PART I (Continued)
Of the few letters which have been preserved relating to this period, a number have already been published in “My Life,” and need not be reprinted here. But in some cases portions of these letters have been given because they bring out aspects of Wallace’s character which are not revealed elsewhere. The various omissions which have been made in other letters refer either to unimportant personal matters or to technical scientific details. The first of the letters was written during Wallace’s voyage to the Malay Archipelago.
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TO G. SILK
Steamer “Bengal,” Red Sea. March 26, .
My dear George,— ... Of all the eventful days of my life my first in Alexandria was the most striking. Imagine my feelings when, coming out of the hotel (whither I had been conveyed in an omnibus) for the purpose of taking a quiet stroll through the city, I found myself in the midst of a vast crowd of donkeys and their drivers, all thoroughly determined to appropriate my person to their own use and interest, without in the least consulting my inclinations. In vain with rapid strides and waving arms I endeavoured to clear a way and move forward; arms and legs were seized upon, and even the Christian coat-tails were not sacred from the profane Mahometans. One would hold together two donkeys by their tails while I was struggling between them, and another, forcing together their heads, would thus hope to compel me to mount upon one or both of them; and one fellow more impudent than the rest I laid flat upon the ground, and sending the donkey staggering after him, I escaped a moment midst hideous yells and most unearthly cries. I now beckoned to a fellow more sensible-looking than the rest, and told him that I wished to walk and would take him for a guide, and hoped now to be at rest; but vain thought! I was in the hands of the Philistines, and getting us up against a wall, they formed an impenetrable phalanx of men and brutes thoroughly determined that I should only get away from the spot on the legs of a donkey. Bethinking myself now that donkey-riding was a national institution, and seeing a fat Yankee (very like my Paris friend) mounted, being like myself hopeless of any other means of escape, I seized upon a bridle in hopes that I should then be left in peace. But this was the signal for a more furious onset, for, seeing that I would at length ride, each one was determined that he alone should profit by the transaction, and a dozen animals were forced suddenly upon me and a dozen hands tried to lift me upon their respective beasts. But now my patience was exhausted, so, keeping firm hold of the bridle I had first taken with one hand, I hit right and left with the other, and calling upon my guide to do the same, we succeeded