted against the Eastern sky was a tall cloaked figure, bowing down his head repeatedly & standing in prayer. Wherever they are the men pray—telling their beads—kneeling & touching the ground with their forehead. Just now Ali was fishing on the shore & the Nubian boy was carrying the pail—& when there was a minute or two to wait he just knelt down & said his prayers.

Tonight Enani has another lesson in reading & writing & is very proud of himself.

Nov. 30.

A great gale of wind! Unluckily from the wrong quarter—dead South. We are moored to a great stretch of desolate sand—white & wintry. The wind becomes a sandstorm—everything is blotted out: the sun when it shows at all, is a ghastly sulphur: we might be in the middle of a London fog.

Everything is full of sand. The wind continues dead against us, till sunset, when it drops & we walk over the waste into the sunset. There is some peculiar excitement in the sand, the look of it, the feel of it under the feet. One wants to leap rather than walk, there is [a] sense of glorious freedom. Can we give up this new glorious freedom at the end of a few weeks. Why not forget everything & stay here for ever? The spirit of the river shall say. So Ali Suefi, Hetty’s faithful one of old times, who is fishing from the bank, casts in his net. If a big fish comes back with the net, we stay. We hold our breath in suspense. The net is flung out, forms a magic circle over the water, it drops & is drawn back with care—& lo & behold! a big fish is in its meshes—the only big fish caught that evening!

We come back to the deck, the dark & the stars. Lying on the divans on deck, tucked up warm in our big shawls, we summon Enani & his flute. Looking up into the clear sky, there enters into me a spirit of glad & eager adventure untouched by any afterthought. Danger, Death, even a violent death could be welcomed in a mood like this! One would go forth to the “adventure wild & new” of a new life in the unknown, with an exulting heart. The universe in all light—all God.

Surely that is one of the gifts of the desert—Courage.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The ink changes at this point.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



7th Letter.

Dec. 2nd.

Just as we thought that at last we had got a good wind, it was blowing half a gale from the N. west, just as we were merrily making for Minieh, we reach a bend in the river turning west, & the very strength of the wind now stops us, making it impossible for the men to tow the boat against stream.

This is indeed a test of patience. If we were the true children of the desert we should be content with all the winds, for are they not all fulfilling the will of Allah? But we have been 9 days without news of any kind—& all our letters are waiting at Minieh, full 20 miles away. Ali must go & get them—he must walk to the nearest railway station, take train to Minieh, & back down the river, meeting us, where & how—Allah knows. It depends on the wind. Ali says “Ready”—& goes. It is noon. The wind does not change. Were we but one mile further up, all would be well. We amuse ourselves very pleasantly—inspect a native village—gather a little group of children who are just on the verge of terror—at any quick movement they run. Enani tells us stories, plays his flute, sings, & recites Bedouin songs & poetry—and night falls. About midnight we are awakened by a pandemonium—a perfect orgy of noise—men shrieking, dogs barking, donkeys braying, camels groaning: the whole could only be compared to a summer Saturday night in a London slum, like Somerstown. Only there, have I ever heard the raving, the excitement, the horrible sound suggestive of men as wild beasts. We open our windows & look out. The stars are shedding in the quiet river narrow pathways of light. On the bank side in front of our boat & behind it are moored some 20 or 30 big barges, driven to anchorage as we have been. The men are shouting to each other, & to the “village guards” who ‘keep watch’ on the bank. The village at a little distance behind seems full of excitement: the dogs are barking themselves hoarse in every semitone of the natural scale. But nobody seems the worse for it. We conclude it is all right & eventually succeed in getting to sleep.

The next morning Enani explains that it is often like that during the month of Ramadan. The people sleep during the day—& feast all night. Excitement is only normal. Nothing can be done, without noise & shouting & gesture. One morning I was awakened by cries & trampling of feet. It was the ferry boat. The men & women rushed towards it as though they were flying from a burning city, cows & donkeys were tumbled in—half the animal in the boat, with its legs in the river—pushing, hauling, expostulating—yet the ferry plies every day backwards & forwards between the two banks.

Dec 3rd.

