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[求領養] a hand-to-mouth existence

a hand-to-mouth existence

LTo my way of thinking, the rescue and rehabilitation of the Nile country is the most convincing proof of England's genius as a colonising nation. That you may be able to judge, by comparison, what she has accomplished, you must go back a third of a century or so, to the days when Ismail Pasha—he with the brow of a statesman and the chin of a libertine—still sat on the [Pg 109] throne of the Pharaohs, wielding an extravagant, vacillating, and ineffectual rule over a region which stretched from the Mediterranean seaboard southward to Uganda and the sleeping-sickness, and from the Red Sea shore westward until it lost itself in the sand wastes of the Great Sahara.

Of the one million three hundred and fifty thousand square miles at that time included within the Egyptian borders, less than five thousand were cultivated land; the rest was yellow desert and nothing more. The seven millions of blacks and browns who composed the population were so poor that the dwellers in the slums of Whitechapel were affluent when compared to them; they lived, for the most part, in wretched hovels of sun-dried mud scattered along the banks of the Nile, maintaining
by raising a low grade of cotton on a few feddans of land which they irrigated by hand, at an appalling cost of time and labour, with water drawn up in buckets from the river  the scene of a violent and  murderous attack.
.

As a result of the corvée, or system of forced labour on public works which prevailed, a large part of the population was virtually in a state of slavery; the taxes, which were unjustly assessed and incredibly exorbitant, could only be collected with the aid of the kourbash, as the terrible whip of rhino hide used by the slave-dealers was known. Barring the single line of ramshackle railway which connected Cairo with Alexandria and with the Suez Canal, the only means of transportation were the puffing river-boats and the plodding caravans. The unpaid and ill-disciplined army was a synonym for cowardice, as proved by its [Pg 110] defeats by the tribesmen of Abyssinia and the Sudan.

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