תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

DESERT PARTRIDGES.

391

us, and though pursued, seldom or never took wing; they trust more to their exceeding swiftness, and their similarity of colour to the desert for escape or protection, than to any power of flight. A trivial circumstance took place concerning a covey of these birds, that speaks more for the honesty of an Arab than we are willing to assign to them. Seeing a number of birds start from our feet among the tombs, Alee requested the gun and some ammunition to have a shot ; the experiment was a trying one, and Paulo advised me not to give it, but trusting in the poor fellow's face, I

gave

the

gun, and off he darted like an arrow. After some minutes I lost sight of him, and an hour elapsed before I saw any thing of Alee, who I was beginning to have strong suspicions had decamped, as he easily might, with the gun, but he met us on the way bringing some birds.

Hyenas frequently started up from our path, but always out of shot ; they are plenty in this part of the country, particularly about the ruined pyramids of Abouseer; they sometimes make excursions to the neighbouring villages, and are frequently taken in traps by the fellahs, who appear to entertain a particular aversion to the animal, probably from its so frequently disinterring and devouring the dead bodies, even when in a state of extreme putrefaction.

We experienced the usual deception mentioned by travellers approaching the pyramids, of their appearing to recede as we drew towards them ; hour after hour passed and still they were far dis

392

APPROACH TO THE PYRAMIDS.

tant. Persons can have no possible conception of the vastness of those monuments without standing beside them, looking from their base to their summits; measuring with the eye of sight their huge dimensions, and with the eye of mind measuring back the ages upon ages that they have there remained. No noisy rapturous expression of surprise or wonder breaks from the traveller ; no hastening forward to rush into the interior ; with me, at least, it was a calm, subdued, speechless, but elevated and lasting feeling of awe and admiration, which took possession of my very soul. Could I embody all the overwhelming thoughts that rushed across my mind, I would say the uppermost was that of time— time, standing as a particle of eternity, is written on these edifices the greatest human industry ever reared, or human pride or vanity can boast of.

[graphic]
[blocks in formation]

A line of camels slowly pacing across the dreary waste, on which they stand, or a Bedawee careering his horse beside the base, give, by the comparison, some faint idea of their stupendous size, and an Arab pirouetting his charger on the sphinx* afforded me the desired contrast, at the same time that it showed me what was the magnitude of that emblem of Egyptian reverence and superstition.

I found my friends from Cairo had arrived early in the morning, and had just returned from the ascent of the larger pyramid of Cheops, and were now waiting for me to join their pic-nic, one of the pleasantest and most exciting I ever partook of. Our table was spread in the facade of one of the rock-tombs, at the foot of the pyramid, commanding a noble prospect of the lovely verdant country beneath, and shadowed by the mass of masonry some four hundred and fifty feet above us. Several foreigners, travellers like ourselves, or residents at Cairo, had accompanied us; and in the variety of their costumes, and diversity of languages, formed.as motley a group as ever visited the sepulchres of the ancient kings of Egypt, or made these vaults resound with the toasts and songs of their native lands.

How time rolls, and spins from its distaff. This sepulchre was once the scene of some priestly mystery, the habitation of some noble body; the progenitor of kings in

* The sand has again accumulated so much on the back of the sphinx, that it is easy to ride to the top.

394

ASCENT OF THE SECOND PYRAMID.

times long, long before the countries its present occupants acknowledged were ever heard of. While my friends remained to rest themselves, I engaged two of the Arabs to conduct me to the summit of the pyramid. My object was explained to them by an interpreter ; but whether from not understanding it, or their supposing that I had formed one of the party, which had been already on the top of the more accessible one of Cheops, and wished to attempt the second, I know not, but off we set, the men leading towards the second pyramid, and crying out “hareem Belzoni,” at the foot of which, near the eastern corner, we presently stood. This pyramid, supposed to have been erected by Chephrenes, it will be recollected, was originally somewhat lower than the neighbouring one of Cheops ; but it is now nearly of the same height, as it stood upon higher ground; and the coating, or outer layer of stones, is perfect for about one hundred and forty feet below the top, which is nearly as complete now as when it originally ended in an apex of a single stone. I was totally unaware of the difficulty and danger of this ascent, and of its having been undertaken by but five or six travellers of late years; the natives themselves never scaling it but for some reward. Had I been acquainted with the difficulties to be encountered, I much doubt whether my enthusiasm would have induced me to venture up.

DIFFICULTIES ATTENDING IT.

395

This, like the others, was first built in steps, or courses of enormous stones, each row placed the breadth of itself within the course beneath. Some stones in the base of this pyramid are larger than those of Cheops, and from four to five feet in depth, so that we had to clamber over them on our hands; but in this, I was assisted by the guides, one an old man, the other about forty, both of a mould, which for combination of strength and agility, I do not think I ever saw surpassed. We soon turned to the north, and finally reached the outer casing on the west side. All this was very laborious to be sure, though not very dangerous ; but here was an obstacle that I knew not how they themselves could surmount, much less how I could possibly master; for above our heads jutted out like an eave, or coping, the lower stones of the coating which still remain, and retain a smooth polished surface. As considerable precaution was necessary, the men made me take off my hat, coat, and shoes, at this place; the younger then placed his raised and extended hands against the projecting edge of the lower stone, which reached to above his chin; and the elder, taking me in his arms, as I would a child, placed my feet on the other's shoulder, and my body flat on the smooth surface of the stone; in this position we formed an angle with each other, and here I remained for upwards of two minutes, till the older man went round, and by

« הקודםהמשך »