We are up before sunrise—& breakfast before 7 o’Clock. Ali has not come. It is a still morning & the men tow us out of this unlucky reach, & no sooner are we well out of it, than the wind of yesterday springs up again, & soon we [are] going gaily. About noon—just 24 hours after he left us, we see Ali again. He is signalling from a barge that is coming down with the stream. Just at this moment we are going at such a pace that it is impossible to stop soon enough. The rowing boat is put off—the Dahabeah is anchored—& it is very nearly an hour, before the arrival of Ali with his bag of letters. Faithful Ali—his eyes shining with triumph & pleasure. He passed the night on the river bank with his head on our bag of letters, & watching, he had forgotten to eat. “But what does it matter?”, he says. He is only too happy to have kept everything safe & to be with us again! And we are happy to have Ali back—he makes the party complete again, just as a big dog one is very fond of makes the family circle complete & adds a sense of companionship & security. The fact that he neither speaks nor understands one word of English, makes the comparison more complete. Letters & a good wind are the events of this day, which glides away as a bead glides down the string to make a chain.

Dec 4th

Glorious morning—warm, blue, absolutely serene, absolutely still. Not a breath of wind. We have passed Minieh now. The river stretches out into a wide expanse with flat sand islands, the home of pelicans & wild duck. The high sand banks & hills beyond glow warm in the morning sun. After a walk on the bank, full of those little pictures & incidents that make the interest & pleasure of this leisurely life, the men pull us slowly upstream. The day dreams on—gleaming blue. It is like living in the heart of a great jewel. Blissful content is our portion. There is nothing to wish for except wind—wind to blow us up to Beni Hassan—where the rock tombs are. There are conditions of atmosphere, when it is almost impossible to wish for anything.
We astonish & petrify Enani this evening, by telling him that the earth is round—that the sun does not travel in the sky. We are able to make him admit that the world may be round—though he evidently does not really believe it—but that the sun does not go behind the desert to sleep & come back again in the morning—that is quite inconceivable. They may tell one so in the schools—but who has been up in heaven to see?

Dec 6th {1}

The rock tombs of Beni Hassan are but 3 miles away, & as the wind comes from the South again—we resolve to improve the shining hour. So Ali is sent off for donkeys. They arrive—without saddle however except for a piece of goat skin tied on with rope, and with a necklace of string for bridle. We are not to be baulked by small difficulties, we negociate the donkeys & gallop off, happy as kings. We have a grand time, lots of fun, & come “home” in a wonderful sunset glow, all the rocks & sand like the heart of a bright furnace. Tea is ready & after our violent exercise! it is well to sit still & contemplate the sunset. Could our friends have seen us, urging our willing little beasts with the orthodox wild cry ah-ha! ah-ha! I fear Marie & I don’t take much stock in dead men, bones, coffins & tombs! Hetty is shocked & disappointed. They are interesting enough to see once—the river, the sky, the hills, the people possess a changing & never ending charm.

Dec 6th

This is one of our most picturesque days.

We awake with the dawn, and from our cabin windows we see that the village is awake too. Cows have been brought to the bank, & are being milked for us—while the shekh of the village and the guards squat in a line along the sand, Enani in the midst, gorgeously attired & holding forth in his grand style, giving emphasis to his story with dramatic play of the hands. After breakfast we leave the Bolbol for a walk along the river, first arranging that the boat is to be towed along after us. The Shekh rises, gives us his greeting, and proceeds with us. He is very tall & dignified & has a magnificient† walk. We practise our very insufficient arabic and presently we sit down for a rest and coax the Shekh to tell us a story. He is very shy & wants a lot of coaxing & a lot of teasing, but presently yields. By this time others have joined our group & we are all very happy & amused & have forgotten all about wind & weather—when suddenly Ali breaks out into a chant of thanksgiving, in which the others join their voices. The wind comes. Allah be praised. The Bolbol is seen rounding the bend in full sail. We are escorted back, jump on board. The shekh refuses to see the small gift that I have in my hand to give him, but grandly bows & offers his hand in farewell—& away we go.

Enani is a bit disconsolate, & just a wee bit inclined to be sulky—he doesnt quite like our having such a good time without him—he says it makes him “feel jealous in his stomach”. He is resplendent today, with a circle of big amber prayer-beads for which I quite thoughtlessly express admiration. Immediately it is laid in my hands. “It is yours”. “oh no, no no, Enani. I shall never look at anything again if you say that”. “It is the custom of the Bedouins”, he replies—“we never keep anything for our own, if anyone says “I like that”. “If it were my horse or my house it would be the same.” If you want to give me a great pleasure you will say no more.” {2}

After the mornings walk, it is delicious to be on deck & watch the changing scenes & changing lights—& wonder where we shall sleep tonight. “Are we going far today Enani?” “As the Lord wills”, he says, “it is written down.”

