One other circumstance occurred during this journey which is interesting as furnishing a sample of the heroism of the modern Greeks.
On the 5th of August, about noon, our sailors discovered a two-masted ship in the distance, which altered her course immediately on perceiving our vessel, and came sailing towards us. It was at once concluded by all that this ship must be a pirate, else why did she alter her course and give chase to us? The circumstance was indeed singular; yet these maritime heroes ought to have been used to all kinds of adventures, and not at once to have feared the worst, particularly as, so far as I am aware, the pirate’s trade is very nearly broken up, and attempts of this kind are unprecedented—at least in these regions.
A painter like Hogarth should have been on board our ship, to mark the expression of fear and cowardice depicted on the several countenances. It was wonderful to behold how the poor captains ran from one end of the ship to the other, and huddled us travellers together into a heap, recommending us to sit still and keep silence; how they then hurried away and ran to and fro, making signs and gestures, while the pale sailors tumbled after them with scared faces, wringing their hands. Any one who had not witnessed the scene would think this description exaggerated. What would the Grecian heroes of antiquity say if they could throw a glance upon their gallant descendants! Instead of arming themselves and making preparations, the men ran about in the greatest confusion. We were in this enviable state when the dreaded pirate came within gunshot; and the reason of her approach turned out to be that her compass was broken. The whole scene at once changed, as though a beneficent fairy had waved her wand. The captains instantly recovered their dignity, the sailors embraced and jumped about like children, and we poor travellers were released from durance and permitted to take part in the friendly interview between the two heroic crews.
The captain who had spoken us asked our gallant leader in what latitude we were, and hearing that we were sailing to Alexandria, requested that a lantern should be hung at the mainmast-head, at which he might look as at a guiding-star.
With the exception of Cyprus, we had seen no land during all our weary journey. We could only judge when we arrived in the neighbourhood of Damietta by the altered colour of the sea; as far as the eye could reach, the beautiful dark-blue wave had turned to the colour of the yellow Nile. From these tokens I could judge of the magnitude and volume of that river, which at this season of the year increases greatly, and had already been rising for two months.
At eight o’clock in the morning we safely reached
the quay of
Alexandria—Keeping quarantine—Want of arrangement in the quarantine house—Bad water—Fumigating of the rooms—Release— Aspect of the city—Departure by boat for Atfe—Mehemet Ali—Arrival at Atfe—Excellence of the Nile water—Good-nature of the Arab women—The Delta of the Nile—The Libyan desert—The pyramids— Arrival at Cairo.