CHAPTER XVIII - CAIRO AND THE PLAGUE
I went round the bazaars: it seemed to me that pipes and arms were cheaper here than at Constantinople, and I should advise you therefore if you go to both places to prefer the market of Cairo. I had previously bought several of such things at Constantinople, and did not choose to encumber myself, or to speak more honestly, I did not choose to disencumber my purse by making any more purchases. In the open slave-market I saw about fifty girls exposed for sale, but all of them black, or "invisible" brown. A slave agent took me to some rooms in the upper storey of the building, and also into several obscure houses in the neighbourhood, with a view to show me some white women. The owners raised various objections to the display of their ware, and well they might, for I had not the least notion of purchasing; some refused on account of the illegality of the proceeding, * and others declared that all transactions of this sort were completely out of the question as long as the plague was raging. I only succeeded in seeing one white slave who was for sale but on this one the owner affected to set an immense value, and raised my expectations to a high pitch by saying that the girl was Circassian, and was "fair as the full moon." After a good deal of delay I was at last led into a room, at the farther end of which was that mass of white linen which indicates an Eastern woman. She was bid to uncover her face, and I presently saw that, though very far from being good looking, according to my notion of beauty, she had not been inaptly described by the man who compared her to the full moon, for her large face was perfectly round and perfectly white. Though very young, she was nevertheless extremely fat. She gave me the idea of having been got up for sale, of having been fattened and whitened by medicines or by some peculiar diet. I was firmly determined not to see any more of her than the face. She was perhaps disgusted at this my virtuous resolve, as well as with my personal appearance; perhaps she saw my distaste and disappointment; perhaps she wished to gain favour with her owner by showing her attachment to his faith: at all events, she holloaed out very lustily and very decidedly that "she would not be bought by the infidel."
* It is not strictly lawful to sell WHITE slaves to a Christian.