List Of Contents | Contents of George Walker At Suez, by Anthony Trollope
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myself personally capable of sustaining before the people of Suez
the honour which he had done me.

As I walked forth with a proud step from beneath the portal, I
perceived, looking down from the square along the street, that there
was already some commotion in the town.  I saw the flowing robes of
many Arabs, with their backs turned towards me, and I thought that I
observed the identical gown and turban of my friend Mahmoud on the
back and head of a stout short man, who was hurrying round a corner
in the distance.  I felt sure that it was Mahmoud.  Some of his
servants had failed in their preparations, I said to myself, as I
made my way round to the water's edge.  This was only another
testimony how anxious he was to do me honour.

I stood for a while on the edge of the quay looking into the boat,
and admiring the comfortable cushions which were luxuriously
arranged around the seats.  The men who were at work did not know
me, and I was unnoticed, but I should soon take my place upon the
softest of those cushions.  I walked slowly backwards and forwards
on the quay, listening to a hum of voices that came to me from a
distance.  There was clearly something stirring in the town, and I
felt certain that all the movement and all those distant voices were
connected in some way with my expedition to the Well of Moses.  At
last there came a lad upon the walk dressed in Frank costume, and I
asked him what was in the wind.  He was a clerk attached to an
English warehouse, and he told me that there had been an arrival
from Cairo.

He knew no more than that, but he had heard that the omnibuses had
just come in.  Could it be possible that Mahmoud al Ackbar had heard
of another old acquaintance, and had gone to welcome him also?

At first my ideas on the subject were altogether pleasant.  I by no
means wished to monopolise the delights of all those cushions, nor
would it be to me a cause of sorrow that there should be some one to
share with me the conversational powers of that interpreter.  Should
another guest be found, he might also be an Englishman, and I might
thus form an acquaintance which would be desirable.  Thinking of
these things, I walked the quay for some minutes in a happy state of
mind; but by degrees I became impatient, and by degrees also
disturbed in my spirit.  I observed that one of the Arab boatmen
walked round from the vessel to the front of the hotel, and that on
his return he looked at me--as I thought, not with courteous eyes.
Then also I saw, or rather heard, some one in the verandah of the
hotel above me, and was conscious that I was being viewed from
thence.  I walked and walked, and nobody came to me, and I perceived
by my watch that it was seven o'clock.  The noise, too, had come
nearer and nearer, and I was now aware that wheels had been drawn up
before the front door of the hotel, and that many voices were
speaking there.  It might be that Mahmoud should wait for some other
friend, but why did he not send some one to inform me?  And then, as
I made a sudden turn at the end of the quay, I caught sight of the
retreating legs of the Austrian interpreter, and I became aware that
he had been sent down, and had gone away, afraid to speak to me.
"What can I do?" said I to myself, "I can but keep my ground."  I
owned that I feared to go round to the front of the hotel.  So I
still walked slowly up and down the length of the quay, and began to
whistle to show that I was not uneasy.  The Arab sailors looked at
me uncomfortably, and from time to time some one peered at me round
the corner.  It was now fully half-past seven, and the sun was
becoming hot in the heavens.  Why did we not hasten to place
ourselves beneath the awning in that boat.

I had just made up my mind that I would go round to the front and
penetrate this mystery, when, on turning, I saw approaching to me a
man dressed at any rate like an English gentleman.  As he came near
to me, he raised his hat, and accosted me in our own language.  "Mr.
George Walker, I believe?" said he.

"Yes," said I, with some little attempt at a high demeanour, -"of
the firm of Grimes, Walker, and Judkins, Friday Street, London."

"A most respectable house, I am sure," said he.  "I am afraid there
has been a little mistake here."

"No mistake as to the respectability of that house," said I.  I felt
that I was again alone in the world, and that it was necessary that
I should support myself.  Mahmoud al Ackbar had separated himself
from me for ever.  Of that I had no longer a doubt.

"Oh, none at all," said he.  "But about this little expedition over
the water;" and he pointed contemptuously to the boat.  "There has
been a mistake about that, Mr. Walker; I happen to be the English
Vice-Consul here."

I took off my hat and bowed.  It was the first time I had ever been
addressed civilly by any English consular authority.

"And they have made me get out of bed to come down here and explain
all this to you."

"All what?" said I.

"You are a man of the world, I know, and I'll just tell it you
plainly.  My old friend, Mahmoud al Ackbar, has mistaken you for Sir
George Walker, the new Lieutenant-Governor of Pegu.  Sir George
Walker is here now; he has come this morning; and Mahmoud is ashamed
to face you after what has occurred.  If you won't object to
withdraw with me into the hotel, I'll explain it all."

I felt as though a thunderbolt had fallen; and I must say, that even
up to this day I think that the Consul might have been a little less
abrupt.  "We can get in here," said he, evidently in a hurry, and
pointing to a small door which opened out from one corner of the
house to the quay.  What could I do but follow him?  I did follow
him, and in a few words learned the remainder of the story.  When he
had once withdrawn me from the public walk he seemed but little
anxious about the rest, and soon left me again alone.  The facts, as
far as I could learn them, were simply these.

