It was the "Little Christmas" of the Egyptians as I rode to Sakkara, after seeing a wonderful feat, the ascent and descent of the second Pyramid in nineteen minutes by a young Bedouin called Mohammed Ali who very seriously informed me that the only Roumi who had ever reached the top was an "American gentlemens" called Mark Twain, on his first visit to Egypt. On his second visit, Ali said, Mr. Twain had a bad foot, and declared he could not be bothered with the second Pyramid. He had been up and down without a guide; he had disturbed the jackal which lives near its summit, and which I saw running in the sunshine as Ali drew near its lair, and he was satisfied to rest on his immortal laurels. To the Bedouins of the Pyramids Mark Twain's world- wide celebrity is owing to one fact alone: he is the only Roumi who has climbed the second Pyramid. That is why his name is known to every one.

It was the "Little Christmas," and from the villages in the plain the Egyptians came pouring out to visit their dead in the desert cemeteries as I passed by to visit the dead in the tombs far off on the horizon. Women, swathed in black, gathered in groups and jumped monotonously up and down, to the accompaniment of stained hands clapping, and strange and weary songs. Tiny children blew furiously into tin trumpets, emitting sounds that were terribly European. Men strode seriously by, or stood in knots among the graves, talking vivaciously of the things of this life. As the sun rose higher in the heavens, this visit to the dead became a carnival of the living. Laughter and shrill cries of merriment betokened the resignation of the mourners. The sand-dunes were black with running figures, racing, leaping, chasing one another, rolling over and over in the warm and golden grains. Some sat among the graves and ate. Some sang. Some danced. I saw no one praying, after the sun was up. The Great Pyramid of Ghizeh was transformed in this morning hour, and gleamed like a marble mountain, or like the hill covered with salt at El-Outaya, in Algeria. As we went on it sank down into the sands, until at last I could see only a small section with its top, which looked almost as pointed as a gigantic needle. Abou was there on the hot stones in the golden eye of the sun - Abou who lives to respect his Pyramid, and to serve Turkish coffee to those who are determined enough to climb it. Before me the Step Pyramid rose, brown almost as bronze, out of the sands here desolate and pallid. Soon I was in the house of Marriette, between the little sphinxes.

Near Cairo, although the desert is real desert, it does not give, to me, at any rate, the immense impression of naked sterility, of almost brassy, sun-baked fierceness, which often strikes one in the Sahara to the south of Algeria, where at midday one sometimes has a feeling of being lost upon a waste of metal, gleaming, angry, tigerish in color. Here, in Egypt, both the people and the desert seem gentler, safer, more amiable. Yet these tombs of Sakkara are hidden in a desolation of the sands, peculiarly blanched and mournful; and as you wander from tomb to tomb, descending and ascending, stealing through great galleries beneath the sands, creeping through tubes of stone, crouching almost on hands and knees in the sultry chambers of the dead, the awfulness of the passing away of dynasties and of race comes, like a cloud, upon your spirit. But this cloud lifts and floats from you in the cheerful tomb of Thi, that royal councillor, that scribe and confidant, whose life must have been passed in a round of serene activities, amid a sneering, though doubtless admiring, population.

Into this tomb of white, vivacious figures, gay almost, though never wholly frivolous - for these men were full of purpose, full of an ardor that seduces even where it seems grotesque - I took with me a child of ten called Ali, from the village of Kafiah; and as I looked from him to the walls around us, rather than the passing away of the races, I realized the persistence of type. For everywhere I saw the face of little Ali, with every feature exactly reproduced. Here he was bending over a sacrifice, leading a sacred bull, feeding geese from a cup, roasting a chicken, pulling a boat, carpentering, polishing, conducting a monkey for a walk, or merely sitting bolt upright and sneering. There were lines of little Alis with their hands held to their breasts, their faces in profile, their knees rigid, in the happy tomb of Thi; but he glanced at them unheeding, did not recognize his ancestors. And he did not care to penetrate into the tombs of Mera and Meri-Ra-ankh, into the Serapeum and the Mestaba of Ptah-hotep. Perhaps he was right. The Serapeum is grand in its vastness, with its long and high galleries and its mighty vaults containing the huge granite sarcophagi of the sacred bulls of Apis; Mera, red and white, welcomes you from an elevated niche benignly; Ptah-hotep, priest of the fifth dynasty, receives you, seated at a table that resembles a rake with long, yellow teeth standing on its handle, and drinking stiffly a cup of wine. You see upon the wall near by, with sympathy, a patient being plied by a naked and evidently an unyielding physician with medicine from a jar that might have been visited by Morgiana, a musician playing upon an instrument like a huge and stringless harp. But it is the happy tomb of Thi that lingers in your memory. In that tomb one sees proclaimed with a marvellous ingenuity and expressiveness the joy and the activity of life. Thi must have loved life; loved prayer and sacrifice, loved sport and war, loved feasting and gaiety, labor of the hands and of the head, loved the arts, the music of flute and harp, singing by the lingering and plaintive voices which seem to express the essence of the east, loved sweet odors, loved sweet women - do we not see him sitting to receive offerings with his wife beside him? - loved the clear nights and the radiant days that in Egypt make glad the heart of man. He must have loved the splendid gift of life, and used it completely. And so little Ali had very right to make his sole obeisance at Thi's delicious tomb, from which death itself seems banished by the soft and embracing radiance of the almost living walls.

This delicate cheerfulness, a quite airy gaiety of life, is often combined in Egypt, and most beautifully and happily combined, with tremendous solidity, heavy impressiveness, a hugeness that is well- nigh tragic; and it supplies a relief to eye, to mind, to soul, that is sweet and refreshing as the trickle of a tarantella from a reed flute heard under the shadows of a temple of Hercules. Life showers us with contrasts. Art, which gives to us a second and a more withdrawn life, opening to us a door through which we pass to our dreams, may well imitate life in this.