Mr. Peterkin attempted to explain that he had taken a steamer from Messina to the south of Italy, and a southern route to Brindisi. By mistake he had taken the steamer from Alexandria, on its way to Venice, instead of the one that was leaving Brindisi for Alexandria at the same hour. Indeed, just as he had discovered his mistake, and had seen the other boat steaming off by his side in the other direction, too late he fancied he saw the form of Elizabeth Eliza on deck, leaning over the taffrail (if it was a taffrail). It was a tall lady, with a blue veil wound around her hat. Was it possible? Could he have been in time to reach Elizabeth Eliza? His explanation only served to increase the number of questions.
Mrs. Peterkin had many more. How had Agamemnon reached them? Had he come to Bordeaux with them? But Agamemnon and Elizabeth Eliza were now discussing with others the number of feet that the Great Pyramid measured. The remaining members of all the parties, too, whose hunger and thirst were now fully satisfied, were ready to proceed to the Sphinx, which only Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza had visited.
Side by side on their donkeys, Mrs. Peterkin attempted to learn something from Mr. Peterkin about the other little boys. But his donkey proved restive: now it bore him on in swift flight from Mrs. Peterkin; now it would linger behind. His words were jerked out only at intervals. All that could be said was that they were separated; the little boys wanted to go to Vesuvius, but Mr. Peterkin felt they must hurry to Brindisi. At a station where the two trains parted—one for Naples, the other for Brindisi—he found suddenly, too late, that they were not with him; they must have gone on to Naples. But where were they now?
THE LAST OF THE PETERKINS.
The expedition up the Nile had taken place successfully. The Peterkin family had reached Cairo again,—at least, its scattered remnant was there, and they were now to consider what next.
Mrs. Peterkin would like to spend her life in the dahabieh, though she could not pronounce its name, and she still felt the strangeness of the scenes about her. However, she had only to look out upon the mud villages on the bank to see that she was in the veritable “Africa” she had seen pictured in the geography of her childhood. If further corroboration were required, had she not, only the day before, when accompanied by no one but a little donkey-boy, shuddered to meet a strange Nubian, attired principally in hair that stood out from his savage face in frizzes at least half a yard long?
[Footnote 1: A boat used for transportation on the Nile.]
But oh the comforts of no trouble in housekeeping on board the dahabieh! Never to know what they were to have for dinner, nor to be asked what they would like, and yet always to have a dinner you could ask chance friends to, knowing all would be perfectly served! Some of the party with whom they had engaged their dahabieh had even brought canned baked beans from New England, which seemed to make their happiness complete.