Sir George Walker, who was now going out to Pegu as Governor, had
been in India before, commanding an army there.  I had never heard
of him before, and had made no attempt to pass myself off as his
relative.  Nobody could have been more innocent than I was--or have
received worse usage.  I have as much right to the name as he has.
Well; when he was in India before, he had taken the city of Begum
after a terrible siege--Begum, I think the Consul called it; and
Mahmoud had been there, having been, it seems, a great man at Begum,
and Sir George had spared him and his money; and in this way the
whole thing had come to pass.  There was no further explanation than
that.  The rest of it was all transparent.  Mahmoud, having heard my
name from the porter, had hurried down to invite me to his party.
So far so good.  But why had he been afraid to face me in the
morning?  And, seeing that the fault had all been his, why had he
not asked me to join the expedition?  Sir George and I may, after
all, be cousins.  But, coward as he was, he had been afraid of me.
When they found that I was on the quay, they had been afraid of me,
not knowing how to get rid of me.  I wish that I had kept the quay
all day, and stared them down one by one as they entered the boat.
But I was down in the mouth, and when the Consul left me, I crept
wearily back to my bedroom.

And the Consul did leave me almost immediately.  A faint hope had,
at one time, come upon me that he would have asked me to breakfast.
Had he done so, I should have felt it as a full compensation for all
that I had suffered.  I am not an exacting man, but I own that I
like civility.  In Friday Street I can command it, and in Friday
Street for the rest of my life will I remain.  From this Consul I
received no civility.  As soon as he had got me out of the way and
spoken the few words which he had to say, he again raised his hat
and left me.  I also again raised mine, and then crept up to my bed-

From my window, standing a little behind the white curtain, I could
see the whole embarkation.  There was Mahmoud al Ackbar, looking
indeed a little hot, but still going through his work with all that
excellence of deportment which had graced him on the preceding
evening.  Had his foot slipped, and had he fallen backwards into
that shallow water, my spirit would, I confess, have been relieved.
But, on the contrary, everything went well with him.  There was the
real Sir George, my namesake and perhaps my cousin, as fresh as
paint, cool from the bath which he had been taking while I had been
walking on that terrace.  How is it that these governors and
commanders-in-chief go through such a deal of work without fagging?
It was not yet two hours since he was jolting about in that omnibus-
box, and there he had been all night.  I could not have gone off to
the Well of Moses immediately on my arrival.  It's the dignity of
the position that does it.  I have long known that the head of a
firm must never count on a mere clerk to get through as much work as
he could do himself.  It's the interest in the matter that supports
the man.

They went, and Sir George, as I was well assured, had never heard a
word about me.  Had he done so, is it probable that he would have
requested my attendance?

But Mahmoud and his followers no doubt kept their own counsel as to
that little mistake.  There they went, and the gentle rippling
breeze filled their sail pleasantly, as the boat moved away into the
bay.  I felt no spite against any of them but Mahmoud.  Why had he
avoided me with such cowardice?  I could still see them when the
morning tchibouk was handed to Sir George; and, though I wished him
no harm, I did envy him as he lay there reclining luxuriously upon
the cushions.

A more wretched day than that I never spent in my life.  As I went
in and out, the porter at the gate absolutely scoffed at me.  Once I
made up my mind to complain within the house.  But what could I have
said of the dirty Arab?  They would have told me that it was his
religion, or a national observance, or meant for a courtesy.  What
can a man do, in a strange country, when he is told that a native
spits in his face by way of civility?  I bore it, I bore it--like a
man; and sighed for the comforts of Friday Street.

As to one matter, I made up my mind on that day, and I fully carried
out my purpose on the next:  I would go across to the Well of Moses
in a boat.  I would visit the coasts of Asia.  And I would ride back
into Africa on a camel.  Though I did it alone, I would have my
day's pleasuring.  I had money in my pocket, and, though it might
cost me 20 pounds, I would see all that my namesake had seen.  It
did cost me the best part of 20 pounds; and as for the pleasuring, I
cannot say much for it.

I went to bed early that night, having concluded my bargain for the
morrow with a rapacious Arab who spoke English.  I went to bed early
in order to escape the returning party, and was again on the quay at
six the next morning.  On this occasion, I stepped boldly into the
boat the very moment that I came along the shore.  There is nothing
in the world like paying for what you use.  I saw myself to the
bottle of brandy and the cold meat, and acknowledged that a cigar
out of my own case would suit me better than that long stick.  The
long stick might do very well for a Governor of Pegu, but would be
highly inconvenient in Friday Street.

Well, I am not going to give an account of my day's journey here,
though perhaps I may do so some day.  I did go to the Well of Moses-
-if a small dirty pool of salt water, lying high above the sands,
can be called a well; I did eat my dinner in the miserable ruined
cottage which they graced by the name of a pavilion; and, alas for
my poor bones! I did ride home upon a camel.  If Sir George did so
early, and started for Pegu the next morning--and I was informed
such was the fact--he must have been made of iron.  I laid in bed
the whole day suffering greviously; but I was told that on such a
journey I should have slakened my throat with oranges, and not with

I survived those four terrible days which remained to me at Suez,
and after another month was once again in Friday Street.  I suffered
greatly on the occasion; but it is some consolation to me to reflect
that I smoked a pipe of peace with Mahmoud al Ackbar; that I saw the
hero of Begum while journeying out to new triumphs at Pegu; that I
sailed into Asia in my own yacht--hired for the occasion; and that I
rode back into Africa on a camel.  Nor can Judkins, with all his
ill-nature, rob me of these remembrances.

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