There was once a great man; he saw in a dream, 7 lean buffaloes; he knew that he should have 7 bad years—that everything he tried to do would fail, that everything would go wrong. So he made up his mind to leave his country, not to return until the 7 years were over. He left his house with one mule, & all his treasure for the journey, was placed in a sack upon the mule’s back. He came to the ferry—the sailors were pulling the mule on the boat by a chain, when the chain broke, the mule fell into the water & was carried away by the current. The sailors would have taken a rowing boat, would have tried to save the mule, but the man said, “No use, leave it, I have seen that it has to be.” The night comes on, & the man now without money begs hospitality of a good shekh, who take[s] him in & gives him protection. Next morning, the camel, the cow & the horse of the shekh are dead. He wanders on, sometimes finding work, but always bringing bad luck to his master—till the years are past. Then he sets out to return to his country. But now everybody wants him to come & be their servant. Presently he comes to the house of the shekh who gave him protection before. He takes him in again, not knowing him to be the same man, & next morning his camel, his horse & his cow have all got babies. Now he comes again to the river, stooping to wash his hands in the water they become entangled in hair, he pulls the hair, & draws up a chain, the chain draws up his sack of money lost 7 years before, & thus comes the arabic proverb. “When it goes, it breaks the chain, when it comes, it comes by a hair.” If success, riches, happiness, honour are not for you, nothing will get them or keep them, if they are in the Lord’s mind for you, then they will all come, you can sit still & wait. It is all written down, says Enani. Nothing can alter it. You have just to wait, till some day the luck comes back.

Dec 7.

The last day of Ramadam†. “All† hamdu l’Allah” (Allah be praised). No longer shall we watch our men getting thinner & thinner—no longer shall we feel ashamed of our own joy when luncheon is served! It is our hottest day—the salamanders are darting about in the sand. We make about 10 miles & stop when the wind stops—at the setting of the sun. We wanted to get to a town in time for the celebration of the Feast of Beiram {3}, but it is written down otherwise. We moor near a pretty village about a mile S of Tel-el-Marna {4}, on the opposite bank of the river.

Enani draws out a little programme of what we shall be able to do in the morning. I recognize it, as a very delicate & diplomatic way of telling me that I must not expect the men to tow or to punt on the morrow.

Dec 8th

It is still dark. There is a terrific clamour on the Bank. What can it be! Surely the Feast cannot have begun already! We look out. Yes, a crowd has assembled already, & in the dim light, a long stream of people can be seen gathering. All is intense excitement, shouting, gesticulation. Already ferry boats are ready to take the people. Where are they all going, the women with large baskets on their head[s]—the men, the children? Going over to the Arab Cemetery the other side, to feast. It is every moment getting lighter, the figures become more distinct—our boat is the centre of the scene. We feel as though we were in the boxes at a theatre. The ferry boats cannot all come quite to the bank, & women with their babies are carried by two men, & here & there a sturdy St Christopher takes up three children in his arms & wades waist high through the water. After our breakfast Enani asks if we would like to go across to the Cemetery & see the people. Ali is sent before to fetch donkeys & have them waiting. We set off. At the Cemetery we are autom[at]ically surrounded by a body-guard of about 20 young men with long sticks: quite a necessary precaution as no sooner are we on the ground among the mud monuments & tombs & the crowds of people than a rush is made & we become the great event of the day. We feel like a circus, crowds of eager, curious, excited faces encircle us, & way has to be cleared by the long sticks of our men, who lay about with a will—thwack—thwack go the sticks, as we desire a space cleared to take a photograph. Nobody minds—it is great fun, quite a mutual entertainment. Our ears are so deafened with the noise, that when at last we get back to our donkeys, there is a sense of the cessation of all things. We are mounted & are away to Tel el Marna, followed by our guards running on foot—this time they are with us presumably entirely for their own pleasure, as with our own men & the donkey men we are quite sufficiently escorted. When we come to the Palace of Tel-el-Marna—of course we have left our monument tickets in the boat. What does it matter. The tickets are in the boat, the official can come back to the boat presently & see them! Meanwhile we are going in to see the palace. All right! Marble floors, with beautiful water reed & lotus design, flying birds, & swimming fish are very wonderful—the colour still beautiful. We have a lovely ride back through palace gardens. Just as Marie is enjoying a good gallop, her donkey boy in excess of zeal, to reassure her by showing that he is there, gives her a touch that upsets her balance & knocks off her eye glasses. Her vehement cries of “Stop”, are understood as a[n] appeal for more gallop, & it is some minutes before a halt is called & a long & futile search is made. Everything becomes covered up so quickly in the sand. In a moment a great crowd is gathered—excitement gathers every moment. At last we are glad enough to get out of it, & back to our little rowing boat. And there are the flags streaming in the wind which is well behind us. We are welcomed back to the Bolbol—it is the work of a few minutes to hoist the sails & we are off once more, after an eventful, exciting & exuberant morning.

