May 9, 2012

Egyptian Animals 1845 | Luxor - Walking Through Egypt

Timseach! Timseach! 1845
Eliot Warburton


The first time that a man fires at a crocodile is an epoch in his life. We had only now arrived in the waters where they abound, for it is a curious fact that none are ever seen below Mineyeh, though Herodotus speaks of them as fighting with the dolphins at the mouths of the Nile. A prize had been offered for the first man who detected a crocodile, and the crew had now been for two days on the alert in search of them. Buoyed up with the expectation of such game, we had latterly reserved our fire for them exclusively, and the wild duck and turtle [doves], nay, even the vulture and the eagle had swept past, or soared above us in security.

At length the cry of “Timseach! Timseach!” was heard from half a dozen claimants of the proffered prize, and half a dozen black fingers were eagerly pointed to a spit of sand, on which were strewn apparently some logs of trees. It was a Covey of Crocodiles! Hastily and silently the boat was run on shore. R. was ill, so I had the enterprise to myself, and clambered up the steep bank with a quicker pulse than when I first levelled a rifle at a Highland deer. My intended victims might have prided themselves on their superior nonchalance; and, indeed, as I approached them, there seemed to be a sneer on their ghastly mouths and winking eyes. Slowly they rose, one after the other, and waddled to the water, all but one, the most gallant or most gorged of the party. He lay still until I was within a hundred yards of them; then, slowly rising up on his fm-like legs, he lumbered towards the river, looking askance at me with an expression of countenance that seemed to say: “He can do me no harm; however, I may as well have a swim.” I took aim at the throat of the supercilious brute, and, as soon as my hand steadied, the very pulsation of my finger pulled the trigger. Bang! went the gun; whiz! flew the bullet; and my excited ear could catch the thud with which it plunged into the scaly leather of his neck. His waddle became a plunge, the waves closed over him, and the sun shone on the calm water, as I reached the brink of the shore, that was still indented by the waving of his gigantic tail. But there is blood upon the water, and he rises for a moment to the surface.

“A hundred piastres for the timseach,” I exclaimed, and half a dozen Arabs plunged into the stream.

There he rises again, and the men dash at him as if he hadn’t a tooth in his head. Now he is gone, the waters close over him, I never saw him since.

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