No Wonder 'every Shepherd Is An Abomination To The Egyptians.' The
Dusty, Naked-Footed Field-Tracks Are Cut Down
To the last centimetre of
grudged width; the main roads are lifted high on the flanks of the
The permanent-way of some light railroad can be pressed
to do duty for them. The wheat, the pale ripened tufted sugar-cane, the
millet, the barley, the onions, the fringed castor-oil bushes jostle
each other for foothold, since the Desert will not give them room; and
men chase the falling Nile inch by inch, each dawn, with new furrowed
melon-beds on the still dripping mud-banks.
Administratively, such a land ought to be a joy. The people do not
emigrate; all their resources are in plain sight; they are as accustomed
as their cattle to being led about. All they desire, and it has been
given them, is freedom from murder and mutilation, rape and robbery. The
rest they can attend to in their silent palm-shaded villages where the
pigeons coo and the little children play in the dust.
But Western civilisation is a devastating and a selfish game. Like the
young woman from 'our State,' it says in effect: 'I am rich. I've
nothing to do. I must do something. I shall take up social reform.'
Just now there is a little social reform in Egypt which is rather
amusing. The Egyptian cultivator borrows money; as all farmers must.
This land without hedge or wild-flower is his passion by age-long
inheritance and suffering, by, in and for which he lives. He borrows to
develop it and to buy more at from L30 to L200 per acre, the profit on
which, when all is paid, works out at between L5 to L10 per acre.
Formerly, he borrowed from the local money-lenders, mostly Greeks, at 30
per cent per annum and over. This rate is not excessive, so long as
public opinion allows the borrower from time to time to slay the lender;
but modern administration calls that riot and murder. Some years ago,
therefore, there was established a State-guaranteed Bank which lent to
the cultivators at eight per cent, and the cultivator zealously availed
himself of that privilege. He did not default more than in reason, but
being a farmer, he naturally did not pay up till threatened with being
sold up. So he prospered and bought more land, which was his heart's
desire. This year - 1913 - the administration issued sudden orders that no
man owning less than five acres could borrow on security of his land.
The matter interested me directly, because I held five hundred pounds
worth of shares in that State-guaranteed Bank, and more than half our
clients were small men of less than five acres. So I made inquiries in
quarters that seemed to possess information, and was told that the new
law was precisely on all-fours with the Homestead Act or the United
States and France, and the intentions of Divine Providence - or words to
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