An hour or two later, as we are sailing smartly, cries are heard on the opposite bank—& a man is seen running. He shouts, that the lady’s glasses are found. The Bolbol is anchored, the boat put out, & a reward for the finder given, & “al hamdu l’Allah”, here are the glasses safe & sound & not a penny the worse! Who is most glad? It would be hard to tell. The eyes of Ali, & of Enani shine with pleasure & joy: everybody is in the best of spirits.

Presently the men begin taking in the sails. What is that for? Is not the wind just what we wanted? Oh yes, but in this cliff of Aboo Fedah—there lives an “affrete” who is always up to mischief—it is better to be on the safe side & carry no sail. We object so strongly to giving in to the affrete, that a compromise is made & we carry one sail. We pass a bevy of eagles—10 or twelve of them, hovering round some carrion floating down the river.

The wind sleeps at sunset & we halt at a charming place—a beautiful palm garden. We make plans for taking some lovely photographs on the morrow. While we are having our walk, the men decorate the boat with Japanese lanterns & palm leaves: it is all perfectly fascinating. We think of the traveller who is now already on the way to us—& wish him Bon Voyage. Could wishes effect the impossible he would be coming tonight & this Feast day should be a double Festival. Tonight we see the new moon—we shall watch it to the perfect round from our tents beside the Temple at Karnak; it will fade as we journey through the desert & there will be renewed again.

Dec 9th

It is not written down, that we are to take our photographs in the Palm garden. At dawn, we are sailing away from the lovely spot, the rocks are steep & rugged—we have presently to negociate long & difficult reaches, curves that need a good deal of clever steering—we see flocks of white plovers, & ibises. After dark we anchor about 5 miles N of Assiut.

Dec. 10.

Early the next morning Ali is sent off to Assiut for the letters. A lazy wind moves us very slowly, sometimes we only just hold our own with the current. It is nearly 3 o’clock before we get to Assiut. But we get our letters about noon—& are content. We are very disappointed in the bazaars of Assiut, after Cairo! We come back from the noise & the bustle at sunset to the boat—& in the evening a dancing girl comes on board to entertain the sailors. The performance is very decorous, some of the movements are extremely graceful—the girl is covered to the feet in a red loose robe, with a black veil over her head & face—her hands & arms are small & beautiful—covered with bracelets. We have a little talk with her. She has a very charming voice, soft & musical. Everybody seems satisfied with this very simple little entertainment.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The date should be the 5th.

{2} Perhaps this passage should be punctuated as follows: “we never keep anything for our own, if anyone says ‘I like that’. If it were my horse or my house it would be the same. If you want to give me a great pleasure you will say no more.”

{3} i.e. Lesser Bairam, lasting three days.

{4} Tel-el-Amarna.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



8th Letter

Dec. 20th Dahabeah Bolbol.

So the days drift on, with a dear monotony of fulness of light: sense of time has gone—is it a week, a month or a year since we began? one scarcely knows, or stops to count. Only let it go on!. It is now Tuesday—5 days since Fred came—5 days since we got up in the dark, & left an illuminated boat, with Enani & Ali carrying lanterns. The train was late, & the dawn came stealing over the world—and it was light before we got back to the boat. A gorgeous day—no wind. The awnings of the boat were up—& there were so many things to talk about. The men took the opportunity to get their store of bread baked. We left Sohag about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, taking advantage of a little puff of wind to get away from the landing stage & the entourage of craft, & anchoring on a little island within sight of the town. The next day a good wind sprang up & has been with us ever since—and we have been sailing swiftly through dancing waves—the song of the day, of the sun, of the water dancing in the heart—the song of the men working the shadoufs on the bank haunting in its elusive rhythm.

On the banks are fishing fleets of pelicans, huge brown eagles gathered in tens & twenties—& smaller white ones amongst them; herons, storks, hawks & plovers, and the solitary dignified white ibis. The morning afternoon & evening melt into each other with infinite changes of colour, light & temperature. It is nearing sunset, & the river bends South East—behind us is a glowing sky and a purple river, before us a glowing sail and a flood of deepest blue—to our left, the rugged mountains covered with sand, have caught the radiance and are alight; & over the coarse reedy grass upon the near bank (the left) the shadow of our two great sails flies like a flying cloud—and on and on we go. Later in the moonlight, we take the rowing boat, or we stroll upon the dry sand—listening to stories or the reed flute with its high piercing passionate note. We lie on the sand Bedawin-fashion—tucked up in our warm rugs—and Enani tells the story which is the origin of the Bedawin phrase—“I have killed my camel a long time ago”.

Once upon a time there were two men, a “fellah” & a “bedawin” arab—they were journeying together—the fellah had a flock of goats, the bedawin had one camel. At night the fellah proposed that each should watch for half the night—but the bedawin wanted to sleep without care—so he killed his camel & lay down—while the fellah sat up & watched through all the night. And to this day, the fellah squats, while the bedawin takes his ease. And if anyone remonstrates he replies—“I have killed my camel”.

We moor at Abutig, at Balliana, at Nagh-Hamadah and Desluch {1}. At Nagh-Hamadah we met with some charming French people, & a glorious bouquet of lovely roses with great long stems & beautiful leaves is brought to the boat, from the sister of the chief engineer—a little box of chocolates which Fred has brought out from London is sent back with our thanks—the flowers are a great joy—with the roses are sprays of lemon-scented verbena, which are constant in their reminder that there are very nice people in the world.

A jackal strolls by our window early this morning, welcome as a sign of how far away we are from the restraining hands of civilization—launched well on our wander-quest. But oh, how can one put into words anything of the joy made up of endless appeal to sight & sense. One sits for hours & hours on the deck, with the sound of the water parting under the bows, with the leaping of the sail & of the flags, with the waves & the sunbeams running along with us in their thousands, laughing with the fun of the race—with the changing drama of the bank-side—content to be, and wanting nothing—books, thoughts, words put aside—life full of outward physical things, and time an eternal present.

Denderah! There is a fine temple a few miles from here, dedicated to the goddess Hathor, queen of love & beauty. A good gallop on donkeys brings us to the temple gate all too quickly—the great vestibule with its 24 columns each adorned with the head of Hathor leads one into the first temple, & thence into courts, in the ancient worship each more sacred than the last, until the Holy of Holies is reached. Every inch of stone, wall & pillar, stairway & roof—is covered with the imprint of human feeling & devotion & imagination. One feels how impossible it is by a mere visit, to grasp anything of the significance of such a building—one needs to pos[s]ess the key of knowledge first & afterwards to have time to think & dream oneself back to that old intensity of faith & feeling—that made such everlasting monuments possible. We can catch but the merest suggestion of all this. To us, the expedition is mainly a frolic. It is great fun, the gallop back, & lunch waiting at the end—and a magnificent sailing wind all the rest of the day.

Dec. 21. The shortest day and, as we fondly dream, our last on board our dear little Bolbol. At sunset we are but 8 miles from Luxor—& we sail forward into the West—a world of Asphodel—and behind us the white & mauve of the full risen moon—where gliding white sails follow our own. But a further bend due west brings us into the teeth of the wind—& for our flat-bottomed keelless boat makes the end of the journey impossible. Still, “we shall sleep in camp tomorrow night”—we say.

Dec. 22.

But it is not so written. For in the morning the same west wind blows strong. But the Sheikh of the village sends his son to invite us into his garden—& we spend a pleasant morning—we are taken to the Guest-house—coffee is brought—& we are urged to stay, until a feast can be prepared & brought. But this invitation we put aside with many thanks & are presently escorted back to the boat. Then men are engaged to tow the boat as the work against wind & tide is too hard for our unaided crew, & slowly through the afternoon we fight on through the difficulties of the way. But at last the bend of the river is turned & now we have the wind with us again. Away we go in first rate style. We make a brilliant arrival at Luxor—Enani fires off his revolver—there are congratulations all round & the due festivities. After dinner, we explore Luxor a little & get our first glimpse of the great temple in the serene light of the moon.

Dec. 23rd.

It is the first freshness of the morning & the light is dancing in the waves—as we set out in the little boat to cross the river. Two good donkeys are chosen & we set off at a good gal[l]op. The spot is chosen—just outside the boundary wall of the Temple of Karnak—not far from the river—close to a good well—a sufficient distance from the native village—& a few steps from “the sacred lake”. Back to the boat & breakfast & the Christmas post. Time to say “Goodbye” now to the dear Bolbol—but all the men are coming to see us safely settled in our camp. An hour or two of loitering in the bazaar at Luxor—then we set out of {2}for our new home. As we catch sight of the 4 white tents—set out under the sunshine—we feel a thrill of pleasure: the servants come forward to welcome us, anxious to see the effect of their morning’s work. The tents are double, white on the outside, on the inside a dark Turkish blue, embroidered with scarlet & white—very restful to the eyes. Luncheon is served in the ‘salon’ tent—and after getting things straight & resting till early tea—we set off on our donkeys for Thebes—cross the river in a ferry—(donkeys & all) & ride to the Colossi of Memnon. There we wait to see the moon rise & are held by the weird spell & fascination of these great figures, seated on their throne for thousands of years looking into the noon sun, while the generations of men, have sown & reaped their little harvest at their feet—& have been gathered themselves by the great Reaper. And they are sowing & reaping still—all unheeding of these watchers of Time—“They take no notice of these monuments?” “Well you see,” says Enani, “these monuments dont take much notice of them!” As the full moon rises, and the mysterious glamour of the light that softens & conceals falls upon those great figures—they seem to breathe with intense silent life—& to thrill with that passion which is patience. And all the time the donkey boys keep up their sweet monotonous little song—an Arab love lament. At last we have to go—& home we ride to find the camp glistening in the moonlight & dinner ready. A few hours later, & the tents are closed & we sleep for the first time in the desert, while the guards watch, & the dogs from the neighbouring village keep up a barking chorus.

Dec. 24th.

The dawn!—the sudden waking!—the dash for the door of the tent & the open—the world bathed in the first fresh radiance of day. A happy light on all the faces—a hasty dressing, a walk & the call the breakfast—and life has begun again.

The whole morning is spent in the great wonderful temple of Karnak—the greatest & most wonderful human conception of a divine habitation—to those who can read a great Book, full of intense meaning; to us, who can only look at the pictures, full of the interest of the obvious. We go again at night to see in the moonlight the presences of those who filed in great procession through these halls thousands of years ago.

Dec. 25. Christmas day—we are up soon after 5 o’clock, to see the day dawn, & the sun rise, from the top of the great Pylon of the Karnak Temple. Ali bears our rugs—& kettle, spirit-stove etc, for we mean to have our first breakfast there on the summit. It is all so beautiful—the Libyan Hills are rosy red and every moment the drama of glow & light & colour changes. We, wrapped in our rugs, wait for the signal of the sun; he rises in unclouded glory—and we begin our early Christmas Feast. Then back to the Camp—& to our real breakfast!—and at 10 o’clock we are in the train en route for Assuan. For we have arranged to leave the camp & have two days of hotel life & civilisation for the sake of seeing Philae & the Barage†!—& in order to come back to Luxor down the river (by the weekly post boat that leaves Assuan every Tuesday) we have to put in those two days now. So we kept our Christmas in camp on Christmas Eve, ate our Christmas pudding, thought & spoke of absent friends & drank their health—& tonight, we shall join with people of our own country and keep the feast with them. At the Station at Luxor, we find that our train has been delayed by some accident, but the Station Master is most friendly & polite—a local train is put on, & a restaurant car is attached for our sole convenience—there is only one other European on the train. We arrive about 4.30—& oh how good it is to turn out of the dusty train into the sunset light & delicious fresh air. We take two of those jolly little carriages with awnings—get to the Cataract Hotel & are shown into most delightful bedrooms, each with a verandah, overlooking the river & the sunset & the mountains. We lose no time in getting out for the glory of the evening is upon every thing touching all these new scenes with a glamour all its own. We are delighted with Assuan—the atmosphere is sparkling—the warmth is delicious, the rocks & cataracts of the river are wholly different from anything we have seen—& the whole effect is as though one had been put down in the enchanted land of some fairy tale. Civilisation is not so bad either! The Hotel is one of the very nicest possible, everything first rate. There is a gala dinner, with a lighted Christmas tree at the top of the Dining Hall. Music. The place is full—& everybody gay & jolly & friendly. We are all very merry & happy—and all of the same mind. We could not possibly have had a jollier Christmas.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.
{1} The readings of these names are uncertain.
{2} A slip for ‘for’.
† Sic.

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